Born Of The Dragon
Summary: An ancient prophecy tells of the once and future King uniting the five kingdoms of Albion by returning magic to the land and forming an alliance with the young heirs he befriended in his youth. Uther is determined to do whatever it takes to ensure that this future does not happen.
This fic is AU and set rougly in canon period except that the story starts when our young heros are just ten years old. There are a number of differences between this world and the one in the show as you'll see as the story unfolds and new things are revealed. Part one has six chapters and takes place when they are children. The will be some romance in Part Two and Three but it won't be slash and won't be the main focus of the story.
Chapter One: Arthur
"The Once and Future King, born of the dragon, will unite the five kingdoms of Albion and restore magic to the realm. The three kings and two queens will cement the alliance that began during their childhood and none will have the power to oppose them. For the five carry the souls of dragons within their blood and the earth itself will tremble at their birth and proclaim their very great destiny to the world."
Arthur tried hard not to roll his eyes as he looked up from the book he had just been reading. The ten year old prince was in the records office for his usual morning lesson with Geoffrey of Monmouth, willing the time to pass as quickly as possible so he could start the really important lesson - training to be a knight.
"Good," said his tutor with a faint smile. "Now we shall discuss this prophecy in detail."
"Why?" Arthur asked.
"Why are we studying this? It's about magic and dragons and I know my father would not want me to learn it."
"It is an ancient prophecy and has been studied by many scholars over the years, including King Uther," the old man explained. "So it is important that you too learn to understand it."
"But it's not going to happen," Arthur complained.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because generations of my family have dedicated their lives to ensuring the destruction of the dragons and challenging all kingdoms that support magic, in order to make certain that this 'Dragon Born Prophecy' never happens."
"And you believe they have been successful?" his tutor asked.
"Of course. My grandfather managed to slay twenty dragons in his lifetime and my father another five, and when Camelot's old king started to talk of peace with the Dragonlords and the Druids, it was Father that gathered supporters to his side to organise the rebellion that overthrew him. It was he that ensured that the Dragonlords were made outlaws and that all magic practises were punishable by death."
"You have been paying attention during your history lessons then?" Geoffrey commented seriously, although the corner of his lips twitched slightly, a subtle sign of amusement that was not missed by Arthur, despite his young age.
"Of course I have," the boy responded in a sulky tone. "Anyway, all of that proves that the Prophecy has failed. The old King of Camelot was executed and he had no children so that royal line is dead."
"But Uther is now King. Everyone recognises him as such, which makes you a Prince of Camelot. Many believe that the time of the prophecy is almost upon us and that you are this once and future King."
"No ..." Arthur shook his head furiously. "That can't be true. The old king was killed, I told you, and there are no longer five kingdoms in Albion anyway, there are only three ..." He shook his head again. "No, soon there will be only two. Father is returning home victorious from his campaign in the East, as we speak: King Gorlois has surrendered unconditionally and those lands belong to us. We now hold three of the five old kingdoms and King Lot has just agreed the terms of an alliance with the North and it won't be long before those two kingdoms are joined as well."
"Good," Geoffrey said with a genuine smile and Arthur glared at his tutor, cross that he was taking this all so well when he'd been hoping to annoy him. The old man laughed when he saw his expression. "I said I wished to discuss this prophecy with you, your highness, and that is exactly what we are doing."
"If you say so." Arthur frowned thoughtfully. "Alright then, if we are 'discussing' this. Why is it that you believe this can still come true, when there will soon be only two kingdoms and one dragon left in Albion?"
"The prophecy is a glimpse into our future, Arthur. It gives us just a brief picture of future events but does not tell us how we are to get there. Not only that, but this is a very old prophecy that was not originally written in our language. As it's been translated a number of times, it's possible its true meaning has been lost."
"What language was it written in?"
"Welsh, I believe."
"Who reads that nowadays?" Arthur scoffed.
"The Welsh?" Geoffrey answered with a completely straight face and Arthur glared at him. "Anyway, true followers of this prophecy say that these five children are already alive despite the upheavals their countries have suffered. They say that those children, like you, were all born on the day of the earthquake ten years ago - on the very same day as Uther had the last five dragons and their Dragonlords killed."
"No, they can't be alive. All members of the royal family in the south were executed and the only child in the North-West is just a baby."
"And yet you were born on the day the earth shook, as was Princess Morgana. So, if that much is true, why not the rest?"
"No, I told you, I am not the prince mentioned in the prophecy and Morgana is no longer a princess. Her father has given up all claim to the throne."
"Which does indeed make you the heir of a very great Kingdom," Geoffrey pushed whist Arthur shook his head even harder.
"You're just twisting all the words to suit you."
"As are you. Can you deny that you are a prince, born of a dragon on the day of an earthquake?"
"Born of a dragon?" Arthur asked incredulously. "That's not what Pendragon means. My grandfather took that name to show he was the true master of the dragons - the slayer of dragons."
"Of course," Geoffrey replied, and still he seemed amused, despite his serious countenance, "You are quite correct in saying that is not what 'Dragon Born' means."
"What does it mean then?" Arthur asked, suddenly curious.
"Well now, where has the time gone? I do believe that is the end of today's lesson."
"Oh good, training!" Arthur said, jumping up enthusiastically from his chair and knocking the scroll on the floor in the process.
"Not so fast, young Arthur," Geoffrey called out. "I understand you were injured yesterday?"
"It was nothing. Just a scrape really." Arthur put his hand automatically to the small bruise on his temple.
"Nevertheless, I have been told to send you to Gaius so that he can assess you properly before you go back out."
"Do I have to?"
"Yes you have to but, I'm sure that Gaius won't be kept from your training. The quicker you go and see him the quicker you'll have your answer."
"Very well then," the young prince replied and, slowing his stride down a little, as if only just remembering his station, he walked slowly out of the room leaving Geoffrey to pick the scroll up off the floor.
"One day you'll understand," the old man muttered to himself with a small smile. "One day you'll be a very different king to your father."
"Hello, Gaius?" Arthur asked as he walked through the door of the cluttered physician's chambers.
"Ah, Prince Arthur, I've been expecting you. How's your head?"
"Oh it's fine. Barely a bruise really. Nothing to worry about."
"I think perhaps I should be the judge of that, don't you?" The old man asked raising an eyebrow. Arthur pulled a face as he surveyed the untidy chambers, thinking he should be annoyed by the mess but, in truth, totally fascinated by the clutter. "Why don't you take a seat whilst I look at that? ... Merlin!" The physician shouted the last word and, a moment later, the door opened at the top of a small flight of stairs and a skinny boy with pale skin and dark hair emerged and looked down at the physician curiously.
"Can you come here and assist me?"
"Yes, of course."
"You?" Arthur suddenly recognised the boy and rose abruptly from his chair, pointing a finger. "What are you doing here?"
"Ah, you two boys have already met, have you?" Gaius asked.
"Well, I don't know if met is the right word," Arthur continued with a glare. "Seeing that he knocked me over in the courtyard yesterday, right in front of everybody."
"Oh, I wouldn't say ... everybody," the boy retorted with a wince, "There really weren't that many people about at all, actually."
"That is not the point. You didn't even apologise properly."
"I said, sorry," Merlin disagreed.
"Barely and you didn't acknowledge my station or anything. Do you not know who I am?"
"A prat?" Merlin replied innocently.
"Merlin! That's enough," Gaius scolded. "This is Prince Arthur and he's quite correct, you really should show him some respect."
"So, because he's a prince he can be rude to me, but I can't be rude back?"
"Well, at least you're a quick learner," Arthur retorted with a small grin. Merlin pulled a face.
"Although, thankfully for me, you are also correct in that too, Arthur," Gaius replied. "Merlin is my new apprentice and is doing remarkably well. Here, can you find these herbs for me and put the bottles on this table?"
"Yes, of course, Gaius." The boy's tone suddenly turned quiet and respectful as he walked off with the list of paper.
"You can read?" Arthur asked and Merlin turned around with a glare.
"Of course I can read," he retorted. "Better than you, I expect."
"That's highly unlikely. I had to read the whole of the Dragon Born Prophecy to Geoffrey of Monmouth this morning and he was very impressed."
"Hah, I could read that when I was seven."
"There's no way you could have read all of those words when you were that young."
"I could. Gaius? Tell him."
"Leave me out of this, Merlin."
"So, prove it," the prince continued. "Reading labels isn't that challenging anyway."
"Alright ..." Merlin marched over to a small pile of books and started to look through them, whilst Gaius started to inspect Arthur's head and ask him loads of questions about whether he had a headache or felt dizzy or sick.
"Well, it looks like you can give training a go," the old man said, "but, if you start to experience any of the symptoms I just described, you must stop and come back and see me, do you promise?"
"Yes, Gaius," Arthur replied, trying hard not to roll his eyes.
"Are you going right now?" Merlin asked, carrying a large book under his arm.
"So, have you time to read this then?" Merlin put the book in front of the prince and pointed to a sentence. Arthur started to read the complicated medical text, a little haltingly, but he was confident he was getting it right. Gaius was standing quite close, and the Prince was quite sure he was reading over his shoulder and checking. Then he got to the next paragraph and stopped.
"Well, I can't read that, obviously." He looked a bit closer. "Is that Welsh?"
"Yes, shall I read it for you?" Merlin asked cheekily before suddenly rattling off some strange words quickly and confidently.
"You're not serious?" Arthur asked, looking up at Gaius, who have a small shrug and a nod, as if to indicate that the rubbish Merlin was spouting was actually correct. "It sounds like you're about to throw up." Merlin stopped mid word and glared at him, whilst Gaius turned around, apparently trying to hide a laugh.
"So, how does a peasant like you know all of that then?" Arthur asked.
"I am not a peasant," he retorted. "I'm a physician's apprentice, I know three languages and my father was a man of great importance, I'll have you know."
"Ah, I see. I didn't realise. Well then, seeing you're not entirely useless, you should come outside with me and be my squire."
"Your squire?" Merlin asked sceptically.
"If Gaius can spare you, of course, but we really are short of knights and helpers at the moment seeing as all the best ones went on the Eastern campaign."
"I don't see why not," the old man replied with a smile. "Merlin hasn't had a chance to learn much about the life of a knight, it might do him some good."
"Come on then," Arthur said casually, trying to hide how pleased he felt. There was something refreshing about the way this boy interacted with him. Even after knowing he was the prince, Merlin continued to treat him as an equal and, even though Arthur knew he shouldn't be impressed by the boy's cheeky attitude, he secretly was. It could be difficult to know which young lord's son actually wanted to be your friend and which ones just wanted to be with the prince. What ever Merlin thought of him, it seemed to Arthur that he was at least being truthful and that made a very nice change.
"Where are we going?" the boy asked as he trailed after him.
"To the training grounds. It's time for us apprentice knights to train and so, you might as well be an apprentice squire and learn that job. Which is odd really," he continued, not even checking to see if Merlin was following or listening, "because once basic training is over, most of my friends will become squires to older knights and learn even more that way."
"Don't be an idiot, Merlin. Of course I won't be a squire. I'm the King's son."
"So how will you learn all these things about being a knight if you don't do what the others do?"
"Do you always ask so many questions?"
"How else do you learn if you don't?" Arthur ignored the question and strode ahead.
"Of course, if you're telling the truth about being of noble birth then you would be allowed to train too. Looks like you could do with it too - you're all skin and bones."
Merlin followed as quickly as he was able until they reached the training grounds where Arthur directed him to where a group of plainly dressed men were sorting through weapons and then quickly turned to leave him to it, wandering off instead to work with Sir Pelinor, the knight in charge of their training. He was an older man in his early fifties, still trim and able to wield a sword with a group of young boys but, as an old war injury had left him a little slow and sore, he certainly wasn't fit enough to fight in a battle with the younger knights.
Arthur walked toward the training field and joined the other boys around his age for their daily workout. There was Valiant, Oswald and Ethan, who Arthur was fairly convinced were only friends with him because he was the prince, and Lancelot who he liked better as was sure that he was more genuine even if he was a bit too enthusiastic sometimes. Then there was Percival who had only just turned eleven but was big enough to be mistaken for someone of fifteen, and the eldest, Leon, who was fourteen and probably should have gone with his father to the East, but had been recovering from a fever when they'd left and was understandably upset about having been left behind. Leon was usually be paired up with Percival or Arthur, the only two that stood any chance against such a tall and grown up opponent but, sometimes, if the younger boys were sparring, he would act as a second tutor, assisting Pelinor by teaching the weaker boys and helping them with their technique.
"Well, what did you think?" Arthur asked as he approached Merlin afterwards.
"You're really good," the boy replied enthusiastically, rather surprising Arthur who was expecting some rude comment.
"Ah, thanks." Despite, or perhaps because of, his tendency to brag, Arthur rarely received such direct praise and so found that he was uncertain how to respond.
"And you seem to be one of the youngest there?" Merlin continued.
"Yes, many don't start training with these knights until they're twelve but ... well, I suppose that's the answer to your earlier question. I won't be allowed to go off on quests with knights when my father needs me here, so I have to train harder and younger."
"You'll be involved in the fighting against the North-West when you're older?"
"Of course. I don't expect they'll be any quick wins. We might have a larger territory and a bigger army but they have a dragon on their side."
"Yes, I know. I've seen him sometimes," Merlin replied, wide-eyed.
"You have? How?"
"I was living on the border of Morfyn's kingdom before I came here, and he flew by quite often." Arthur was aware of the awe in the boy's voice.
"Weren't you scared?"
"No. It was strange, I suppose I should have been but ... he was wonderful, the way he flew by and banked and turned. Then I saw him in the distance breathing fire – it was very exciting."
"Why are you in Camelot then?"
"Gaius knows my mother and knew my father too."
"He died before I was born." Merlin's expression suddenly changed and Arthur was surprised at the change on the face of someone he'd thought seemed unnaturally cheerful. "He was murdered."
"Really? What happened?"
"Mother said he had enemies," Merlin replied with a sigh. "He was wanted by two kings although he really didn't do anything bad it was just … well, Mother doesn't like to talk about it but, she's such a good judge of character that I can't imagine her falling in love with someone who was true enemy to the crown."
"I ... I don't know what to say. I'm sorry about that."
"That's alright, I never knew him anyway."
"I never knew my mother either," Arthur said. "She died giving birth to me."
"Oh, well I'm sorry too. I suppose we have something in common then."
"Yes. Look, Merlin, Father has said that I can have my own personal servant soon and so, I was thinking. What about you?"
"A servant? I'm not a peasant, Arthur I told you and, anyway, I already have a job with Gaius."
"Of course, it's just ..." The prince suddenly realised that he was really just looking for an excuse to keep the boy close by. Perhaps he had found a proper friend at long last.
"Anyway, if I'm your squire then that's a job for a nobleman so ... I definitely shouldn't be your servant."
"No, you're probably right," Arthur mused. "My equerry then."
"Or valet, perhaps. No, that's still a type of servant. I'll have to check the correct term with Geoffrey."
"Can't I just be ... your friend?" Merlin asked and Arthur turned to him stunned that the boy had just come out and said it.
"I'm not sure if Father would approve I mean, you may not be a peasant but, I'm not sure you have a title as such." He paused again. "Do you?"
Merlin shrugged. "I don't know for certain. I know my father did but Mother always changes the subject if I ask too much about him."
"Well, I'm sure Gaius or Geoffrey can find out if my father asks. Anyway, for now you can be my squire and, as we're both busy with other things in the morning, you can help me out at afternoon training like today and then perhaps spend some time together after that. Certainly until Father gets back."
"He's been off fighting another battle, hasn't he?"
"Yes, he's just defeated King Gorlois in the East," Arthur said proudly but Merlin just gave a large sigh in response.
"I wish there didn't have to be wars. I wish we could all just live in peace and be friends."
"It's not as simple as that, Merlin. Gorlois supported magic and was very vocal about Camelot and its policies. It was essential that we acted first, before he could form an army of his own and rise up against us."
"Perhaps but, how do you know he was going to? It might just have been talk."
"It's hardly something that Father could take a chance on."
"Well, I still say that if I were the king, I'd do things very differently."
"I'm sure you would. Let's just be grateful that you're just a squire, a physician and a general know-it-all then." Arthur smiled as he said it and was pleased to see Merlin grin in response; apparently understanding that he wasn't really serious. "Anyway, enough talk of politics and fathers. Let's do something fun."
"We could pretend that we're going hunting."
"That doesn't sound much like fun to me,"
"We could run then. Do you like running? You've got long enough legs."
"Oh yes, I'm very good at running," Merlin responded with a grin.
"Well come on then," Arthur called out, moving away without giving any warning. "Race you to that tree? Last one there's a peasant!"
Next Time: Chapter 2: Merlin.
A/N Yeah, here we go again.
I've been working on this since the end of 'An Unexected Job' but was determined to write a large part of the story before I started to publish. As such I've pretty much completed Part One (6 chapters) which is a mini fic in itself. That means that, no matter what happens in my life, I won't be leaving you hanging. Hopefully I can get on with writing Part Two as I publish Part One and can carry straight onto the seventh chapter without pause.
This story is very loosely based on an original story of mine and has now started to remind me of The Game Of Thrones in places. Which is strange because I started to write and plan this before I watched series 1 of that show. Since then, however, I have read ALL the books which really helped to get me back in a writing mood.
I've always had a wish to write our four young heroes as children and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity. The whole of Part One takes place when they're ten, Part Two happens in their early teens and Part Three when they are young adults - probably around the age they're supposed to be at the start of the show.
I'm sure this will already be sparking some questions and speculation and, as usual, feel free to ask me anything. I will reply to all speculations/questions but may be evasive if you're getting close to spoilers. See my PP for more details.