‘My precious sword,’ crooned Aelle. ‘You’re my best friend. Where would I be without you? I will never lose a battle with you at my side.’
He moved towards the chest Max was hiding behind, cradling the sword reverently in his huge hands. Max sank down lower, thankful for his newly-darkened fur, and closed his eyes. He held his breath. The Saxon king opened the chest, gently laying his beloved weapon inside. But then the lid suddenly slipped from Aelle’s grasp, as he lost his balance, and it clanged shut with an almighty bang. Max jumped about a foot into the air and his eyes snapped open in shock.
Dismayed, the large cat quickly ducked backed down, hoping he hadn’t given his hiding place away. He risked a hurried glance in Aelle’s direction, forgetting how brightly his turquoise eyes would shine in the lamplight. A loud gasp alerted him to his mistake. Too late, Max realised he’d been spotted but, as he prepared to make a run for it, he was frightened out of his wits by the blood-curdling scream that issued from the wide-open mouth of the Saxon king. It sounded like a real battle cry, a terrifying yell, obviously guaranteed to turn his opponents’ blood to ice in their veins. Max was rooted to the spot in horror, sure that Aelle was about to leap on him. But then the strangest thing happened … the Saxon scrambled up on to his bed, drawing the pile of furs around him for protection and began to whimper like a cornered animal. Unable to take his eyes off Max, Aelle continued to bleat and make gibbering noises.
Then, through teeth chattering as loudly as a pair of castanets, the Saxon king began to wail, ‘A c-c-cat! Oh no, there’s a c-c-cat in here. How d-d-did it get in? I hate c-c-cats – nasty things. Shoo, foul beast! Shoo, I tell you! Help! Help!’
Crikey, thought Max. This was a turn-up for the books – the last thing he’d expected. He stared at the trembling form of the king, wondering if he should just get out of the tent as fast as possible and make his getaway. He emerged from behind the chest and took a cautious step forward.
‘No, no, stay where you are, you vile creature! Don’t come any closer,’ cried Aelle, his voice becoming even more agitated and high-pitched. ‘Aaah no, keep away from me!’
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