The room was filled with Scottish soldiers all pointing swords at him. One of them, it seemed had thrown him off the bed and was now coming at him with a bunch of ropes. Merlin leapt up and backed away but the man grabbed him and tied his hands behind his back and also fixed a dirty rag around his head and through his mouth so Merlin couldn’t make a sound.
As the soldiers dragged him away Merlin saw Arthur struggling furiously as he was given the same treatment. However, the soldiers soon also had him bound and gagged and led them out of the tavern and threw them into the back of a roofed cart. The cart set off and rattled down the track. As they went through the town many of the village’s inhabitants began throwing rotten fruit at them and shouting catcalls.
Arthur and Merlin exchanged glances. What on earth was going on? Merlin guessed that somehow the Scottish king had found out that Prince Arthur was staying at the inn and had arrested them. This was not far from the truth as what had actually happened was that one of the ships crew had been found and lured in to become drunk. The sailor had then told the people who had found him, about Arthur and his intentions. The king had been notified and had immediately sent a posse of soldiers to arrest Arthur and anyone travelling with him. Hence the fact Arthur and Merlin were now on their way to King Argus’s castle in Edinburgh not so far away.
As they reached the castle, some time later, Merlin wondered at how similar it was to Camelot. The castle was white and had hundreds of turrets poking out here and there. However the flags that flew from the flagpoles were extravagantly different from the simple red and gold dragon of Camelot.
Eventually the cart stopped and the two Scottish captives were hauled out into the courtyard and driven at sword point down deep into the belly of the castle to the dungeons. The castle had been alike to Camelot but the dungeons however were another matter. The walls were two foot thick and the doors were made of iron and sported an ugly design with only a small, bard window. Arthur was thrown into a separate cell to Merlin, which Merlin immediately saw as a disadvantage to escaping, as Arthur could have been useful in that department. Fortunately Merlin was lobbed into the neighbouring cell that also had a tiny, bard window.
Merlin crashed to the floor and watched as the guard locked the door, the noise echoing eerily of the walls. As the guards footsteps echoed away Merlin took in his surroundings. It didn’t’ take long as the cell had quite literally nothing in it. It was bare, had no straw and was absolutely spotless. Merlin reached up to the window and pulled himself up so he could look in to Arthur’s cell.
“Arthur…Arthur?” He hissed, craning his neck to see where the prince was. He jumped and almost lost his balance as Arthur’s face appeared suddenly on the other side of the window.
“What do you mean what? We have to get out of here!” Merlin said taken aback by Arthur’s blank voice.
“Look at this place Merlin! You would need a battering ram and twenty men to blow these doors off!”
Merlin realized this was quite probably true but it didn’t let that stop him from trying to encourage Arthur.
“Well, look on the bright side. At least you still have your shoes!”
“If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve lost my boots.”
“Hard luck.” Arthur sounded anything but sympathetic. Merlin ignored this latest comment.
“What do you think the king is going to do to us?”
“I expect he will have us a trial at some point. We can find out why all this is happening then.”
“Who knows? Maybe tomorrow.”
“And what if it goes wrong?”
“Then he’ll probably have us executed.”
“Well if it goes like that then we’ll escape.”
“How?!” Arthur said angrily. Merlin knew he could get up and leave the cell at anytime by using his magic to open the door but he was smart enough to know that if he did then they would not get the chance to find out what was going on. Also he obviously had to keep his magic a secret from Arthur, which brought him to a pause when Arthur asked him the question.
“I have a plan.” Was what he came up with.
“Oh no! No more of your plans! I’ve had enough of them. First you suggest a sea voyage, which might I just add ended in a ship wreck and then you say,“ Arthur put on an annoying high pitched voice, “Ooh lets go get a job at an inn” which then results in us getting caught! No! No more of your plans today!” Arthur promptly let go of the edge of the window and sat down on the cell floor.
“Fine,” Merlin said also letting go of the window ledge, “but this one will work.” Arthur snorted from the other cell.
Merlin was rudely awaken once again by a Scottish soldier who dragged both Merlin and Arthur roughly out of their cells and took them to the conference hall of the castle, telling them the king had called them to an audience. They were pushed none to gently into the hall in front of the king’s throne to their knees.
Merlin looked at the old Scottish king sat on his throne. The man had a humongous moustache and a mop of fuzzy white hair giving him the appearance of an eccentric scientist. He was wearing an insane amount of furry rugs that were so great in number the king could have been mistaken for a small bear. Merlin stifled a laugh at the king’s odd appearance and instead developed a strange coughing fit. Arthur threw him a “shut up” look and Merlin subsided his spluttering.
“Which of you is Prince Arthur of Camelot?” The king boomed, his voice rebounding of the walls of the great hall. Suddenly Merlin had a thought. He couldn’t let Arthur speak. He knew Arthur’s temper, especially at the moment, would get them into even more trouble and even end up with the king executing him on the spot. So this brought him to what he did next, rash or otherwise.
“I am.” Merlin stepped forward, automatically getting ready for a confused protest from Arthur. He was not disappointed.
“What?! Mer-“ Merlin stood on Arthur’s foot and clapped a hand over the princes mouth.
“You can’t get the staff!” Merlin flashed his trademark grin at the king and tried to restrain the struggling Arthur.
“What are you doing!” Arthur hissed as Merlin eased his hand of his mouth.
“Saving our skins! Shut up and play along!” Merlin turned back to the king. “Sorry your majesty. This servant of mine never had any manners.” He said, trying to impersonate Arthur’s princely tone of voice.
“I can have him flogged.” The king suggested. Merlin wasn’t looking at Arthur but he felt his stare boring into the back of his neck.
“An excellent suggestion my lord, perhaps later, but we have to take care of more important matters at present.” The king’s face fell.
“What did you have in mind when you said important matters?”
“Firstly I would dearly like to know why you want England and secondly why you came pacifically to myself and my farther.” Merlin said, his blood boiling at the whole cheek of it.
“I shall answer that.” A voice tinkled from somewhere. A woman with short jet-black hair and probably in her mid thirties, stepped delicately round the throne. She was wearing a long deep blue dress with silver embroidery around the hem. She had grey eyes that were quite unremarkable apart for the intense piercing feeling Merlin experienced when her gaze fell over him. Her stare hit him and he almost staggered. There was something there, in those grey depths, something wrong, something magical. He immediately knew she was a sorceress.
“Who are you?” Arthur demanded from behind Merlin, he to had felt this woman’s presence.
“She is my adviser. Her name is Mara.” The king explained. Merlin shivered at the name.
“You wish to know why we want to own England.” She said in a strong voice.
“Yes.” Merlin managed to splutter.
“Power.” Mara said, blunt and short. Merlin and Arthur were both lost for words. The commanding presence of Mara kept them silence, “As for why we came pacifically to you, we heard that you were the strongest of all kingdoms and had more power over England than most men.” Once again her answer was blunt and short with no emotion put into her words what so ever. Merlin and Arthur exchanged glances.
“And you just expected us to hand over England!” Arthur spoke up, making Merlin step his foot again.
“Yes. Of course we expected a bit of fight…” It was the king who said that, “Wait…why…I don’t…I…can’t…I...” He seemed to be trying to remember something from years ago. Merlin briefly saw Mara’s face flicker with something he couldn’t put his finger on.
“I think that his majesty has been out enough for one day. Take him away.” Mara nodded at a pair of guards who obediently led the king away. Merlin wondered who was really in change here and he could tell from Arthur’s face that he was thinking the same, “ As for the prince, take him to one of the guest chambers and make sure he is comfortable. As for his manservant, throw him back into the dungeons.” Mara turned away and followed the king and his guards out of a back door. As Merlin and Arthur were led away the real prince had doubts to voice.
“Merlin you idiot! What were you thinking! Get me out of the dungeons!” Arthur hissed furiously, his eyes smouldering.
“Oh, I think it’ll do you some good to be in there. Besides I’ll be to busy being made comfortable!” Merlin replied, grinning wickedly at Arthur who was dragged off to the dungeons.
Merlin was led to a large royal chamber where there where servants waiting for him. He noticed that the guards still kept themselves outside the door and he found that all the windows were locked. Not knowing what to do with them, Merlin sent the servants away and locked the door behind them.
At last, civilization! But more importantly shoes! He found a pair of boots in one of the many wardrobes and thankfully slipped them one. The hadn’t worn shoes in at least two days and it felt good not to have to place his sore feet on cold stone floors anymore. Footwear was not the only thing he needed though. He took a much-needed bath and then explored the room in search of clothes.
He discovered a good deal of frightening kilts in one of the many wardrobes but there was no power on heaven or earth he would wear them. Instead he found himself a blue shirt, not at all dissimilar to his own shirts, a pair of black trousers and not abandoning his beloved red scarf he wrapped it around his neck.
Then, feeling hungry he ordered the guards at the door to bring him food. He felt strange ordering people about but he could see why Arthur enjoyed it. It was nice not having to do anything for once. He was tempted to go and send Arthur some food but he really couldn’t be bothered. After having eaten a delectable meal he had only to touch the bed to fall asleep on its soft furry rugs.
When he woke he wasn’t entirely sure what time it was or what to do next. He remembered Mara and how sure he was that she was a sorceress. He needed to talk to her. He suspected that she was somehow using her magic to control King Argus and complete her quest for power through him. He also suspected that she knew he was not a prince and that he, like her had magic. He wondered where she was. He did not have to wonder for long as a knock came at the door.
“Come in.” Merlin said cautiously. Mara entered the room and with out being offered sat down haughtily on a chair.
“You are not Prince Arthur. You are a warlock.” She said in her blunt manner.
“And you are a sorceress.” Merlin was unsurprised that she knew about his magic. Mara flashed him a look.
“How do you know this?”
“I could ask you the same.”
There was a moment of silence.
“What do you want?” Merlin asked.
“I want England, I want power, I want you.”
“Excuse me!” Merlin reeled, unsure what she meant by this.
“If you were to join me Merlin we could both become the greatest sorcerers ever! We could rule Scotland and England! Wales and Ireland would soon bow to our command and then! Well…let’s just say the British Isles today, the world tomorrow.” An ugly and crazed look had grown on her face. Merlin of course was not going to do anything like this ever and he told her that.
“No offence but I’m a bit young for you. Besides I use magic for good not as a weapon for a quest of power!” The reaction he got from Mara was surprising, as she had seemed so passionate moments before.
“It matters not. I shall rule the world with or with out you.”
Merlin almost laughed at this. Was she mad? Surely only mad people wanted to take over the world? Surely only mad people talked in the way she did. He suddenly realized he was sniggering as Mara looked at him.
“What is it you find so funny?”
“You! Taking over the world! That’s ridiculous!” Merlin couldn’t help himself and burst into laughter. Mara did not reply to this but instead got up and made for the door. Merlin however did not have any intention of letting her go. More had to be said. A flash of gold and the door locked itself. Mara rattled the door handle but to no avail.
“What did you do?! Let me out!” She still spoke in an expressionless voice.
“Not until I have my conditions agreed to.”
“One; let Arthur go. Two; let us both leave. Three; stop hypnotizing the king. Four; Leave this castle and never return.”
“How do you know about the king?!” Mara for the first time showed emotion. It was panic.
“It was blatantly obvious. I know magic when I see it. You’re hypnotizing the king to do what you want! I noticed he was waking from a trace in the court room.”
Mara seemed shocked. It is obvious this is a powerful warlock she thought to herself.
“And if I don’t agree to these terms?”
“Um…” Merlin suddenly realized that he didn’t quite have a plan that went that far.
“Ha! You do not even have anything to threaten me with young warlock! Mathendea likra! ” She cast a spell on the door and it swung open. With a final murderous look back at Merlin she stormed out.