They struck gold the first night–but the confirmation of Balinor’s death brought mixed feelings in both men. They returned home quickly, and for once without incident or encounter of bandits, but camped just outside of Camelot’s walls to plan their next step.
“Even if I can harness this unknown power, I still don’t know if I can kill him, Arthur!” Merlin snapped, getting up to pace around the clearing. It was the same spot that they had used before, when Arthur had revealed that he knew the truth about the warlock. Had it only been a couple of weeks since that day? It seemed like a lifetime ago to the warlock. “Kilgarrah is the last of his kind, just like me! We are kin, if he and Gaius are to be believed; both creatures of the Old Religion. As a Dragonlord, I can’t condone the extermination of a species. Not even for you. I’m sorry.”
The Prince was silent for a long time.
“You’re a good man, Merlin Emerys,” he said quietly. “And you’re right. We won’t kill him, but he must face my judgement for his actions. Will you trust in me and accept my ruling?”
Merlin slowly inclined his head. “I will, my liege.”
The next night they rode to a clearing, far enough away from the castle to minimize damage and view. Merlin closed his eyes and breathed deep, before the ancient words of the Dragonlord burst out of him.
Kilgarrah circled once, coming to land in front of Prince and warlock and folding his wings before bowing his head in acknowledgement.
“Arthur Pendragon.” He returned neutrally.
They stared at each other, much as they had during their first meeting. This time Kilgarrah yielded first, dropping eye contact with the Prince to meet the unflinching gaze of Merlin.
“So. You have discovered the fire within, warlock.”
“Yes.” Merlin answered steadily. “Why did you not respond to me when I first confronted you that first night of attacks? Why would you attack Camelot at all? All those innocent lives are gone because of you! They did nothing! I should kill you for what you’ve done.”
“Strike fast and true, young warlock.” Kilgarrah said somberly. “For though I was under a spell by that witch, that devil’s spawn Morgause, I alone am responsible for those lives. For all that we can be selfish, cunning creatures, dragons were once peacekeepers, historians. Not murderers, ravishers. My honor is lost. My life is yours, Dragonlord.”
“It is not to me to whom you must answer.” Merlin said quietly. “But to your King.”
Arthur stepped forward, his sword loose and glinting silver in the moonlight. “I should run you through for the irreparable damage you have done, as is my right and duty. But I am not my father, who only sees a demon to be feared and controlled. So here is my judgment.” He stood straight and true, unwavering, his voice calm.
“You are banished, Kilgarrah Fyreborn, Dragonkin of Lord Merlin Emerys. Banished to the White Mountains for a year for every innocent life that you stole. Since the death toll is well over fifty, I will not see you again in my lifetime. If I should do so, for something that is not explicitly at the behest of your Dragonlord, I will kill you.”
The dragon bowed his head low, nose almost touching the ground as his eyes closed. “You are a merciful and just man, Arthur Pendragon. You will make a great King someday soon. Albion is in good hands with you and your warlock.”
Arthur and Merlin stepped back, and the dragon flew away, disappearing into the darkness. They stared into the sky for a long moment.
“So. How are we going to explain this to the king again, exactly?”