It was about ten or eleven at night when Merlin reached the docks. He stood in awe at the magnificent vessel before him. It had rigging hanging down from the masts everywhere and the crisp white sails were rolled up. The wooded carving at the stern was a half star jutting out grandly. Most of the ship was a lovely dark wood colour and the sides had beautiful patterns carved into it and the word Magnanimous was painted in large curly letters on the stern.
It was an admirable sight of man-made beauty. It was a shame that he couldn’t stay there and admire it forever but he had to get on with the task at hand. Merlin imagined what he would have to go below deck to the storage hold were he could hide so he set off down the path.
He could see a few sailors mooching about the deck but there was no one else around otherwise. He continued as innocently as possible along the path as one of the sailors leaned on the decks rail and watched him suspiciously.
Merlin went a little way along until he found a blind spot along a small peer that went behind the ship. He tied the horse to a wooden pole with a few other horses and cast his attention back at the ship.
There was a porthole about three meters away from the peer. He reached out to see if it was locked but couldn’t reach it with out falling in the water below. He looked left, right, up and behind him. There was nobody about. A flash of gold in his eyes and the porthole swung open.
Ok it was open now but how was he going to get in. He wondered if the porthole was big enough to jump through. On inspection he decided it was but only if he went headfirst and slithered in. He picked up his rucksack and threw it into the hole. Ok there’s no going back now he said to himself, taking a few steps away from the edge of the peer. He swung his arms and prepared to jump.
One, two…two and a half, THREE! He hurtled across the wooden floor and lunged with all his might at the porthole. He sailed through the cold night air over the space of water between the ship and peer for a moment before becoming encased in the darkness of the ships hold.
He landed head first in some grimy water that was splashing around the floor of the store hold. Quickly he stood up and lifted his rucksack from the floor so as not to let it get any wetter. He listened carefully for any one that may have heard him. When he heard nothing, he decided to explore the hold and find himself a place to sleep.
There were hundreds of barrels of varying sizes stacked up everywhere and Merlin kept stubbing his toes on some of the smaller ones in the dark. On closer inspection of the barrels they proved to be ether filled with bottles of rum or food. Merlin, having a taste for rum swigged himself a mouthful but it made him choke. Obviously it was proper sailor rum and not for landlubbers. Leaving the bottle where he found it he continued on his search for a dry place to sleep. At length he came across an empty wooden box that might at one point have held the rigging to the ship. It was dry and spacious inside so using his rucksack as a pillow he stowed himself away in there.
“Well, this is easier than I thought!” Merlin said to himself. He had expected armed guards to be flooding the place and for it to be a real challenge to get to the ship let alone its hold but this had been easy. Grinning at his luck Merlin snuggled down into his rucksack and went to sleep.
His luck was not to hold out though. He woke to find that the ship was most defiantly moving. There where pounding of footsteps overhead and there was a fresh sea breeze coming in from one of the portholes. Merlin sat up and rubbed his eyes. Something had woken him. It took a moment to realize what it was. There were voices floating down through the trap door that led to the deck and footsteps. Merlin jerked properly awake, grabbed his rucksack and hid behind one of the stacks of barrels.
Two men, stocky and with acres of stubble were making their way down the ladder that led to the hold, laughing about some joke or other that one of them had told. They went to a barrel and began drinking the rum merrily. Merlin was wondering how they could drink the strong alcohol with such gusto when he took a step back and promptly tripped over one of the small barrels. The barrels around him fell like dominos to reveal him standing sheepishly with his ankles in water for the sailors to see. The two men looked at each other for a moment then set down their bottles of rum and began walking maliciously at Merlin.
“Well, well Mike! What have we got ‘ere then eh?” The larger of the two said.
“Looks like a stowaway to me Fred!”
“Tut, tut! Landlubbers should know better! What say we teach him some manners ay!”
“Sound like a good idea to me!” The one called Mike drawled.
Merlin who had no desire to be taught manners of any kind hastily stumbled back and tried to run to safety but Fred lunged at him and picked him up as if Merlin was as light as a feather. Then carrying poor Merlin like a parcel under his smelly armpit the two unsavoury sailors took him out into the blinding light of the deck.
Arthur had just thrown up for the hundredth time over the side of the ship. He had never liked sea travel and had forgotten this earlier and was now regretting going by sea. He briefly reflected that it had been Merlin’s idea. Suddenly he heard a familiar voice carry over to him on the wind.
“Uh…Look…can’t we just sort this out like civilized people?!” The voice pleaded. Arthur looked around. He’d know that voice anywhere but why he was hearing it here when he had explicitly told the owner not to come was a different matter. His eyes picked out Merlin from behind a bunch of sailors who were not sorting anything out in a civilized manner at all and were instead pummelling the living daylights out of poor Merlin. Arthur angrily ran over to the scene and swatted a sailor out of the way.
“MERLIN! What are you doing here you idiot!” Arthur looked bloodthirsty.
Merlin picked himself up and glared haughtily at the sailors as they slouched off, furious that their sport had been deprived of them. Merlin turned to Arthur who was looking murderous.
“I told you was coming didn’t I?” Merlin said innocently.
“And I told you, you weren’t!” Arthur snapped.
“Well here I am!”
“I’m sending you back!”
“Well that’s going to difficult seeing as we are already miles away from the coast.”
Arthur looked furious for a moment but then seeing sense he gave up.
“You look dreadful. Go find a cabin and clean yourself up.” Arthur turned away and stormed off.
A few minutes later Merlin had chosen an empty cabin. It was proper fancy with royal colours of red and gold. Merlin found out by looking in a mirror that he had a huge black eye from the sailors. Not being sure how to fix a black eye he just left it to fix its self. He took a bath, changed his clothes and then went on to explore the vast ship.
The weather was good and there was a strong wind blowing about. Merlin, unlike Arthur did not suffer from seasickness and was in his element as he pranced around on deck leaving the prince to feel sorry for himself. This infuriated Arthur and he was in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
The next day however was uneventful and Merlin spent most of his time ether annoying the sailors or staring into the deep swirling currants what flowed around the ship. He loved to lean out as far as he could and survey the deep blue depths as they whirled about like a flock of birds, flying in the sky.
After a few days of sailing though, this novelty wore off and Merlin found himself aimlessly wandering about with not much to do. It was nice not having to run endless errands for Gaius and Arthur was in no fit state to give orders but Merlin found himself becoming very bored.
He decided to climb the crow’s nest one stormy morning and read a book. He wished he had brought his spell book but he had not and he had to make do with a tedious sailor handbook named “The guide to Knots”.
He was just absent-mindedly flicking through “how to tie the alpine butterfly” section when suddenly the ship began to rock violently from side to side. Well, more than normal anyway, the sea and weather was pretty rough today. Confused shouts came from below and there was a sound of water splashing on to the deck. Merlin dropped the book and peered over the side of the crow’s nest. An unbelievable and terrifying sight met his eyes.
There was a huge pale peach tentacle, with massive suckers covering it, slithering over the deck back into the sea. At the stern of the ship a number of smaller tentacles were suckered on and there was a long body floating in the water. It had horrible shiny black eyes that seemed to stare in all directions at once. It was a giant squid! Merlin reeled in terror at the sight of the creature. He had known these creatures existed but to actually see one was near impossible!
Wildly he looked around the deck of the ship for Arthur. If anyone was going to sort out the rabble of terror stricken sailors it would be him. Merlin’s eyes roved the deck before him. He searched and searched but saw no Arthur. He must still be in is cabin Merlin thought. The squid was throwing its bigger tentacles at the ship again and it smashed through one of the masts and it crashed heavily to the floor. As the tentacle rose again Merlin realized with a sickening feeling that it was about to smash his mast next. Merlin caught hold of the rope ladder that climbed up to the crow’s nest and began rapidly descending it. He slid down the last bit as the tentacle whacked the mast and it also, smashed to the deck.
Merlin dodged his way through the maze of sailors and passengers. He searched the sea of panic stricken faces. None of them belonged to Arthur so he battled his way through the mob and went to the cabin hall. Arthur was sluggishly hobbling out of his cabin, his hair a mess and an “I’m-to-sick-to-do-anything” look on his face. Merlin rushed up to him.
“ARTHUR, THERES A GIANT SQUID THING ATTACKING THE SHIP!!!” He yelled.
“A giant squid?”
Arthur obviously thinking this statement was nonsense began to crawl back to his cabin.
“NO! There really is!” Merlin grabbed Arthur’s sleeve and began yanking him through the hall and up the stairs to the deck.
The squid’s assault on the ship had been successful and the entire front half of the ship was now a wreckage of broken wood. The weather had become raging storm and rain pelted down onto the passengers and sailors of the ship who had or were jumping off the sides into the sea.
There was no other choice but to follow them as the squid was already advancing on the rest of the Magnanimous. Arthur properly woke up at this awful sight and ran with Merlin to the side of the ship. The sea had become a swirling black sheet that flew up onto the side of the ship as the vessel hit the waves. Merlin swallowed. It seemed Arthur was also having cold feet.
“Ok when I count to three we’ll jump!” Arthur shouted through the storm.
Merlin nodded, squinting his eyes to keep the rain out.
“One! Two! Three!”
They jumped. Merlin fell through the freezing cold air for a second then crashed into the even colder depths of the sea below. The biting cold made him gasp and almost get a mouth full of water as the icy water wrapped itself over his head. The fierce waves rocked him back and forth but he kicked up strongly and managed to poke his head out of the sea. The ship had vanished and all Merlin could see was a cacophony of blurred green, black and blue. His ears rang with the noise of the waves and the rain. He bobbed under again as a huge waves crashed over his head. He took a gulp of salty water and spat it out again as he appeared once again to the surface. There was no sign of Arthur or anyone else for that matter.