Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin or its characters.
“Gaius!” Myron burst into the physician’s chamber so forcefully that the door hit the wall and bounced back to hit him in the face so that he saw stars.
For the second time in the space of an hour, Gaius was startled into dropping something he was measuring. He turned around, exasperated, and exploded, “Myron, how many times must I tell you not to do that? I am an old man; my heart can’t take such commotion!” Suddenly, he noticed the look on his young assistant’s face. “Myron, what’s wrong?”
Myron waved his hands in front of his face, still trying to chase away the stars dancing in front of him. At Gaius’ question, he shook his head and stumbled towards him, babbling, “Sir Leon…the sleeping draught…fainted…something not right.”
Gaius grabbed the boy and shook him, trying to get him to calm down. When Myron grimaced and clutched his throbbing head, Gaius stopped shaking him, apologized, and said calmly, “Take a deep breath and tell me exactly what happened.”
Myron closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then another, and then a third before he began, “I took the sleeping draught up to Sir Leon’s room. He must have thought I was Sir Percival because he nearly ripped my head off when I knocked on the door, although I can’t imagine why he’d be so angry at SIr Percival; Sir Percival is Sir Leon’s best friend…”
“Time may be of the essence, Myron,” Gaius interrupted, resisting the urge to shake the boy again. “Please just tell me what happened to Leon.”
“Oh, right,” Myron replied brightly. “I told him you’d sent up a sleeping draught and gave it to him. He said he’d take it later if he needed it, but I told him you wanted me to be there when he drank it…that is what you said, right?”
Gaius’ rheumy eyes almost bulged out of his head as he gave Myron another shake. “Yes, yes, now what happened?”
Myron reached up to scratch his head, recalling what happened next. “He took the vial from me and walked over to the bed; I followed him. He smelled the draught and asked me what you’d put in there.” Myron grinned at Gaius and asked, “What did you put in it?”
“Ague root, willow bark…oh, for heaven’s sake, Myron! That’s not important now!” Gaius cried, throwing his arms up in the air. “Get on with it!”
“Oh, of course,” Myron stammered. “He closed his eyes and swallowed it down in one gulp, just like when I take Mother’s tonic.” Remembering what happened next, Myron’s expression became frightened. “Sir Leon glared at me and told me to tell you your potions taste like wet, moldy…”
Gaius shook his head. “Like wet, moldy what?”
Myron’s face crumbled as though he would cry. “That’s when his eyes got really big and he just fainted dead away. I came running as fast as I could to tell you. Is he going to be all right?”
Gaius began pacing around the room, thinking. Something suddenly occurred to him, and he looked sharply at Myron. “You said he told you the draught tasted like wet, moldy…something?” When Myron nodded, Gaius put his hand to his chin. “That’s odd. This sleeping draught shouldn’t taste that bad. I’ve even given it to children, and they seemed to find it quite pleasant.” Remembering that he had some left, he hurried over and picked up the flask. He held it up to the window and assessed the color. Pursing his lips, he held the flask to his nose and inhaled. His eyes flew open wide and he sniffed again. “Oh, dear…” he muttered. “Oh, dear, this isn’t good at all.”
“What is it?” Myron asked, clutching the back of a chair so that his knuckles turned white.
Gaius looked up at him. “When you burst into the room while I was mixing up the draught, you startled me. I was measuring valerian into the flask. I must have put too much in by mistake.” He thought back to when he was holding it over the flame, how long it had taken to turn the correct shade of green. “Oh, my. This could be serious.” He looked at Myron and started for the door. “Come with me.”
Gaius hurried up to the third floor as fast as his arthritic legs could carry him, with Myron close behind, fighting the urge to plow past his mentor to get to Sir Leon. The younger man’s mind raced with fear and feelings of guilt; if he hadn’t burst in and startled Gaius, he never would have measured too much valerian into the draught, and SIr Leon wouldn’t be…whatever he was.
As they reached the third floor, Gaius grabbed a torch from its holder on the wall and burst into Sir Leon’s room, followed closely by Myron. He quickly assessed the unconscious knight before thrusting the torch into Myron’s hands. “Hold this so I can see what I’m doing.” He leaned over Sir Leon, laying his ear against the young knight’s chest. Yes, his heart was still beating, though faintly. He held a mirror just beneath Sir Leon’s nose and breathed a sigh of relief to discover that he was still breathing, though only just.
Myron looked down at Sir Leon with anxious eyes. Even with his lack of training, he could tell the situation was serious. His adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed nervously and asked, “Will he be all right?”
Gaius didn’t answer right away, but stood staring at Sir Leon with his hand on his chin. He seemed to be searching his memory for something. Suddenly it seemed to register that Myron had spoken. “I don’t really know,” he replied with uncharacteristic uncertainty. “I have never had something like this happen before.” He turned to face Myron. “Come with me, Myron. We have some research to do.”
Back in Gaius’ chamber, the two men pored over books trying to find some kind of remedy for Leon’s condition. Actually, Myron was doing more fumbling than poring; the inexperienced man wasn’t entirely sure what he should be looking for. Three hours and a half dozen stacks of discarded books later, Gaius tossed aside his magnifying lens and rubbed his eyes. He looked across at Myron, who was paging through an ancient grimoire trying futilely to match up the negative effects of the herbs Gaius had used with counter active effects of other herbs. Seeing the look of hopeless confusion on Myron’s face, Gaius said, “Myron, I’m afraid this is beyond my abilities. I haven’t a clue what to do.”
Myron looked up at the sound of Gaius’ voice and blinked his blurry eyes quickly. “But I thought you could work anything out,” he replied reverently.
Gaius closed his final book and laid it atop a stack of books at his elbow. He chuckled at the boy’s words; he could be so naive at times. “I’m flattered that you think so highly of my skills, Myron, but you need to always remember that no one, no matter how wise, knows all things.” He picked up his magnifying lens and slid it back into its pouch before continuing grimly, “By all accounts, the potency of the sleeping draught…” He looked pointedly at Myron. “…should have killed him.”
Myron’s eyes widened, and he gulped audibly. “Why…why do you suppose it didn’t?”
Gaius sighed heavily, realizing there was much the boy did not know about events from Camelot’s not-so-distant past. “The reason Sir Leon is still alive is that he once drank from the Cup of Life.” Myron’s brows knit together in confusion, so Gaius related the story of how Sir Leon was mortally wounded in a skirmish but was then brought back from Death’s door when a Druid gave him water from the Cup of Life. “That is why he survived this fatal draught,” he concluded. “However, I do not know what to do to either awaken him or…” He gave Myron a pained looked. “…or allow him to pass on peacefully.”
Myron’s green eyes misted over with tears, and he was unable to speak for a moment. When he did, the wisdom of his words surprised Gaius. “The obvious answer is to find this Druid and seek his counsel,” he declared with a firmness and confidence that was unnatural for him.
Gaius smiled and nodded at the boy’s insight. Maybe there was hope for him after all.”I believe you are correct, Myron,” he agreed. “But first, we must inform the queen what has happened.” Looking out the window and noting the position of the moon, he continued, “However, the hour is late, and I see no need to waken her.” He rose stiffly from his chair and blew out the candles on the table before looking at Myron. “I am certain there will be no change overnight, but I still want you to stay with him. You can let me know at once if anything changes.”
And so Myron made his way back to the third floor and slept awkwardly in a chair next to Sir Leon’s bed. Sometime during the night, he heard footsteps coming down the passageway. They stopped in front of Sir Leon’s door before continuing on their way. Myron recalled Sir Leon’s reaction when he had knocked on the door earlier, and the knight had been angry because he had thought it was Sir Percival. He wondered again what the two had disagreed about, and he wondered how Sir Percival would react when he heard about his friend’s condition. For the briefest moment, he thought about running after Sir Percival and telling him the awful news, but he thought the better of it, knowing that Gaius would want to inform the queen first. He settled back in his chair and stared intently into the darkness till sleep overtook him once more.
Bright and early the next morning, Gaius seated himself in the Council Chamber before anyone else arrived so that he could speak privately with Queen Guinevere. The warm morning sun was just beginning to filter in through the windows when the queen entered the room. She was as beautiful as always, with her wavy black hair pulled back and secured with a simple gold and pearl comb, and wearing her favorite periwinkle-colored gown. Her confidence had grown during her time as queen, both during the time she ruled as Arthur’s consort and since his passing, and she carried herself regally, though never haughtily. Her dark eyes radiated wisdom, kindness and a touch of sadness that Gaius knew would never leave while she still breathed. Gaius rose from his seat as she suddenly noticed him sitting there, and she smiled as she greeted him. “Good morning, Gaius. You’re certainly an early bird this morning.”
Gaius smiled fondly at her, recalling the quiet, kind, and loyal servant she had once been and marvelling again at how much she had grown into her role. Taking her hands in his, he replied, “Good morning, Gwen. I wished to speak to you about…a delicate matter before Council meets this morning.”
Gwen’s brows came together in concern as she wondered what could be amiss. “Of course, Gaius. Please, let us be seated.”
The two sat down at the table, and Gwen asked, “What is it, Gaius? It’s obvious that something is troubling you.”
He raised his eyes to hers before looking away uncertainly, searching for the words to explain what had happened the night before. He worried about how she would take the news. She had already lost her brother and her husband, which had left her nearly devastated. Gwen and Sir Leon had grown up together; what would it do to her if she were to lose her dearest childhood friend as well? Knowing there was no way to get around telling her, he took a deep breath and began, “I am sure you have noticed that Leon has been…less than happy of late.”
A spark of sadness lit in her eyes as she nodded. “Yes, I have noticed that myself. I feel so bad for him, but I don’t know how to help.”
Gaius nodded. “Yes, and you’re not the only one who has noticed. Percival went to his room last night to urge him to come along with the other men to the tavern. He said he noticed that Leon had injured his hand again, apparently by punching the wall.”
Gwen sighed and threw up her hands in frustration. “Leon is so full of anger and regret over all that has happened. I fear he blames himself for much of it. He seems to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.” She looked at Gaius. “And I fear he doesn’t sleep much; he always has those dark circles under his eyes.”
Gaius closed his eyes, knowing that Gwen knew much more than he realized. “Yes, well, I have been watching him as well, and when Percival came to me last night, I thought…I thought I could at least help him get some sleep.” He looked at Gwen, and his lower lip quivered. He did not want to bring Myron into this, fearing she might blame the lad and punish him, so he bent the truth ever so slightly. “I fear I measured incorrectly, and I put too much valerian into the sleeping draught.” He paused, letting the weight of his words sink in.
Gwen’s eyes suddenly flew open. “Oh, Gaius! Leon isn’t…he didn’t…?” She couldn’t bring herself to say the words.
“No,” Gaius replied quickly. “He is not dead, but…you know the situation with the Cup of Life.” Gwen nodded, tears forming in her eyes. “Well, that has afforded him some protection, but it has also left him in an unconscious state that I fear I haven’t the ability to remedy.”
Gwen was silent for a long moment, obviously mentally preparing herself for what she was afraid her mentor would tell her. “So, what do you think we should do?”
Gaius sighed with some measure of relief. “It was a Druid–Iseldir–who brought him back from death with the Cup of Life, so I ask your permission to consult with that same Druid to see if by chance he may know what to do to either awaken Leon…” He laid his hand on Gwen’s. “…or to allow him to pass on.”
Gwen choked back a sob and bit down on her knuckle. After a long moment, she composed herself once more and nodded. “Yes, Gaius, I grant you permission to consult Iseldir and bring him to Camelot. You have my word that he will be under our protection. Why don’t you take Percival, and maybe Beldyn and Brandis. Go as soon as you feel ready.”
As she finished speaking, the doors opened, and the other counselors entered the room. Gaius bowed quickly to her and excused himself from the meeting, knowing that Gwen could competently handle making excuse for him and for Sir Leon. He had more urgent matters to attend to.