Chapter 1: A Solution
For the past two nights the Great Dragon had laid waste to Camelot, he had burned and killed indiscriminately, all in the name of revenge against Uther Pendragon. Before long Camelot would fall, just as the dragon wished, the city could not last much more destruction. Already women and children were fleeing to neighbouring kingdoms in the hope of escaping the onslaught, and many of the men wished to join them knowing that this was not their fight, it was Uther's. And why should they pay with their lives for Uther's mistakes?
However for the men who stayed behind, injury and even death awaited them. Gaius had the misfortune of witnessing this at a catastrophic level. The lower levels of the castle were already full with both soldiers and innocent civilians; any more attacks and Gaius did not think he and his assistants would be able to cope with the sheer numbers. The worst of it all in Gaius's opinion was that, as unlikely as it seemed, there was a solution. The dragon could be stopped. Both Gaius and Uther knew it, they both even knew how, the only difference between the two was that while Uther now believed this solution to be an impossibility, Gaius knew otherwise.
The physician had spent a lot of time thinking about it and the only way to stop the dragon was to find a dragonlord, a man capable of ordering the beast away or even killing it himself and it was with some reluctance that he reminded Uther of their existence that day in the war council room.
"Impossible." Uther replied, "All the dragonlords were killed."
Indeed it may have seemed that way; out of the thirteen dragonlords that existed Gaius had witnessed the death of twelve as well as the deaths of all their sons who would inherit the power. He had only been able to save one, his close friend and the thirteenth dragonlord, Balinor. And it seemed that Gaius would now have to call in this old debt in order for Camelot to be saved.
So Gaius told the King and all those present of the rumours of Balinor's survival and presence on the outskirts of Cenred's kingdom, he did not dare to look at Merlin as he spoke for fear that a spark of recognition at the name would come to Merlin's eyes and Gaius would later have to admit to having known the whereabouts of his absentee father.
As Arthur suggested a plan to go search for the dragonlord, Gaius summoned the courage to look at his ward, thank the lord, the only emotion displayed across Merlin's face was determination to rid Camelot of the Great Dragon and he seemed to be listening intently to Arthur's plan. Perhaps he too could sense the desperation of the situation. Merlin briefly glanced questioningly at Gaius, he knew the look well, it meant Merlin had questions. Presumably he was curious about dragonlords, having never heard of them before. However this would not be a normal explain-the-creature-or-person session, this time Gaius would have the burden of telling Merlin about the father he had never known.
Or would he?
Gaius had been right. The next morning, whilst Merlin was preparing a bag to take with him for when he and Arthur searched for Balinor, the first of the questions came. Patiently he explained all he could to Merlin about the dragonlords and their abilities but he found it hard to keep the anxiety out of his voice. He still had not decided whether or not to tell Merlin about his father.
"So you and Arthur are going to search for this man alone?" Gaius asked his ward, trying to distract himself from his current dilemma. "Isn't that a bit dangerous considering the number of bandits in that area?"
"Yes it is dangerous, but if we take a big group we would attract more attention and the dragonlord could leave before we even found him." Merlin replied. He rummaged around in his bag and suddenly an annoyed expression spread across his face. "Forgot something, I'll be right back." The boy left the room muttering under his breath.
Gaius collapsed in a nearby chair and covered his face with his hands. What should he do? He'd hardly slept the previous night as he couldn't stop worrying. Merlin had seen the dark shadows under his eyes but had not commented, assuming that it was caused by the stress of having so many patients to deal with. It probably did have but the greatest contributor was the time Gaius had spent evaluating the pros and cons of telling Merlin the truth.
On the one hand, Merlin had a right to know about his father especially as he was going to search for the man. Wouldn't he feel betrayed if Gaius withheld the information knowing full well who Merlin was going to meet? Not only that, but if Merlin knew and told Balinor about their relationship it could help convince the stubborn dragonlord to help Camelot.
But on the other hand, Gaius was fully aware of Balinor's nature. If he was taken off his guard there was no telling what his reaction could be. When his friends had been rounded up and slaughtered, the man had completely shut down, refusing to say or do anything. If this happened again, they might not reach Camelot before it was completely burned down to the ground. And what if Balinor did not believe Merlin? The soldiers who had gone to Ealdor had suspected Hunith of having a relationship with him; an enemy could connect the dots and make up a story about a long lost son to gain Balinor's trust!
There were too many variables to consider and too much was at stake. Either way, Gaius would have to betray someone, whether it was his close friend or the boy that was like a son to him.
"Gaius?" Merlin had returned, "Are you alright?" Gaius sat up and attempted a smile.
"I'm fine Merlin." Not entirely satisfied, Merlin packed away the item he had forgotten, Gaius hesitated and spoke again. "Merlin, have you ever heard the name Balinor?"
"No." Merlin answered after a slight pause to think, "Why? Should I have?"
"No, I was just thinking." Gaius said softly and returned to his pensive state.
"Did you know him?" Gaius' head shot up suddenly in surprise. Had Merlin realised? Seeing Gaius' expression, Merlin hurried to continue. "It's just; you spoke of the dragonlords so fondly…" The physicians' tense shoulders relaxed. He was getting paranoid in his old age; there was no way Merlin could know.
"Yes. He was my friend." He hesitated, "I helped him to escape." Merlin's eyes widened with shock and admiration. But another realisation seemed to dawn on him.
"Oh crap! Gaius, I'm going to be late!" Merlin grabbed his bag and darted to the door, "But don't think you're getting off the hook, I want to know everything when we get back!" This was it. This was Gaius' last chance to reveal the truth.
"Merlin, about Balinor, he-" His ward's face was turned to him expectantly, "he… if he decides not to help, give him my regards." A bright smile lit up Merlin's face.
As Merlin saddled his horse his thoughts teemed with excitement. They were going to meet a dragonlord! Someone who could boss around the Great Dragon rather than vice versa. He had scanned through his book of magic and had found almost no mention of dragonlords, only a sentence in the chapter on dragons: "dragonlords are believed to be directly linked to dragons". Not the most informative or intelligent statement seen as it pointed out the obvious. A complete lack of information on the subject made the warlock almost sick with curiosity as he had so many questions to ask. He had wanted, in the past, to question other magical races like the Sidhe or the troll but that proved impossible since they were all trying to kill him.
"Merlin!" He was startled by the sudden presence of a peeved looking Prince Arthur holding onto the reins of a saddled and prepared horse, oh damn, Merlin was supposed to have sorted out the prince's horse beforehand!
"I was just going to do that!" Merlin lied brightly, with little hope that Arthur would actually believe him. He didn't.
"When? After Camelot has been reduced to ruin?" Arthur sighed, "Honestly Merlin, can't you get anything right?"
It was going to be a long journey to Enged*.
* Spelt phonetically as could not find the actual name.
AN: Finally got round to posting this! Yay!