She'd only meant to follow Merlin for a bit, since she didn't like him skulking around in her wardrobe and every other nook and cranny in the castle. But before she knew it she's lost sight of both him and the way back to the castle. Morgana was a grown woman but, unlike Arthur and Merlin, she hadn't been allowed to explore outside alone since she was a child.
If she'd planned to stay out this long she'd have brought her winter cloak and boots, and some meat pies and perhaps a flask of brandy. She'd have brought Gwen along to carry her things and keep her company, the way Merlin did for Arthur.
Instead she stood in the snow and shivered.
Morgana was greatly relieved to see a fine sledge come along, though surprised not to recognise the lady who drove it. She was tall and powerful, pale and blonde and dressed all in white furs, with a hard set to her handsome face.
"Lady Morgana," she called, "you must be freezing. Why don't you come and have a drink with me?"
"Do I know you?" Morgana said with a frown, though she didn't hesitate to step up and join her.
The lady opened her cloak, and her skin underneath it was bare and warm to the touch when Morgana pressed against it.
"My name is Morgause."
The name meant nothing to Morgana, who was happy to sip from the cup Morgause offered her – something foamy and sweet that she couldn't name but that filled her with a sense of warmth and home.
"In Camelot there are those who hate me, who would call me a witch and spread nasty rumours about me and my people. I am glad to see they've not poisoned your mind against me. Will you have something to eat as well?"
Morgause opened a box full of sweets, each square a different pale coloured gel dusted in white sugar and, Morgana soon found, each one with a different flavour. At first she thought she'd only have one or two, but each piece she tried was more delicious than the last, and she was curious to taste every one.
Morgause smiled indulgently, handed over the box, and put her arm around Morgana's shoulder. Then her other hand reached under Morgana's skirt to trace up the inside of her thigh. Morgana was surprised, for none of the suitors Uther approved nor any of her servants or friends had ever touched her there. It was different from touching herself – unpredictable, almost ticklish, but she didn't feel like laughing. Nervous, she squirmed, but she breathed deep and let her legs fall open a little to make room.
"You are my people as well. You know that, don't you, dear? We're sisters, of a kind."
"Yes," said Morgana, not sure what that meant yet, but very sure it was true.
When the box was empty Morgause kissed her on the mouth while her fingers went on climbing, slowly scissoring up and inside her, filling her core with heat. More, she thought, wishing she could spread herself open, take her whole hand, that she could go on drinking and eating Morgause's gifts, and at the same time wishing this kiss would never end.
"I know," Morgause whispered when she finally drew away. "But it's not time yet. You live in the castle, yes? With Prince Arthur and the King?"
Morgana nodded. "I am the King's ward."
"Then I have a very important task for you. Once it's done you can have all the sweets and all the kisses you desire. And the two of us shall be queens together. That is what you want, isn't it, Morgana?"
Later, Morgana would lap and suck at the witch queen's sex while Morgause pulled her hair and laughed, "Hungry for it, aren't you?" Later she would know the poverty of exile and the sting of Morgause's whip on her back. She would kneel and beg for forgiveness from Morgause and Arthur both, not sure which she loved or hated more, and she would never be free of the bitterness of defeat.
But as she walked back to the castle that night, with the light snow falling on her hair and her borrowed cloak, Morgana pictured the powdered sugar on the sweets she would eat the next time she saw Morgause; she could already feel the magic taking root inside her and taste the heady heat of rebellion on her tongue.