Time to wrap up (hah!) the GIFT arc, as there are only a few days left of Midwinter for our friends from Camelot, and some Actual Canon(ish) involved Plot in today's.

Less than a day after Merlin and Freya's wedding, a familiar figure was seen flying over Camelot. Then back again, an hour later. Then away, then back. This in itself was unusual. Kilgharrah knew there were those who still felt uncomfortable with the sight of a dragon flying overhead and he and Aithusa usually avoided flying directly over the city when they needed to go somewhere. It was strange to see him flying over without stopping. Arthur, troubled and bored, walked down to the valley by the north tower and decided to wait and watch for the dragon—if he needed to talk, he would land there.

Sure enough, and hour or so later, Kilgharrah flew over the city, circle twice, and landed in the valley a few hundred feet away from Arthur. Arthur rose from the rock he was sitting on and smiled at the dragon. "Hello, Kilgharrah," he said, with a respectful decline of the head. "We've been sort of expecting you, what with the holidays and everything. You missed—"

"Is Merlin here?" Kilgharrah cut in, already stretching his wings to prepare for another flight.

Arthur blinked and frowned at the worried tone in the dragon's voice. "…No, he's in Avalon. You missed his wedding yester—" Kilgharrah growled, interrupting him, and lifted off from the ground with a single flap of his wings, moving in the direction of the Lake of Avalon. The king frowned deeper, trying to ignore the sick feeling in his stomach at the ordinarily polite dragon's abrupt take off.

An hour after that, Kilgharrah was flying over the city again, lower this time, low enough that observant citizens could make out the grim-faced warlock on his back. The city watched, a little alarmed, as the dragon and his lord spent the rest of the day soaring over Camelot at odd intervals and seemingly random patterns. Arthur called an emergency council meeting in the druid camp to see if anyone had heard of anything going wrong—why else would Kilgharrah behave in such a bizarre manner? And why else would Merlin return to the land of the living without stopping by to at least say hello?

Kilgharrah landed in the north field again at sundown, taking off again minutes afterward. A disheveled and bone-numbingly exhausted Merlin staggered into the castle shortly after and stumbled, half-asleep, to the magical branch of the library where he'd set up a cot since Alice had returned to Camelot. The men of the Round Table burst in just in time to see the warlock collapse onto the cot, bury his face in his pillow, and scream.

"What's wrong, Merlin? What's happened?" Arthur asked, frozen in the doorway in front of his knights.

Merlin groaned and rolled over, facing his friends. "…Dragons hibernate," he began, his words slurring a bit. "Well, sort of hibernating, but not exactly. In winter they sleep for a few weeks at a time, but they're always careful to wake during important days. They're also, as well you know, surprisingly easy to trap, if you're that stupid." He sat up a bit more and rubbing his tearing eyes. "Kilgharrah…Someone trapped him in his cave, after he woke during Saturnalia. It's a quiet time for dragons. They try to make themselves inconspicuous. So they were awake, him and Aithusa, but not exactly…alert."

"A bit like you now," Gwaine said, stepping forward and dropping a hand on Merlin's forehead. "Just tell us what's wrong, mate."

He swallowed back a sob. "Aithusa's missing. Aithusa's missing and we can't find him. Kilgharrah's sure he disappeared on Bruma."

Also, HAPPY TWELFTH NIGHT, EVERYONE! The traditional last day of Christmas, the "Twelve Drummers Drumming" as the song goes, and a rather obligatory holiday for me. I'm celebrating in the obvious way: digging into an audio production of Twelfth Night, or What You Will to listen to my namesake sass everyone to death. Hope your holidays were stellar, no matter what heartbreak Christmas Eve brought! (Heh, my sister was sobbing on the couch on Christmas Eve after we finished the series, while I was blinking in surprise going "wow, that really wasn't so bad. I was expecting a lot more death. I can live with this." And then I got slapped.) Never mind that, Shakespeare awaits!