Our favourite duo Merlin and Arthur are first attacked by a bear then thrown off a cliff, captured by bandits, fed to crows and almost drowned. What will they do?
“Belive me, I am!”
“It’s still coming!”
It had started out like any other hunting trip, “pack mule” Merlin lugging all Arthur’s gear along while the prince searched the forest floor for tracks. It was a beautiful autumn day, if a little chilly and brown leaves raced along the ground, weaving in and out between the tall trees.
Arthur was trying to stalk a deer, which had eluded him until now. It was some way off, eating a tuft of grass in a glade with long rays of sunlight shining down from the leafy canopy above. He silently positioned himself behind a fallen oak and took his crossbow from Merlin who mercifully seemed to have lost his clumsiness, for now at least. He loaded the bow expertly; never taking his eyes from the deer, and lifted the weapon up to lean on the fallen tree. He shifted it in to the perfect place; the arrow tip was just in the right spot. All he had to do was pull the trigger.
“Uhh…Arthur?” Merlin suddenly said beside him, breaking the silence.
Arthur’s face twitched crossly but he refused to take his eyes from the deer.
“Arthur!” Merlin said more loudly and nudged him, causing the prince to waver from the perfect aim he had achieved.
“Shut up! Can’t you see I’m busy?” Arthur hissed though gritted teeth and shifted the arrow tip back to the deer. He held his breath so that he wouldn’t move. Gently he began to squeeze the trigger.
“NO!” Merlin suddenly yelled and roughly shoved him away so that Arthur rolled painfully down the small slope next to the fallen tree. The prince landed face first in a stream. Before he even had time to throw a barbed comment back at Merlin he was being yanked up and dragged at a run through the stream and over the mossy forest floor.
“What do you think your doing?!” Arthur yelled and tried to stop but Merlin just continued to drag him through the trees.
“Believe me I am!” Arthur shouted back as the skinny boy somehow managed to keep pulling him along like a rag doll.
“It’s still coming!” Merlin yelled, shooting a glance over his shoulder.
“What is?” Arthur looked over his own shoulder.
There was a huge brown bear lumbering along behind them, its thick furred skin flying one way and then another as it loped over the ground. Its jaws were filled with an array of razor sharp teeth, each and every one drooling a long strand of slime. It looked more than ready to rip the two young men to shreds.
Arthur’s eyes widened in shock and he immediately forgave Merlin for interrupting him. He pelted over the ground, overtaking Merlin and dodging the trees that abruptly appeared in his path. Suddenly there was an ear-splitting yell and Arthur swung around to see Merlin being crushed beneath the bear’s gigantic paws, its long black claws ready to rip him to pieces.
In a flash Arthur’s sword was drawn and he flew at the bear, striking a blow to its shaggy shoulder. The bear reared up onto its hind legs, towering over the prince and growling savagely. Arthur grabbed Merlin and dragged him along behind him, running as quickly as he could. The bear, seemingly unhurt by Arthur’s attack, smashed down to the earth again and hurtled after them, throwing hundreds of leaves up into the air as it went.
Arthur tried his best to pull Merlin along but he was like a dead weight, obviously hurt from when the bear had smashed him to the floor.
“Come on! Don’t do this to me!” He shouted.
He was practically holding Merlin up now, his legs dragging across the floor. Suddenly there was a “whoomph” noise and the next thing he knew he was flying through the air and painfully hitting the ground. The bear was on him in a trice, its weight pushing all air out of his lungs and crushing him to the ground. Arthur was dimly aware of Merlin stirring somewhere to his left.
Maybe if he could get to his sword there might be some hope.
The bear was lifting a huge paw up, ready to slash him open. Arthur grabbed the hilt of his sword and desperately tried to draw it but the bear had a paw over the scabbard and it was impossible. Suddenly another hand was throwing his off the hilt and grabbing the sword itself.
Merlin drew the sword and waved it at the beast, swaying on his feet and bent over to the side slightly for some reason. Maybe when the bear had attacked him he had broken something.
The bear forgot Arthur and advanced on Merlin, snarling viciously. He stumbled back, franticly trying to strike the creature but it knocked the sword out of his hands and hit him hard in the side, rendering him unconscious and sending him flying.
Arthur scrambled up and ran over to Merlin before the bear could move. There was a long gash on his chest from shoulder to ribs, already drizzling blood. Arthur stared at it in horror but then felt the bear’s steaming hot breath on the back of his neck. Without even looking behind him he grabbed Merlin, his body limp in his arms, and began to run for his life. The bear’s heavy footsteps lumbered behind him, almost shaking the earth.
Suddenly the trees were thinning and there was a cliff like slope before him that led to a huge open plain with a long river snaking down into a sea of trees. Arthur barely noticed, blinded by fear. Before he had time to stop he and Merlin were tumbling down the steep hill, seemingly hitting every rock on the way down. The world just a blur of sky, ground, sky, ground.
The bear skidded to the edge of the slope, sending a hundred leaves down as it halted. It could not follow its quarry down the cliff. It was too steep for something its size. Reluctantly it gave up and loped away.
Arthur tried his best to stop himself from rolling endlessly down the hill but to no avail. Another bash to a rock and his head throbbed painfully. He attempted to grab onto the ferns that were all around him as he hurtled down the slope, his hands sliding over the slippery stems. He grabbed onto one and he momentarily slowed, only to have his hopes dashed as it uprooted and he began to slide again.
He flipped onto his back with the idea he could bury his feet into the ground and stop the fall. The crumbly earth refused to let him however and he suddenly saw he was coming to the end of the hill, only to find that it led to an even steeper one. In fact it was a sheer drop. He flipped onto his stomach again and dug his hands into the earth. They left long tracks in the soil but did not stop his decent.
Suddenly his legs were over the edge, the rest of him following closely. He scrabbled for a handhold and found one just in time, his legs floundering in the air. He desperately willed himself not to look down but he couldn’t stop himself.
There was a glassy lake below, some feet away, at least thirty. He swallowed and stared back up at his single arm clutched desperately to the edge of the cliff.
Suddenly there was an increasingly loud noise of flattening ferns and abruptly a foot appeared over the edge. Merlin hurtled over the side, his arms following his head, which was lolling limply as it bumped over the rocky ground. Instinctively Arthur grabbed his arm with his available hand, the weight almost jerking his limb out of its socket as Merlin’s fall halted.
Arthur’s knuckles went white and he puffed with the effort of holding himself and Merlin by only one hand. He tried to pull them up but there was no way anyone could have done it.
Suddenly the rock he had glued his hand to began to crack. Arthur snapped his head up at the sound and stared at it, pleading with his eyes for it not to break. It ignored him however and slowly broke free of the cliff edge, cracking terribly, as if dragging out the horror. Once again they were hurtling down towards the water below, the wind whistling in Arthur’s ears. He smacked into the water painfully, the surface almost like rock.
The prince floated slowly up to the surface; unconscious from the way he had hit the water. Gently the current carried him down the long winding river.
It carried him for hours, the prince being unconscious for most of it and when he wasn’t all he could see were the vague outline of overhanging trees and the hazy blue of the sky. In these small lapses of awareness he had two primary concerns. One, had had broken anything? And two, was Merlin ok?