How long since they had left the monastery? An hoar? Two hours? There was no knowing, and as a horse whinnied somewhere near at hand he blundered forward.
He peered down at the ground and saw great slurred hoofprints leading away through the snow and stumbled forward, half-bent so that he could follow them.
Time had stopped and his frozen mind had difficulty ia thinking what to do next. The wind was howling like a lost thing and he was completely covered with frozen snow until he no longer resembled an ordinary man. He fell several times, and each time lay in the snow for a little longer before getting up.
A terrible iron band settled around his chest and he seemed to be struggling for breath. Again he heard the whinny of a horse and then it appeared from the whirling darkness, rearing up above his head, Father Kerrigan falling over the hindquarters and knocking him to the ground.
As Drummond sat up, the wind carried the sound of the horse’s desperate cry and there was a coldness sweeping into his face, a sense of space, of limitless distance. He crawled forward, feeling the ground ia front of him and then Ms hand touched nothing but air.
He crawled backwards, turned and went back to the old man. Father Kerrigan was on his hands and knees like an animal, his body coated with snow, and Drum-mond heaved him to Ms feet and they staggered forward.
It was no good. He was on his knees, the old man beside h?m in the snow, Ms arms moving feebly. Drummond took a deep breath, something deep inside, some essential courage that refused to be beaten giving Mm the strength to haul the old man to Ms feet
They stood there, swaying together and then the other horse loomed out of the night, Hamid in. the saddle.
What happened after that was something Drummond could never really remember afterwards. He was aware of Hamid pulling the old man up across the saddle with a supreme effort, of shouted directions that were snatched away by the wind and then the horse plunged forward, taking him with it, Ms right hand hooked firmly around the saddle girth.
It was Janet at the door of the hut with the lantern that saved-them and the light drew them out of the storm. Hamid slid to the ground, pulling Father Kerrigan after him and staggered towards the door while Drummond hung on to the horse.
It was no use. As a sudden gust of wind slashed in from the valley driving razor-sharp particles of ice before it, the terrified animal reared up, knocking Drummond to the ground and galloped madly into the night.
He was on Ms hands and knees again, crawling towards the doorway and the wind seemed to have got inside Ms brain, dragging Mm down into the whirling darkness.
The Last Round
HB awakened slowly and lay for several moments staring up through the gloom, trying to decide where he was..Realisation came suddenly and completely and he tried to sit up.
The hut was low roofed and built of blocks of rough stone. He was lying on a pile of mouldy hay with Bamid beside Mm. In the middle of the floor a fire burned brightly.
All his outer clothing had been removed and he was only wearing his underwear. He had been covered with sheepskin coats and he pulled them aside and examined his swollen, chapped hands. Gingerly, he touched his face and winced as fingertips probed great splits in his flesh.
His right foot felt heavy and numb and when he sat up, he saw that it had been bandaged. He reached to touch it and Hamid opened his eyes and pushed himself up on one elbow.
‘How do you feel?’
“Bloody awful. What’s wrong with my foot?.
‘A touch of frostbite, nothing serious. All your toes are still there, if that’s what you’re thinking.’
1 can’t feel a damned thing.’
Manet gave you an injection. Something from the old man’s medical kit.’
Drummond looked across to the other side of the fire to where Janet, Father Kerrigaa and the young Khan slept peacefully. ‘How is he?’