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A Dark Tower Upon a High Hillside

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The rock was as hard beneath her curled up legs as it was behind her aching back. She could not recall how long she had been in this wretched place. How often was it she was called to dine with its mistress? Once a day? Maybe more, maybe less. Her mind was playing tricks on her, she knew that, and she could not keep it still long enough to count. It did not matter. She had given up on time. She had also given up on deciding what kind of room this was. It seemed at times like a grand hall, but it mostly resembled a dungeon, and sometimes it felt as small and confining as a cell. Whatever it was, it was dark, far too dark, cold, far too cold, made of hard, hard rock and overgrown with… No, no good thinking of that. Knowing, she suspected, would only make it worse.

And she had given up on rescue.


She had once prided herself in her shrewdness as well as her compassion. What a fool she had been. What a fool she had been to hope. It had been so easy to pretend that everything would be fine, as it always had been in the end, that one of her loved ones would rescue her, as they always had. Now, she had finally lost sight of such a hope, and instead of feeling any kind of despair, she felt an odd, cynical freedom. There was a relief and a peace that came with knowing that everything was lost.

Or, perhaps not everything, but she was. She was lost.


The visions came again, and chased her through the hall. Laughter, screams, barks, yells, their faces coming at her until she jerked away, stumbling, ultimately colliding with a wall and falling gracelessly to the ground. What shame she would have felt, if anyone could see her, what shame for a queen to be reduced to this sorry state.

As if she was ever truly a queen. A queen would have been of noble birth. A queen would have been trusted by her king. A queen would have been more than a decorated concubine. He had put a crown on her head, a title to her name, and false notions in her head, but he had not made her a queen, not really.


A queen would not run from mere imaginations like this. They were only in her head, she knew that, though now she could no longer say for certain how long they had been that way, how much of what she had seen in her life was true. It did not matter, she had realised, whether the visions were real or not. What they were telling her was true.


For all their fine, kind words, her brother and her husband both had abandoned her. Her brother disappeared, never to reappear until he needed her help, of course, and then to be made knight. She had been proud, yes, and grateful, but now that she could see things clearly, without having her vision clouded by love, it was obvious that he did not deserve it. He had used her, only ever used her, and he was no doubt laughing at her behind her back. That her vision at least had the courage to do it to her face, well, perhaps that made the spectre a fair deal better than the good Sir Elyan himself.


And Arthur. Oh, Arthur. He loved her, yes, but the next minute he was likely to throw her away. How many times had he done so? For his father, for his honour, for her so-called crimes, for a love spell. Doubtless he cared for something, but it wasn't her. He must know how unqueenly she was, he must laugh at her, too, whenever his common wife, his base, unworthy plaything, was out of the room. Laugh at her whenever he rode off with his knights on his 'duty,' or with none but his servant on adventures he considered beyond her understanding.


Yes, she had been a fool, but most foolish of all, perhaps, was how she had trusted Merlin. Once, he had been her closest friend, or so she had thought. She had been drawn in by his whimsical charm and his broad grin, but she knew him better now. She knew that he kept secrets behind the idiot facade, secrets, perhaps, that could destroy everything she loved, everything she had worked for. He was a threat, a dark sky waiting to strike her with lightning. No, he was no friend. He had no real love for her, only for Arthur. For Arthur's sake he would crush her, sell her out, rip her to shreds, regardless of what he said in private counsel. His spectre was the one attacking her, the one that always made her flee, and truly, he was the one she feared.


She had given up hope of rescue. If these traitors and enemies would rescue her, she was not even certain anymore that she should let them. Even before she got here to this damp and icy hole, she had been alone, so alone, all alone.


Not alone.


She had known love. True, unfailing love. As if she had been summoned by the thought, a figure entered the room. The door that opened to let her in also let in the light, surrounding her with a halo owing to the torches of the corridor. And in a moment, Gwen was in Morgana's arms, clinging to her, sobbing, and being held in return. The feeling of her delicate hands, her bony shoulders, her soft breasts pressed against Gwen's own. Beneath the layer of castle filth, she even smelled like Morgana. Not the flowery oils and perfumes that Gwen had doused her in when she had been her maidservant, and later kept in her own repertoire of scents while pretending it had nothing to do with the memories, but the real Morgana, her sweet skin. Gwen buried her nose in it.

"It's alright, my darling," she heard the most beautiful voice coo in her ear, as a slender hand tangled itself in her hair - how long since she had brushed it? She could feel even this light and loving touch tug the strands painfully, so it must be a right mess.

"Come to supper with me," her Mistress bade her.


And she did.