Arthur had rested after the second trial, had woken at noon and had been walking for hours and hours and hours. It was now round about six at night and only a small glimmer of the sun could be seen on the horizon. The huge mountain Jenn Gusch was in view and only a few miles away. Arthur took a minute to admire the beauty of the mountain in the sunset. The orange glow covered the left part of the mountain as it did with the snow and ice near the summit.
“Who are you?” Someone suddenly said behind Arthur. Arthur spun around. A small young boy, skinny, freckled and with a tousled mop of sandy hair that threatened to consume his head was standing a few meters away with a huge rucksack on his back. Arthur had learned not to trust strange people on this mission meaning the man who always called himself “me” but this boy looked less than harmless.
“I am Prince Arthur of Camelot. Who are you?” Arthur sheathed his sword, which he had self consciously drawn.
“Oh your majesty! I am Jim Kelenor from Heath my lord.”
“What is your business here?”
“I…Well my uncle has a deadly illness and is close to death. I was going to find the Sorcerer Kerfane. He maybe able to help.”
“Then we are going the same way.”
“You are trying to find Kerfane? What would a prince be doing that for?” Jim asked, puzzled.
“My friend has been poisoned by a Basilisk which was mostly my fault. Kerfane is the only one who knows the cure.”
“A Basilisk?! I thought they had been whipped out years ago!”
“Apparently not. Have you taken the other two trials?” Arthur asked the young boy.
“Yes. I guess you have to. I had trouble with the caves.” Jim shivered at the memory, “I wonder where the third one is. It must be somewhere about. It’s getting very close to the mountain now.”
“Yes.” Arthur observed the boy for a moment, “How old are you?” He asked. The boy paused a moment.
“I have seen twelve winters my lord.”
“Twelve! Why so young? Could your village have not sent an older man?” Arthur said astounded.
“The village counsel did not think there was any hope. They think that Kerfane is no longer alive.”
“So you came by yourself.”
“You had better come with me.”
“Travel with a Prince?! Wow!” Jim said excitedly to himself, looking like a kid in a candy store.
“Come on. Do you want some help with that?” Arthur nodded at the oversized rucksack. Jim gasped.
“NO! I cannot let a prince carry my things! It is below you my lord!”
“Oh shut up. Heath is hundreds of miles away! You must have been carrying it for weeks. Give it here.” Arthur lifted the massive rucksack of the boy and hoisted it onto his own back. It was heavy. Really heavy, but Arthur started walking never the less. Jim skipped along at his heels.
“Is it nice in Camelot?” He asked.
“Ye-“ Arthur wasn’t given time to answer as the boy was already questioning him again.
“Do you have a crown?”
“Is it shiny?”
“When Merlin remembers to poli-“
“He’s my servan-“
“Do you have a huge room?”
“Does it have curtains?”
“What colour are they?”
“Do you have loads of swords and stuff?”
“Do you have a shield?”
“Do you get to boss loads of people about?”
“What’s what?” Arthur, half driven to distraction looked thankfully in the way the boy was pointing.
There was a clearing with a flat stone floor which looked very out of place is the wake of the mountain. There where also monstrously huge statues on ether side with massive outstretched wings that touched each other at the tip. Something about the statues jogged Arthur’s memory. They had curly haired lion heads and eagle like bodies. Arthur remembered. Gaius had said, “Beware the lion headed eagles for they will devour you.”
“This must be the last trial…” Jim walked slowly forward, looking at the statues in awe, “Come on! Lets go!” Jim speeded up his walking and trotted on to the strange rock floor.
“No! Jim wait!” Arthur reached out to grab the boy and pull him back but the gigantic rucksack unbalanced him and he hit the floor. He spat out a mouthful of grass and looked up. Jim had gone. Arthur stood up and looked furiously around.
“Jim? JIM!” The young boy was nowhere to be seen. Arthur flicked his eyes from one statue to the other.
“Beware the lion headed eagles for they will devour you should you not show courage.” He said quietly and morosely to himself. Taking a deep breath he placed a foot onto the rocky floor. Nothing happened so he took another step. Sweat beaded down his face and he felt his pulse quicken.
“Come on Arthur! Show courage. Come on!” He severely told himself. He guessed that Jim had not been as confident as he had seemed when he stepped onto the path and had been “devoured”. He had a sneaking suspicion that the statues ate you but he had not desire to find out if that was correct so he quickened his pace. Soon he was practically running at full pelt across the river of rock. He passed the gigantic statues and looked back at them as he ran. They weren’t moving or doing anything for that matter.
Arthur dived headlong of the stone and tumbled into the long grass on the other side. He was alive! Which was more than could be said for Jim. Arthur looked back at rucksack that he had left at the opposite side. Arthur stood there a moment respectfully bowing his head then set of up the slope that led to the foot of the mountain.
Bad. It was how Merlin felt and looked. He was standing shirtless in front of the mirror looking at himself. Most of his skin was now red and scaly; his eyes had turned yellow to. He also had noticed his tongue had grown considerably and had two lumps at the end which he suspected might become forks. His arms and legs also had less movement in them. Almost like some of the joints had disappeared. He had told Gaius but there had been nothing he could do save encourage Merlin.
Merlin felt alone. He was stuck in this tiny room with nothing but a stump of a candle for light. He had polished of the loaf the previous day and was ravenous. He reached slowly for his shirt and with difficulty pulled it over his head. His arms felt so weird. He wondered how long Arthur was going to be. He had been gone five days now. A knock came at Gaius’s door.
“Come in.” Gaius said. Someone entered the room, “Sire.” Merlin’s hopes soared briefly at the thought it could be Arthur and the cure but his face fell when he heard Uther’s voice.
“Gaius. I’ve have just heard some news from the guards. Arthur horse has retuned with saddle bag and all but with no sign of my son.” The king sounded angry, frightened and worried. There was a pause in the conversation and then Gaius began whispering something to Uther. Merlin couldn’t hear what they were saying but he guessed they were being quite so he couldn’t listen in. The two sounded if they were having a heated discussion by the sudden rises and falling of voices every now and then. Merlin stopped himself from breathing and strained his ears to hear.
“He might…” Uther was saying.
“…is strong…is still hope…” Gaius replied. Merlin couldn’t quite get all the words.
“If Arthur…not return…what shall we do.”
“I could have the boy exec…that would stop…disease…”
“Kill Merlin! I wont let…” At this point the voices became too quiet and Merlin had to breath yet he still had got what they were talking about. Uther, if Arthur did not find Kerfane in time, was going to do away with Merlin to stop the disease! Merlin lent against the wall and slumped onto the floor, shaking with fear. They couldn’t! They wouldn’t! Would they? Gaius couldn’t stop the king if his mind was set on something. Merlin suddenly realised that he was in ten times more danger than he had been a few minutes ago.