Merlin entered the cave, flambeau in hand. He peered through the dark to see the giant rocky perch with which he had become so accustomed. It was empty.
"I need to talk to you!" he called into the darkness. There was no reply. Merlin couldn't even hear the flap of a wing, or the jangle of a chain. He sighed in annoyance and turned to leave.
"You always do, Merlin." A voice sighed from the abyss. He swivelled back around, but still saw nothing. The Great Dragon skyrocketed up from below. Merlin fell back as its tail came too close to his face for comfort. "Well, young Warlock, you have been busy," the Dragon boomed, rather conversationally, as it settled onto its rock.
"So you know why I'm here?"
"I could hazard a guess, yes." The Dragon's eyes bored into Merlin. If Merlin didn't know better, he'd have thought the Dragon could read his mind... Merlin took a deep breath and continued.
"How is it the Questing Beast is here in Camelot?"
"Surely you know that not to be true, young Warlock?" The Dragon spoke with a madly patronising tone. It smiled, with narrowed eyes.
"Well what is it then?"
"It would appear to be a nightmare. A memory. A memory of the Old Religion."
"A memory..? Who's memory?" Merlin wandered aloud. "Who's nightmare?"
"Can you think of no-one who would have reason to suffer nightmares about the Beast?"
"Morgana suffers nightmares by the night."
"The Witch?" The Dragon chuckled at Merlin's words. "Why, Merlin, would she dream of something like the Questing Beast?" Merlin had no reply. "No," the Dragon continued. "The source of this nightmare, is he who will unite the land of Albion; Arthur Pendragon."
"No... how- how can that be? It's... well, isn't the Beast a creature of magic?"
"Yes. The Nightmare is a creature of the Old Religion young Warlock, and that is why only you and the Witch, the Lady Morgana can lay eyes on it. Only those of the Old Religion themselves may set eyes upon such an abomination."
"Where did it come from? Who summoned it?"
"Your endless questions continue to tire me, Merlin... but this question, I cannot reply to. For the simple reason that I do not know."
"Well then, why can Gaius only hear it?" Merlin completely disregarded the Dragon's small complaint. It sighed slightly, before responding.
"That old fool has turned his back on the Old Religion and embraced the New." Merlin began to dispute the Dragon's slur on Gaius, but it spoke over him. "What he hears is but an echo, a shadow. Once the Old Religion becomes a part of you, it can be difficult to escape it. Gaius will discover this soon enough."
"What about Arthur? He doesn't follow the Old Religion, and he never has."
"There are two possibilities for that, Merlin. You know as well as I do; the Once and Future King was born of magic. Your tyrant of a King ensured that."
"No... You're saying Arthur follows the Religion... without knowing it?"
"I am not," the Dragon replied bluntly. "I was stating that Arthur has a mere remnant of magic flowing through his veins and it is, therefore, unlikely to be the reason as to why he can see the Nightmare. No, the reason for his ability to see it, is the simple fact that the Nightmare is his. It was summoned from his own memory."
"So you're saying... if he forgot the Beast, it would disappear? It would terrorise Camelot no longer?"
"It is possible." Merlin nodded, taking in the Dragon's confirmation. He knew what he had to do, although had no chance how it would be done... Merlin thanked the Dragon and turned to leave.
"But be warned young Warlock. I fear these events will not follow that path. I fear that the true motive for this attack is not the destruction of Camelot. Be wary."
For a man with such an important destiny, thought Merlin, Arthur was a pathetically messy individual. Merlin hadn't seen Arthur all morning. As Merlin had finished his duties the night before, Arthur had written out a list of chores he wanted doing as soon as possible. When Merlin had reported for duty the next morning however, he found an empty chamber, and the list placed on his pillow.
Merlin knelt down and stuck his arm under the bed, drawing out a bundle of old clothes and a mouldy apple core.
"Oh my God..." Merlin mumbled as he held the core at arm's length, and threw it into a rubbish basket. He picked up the bundle of clothes and dumped them into a second basket, for clothes to be washed. He took a look around, removed his neckerchief and snuck it into the basket. Free washing. Lovely.
"Merlin!" a voice cried, as the door to the bed-chamber was thrown open. Merlin jumped in surprise (and slight fear), and turned to face the door. The shock rose, as he stuttered out a response.
"M-my Lord," Merlin managed in surprise. He bowed in the presence of his King, who had burst into the room to find Merlin, and no-one else.
"Where is Arthur?" Uther looks hysterical. Something big was obviously bothering him. "I must find him. A matter of great urgency has arisen."
"I, um, haven't seen him all day, my Lord. He left me a list of chores for the day." Merlin picked up the list and passed it to Uther, rather lamely. The King took it and scanned the list.
"I see he has not ordered you to clean or polish his armour. Does he usually?"
"Yes, Sire, mostly every day. I can only assume he has taken his armour with him."
"Perhaps he already knows of the situation then, and has taken it upon himself to sort it out..."
"Well his horse was gone, when I mucked out," Uther looked up at Merlin. "Cleaned," he corrected "the stables. His, erm, horse was gone." Merlin spoke with a badly-hidden hint of fear. He had little experience with talking to the short-tempered King. How was he supposed to talk? Apparently however, the King had accepted his manner of speech. He smiled briefly, nodded and turned to leave the room. Merlin took this as a positive note, and did something either rather brave, or rather stupid.
"Wait!" he called after his King. "What's the problem that you need Arthur for?" Uther reappeared around the door. He looked at Merlin for a second.
"Camelot is under attack."