Author: Laura H
Spoilers: Probably throughout the first season.
Author's note: Yes, it happened - I found a new fandom and have written fic. Don't look at me like that, pirates! I still love you *pets*. Anyway, this is all about the cheese and the campy goodness and the hot prince with the broad shoulders and open necked tunics.
Title from the Upanishads.
This one's for my friend Erika.
It is summer when she comes to Camelot. The castle sits radiant against blue skies, while grief hangs like a stone in her young heart. Atop the hill they pause awhile, and Uther lifts her down from her mount, pointing out the far reaches of his kingdom of wealth and plenty. He repeats his vows; that Camelot is her home now, that she will be protected and treated as his own daughter, that she need never fear again. Morgana smiles, having been taught from birth that a noblewoman must be gracious and serene, even when her heart is breaking.
“You will be happy here, Morgana,” he says. “And you will never be alone.”
Morgana looks away for fear her mask will slip and he will know, he will know, that she is forever alone.
Above, a smear of black swoops across the sky, marring the perfect blue. A raven, sounding its caw, rebellious and indifferent to the ugliness of its voice. Uther takes to his horse once more and rides on, oblivious to the portent.
“Come, Morgana. I would have you meet Arthur.”
Ah yes, Arthur. The heir apparent, once and future, Camelot’s only son. In her one day here, she has already heard much about Arthur from loose-tongued servants, and all accounts range from unabashed admiration of the young prince, to barely concealed censure; sometimes both at once.
Uther leads her down to the Great Hall, and at the far end stands a boy, just younger than herself. He’s chewing at his thumbnail when they enter, but quickly draws himself up at their arrival, shoulders back and scrawny chest puffed out. As they approach, his eyes slide towards her, narrow and suspicious. This boy, she thinks, will not be her friend.
Then he takes her extended hand and bows over it. “Morgana, daughter of Gorlois of Cornwall, I am Arthur Pendragon, prince of Camelot. I am ever your servant.” Morgana can’t help the laugh that escapes her at his pompous formality. Arthur squints up at her. “Are you laughing at me?”
She schools her features into a solemn expression and shakes her head, but something in her eyes must have betrayed her, for he pouts and straightens. “You should not be so disrespectful, my lady.”
“Then you should not be so silly, my lord.”
His look turns from indignant to speculative. And so the precedent is set.
The dreams have returned. She wakes in a tangle of sweat sodden sheets and vomits over the edge of her bed at the violent images she doesn’t understand. The last dream she had was when she was ten years old, the night before her father died, a lurid vision in red and black, of blood and death and the despair of knowing that this could only end one way. She'd bit her lip in shame then, as her maid stripped the wet sheets from her bed; it had not been only sweat that time.
That morning, as her father prepared for battle, she had not spoken of her night terrors, knowing he would smile and kiss her head, before dismissing the dream as a product of childish fancy. But he had not smelled the iron of spilled blood or heard the sickening tear of flesh upon blade, and would never believe that what she’d seen would come to pass.
So she said nothing. She helped him buckle his armour, pressed a kiss to his rough cheek and let him ride out. Morgana watched her father go to his death and she said nothing.
Now she is thirteen and the dreams are back and she thinks her mind might splinter, for the face she sees in them this time is Arthur’s.
Morgana is sixteen and engaged. Not formally, not yet, but Sir Godwin has made an offer for her and Uther has only to make an official acceptance at the banquet tomorrow. This is the way of things, how her life must be lived. Godwin will be kind and honourable, he will be her protector and her champion.
But Morgana knows she doesn’t need a protector, and if she wanted a champion, there is another who would fit that role to her liking.
“Why are you in the dark?” Arthur’s voice startles her, for she hadn’t heard him enter her chamber. He stands by the door, awkward and uncertain, silhouetted against the red glow of torchlight from the hallway.
“I didn’t light a candle.” It answers the question he asked, but she knows it wasn’t the answer he sought. Why do you want to sit in the dark? That’s what he should have said.
He walks to her dresser and she hears him fumble with flint, until a candle sparks into life. The golden light illuminates a face growing from boy to man; he is already called handsome by almost all who have seen him. Morgana thinks of him not as handsome, but as something else, something she can’t quite understand, not yet…
“Godwin is a good man. A worthy warrior. You are very lucky.”
“Yes, I am. Very lucky.”
“And it will forge a strong alliance between Camelot and Caerleon. My father is already considering –”
“Arthur.” He doesn’t look surprised at her interruption. “Let’s not speak of such things.”
“Then what shall we speak of?”
Morgana shrugs; there are no words for the things she wants to say. Arthur comes to sit by her at the window and together they watch the lights of Camelot flicker through the warp of the glass.
Eventually, Arthur speaks. “Did you think it would be me?”
Morgana feels her eyes burn, with pain, with anger, with longing. She nods.
He stands and retreats, back into the darkened room. “I thought it would be me too.” Then he’s gone.
In the morning, she tells Uther that she cannot marry Godwin. He yells and rages, insists that she will marry the man, by God, but quells when she says she would rather die and that Godwin might take umbrage if Uther were to try and pass off a corpse as his bride. She bears the two weeks confined to her chambers with ease, content with Gwen’s company and Arthur’s frequent visits, and safe in the knowledge that her soul is still her own.
In the autumn of her twentieth year, Morgana finds she can move objects with her mind. For some time she has been aware of a new strength inside her, a power ignited, and she knows now that it is no coincidence that this power began the day a young man came to Camelot, elfin faced and captivating; she knew from first glance he was more than just a humble man servant.
But if Merlin was the fuel, Mordred was the spark; now strange energy, feared and forbidden by Uther, blazes inside her like a forest fire. She wants to control it, but doesn’t know how. Mirrors shatter when she is angry or frustrated, and when Gwen asks, as she frequently does, Morgana blames perhaps a brush thrown in temper, or displeasure at the way her hair would not curl that morning. Her servant watches her warily now, thinking her mad or spoiled or both. Morgana doesn’t dare tell her that sometimes she can hear the Earth breathe.
A year passes and she learns not to fear her power anymore. It becomes easier to control, easier to stop when she needs to, like holding her breath. But, just like breathing, she can never stop for long.
Threads of light radiate from her body, light that only she can see, connecting her to all living things, and every day that connection grows. There is one other who has these threads. They trail from his fingers, leaving a golden wake wherever he walks. But he is afraid and he hides, and Morgana wonders if he even sees the light that flows from him. If so, does he see her light too?
She becomes restless for there is little satisfaction to be gained from making a goblet float through the air. Such pursuits are meaningless as children’s games and Morgana knows she is capable of so much more. And so she waits, wondering when her time will come, anxious that it never will. She longs for release and soon finds it, though not in the way she anticipated.
When she enters Arthur’s chamber, she hesitates, captivated by the sight that greets her. The prince stands in sunlight, hair sticking to his forehead, darkened by the sweat that still shines on his face. His jaw is set, his lips full, and in that moment, Morgana thinks him beautiful.
He grimaces when Merlin unbuckles his pauldron and pulls it from his shoulder. “Careful.”
“Sorry, sire.” The young man removes the gauntlets and pulls the chain mail over his master’s head, leaving Arthur clad only in breeches and a loose necked tunic that clings to his damp shoulders. The prince rolls his neck as if to ease an ache there.
Merlin turns then, as though suddenly aware of her presence, and Morgana wonders if he’d been alerted by some small sound she’d made or whether awareness had come from another source. She returns his steady gaze, unflinching. They catch each other’s eye often these days, yet the warlock says nothing. He has not revealed himself and will not reveal her, but he knows, oh, he knows.
“Leave us, Merlin.” Arthur turns, clearly startled at Morgana’s presence and her unexpected command. Merlin looks to him, waiting, and Arthur nods. The warlock catches Morgana’s gaze once more as he brushes past her, and this time she sees a warning in his eyes. She wishes she could reassure him, that she could say the words I will not hurt him, but she doesn’t know if it would be the truth. Merlin leaves, casting amber light in a swirling stream, and then she is alone with Arthur.
He stares at her, impassive, but she can see the rise and fall of his chest, fast and unsteady, like her own. She decides then that she will see him naked in the sunlight within the hour.
She smiles, drifts across the room, fingers dancing over the mail, discarded on the table. What would Arthur think, she wonders, if she were to tell him of the fantasy she has long had, about pressing her naked breasts to that cool metal, of having him take her while wearing full armour, Would he baulk at her brazenness or would he fulfil her desire?
For now though, he is without armour. Defenceless.
“Sit,” she says, in a tone that will brook no argument. He complies and she moves to stand behind him, pressing her thumbs deep into the knots of his shoulders. It must hurt, she knows that, but the noise he makes is somewhere between a gasp and a groan, and he utters no protest.
“You were not at the tournament.”
Morgana frowns. Crowds anger her now, and she avoids them whenever possible. Blank faces, ignorant of that which surrounds them, afraid of the unknown, afraid of Uther’s might. She does not go to feasts or tournaments and keeps to her rooms whenever possible. “I had no sleep last night. Bad dreams. My head ached.” That much is true at least. She leans forward, her lips brushing Arthur’s ear. “Was my champion victorious?”
His chest rises and falls, and he presses his lips together before saying, “As always.”
“You are a mighty warrior indeed, my lord.” It’s easier to tease, for it hides the words that she cannot say. She works at his muscles, feeling them loosen beneath her touch, until his head falls back, resting gently on her breasts. When her questing fingers find an angry bruise where his shoulder meets his neck, he hisses but doesn’t move; on impulse she bends and presses her lips to the spot. Before she can move back, Arthur reaches up and catches the back of her head, turning his face towards her.
He smells of sweat and salt and battle, and she runs her tongue across her lips, wanting to taste every inch of him. The hour too is drawing on and she has not yet fulfilled her wish. The fine hair on his chest tickles her palm as she slides her hand into the open neck of his tunic, down until it brushes across his nipple. He swallows and she find herself entranced by the way his throat moves. “Morgana…”
“There is a time for talking, Arthur,” she murmurs, “but this is not it.” And she kisses him, gentle at first, almost chaste, but soon hunger overtakes them both and he stands, pressing her back against the table.
“Do you want this, Morgana?” But he must know that she does, for even as he speaks his fingers are pulling at the buttons down the back of her gown. So she doesn’t answer, instead she peels the tunic from his torso and lifts it over his head, before letting him tug down the bodice of her dress. The feel of her skin against his, as he wraps his arms around her and pulls her against him, is like nothing she has felt before. She is lit by a fire unlike anything magic could arouse in her, and she doesn’t ever want to stop kissing him, doesn’t want to stop touching him.
“Morgana, I can’t… I can’t hold on. Are you sure? Are you sure?” His forehead falls against her and his words are choked, as if speaking is an effort, so she takes away the need for speech and reaches between them to run her hand over the thickness in his breeches. “Oh, God…”
Heats pools between her thighs and she must have him. “Please, Arthur, now.” Then her dress is gone and he’s free and he’s pushing her back onto the table as he presses inside. There is pain, oh sweet pain, but it soon gives way to soaring pleasure as he moves within. Then, with shuddering gasps, he spills himself into her and she wraps her legs around him, wanting to hold him there, wanting to create life from this, not caring what the consequences might be.
Arthur stills, drawing gulps of air, then reaches down, drawing fingers across that place which no hand but her own has touched before, circling and pressing until she comes hard against his hand.
Afterwards, he lies back upon the table, naked and glorious, still stained with her blood, the kind that could never be spilled again. She gets her wish to see him thus, in the sunlight, and her heart tightens with that simple joy. One day and one night she gives herself, one day of passionate union when they take each other time and again, with fury and fervour. One night of whispers, when moonlight gilds sweat slick skin and they wrap themselves in each other.
Then the night is over and their moment has come to an end. Arthur sleeps as Morgana slips from the room. She will not return for the rest of her time at Camelot.
Soon the servants begin to whisper. Not of Arthur and Morgana, for true to her word she has taken steps to ensure their coupling was not repeated. Her path is uncertain, dangerous perhaps, and she cannot take him with her. His destiny lies elsewhere, tied up with the boy warlock. It does not stop her hunger for him, nor did it prevent her tears when the quickening in her belly came to an end after only two months; only Gaius and Gwen will ever know that truth.
Gwen would rather not tell her the things that are being said, but Morgana makes her speak plain. So Gwen tells her how the servants talk of ghosts in Camelot and say that Morgana is the one who summons them. They speak of strange sounds from her bed chamber, how she can communicate with the beasts of the forest and the birds of the air (neither are true yet, but Morgana is making progress on the latter). Morgana the Charmed, they call her, Morgana the Fey.
“They fear you, my lady,” whispers Gwen.
But rather than be dismayed by their fear as she would have been once, Morgana finds that she revels in it.
Arthur comes to her the day Uther discovers her secret, to challenge her in his father’s stead. The King has heard the whispers and must have her denial.
“Can the great sovereign of Camelot no longer face his ward?”
Arthur stands before her, legs braced, arms folded, his expression inscrutable. But his voice has a tremor when he speaks. “Is it true?”
“Yes.” He flinches then, and she wonders if he would rather she lied.
“Is it just you?”
She thinks of Merlin, loyal, faithful Merlin, and the power he has, so strong that sometimes she thinks it might suffocate her. What would Arthur do if he discovered she was not the only friend who had betrayed him? “Just me.”
“How could you, Morgana?”
“How could I not?” It’s then that she realises he will never understand, that whatever they were fated to be from this point hence, it will never again be lovers. She swallows the pain and paints on a cold smile. “Am I to be executed then? Has Uther ordered the pyre built already?”
Arthur shakes his head. “He would never…” But his words are a rasp and he doesn’t finish.
“You are to be exiled.”
The idea shouldn’t pain her, but it does.
You will be happy here, Morgana, and you will never be alone.
In that, Uther had been half right after all.
It is winter, the day she is cast out of Camelot. Snow blankets the ground, deadening the sound of her horse’s hooves on the stone. Nothing is thrown at her and there are no jeers, for Uther, in all his mercy, has issued an edict that such actions will result in immediate arrest. Instead the peasants crowd into the courtyard, silent and accusatory behind the cordon of soldiers, as a fresh fall of snow descends from the sky. Morgana cares little for their censure and rides with head held high. All is dead here, all is turned to ash. She has nothing to be ashamed of.
On the balcony, Uther appears, ready at last to face his greatest failure. Morgana reins in her mount; she will not leave without speaking her mind. “Your Majesty,” she says, with a mocking bow. “You do me a great honour in coming to bid me farewell, but if you expect cowed penitence, then I fear I must disappoint you.”
“You have shamed me, Morgana,” says Uther, but his voice is brittle.
“You shame yourself, Uther Pendragon. You cannot even begin to understand that which you unleash this day, for I have not yet begun to understand it myself. But when I do…” She casts a glance around the courtyard, at the white walls shining silver in the snow, at the vast towers reaching to the heavens. She turns back to Uther and sees his poisoned heart, black and hideous. There is indeed a danger in this land and it is not she. “You fear me, Uther, and rightly so. For Camelot will know me again, and when that day comes, I shall crush every stone into dust.”
She tugs on the reins of her horse, urging it into a gallop that takes her from the castle that has never been her home. Only once does she look back, not caring if she turns to salt. Upon the same hilltop where she and Uther had stood on that summer’s day twelve years before, she pauses and turns towards Camelot’s milky stones one final time. A spot of crimson on one of the balconies catches her eye and she knows Arthur is watching her leave.
Did you think it would be me?
Regret crushes her. She wants to cry out for him, to ask that he come with her because the journey will be long and she does not know her destination. She only knows that she’ll be alone. She wants to tell him of the nature of her heart and of the child that almost was. But he is far from her now, a lifetime away, and she fears what will happen if they ever meet again. She understands the dreams now, the ones that showed her Arthur cut down by a hand too much like her own.
Morgana turns back to the road, away from Camelot, from Uther, and from that beautiful, noble boy who had been her friend and her champion, who had protected her when she had not asked for protection. She turns away and thinks her body might break for love of him.
There are druids in the West she’s heard. Perhaps Mordred is with them. The thought warms her and she wonders what the boy will make of her newfound powers. Morgana rides on, the future in her eyes, and in her wake trail ribbons of energy, blood-red against the snow.