At first he isn’t even scared. Even though his room is full of smoke, and when he reaches the top of the stairs the heat makes him stagger backwards, eyes stinging. It’s only a fire and he knows what to do in a fire, he learnt it at Cubs some thirty years ago. Besides, he’s in a tiny two-storey house, not the Towering Inferno (a film that he must have watched at about the same time, come to think of it). He knows the bedroom window doesn’t open and the bathroom window’s too small but the front door is only a few steps away, just down those stairs. How hard can it be? Still calm, he goes back into the bathroom and soaks a towel, just like Akela told him. He wraps the towel round his face and starts to descend the stairs. It is hard, far harder than he thought possible. In the past he has read about people in fires being ‘beaten back by the heat’ and, deep down, he had always thought, ‘Wimps. It’s just hot air. Push through it.’ But this doesn’t seem like air any more, it’s solid, and he has to batter against it with his whole body. After three steps he is exhausted and the heat is just getting stronger. He can’t see much because of the towel, but he can hear the fire – a sort of dull rushing sound filling the whole of the downstairs. He can smell it too; it smells industrial and serious.
But he can hear something else. Sirens. Someone must have called the fire brigade. Hallelujah. He’s saved. He falls the last few steps, right onto the front door. The handle is so hot that it sticks to his hand but he holds on and turns with all his might, pushing against the door with his shoulders. The towel slips and suddenly he’s choking. The hall is full of dense black smoke and he’s gasping for breath. With his last atom of strength he hurls himself against the door. Only then does he realise that it’s locked. From the outside.
And now he’s scared.
Ruth Galloway is shocked when she learns that her old university friend Dan Golding has died tragically in a house fire. But the death takes on a sinister cast when Ruth receives a letter from Dan written just before he died.
The letter tells of a great archaeological discovery, but Dan also says that he is scared for his life. Was Dan’s death linked to his find? The only clue is his mention of the Raven King, an ancient name for King Arthur.
Then Ruth is invited to examine the bones Dan found. Ruth travels to Lancashire–the hometown of DCI Nelson–with both her eighteen-month-old daughter, Kate, and her druid friend, Cathbad, in tow. She discovers a campus living in fear of a sinister right-wing group called the White Hand. She also finds that the bones revealed a shocking fact about King Arthur–and they’ve mysteriously vanished. When Nelson, visiting his mother in Blackpool, learns about the case, he is drawn into the investigation, especially when Ruth and his beloved Kate seem to be in danger. Who is willing to kill to keep the bones a secret?