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A Prince from Another World Chp7

Chapter Seven: The Deadly Manticore

“You expect me to ride that?” Arthur said for the second time, still unwilling to accept what he was staring at.

Merlin got on his bike and patted the small area left behind him. Arthur threw a questioning look at Merlin, the desire to get back in the house growing by the second. There was no way he would ride anything besides a horse, no way. That contraption didn’t look reliable at all.

“It’s fine, just hold on to me tight and you won’t fall off.” Merlin reassured the prince.

Putting it off for as long as he could, Arthur got on. He wrapped his arms around Merlin’s thin waist. It was going to be a very uncomfortable ride Arthur could tell because his body was already starting to welcome the closeness. He looked behind him to keep Merlin from noticing that he was blushing. Merlin smiled, Arthur was actually blushing.

They made their way to the park, which was oddly empty for it being the middle of the day. Once there they just stood on the bridge and stared at the calm waters below. The lake looked normal and all Merlin could see was his own reflection, any glimpses of Arthur’s world gone now that the prince was in his.

Biting his bottom lip he leaned forward a bit hoping it would change if he got closer. Two firm arms grasped him and pulled him back and down the bridge. Merlin let his feet move with Arthur’s. He stared at him with a confused expression on his face; the prince released his hold once he realized that Merlin was a safe distance from the bridge and the lake.

“What do you think you are doing? Are you crazy?” Arthur’s voice quivered at the thought that Merlin might have hurt himself. Merlin just laughed when he caught on to what Arthur was insinuating at.

“No I wasn’t going to jump in. I was hoping that since…” He started to say but stopped as he heard someone call out his name. He turned in the direction of one of the furthest benches from the lake and moved towards it taking in the familiar figure of Balinor. He smiled at the older man.

“I see you got my message.” Merlin said, smiling again at the nod Balinor gave him.

“Is he coming or not?”

Merlin turned around to find Arthur still standing near the bridge. He had assumed Arthur would follow him; the prince must still be upset with Balinor and not trust him yet. Merlin shook his head and walked back to the stubborn prat.

“Come on, if anyone knows about what is going on its Balinor. Besides we can’t think of anything.” Merlin stated as he pulled Arthur by the arm and made his way back to the bench, hoping that the prince would behave properly and not attack the older man again.

Balinor smiled at Arthur. “I thought you would put up more of a fight.”

“I’ll give you a fight.” Arthur snapped.

He felt his pride rise up and his control slip, he rushed at the older man. His hand reached for his sword automatically before he remembered he left it back at Merlin’s house. Being unarmed had never stopped Arthur and he pushed Balinor back against the bench, his fingers tugging at the man’s coat.

“What did you do with the last dragon?” Arthur’s voice shook full of spite, the memory of seeing it vanish from the view of his chambers’ window was almost enough to cause the prince to move his grip upwards to the man’s throat.

“I did nothing to the great dragon.” Balinor replied, his own voice getting thicker with emotion.

“Arthur, you should let him go. He is trying to help you.” Merlin tried to reason with the riled prince.

Arthur turned his once more cold eyes towards Merlin. “If I want your opinion I will ask for it. I am a prince and you will remember your place.” Arthur spat as his reasoning and logic got overthrown by the anger coursing through his entire body. “You don’t know Balinor, you just met him. He is only trying to help himself.”

“He saved my life Arthur that is all I need to know.” Merlin tossed back. Arthur might be a prince, but they weren’t in his world they were in his and even if they were in Camelot it still wouldn’t matter to him. Status meant nothing to Merlin. “You’re a prat and if you just took the chance to hear people out you wouldn’t be such a big one.”

“And you are an idiot with really big ears.” Arthur found himself saying through gritted teeth.

Pushing the prince off him, Balinor smoothed out his coat. “If you don’t want to believe me it’s fine with me. But if you want to return to Camelot and have the great dragon return as well then step aside. Stop wasting my time.” He said.

“What do you mean he saved your life?” The prince asked Merlin, shifting his gaze from one to the other. “And what do you mean for the great dragon to return?” Arthur spat at Balinor, still unable to drop his full gaze from Merlin and the words that made his chest feel in an uncomfortable new way. He didn’t want to think about Merlin in danger, what could have happened that required Balinor to step in?

“Do you think you are the only one who found himself thrown into a world that is not your own against your will? The sooner we return to Camelot the safer the last great dragon will be. If we spend our time bickering and pointing figures then we might as well kill him ourselves.” Balinor said. His eyes trailed to the trees behind Arthur and Merlin. Before Merlin and Arthur could turn behind them to see what Balinor had been staring at, he stepped towards them and gently tugged at their shoulders. “Come on lets go, it’s not safe here anymore.”

“A dragon, they really exist?” Merlin finally found the nerve to say, ignoring Arthur’s still questioning look. “So there’s more than just magic, everything else in fairytales is real as well?” He said, getting on his bike.

“Actually Merlin you will find that you already know the answers, for a long time now.” Balinor said over his shoulder. “Leave the bike, we will walk. It’s not far,” He told Merlin before walking further up the path and pausing at the black gates for them.

Merlin locked his bike on the bike rack, tightened his grip on his bag and followed Arthur and Balinor out of the park. For what seemed like a half hour but really was only fifteen minutes, the three walked down town until they were standing outside a red building. The faded brick walls seemed out of place with the rest of the shops around it, their well-kept exterior making the building look even more run down than it was.

“The bookstore that just opened up, this is where you think we will find the answers we’re looking for.” Merlin asked as he continued to stare at the three story building, flyers and posters sticking to both sides of the glass windows and doors. The bars protecting the contents inside made him raise an eyebrow, who would want to steal from a book store and one that looked so shabby like this one?

“Oh I don’t think, I know for a fact.” Balinor said, a smile reaching his face for what appeared the first time in many years. ”Let’s just say that if there was a specialist on dimension leaping, or anything similar to that in this world this would be the place to find him.” He opened the glassed door and stepped in, a small golden bell hovering in a string above his head ringing to announce the presence of a customer.

Arthur quietly followed. Merlin stared up at the building again before stepping inside. He moved around the small entrance a little too close to the prince that he almost stepped on his foot. Arthur was too busy looking at the many rows of shelves and books that made up the interior of the store to notice.

An elderly man, hair even whiter than snow, moved from behind a row of stacked books and towards the front counter. Suddenly the man reached for the closest book in the stack and hid his face behind it. He reached the three new arrivals, raising the book even higher where only his hairy eyebrows could be seen. Balinor seemed undisturbed by such weird behavior and seemed to be fighting back a laugh, which he successfully hid with a well-placed cough and hello.

Arthur couldn’t keep his eyes away from the old man, trying to place a memory to that extensively messy short hair. The man was partly bald at the top and well off, his stomach protruding a bit too much in the middle section. His glances only caused the man to hunch his shoulders and decrease in size by almost two whole feet.

“I am looking for a very rare and special book that will help us clear up a problem we currently have.” Balinor calmly stated nodding to the prince, not bothering to mention anything about crossing over worlds, transportation between two realms, and the sort.

The bookstore owner nodded, the tips of his hair now the only thing showing above the book, and pointed a single chubby finger towards the back of the bookstore. Balinor thanked him and moved further into the store, making his way slowly to the back where the elderly man had come from. Arthur made to follow but stopped when Merlin remained by the door unmoving.

“I just need to make a quick call, I will be right there.” Merlin said, a nervous smile on his face, and stepped out before either Arthur or Balinor could argue otherwise.

Merlin walked to the edge of the sidewalk, as far away from the bookstore he could go while still staying close enough to be seen through the door. Waving his hand at Arthur who was now standing in the doorway with the door ajar, he hinted at the need of privacy and ignored Arthur’s upset look. He sat on a small bench located two buildings to the right.

It was about time he explained himself to his friend or at least tried to make things a bit clearer, he knew very well how confused he was with everything and Will wouldn’t be far behind. The phone rang five times before the line was picked up, Merlin was met with silence at first and he almost thought his friend had hung up on him until Will’s stern voice echoed through the speaker.

“What is it Merlin? Ready to give me the real reason why a naked guy was in your room,” His friend said, a hint of jealously still ringing in his voice. Merlin blinked and had to take a second to compose himself before answering.

“Look I can’t tell you who he is exactly, but it’s not what you think. It’s not like that; I am just trying to help him out.” He quickly said into his phone, shifting his feet on the sidewalk and kicking a small rock near him.

His eyes followed the rock as it bounced in the pavement and landed near a parked car’s tire. The shadow underneath the car seemed off and it almost looked like it had shifted when the rock had landed on it. The sound of the small bell reached his ears and Merlin looked back towards the bookstore.

Arthur was standing outside the store and his eyes were glued on the bench Merlin was sitting on. Their eyes met briefly, the atmosphere between them becoming almost tense as the prince’s gaze moved passed him, his blue eyes taking in every sight, street corner, passing pedestrians and shadows in the alley ways. What was he looking for? Merlin thought to himself completely forgetting that he was still on the phone.

“Merlin, are you listening?” Will called out, catching the failed reply to his question. Merlin smacked his forehead gently; he had totally missed whatever his friend had been saying. Now Will was probably even more pissed at him if the irritation in his voice was any indication.

“I’m sorry Will, look can I come over to your house later. I’ll explain everything and make it up to you, I promise ok?” Merlin asked trying to keep his attention away from the pair of eyes that were now staring directly at him again and concentrate on his call.

He heard his friend sign followed by a simple ok and he quickly ended the call. Sticking his phone into his bag, Merlin made his way to Arthur. The prince pried the door open and stepped aside to allow Merlin to enter before entering the store himself. Both moved towards the back of the bookstore chancing side stares at each other.

Balinor glanced up from a stack of books and quietly nods to a direction of two other stacks. Arthur ignored him, submerging himself in one of the chairs and putting his feet up on the table. Merlin walked towards the stack nearer the back and slowly started going through each one. He wasn’t sure what book they were looking for, nor what it was called, but he kept looking still too riled by Arthur’s last look to let Balinor see the blush still on his face.

When Merlin felt the normal heat of his cheeks return, he made to move towards Balinor but he felt a pull coming from behind a shelf down a row near where he was standing. He looked at Arthur and Balinor, but neither seemed to have seen or heard the shuffling. Arthur was practically taking a nap and Balinor was too engrossed in the books in front of him.

Taking a look back at his stack of books and then back to the shelf, he moved towards the direction of the pull, it was similar to the one he had felt when he had been directed to the lake. A book fell from one of the shelves and Merlin picked it up. He ran his fingers against the thick spine of the book feeling a tingle from it and headed back, but ended up taking the wrong turns until he was completely lost. He turned in circles trying to figure out the way he had come. The bookstore was like a maze, stacks of books were piled almost to the top, and it was much bigger than it had looked from the outside.

From the corner of his eye, Merlin caught a glimpse of red before it vanished behind another row of shelves. He moved towards it, finding them empty, and walked further down it. Arthur’s voice rang out, calling to him a few ways off. Before he could shout his location, a sharp pain shot from his upper back. It was like nothing Merlin had ever felt and it doubled followed by another slash to his shoulder. The book fell from his hands sliding across the floor.

He spun around and glanced at the top of the shelves holding onto his injured shoulder. Whatever it was it was fast. Books tumbled from the shelves to fall near Merlin’s feet making him move back and bang himself against a table half hidden under more books. Something large jumped on the table knocking most of them off and Merlin swirled on his heels. He gasped at the huge creature in front of him, it had a body of a lion, great bat like wings sprang from its back, and its hard scaled tail loomed closer to him.

The sharp curved point slashed at his chest before he could get out of the way. A scream escaped Merlin’s lips as he stumbled against the book shelves. The creature moved down the table attempted to circle around him. Another shout, this time Balinor’s had the beast retreating back up the shelves glaring its teeth. The sound of broken glass sliced through the quietness of the bookstore followed by shattered glass hitting the floor boards of the second floor. Merlin’s attacker was gone, a broken window and a wounded Merlin surrounded by knocked over books the only proof it had existed.

Merlin staggered against the table; his fingers desperately clung to the edge shaking against the pain that ran through his entire body. Blood dripped off his back and chest, down his arm, soaking into his clothes. Merlin’s eyes locked on a worried Arthur coming around a corner, the floor spun from under him and he fell to the ground with a loud thump. More books fell off the table to follow him, they were the last thing Merlin saw before the darkness over took him Arthur’s and Balinor’s anguished cries falling on deaf ears.

Balinor rushed past Arthur to Merlin’s side, fighting against the horrific sight of his injured son. Blood clung to Merlin’s slim frame and the ground underneath him. He quickly fell to his knees, running an arm under Merlin’s neck, lifted him upwards, the wound on his back now clearly visible. Merlin’s eyes rolled to the back of his head and intense shakes racked through his body in an increasing rate. Balinor had to tighten his hold on him to keep him from banging his head against the floor boards. Black veins started to spread under Merlin’s skin like roots of a tree, shooting from the cut in his chest to the rest of his body.

“What is wrong with him?” Arthur cried out, his eyes glued on Merlin and the black marks. “Do something, Balinor you have to do something.”

Balinor pushed back the worried feeling in his gut and called out to the shop owner. “Geoffrey, Arthur I need your help to hold him down.”

The elderly man moved from the quite spot he had been standing behind Arthur and rushed to Balinor’s side. Arthur’s expression changed slightly taking in the shop owner for the first time, recognition hitting him hard.

“You!” He called out, moving to kneel beside Merlin.

“Now isn’t the time Arthur. If we don’t hurry Merlin will die. Hold him legs down.” Balinor yelled, his control completely gone. “You can whine all you want about Geoffrey later.” He turned his golden eyes back to Merlin and extended one hand to the gash on Merlin’s back and another over his chest.

“Gestepe hole! Purhhaele”                                                 

 “You will need more than magic to heal him Balinor, those wounds were caused by a Manticore and its poison is deadly.” Geoffrey explained, hurrying past Arthur towards the second floor. He returned after much clattering later, a small vial in his fat hand. The elderly man quickly handed Balinor the white concoction. “This was one of Gaius’ last gifts he gave me before I was banished from Camelot. Thought he had lost his mind in giving me this, but now it seems he wasn’t completely insane.”

Balinor uncorked the bottle and held it against Merlin’s lips. “Drink this son, you can’t die or it would be the end of your mother and me not just Camelot.”

Carefully empting the liquid down Merlin’s throat, he handed the bottle back to Geoffrey and forced himself to wait. There was no change and Balinor’s heart sank in his chest, he looked at the prince and it sank even more. Arthur was standing near Merlin’s feet, his hands tight fists on his side and tears glistered brightly against the blue hue of his eyes.

“He can’t die, Merlin can’t die. I was just starting to get used to his overly huge ears.” Arthur said so softly that it was just above a whisper.

The black marks slowly start to retract and disappear. Merlin coughed. “Ugh, what did I just drink, it tastes like moldy socks.” He said, wiping his tongue with the collar of his shirt. “Are you trying to kill me?”

No one said anything and Merlin looked up to find everyone staring at him with a worried expression on their faces. He looked at his blood soaked clothes and then at Balinor and Arthur, a scared look on his own face. “What happened to me?”

“Just relax Merlin, I can heal them now.” Balinor said and once more concentrated his magic on the wounds. “Gestepe hole! Purhhaele” His eyes turned gold and magic started to tingle at the tips of his fingers before they shot out towards Merlin’s body to awaken the magic there.

Merlin closed his eyes, the magic ran through his entire body replacing the pain and he could feel it grow. An intense heat spread from his back and shoulder. He could sense his eyes turn gold under his eyelids, his magic adding to the spell. It was too much for his weak body and he found himself losing consciousness again. The last thing he remembered was Arthur’s hold on his hand and Balinor’s voice calling out to him that everything would be alright.

“What you gave Merlin was a temporary cure to the poison coursing through his body. The manticore’s magic is too strong even for the boy. It must be killed in order for the poison to completely disappear.” Geoffrey stated. “If it is not killed within four days Merlin will die.”

Arthur tried to pick up Merlin, but was stopped by a firm hand on his shoulder. “I will take him boy.” Balinor simply stated, unwilling to try and hide the shaking in his voice.

He picked up the limp form of Merlin and headed to the front of the store. Merlin’s safety and rest was now the first thing on his mind, getting Arthur and himself back to Camelot would have to wait. Balinor tried to cast a spell to transport them back to Merlin’s house, but his magic had almost depleted. Geoffrey caught on to it and unlocked one of his many drawers that made his front desk.

“This will help you cast your transportation spell.” Geoffrey called out to Balinor, placing a white crystal and its leather strip necklace in the man’s large hand. “It is quite useless for a non-magic user, but for those with magic it serves as a temporary booster. Take it and use it sparingly.”

Balinor clasped his hand firmly around the small crystal and thanked his friend. His eyes turned gold once more and a great white light shot through the bookstore. It vanished along with them, leaving Geoffrey to stare at his even messier shop.

Back in Merlin’s bedroom, a white light filled its enclosure, Balinor, Arthur, and Merlin appeared in its center. Arthur stepped back a few steps, the unexpected transportation had made his stomach a bit wheezy. Balinor gently placed Merlin’s still sleeping form on the bed, covering him with the sheets, before going downstairs, silence following him. He stumbled against the couch; he had wasted more magic than he had thought. Even with the crystal Geoffrey had given him the aftereffect was still enough to knock him off his feet.

Small claws clung to his trousers. His brown sad eyes fell on Kilgharrah climbing hurriedly up his leg. “I am sorry we didn’t take you with us to the shop.” Balinor told the small lizard. “But now I need you, old friend, to do me a favor and search for the Manticore.” The lizard’s eyes glowed gold and it disappeared into thin air, Balinor’s last words left unspoken but his meaning clearly understood far before he had even spoken.

Once more alone, with the prince still preoccupied in Merlin’s room, Balinor lay all the way on the couch. He let his eyes close, ready to let sleep overcome him, when the doorbell rang. It’s deafening ring echoed through the entire house. Balinor opened his eyes and looked up at the ceiling, a soft curse reaching his lips as he moved off the couch and towards the door. The doorbell rang several more times, each ring becoming more persistent and louder, before Balinor was able to reach it and swing it open with another curse on his lips.

“Bloody hell, one ring is sufficient.” His brown eyes softened taking in the worried expression of Merlin’s friend.

“You, you’re the guy Merlin and I met at the park.” Will managed to say, the man’s tall form was overbearing.

His eyes wandered past Balinor’s shoulders to the stairs. “Why are you in Merlin’s house? Where is Merlin?” He pried slipping past the older man, his much smaller form making it easy for him to fit in the space between him and the door frame.

Not waiting for a reply he rushed up the stairs with an increased pace, the thought of the empty hiding spot where the extra key should have been still nagging at the back of his mind. The endless unanswered calls looming heavily on his fears as Will pried open the door to Merlin’s room. The lights were off and it was already well past the afternoon. It took a moment for Will’s eyes to adjust to the darkness of the room as he fumbled with the light switch.

The lights turned on, filling the room with its brightness and Will’s jaw dropped open. His breath seemed to escape him and he looked like a fish fresh out of the water. He didn’t know what to react to first, Arthur sitting next to Merlin’s sleeping form, his hands grasping his friend’s pale soft ones or the or the blood stains on Merlin’s clothes which the sheets had failed to hide all the way. His face filled with anger as the desire to protect his friend took over his senses. Will rushed towards Merlin and punched him square in the jaw, catching the prince somewhat off guard.

Arthur fell to the floor, his eyes taking in Will for the first time. “What the hell?” He shouted, rubbing his jaw, his eyes turning dark to reflect the anger rising in him.

“Stay away from Merlin.” Will replied, his own anger beyond concealment. “I want you to stay away from my friend, do you hear me. I don’t know what is going on with you two or what it has to do with Balinor but enough is enough.”

“You have no say in what I do with Merlin or how long I stay by his side.” Arthur rose to his feet and stared past Will, Balinor was standing on the doorway. He caught the glimmer of gold before it left the man’s eyes and Will remained frozen on the spot.