Darkness was Arthur’s world as he let Merlin lead him to the battlements. His knees bumped against something solid that must have been the stone wall that stopped people from falling off the battlements. This was one of his haunts where he always came to think things over. He was surprised that Merlin knew this but then again Merlin was practically like an extra limb to him now – someone who went everywhere with him and knew more than a little about his ways.
Arthur ran his fingers over the stone, finding it to be slightly damp and rather cold to the touch but pleasant nevertheless as apposed to Merlin’s sweaty hand. Icy sharp air filled his lungs. It was so good to be out of that stifling room and in the open again.
Merlin stood silently by his side.
Arthur remembered that odd conversation they had had the previous night. What was it Merlin had said? Something about curing him? And then what did he say after that? It sounded like something important…
“What did you want to say last night?” Arthur asked promptly, missing how Merlin suddenly stiffened.
“Oh, erm…nothing really…”
“No, go on. Tell me.” Arthur persisted.
“No, no, it was nothing…”
“Merlin, you really are the worst of liars.” He said, giving him a look that Merlin could only describe as prattish.
“It wasn’t important, honest! Err…did you have a good night’s sleep?” Merlin said, deciding it was time to steer the conversation out of these dangerous waters.
“No, I didn’t.” Arthur said tightly, thankfully dropping the subject.
There was a silence full of guarded feelings as Arthur decided whether he should tell Merlin about the dreams he had had before he’d woken that morning.
“Just promise me you’ll never give me that sleeping draught again.” Was all he said.
“Why?” Merlin asked again, his forehead furrowing.
There was another pause.
“I see these visions.” Arthur eventually admitted. Merlin said nothing and waited for him to go on, “I first saw my father die and then I was king but I didn’t know what to do and no one could help me…” Arthur said in a far away voice.
“It was only a dream. Its not real.” Merlin said comfortingly.
“I know but then there was a grave, your grave, and I was crying and you were dead and…and…” Arthur took a sharp intake of breath and hid his face from Merlin, trying to stop the tears falling at the memory. What would the people say if they heard the prince of Camelot had cried over a servant? What would they say if he had cried at all? No, he could not cry. He would loose his untouchable figure of authority that he had strived so hard to maintain so that he might impress his father and show him he was worthy of taking the throne. Emotion was not an option. But having said that, Arthur was not the type of man to obey orders if he thought it wrong. Servants and royalty rarely mixed but Arthur didn’t see Merlin as his servant. He saw him as a friend. To be friends with a servant was not illegal – that would be ridiculous – but it was frowned upon. Anything that was held in such light Arthur loved to go against but that was not his reason for thinking of Merlin as his friend. His reasons were that Merlin was loyal (perhaps too much for his own good), he was always a light in dark times and even if he was the most incompetent servant the castle had ever harboured Arthur was still very fond of him and enjoyed having him around. The prince could barely think of Camelot without Merlin.
Maybe it wouldn’t be such a crime to cry over the death of a servant. In fact, Arthur thought, it defiantly wouldn’t be.
“And what?” Merlin asked with intense curiosity, breaking Arthur away from his thoughts, “What happened then? What did you see?”
“I don’t know.” The prince replied, composing himself and turning back to the view that must be before him. He wondered what it was like. It was spring but that wouldn’t really help him imagine what the landscape would look like.
Perhaps Merlin could tell him…
“Umm…well, you don’t have to or anything, its not an order but…err…can you tell me what you see?” Arthur asked awkwardly.
“What I see?” Merlin repeated slowly.
“Why?” Merlin asked, his forehead furrowing with puzzlement.
“Because I can’t open my eyes but I still want to see the view.” Arthur explained difficultly.
“Oh.” Merlin said and there was a short pause, “Well, umm…I see Camelot.” He eventually came up with.
“Surely you can do better than that!” Arthur laughed.
“Alright, alright! Give me a chance.” Merlin said and judging by the sound of shuffling feet he appeared to be shifting about as though that would help him construct the words to build a picture of the scenery. It was just one of those Merlinish things, Arthur supposed.
After another pause he seemed to have thought about what he was going to say and began to speak.
“Well, the hills roll away into the distance, gradually getting more and more blurred because there’s this drizzly mist hanging over everything. The sky is hundreds of different colour greys and there are some birds up there, I think they’re skylarks. Do you hear them?” Merlin asked.
“Yeah, I can hear them.” Arthur replied.
“There are oak trees, willows, firs and a few scotch pines out in the distance, right on the tip of the furthest hill. There’s this one tree near the beginning of the forest-“
“The one something bad always happens in.”
“Anyway, there’s this one tree, I reckon it’s a cherry tree. Its got really pink flowers all over it and it looks much clearer than normal because the sun just came out from behind a cloud and is shinning loads of rays down on the ground.” Merlin explained.
Arthur could imagine it all. The hills, dark green and sloping away, splattered in different types of trees and this one tree – a cherry – sitting near the beginning of the forest and a long beam of light emanating down from the sky and illuminating it.
“And it market day down- you’d better not be laughing at me.” Merlin stopped and cast Arthur a critical look.
“I’m not laughing!” Arthur said indignantly, being completely truthful.
“You’re laughing on the inside…” Merlin grumbled.
“No, I’m not. Just get on with it.”
“Fine, fine.” Merlin said airily, “Like I was saying its market day in the town and there’s a cat trotting down one of the streets and it’s leapt onto a fruit stall to wash itself. I think it wants to salvage the last of the sun because it’s just gone behind a cloud again. There’s a wandering band right by the tavern as well.”
“Are they any good?” Arthur asked.
“Yeah, they’ve got a pretty big crowd.”
“Oh, a dog just scared off the cat but it’s escaped.”
“And some of the houses have smoke rising from the chimneys. It stinks actually.” Merlin went on.
“Yeah, I can smell it.” Arthur said, taking in a lung full of smoky air.
“There are a few cute girls gossiping on the corner, too.”
“What? Where?” Arthur demanded.
“Doesn’t matter if you can’t see them!” Merlin laughed.
“That’s downright unfair!” Arthur complained sourly.
“Did I mention they were cute?”
“Stop rubbing it in!”
Arthur muttered something about him being barbarous and sulkily folded his arms.
“Well, that’s about it really.” Merlin finished after his grumbling had subsided.
“Thank you.” Arthur said in more seriousness now.
He really was thankful to Merlin, not so much for the description of the landscape but for just being with him. Arthur couldn’t pinpoint it but there was something different with him since the cube had attacked him. Something he could only describe as a desire to not be left alone in the cold darkness that the cube had brought upon him and Arthur, for one, could think of no better person to help him through times such as these than Merlin.
The young prince felt a splash of water on his nose and wiped it away as the heavens opened and rain began to fall from the bloated grey clouds. Soon it was coming down in bucketfuls but neither he nor Merlin made a move to go back indoors. The prince didn’t want to go back to his stuffy room were he would only sleep and see more of those dreaded visions.
Merlin, who was soaked to the skin, embarked on a feeble endeavour to keep the rain off him by pulling his coat over his head but only succeeded in making himself more wet and gave up.
The rain continued to lash at the castle walls. Arthur could hear it. He had always liked the sound of rain and it was strangely comforting. It reminded him of his childhood when one day he had been trying to go out to play with a few of his friends in the town but it had been raining and his father, being a rather overprotective man, had forbidden him to go. A zealous Arthur had blatantly ignored him, of course and clambered out of the window and across the roofs via a secret way to the town only he knew. He had paid the price for being out in a downpour all day and half the night, however, and came back, drenched and bedraggled, to the castle where he received little sympathy from his father and nurse maid. He may have caught a hell of a cold but it had been a fun experience none-the-less.
Good times, they were.
Suddenly he was yanked from his thoughts by a horrible jolt of excruciating pain and he stumbled back a few steps, clutching his head in one hand and rubbing frantically at his burning eyes with the other. It was so sudden and heart-stopping that he couldn’t breath for a moment and was only mildly aware of Merlin dashing to his side and attempting to stop him from collapsing. The prince’s knees buckled and Merlin couldn’t keep him up. He was unconscious before he hit the floor.