The records in the court historians’ books tell it like this:
Uther loved his wife, and he went mad when she died, though no one knew it for quite some time. In his grief and his madness he tried to take his revenge on the entire population of magic-users, which was tragic and a dark period in Camelot’s history. Many, shamefully, were executed on inadequate grounds.
His son Arthur restored the country to rights and ushered in a golden age when he took the throne, and the rift between Camelot and magic was healed, in large part by the deep bond Arthur shared with Merlin, called Emrys, the last of the Dragonlords, the immortal.
His illegitimate daughter Morgana, a sorceress herself, allied herself against Camelot with her half-sister and repeatedly tried to kill Uther and Arthur, despite the blood they shared and the affection the legitimate family had always held for her. She was in part responsible for the eventual slaying of Arthur, and died shortly afterwards when his loyal knights avenged his death.
The stories that linger in distant towns and in the forests tell it like this:
During Uther’s reign there was hardly a man or woman or child in Camelot who didn’t lose kin or friend due to a suspicion of sorcery.
There were those who were executed; there were those killed by soldiers acting without official warrant; others were murdered or betrayed by ordinary people panicked at what might happen if they were found to be sheltering enemies of the king. There were those who died of illness or injury because those who could have helped them were too afraid for their own lives to heal them.
Some people disposed of their enemies by accusing them of sorcery, or of consorting with sorcerers. Proof of guilt was rarely demanded, and standards were not high. Magistrates who dismissed too many accusations were replaced, or (more often) themselves charged as sympathizers.
It was to protect the kingdom, Uther insisted, but the kingdom was awash in blood.
Uther could have been killed, easily, by the Emrys of the prophecies, but Emrys watched the executions and did nothing—did worse than nothing: he helped the royal family, out of whatever misguided allegiance he felt. Arthur repealed his father’s laws when he took the throne, but nothing could turn back time those twenty years and more and undo every death the laws had caused.
There were sorcerers just grown to adulthood when Arthur took the throne who died years later still in fear of their neighbors, still hiding their true selves.
The wind whispers it to the stars like this:
Morgana was a loving and desperate woman, and the daughter of a wicked man. People let her believe she was mad, made her live in fear and ignorance, drugged her into complaisance. They feared her and they betrayed her.
A man she’d considered a friend, someone who should have given her nothing but sympathy and understanding, tried to kill her.
Her sister saved her life, was honest with her, gave her support and treated her with respect. Together they tried to overthrow a tyrant, a king slaughtering his own people, and when they failed—it is vital not to fail at a task like that. They lived, but Morgana’s heart was scarred to match Morgause’s face, and she could not trust the brother who’d set their father back on his throne.
From the historians’ pages the stories leap to song and tapestry and further yet. People murmur briefly of the mad king Uther as prologue to the greatness of his son, and shake their heads and condemn Morgana, evil as she must have been.
They say that she seduced her brother, that she tried to poison his wife. They call her drunk on hatred, or selfish, prideful or ambitious.
They think they know her: from the stories told by men who had served her father, who go on to serve her brother; by the people who never met her; of the enemy of the court they served. No more than a ruler overthrown in battle is a rebel who failed remembered as just, or kind, or wise.