Author's Note – Hope you enjoy.
One large amber eye snapped open beneath a wrinkled lid, the pupil contracting momentarily as it adjusted to the dim light. A massive scaly tail swished in distress and leathery wings flapped, anxiously. All he could hear, all that consumed his mind, was a scream – a scream of terror and pain and anguish. It was as if whoever had released such a cry had just discovered they had lost everything that they valued; everything that they cared about in the world.
Then the scream seemed to peter into a pitiful wail: full of loss and mourning.
The Great Dragon knew exactly who this voice belonged to, sounding so young and innocent, and at first he could not believe it. He had long since given up ever hearing another voice in his head – for years he had been alone and isolated. Yet, here was this petrified disembodied creature reaching out to him.
Help me. Please. Where is everyone? Where have they gone?
So desperately sorrowful was the tone of the questions that the Great Dragon felt a single tear drop onto his scaly cheek. It was a miracle. How could this one have escaped the net? How could it have survived? Everyone was supposed to be dead. And yet, here was this new life. No longer was he alone.
They are dead, my child. I am the only one left.
There was no reply for a few moments and the Great Dragon held his breath in anticipation and worry. It was a lot for a youngster to take in to discover that its entire race had been wiped out.
We are alone? Its voice was soft and unsure.
Yes. Are you hatched yet?
No. I am not. I don't want to come out. Not if everyone is gone. An infantile dragon, he had thought as much.
And then the Great Dragon felt the unborn dragon break the telepathic link which they shared. It was a link that all dragons had, when they had been alive, an easy way to communicate over the long distances which they travelled often but since they had been eradicated, by Uther and his ancestors, there had been no one. The youngling's voice was a breath of fresh air in the dank, dark cavern in which he resided.
However, if it was never to hatch because of its fears and loneliness then the Great Dragon would be alone forever more. It was unlikely that there were anymore un-hatched eggs out there. He needed to find the baby and help it, raise it, so he could perhaps one day bring back the ancient race. But how was he supposed to do that whilst he was trapped in this godforsaken cave?
And then it came to him. There was only one person that could possibly help him.
Beating his wings, determinedly, the Great Dragon summoned the boy.
Merlin was busy carefully trying to get the last kink out of Arthur's well-used chain mail - knocking it with a rather large hammer to be exact. It was being very difficult and he was growing more and more frustrated. He knew that his master would be back very soon from his meeting with the King and would expect his armour to be ready to use. Well, if Merlin couldn't get this damn kink out then the prince would not be happy.
Giving the metal a particularly ferocious whack, the manservant jumped for joy as the rings slid apart and the mail became smooth and untroubled once more.
Feeling mightily pleased with himself, Merlin hung the chain mail up beside Arthur's wardrobe and set about sorting the rest of the clothes he would undoubtedly need to change into in order to practice in the training grounds. There was a thick leather undershirt, loose black trousers and his light, comfortable boots. He added a pair of woolly socks on the pile and sat down, finished.
As he was breathing a sigh of relief, however, he heard a sound. A very familiar and very irritating sound.
He knew at once that it was the Great Dragon. Whenever the dragon summoned him he knew something bad was about to happen which usually involved him risking his life for Arthur in some ridiculous way and then getting no credit for it. Therefore, he was less than happy to follow the backstairs down into the bowels of the castle. He had to go though because he knew he owed a lot to the huge scaly beast.
Merlin, I need you.
"I know," he muttered to himself, "Can't you see I'm coming?" Why was everyone constantly ordering him around and making him work? Arthur, Gaius and now the damn dragon.
Stepping, apprehensively, onto the rocky ledge which was the podium upon he spoke to the dragon, Merlin stared up into the inky blackness of the cavern and waited. He was a tad irked already considering the fact that the Great Dragon had asked him to come here and then he didn't even have the decency to be waiting there for him. He sighed, he supposed he shouldn't be in such a bad mood so early in the day. Usually, it was late evening by the time he really reached the end of his tether.
"Dragon!" he called.
And then he appeared out of nowhere, alighting on the outcrop of rocks in the middle of the cavern, his expression was unsurprisingly grave. There was something different about his demeanour though and suddenly Merlin was intrigued to know exactly what had changed him. He held his flickering torch in his hand and waited.
"Merlin," the Great Dragon breathed in somewhat of a relieved way, "You came."
"You asked me too," the boy replied, candidly.
"Indeed I did because I wanted to ask you….a favour."
Merlin's eyes narrowed. He wasn't sure what to think but the dragon's unusually tentative speech and nervous manner suggested to him that whatever was wrong and whatever this favour was, it didn't bode well for him.
"I thought you said the only favour you would ever ask of me was for your release," Merlin said, carefully.
The Great Dragon raised a wrinkled eyebrow. "A favour which has yet to be carried out."
"I know," the young man waved him on, feeling guilty for having brought it up.
"That doesn't matter now. What does matter is the favour I ask of you at this moment in time. Now, Merlin, this is of utmost importance to me, I want you to understand that. I would not ask otherwise." He took a deep breath. "There is an egg, the last dragon egg left in existence, and it is meant to hatch soon."
The young warlock's face transformed into one of disbelief, there could be no way in which a dragon other than this one was still around. He knew what Gaius had told him, hell, he even knew what this dragon had informed him: Uther had wiped them all out at the time the purge. Therefore, surely, the Great Dragon had to be teasing him.
"No," he shook his head, uncertainly.
"I am telling the truth and it must hatch in time or else the youngster will die."
"But all the dragons are dead, killed by the king. There can't be another one, its impossible."
"Not impossible. Uther does not know much about dragons, he never took the time to understand." There was a note of bitterness in the Great Dragon's voice. "A dragon is hatched from an egg but the gestation period of that egg spans a hundred years. The King managed to murder all of the living dragons but this egg remains hidden. It is the last chance for my race to live on. Despite appearances, Merlin, I am growing older by the day. Soon I will be gone and dragons will be extinct."
"And what has this got to do with me?" Merlin asked with a horrible feeling that he knew the answer.
The Great Dragon rose up, his neck extending until it was about a metre from the manservant's head. It stared into his eyes with an intentness that made Merlin look away, uncomfortable. Then the creature opened its leathery lips and, displaying a full set of sharp white teeth, said:
"I need you to find the egg and bring it back here. Obviously, I cannot leave this dungeon and therefore this unborn dragon's survival falls to you. You must find it and bring it back here."
"Why can't you wait for it to hatch and come here?" Merlin asked, unconvinced.
"It won't hatch. It is frightened to," the beast stated, sincerely. His expression was sad. "Would you really want to be born into the world knowing there was no one like you out there – at all?"
"So, you want me to fetch an egg which will hatch into a dragon – a creature that Uther despises and will want dead as soon as he gets wind of it – for you, the Great Dragon, who tricked me into giving my own mother's life for Arthur's?"
"Forgive me for being a little sceptical," Merlin said, sarcastically.
The great winged lizard looked at him, desperation oozing from every pore of his body. "Please, young warlock, you are my only hope. It is a child. Surely, you can't condemn an innocent to death?"
Merlin contemplated the dragon's words. He was right, the young man hated the thought of anything dying, he hadn't even been able to allow Mordred to perish even though he was foretold to kill Arthur. He was too soft by half, as his master was always telling him. However, if this was indeed the last dragon left in existence, the last free dragon and as it was magical then surely he should save it?
He sighed, defeated. "Where exactly is this egg?"
The dragon offered him a slight smile. "I have no idea."
"Oh," Merlin threw his hands up into the air, "Well, that's just great."
The dark haired boy groaned inwardly and knew that he would regret what he said next, probably for the rest of his life. Still, it had to be done.
"I'll do it."
"Good," the Great Dragon paused, as if listening to something. Merlin watched him, bemused. Then, he turned his intense stare on the manservant, looking a little worried. "I must inform you that it seems that King Uther too knows about the dragon egg."
"As if this could get any worse." The boy rolled his eyes before turning to leave.
"I haven't done it yet."
With that, the lanky servant departed.
Hurrying down the corridor, aware that he was late for attending his master, Merlin tripped slightly on an uneven flagstone and was sent sprawling forward. He let out an oomph of surprise and pain as his head connected with something reasonably soft. There was a cry of shock from somewhere as he hit the floor, hard.
Dazedly, he looked up and saw Arthur standing there, nursing his stomach. There was an irritated expression on his face.
"Merlin! I should have known only a clumsy oaf like you could trip over your own feet whilst walking down an empty corridor."
"There was a….loose stone…." Merlin protested feebly but was ignored. Instead, Arthur offered him a casual hand which he took and hauled him to his feet. Once upright, the servant rubbed his head.
"Right, I was looking for you."
"When aren't you?"
"Shut up, Merlin, this is important. The King has just informed me of some very grave news. He has heard from an informant that there have been rumours of the discovery of a dragon egg."
"I know," Merlin said without thinking.
"What?" Arthur frowned, "How could you know?"
Merlin floundered before exclaiming, perhaps too quickly, "You told me!"
"I did not!" the prince denied it, immediately, "I only just found out myself."
"I think I would know if I told you, Merlin. As much as you may think it, I'm not stupid."
"Well…" The manservant quickly changed the subject. "How do we know its true, if they're rumours?"
Arthur was still perplexed but he continued anyway. "These rumours have been circulating for awhile but Father paid no heed until he had solid evidence from a trusted friend. Now, he knows it must be true. However, he does not know where the egg is hidden so he wants me to ride out a find it."
"I'm guessing I'm coming with you?"
"Of course. What would I do without you, Merlin?"
What do you think? I know not much happens in the first chapter but it will get better. I promise. A lot of Merlin/Arthur banter and guy-love (not the slash kind, the Scrubs kind :D) to come.