Maximus: Recovery, One Whale at a Time
'Hold off, you great lummox,' Berkley said. 'Keynes will have my head if he sees you eating that.'
'But I feel so much better,' Maximus said, licking the blood from his talons. 'Besides, Keynes said that
I need to get my strength back up.'
'Keynes said that your weight was coming back unevenly,' Berkley said, with a glance at the regal
copper's paunchy sides. 'And I'll be damned if I have to tell him that I don't know how to keep you
Before Maximus could protest, Berkley stormed off and left him alone with the whale carcass. 'Well,
I suppose I shouldn't let it go to waste,' he said, before finishing off his catch.
It had been a few weeks since Keynes the dragon surgeon had given him his first dose of those
strange-tasting mushrooms, and he was finally starting to feel like his old self again. At least it felt
that way. In truth, he was having great difficulty in getting aloft, and once in the air, he tired easily.
As much as he liked to tell his friends not to worry, that the 'cold' he had was a mere trifle that had
barely affected him, it really had taken its toll.
He had lost much of his body weight, and a great deal of muscle with it, and now found that
previously simple tasks were leaving him fatigued in no time at all. However, his appetite was back,
and he was going to make the most of that. Keynes had demanded that he exercise to build up his
strength; flying was too difficult for now, and the settlers and their animals scattered when he tried
to walk around the area, and Berkley had said that he was causing chaos, though, he thought that
they were making a great deal of fuss over nothing. In the end, Temeraire had suggested swimming
in the harbour, and the idea stuck.
In the first few days, he had paddled around the harbour and caught nothing of value, relying solely
on the sad-looking cows that the locals bred. They were nothing like the handsome cattle that were
bred back at the covert, and the complete lack of quality food made him determined to improve his
At first, he caught a few tunnies, and even though Temeraire was fond of the giant fish, these were
far from his favourite, and on one occasion he had caught a huge shark. It had made quite a fuss
when he caught it, and it beat about his limbs until he had it out of the water, so he was quite
disappointed to find that his friends were less than impressed when he carried it up to the covert.
He had proudly set it upon the ground, but the blasted thing started to thrash again and knocked
over three of his crew in its paroxysm.
From that day he decided to keep his catches in the harbour. After all, why bother the tiresome trip
to the top of Table Mountain if his prizes were not to be appreciated? It was not long before he had
caught a seal, and then his first whale had come at the start of his second week. Presently he picked
the last of his third whale of the week from his teeth and rested his head on his forelegs to fall
A week later Maximus was dozing in the shallows when he awoke drowsily to the sound of arguing.
'You cannot plausibly expect him to get into the air in this shape,' this was Keynes. Maximus craned
his head around curiously. 'Laurence wants to venture off on some fool's errand into God knows
what country, and here your dragon is gorging himself on whale blubber. We need him in the air as
soon as possible, not lazing about in the harbour.'
'Now listen here, sir,' said Berkley. 'You brought the great fool back from the brink of death, and I
thank you for that, but I won't have you talk down to me like I'm some ensign with barely a year's
flying under my belt. Go calm yourself and come back when you have some useful suggestions.'
Keynes muttered something under his breath and Berkley sighed audibly. Berkley seemed like a
stoic, and sometimes brusque sort of fellow, but Maximus knew that he hated confrontations,
especially with his colleagues. He walked over and placed his hand affectionately on Maximus's
snout. 'What am I going to do with you?'
'I think this is all a load of nonsense if you ask me,' Maximus said. 'I'll be up in the air in no time at
all, you'll see.'
Berkley looked doubtfully at Maximus's sizeable paunch, which rose in a great curve from his
shoulders to his haunches. 'Give over and leave the fishing to the locals; there will be nothing left for
them at this rate. Eat your cattle instead, you great fool.'
'But the cows here are so tough and stringy. There is nothing quite so nice as a big fat whale,
especially when I am the one who caught it.'
'Have you ever heard the phrase you are what you eat?'
'I do not recall hearing that,' Maximus said.
'It means that if you eat too many whales, you will turn into one!' Berkley said.
'Well, I think that is a great load of nonsense,' Maximus said. 'Last I checked, I am still a dragon.'
'The last time Keynes checked, you were getting fat.'
'Oh! Well, I never did think much of his advice. I am doing my exercises just as instructed, and I am
building my strength back up.' Maximus craned his head around to inspect his torso. It was true that
he was looking quite a bit wider than he had been used to recently, but then again, he had been
rather sick. He had difficulty stretching around to see, but it did seem as though the muscles on his
shoulders and wings were building up quite nicely, and his limbs were looking much less meagre.
'You are not the one who has to listen to Keynes,' Berkley said. 'Now, eat your cows, you big
lummox, do you hear? And no more whaling.'
Maximus did eat the cows brought to him to make Berkley happy, but the thought of a great fish or
whale to eat was just too tempting, and it was not long before Maximus headed out into the ocean
again to fish.
A few dozen catches later, he was finishing off his latest seal when he caught a mote of conversation
from passing sailors.
'Did you hear that they encountered some great cat? A cat, hah!' a sailor said loudly to another.
'They said it was so big as to give that big beast Temeraire a start.'
'Rubbish,' said the other. 'I heard it was a feral dragon who chased them off...'
They disappeared into a building on the dockside and Maximus could no longer hear them. What
had given Temeraire such a start? That fellow had good, solid nerves, after all, so it must have been
fearsome. Maximus looked up to the covert on the mountain. They would likely come and see him
and tell him of their latest adventure, but truth be told Maximus was feeling a little left out and
jealous, so he decided instead to go to them. Perhaps he could convince them to take him with them
on their next outing. He was feeling so much better, after all.
The walk to the foot of the mountain sent more than one local scurrying for cover. Maximus huffed
in annoyance; as if he would be so careless as to step on them, he was always ever so careful. That
being said, he was feeling a bit more sluggish than usual, and his midsection had a sort of shifting
motion to it that forced him to walk awkwardly. Regardless, he was soon away from the farms and
climbing the foot of the mountain.
Climbing up to the covert, he felt as though it was a lot steeper than he remembered, and soon he
found himself panting. After a short while, he slowed down and looked up, only to see the long climb
ahead of him. Perhaps I am not as well-recovered as I had imagined, he thought. All of a sudden, the
idea of flying off on some grand adventure made him feel exhausted, and he stopped abruptly. He
craned his head around and looked back to the harbour, with its nice warm sand and fish, and he
wanted nothing more than to turn around and go back to that comfort.
I am sure the others can manage without me until I am well, Maximus thought, and he turned
around and headed back to the harbour.
Early the next day Berkley walked down to the shore, where Maximus was dozing on the sand.
Maximus was half awake and opened his eyes groggily at the sound of his approach. Regal coppers
were badly far-sighted, but he recognised his captain's smell and gait as he crossed the rocky beach.
'Oh, hello,' he said sleepily. 'Is something the matter?'
'Not quite,' Berkley said. 'The Fiona is due to raise anchor and sail for England within the day, and
Laurence and Harcourt have got it into their fool heads that they must venture out into the country
to find more of these mushrooms before she leaves.'
'Well, that sounds very exciting. When do we leave?'
'We are not going anywhere,' Berkley said, and quickly added before Maximus could protest, 'Only
Lily and Temeraire are going, for the sake of speed. Messoria and Immortalis are to remain here with
us and hunt for you whilst you recover.'
Maximus was disappointed to be left behind, but then again he was feeling rather groggy of late,
and his belly was too full of fish to warrant any sudden departure. 'I see,' he said. 'Well, I appreciate
Messoria and Immortalis hunting for me, but there really is no need; I am quite capable of feeding
Berkley sighed and shook his head. 'I can see that well enough, you great fool. Stop eating fish and
whale before you empty the ocean, and for goodness sake do try to get some more exercise while
you're out there swimming about.'
Maximus merely huffed in response and rested his head back on the warm sand.
Temeraire arrived at the harbour in the mid-afternoon and landed near the HMS Fiona, which had
been in the process of setting sail. Nitidus and Dulcia were already being unloaded by sailors, and
soon Temeraire was surrounded by aviators and sailors, the latter of which nervously approached
him and caught bags of mushrooms thrown down by the aviators.
Once he was fully unloaded, Temeraire looked around for Maximus, who could normally be seen
paddling around in the harbour waters, but presently was nowhere to be seen. It had been a few
weeks since he had spoken to the copper, as he had been too busy searching for the source of the
mushrooms to spend any time with him. After making some enquiries, he left the harbour and
followed the shoreline until he reached a sandy beach littered with small pebbles.
Temeraire was shocked when he saw the regal copper snoozing in the shallows of the water,
evidently to avoid the worst of the afternoon heat. He had spotted him from the covert swimming
around in the waters, looking for all the world like a dragon returning to his old self, though now
that Temeraire saw him up close, he did not know what to think. The copper's huge, round middle
rose and fell with each breath, and bulged with rolls of fat at his haunches, which themselves looked
queerly hefty, though not in a way that suggested well-conditioned muscle. Thick rings of flesh
covered the upper portion of each of his forelimbs where they met his torso, and his neck was much
wider than it should have been and was covered at length with folds down each side. Temeraire had
heard Keynes complain that Maximus's weight was coming back 'unevenly'; this was something else
'Maximus,' Temeraire said, and then when the copper did not rouse, he said louder again, 'Maximus,
are you awake?!'
The heavyweight's eyes opened a crack, and then he lifted his head when he saw Temeraire. 'Oh,
good morning Temeraire,' he said. 'Are you quite well?'
'What has happened to you?' Temeraire said. 'Has the sickness done this to you?'
'Why, whatever do you mean?' Maximus said. 'I am feeling splendid, though this heat does make
one feel drowsy, so I thought I would rest in the water for a while.'
'Shall I fetch Keynes? You do not look right,' he said. He approached the copper and pressed
experimentally at his side a talon, which sunk right into the flesh. 'Why, this is fat!'
Maximus sighed and said, 'Pray, leave Keynes be. He has been pestering me for weeks now about
this, and I am quite fed up with it. I am to stop overfishing, and to exercise more vigorously, though I
do not wish to in this heat.'
'Perhaps Keynes has the right of it. How much are you exercising?'
Whilst they talked, Berkley approached from the harbour and greeted Temeraire. 'I see you have
seen what the big oaf has done to himself. I am quite at my wits end about it, and I hope,' he said,
looking to Maximus, 'that Temeraire has managed to talk some sense into you.'
Almost forgetting the reason he had come to Maximus in the first place, Temeraire said, 'We have
found a cave full of those mushrooms inland, and we need your help. Having another heavyweight
to carry them back to the Cape would speed things along quite nicely. That is,' he said, eyeing the
copper's huge paunch, 'if you are able to fly under the present circumstances-,'
Maximus stood up abruptly, the flesh along his flanks and limbs wobbling in response, and stretched
his wings wide. 'I can assure you that I am able if you will have me. When may we leave?'
'That is enough of that nonsense, Temeraire,' Berkley said, and he said loudly before either could
protest, 'Keynes would not allow Maximus to leave even if I were to allow it, which I do not. He is
recuperating yet, and,' he looked sternly at Maximus, 'he needs to build his strength back up
through proper exercise and the right diet, and not to go running off into foreign country when there
are two perfectly respectable heavyweights to do that task.'
'Very well,' Temeraire huffed and watched Maximus slump back down into the water. He would
have looked visibly deflated if it were possible given his bloat. 'In that case, I must get back to the
harbour and prepare to return inland.'
When Temeraire had left, Maximus said, 'However do you expect me to regain my strength if we
may not fly?'
'I said nothing in the least of not flying. However, in your current state, this may not be possible. I
implore that you follow Keynes' dietary recommendations and make more of an effort in your
They bickered for a good half hour more before Berkley left for the harbour to help with loading.
Maximus felt utterly wretched, and stretching out his neck, slumped his head above the surf on the
Later that day, after the sun had set, Maximus woke to the sound of someone jogging down the
beach. It was Berkley, and he arrived thoroughly winded and had to catch his breath before he
'Whatever are you about, running down here in the middle of the night?' Maximus said.
When he had caught his breath, Berkley said, 'Nitidus and Dulcia just brought back a message.
Laurence and Harcourt are taken, by God knows who, and Erasmus is slain. Keynes will have my neck
for this, but we must do something, so let us attempt a flight.'
Maximus got up immediately, stretched his wings and said, 'Who is searching for them?'
'Dorset has set out with Lily and Temeraire, against orders no less, and a search party is being
formed at the covert, but they would do very well to have our assistance.'
'Very well,' said Maximus. 'Where am I to be outfitted?'
The copper's gear had been laid out back at the harbour, and as soon as he arrived the aviators set
about strapping him up with his gear as Nitidus and Dulcia watched on. He stood still as they did
their work, and Berkley wandered between the aviators, frowning. Maximus flinched more than
once as the aviators tied up the straps to keep his harness in place. 'Ouch! Be more careful with my
hindquarters, if you please.'
'You have gotten too fat for your harness, you great clod,' Berkley said, looking very much annoyed.
'We are doing what we can with the straps; a lot of new material is needed and we are adding what
we can from the ships, but for now, we must make do and you will have to tolerate some tight straps
as best you can.'
'I-, oof,' he wheezed, as Nitidus pulled a strap around his midsection tight enough so the aviators
could fasten it in place.
'And you need not complain, this is entirely your doing,' Berkley said, and when they had finished
said, 'Right, let us get aboard and get clear of the harbour before we take off.'
Maximus trotted away from the harbour and the town, and into open countryside. He had been
assured that there were no people out there at this hour, and while the moon lit up everything with
an eerie glow, without the fires and gas lighting of the harbour it was difficult to see, and he looked
nervously around for any people or animals that might be about.
'Maximus,' Berkley shouted, in his usual booming voice which did not require a speaking trumpet to
be heard, 'I want you to attempt a springing launch, and then we may try a short flight around the
cape before we set off.'
'Very well,' the copper responded. He inhaled air rapidly and heard some aviators mutter in anxiety
as the straps and buckles of his harness strained and made popping and groaning noises. After he
had filled his air sacks, he crouched down low and then launched himself into the air; or at least, that
was should have happened. As he jumped, he flapped his wings vigorously and made an awful lot of
noise as he briefly gained about 20 feet, and then plummeted to the ground and landed in a heap on
It was a short drop, but it forced the air out of the dragon's air sacs much in the way of a belch. The
buckles on his harness creaked ominously, and he stood up slowly to ensure that it was not at risk of
falling off. He was thoroughly winded and had a dull ache in his chest, though felt more embarrassed
than anything else. This had never happened before, and he strongly suspected it was the after-
effects of the dreadful dragon plague and not some failing on his part.
'Is everyone alright?' Berkley shouted. 'Maximus, are you well?'
'I am fine; I do not believe that anything is broken. I am not quite sure what happened, perhaps I
need to stretch first,' he said, and opened his wings and pumped them against the air a few times.
'Shall we try again?'
'No, I have an idea. Let us climb the next hill and launch from there instead.'
It took a good half hour to ascend the hillock that stood just beyond the mountain that overlooked
the Cape, and all the way Maximus felt a queer sloshing and jiggling motion around his middle and
he could not quite lift his hind legs to their usual full range of motion as they met resistance towards
the end of each step. When they reached the top the aviators jumped down and inspected the
harness in torchlight, looking for damage. Once it seemed that all was well, and after Maximus had
caught his breath, they climbed aboard and Berkley said, 'Let us try again with springing launch
down the hill when you are ready.'
After turning to face down the steepest slope, Maximus filled his air sacks, this time ensuring that
they were at their fullest before he again crouched low, though as he looked down the hill he
hesitated for a moment.
'Is everything alright?' Berkeley called down from his shoulders. 'We may try again in the daylight if
you so wish.'
'No, I am quite alright to try again,' he said, though in truth he was willing up the courage to jump. If
he should fail this time, the drop would be so much more severe and he risked injury to himself and
his crew. Suddenly he felt a surge of courage overcome his doubt and taking advantage of it before it
waned, he launched himself forwards with all the might he could muster and flapped his wings as
hard as he could, taking care as they grazed the foliage on the slope. This time he remained in the
air but fell at an angle parallel to the slope. 'Maximus,' Berkley shouted, 'You must try harder to gain
altitude or we will crash!'
Pumping his wings with one powerful beat after the other, he slowly levelled out against the slope,
until at last, he was gaining altitude proper; he let out a roar in triumph, feeling much pleased with
'Not so loud, it is the middle of the night,' Berkley shouted against the wind. 'Now, let us fly out to
sea a bit and then turn back to the Cape.'
Maximus banked and adjusted their heading, and soon they were moving away from the coast until
they were over water. However, he was pumping his wings far too frequently, and they slapped
against his flanks painfully with each stroke; soon Berkley called, 'You may settle into a glide if you
wish, we do not require the altitude.'
'I may, or I would if I could,' Maximus said, taking deep, whistling breaths, 'though it is ever so
Berkley did not respond immediately, and meanwhile, Maximus was feeling more fatigued; the
muscles in his shoulders and wings burned fiercely, and it was becoming more difficult to draw a full
Then, Berkley called down, 'Turn back for the Cape so that we may land.'
He turned around, losing altitude as he did, and Berkley called for him to steady as he beat his wings
to regain what he had lost. Soon, he could see stars, though strangely they were not in the sky but
on the mountain ahead of him, and all across the ground. 'That's odd,' he said.
'Maximus, you are losing too much altitude,' Berkley called. 'Level off so we may land beyond the
Maximus tried to mutter a response, but he was too out of breath to form anything coherent, and
soon they were falling at an alarming rate. He could hear Berkley yelling at him in the vague
distance, though his hearing sounded as if he were underwater. He startled as Berkley fired off a
pistol from his back.
The harbour was right in front of him, and so was the Allegiance. He beat his wings with every last
ounce of strength, and barely clearing the mast of the ship, he banked upwards until a dark curtain
encroached from the corners of his vision. He felt queer and stiff, and suddenly he couldn't think or
control his limbs, and then he was falling.
'Maximus, wake up!' He opened his eyes to daylight and started. 'Easy, Maximus. Calm down, all is
quite well,' Berkley said.
Every muscle and bone in his body ached, and when he looked around, he saw carnage and rubble.
'It's a fine job you landed on a warehouse and not some poor fool's house,' Berkley said, and then
looked guiltily at Keynes, who stood scowling beside him. 'Keynes here assures me that nothing is
broken, aside from the harbour of course, so move yourself out from there.'
Maximus said nothing and stood up, his joints aching and rubble creaking and groaning as he shifted,
and they walked to the edge of the harbour where he lay down once again. 'I am ever so sorry; I do
not know what happened. One moment we were flying over the ocean and the next...,' he trailed
off. 'Oh, but Laurence and Harcourt! We must go at once.'
'There will be no more wandering off you whilst you remain in this state,' Keynes said sternly. 'From
now on you are not to hunt any fish, whale, or seal, and you are to stick the strict diet brought to
you, and nothing more.'
'But if I may fish and sustain myself, the others will be free to look for-,'
'Now listen here, Maximus,' Berkley said. 'I am told from higher up the chain of command that
unless you do exactly what you are told, and eat only what you are told, you may be taken back to
the breeding grounds when you are well, and then you will never see any action in His Majesty's
service ever again.'
'Surely not!' Maximus exclaimed. 'They would not do that, would they Berkley?'
'I can guarantee that, should you follow Keynes strict diet and exercise regime, you will be quite well
soon, and we may remain in service for as long as we are useful.'
'Oh, I promise I will not fish any more, I swear it, Berkley, do not let them remove me from the
Berkley looked to Keynes, who nodded and said, 'Very well, as long as you do exactly as I say, we will
do what we can.'
'Oh, thank you, both of you, I promise that I will,' Maximus said.
After Maximus had settled down, Berkley walked back to the ruined building with Keynes; it would
be the least he and his airmen could do to remove the rubble of the warehouse from the harbour.
'I'm surprised at you,' Keynes said.
'And why is that?'
'That was a shrewd move, on your part; as if the corps would allow a regal copper to go out of
service whilst his captain yet served. And here I thought you were growing soft on him.'
'Oh, I don't deny that I have a soft spot for the big oaf,' Berkley said. 'Though, last night was a
wakeup call. The dragon plague is no longer the problem here, and from now on I shall be the only
one who is soft.'
Epilogue - (Warning: Not remotely plausible in canon, just added for fun)
'Load him up! Careful there,' Berkley called down to the dockworkers. 'Those look expensive, and I'll
be damned if I'm going to pay if you break them.' He jumped down from the dock onto Maximus's
head, which he patted affectionately, and then walked down his neck and to his broad back, where
he took his position as Captain.
'Ready when you are,' he called to the copper, who pushed himself away from the dock and out into
the deeper water of the Thames, where he began his swim upriver.
He had grown tremendously since he had been shipped back to England on the Allegiance, more
than doubling his weight, and then tripling until he outweighed every dragon in England, and
possibly even the world. Now he truly looked like a sea serpent of the Atlantic; that is if sea serpents
were inclined to be as wide as they were long, bulging with fat on every surface, and had a complete
set of wings, which were rendered useless by the sheer mass that the regal copper had accumulated
since his time at the Cape.
The current was weak, and he swam quite leisurely. There was no hurry, after all, as they were only
shipping civilian goods these days. It had become quite a lucrative business for both Maximus and
Berkley, who tied goods down onto his vast back and ferried them about the Thames regardless of
the weather. Being self-propelled was far more reliable than sails, after all, and they could carry far
more than any barge.
Berkley patted the dragon's fleshy sides as they moved against the current. The corps was alarmed
at first, of course, after all, losing a fighting regal copper in this way was unheard of, but once he had
proven his worth by towing great ships and ferrying military goods, they had come around to his
usefulness. And now, the war had ended, and they had found private work in London which made
use of his unique abilities.
Maximus rumbled happily in response. This is certainly not where he had intended to be in his
retirement, though Berkley and Maximus made do with what they had, and most importantly they
were happy to have a place in the world.
Furaffinity submission: https://www.furaffinity.net/view/40319868
Maximus was the hardest hit of all the dragons by the plague, and after receiving treatment in the form of a mushroom found only on the African continent, the big regal copper is finally on the road to recovery. Only, his appetite has returned in full force before his strength, and his fishing skills are becoming a little too well-honed. Keynes the dragon surgeon is becoming concerned that the weight he is putting on is not exactly muscle.
I have been working on this story for a week or so, after a hectic month trying to catch up with my university work. A story involving dragons was the most requested, and I'm currently reading Blood of Tyrants, the 8th Temeraire novel, and now here we are! I recall that Keynes, the dragon surgeon, complained that Maximus was gaining weight 'unevenly' (in other words, he was getting fat) in the fourth Temeraire novel after being very ill with the dragon plague, so here is a story that takes that (a lot) further :D