Merlin had one of those horrible niggling suspicions. The sort that would never go away however much you tried to make it. In this case his suspicions were that he, along with part of the crushed ship and Arthur, were in the leviathans mouth. The fact that there were razor sharp teeth lining the sides of the place was a big give away, as was the huge pink, wet and sticky tounge like organ pulsating on the floor, or was in fact the floor.
After the monster had dived it had snapped Merlin up into its mouth, closely followed by a half drowned and unconscious Arthur and part of the broken ship. Brun was gone.
Merlin had tried to make Arthur comfortable until he woke up with a soaking wet blanket that did more bad than good so he had instead dragged the prince onto the boat, to keep him away from the knee height goo that covered the creature’s tounge. Merlin himself had got covered with the transparent slime and flicked yet another dried lump off his knee as he sat huddled in an alcove on the boat, trying his best to ignore the stench that hung thickly in the air.
For the inside of a sea monsters mouth it was surprisingly quiet with only the occasional judder as the leviathan leapt over a wave or swerved around an island.
Merlin wondered why it had not eaten them. Maybe it was saving them for later… However, it wasn’t eating them now and he wasn’t going to argue.
Suddenly Arthur stirred by his feet and his eyelids flickered.
“You alright?” Merlin asked, crawling out of the alcove and kneeling beside his friend who sat up on his elbows and rubbed an eye dazedly.
“Your alive!” Arthur snapped to attention.
“So are you.” Merlin reminded him.
“What is this place?” Arthur asked, sitting up and staring the pulsating pink floor and long white fangs.
“Well…I’m not completely sure but I think it’s the monster mouth.”
Arthur pulled a face.
“Brilliant. That makes me feel loads better.” He groused.
The creature juddered again, the splintered half of the ship vibrating violently and throwing them into the blanket of mucus that spanned the beast’s tounge.
Arthur groaned and extracted his arm from the slime, flicking it and sending a hail of goo flying through the air.
“What was that?” Merlin exclaimed, yanking himself free of the muck and climbing to his feet.
The serpent quaked again and suddenly there was a huge and forceful gust of wind flying in from were the opening of its mouth was. Slowly it opened, long cracks of light racing in from between the creatures teeth and casting tall shadows across Arthur and Merlin who clambered to their feet, arms thrown up to protect their eyes from the blast of the wind that buffeted them ferociously.
A new wind suddenly blew behind them from the back of the leviathan’s throat.
Merlin felt as though the two forces were compressing him, squashing him into something paper thin and lifeless.
The gale behind was getting more and more powerful and the one in front weaker by the second. The result was that Merlin was suddenly blown off his feet and was flying through the air out of the creature’s mouth and hitting a hard stone floor painfully, Arthur following closely.
The Leviathan, which was in a watery opening in the floor, sunk back down below to the dark sea and was gone.
Merlin scrambled onto his front and looked up at the strange place it had spat them out into.
It appeared to be some kind of ancient Greek temple, with crumbled stone pillars and time eroded statues of rearing horses and their riders, long spears in their hands and strange helmets on their heads. The light that lit the room didn’t seem to be coming from anywhere but everywhere, casting distorted swirls and patterns onto the ceiling from the reflection of the water that was all over the floor in puddles and where the Leviathan had left. Everything was made from stone of a golden brown colour and was worn away in places from the constant drips of water that cascaded down from the roof. The roof itself was similar to the floor, slabs knocked out of place and overlapping each other in an uneven collage of rock.
What was most disturbing about the strange temple, however, was the hundreds and thousands of skeletons that were lying everywhere, including right next to Merlin.
He rolled away, throwing its dusty fingers off his back and leaping to his feet, pulling a face of disgust and contempt.
“What happened here?” Arthur muttered, climbing to his feet and gazing around with wide eyes.
“More to the point, where is here?” Merlin replied, staring up at the vast ceiling.
“I’ve seen this place before.” Arthur mumbled, as he went to stand before one of the statues, his nose only millimetres away from the rock.
“What? When?” Exclaimed a flabbergasted Merlin.
“I did get an education you know. I saw this place years ago in a book about ancient temples.”
“What’s it called?”
“Can’t remember…” Arthur said, screwing up his face in an effort to call the memory to mind.
“Thing is, this place isn’t supposed to exists.”
“Well quite clearly it does.” Merlin said, brushing the skeleton’s hand off his foot were it seemed to have crept by itself.
“No, no. It was like an Atlantis sort of thing. The sea swallowed it up centuries ago. Technically it doesn’t exist.”
“You mean to say that if this is the right temple, we’re under water.” Merlin said cautiously, cutting through the deadly silence that had suddenly grown.
“But I’m breathing air.”
“Nicely observed, Merlin. There must be something stopping the water coming in.” Arthur said, casting his gaze around as if the answer was hiding behind a pillar of statue.
“Maybe. Where’d it go anyway?”
“How should I know?” Merlin said with an indignant grin, “ But why did it bring us here?”
“Perhaps this is its larder.” Arthur said in a sarcastically spooky voice and wiggled his fingers mockingly.
“Ha, ha. My sides are splitting.” Merlin retorted with equal sarcasm.
Arthur smirked and turned away, beginning to walk down the room, his feet splashing in the shallow puddles.
Suddenly he heard something and stopped dead.
It was hundreds of ghostly voices all whispering around his ears as though the owners were flying in circles around him.
“Arthur.” They whispered to him.
“Can you hear that?” Arthur said, whipping around and trying to find the source of the noise.
“Hear what?” Merlin asked, edging away from the skeleton that he was quite sure had moved.
“Someone saying my name.”
“I don’t hear anything.”
“There it is again!” Arthur cried and clapped his hands over his ears to try and block out the spectral voices but they continued to breath into his ear.
“ARTHUR!” A louder and more human voice hissed into his ear from his left.
Arthur snapped his head around to were it had sounded.
“We…I…I g-gotta go that way.” Arthur muttered and drunkenly began to follow the voices, stumbling along and getting faster and faster with each step.
“Whoa, hang on! Where are you going?” Merlin cried, jogging after him and having to speed up considerably as the prince broke into a run, doggedly continuing down the hall, weaving in and out between the pillars and heading to the far end of the room that was a good hundred meters away.
“Arthur.” The voices kept saying, having no trouble in keeping up with him as he pelted over the uneven floor.
As they neared the other end of the hall a blurred shape became clear. It was statue (much smaller than the bigger ones of horses) of a beautiful woman in a silk robe holding out her hands to the sky.
Arthur stopped running as he came to it. Merlin, who was pelting after him, skidded on the wet floor and collided into the wall beside the statue, ending up tangled with a skeleton that was slumped against the bricks.
“What are you doing?” Merlin asked crossly as he pulled himself away from the skeleton’s clutches and glared at Arthur who was staring unseeingly at the statue.
“What’s she holding?” Arthur murmured.
Merlin frowned and followed the prince’s gaze to the statues hands.
There was a small cube, about the size of a fist, sitting on her palms, made of a chocolate brown wood and with a silver pattern snaking up its sides that reminded Merlin of tree branches in the winter when they had no leaves.
“What is that?” Merlin said.
“It’s mine.” Arthur replied.