"Merlin!" called the Once and Future King in annoyance. A young man with short, dark brown – almost back – hair and light blue eyes stepped back into the room, sighing. He wore a tan-brown jacket with a light blue top and red neckerchief. A strange style, some might think, but it seemed to suit the young warlock.
"Yes Sire?" asked Merlin in a similarly weary tone. He looked at his Prince, laid in the magnificent four-poster with its abundance of pillows. Arthur returned his look in exasperation.
"Do you expect me to sleep under these conditions?"
"What conditions?" Merlin asked, genuinely bemused. Without another word, Arthur pointed to the corner of his bedroom. Merlin followed his gaze and his eyes came to rest upon a still-lit candle, on the window-sill.
"Have you forgotten the fire in Morgana's chambers just a few months ago?"
"Sire... that was sorcery. You can't set your curtains on fire, and I certainly can't!" Merlin smiled to himself at his personal little joke. Arthur simply slumped back onto his pillows and closed his eyes.
"Get rid of it" he replied bluntly. Merlin sighed and walked over to the candle. He placed his hands on either side of the candle and blew it out. He waved his hands just above it to wave away any smoke remnants and turned to leave the room. Arthur, eyes still closed, turned over in his sleep.
"Good night Sire!" Merlin said as he closed the bedroom door.
As the darkness descended, so did the weather. Claps of thunder sounded like a drumbeat repeatedly, and lightning forks lit up the night sky for seconds at a time. Raindrops the size of grapes pounded against the windows of his bedroom, as Arthur continued tossing and turning, midway through an incredibly fitful sleep. A streak of moon-light was carelessly slung across the bed, having crept through a gap in the curtains. Suddenly, the moonlight chose a new target. A silhouette of a woman appeared, standing between the moon's light and the bed. The tall woman, with blonde, curled hair glared at the man that lay before her. Her dark brown eyes, surrounded by black eyeliner widened. The woman, who was wearing a surprisingly stylish dress with red straps, embedded with diamonds. The dress stretched all the way down her legs, covering her feet. The woman stepped closer to the sleeping Prince and threw her hand out above Arthur's head, who abruptly stopped fidgeting.
"Awacnian sé módhord sylfum sé ádloma, ábrecan sé ae, sawol ond húswist sylfum Arthur Pendragon!" Morgause's eyes shone a bright gold and she completed her spell. Arthur's eyes fluttered open and, though still asleep, his eyes shone a similar gold before closing again. Morgause smiled triumphantly, before disappearing back into the shadows.
Arthur, crouching slightly, with his sword drawn, crept into the dark cave, looking uneasy. The juxtaposition of the cave and the bright Camelot morning on the outside was astounding. Especially when one considered the rumours that were abound throughout the lower town; a monster dwelled within the caves. Arthur disregarded these thoughts. They would cloud his judgement, and a good warrior needed full concentration. Though that was difficult when you couldn't see a thing...
"Merlin!" Arthur called, somehow quietly. "Will you hurry up? I can't see a thing!" He punctuated each of the last four words with a series of pauses. Merlin strolled into the cave carrying a flambeau, looking considerably more cheerful, not a care in the world. Arthur pulled a flambeau from a wall bracket and used Merlin's to light his.
"So, what're we doing here?" Merlin asked jovially, totally unaware of the rumours.
"We have received reports from the townspeople," Arthur replied, slinking further into the cave and taking in his surroundings, "of noises coming from these caves. Snarls, roars, that kind of thing."
"Surely they're just hearing falling rocks, or something like that." Merlin's disbelief was obvious by the tone of his voice.
"Be that as it may, the King has ordered me to take a look, and report back." Arthur had taken to whispering.
"Why?" Merlin asked, amused.
"To put people's minds at rest, Merlin. How many times have I told you that you are not to question my father's actions?" Arthur asked, incensed. "Now shut up, and look around."
"Yes my Lord," Merlin conceded, smiling slightly. He wandered over to a particularly dark crevice in which a relatively small beast could hide, but found nothing therein. "Sire?" Merlin piped up.
"Why am I here?"
"Because I have ordered you to take a look," Arthur replied, smiling maliciously.
"What if there is something here, and I get eaten alive?" Merlin kicked aside a few rocks.
"We'll get over it." Arthur said, absent-mindedly.
"I don't even have a sword to defend myself with."
"Merlin, knowing how you fight, a sword would probably be more of a hindrance to you. It might get in the way of your running away."
"Brilliant." Merlin mouthed silently. Arthur, not seeing this through the pitch-black of the cave, continued on his quest. After a minute or two, he came across an archway seemingly carved into the rock wall, albeit incredibly crudely.
"Merlin!" Arthur called from in front of his discovery. "Bring your torch here. There's something new." Arthur saw Merlin glance at him through the light from Merlin's torch, who in turn saw Arthur roll his eyes and beckon to him. Without warning, a great figure emerged from the archway behind Arthur. A figure of nightmare, with the body of a leopard and the head of a vicious snake – the Questing Beast. Merlin's eyes widened in shock and horror. Surely the Questing Beast was dead? The monster let lose an almighty roar, shaking Merlin to his core. Arthur turned in surprise and came face to face with, but for Merlin's help, that which caused his death. With the speed of something much smaller, the Beast took Arthur by the shoulder, its teeth piercing his skin. Arthur let out a great shout of agony, but was cut short when the Beast threw Arthur across the cave and slammed into the rock-wall. The Beast turned its evil eyes towards Merlin who, quicker still, pointed his hand at the cave-ceiling, his fingers arched.
"Dryre!" he cried. A section of roof caved in. Large rocks landed on the Beast, which turned back, to find more rocks blocking his escape to the sanctuary of the archway. With no other choice, it ran out of the cave and into the open to escape further pain. Once it was done, Merlin sprinted over to Arthur and attempted, in vain, to arouse him.
"Come on," Merlin whimpered. "You haven't been poisoned again, wake up, you're not going to die. Again." Merlin knew his attempts were pointless. Or so he thought, for Arthur jolted suddenly, and sat up in surprise. Merlin's eyes widen as he gazes into Arthur's.
"Was that..?" Arthur struggled to finish his sentence. Merlin's shocked face told Arthur all he needed to know.