Bahamut, king of the dragons, examined a chest half hidden in a hollow tree, covered with branches and leaves. The hurried disguise would have tricked many passers-by if it wasn’t for the foul odor coming from inside. The dragon sniffed at the air and listened. Whoever had hidden the chest here had left hours ago. Bahamut lifted the lid and was met by an ear-splitting scream.
Bundled up inside the padded chest, a human baby was wailing. At the sight of the enormous dragon head, the infant immediately fell silent, instead studying this new sight curiously. The baby suddenly reached up and grabbed hold of the whiskers hanging down from Bahamut’s upper lip, yanking them hard. The dragon’s eyes went wide at the sudden tug. Startled, the baby began to cry again.
“Easy, little one.” Bahamut said. ”Perhaps my other form will be of more comfort.”
Bahamut’s face and body contorted and shrunk. His black scales turned to coppery tanned skin, wings wrapping around and forming a simple white tunic. Transformation into his human avatar complete, Bahamut looked back down at the baby laughing at the site. Human instincts kicking in, Bahamut picked up the baby and found a note hidden underneath him.
The day came more swiftly than expected. Igraine and I barely made it out with our lives. Please watch over Arthur. Train him and guide him until a chance to retake Camelot presents itself and Arthur is ready to sit on the throne. We are seeking allies to the North, but fear we may not outrun my brother’s assassins. Thank you, old friend.
“It seems you are in trouble, Prince Arthur.” Bahamut said. “I know Merlin. He resides in these woods. I am afraid he may not return for some time. What should I do with you?”
Arthur cooed then stuck his foot in his mouth.
Bahamut laughed. “I forget how little infant humans know. I doubt you would survive if I left you here. I will take you back to my roost. You will be safe there until Merlin returns. I am going to put you back in the chest again. It will be easier to carry you.”
Arthur was set back down in the padded chest. Closing the lid, Bahamut transformed back into a dragon. He pressed a paw into the soft earth, then scorched it with fire. A sign he had been there that Merlin couldn’t miss. Bahamut cupped his front paws around the chest and rose into the air. The sun dropped below the horizon as Bahamut soared into the mountains, eventually landing at the entrance to a cave.
The dragon tucked his wings and set the chest down. He returned to his human form and opened the chest again. Arthur lay sound asleep, clutching the letter from his parents in his chubby hands. Bahamut carefully picked up the baby and carried him inside.
Small fires lit and warmed the cave. Stalactites and stalagmites created long shadows that danced through the cave. Tunnels branched off from the main entrance where other dragons had made their nests. The largest cavern was reserved for the king.
Soft dirt lined with straw created a large nest at the rear of the cavern. Light from the fires shimmered off piles of gold and jewels scattered throughout the cave. A silver and white striped dragoness lay sleeping, a single small egg nestled against her belly. Bahamut removed discarded Arthur’s soiled diaper and laid Arthur against the egg and dragoness. The baby slept on. Bahamut changed into his dragon form and curled up near the entrance of the cave to sleep.
A low rumbling growl woke Bahamut. The dragoness stood between him and the nest. Bahamut darted around to find her teeth bared and growling down at a man in brown robes. The man held his staff toward the dragoness. Purple sparks danced up and down the staff.
“Kriteera,” Bahamut said, “I would appreciate if you do not eat Merlin for breakfast.” The dragoness relaxed. “And Merlin, I would prefer you do not provoke my queen.”
Merlin bowed apologetically to Bahamut, but kept his eyes on Kriteera.
“I came to fetch the child.” Merlin said.
“You are earlier than I expected.” Bahamut replied.
Merlin held a rolled-up parchment. “When my king summons me so urgently, I don’t waste time walking the entire distance. I’m not sure by how much I missed them, but when I saw your message, I teleported here.”
“What is going on?” Kriteera interjected.
“My apologies, your majesty.” Merlin bowed to the dragon queen. “Camelot has been taken by Uther Pendragon’s brother, Vortigern. Uther and Igraine fled Camelot with their infant son, Arthur. I was summoned to protect Arthur until he can reclaim Camelot. Bahamut found the child before I could get to him and brought him here. If I’m being honest, this may be the best and safest place for the Once and Future King.”
Smoke rose from Kriteera’s nostrils as she turned to Bahamut. “At what point were you going to tell me about all this?”
Bahamut replied, “I only brought the baby here last night. And Merlin sprung the rest just now. I am not entirely sure a roost full of dragons is a safe place for a human.”
“Please, Bahamut.” Merlin said. “Allow me time to find out the fate of the boy’s parents, and devise a strategy to face Vortigern. He is quite powerful and well-connected.”
A rumbling like thunder came from behind Merlin, drawing their attention. Arthur was standing up, using the egg for balance. A bolt of lightning shot up from the egg, hitting the cave ceiling. The egg exploded apart in a brilliant flash of light, knocking Arthur down. When the smoke cleared, a black baby dragon no larger than a lamb got to his feet. Blue lightning streaked around his body. He took in a breath, spread his tiny wings, and let out a squeaky growl that would have made a house cat seem fierce.
Merlin held back a laugh for fear Kriteera might eat him. Arthur looked back and forth from the baby dragon to his parents, then threw back his head and wailed.
“He must be hungry.” Kriteera said. She laid down on her side next to her son and Arthur. The baby dragon began to feed, and soon Arthur followed suit.
“Congratulations,” Merlin said. “What will you call him?”
“Kaelthith,” Bahamut answered. “It means ‘light of the sky’ in our tongue.”
Over the next several years Arthur and Kaelthith were raised as brothers. Merlin returned every year on Arthur’s birthday to check in on him and update Bahamut. When Arthur was big enough to hold a sword, Merlin appeared more often to train him to fight. Once he reached adolescence, Arthur was taught alongside Kaelthith what it meant to be a king.
On the eve of Arthur’s seventeenth birthday, Merlin came with news.
“I found your parents.” Merlin said with difficulty. “Vortigern captured them years ago and had kept them well hidden. He…” Merlin choked up and tears fell from his eyes. “He killed them only a few days ago. The time has come to claim your father’s crown and take the throne.”
Arthur thought for a moment about losing parents he never knew. “Then what is the point of it all? What more do I have left.”
“You have us, brother.” Kaelthith hissed through his teeth. “And it sounds like your people need a better king to follow.”
Arthur put his hand on Kaelthith’s snout, and they touched their heads together. “Then let us ride to Camelot.”
“One more thing.” Merlin said. “I have a gift for you. A sword unlike anything of this world. Its name is Excalibur.”
Merlin held a sword in a leather sheath toward Arthur. A tree encircled by its roots and branches intertwined was carved on the pommel. The cross guard featured dragons facing each other and breathing fire.
Arthur gripped the hilt and drew the sword. He swung it through the air, testing its weight and balance.
“I can feel its power,” Arthur admired. “It’s almost as if it’s alive.”
“A kingly sword, indeed.” Bahamut said. “Now let us fly out and get your home back.”
Led by Arthur on Kaelthith’s back and Merlin riding Bahamut, two dozen dragons took to the sky. They soared south toward Camelot in the warm spring morning air. Within hours, the walls of the kingdom came into view.
“A man in black armor waits on the walls,” Kaelthith called out.
“Let’s not keep him waiting long,” Arthur yelled back.
The dragons rushed forward in unison. Kaelthith touched down on the wall in front of the armored man. Bahamut and the rest of the dragons landed in front of the army waiting behind the walls.
“Vortigern,” Arthur said from Kaelthith’s back. “I am Arthur Pendragon, Son of Uther Pendragon and rightful king of Camelot. I offer you the chance to surrender and return my kingdom to me.”
Vortigern laughed darkly. “I wondered when I would be seeing you, nephew. I am happy to take your life just as I took your father’s. A boy and his pets will never take my kingdom from me.”
With the flick of a wrist, Vortigern threw a knife at Arthur. Arthur narrowly averted the small blade that was destined for his throat. Drawing his sword, he leapt off Kaelthith’s back and struck down at Vortigern. His uncle had already drawn his sword to deflect the blow. In a flash of sparks, Arthur and Vortigern’s swords clashed.
Kaelthith soared over the army, breathing fire down to demolish the waiting forces. The soldiers held their shields over their heads to protect themselves from the onslaught. Tails from the other dragons whipped around, knocking the closest soldiers to the ground as Kaelthith flew over for another pass. With a fierce battle cry, the remaining soldiers charged the dragons.
Arthur was barely holding his own against Vortigern. He kept trying to find an opening to turn the attack, but his uncle fought with supernatural ability. Vortigern was driving Arthur to the edge of the wall. Thinking fast, Arthur remembered the power he felt from the sword and called out to Excalibur with his mind.
Arthur’s hands tightened on the hilt. Surprising even himself, Arthur ducked and spun around. Vortigern stumbled forward. Arthur slashed down, relieving Vortigern of his head just before Vortigern went over the edge of the wall.
Watching as their tyrant leader fell, the remaining soldiers of Vortigern dropped their weapons and surrendered. Arthur, with the help of his dragon family, had won.
Arthur’s kinship with the dragons remained strong and he kept Merlin on as his closest friend and confidante. Camelot was restored to its former glory and continued to grow more prosperous. It wasn’t until Arthur was betrothed to Guinevere of Avalon that the trouble with the dragons began.
Complaints came to Arthur regularly about a group of young dragons stealing the flocks of the local farmers. Arthur met with Bahamut and Kaelthith, asking them to keep their dragon subjects from stealing the flocks from his kingdom. The dragon prince ordered the roost to stick to the woods and sea for food, yet, many still refused.
Angry at Arthur’s lack of success, dragon slayers rose among the people of Camelot and began to hunt down the dragons. Arthur and Kaelthith argued about how to best handle the situation to avoid all-out war. Arthur, torn between protecting his kingdom and his dragon family, called for Merlin’s counsel.
“I don’t know what to do to restore the peace.” Arthur said. “Most in the kingdom support the dragon slayers.”
“Father said if any more dragons are slain, he will have no choice but to retaliate.” Kaelthith said.
“What is your advice, Merlin?” Arthur asked.
“I may have a solution,” Merlin replied. “Meet at the roost in three days. If everything works out, I will tell you my plan.”
Merlin tapped his staff on the ground and vanished in a flash of light.
Kaelthith had to lay on his stomach to meet Arthur eye to eye. “It is a relief your wizard is so forthcoming with his thoughts,” he said sarcastically.
Arthur chuckled, then said, “Day break is coming. You should head back before the kingdom wakes and sees you here. I’ll follow behind shortly. See you soon, brother.”
“Yes brother, see you soon,” Kaelthith said. Bowing his enormous head, dragon and human brought their foreheads together in their traditional expression of brotherly love.
Arthur watched Kaelthith’s dark form disappear into the distance as the sun began to peek over the horizon. Within the hour, Arthur’s horse was saddled and the king was ready to depart. He instructed his knights to remain behind and watch over Camelot in his absence. When asked where he was going, he said he had private business with Merlin across the sea.
Taking an indirect route in case he was followed, Arthur rode hard to the dragon roost. He stayed a night at a port town and paid a fisherman to take his boat down the coast, telling the man that if anyone asked questions he was to say he was paid to ferry the king.
As the second day came to an end, Arthur reached the edge of the forest that surrounded the dragons’ mountain. He dismounted and led his horse as far into the woods as he could before darkness made it too difficult to proceed. Arthur tied up the horse, wrapped himself in a blanket, and lay against the trunk of a tree to sleep.
An unnatural rustling of leaves woke Arthur. Fully alert and sensing danger, He climbed the tree he had slept in and drew Excalibur. Arthur scanned the area to see what had woken him. A cloaked figure openly approached his tied up horse. Their back was to Arthur. Taking advantage of the opportunity, he dropped from the tree. He grabbed the figure from behind and put Excalibur against their throat.
“It is unwise to sneak up on a knight and try to steal their horse.” Arthur said.
“It is ungentlemanly to attack a woman.” A familiar voice answered.
Arthur released her. “Guinevere? What are you doing here?”
“It’s nice to see you too.” Guinevere replied, smiling.
“How did you find me?” Arthur asked.
“Ah, that was simple.” Guinevere answered. “I ordered Gawain to track you and bring me to you. He hardly even protested.”
“Order him to take you back. You shouldn’t be here.”
Guinevere glared at Arthur. “I am not your servant to order around as you wish. Avalon is affected just as much as Camelot by whatever you and Merlin are doing with the dragons. It is my right to be here just as much as it is yours. Your future queen or not, take care how you speak to me, Arthur Pendragon.”
Arthur stepped back. “I’m sorry my lady. You are right. I should have included you from the beginning.”
Arthur wrote a note instructing Gawain to wait a day before returning to Camelot, and if he and Guinevere didn’t return before then they would make other arrangements to return home. He attached the note to his horse and sent it out the way they had come.
It took most of the day for Arthur and Guinevere to reach the base of the mountain. They hiked up and arrived at the mouth of the dragon roost just after nightfall. Arthur led Guinevere inside where Bahamut, Merlin, and Kaelthith were already waiting.
“I do not agree with your wizard’s plan, Arthur.” Kaelthith growled.
“What do you mean?” Arthur asked.
“I have met with some acquaintances from another world, Myriad. The same ones that forged Excalibur.” Merlin answered. “Their world is vast and they have agreed to let the dragons live there. I believe this is the best place for them to flourish and live peacefully.”
“And I agree.” Bahamut said.
“Why would you allow this, father?” Kaelthith asked, outraged.
“Because today the slayers got bold enough to get near our woods and kill your mother!” Bahamut roared. “Just before I burned them to ashes.”
Kaelthith stared back in shock and horror, unable to speak.
“I am through with the bloodshed,” Bahamut said, defeated.
“I have crafted a portal across the sea in Ireland.” Merlin said. “We should leave at once.”
Bahamut carried Merlin and led the pack. The fight knocked out of him over the loss of his mother, Kaelthith followed with Arthur and Guinevere on his back. Ships on the sea below them seemed to be going the same direction at an impossible pace.
“Slayers in pursuit.” Bahamut called to Merlin. “I can’t push my dragons any faster. Can you slow the ships?”
Merlin summoned up a storm to try to impede the pursuers.
Hours later, they landed at a circle of stone arches surrounding a larger stone archway at the center. After Merlin climbed down and Bahamut returned to the sky to keep watch.
“You better make this quick.” Bahamut’s voice boomed. “These slayers are driven by a wizard of their own.”
Merlin stood outside the circle of rocks. Raising his staff high in the air, he called down a continuous bolt of lightning. It struck the center stone and electricity shot out to each of the surrounding pillars making up the arches. A dome appeared, opening to reveal A lush, bright world shimmering through the portal.
Seven winged Angels stepped through the portal and greeted Merlin.
“It is only large enough for you to go one at a time!” Merlin yelled. I’ll do my best to hold off the oncoming army!”
One by one the Angels guided the dragons through the portal. Bahamut landed once the army was close enough to be seen from the ground.
“Go now,” Merlin ordered. “Goodbye my old friend.”
“Goodbye, Wizard.” Bahamut said. “Thank you for saving my people.”
Bahamut stepped through the portal and most of the remaining dragons followed. .
Merlin held out his hands and put a shield between them and the oncoming army. When the first riders reached the shield they began to attack it. A masked figure in a white robe stepped up to the magical barrier. He placed his hands against it and dark tendrils of energy began to crawl over the shield until it shattered in a flash of light.
Only Kaelthith remained as the army began approaching again.
“You have to go,” Arthur pleaded, tears in his eyes.
“I guess this is goodbye then, brother,” Kaelthith said.
“Go!” Arthur yelled.
With one last long look, Kaelthith stepped through the portal. As soon as his tail was gone, Merlin closed the portal and broke the stone archways apart. Then, just as the oncoming army was about to reach them, Merlin, Arthur, Guinevere, and the broken stone formation vanished. Looking around, Arthur realized Merlin had teleported them all to the courtyard of Avalon.
“Well done,” Arthur said, clapping Merlin on the back.
Kaelthith emerged on the other end of the portal just as it closed. Before he could even look around, he was bound and chained to the ground. It had been a trick. They had been betrayed by Merlin and Arthur. One of the Angels approached.
“Make one move to defy us and we will not hesitate to slay you all. You belong to us now and have the great honor of helping to build our city.”
Enraged, Kaelthith swore a silent oath that he would find a way to break free, and that he would get revenge on his human brother.
About the Creator
Autistic author, husband, and father of 3. I write because I love telling stories. More than that, writing is a way for me to communicate more clearly and express my innermost thoughts and feelings.