Uther had been informed of the situation and had reluctantly sent Arthur to seek out Kerfane. He had sent Arthur because; as Gaius had explained no one else was capable of taking the job. Arthur was after all the strongest warrior in Camelot.
“Arthur, promise me you will be careful. You know how dangerous magic is. I’m only agreeing to this because of what’s at stake.” The king was saying to his son.
“Don’t worry father! This is going to be easy! All I’ve got to do is climb a mountain!” Arthur snorted arrogantly.
“ That may be but do not forget the trails.”
“Yes father.” Arthur sighed and mounted his white horse.
“Good luck.” Uther said patting the horse’s side to make it go.
As Arthur rode out of Camelot’s entrance Uther wondered if his son would ever listen to him.
“Come on Merlin. You need to rest.” Gaius was trying to get Merlin to sleep.
“I can’t sleep at a time like this!” Merlin protested.
“Why ever not?”
“Because I’m going to die and then destroy a kingdom without even knowing I’m doing it!” Merlin tried to point out.
“Only if Arthur can not find Kerfane. Please Merlin, you must rest or the venom will take control of you faster!”
Merlin sighed submissively and hobbled into his room.
“But I feel fine now!” He shouted back to Gaius, through the door.
“Unfortunately you won’t for much longer according the this book.” Gaius called back.
Merlin, grumbling slumped miserably onto his bed. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want to destroy Camelot! But it seemed like he wasn’t going to have a choice if Arthur didn’t find Kerfane. He wondered idly if he could cure himself. He reached over to the compartment under the floorboards and pulled out his spell book. He flicked through it absentmindedly.
“Cures for deafness, cures for blindness, cures for poisons. Ahh!” He found the page and scanned it. Nothing.
“Arh.” Merlin growled to himself, flicking through the poison section. He sighed and put his head down on the pillow.
“NO! No not you!”
Merlin knew it was the dragon calling him from the caves that it was imprisoned in, but he had still not forgiven it for what it had done.
“Merlin.” The voice called again.
“NO!” Merlin repeated and buried his head in the pillow to try and keep out the noise.
“Leave me alone!” Merlin shouted at the floor.
“Merlin? Who are you talking to?” Gaius opened the door, “ Your not hallucinating are you?”
“Me? No. I’m fine.” Merlin said quickly.
“Oh. Are you sure? I would have expected you to be suffering from the effects of the poison by now.”
“No don’t take it like that! I meant that the more you move and are active the less time it will give Arthur. And you’ve moving around an awful lot!”
“Hmm. Anyway how’s the leg?”
Merlin’s leg was hurting like someone had dropped a house on it but he thought about the potions Gaius might concoct for him and thought better of complaining.
“Well if you sure then get some rest. Wait what’s that doing out?” Gaius had spotted the spell book, “You weren’t trying to heal yourself were you?”
“You cant. There is no cure in written form in this world.”
“Get some sleep Merlin.”
Merlin nodded and pulled the blankets over himself.
Arthur had, it seemed, left at a bad time and the weather was beastly. He had his arm up to stop the rain flying into his eyes. His hair was plasted to his face and his clothes where heavy with water. A purple lightning bolt flashed across the sky and Arthur’s horse reared up. Managing to regain control of the animal Arthur decide he would camp for the night. He had been riding steadily since the morning and both he and his horse needed sleep. He jumped of the horse and tied the reins to a nearby tree. He wished he had brought a tent but the weather had been fine when he had left and he had not thought to bring one. He got a blanket out of one of the saddlebags and made himself as comfortable as possible under a tree. Instead of getting better the weather got worse. Arthur curled up like a cat and pulled the blanket over his head as the thunder rumbled overhead.
“Umfh…” Arthur grunted and flung the sopping wet blanket off him. He was soaked to the skin and shivering. Thankfully though the sun had shown itself and blue sky was overhead. Arthur wasn’t a morning person but the thought of Camelot being destroyed and Merlin dieing was enough to wake him up. He rung out his clothes, changed, saddled his horse and set of. He had not been riding for more than an hour when he could see a strange rock formation in the distance. It was full of huge, sharp, grey, black rocks.
When he reached the start of the trench he could see that it went on for probably no more than one hundred meters at most but it reached far into the distance on ether side. He would have to go through it. He would have preferred not to though. There was something wrong with this place.
Arthur jumped of the horse and began descending the scree to the bottom of the trench, leading the horse behind him by the reins. Small grey rocks cascaded down the slope and hurtled past him with each step he took. Eventually he reached the bottom. The first thing he saw was a tunnel that had been covered in stalagmites and had not been visible from the top of the trench. He went up to the tunnel and peered inside. The tunnel was pretty small. About a meter by a meter. There was no bringing the horse so Arthur left it to find its own way back home. As he ducked down and crawled slowly inside he remembered what Gaius said.
“A tunnel of riddles.” He could hear Gaius inside his head. Then he remembered the rest of what Gaius had told him. “You must answer the riddle or you will never be able to escape it.” Arthur stopped crawling. He was suddenly getting very claustrophobic. He turned his head around and looked back at the entrance to the tunnel. All he could see was a tiny blip of light. Arthur swallowed a lump that had grown in his throat. The microscopic bit of light should not have been that small according to the length of the tunnel, as he had judged earlier. He suddenly panicked. He began scrabbling to get back out. He kept going for so long that he lost track of time in the dark. Hopelessly he turned back again and continued forward to what should have been the exit to the tunnel.
He kept crawling and crawling but in vain. However long or however fast he crawled the fleck of light never got any bigger. Arthur flumped down onto the cold rocky floor, his hands and knees scratched and bleeding.
“Come on then! I can’t get out until I get this riddle! Come on!” He shouted at the darkness.
“You want your riddle?”
Arthur jolted and banged his head on the ceiling of the tunnel.
“W…who’s there?” He stumbled over his words, pulling out his sword.
“Me.” The voice echoed and bounced of the tunnel walls.
“Are you Kerfane?” Arthur said, looking around.
“I am me.”
“Right…Uh…are you going to give this riddle today or not?”
“Are you prepared young prince?”
Suddenly a bright light flashed on from nowhere. Arthur’s darkness accustomed eyes squinted in the brightness.
“Whoa.” Arthur exclaimed at the intense brightness. He looked to his right. The whole of the right side of the tunnel, as far as the eye could see had become a mirror. The mirror was rusty and had lost its shine. Arthur looked into the mirror. There he was, dirty and sweaty but there. As Arthur looked a strange misty, swirly shape appeared next to him in the mirror. The mist focused itself and became a man.
He had straggly, light brown hair that was greying and a long a beard. He was wearing ragged robes of a Puru like design.
Arthur started. He looked to his right hand side where the man should have been. There was nothing there. He looked back to the mirror. There the man was, cross-legged and smirking. He turned back to his right hand side and felt about in the air. He couldn’t feel a thing.
“What?” Arthur struggled. The mans’ reflection laughed nastily.
“Are you ready prince Arthur?”
Arthur nodded cautiously.
“I have a heart that never beats, I have a home but I never sleep. I can take a mans house and build another’s, And I love to play games with my many brothers. I am a king among fools. Who am I?” The man had a leering smile plastered across his face.
Arthur had taken a dislike to this man. He paused a moment.
“And if I can not answer this riddle?”
“Then you will be trapped here forever and become like them.”
Suddenly hundreds of skeletons appeared in the mirror. Arthur gasped horrified.
“Uh…Can I hear it again?” He asked, his mouth open in horror.
The man repeated the riddle.
“ I have a heart that never beats…well that means that you can’t be alive…” Arthur bit his lip and the man observed him quietly, “ I have a home but never sleep…you can take a mans house and build another’s…err…has many brothers…king among fools…umm…” Arthur mulled the riddle over carefully. The man watched him with interest.
“Hurry, young prince.” He said.
“Just give me some more time…” Arthur replied hastily.
“Tick…tock…tick…tock…” The man said childishly. Arthur’s heart began to race.
“Don’t do that!” He hated being under pressure. This only made the man tick and tock louder.
“King among fools…uhh…?” Arthur puzzled with a sense of urgency.
“Times up!” The man laughed horribly and began to slowly disappear.
“No wait! I think I’ve got it!” Arthur pleaded. The man continued laughing and disappearing.
“Are you the king of hearts in a card deck?!” Arthur shouted wildly. The mans face fell.
“ You…you may go free…” He said with an air annoyance.
Wide-eyed Arthur watched the man disappear and the light fade.
Arthur fell to the floor in relief and began laughing uncontrollably. Suddenly he noticed that the light speck had grown considerably and he could see trees through the opening.
Scrambling up he rushed out into the fresh air. He lay on the grass for a moment, just happy to be in the open again. Eventually he got up and looked back at the tunnel. He realized that he had left all his belongings in the saddlebag with the horse. Food, water, clothes. Gone. He thought about going back to the horse to get them but there was no power in heaven or earth that could make him go back into that yawning black hole.
“One down two to go! Looks like I’m walking from here.” He said to himself and began trudging forward.