Arthur jolted awake, springing up and waving a knife at the air, whipping it out from under his pillow. He dropped the dagger and ran a hand through his hair at the sight of his room, not the white expanse. He crawled to the far end of his bed and hugged his knees, rocking slightly and picking at a frayed thread on the edge of one of the blankets. That dream had been very, very, very odd. He didn’t think he would ever forget seeing his father in a dress…
His eyes wondered over to his bedside cupboard where the cube sat, exactly were he had left it before falling asleep.
Good, it was still there.
He looked away, trying to forget the box; it was too weird. But, strangely, he couldn’t look away. It was like his gaze kept getting dragged back to the box.
He glanced at it again, and then again and again.
He had to hold it.
He snatched the box off the bedside cupboard and held it in front of him, tightly gripping it like it was a rare and fragile vase. He ran a finger along the long arcs and curls of the silver pattern on the wood.
“Open me, Arthur.” The voices began to whisper all around again, louder and more eerie than ever.
“How?” Arthur murmured, staring at the cube intently.
“Use the knife, Arthur.” The ghostly voices hissed.
Should he open it? Was this a good idea? Arthur didn’t care if it was or not. He had to open the cube and what’s more, he was going to.
“Devil may care.” He muttered to himself and seized the dagger.
He ran the knife tip down each and every side of the cube, weaving in and out of the silver lines. Suddenly it clicked and a small square on each of its six sides slowly slipped out, sticking a centimetre or so from the cube’s smooth surface. All six smaller cubes twisted a complete 360 degrees, clicking quietly.
The silence that came next was deafening. Arthur stared at the cube, wondering what it was going to do.
Abruptly the silver lines began to move, slithering along the grooves of the wood, seemingly having melted. Before he knew it they were snaking away from the cube and running onto his fingers that were clutching the cube so hard his knuckles were white.
He dropped the box as the molten metal began to run up the back of his hand. The cube fell off the bed and rolled under it.
The metal disappeared under his sleeve and he pulled it up to see the silver sinking into his wrist. He could feel it going into his veins and running with his blood stream up and up and up. It was making for his head.
Suddenly a jerk like an electric bolt pulsed through him and he fell off the bed, grasping the blankets like that alone would save him from the pain that suddenly wracked his body. He pulled the fur rugs to his neck, folding it over and over in his hands with agony. The silver had reached the inside of his head, he could feel it running into his eyes and burning them like a thousand fires.
Suddenly an image flashed before him. It was his father’s face, white and as cold as stone. He was dead and Arthur was king, with more responsibilities than he could manage.
The image was gone and Arthur caught a glimpse of the ceiling of his room before another streaked before him.
There was Merlin’s grave and he was collapsing onto it, crying out his heart for his lost friend. His best friend. He had died saving Arthur’s life.
Arthur snapped back to reality, tears of horror swimming in his bloodshot eyes.
Once again a bolt of searing pain shot through him and his eyes began to blaze with a white-hot sensation of torturing misery.
His last thought was that he was dieing.
The next morning Merlin managed to wake up in time for work (something he rarely did) as Arthur had mentioned he wanted his floor sweeping along with the rest of the usual duties. Yawning, he got up and threw on some clothes before sleepily making his way down the stairs and picking at his morning gruel then, deciding to leave it as always, (maybe why he was so skinny) he ambled out of the door, stretching leisurely.
The next thing to do was to fetch Arthur’s breakfast from the kitchens and present it to the prince himself. Yawning a reply to one of the cooks about how he was that morning, Merlin got the tray and picked his way expertly through the many familiar corridors that led to Arthur’s room.
Flattening his mussed up hair and trying to look presentable (failing miserably) he rapped his knuckles on the door, stifling yet another yawn. Wondering why he was knocking when he never did normally Merlin waited for a reply but none came.
“Ah, stuff it.” He muttered to himself and went in.
The curtains were still closed and the room was dark so Merlin groped around for the table so he could put down the platter and open them. Once the curtains were drawn he turned to the bed where he expected Arthur to still be. The only thing on the bed though was Arthur’s legs. The rest of him appeared to be on the floor.
Thinking Arthur had rather strange sleeping habits Merlin went around to the other side of the bed to find out what he was doing on the floor.
He was laying there, shoulders and head on the ground but legs and back on the bed, which did not look in any way comfortable. His eyes were tightly closed and anyone would have mistaken him to be asleep had his face not been scrunched into a grotesque mask that by rights, should not belong to anyone other than someone who was in a great deal of pain.
Merlin immediately knew that something was very wrong and knelt next to the prince who wasn’t moving apart from a rapid, irregular gasp for breath every now and then.
“What happened to you?” Merlin exclaimed, though unsure if the prince could even hear him.
“Merlin?” Arthur cried and shot his hands up to Merlin face, poking him in the eye.
“What are you doing?” Merlin said incredulously and pulling Arthur’s hand off him from where they seemed to be feeling his face.
“Is that you?” Arthur asked urgently in a small voice.
Merlin wondered why he didn’t just open his eyes and see for himself but answered anyway.
“Yeah, it’s me but…umm…what are you doing on the floor?”
“I thought you’d died!” Arthur said, ignoring the question.
Merlin thought maybe he’d had a bad dream and overlooked what he’d said.
“What happened?” He demanded firmly.
Arthur shook his head and gritted his teeth, still apparently in a lot of pain. He clenched his eyes shut even tighter and hissed with agony, squirming on the floor.
Merlin looked on helplessly.
“What’s wrong?” He asked again with a softer voice.
It was a moment before Arthur spoke again.
“It hurts…it hurts so much…” He whimpered, turning over and clutching the blanket tightly, stiffening with the pain that he was obviously in.
“I’ll go get Gaius.” Merlin decided, standing up.
“NO! Don’t leave me!” Arthur cried, groping around until he found Merlin’s foot and latched onto it.
“But your ill!” Merlin said, trying to free himself.
“Please, don’t go!” Arthur sobbed into his ankle.
“I have to. I’ll only be a minute.” Merlin promised. He hated to have to leave him in this state but he didn’t have a choice.He prized Arthur’s hands off his foot and quickly dashed out the door, blocking out all beseeches of to not go, and quickly made it back to Gaius’s workshop.