Arthur swung his arms to gain momentum, also rocking the cage, and prepared for the huge leap that would take him to the next crate.
The last thought that went through his mind before he jumped was that maybe he was going mad.
Then he jumped.
He sailed through the air for a moment, his arm swinging around like a windmill before he crashed stomach first into the other cage, winding him.
He grabbed one of the cage bars before he could slide off and hauled himself onto its roof, shaking with adrenalin and almost petrified with fright.
One cage closer to the platform.
It was Merlin’s turn now however and Arthur had serious doubts that the boy could make it, especially with a broken rib. It was then that the realization of how Merlin had obtained his injury hit him. He had got it defending him from the bear, saving his life yet again. Another thing to add to the list of things he owed Merlin.
Arthur emerged from his thoughts, interrupted by Merlin who had just said he was about to jump.
He looked ridiculously scared and who wouldn’t be given the currant situation? Arthur had a good deal of sympathy for him. He did after all know what it felt like, having jumped first.
Merlin began to swing the cage as Arthur had done so that the gap would become shorter. He leapt, the wind causing his black hair to fly back from his forehead. Arthur had worried but he needn’t have done as Merlin crashed head first onto the cage, well clear from the edge.
Arthur offered him the hand that wasn’t glued to the rope, and Merlin stood up shakily, his knees almost knocking.
The next jump was even further than the last but it was the final one so that was a mercy, if small.
On the same wavelength the two young men took opposite sides of the rope and began to swing the cage back and forth, closer and closer to solid ground. The crane creaked awfully and Arthur was sure it was going to snap but it was strong and didn’t break.
The crate was swinging over the platform; all that remained to do now was jump.
“On the count of three!” Arthur shouted, the wind whipping his hair one way and then the other as the cage swung.
Merlin nodded in reply and the prince began to count.
“One, two, three!”
As the crate hovered over the rock they leapt at the same time, hitting the hard and dusty ground and rolling over and over, finally free from the crow cages.
The rope that had held the cage over the precise snapped just as their feet left the crate and the cage was sent cascading down the cliff, knocking off the sides and breaking into a hundred pieces.
Merlin climbed to his feet, as did Arthur but not before spiting a glob of sandy spit out of his mouth.
“Come on. We need to get away from here.” Merlin said, eyeing the place as though some huge beast or hungry crow was lurking in wait for them behind a rock or tree.
“I second that entirely but we need to know where we’re going first.”
“Home.” Merlin said simply.
“Exactly. But where is it?”
They turned around for a moment, scanning the huge plain before them for any sign of the tall white turrets of Camelot, but none appeared.
“That river must have carried us pretty far…” Merlin mused.
“Maybe there’s a settlement in the forest that can help. Give us a guide or something.” Arthur suggested, pointing to a vast forest behind him.
“How long do you reckon it’ll take to get there?” Merlin asked. The forest was pretty far off.
“I don’t know. Maybe…” Arthur looked at the sun that showed him it was roughly around four o’clock, “…six hours, perhaps five.”
“We’d better get going then.”
“Yes. Come on.” Arthur nodded and began making his way down the huge rock via the steep winding path, Merlin following in his wake.
After a few hours of trudging towards the forest across the dusty plain the weather took a turn for the worst and black storm clouds filled the grey sky, casting huge shadows over the ground.
It began to splatter rain as they entered the forest, the noise pitter-pattering off the leaves on the huge trees, the droplets breaking into a hundred more as it hit the leaves.
Very soon the rain was coming down in bucketfuls, soaking them both to the skin as they traipsed down one of the muddy tracks. It was also becoming dark and as the shadows grew longer and longer and the full moon climbed steadily higher into the sky Merlin had doubts that the silent Arthur ahead had any idea where they were.
He sprinted for a second to catch the prince up so that he might inquire to their where abouts.
“Do you actually know where we’re going?” He yelled through the storm.
“Not a clue.” Arthur said cheerfully, digging his hands into his wet pockets and continuing to trudge down the path, a dribble of rain falling off his nose.
“Can’t we stop? It’s nearly midnight! Maybe find something to eat?” Merlin asked hopefully.
“Yeah. Good idea.” Arthur stopped, running a hand though his rain slicked hair and looking around for a moment before he veered off the path to take shelter under a tree.
“We’re camping here then?” Merlin asked, following him under the tree.
“As best we can, yeah. You go that way, see if you can find some berries or something.”
Merlin headed off in the direction that Arthur had suggested and soon found a blackberry bush, its branches heavy with berries. He picked them, using the bottom of his soaking wet shirt to keep them in. Soon he had a reasonable amount of the black fruit as well as a good deal of pricks from the thorns that protected them.
Sucking his fingers on one hand and the other holding his shirt that held the berries, his face was illuminated by a sudden flash of lightning that streaked across the dark sky.
It was going to be a long night.