After a month, they had all fallen into a pattern of living. The knights resumed regular training and began to teach Andrew how to use a blade. Merlin had also assigned a few choice citizens of Avalon to teach them some more modern weapons; generally Merlin strongly discouraged modern weapons, but he recognized that it could be useful and he had a couple of ex-military at his disposal. He also held open history lessons.
The knights helped fill Andrew and others in on the history of Camelot. Merlin then continued in detail a few years after Arthur's death with Leon's help, and then a few more after Leon had passed. But after that he stuck to big important events of history. A little geography thrown in and he thoughts they should get up to speed soon.
On Sundays, Merlin took them out into the real world. Although Mordred and Gawain had developed a fondness for modern dress, the others still preferred their old clothes and chainmail. But on Sundays, Merlin forced them to leave their weapons behind and join him at the local pub or to see a new movie.
There were some disasters at the beginning that Merlin was able to use some magic to fix, but soon he trusted them to go out with other druids so that he could do other work.
It was on a lazy Saturday that all this changed. The crew was sitting around a round table, made of glass and enjoying a late afternoon tea, when Merlin suddenly felt a surge of energy in his spirit. Everything flickered. The electric lights, the conjured lights, even bits of the house Merlin had added on with Magic very briefly blinked out of existence as a surge of magical energy shorted them out. They all turned to Merlin, wanted to gauge his reaction to see if this was a problem or not. Merlin was sitting stock still with a blank expression.
"Merlin?" Gawain hesitantly asked. Merlin snapped out of his stupor and stood. He looked at the knights, wanted to say something but not knowing how to put it in words. Instead, he bolted from the room. The knights tried to follow but he was faster.
Merlin ran up the main street bellowing and calling out for Aithusa. He sprinted with with his royal blue cape flying behind him and people looking out their windows knew the time had come at last. Behind and overhead he could hear the deep beating of the dragon's wings catching up with him. He sprinted up the steep part of the hill leading to the drop into the water.
"Catch me!" Merlin lept off the cliff just as Aithusa flew underneath him and off they soared.
His heart was thundering in his chest. After centuries of waiting, Arthur would finally be back at his side. During the first couple big wars, Merlin had gotten his hopes up only to have them dashed as the world returned to peace. He had just taught himself to stop getting his hopes up when he found Mordred. He allowed the hope to surge once more. Now that all the knights were assembled, well, it was only a matter of time.
Merlin had prepared for this moment, running through scenarios in his head, but nothing really came close to the mixture of joy and anxiety he felt now. He forced himself to take deep breaths and focus on the flight.
The trees flashed by beneath the powerful beating of Aithusa's wings. The forest gave way to the lake and Merlin coaxed Aithusa toward the island. The tower that had formerly stood proudly upon the hill was only the height of a man, yet the grass was still green and untouched by the buildings of men.
They touched down and Merlin lept off and ran to the entrance to Arthur's tomb. He was glad that it was still in good shape; Merlin had been planning on visiting in another eight years to renew the spells of protection and preservation. He ran through the entrance and started down the stairs.
"Merlin?" He heard a faint call. Hoping against all hope, he called back.
"Merlin where are you?" Merlin picked up his pace.
"Coming, Sire." Merlin burst into the burial chamber to find Arthur sitting in his throne, his fingers drumming on the arms of the chair.
"What is this place?" Arthur asked as he looked at the walls covered with spells and symbols of protection laid by Merlin and other trusted peoples of Avalon. "What are you so happy about?" Merlin was simply standing across the room from Arthur with an impossibly large grin on his face, his eyes threatening to overflow with tears of joy, He ran to Arthur's side and grabbed his hand. His smile grew even wider as he whispered, "You're real. You're really back."
Arthur yanked his hand out of Merlin's grasp. "What has gotten into you? Clearly this is the afterlife and time is different here. Nothing to cry over. And what are you wearing?"
"Ah," Merlin stepped back from Arthur and glanced down at his clothes. "I can explain that. But there are some other things first. Follow me."
"Wait, wheres my sword?" He was wearing his sheath but there was no sword to be seen.
"I couldn't bury it with you in case someone stole it. It's safe. I'll get it for you soon. Now come with me." Arthur walked alongside Merlin heading back outside. "While it's true that you died, this isn't the afterlife. You have come back to life because the world needs you, no pressure." Arthur opened his mouth to ask what he meant by that but Merlin was talking too fast. "I know it's weird but its ancient prophecy and we both know Destiny will never leave us alone. You were destined to be the Once and Future King, I was destined to be at your side back then and wait for your return to be at your side again. At least the waiting is over now. You have a lot to catch up on."
"Merlin, how long?" He paused at the top of the stairs and stared out into the light, not looking at Arthur.
"Almost two thousand years," he said gently. Arthur could only stare in amazement at his best friend and reach out to put a hand in his shoulder. Merlin heaved a heavy sigh. "Come along, we have so much to show you." The cheerful demeanor was back as he strode out into the sunlight. Arthur immediately drew his dagger and pushed Merlin to the side.
"Get back you foul beast! I have killed your kind before." Aithusa grimaced at him but stayed where she was. Merlin laughed as ha forced down Arthur's blade.
"She's not a threat. Arthur, this is Aithusa. My faithful friend who has kept who has kept me company these long years."
"This dragon is your friend?" Arthur looked at Merlin strangely. "You do remember the dragon I killed that tried to burn down Camelot, right?" he whispered. "And the one at Camlaan?"
"Well, you never killed the first dragon. That was Kilgharrah. He was the one who first told me of your destiny and mine. It was also Kilgharrah who forged your sword. And the dragon at Camlaan was Aithusa. Morgana had corrupted her, but her true loyalty had always been with me since it was I who hatched her." Aithusa let out a soft purr.
"This is too strange." Arthur began pacing. "You told me you had magic, and I should be used to that since it has apparently been two thousand years, which you'll have to explain later how you didn't age, but dragons? I killed the last dragonlord. So there's no way they would listen to you. Unless," he stopped pacing and looked at Merlin.
"Balinor was my father. I am the last dragonlord."
"So is that your uniform?" he asked about the funny dress he still couldn't wrap his head around.
"No. There's no formality to the position. I'm also Duke of Avalon and a bunch of other random titles." Merlin brushed that off though. "Come along." He lept on Aithusa's back and offered a hand to help Arthur up. Arthur ignored this offer and swung himself up, after sheathing his weapon. He was initially unsteady but Merlin told him to grasp Aithusa's back bones for support and then it was just like riding a horse.
"This is nothing like riding a horse!"