Greetings, fellow Merlinians!

Ok, so this little ficlet came to me as I was falling asleep last night. I realised something about the cave that Arthur, Merlin and co. walked though in 'Aithusa' last night, so you could say this is a 'missing scene' piece it started off as a drabble and became something more on its own accord haha!

As usual, please please please let me know what you think! Reviews encourage me to write more ;-)


DISCLAIMER: No, I don't own Merlin, or Arthur, or Lancelot… or anyone or thing for that matter, it all belongs to the BBC. Though Aithusa is now the name of any future dog or horse I might own! Hehe.

Duty of a Dragonlord.

Merlin froze as he took in the unexpected sight before him, his mouth suddenly dry. To Arthur and the Knights, this was nothing more than a mere cave; an obstacle that could easily be overcome, as they were proving rather well by the way they were confidently entering its mouth. Any other time, Merlin would just as happily follow them through. Well, not exactly happy. Granted he might be a bit wary, and would have no qualms in expressing this, but this wasn't just any old cave.

The warlock, whose heart was still beating rather loudly in his ears, stared after Arthur, wondering how he could just enter this cave as though it held no meaning at all. The reason as to why Arthur probably didn't remember, Merlin realised, was because his now King had been unconscious at the time, after succumbing to his injury and passing out.

Gwaine's echoing voice startled Merlin out of his thoughts. "You coming, Merlin?"

"He's probably scared of the dark," Merlin heard Arthur say mockingly as he headed into the cave's entrance, mindful of not losing his footing on an uneven rock; the last thing he needed when a teasing Arthur was around. "It's alright, Merlin, I'm sure none of the big scary shadows will jump out on you!"

"Ha ha," Merlin answered sarcastically as he caught up to the group. He pulled his jacket around him tightly at the temperature drop, trying to steady his breathing at the thought of where he was.

For a few long minutes, the only sound that accompanied the questing group was the sound of their echoing footsteps and chilled breathing bouncing off the stone walls. The light the entrance let in was slowly dimming to nothing as their eyes adjusted to the level of brightness. Remaining at the back of the group, Merlin squinted as he scanned the ground for the slightest sign of anything that might indicate someone once lived here. Judging by how far in they had walked, he should have seen something by now. Frowning, merlin glanced behind him so he could use the caves entrance as a basis for how far they had walked in. He had guessed right, it should be around this part that he should see something, anything that might show where his father had lived….

The sound of an object crunching from under a foot came from ahead of him, causing Arthur to stop and glance down to where Elyan had stepped.

"Most probably from bandits using this cave," Arthur explained before resuming.

Merlin followed suit, looking down at what had crunched beneath Elyan's booted foot moments before. He exhaled quickly when he saw what were now fragments of a small brown clay pot lying scattered amongst the stones and dirt. Looking around as he walked, Merlin was unaware of the stones gradually becoming less frequent on the smooth dirt of the cave floor, as a new sight greeted him, causing his breath to hitch.

Against the wall of the cave, several large stones lay alongside it with small pots similar to the one Elyan had trodden on lay scattered on the top. Stepping away from the group, Merlin tentatively approached the small area, taking in all the details from the fragment of pots, to the wall drawings that looked down at a small fire area. He realised that anything that might have been of use, such as blankets, clothes and weapons had been removed. Further along, Merlin spotted what looked like the bones of several rabbits lying in a neat line together. The sight made Merlin feel nauseated. This was food his father had intended to eat, food he had probably caught before he and Arthur had even turned up in his life… before he had discovered he had a son.

The overpowering emotions he felt at that second made him gasp shakily, causing the others to turn around in response. Merlin felt rather than hear Gwaine approach and clap him in the back. "Alright there?" he asked in a concerned voice.

Swallowing thickly and urging the tears that were forming in his eyes to disappear, Merlin glanced at Gwaine and nodded, smiling shyly. "Yeah, yeah. Err, water droplet fell on my head, made me… made me jump." Merlin completed his charade by feigning a gasp and patting his head as he glared up at the ceiling. Arthur and the other knights might have been fooled by this act, but Gwaine certainly was not. He stepped in front of his friend and searched his pale face with hidden concern. Raising his eyebrows, Merlin offered a grin before walking passed the knight towards Arthur who was examining the seemingly peculiar set up in the cave.

"It appears," Arthur explained in a knowledgeable voice, "that someone once lived here." He picked up a small pot and examined it. "But not for a long time apparently…" He trailed off as he carefully set the pot back in its place, and stared at the wall paintings with an expression of deep thought. For a second, Merlin supposed that Arthur might actually realise and remember where they were, but his guess was dismissed as Arthur seemed to do the same thing with the faded paintings. "Looks like bandits have visited here since then, judging by the smashed pots and lack of valuables. Come on."

As Arthur turned away, he caught Merlin's gaze and held it for a few very short moments, before tearing his eyes away and walking behind his knights. With a last gaze at his deceased father's home, Merlin followed suit and walked up besides Arthur. The King glanced at him again and smiled softly, remembering his manservant's reaction when Balinor was killed.

"You may be a girl, Merlin, but even I know that a water droplet wouldn't make you jump, especially when there are none falling down," Arthur said in a quietened voice. Merlin could hear Arthur's sad smile in his tone.

Merlin offered a lopsided smile in response. "Seems like so long ago now, since we were last here."

"It does," Arthur sighed. "A lot has happened since the dragon attack; for better and for worse." Merlin inwardly winced at the mention of the dragon attack, but did not say anything. He could practically hear Arthur's mind mulling over the recent tragic events that occurred. The same recent events that had left Merlin scared, empty and alone…

Both fell into silence, each left to their own thoughts as the sound of the nearby waterfall grew louder the closer they got.

Arthur was the first to break it. "Seems rather fitting though." Merlin glanced questioningly at his King. "Well not fitting, more… ironic that on our way to capture and destroy a dragon's egg we happen to pass through the make shift home of a Dragonlord."

Merlin was surprised to see Arthur look rather apprehensive upon saying that, almost as though he was thinking along the same lines as he was. Licking his lips, Merlin said something he never even dreamt that he would say.

"In a way, I'm," he hesitated before continuing, "I'm glad that Balinor is dead." He saw Arthur raise his eyebrows in query, confirming his earlier thoughts that Arthur did remember his reaction. "But only now. And only because I think it would have pained him to have been alive when another dragon was killed before it had even hatched. Especially after everything that had led up to him living here." Merlin's mind unconsciously raced through all the things; being betrayed by Uther, having his kin captured and the rest killed, being the last of his kind, leaving his mother alone, being hunted….

"You know Merlin, you really can be wise when you want to be," Arthur complimented with a smile. He gave a friendly nudge with his shoulder before stepping ahead. "Come on then, we have a quest to compete."

Merlin watched as Arthur stepped through the waterfall barrier before him and went to follow, but hesitated. He glanced behind him at his father's home one last time, his pupils constricting as a shaft of sunlight gleamed briefly behind him. "You have my word, Father; the dragon egg will be kept safe. I promise." Turning away, he walked through the crashing barrier before him.

The waterfall wiped away any tears that fell.

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