The wind whipped past the two falling figures as they plummeted toward the ground. Everything was a blur of hundreds of different colours. Greens and yellows from the grassy hills that surrounded the waterfall and lake.
The glassy surface of the lagoon was rushing up at an alarming pace and Merlin knew that he would hit it like it was stone if he did not do something. He twisted in the air and plummeted into the water hands first. A huge splash erupted and flew into the air as he went down to the sandy bed at the bottom of the lake, bubbles escaping from his mouth and flying up to the surface. Slightly stunned he floated for a second before regaining control of his shocked limbs and kicking to the surface of the blue lake.
Treading water he looked around for the phoenix, which he had dragged down with him, grasping its wings so it could not fly. A heap of bedraggled orangey red feathers was floating a little way off in the rippling water. Merlin swam quickly over to the bird and flipped it over so that its head was out of the water. Its head lolled limply in his hands and he knew it had been stunned when it had hit the surface of the water.
Holding it with one arm and swimming with the other he pulled it to the side of the lake and laid it on a rock, his wet clothes clinging to him and water dripping off his hair.
He rung out his scarf that somehow had managed to stay around his neck on the decent from the balcony and rubbed the bird with it, trying to get it to breath again. He knew it was going to die; it looked far too frail and weak now to live. He just wanted to wake it up to demand the answer to the question that was throbbing through his mind: How do I save Arthur?
He rubbed its chest and back more vigorously and it suddenly let out a cough of water and a spasm rippled up its suddenly small body. Merlin wasted no time even though he was distraught that the beautiful creature was going to die, he would never hear it sing again.
“Tell me how to save Arthur.” He asked as it weakly lifted its head and coughed painfully again.
“Why should I?” It wheezed.
“You are going to die. Please tell me.” He said.
The phoenix knew that there was no point continuing with its selfishness. It would help Merlin save Arthur as a last act of kindness. It was in the bird’s blood to be good, even if it had been momentarily mislead into the selfishness it had lived.
“Take…” The bird coughed again, “Take one of my…feathers…you will know what to do with…it. You can save...him…” It wheezed.
Merlin looked at the feathers that still shone golden in the fading light even though they were drenched. As he looked they seemed to dry and flicker like a dieing flame, clinging desperately onto the last bit of wood.
“Take…one…” The bird spluttered again, “Quickly.”
Merlin gently pulled out one of the feathers that was as long as his forearm and stroked the bird’s head as it died. Another spasm racked its frail body and suddenly it was on fire, burning up and floating away into the sky. Merlin stood and gazed up at the blue, cloudless expanse, watching as the burning flame flew out into the distance. He knew that another phoenix would be born from that ball of fire and it would have a different purpose and life. It would not cause any more trouble but instead prevent it.
Letting out the breath he had self-consciously held, he tucked the feather into his belt and wondered how he was to get home.
As he thought this a white light very similar to the one in Arthur’s memories grew around him and everything was covered in the whiteness. Suddenly he was walking back through the orchid towards the rock of glass that waited for him, its smooth surface interrupted by the rippling waves that flowed along it.
And then he was back. Back to the Old Hills.