“Merlin? How are you feeling? Do you want any breakfast?” Gaius peered around the door to Merlin’s room, “Merlin?” No reply, “Merlin?” Gaius went up to Merlin’s sleeping form and turned it over, “Merlin!”
Merlin’s skin had grown gruesome red scales in small patches all over his face. Gaius gasped and shook him awake.
“Uphf…I don’t feel good…” Merlin groaned, blinking.
“Merlin, look at your skin!” Gaius swallowed.
“What? What wrong with my-“ Merlin stopped as he looked at his arm.
“It’s the first stage of the transformation!” Gaius clapped a sleeve over his mouth and nose.
“Wha-What are you doing?”
“It could have become air born! I’m going to have to quarantine you in here!” Gaius muffled into this sleeve.
“What?! Don’t leave me!” Merlin exclaimed.
“I’m sorry Merlin but the whole kingdom could become affected!” Gaius said, diving over to the window and sealing it.
“What about me?!” Merlin protested.
“I’m sorry!” Gaius hurried out of the door at break neck speed and shut and locked it.
Merlin goggled at the door in fright. He dashed over to his wardrobe with the mirror on the inside of the door and looked at himself. Scraps of his skin everywhere had gone like scarlet red scales. They reminded him of the Basilisk. Was he going to turn into a snake? Merlin couldn’t breath properly. He choked and restlessly began pacing the room until he remembered what Gaius had said about not moving about to much and sat down again.
“Help…” He croaked to himself and fell into a dreamless sleep.
It was the day after the tunnel ordeal and Arthur had been walking all through the night. Thankfully the weather was a good deal better than yesterday and Arthur had managed to cover a good few miles. It was probably around three in the morning he had guessed by looking at the position of the moon.
He was coming out of the woods that he had been walking in for the past few hours and was entering a sort of treeless wasteland of rocks. There was something creepy about this place he thought to himself as he began walking among the tall rocks. He heard a noise.
“Probably just the wind…” He said to himself. He heard it again and shivered. Pulling his sword out of its sheath Arthur crept around behind a rock and peered around. He was positive that someone was following him. He heard a scuffling of footsteps to his left and whirled around. A shadowy figure slinked away behind another rock.
“Who’s there?! Show yourself!” Arthur commanded, convinced that someone was there. There was no reply, “That’s an order!” Arthur yelled. He was used to being obeyed and it annoyed him when he wasn’t.
The footsteps scuffled further away.
“Wait! Come back!” Arthur blew his cover and hurtled after the shadow. Every time he thought he had caught up to it the shadow seemed to be somewhere else. He rushed here and there among the maze of rocks until he exhausted himself.
“Where are you?!” Arthur shouted whipping around at every noise he heard.
“I’m here.” A ghostly voice whispered in his ear. Arthur jumped a foot into the air.
“Who are you?” He choked in shock and began to turn around.
“Don’t turn around. Walk forward.”
“Why?! Who are you?!”
“I am me.” The eerie voice hissed into Arthur’s ear making it tickle.
“No! Not you again!” Arthur cried.
“Walk.” The voice buzzed into his ear. Reluctantly Arthur began walking forward. With each step he took he was positive the owner of the voice followed him. Arthur kept walking for some time.
“Look, whoever you are, what’s all this about! I’m not walking any further!” Arthur stopped and tried to turn around again but found that he couldn’t.
“If you do not walk then your friend will die.”
“My friend? You mean Merlin?! You know about him?” Arthur asked.
“I can not tell you that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Where are we going?”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Then where am I going?”
“Wha-AHHHHHH!” The ground suddenly collapsed under Arthur’s feet and he fell in to a huge hole that opened up underneath him. He hit the floor heavily and mercifully missed a stalagmite that was poking out of the ground like a spear.
“Ugh…” Arthur grumbled as he sat up. He was in a cave or rather a labyrinth of caves. There were at least twenty options of ways to go. Arthur looked up. The hole he had fallen through was not very far away but as he looked the rocks closed up and the hole disappeared.
“Oh. Great.” He groused to himself and got up. He brushed himself down and looked around. The caves were, it seemed, made of shards of glass or crystal of a dark blue sparkling colour. The caves shape was roughly round and had only a few stalactites here and there.
Arthur had never seen anything so amazing and beautiful in his life. It was the way the shards glimmered with an unearthly blue light. Every so often there were flashes of light that almost looked like lightning and there were strange sparking noises now and then. Arthur gazed around in awe for a few moments before he remembered his mission and walked randomly through one of the many cave tunnels.
He walked and walked and walked some more. At times it seemed he was going in circles, at others it seemed as though he was not on the floor of the caves but on the ceiling. He soon became very confused and began to wildly run hither and thither, back and forth in search of the exit. He went further and further into the caves and got even more lost and panic-stricken.
Eventually he couldn’t run any more. He was hungry, hot, sweaty, sore and tired. He wanted nothing more than a hot bath, food and sleep but he knew he wasn’t going to get any of those things down here. He tried to remember what Gaius had told him.
“Argh! What did he say???” Arthur slapped himself on the forehead to try and jolt his memory.
“He said something about being calm to get out or…something…” Arthur racked his brains like a needle in a haystack. It was so hard to think when he was in such a state of hysteria, “Yes that’s it! He said be calm. So all I have to do is be calm. Why am I talking to myself?” Arthur tried to think calming thoughts, lay down, made himself comfortable on the cold floor and breathed deeply.
“Calm.” He told himself, “Calm.” Suddenly when Arthur finally relaxed the cave all about him began to disintegrate and fall away and suddenly he was rushing to the surface. Arthur was at this point so peaceful he barely noticed the cold night air blowing across his face.
“Well done young prince. You have mastered the art of being calm under pressure.” A voice hissed in his ear, “You may continue on your journey.”
Arthur sat up and looked about at his surroundings. He looked behind him and saw the maze of rocks and shadow. He picked himself up, shivered and began to walk quickly away from the place.
Merlin’s eyes flickered open as a small crack of light shone through the closed window onto his face. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. His eyes were hurting like mad. He rubbed them furiously. The itch wouldn’t go away however much he rubbed. His eyes began to water with the incessant scratching and ended up being worse than if he hadn’t touched them. Wondering if some dirt or dust had got into his eyes Merlin went over to the mirror to see if he could get it out.
An alarming sight met his eyes. The red patches of scale had grown far larger and his usual rich, blue eyes had gone misty and blood shot. Merlin pulled his eyelids apart to get a better look.
It looked like a film of cloud had been put across his eyes. The iris had gone a dull yellow colour and the pupil had changed shape and looked like a cats eye if anything. Merlin took a sharp in take of breath. Once again he was reminded of the Basilisk.
“Gaius?!” Merlin went over to the door and banged on it. The tapping of footsteps could be heard.
“Merlin! I’m sorry I can’t open the door. I can’t risk it spreading!” Gaius said, genuinely upset.
“Its fine. Don’t worry about it. Its just my eyes have gone all strange!”
“Wait there. Let me look at the book.”
Merlin heard Gaius go away and come back again.
“What does it say?”
“It says that the stages of becoming this…monster increase by every day. The process is slow and painful. Very cheerful! What’s wrong with your eyes?” Gaius said.
“The scales have got bigger and my eyes have gone all blurry. I think I’m turning into one of those snakes!” Merlin was trying his best to remain calm and tell Gaius what he needed to know.
“Yes, I’m afraid you may be right.”
Merlin could imagine Gaius’s forehead wrinkling even though he couldn’t see him.
“Gaius, do you think Arthur can do it? Can he find the sorcerer? Can he save me?” Merlin ask, scared half to death but trying to keep a brave face.
“I think he can.” Gaius replied simply and comfortingly. Merlin smiled slightly at the door.
A few boring, restless hour later Merlin heard a knock come from the door. Not his, but the door to Gaius’s chambers. He got up and put his ear to the door to hear what was happening. Gaius had opened the door and someone had come in.
“Good afternoon Gwen. What brings you hear?” Gaius was saying.
“I heard about Merlin. I’ve come to see if he’s alright.” Gwen said.
“Oh. Well I’ve had to quarantine him into his room because I think the disease could have affected the air.” Gaius replied sadly.
“Oh! Is he ok? I brought this bread for him. I thought he might be hungry.”
“Yes you can give it to him. He hasn’t eaten for two days. Open the door quickly and put the basket in.”
Merlin suddenly realized he was starving as he listened to them. He heard footsteps come up to the door and the lock click.
“Merlin? Are you awake?” Gwen called.
“Yes, I’m here.”
“Good. How are you?”
“I’m fine.” Merlin lied not wanting Gwen to worry.
“That’s a relief!” Merlin felt immediately guilty, “I’ve brought you some bread. I hope your hungry!” Gwen said cheerfully now she thought Merlin was ok.
“Famished!” Merlin grinned. Gwen opened the door quickly and put a basket on the floor. Merlin took care not to let Gwen see him. He didn’t want her to see him like this, with scales and all.
“I hope you like it. Its made with the best flour!” Gwen said waiting for a reply. Merlin took a large chunk out of the loaf and scoffed it.
“Hmm…It’s delicious!” Merlin muffled, his mouth crammed with bread. Gwen chuckled.
“Anyway, I’m glad your feeling ok. I’ve got to be getting back to work now. Things to do!”
“Ok. Thank you! Bye.” Merlin listened to Gwen’s footsteps tap away.
“See you later!” Gwen said to Gaius and Merlin heard the doors close.
“She doesn’t know how serious this is Merlin. I’ve tried to keep it quite. If everyone knew about how much danger they were in there would be an uproar.” Gaius had come up to Merlin’s door.
“How’s the bread.”
“Great! Made with the best flour apparently.”
“I heard. Tell me if there are any other changes with the disease won’t you.”
“Will do. But Gaius?”
“If I’ve been poisoned then how can it become air born? I didn’t think poison illnesses could become like that.” Merlin frowned even though there was no one to see.
“This is not your usual poison illness. It literally invades all the cells and that includes the lungs, which means that the air in your room could be very infected by now. Which is why I want you to put this sealing wax all around the window and door.” Gaius opened the door a crack and pushed a large lump of wax into the room, “Can you do that?”
“But there’s something else as well.” Merlin asked cautiously.
“What is it?”
“You know rather a lot about this particular poisoning. You’ve seen it before haven’t you.” Merlin had deducted this not so long ago but was quite sure it was the truth. There was a slight pause on the other side of the door.
“Yes Merlin have seen it before.” Despite having been sure, this still surprised Merlin, “My older brother was poisoned on a hunting trip for he village. I was left at home because I was too young. I always used to wait by the village gate for him to return but that day he didn’t come back. I heard what had happened by eves dropping at a meeting. I swore to find a cure but failed and he died. That’s why I became a physician. I knew what it was like to loose somebody close to you and didn’t wish that upon anyone else.” Gaius’s voice was sure and steady as he said this but was brimming with emotion. Merlin didn’t know what to say.
“…I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It not your fault Merlin. Don’t worry about it.”
Merlin listened to the footsteps go slowly away. He turned back to his bed and dropped onto it. He had never known about this before. His heart ached a the very thought of loosing someone as close as a brother, even though he was an only child and had never know what a sibling was like, or indeed what it was like to be one. He got up again and dismally began sealing the window and door with the wax and a candle.