“Look, I don’t think you should take it.” Merlin told Arthur worriedly, glancing around in case there was someone about, as the prince went on tiptoes and tried to grab the cube.
Arthur didn’t reply and, not being quite tall enough to reach the very top of the statues heaven raised hands, climbed onto its shoulders.
“You do realize you’re stealing?” Merlin said crossly as Arthur seized the box between both hands and pulled at it furiously.
“I prefer the term ‘commandeer’.” Arthur replied and yanked angrily at the cube that was apparently fixated hard onto the statues hands. Merlin sighed sullenly and folded his arms. Arthur ignored him and, finding that the box wasn’t going to come off with a simple pull, stood up precariously on the statue’s shoulders and kicked the cube hard with a well-aimed heel.
After another two kicks later, the box flew off the statue and hurtled away straight at Merlin who somehow managed to catch it.
“What is this thing?” He said, throwing it up into he air and catching it again. It just looked like a block of wood to him.
Arthur snatched it out of the air before it fell into Merlin’s hands. As soon as his hand closed around it he felt thin bolts of electricity creeping slowly up his arm. It sat in his palm perfectly as though it were made for him. It just felt right to be there. It felt good to be there. He stared at it for a moment, running his fingers over the silver lines.
“Umm…Arthur…you’re drooling…” Merlin said hesitantly.
“Huh? What?” Arthur looked up into the face of a rather confused Merlin.
Merlin pointed slowly to Arthur’s mouth where there was a long strand of spit hanging.
“Oh…” Arthur muttered embarrassedly and wiped it away with a sleeve.
He looked back at the box in his hand. Suddenly he realized that the voices had stopped. He wondered if they had come from the cube itself.
Merlin continued to watch him warily. He didn’t like the box. He could feel that there was something wrong about it. He couldn’t let Arthur take it from the temple, let alone keep it forever, which seemed to be Arthur’s intentions.
“I think you should put it back.” He told him cautiously and reached for the cube
“No way.” Arthur said, shrinking away from Merlin’s hand and staring intently at the box, turning it over and over in his palm.
Suddenly there was an ear splitting roar.
Merlin whipped around, while Arthur didn’t seem to even notice. Merlin squinted his eyes, looking back at the direction they had come from, towards the opening that led to water. The Leviathan was back, it’s long, scaly body rising at a rapid pace out of the water and gazing around with its non-existent eyes for its prey. As caught sight of them, its head snapped up pointedly towards the two young men. It pulled itself like a snake from the water and began to slide menacingly at them across the floor.
“Arthur, come on, put it back. We gotta go.” Merlin said quickly, grabbing the cube and making for the statue.
Arthur was about to snatch it back but suddenly he had an idea. Merlin wasn’t going to let him take it so he would have to trick him somehow…
“Okay, let me put it back.” He said.
Merlin looked doubtful but he couldn’t risk having an argument now when the Leviathan was drawing ever closer. Reluctantly he placed the cube in Arthur’s outstretched hand.
Arthur put the cube on the statue’s hands and turned expectantly to Merlin.
“There, happy now?” He said with what he hoped was a convincingly innocent smile.
Merlin looked decidedly suspicious and was about to say something but the Leviathan roared again and cut him off. It was a good deal closer now, even if its progress across the floor was slow.
“Run!” Merlin cried and began to race away from the statue, going left to where he did not know.
As soon as Merlin’s back was turned Arthur seized the cube and shoved it into one of his coat pockets, feeling it strangely warm against his chest.
He pelted after Merlin just as the Leviathan snaked up to the statue and lunged at him, missing the prince but crushing the sculpture into a thousand pieces of stone and dust.
Arthur dashed after Merlin and soon caught him up. He had no idea where they were going but the further away from the sea serpent the better.
He dodged around a column and dived over a particularly uneven slab of stone, landing head first in a deep puddle and dragging himself from it as the monster poked it’s ugly head around a pillar and screeched yet again.
Arthur suddenly had idea as he noticed the pillar was split in half and only staying intact by precious few centimetres of stone. It wouldn’t take much to push it over.
“Merlin!” Arthur shouted to his friend who was cowering behind a horse statue.
Merlin looked up from the beast, saw Arthur and made a break for it, pelting to the slab. The serpent curled itself more around the pillar and snarled as it saw the sudden movement.
“We can use that pillar to kill it!” Arthur yelled to him above the racket, peering over the top of the slab and pointing at the pillar in question. Merlin nodded with wide eyes and they crept to the side of the stone, crouching down so that maybe the creature wouldn’t see them, “Now!” Arthur shouted as the serpent wrapped yet another loop of its thin body around the column.
They broke their cover and ran to the pillar.
The Leviathan, who was almost completely coiled around the stone, immediately began to unwrap itself, sensing what they were about to attempt. Arthur rammed his shoulders hard into the column, puffing with the effort, as Merlin threw his back against the rock and pushed for all he was worth. Another light blue coil unravelled from the pillar. Soon it would be free and their chance to kill it would be over. Arthur set his face into a determined grimace and thrust himself against the pillar ever harder.
Suddenly there was a grating sound that echoed around the suddenly quiet hall. The column groaned (if stone could groan) and collapsed, falling heavily onto the Leviathan, which screeched in shock, as it was crushed to the floor.
It flapped about like a fish for a moment, denting the rock all around it, before the weight of the pillar quashed the life from its being.
“Is it dead?” Merlin said, craning his neck out at the still body but making no attempts to find out.
“Would you be dead if a rock pillar fell on you? Of course its dead!” Arthur replied sarcastically and climbed onto the Leviathan’s scale covered back, grinning victoriously. Merlin looked thoughtful for a moment and suddenly made his way over to the creature’s head, “What are you doing?” Arthur asked in confusion, as Merlin seemed to start sizing up the ugly head.
“I promised Gwen I’d bring her back a fish.”
Arthur burst into laughter, “And you think that bringing back the severed head of a sea monster is romantic?”
“Well…umm…you’ve got a point I suppose…” Merlin said, embarrassed and rubbing the back of his neck.
“What would you do without me, Merlin?”
“Present Gwen with a mutilated head?” Merlin supplied hopefully.
Laughter filled the hall for a moment, reverberating off the walls and creating larger and larger sound waves. Maybe this helped the roof, that was weaker now that it was one pillar short, to break, which is what it began to do.
A chunk of the ceiling fell out of its place, crashing ominously to the floor, centimetres from Merlin, who leapt a foot in the air and tripped over one of the Leviathan’s ragged wings. Slab after slab followed the first, water gushing down from the ceiling in a torrential waterfall.
Arthur leapt off the snakes back as another rock fell, inches away from where his feet had been a moment before. He dragged a stupefied Merlin from under a shower of water and together they ran as fast as was humanly possible in the opposite direction of the hundreds of falling bricks.
Water continued to gush in from the gaping hole. It wouldn’t take long for it to fill the room and especially now the entire ceiling seemed to be falling away.
“Where are we going?” Merlin yelled over the noise of the water.
Arthur thought for a moment, remembering the book he had flitted through all those years ago when his tutor had been trying to teach him arithmetic. Arthur had never like maths so he had instead fallen into one of the many interesting books that lined the shelves of the study. His tutor, ever oblivious and completely absorbed in triangles, had not noticed when he had snuck over to the shelf and taken a random book that had turned out to be on ancient temples. He remembered the particular page of the temple they were now in. There had been a picture of some holy statue or something and a few Greek priests bowing down to it, offering it burnt sacrifices.
Something clicked in Arthur’s head. There had been an opening in the ceiling that served as a chimney for the smoke that billowed out from the burnt offering. Chances were it would lead straight out of the temple. But it must be blocked by something or the temple would be filled with water…
It was still worth a try though, right?
The shrine with the statue would be somewhere central; as were most important things, and if that were the case then they were going in completely the opposite direction.
Arthur abruptly stopped.
“This way!” He shouted and turned back the way they had come, dragging Merlin along with him.
They splashed back through the rapidly rising water, past the Leviathan’s dead body and the remains of the statue that had once held the cube.
The water was knee height by the time they found a huge archway on the side of the wall that led to the shrine. There was a strange statue at the far end of the room.
Arthur recognized it to be the Greek god Poseidon. More importantly than the statue, however, was the rectangular stone table before it and the opening in the ceiling that was the chimney.
“What are you doing? We’ve gotta get out of here!” Merlin cried nervously as Arthur leapt onto the table and gazed up at the hole in the ceiling that was a good fifteen feet away.
“We can get out through there.” Arthur told him.
There was a huge stone blocking the hole but the pressure of the water against it when it finally rose high enough would push it out of the way and then all they would have to do would be to swim to the surface.
“How?” Merlin asked incredulously, “That rock’s never gonna budge!”
“It will. You’ve got to trust me.” Arthur said, locking eyes with Merlin.
Merlin looked back at the door and the water that was coming in faster and faster. It was waist height now and it would be long before it was even more.
“If we die, I’ll blame you.” He told Arthur as he joined him on the table.
“I hope you can hold your breath.” Arthur said as another surge of water gushed in.
The water had already come up to their knees. Soon it was waist height, then up to their necks. They began to tread water as it continued to rise. It brought them closer and closer to the hole in the roof with every second that past.
When their heads where pressing against the rock in the hole and there was only a few inches of air left Merlin was having serious doubts that they were going to get out of this alive.
“When I say ‘now’ hold your breath.” Arthur ordered; his voice slightly drowned out by the occasionally lapping of water at his face, “And then push the rock as hard as you can.”
Merlin nodded and put his hands up to the cold, smooth stone above.
There were only a few centimetres of air left…