The prince drew his sword and waded into the bog, the swampy water going up to his waist and seeping into his boots. He clambered onto the island and straightened up.
Suddenly Almaric was upon him, taking him by surprise as he had thought there would be some kind of speech to start the battle. The huge sword clashed onto his own as he put it up just in time, the noise echoing through the trees. Almaric twisted the swords around so that they came apart and dove at Arthur, a mad glint in his eye.
Arthur dodged out of the way just in time, but not before the sword connected with him flimsy armour and caused it to fly off his shoulder and spin away through the air, towards Almaric’s men.
The two men circled around the island, sizing each other up, Almaric teasing Arthur with a few bluffing jabs that stroked his sword every now and then.
Arthur lunged at the older man with a straight blow that was meant to hit his stomach but Almaric swung out of the way, causing Arthur to skid to a halt and wobble precariously on the edge of the island. He regained his balance and spun round as yet another heavy blow came, his sword just managing to parry the strike in time.
He shoved Almaric back with an almightily heave and stabbed at him again, narrowly missing but falling onto the ground as the miss unbalanced him. As Arthur recovered from the fall Almaric threw his sword down into the ground but Arthur rolled away before the blade could pierce him.
He grabbed for his own weapon and pulled it up, coiling his arm around the other mans leg to throw him off his feet. It worked and Almaric fell to the floor. Arthur leapt up, as did Almaric and they clashed swords yet again.
Almaric rammed him in the shoulder and shoved the prince off the island into the swamp, both of their swords falling into the water and sinking into the murky depths.
Arthur ducked as Almaric swung a fist at him and then dealt one of his own that threw the man into the swampy water. He dived in and went to grab his opponent but suddenly he felt someone’s legs wrapping around his ankles and unbalanced him.
He was under the water before he knew it and suddenly Almaric had clamped his hands over his throat.
Arthur scrabbled at the hands, choking and almost taking in a lungful of water.
Merlin watched on in horror as Arthur was submerged under the swamp, a hundred bubbles flying up from the water, as Almaric attempted to strangle him, shaking the prince violently and holding him under the murky water. One of Arthur’s hands clawed desperately at the man’s hands that were constricting him and floundered about in the air with the other, sending splashes of water into the crisp cold air.
Merlin had to do something. He could just stand there and watch his best friend being killed.
He didn’t even stop to think as he threw a spell in their direction.
“Maybeenea rathtonro gerentha!” He cried and threw his arm out towards the fight, his eyes flashing gold.
Suddenly Almaric was thrown back a good deal of meters and Arthur sprung up, gasping a huge lungful of air and clutching his throat, water dripping from his hair.
Almaric was shocked, but not enough to not lunge for Arthur again.
Arthur managed to dive out of the way as the man splashed through the water towards him. Suddenly he felt something hard beneath his foot that wasn’t the muddy ground. It was a sword. He bent down to try and grab the weapon, his fingers just managing to close around the hilt before Almaric flew into him again.
He plunged Arthur into the water, being careful to ram his foot into the prince’s arm to stop him from lifting the sword and once again grabbing his neck.
Suddenly the men on the other side of the swamp leapt into action, running with swords drawn at Merlin and Elliot’s troop of men.
Merlin drew his sword and fended off a man, shooting a quick glance over his shoulder to try and push Almaric away from Arthur again but the man he was fighting kept him too busy to help anyone.
As Almaric’s hands crushed his windpipe Arthur felt his lungs beginning to burn and he began to think that he would do anything, anything at all, just to have a breath of air in his lungs. His thoughts became hazy as his blood scoured the last dregs of oxygen from his lungs. His bulging eyes could just make out a distorted blur of Almaric above him, the man’s golden tooth sparkling and his lips curled into a sneer of mirth.
Everything was going into slow motion; the urge to breath was blazing in his throat and lungs, intoxicating his senses.
A voice sang fancifully in the back of his mind. It was exhorting him to relax. Maybe it was the voice of death. He felt himself going limp as Almaric tightened his grip.
Merlin knocked the man away and jumped out of the fray to the edge of the quagmire where he saw Arthur was no longer struggling. His eyes wide with fear Merlin sent the spell at Almaric again and the man flew back, crashing onto the island. Merlin wanted to dive in and drag Arthur out but another man was attacking him and he had no choice but to protect himself.
Arthur felt Almaric being thrown off him again and immediately he rocketed up out of the water.
Air! The most delicious of gases. It filled his starved lungs as he gulped it in.
Coughing up water and delirious of the pleasure of being able to breath again, Arthur waited until his body’s panicky request for air faded. Only when it had did he turn to face his opponent who somehow had been thrown back onto the island.
Dazedly, his head pounding, he found the sword that had slipped from his grasp and attempted to dive at Almaric but he swayed on his feet, the sound of his heart pumping in his ears.
His vision was clouding, gradually getting blacker and blacker.
Merlin saw Arthur fall out of the corner of his eye, the sword still clasped firmly in his hand. Almaric was making for it but a flash of gold sent the weapon flying at the man, killing him dead.
Merlin turned back to the fight, trying not to think about what he had just done, even if it had been to save Arthur’s life.
The men had suddenly seen their leader was dead and scattered, running off into the trees shouting retreat.
Merlin dropped his sword and dove into the mire, swimming to where Arthur lay, floating on the water. He dragged him out and pulled him onto the bank, quickly checking for a pulse and finding one.