Merlin sat with his back to the fantasy section of the end row. He powered his laptop while rummaging through his rolling backpack for the weird librarian (Creepy Giles)'s CD. He found it at the same time he heard the sound of doors closing and then locking. Did he just get locked in? He fumbled with the CD case in his haste to get up, dropped it. It clattered noisily on the floor and fell open while he ran to the library's doors and peeked through its narrow windows. Everything was dark, not even the guard's flashlight in sight. Merlin sighed and walked back to his little corner. Why had he thought of hiding in the school's library on a holiday? Oh, right, the bullies...
Merlin would just have to wait until the guard made another round. If he does one, he thought darkly. He sat back on his spot, grumbling, and picked up the CD case. The cover and side had been blank, but the inside sported an intricate knotted snake symbol and nothing else. The CD itself was just as simple: a deep brown frame went around its outer edge and its centre was reflective as a mirror. Merlin picked it up and raised it into the light to see it make little rainbows. He stared at himself through specks of dusts then clipped it into his laptop's tray. It better be as interesting as Mr Giles had said it was, or this was going to be a very long night.
"Stupid horse!" screamed Arthur. "Fight it!" He tugged on the bridle as hard as he dared and then gripped his mount's horn instead, hoping the pain would make it realize what was happening. He had seen too many men fall because of this; he wouldn't let this unicorn simply let itself die. He couldn't let hope disappear.
Arthur didn't know whose voice it was that had stopped him when he had been ready to shoot the unicorn, but he was thankful for it. The unicorn had quickly become his sole companion on the long journey of his Great Quest so far, and an invaluable help against the Griffin. There was no way he'd let it succumb to this horrible fate. Arthur refused to. Neither of them could give in to despair, neither of them could give up now!
The mud reached the unicorn's underjaw. Arthur gripped its head and lifted it, trying to keep it out of the mud for as long as he could. His voice cracked. "Please!"
The unicorn gave him a last, slow blink, almost an apology and then slipped under to the tip of its horn. Arthur's cry echoed seemingly endlessly in the silence of the swamp.
Merlin stared at his computer screen and lowered his headphones, his own scream still ringing in his ears. No way could the CD hear him.
In the game (movie? ebook? It was such an odd multimedia gadget) Arthur was on the ground, blond hair dripping globs of mud. Merlin felt a little faint as he noticed that Arthur's arm was slightly smoking. The Dragon had just tried to burn him alive and Arthur had narrowly escaped only by throwing himself into the mud. His arm hadn't completely avoided the blast, though. Merlin watched as Arthur picked himself up, whipped his head around as if searching for something before he turned back to the dragon and started talking. Merlin hurried to slip back on his headphones.
"You just tried to kill me!" Arthur yelled, trying not to notice the smoke at the edge of his vision. His arm was one long line of pain and felt like it was still on fire; a quick looked assured him it wasn't, but the flash of blackened clothes and raw skin were enough to made his head spin a little. Trying to detach himself from the situation, he wondered if he had really just heard someone squeak when the mount he'd been on had revealed itself to be a Dragon. Surely it couldn't have been the Dragon or himself, but no one else seemed to be around. Above, the Dragon gave a rumbling chuckle. Arthur glared at it.
"And you, young King of all, have planted a sword into my back. Hmmm?"
"How was I supposed to know you weren't a hill, but just taking a nap?" Arthur snapped.
The dragon dropped its head until it was mere arms' length from Arthur's face. The proximity was so sudden that Arthur wobbled backwards and fell again into the mud. "Try to listen before you act, next time," the Dragon was saying, but Arthur had fell on his injured arm and was too busy being in pain to pay proper attention. Also, the dragon smelled so foul it was actually making him dizzy - or, at least, it would be the excuse he dimly decided on using if anyone asked about what happened next. With a last soft groan in response, Arthur passed out.
Merlin took another bite of his chocolate bar. He figured that if Arthur was getting fed by Nimueh, a nice if slightly strange woman that kept staring directly at the screen when she spoke, he had right to some food of his own. The bar had almost been forgotten at the bottom of his backpack, flattened by weeks of heavy books and half melted, but it was still a treat for his very empty stomach.
Above him, a neon light flickered a few times before settling. Merlin put the rest of his snack away in its original wrapper, making a note-to-self to keep some for the rest of the story, and turned his attention back to his screen. There was no pause button that he had been able to find, and the old doctor type guy had started speaking. Merlin was rather fond of him already: he had this geeky edge to him, plus the bickering had made it clear that he was totally married to the sexy, cool woman, and Merlin had always liked opposite-attracts unconventional couples.
"... no one had ever made it through alive before." Gaius was saying.
"I am King Arthur of Camelot," Arthur yelled. Technically he hadn't been crowned king, but he was the only prince Arthur of his realm, and the beast didn't need to know any more than that.
It hissed in rage and struck at him. Arthur deflected as best he could with the side of his sword, dodged to the right, then feinted to the left before running straight ahead with a war cry. Arthur felt his blade plunge into flesh, grating against bones, deeper and deeper until he could feel rough scales on his knuckles. With a hard pull, he retrieved the sword and quickly jumped to the left as The Nothing came crashing down.
Arthur stared at the gigantic fallen beast as he tried to catch his bearings, his panting breaths the only sounds in the cavern. Only when Arthur's heart started calming down did he notice that his hands were still shaking. That was when he realized the beast had grazed his shoulder. Now that was aware of it, he could almost imagine the poison slowly spreading in his veins. Just my luck, he thought. Cursing, he staggered out of the cavern calling for that blasted Dragon.
"Make a wish," the Wishful Queen said in a soft voice. Merlin stared at her, distressed.
"What kind of wish? Any thing at all? Can I wish for a thousand wishes?"
The Queen shot him a flat look under her eyelashes, and Merlin scratched the back of his head.
"Anything at all," she answered him patiently. "Well, not anything anything, because you shouldn't ask for rude things, but there isn't exactly number limits, so you don't really need to ask for a thousand wishes as you already got infinity of them, alright?"
Merlin nodded, thought about it, and then a huge grin spread across his face. The Queen smiled back at him encouragingly.
"Then, my first wish is..."
Merlin was staring out the classroom window while his teacher droned on. His mind was far, far away from French lesson right now, just as it had been for the past two weeks. Had it really been only that long? he wondered, and laughed quietly to himself thinking of the tricks and places he had wished for since then. He was broken by his reverie by the teacher calling his name.
"Merlin!" the Teacher said and Merlin turned his head back towards him only to feel his breath catch in his throat. "Since you have so much good humor in you, why don't you help your new classmate adapt to this school?"
Muted, Merlin nodded, and the teacher instructed the new student to sit in the empty seat beside Merlin. As soon as his backpack was dropped on the backrest of the chair, he turned to Merlin and extended a hand.
"I'm Arthur." he said good-naturedly.
Merlin grinned. He grabbed Arthur's hand and shook it.
"Enchanté," he said.