BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG!
Merlin was woken by a pair of saucepans clanging overhead, beaten viciously by Matilda.
“The end of the world!” Arthur yelled, shooting up and still half asleep.
“No, worse; morning.” Matilda replied.
Merlin sat up and rubbed his eyes sleepily. It was indeed morning and there was the golden white light of dawn shinning from the watery horizon.
“I hate mornings.” Arthur groaned and fell back onto his sack of grain that served as a pillow.
“I hate mornings. I hate mornings.” A squeaky voice said and the parrot, Goldrush as Kaelan had called it, flew down from its perch on the mast and settled on Arthur’s knee. The prince groaned again and pulled the blanket over his head.
Suddenly a blur of a sandy haired young boy shot past and jumped onto Arthur, making him double over with surprise.
“Sorry.” Kaelan apologized, grabbing his parrot and then went scurrying away with the bird on his shoulder.
“We’ll drop you off at Brinkwell. I trust you can find your way home from there.” John said, looking into the distance and shielding his eyes with a hand.
“How much further is it?” Merlin asked, walking over to John.
“I should say about an hour or so.” John replied.
As they talked Arthur tried to fall asleep again and turned over. He felt something hard poking into his chest. Abruptly he remembered the cube and yanked it from his coat pocket. He could barely believe it was still there.
Its silver pattern glinted in the sun as he turned it over and over in his hand. There was something about it that he couldn’t quite work out, something very desirable.
“Arthur.” A hundred ethereal voices whispered to him, defiantly emanating from the box.
“What?” He murmured back, totally entranced, “What do you want?”
“Do you want any breakfast, dear?” A kind voice suddenly broke through the whisperings and Arthur looked up to see Matilda gutting a fish with a long knife.
“Huh? Oh, yes, please.” Arthur muttered.
Matilda looked satisfied and Arthur turned back to the cube. The voices had stopped, seemingly interrupted.
“Talk to me.” Arthur hissed and tapped it with a finger to see if that would make it speak again.
“Talk to me. Talk to me.” A squeaky voice yelled into his ear, making him jump.
The parrot flew off as he shooed it away.
“Talk to me?” Merlin asked, sitting down on a bench and pulling on a sodden boot.
“Umm…yeah, I wanted the bird to talk. Parrots always fascinated me…” Arthur mumbled and shoved the cube back into his pocket before Merlin could see it.
Merlin looked unconvinced and slightly suspicious and was about to speak again when Matilda suddenly spoke.
“Breakfast’s ready!” She said in a brisk tone of voice and flapped them over to the table in the middle of the boat where five plates of smoked fish were waiting for them.
About an hour later a thin slither of land could be seen in the distance and a few minutes after that they had docked at the pier, said their farewells and thanks and hired a horse, which had been troublesome as they had no money. But Arthur (after having flirted a little with the girl at the stables) managed to get a couple of horses and in no time they were heading back to Camelot.
As the mass of turrets, flags and battlements appeared over the hill Merlin realized how much he had missed the place, even though it had only been for a few days since they had left.
He made his way into Gaius’s workshop, wondering if his uncle had even noticed his absence. After all, he had been gone the time that was expected for the fishing trip, despite being shipwrecked by a Leviathan and spat out into a lost temple.
“How’d you get on?” Gaius asked, beaming at him from behind a stack of scrolls and medical equipment.
“Oh, you know, just the usual. Attacked by a sea monster, not really anything interesting.” Merlin said, going into his room where he hoped to find some clothes.
Gaius just stared after him, slightly speechless.
The rest of that day was spent by both of them explaining to anyone who would listen about their endeavours at sea. Merlin would have told Gaius but his uncle had a good deal of rounds to attend to so he was out for the rest of the day.
That night Arthur had the strangest of dreams. Well, more like a nightmare.
He was in a completely white place, nothing at all to see other than white.
“You shouldn’t have taken it, you know.” Someone whispered into his ear and Merlin sidled around him, smirking.
“Taken what?” Arthur asked, but no sound issued from his mouth.
“You should have taken it!” Morgana said, appearing from nowhere.
“He did take it.” Another voice, his fathers, chortled in his ear and he felt Uther’s hands on his arms, massaging his shoulders.
“He took it, he didn’t take it, he took it, he didn’t take it.” Morgana said; plucking petals from a flower and letting them fall to the floor, where they suddenly turned into pink beetles and scuttled away into the whiteness of the dream.
“What’s going on?” Arthur demanded as Merlin began to snigger.
They all looked rather leering and evil as Uther joined Morgana and Merlin in front of him.
“Open the cube!” Uther commanded.
“Don’t open the cube.” Argued Morgana, beginning to circle around him with the others.
“Open the cube!” Merlin said, picking up one of the beetles and popping it into his mouth.
“Open the cube!” Uther said but then suddenly seemed to change his mind, “No, don’t open the cube. Open the cube! Don’t open the cube!”
“What?” Arthur cried, still no sound coming from his mouth, trying to move but just glued to the spot.
“You should open the cube!” Morgana and Merlin said simultaneously, going behind Arthur and resting their chins on his shoulders, gripping his arms painfully and squeezing his head with theirs.
“You shouldn’t have taken the cube, Arthur.” Uther said, standing, arms folded in front of Arthur and speaking in Merlin’s voice, “You shouldn’t have taken it. You know you shouldn’t have.” He said and then suddenly looked away sharply, “Don’t take the cube. Open the cube. Don’t open the cube. Take the cube!” He ordered, turning back and now speaking in Morgana’s voice, which was extremely odd.
“You could be great if you open the cube.” Merlin hissed into his ear, gripping his arm even harder and widely spread a hand out into the air before him.
“DON’T OPEN THE CUBE!” Morgana suddenly screeched in his other ear and waved a pink beetle in front of his face.
“What’s going on?” Arthur tried again.
Suddenly hundreds of tiny laughing Morgana’s and pink beetles were flying down from the whiteness above, using umbrellas to float.
“Open the cube! Don’t open the cube! Open the cube! Don’t open the cube!” Merlin and Uther sang, linking arms and running round in a tight circle, pink beetles dancing with them.
“Open the cube or don’t open the cube?” Arthur demanded soundlessly as they all linked arms and began to do the Cancan, complete with ruffled dresses.
Suddenly he felt himself slipping, down and down and down, being carried by the pink beetles as the three above him began to laugh maliciously, Morgana still chiming the dreaded words.
“OPEN THE CUBE!”