“So, young Pendragon,” the dragon rumbled as Arthur stopped just beyond the opening to the cave. “You have come at last.”
Arthur stepped out onto the ledge. He and the dragon regarded each other for a long moment, assessing. The dragon inclined his head slightly, an acknowledgement of royal to royal, and Arthur returned the gesture, sheathing his sword but letting his hand rest easily on the hilt.
“You are not surprised to see me.” He stated after a moment.
“The magic in your veins called out to me, just as the magic in mine and the young warlock’s calls to you. We do not have as strong of a bond as you and Merlin do, so I could not sense your emotions as clearly as you sensed his, but then our fates are not so quite tightly entwined.”
“So it’s true then. Merlin–is a sorcerer,” Arthur said bitterly. “All this time, he’s lied to me–”
“Peace, young Pendragon. Be at ease. Merlin has never meant you ill will, and it is not in him to intentionally betray you. You know that as well as I,” the dragon said sternly. “It is not lack of trust or loyalty towards you that stayed his tongue, but rather the corrupt hand of power that reigns over the land and seeks to choke the life out of magic and anyone associated with it.”
“My father.” The prince stated grimly.
“Uther Pendragon seeks to destroy magic to absolve him of his sins, but the first thing that he would have to destroy would be–”
“Me,” the prince breathed, his eyes widening as the true implications of what drove his father sank in. “But Morgause–” he half pleaded, half protested.
“–is a witch, yes, but she did not lie or mislead you.” The dragon did not soften the blow. “That was your mother you saw, and she spoke true. Uther knew of the consequences, knew what the Old Magic would demand to keep the Balance. A life for a life. In his arrogance, he believed that he was above the laws of the world. He is not.”
Truth. He could sense it, feel the magic in his veins vibrating with the truth of those simple words. And straight from the dragon’s mouth, no less, Arthur thought sardonically. It was a surreal feeling, standing in a cave and speaking calmly with a dragon, a creature of magic, someone who had been judged evil and cruel and not even worthy of death in Uther’s eyes, though he had done no wrong except to be who and what he was.
“Why should I believe you?” he still demanded, though it was half-plea. “I have no reason to trust you, and you clearly have a grudge against my father since he trapped you here. Plus, you’re a dragon.”
The dragon thrust his head forward, glaring down at Arthur balefully. “Think, princeling! You are the heir to the throne. The fate of magic rests in your hands, not Uther’s. You have the potential in you to be the greatest king this land has ever known, but it means forging your own path towards your destiny, instead of following in your father’s footsteps.” He exhaled, a stream of smoke curling from his nostrils. “You may not trust me, young Pendragon, but neither do I, a creature of magic and your kin, have reason to trust you.”
The two royals glared at each other, neither backing down. Finally Arthur yielded slightly, dropping his gaze. “I apologize, dragon,” he said. “The very fact that I’m down here speaking with you indicates some semblance of trust on both of our parts, after all.”
“My name is Kilgarrah.” It was hard to tell who is more startled, Arthur or the dragon himself. But now that the words were out, he could not take them back. Still, his lips tightened over his teeth in an instinctive gesture to do just that, as he meets Arthur’s gaze defiantly once more.
The prince bowed, once again giving the acknowledgement of royal to royal. “Kilgarrah.” The name rolls off of his tongue with ease, despite the strangeness of it to his ear. “You have given me much to think about, Kilgarrah.” He frowned darkly, thoughts already turned inward, then glanced up. “Thank you.”
“A word of additional warning then, Prince Arthur.”
Arthur paused, but did not turn back to look at him.
“You are a warrior, Arthur Pendragon,” Kilgarrah begins slowly, trying to put to words the warning of the vision he can feel ghosting over his skin. “By birth and by nature. You know your physical strengths and weaknesses, and are learning where to verbally yield and where to stand firm.” He paused, and Arthur half-turned so that his face was partially in the light, partially shrouded by the darkness. “You also know what it means to take a life, and the scars it can leave on the soul. Merlin has had some hard lessons and painful truths as to the extent of the power at his fingertips, and that frightens him and fascinates him in the same breath. Remind him that there are many types of strength, and be his anchor, as he has been and will be yours.”
Arthur was silent for many long moments. “I will take your words under advisement.”
“One more thing, Arthur Pendragon.”
The prince raised his brows, but waited.
“Since it is a night of revelations about the sins of your father, I would reveal one more for your judgment, that the witch Morgause did not. The Lady Morgana…is your half-sister and also kin to Morgause and the Druid boy, Mordred. She is the first born daughter of Uther Pendragon and the Lady Nimueh, born during the dark of the moon when Lord Gorlois was away, fighting under the king’s banner.”
“No.” Arthur denied, horror slowly rising up like bile in the back of his throat.
Dragons couldn’t actually raise their eyebrows, but Kilgarrah gave a very good impression, reminding the Prince of Gaius for a heart-stopping moment.
“Here is some more family history then, so that you will understand the full depth of your father’s sins.
“Two sisters were come to the du Bois family, alike as sun and shadow. They were the Lady Igraine, and the Lady Nimueh.”
Arthur’s body jerked, as if he had been physically dealt a harsh blow.
Kilgarrah continued, merciless. “The Lady Nimueh was born second, and was quickly overshadowed by her older sister’s beauty and grace. When Uther laid eyes on your mother, it was love at first sight. Nimueh was jealous, but she was soon betrothed to Lord Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. It was because of that union that Morgause was born.
To create a life, a life must be taken. That is price of the Old Religion. The balance of the world must be kept. And so, when Uther Pendragon went to his wife’s sister, the Lady Nimueh, she who was High Priestess of the Old Religion, to ask her to create a child by magic, she agreed, but only after she had taken on the face of her sister and lain with Uther Pendragon herself, creating a child born on the dark of the moon. That child was Morgana.
The witch Morgause inherited her mother’s powers, and after Uther Pendragon sentenced her and all other magical children to death as penance for your life, she also inherited her mother’s hatred.”
Kilgarrah’s gaze was ruthlessly unforgiving and cruel as he continued to flay the young prince with the truth.
“The Lady Morgana is a witch as well, sharing the powers of her mother, sister, and nephew. She is also the unacknowledged heir to the throne of Camelot. Beware, Arthur Pendragon, because while she is bitterly aware of one secret, she is not yet aware of the other.”
The prince frowned; there was something that did not add up about the dragon’s story, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was. “Why are you telling me this?”
The dragon blew out a gusty breath that smelled strongly of iron and ore. “Because even as you and Merlin are two sides of the same coin, Morgana and Merlin are similarly bound. I have warned the young warlock of the viper in your nest, and he will not heed me. His actions towards the witch has obscured her path of destiny. She stands at a crossroads, her future uncertain. Your actions in response to the revelations of tonight will directly affect her decision to take the first step towards darkness, or towards the light.”
He could not read the prince’s expressions in the flickering torchlight.
“How long has Merlin had magic?”
Kilgarrah answered without thought, caught by surprise by the abrupt change in subject. “Merlin was born with magic in his soul, the result of a prophecy predicted well before your time. He can no more deny it than you can deny the air which you breathe. It is a part of him. It is him.”
Arthur nodded abruptly and melted back into the shadows without another word. Only when the prince was beyond even his keen hearing did Kilgarrah breathe another gusty sigh. He had planted the seeds. Now to see if they would come to fruition.