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A Bountiful Year

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It had been a gentle winter after defeating Morgana’s and Morgause’s immortal army. Still, we’d been lucky that we had a couple months to get the winter stores ready. So much had been destroyed during that war. Arthur was now Prince Regent and he put all his time and energy into making sure his people wouldn’t starve.

The first few months passed without incident, although his father, King Uther, hadn’t recovered mentally or emotionally. Guinevere, Morgana’s former maidservant, spent every day tending to Uther.

As Arthur’s manservant, I had a front row seat to witness Arthur being truly overwhelmed and frustrated with his new responsibilities. I could relate. I’ve had to hide my magic while here in Camelot because of the threat of execution. And considering my responsibility to secretly safeguard Prince Arthur from magical and non-magical dangers alike, I’ve been stressed.

Only two people in Camelot knew of my magic. One of them was Lancelot. Thanks to his participation in the battle to take back the citadel, Lancelot was one of the men recently knighted by Arthur. I was delighted that Lancelot fulfilled his dream of becoming a Knight. I was happy to have my friend here with me. Some days it felt like Lancelot was the only person who truly understood me.

To be honest, I’d felt a bit stir-crazy this winter. Spring wasn’t going much better. I had never been so exhausted. There was something strange going on with my magic. Gaius never understood it when I tried to explain. Gaius was my mentor and guardian. He was also the Court Physician. He had been helping train me in the control and use of my magic while I’ve been here in Camelot. I was continually grateful to have him by my side. Still, he doesn’t feel magic the same way I do.

Lately, my magic’s had an odd flavor. I’ve always been able to taste my magic. Normally, my magic tastes like a rainy afternoon, a bit of wet grass. But now I tasted something strange. The closest I could compare it to would be charcoal. Everything I ate made me want to gag and I had heartburn beyond belief. Nevertheless, I was always starving. Arthur kept finding me snacking from his fruit bowl.

Whenever I had the chance to go to the market, I would spend most of my wages on food for Gaius and myself. Gaius noticed my hunger. His response was to raise a single eyebrow at me. I knew he thought it was an authoritative look, but his wrinkled face would contort in a way that made me want to laugh. No matter how much I ate, I wasn’t gaining any weight. I was naturally thin, though stress tended to make it worse.

Now that Camelot was in the middle of spring, Gaius seemed concerned with my weight. Yesterday he was blunt. “How is it that someone who eats as much as you do, is still so skinny?” I made some excuse alluding to Arthur working me off my feet, but really there hadn’t been any change to my workload. In fact, Arthur spent less time training and hunting, and more time with paperwork. There wasn’t as much for me to do.

Originally, when Arthur took over as Regent, he had me attend council meetings. I always stood behind him, of course. Arthur said he wanted to get my opinion after the meetings ended. More accurately, he wanted someone informed that he could vent at. After his Uncle, Lord Agravaine’s arrival, things changed again. Agravaine vehemently advised him that servants shouldn’t be allowed in council meetings. I was kicked out. Now I spent my days quite bored. Yet I ended every night feeling worn-out.

It was late at night and I was struggling to stay awake. I'd already helped ready Arthur for bed and was now in the Physician’s Quarters eating some early season blueberries. I was waiting for Gaius to get back from assisting with a noble’s birth. It had been around 9 p.m. when a servant had been sent with a request that Gaius aid the midwife. Gaius originally planned to ask me to attend, but he took one look at me and told me to rest.

Finally, at perhaps 2 a.m., Gaius returned. “How’d it go?” I asked.

“Both the babe and mother live, though I fear she won’t be able to bear another child in the future.” Gaius put away his medicine bag. His shoulder length white hair was greasy and the bags under his eyes were more prominent.

I nodded. “I’m glad you were able to treat them.”

Gaius sat down with a heavy sigh then looked at me. “Why aren’t you sleeping, Merlin?” Though clearly tired himself, Gaius still gave me a once over. “You’ve been fatigued for weeks now. Yet you don’t seem sick.”

“I know. I don’t know what’s going on with me. But I’m going to head to bed now. I just felt nervous, like I needed to wait up for you.”

Gaius frowned. “I’ve helped in both successful and unsuccessful births before, no reason to worry over me. It is a physician’s life. You cannot save everyone.”

I sighed. “I know. It’s just something about hearing of a new birth. It’s made my chest feel tight. I don’t know why. I’ve assisted with births before. Yet it’s like my magic is trying to tell me something and I don’t know what it is.”

Gaius nodded before shooing me to bed. He told me to not worry about it until tomorrow. Only as I lay in bed I heard a voice clanging around inside my head. Kilgharrah.

I immediately put on my boots and jacket and headed out of my room. “Merlin?” Gaius had clearly just settled into bed himself.

“I’ve got to talk to the dragon. He called for me.” I left the room and snuck out through the courtyard and then past the guards at the gate and into the forest. I ran through the trees to get to the clearing. It took me longer than usual as my normal pace turned into a slow jog. My energy levels were depleted.

Once I arrived at the large clearing, I was overcome as always by Kilgharrah’s large frame. His golden and blue iridescent scales sparkled from the moonlight. If I was reading his expression right, I’d say he looked nervous. I was drowsy enough that as soon as I got close enough to talk comfortably, I flopped down onto the grass.

“Young Warlock, I have news for you. Information that you’ve needed to know before now, but I’ve withheld from you.” I could only squint at him. Kilgharrah’s keeping secrets from me? Not surprising. I closed my eyes in exasperation. “This will not be easy for you to hear, but there is much you don’t know about the Great Dragons and the Dragonlords.”

Curiosity hit me like a lightning bolt to the brain, waking me up to my surroundings. I gazed into his eyes and nodded for him to continue. “The Great Dragons do not have true sexes. We do not birth our own children as other species do. Our eggs come from a different source.”

This was new. I sat up, giving him my entire attention. My body wasn’t ready to be this awake. I felt sparks in my fingers and toes as my nerves malfunctioned.

“This is a secret that the Great Dragons and Dragonlords have never shared with the rest of the world. Even your mentor, Gaius, does not know the truth of this. Though I imagine you will tell him soon.”

“Kilgharrah, what are you getting at?”

He blew out a huge breath in front of me and I felt warm air ruffle my hair. “The Dragonlords are considered kin for a reason. They not only are capable of speaking our tongue and commanding us, they are in fact the Fathers of all Great Dragons.

“When a Dragonlord comes into their power it takes about three years for them to become fertile. At that time their magic begins to grow an egg within them. At this stage the egg is a tiny thing. A Dragonlord turns into a dragon for one night so that they can give birth to their dragon egg. The egg also grows bigger during the transformation.”

Kilgharrah paused, giving time for my lungs to seize up. He continued while I struggled for air. “Merlin, it has been three years since your father died and you became a Dragonlord. I sense in you that you are nearing your first birthing. You may have but a couple weeks until it’s time.”

“Two weeks?!”

“I do apologize, Merlin. I was concerned that early knowledge could have caused fear and stress. It may have harmed the changes your body’s been experiencing.”

My vision started to white out and my ears buzzed. I could barely think. This must be some sort of nightmare. The nausea kicked in quickly. My body was frozen in place, the only thing stopping me from throwing up. “Kilgharrah,” I gasped out. “Is this a joke?”

“It is not. And I must warn you that your birthing may be quite different than it was for past Dragonlords. Though a Dragonlord would normally only have one egg at a time, they’ve been known to have more. And with the Great Dragons decimated by Uther in the Purge, your magic may wish to bring forth more dragons into this world. I cannot predict what will happen. I suggest you bring Gaius to help. I will be here in this clearing when it is time. You need but call for me.”

With my vision still blurry, I begged for information. “How will I know it’s time?”

“Your entire body will start to tingle. It is a warning. For five days the tingling will intensify. You must be here that night on the fifth day. Do not dally.”

My whole body was shaking. All I could think was that I needed more help. “Um, Lancelot. Can he come?”

“Ah, the new Knight. Yes, you will probably need more support to sneak the dragon eggs back into the castle. The eggs must incubate for at least a year. I suggest you create a warm room within the cave I was imprisoned in. Create something that no one can enter without your permission. And make it big.”

My vision cleared somewhat. As I looked at Kilgharrah, I kept hoping that he would start laughing, but he looked so worried for me. Though I also glimpsed a bit of hope in his eyes.

“I will see you soon, my Dragonlord.” Then he was gone, launching into the air and flying away.

I stumbled to my feet with my legs barely holding me up. I weaved through the trees in a daze. My head only cleared when I had to sneak back into the city and then into the castle. By the time I got to my room, I was determined to wake up Gaius. I knew he needed his sleep at his age, but if I didn’t tell someone, I might lose my own sanity.

I leaned over Gaius and shook his shoulder as he lay on his cot. His eyes opened immediately. He took one look at my face and stood up. “My boy, what is wrong? Sit, sit. Let me make us some tea.” As he started boiling water, he also wrapped a blanket around my shoulders.

“Gaius, I know why my magic has felt off. Why I’ve been tired.” I was shaking. “Gaius, I’m scared.” I couldn’t help my eyes watering as I looked at him. This was never something I expected I’d have to worry about.

“What is it?” He retrieved some cups and put tea leaves in them. He then poured hot water over the leaves. I just watched helplessly as he readied the drinks. Eventually, he spooned out the leaves.

It was not until I had the warm drink in my hands and took my first sip that I could finally begin to explain. I told him word for word what Kilgharrah said. Gaius’ face was almost as shocked as mine had been. Though it was the sympathy in his eyes that did me in. “I don’t know if I can handle this. Gaius, what am I to do? I know I don’t have a choice, but you should have seen his face. This won’t be an easy thing. It’s not like I’m going to be a chicken.” I laughed harshly. “I’m not ready for this level of pain.”

Gaius sat next to me and pulled me into a firm hug. “You will get through this, Merlin. We need to focus on making that room he mentioned and finding a way to sneak the eggs into the castle.”

“I’m going to talk to Lancelot tomorrow.”

“Good. Merlin, perhaps you should try and get some sleep.” Gaius patted my shoulder.

I went to my room. I hardly slept, tossing and turning, but I did eventually crash. In the morning, after I got Arthur ready for the day and did most of my chores, I hunted down Lancelot.

He was just returning from delivering his dishes back to the kitchen. Lancelot was my height, though he always seemed taller as I tended to roll my shoulders forward. His hair was as dark as mine, but a much neater cut. He was rarely clean-shaven. Today he had a dusting of beard around his chin and mouth. I wasn’t sure how he made it look so good. He wore a light brown jacket over a green shirt and black trousers. I noticed that his boots were a lot cleaner since he became a Knight.

Luckily, I caught him an hour before he had to get ready for training. I quickly convinced Lancelot to follow me back to the Physician’s Quarters.

“What’s going on?” Lancelot asked as soon as we arrived.

I was pretty much hopping from foot to foot with nerves. “I know I told you I’m a Dragonlord, right?”

“Yes, Merlin.” He steered me to sit down and then sat across from me.

“Well, I didn’t really know what that meant until last night. Dragon eggs are birthed from Dragonlords.” I watched as his mouth dropped open. “The dragons are formed from magic. I’ll be turning into a dragon myself so I can give birth. It’s something that I can’t prevent. It just happens.

“I’m asking for your help, Lancelot. Both in being there when I give birth and helping me sneak the egg or eggs into the castle. They won’t be able to hatch for a year.”

Lancelot reached across to grip my hand that was erratically tapping on the table. “Merlin. Friend.” He paused. I looked hopefully at him. “This is the strangest request I have ever received. But of course I will support you. When do you need me?”

“Kilgharrah says I have two weeks. He didn’t give me much information, but he did explain how I’ll know the timing. Will you be available?”

“I’ll make sure I’m not going on any patrols. Will you be okay? You look like a soft breeze could rip you apart.”

I laughed. “I think I’m still in shock, honestly. And nervous. Though I’ve assisted in births with Gaius, and can only really guess what the women go through as far as pain, at least I know how it happens. This, a dragon birthing an egg, it’s a strange concept. I’m just not really able yet to compute what that’ll mean for me. I wish I’d had time to get my head around it. Kilgharrah kept the information from me. Said something about the stress of knowing about it in advance might have harmed me. I’m not sure I agree. But it’s too late now.”

I looked out the window. It was getting late. Chores to do. I squeezed his hand before getting up. “I’m here for you, Merlin,” Lancelot said. “Even just to talk this through.” His smile was half a frown and there was concern in his eyes. He left and I followed shortly after to help Arthur with his armor.