Blissfully ignorant of the sudden danger Merlin was in Arthur had began to ascend the mountain and it was proving difficult. He was, at the present, climbing a dodgy formation of crumbly rock shelves that broke away if he stood on them for more than a few seconds.
Glad he wasn’t in his heavy chain mail Arthur jumped from shelf to shelf. He slipped on a loose pebble and scrabbled for a hold as his legs fell over the side of the precipice. Just managing to hook a hand onto a hole in the rock Arthur floundered about in the air and tried not to look down. He swung his other arm up to try and grab onto the rock but his hand was sweaty and it slid of. Suddenly the hole Arthur had buried his hand in began to crack horribly like a piece of ice. He tried to stop wriggling and slowly put his hand up to grab on to the rock again. His hand touched a sturdy hold and he grabbed it as the hole crumbled away. Swinging, he launched himself back onto the ledge and quickly leapt to the next one as the shelf disintegrated and fell hundreds of feet below in a thousand pieces. Arthur looked over the side of the ledge in a mixture of fright and satisfaction.
He cast his attention back up the mountain. It looked as if he was going to get snow under foot soon. It looked pretty misty at the top and he wondered if there was going to be a blizzard.
It turned out he was right. After an hour or so of trudging through the snow, an icy blizzard blew in from the north, chilling Arthur to the bone. He was going through a flatter part of the mountain at the moment. A sort of wind and snow swept glacier.
It had been dark for quite a while now. Arthur was frozen solid. He couldn’t take the wind and ice any more and he slowly and painfully made his way over to the side of the mountain to find a shelter to hide in. He didn’t have much luck but he did find a small slab of stone jutting out of the rock and he stowed himself away there. Wearing only a thin, grey shirt, long brown jacket and trousers he went numb with the cold.
He watched the sun rise many sleepless hours later to find that he had icicles on his eyelashes and eyebrows, not to mention his nose. He brushed the sticks of ice of himself and went out into the open, enjoying the warmth of the sun and lack of the blizzard. Once he had thawed out he set of once again to the summit of the mountain.
The going was far easier than the previous day and he made up for lost time. He stood at the top of one of the smaller peaks and looked at summit. He was nearly there. Soon he reached the path that was but a few hundred meters from the top. It had steps and everything. This was luxury to what the glacier had been like.
At last he reached the top. He stood on the tiny, thin top and took in the incredible view.
He was so high that he could just make out the tallest turret of Camelot far, far away in the distance. He would be home soon he thought to himself but only once he had found Kerfane. Arthur looked about him. Wasn’t the sorcerer meant to live at the summit? Arthur briefly scared himself when he thought that maybe Kerfane did not exist, but then he remembered the trials. They were quite real.
“Hello? Hello!” Arthur cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted.
“Howdy” Arthur jumped and looked behind him. There was a man there. It wasn’t the one he had seen in the trials. This man was short and had long, tangled black hair that reached to the ground and covered him like a cloak.
“Are you Kerfane?” Arthur asked, excited that he may have finally found the sorcerer.
“Kerfane…Kerfane……Oooh yes! That’s me isn’t it! Ha ha ha!” The man cackled insanely.
“Urh?” Arthur said bewildered.
“I suppose you are here for a Basilisk poison antidote! My brother told me you would come.”
“Yes. Yes I am. Wait did you say your brother. I think I met him. Who is he? He wouldn’t tell me his name.”
“My brothers name…oh that’s a hard one. I can’t remember now…” Kerfane said, completely clueless.
“Urm…right whatever. Do you have this antidote or not?”
“Antidote? I don’t know what you mean. Have you met my pet rock Gerald?” Kerfane reached somewhere into his mass of tangled hair and pulled out a rock with two eyes painted on it. Arthur took no notice of this sudden outburst of weirdness and took hold of the man by the collar.
“Look here! Don’t play games with me! I’ve trekked for days to get here! My friend could die if you don’t give me the antidote!” He said furiously while shaking the man about.
“Steady on young Prince! Who is your friend?”
Arthur stopped shaking Kerfane.
“His name’s Merlin.”
The man gasped.
“Merlin did you say?! Oh my! I can’t be responsible for his death! Oh me! Oh my!” The hairy man bustled away down the side of the mountain like a goat, disappeared reappeared and came back holding a large jar of powder.
“What’s this?” Arthur asked as Kerfane handed him the jar.
“It is the antidote! I cannot tell you what makes it! Sprinkle all of it over Merlin. Hurry! Hurry, he must live!”
“Why is Merlin so important all of a sudden?” Arthur asked completely perplexed as the sorcerer flapped him down the path.
“I’ve said too much! I’ve said too much! Hurry now. Hurry!” Kerfane hopped away calling out behind him. Arthur stared wide-eyed as the odd man disappeared over the other side of the mountain. He looked at the jar. It looked so boring. He had expected an amazing, magical potion of power or something. The jar just looked full of boring, common dust to him. Never the less he began dashing down the mountain on his way back to Camelot.
Merlin wondered why there was something wet and slimy on his neck until he realized it was his tongue. It now hung a foot out of his mouth and had gone red and forked at the end. He tried in vein to stuff it back where it belonged but with no luck. He cautiously stood up, not trusting his legs, which had gone very odd lately. He hobbled over as best he could to his door and once again banged loudly on it.
“Gaiussssthhh” He lisped, his tongue jangling awkwardly.
“Merlin? Was that you?” Gaius hurried up to the door.
“Yesss. My tongue hathsss gone all sssnakee.” Merlin tried to say.
“What? Sorry I didn’t get that.”
Merlin patiently tried again.
“My tounge hasss gone all sssnaky.”
“Did you say something about your tounge? Does it look like a snakes?” Gaius asked.
“You don’t have much time left.”
“Hasss there been any word from Arthur?”
“I’m afraid not.”
Merlin kicked the wall angrily.
“I heard what Uther said yesssterday.”
There was a lapse in the communication between the door.
“Oh. I see.”
“You can’t let him murder me!”
“As much as I will try if it comes to it, I cannot stop the king Merlin. We shall just have to hope that Arthur returns soon.”
Merlin snorted in frustration.
“But what if he doesssn’t?! His horssse returned without him! He could be dead!”
“I can only imagine what your going through Merlin but do not despair. While there is life there is hope.”
“Exactly! And Arthur could be dead ssso there might be no hope!” Merlin was not normally so angry but he was frightened and too scared to realise he was practically shouting at Gaius when it wasn’t his fault.
“Calm down Merlin! Getting angry isn’t going to solve anything.” Gaius was trying his best to get Merlin calm but was not succeeding.
Merlin gave up arguing and hobbled away from the door his broken leg sticking out awkwardly. His sudden outburst of anger had drained him of what little energy he had. He felt sore in every place imaginable, scared half to death and almost ready to give up. This wasn’t like him at all. He sulked angrily in the corner and gave the evils to a bench opposite him.
Engrossed at staring at the bench he inattentively rubbed his still strapped up, broken leg. It was hurting more than usual today. Merlin felt as though the world was against him. It seemed he was always the one who got poisoned. Well ok maybe that wasn’t true. The Questing beast had poisoned Arthur only a few weeks ago. That had been serious but this was a bit beyond that. He could destroy Camelot and every one in it! He guessed this was because he was going to turn into a gigantic snake but also because he would keep his magical properties and that would make him a hundred times more dangerous. Merlin sighed in defeat and hung his head dejectedly.
“You can’t just kill him!” Morgana was shouting angrily at Uther after finding out what he might do to Merlin.
“I’m the king I can do what I like!” Uther shouted just as angrily back.
“Can’t you hear yourself! You sound like a child!”
“How dare you speak to me like that!”
“What has Merlin ever done to deserve death!”
“It’s not what he’s done its what he’s going to do! You have no idea what is at stake!”
“Oh, I think I do! How do you think I know about all this! Gaius told me! I know that the kingdom is in danger. But one mans life is just as important as a hundreds!”
“What would you have me do?! I have no choice if Arthur does not return! Belive me I would prefer not to execute him. Killing does not give me pleasure!”
“Wait for Arthur. He will come back!”
“And if he doesn’t?!”
“He will. You should have more faith in him!”
“Please!” Uther said sarcastically, prolonging the “P”.
Morgana narrowed her eyes dangerously and stormed out of the hall. It seemed she was constantly fighting with Uther but if no one else was going to tell him then she would have to. She was enraged that he was possibly going to murder Merlin so she decided to go and tell him what Uther was planning. Morgana snorted angrily at her thoughts. Planning indeed! The word should have been plotting! She reached Gaius’s chambers and sailed in, not bothering to knock.
“Gaius, I must speak with Merlin.”
“Well I’m not so sure that’s a wise idea. He’s a little touchy at the moment.”
Morgana rudely ignored Gaius and swept over to Merlin’s door and knocked on it.
“Merlin! Merlin! I have to talk to you.”
Merlin looked up from his sulking at the sound of Morgana’s voice. He painfully got up and found that he had gone stiff from sitting on the floor; never the less he limped over to the door.
“It’s Uther! He plans to murder you if Arthur does not return to stop the disease!”
“I know.” Merlin sighed.
“Oh.” Morgana said, baffled.
“I heard Uther talking a few days ago to Gaiusss.” Merlin explained.
“Why are you lisping? You don’t have a lisp?”
“I…err…” Merlin pulled a face while trying to think what to say. He decided the truth would be best, “Morgana…don’t panic or anything but the poison is making me turn into a snake…”
Surprisingly Morgana laughed.
“Ha! You expect me to belive that?!”
“You should. It’s the truth.” Gaius had apparently been listening in.
“What?” Morgana sounded baffled. Gaius took her away and explained in detail everything that had happened and not to tell anyone else or there would be panic through out the kingdom.
“Is it true Merlin?” Morgana asked in shock.
“I’m afraid ssso.” Merlin hissed like a snake.
Meanwhile Arthur had been running like a mad man for over a day. He had sensed the urgency in Kerfane’s voice and that had given him the energy to run for so long. As he galloped across a field he fell as his foot wedged its self into a rabbit hole. He almost dropped the jar of dust but managed to catch it as he went down. Grumbling, he yanked his foot out of the hole and limped as fast as he could away. He wasn’t going to make it in time if he didn’t hurry! Arthur quickened his pace and shot across the tall-grassed field. He was not far from Camelot now but he knew he would have to hurry if he was to save Merlin. He sincerely wished he had been able to bring the horse with him on the first trail so he would have it now.
His blisters, blisters had blisters, his shoes had holes in them, he was filthy and starving. Being under pressure for time Arthur had not been able to hunt or get any food for that matter for five days or so. Last time he had eaten had been the second morning of his journey. He wondered how he was still alive after the things he had been through. He felt dizzy and was seeing double. He decided he needed rest, even if he was almost out of time. Stopping at a stream Arthur took several mouthfuls of water. He splashed it over his face to cool himself down in the heat. It had been snowing nearly a week ago but now it was a scorching hot day. The weather had been very unpredictable as of late.
Arthur heard a twig snap and he looked up. There was a horse in front of him. He could tell it was a wild one because of its mess of a mane and tail. The horse seemed quite curious with the prince. Arthur kept very still and breathed slowly. He didn’t want to frighten it away when he could tame it and use it to get to Camelot. He briefly thought of a honourable return on a bare back wild horse but that wasn’t important right now. Slowly he put up a hand and let the horse smell him before touching the animal on its nose. The horse snuffled and let him step closer. Arthur carefully stroked the creature’s neck. He had tamed hundreds of horses before and considered himself an expert in the matter. The horse snuffled again and shook its head. Arthur took the lapse of attention to grab the horse’s mane and swing himself onto its back. The horse reared up a little and shuffled its feet. Arthur whispered into its ear and stroked its side to try to comfort it. The horse calmed down and stood more still. Arthur nudged it in the sides and the horse began trotting happily forward. Arthur grinned at his brilliance and put the jar on his lap as horse and rider cantered away.
Gaius sat quietly on his chair, wrapped in his thoughts. He kept going over and over the same things in his head and always came to the conclusion to go to the dragon. After finding no other option Gaius stood and hurried down to the under ground caves that the dragon was imprisoned in. Careful to not be seen he hurried from shadow to shadow and evaded the guards. Going around the corner that led to the huge cavern Gaius found the dragon expecting him.
“Ahh. I thought I would see you some time or other.”
“Then you know why I have come?”
“Yes. It is hardly difficult to not notice what has been happening. Even from down here.” The dragons voice echoed of the sides of the caves.
“Then you know what to do?”
“Yes, and you are already doing it!”
Gaius raised is eyebrow for an answer.
“You must wait for Arthur’s return. He is still alive. He is but ten miles from Camelot as we speak.”
“He is alive then?! His horse returned without him and I feared the worse. This is good news in deed.”
“But Merlin is still in danger. His body is almost possessed now. There is very little time left.”
“No you do not see. Not even I can see. Merlin is going through more than you can imagine.”
“I feel bad about imprisoning him in his room. Was I right? Is the air contaminated?”
“Yes. You must be very careful. A few lung fulls of the air would not hurt you but a prolonged time would probably kill you.”
“Talk to Merlin. He is feeling very alone at this time. Help him.”
“I shall.” With that Gaius left.