A MYSTERIOUS cave in a north Wales mountain tempts five visiting youngsters to explore.

They are flung back in time to the year 1511 where they meet a wizard called Maroth and his mysterious companion Merric, and begin a dangerous quest for the Key of Time.

That’s the start of The Gateway of Time, just published by author Bentley Carr, or to give him his proper name, Mike King, of Malvern Wells, where he has lived since 1996.

The book, subtitled Book One of the Tales of Maroth, owes its origin to a holiday Mr King and his wife Liz took, when they explored the mountain Dinas Emrys, near Beddgelert.

Mrs King remarked that the mountain sounded hollow, and Mr King said the chance comment, added to the legends that Merlin had once lived there, and that deep inside, two dragons, one Welsh, the other English, fight there, started the story germinating.

“I have been writing for about 30 years and this is the first of the 30-plus tales I’ve written that I have had published,” he said.

“Two sequels are waiting to go into print.”

Mr King was born and brought up in Devon, and in 1964 he joined the Royal Corps of Signals. His lastbut- one posting was at the old Norton Barracks, just outside Worcester, and when not on duty he started playing guitar in local pubs and clubs.

After leaving the army he returned to Worcestershire, living in Droitwich, driving trucks for a living and playing lead guitar for the then very popular local band, Shades.

In 1981, the family moved to Birmingham and Mr King started writing bedtime stories for his young children, which led to his novel writing.

The book is available from the publisher, Aspect Design, of Newtown Road, Link Top, priced at £6.99.