"I will stay and watch you, until the wolves gorge on your carcass and bathe in your blood."
The High Priestess smiled. There was a golden flash in her green eyes as she faced her brother. Arthur writhed in pain again as Morgana tipped her head to the side, watching contentedly.
Merlin approached her from behind, carrying his blade stealthily. Ever alert, she turned sharply when she heard the soft footsteps behind her.
"No, the time for all this bloodshed is over. I blame myself for what you have become, but this has to end." Merlin spoke, his voice full of rage and sadness and pity. It infuriated her. She would not be pitied, least of all by one who was nothing more than a servant. He drew his sword.
Morgana laughed. She was mocking him, his audacity to even think he could kill her.
"I am a high priestess! No mortal blade can kill me."
"This is no mortal blade. Like yours, it was forged in a dragon's breath." He held the sharp blade against her throat. She felt it burn against her skin. He was not lying.
Perhaps she resigned herself to her fate, acknowledging that her magic would not work upon the young wizard and his powerful sword. She simply looked back at him with defiant eyes, knowing that Arthur was counting his last breaths. She had won.
"Where does it come from? All your hate? He is not Uther. It is Uther that raged the war against sorcery. What is it about Arthur that you resent so much?" He asked, quietly loosening his grip on the sword.
"Everything. He has everything I cannot have. A family, Camelot, loyalty, love." She hissed back fiercely. A soft voice at the back of her head added a word to her list. 'Gwen', it said. The Lady paid it no heed.
Emrys's eyes grew softer, kinder.
Morgana frowned in confusion when he let go of the sword. He gave her one last glare before running to the wounded Arthur and helping him up. As they left, she looked at them, bewildered. They felt sorry for her. Not animosity, but that same expression of pity. Arthur limped out of the cave without a word, Merlin whispering little encouragements to him.
She did not stop them. The thoughts were racing through her head. He had not killed her. He had every reason to. Yet… He had shown her mercy. Why? Had Morgause been wrong after all? She fell to the ground and let the tears run down her cheeks, alone in the dark. Arthur would not survive, despite Merlin's best efforts. She had killed Arthur Pendragon. There was no joy, no sweet victory that she had expected. It hurt far more than Merlin's sword. She cried out loud to the empty cave when she realised that she had fallen too low.
The streets were filled with crowds. Some mourned the death of their king; others cried out "Long live the Queen!”, relieved and content that a long war was over. A hooded woman walked through the alleys with her head bent low. She made the way to the entrance of the castle, blending with the crowds that stood waiting expectantly for the Queen's appearance.
Guinevere walked out to the decorated balcony with a small, forced smile on her face. She spoke words of assurance and consolation, of hope and rebuilding. She told them how beautiful magic could be, how it had saved their kingdom. Magic would now be welcome, even honoured, in Camelot, and sorcerers would abide by the same laws as other citizens.
Morgana suppressed the urge to look up to the Queen. She would be immediately recognised by the crowd, a prospect she did not look forward to.
Gwen waved with a smile and turned back to return to the castle. The crowds dispersed.
Morgana walked up to the palace guards. Their faces turned sour when they saw her.
"I merely wish to see the Queen. I will cause her no harm."
"You cannot be trusted. You are to be arrested on sight."
"Please. I do not want to hurt Gwen."
"You will address Her Majesty with respect!"
They paid no heed to her words, dragging her with them towards the dungeons. A sharp voice stopped them.
"Take her to the throne room. Queen's orders."
The guards frowned at her, eyeing her with suspicion.
"Hurry up about it!" The knight said impatiently.
Guinevere now occupied the throne that should have been hers; who looked at her with a mixture of curiosity and fury.
"Morgana. It has been a while."
"I've been busy."
"Making plans to conquer Camelot must have been quite a project."
"Guinevere, I have made mistakes. Mistakes I cannot undo. I came only to beg for forgiveness. And for a home."
"You killed Arthur." Gwen said, eyes flashing with betrayal.
"I regret it." Morgana lifted her head to look directly at the Queen.
"Regret?" The other woman laughed bitterly. "I should have you thrown in the darkest dungeon. Perhaps I ought to offer you mandrake roots for company. It would be your home."
The High Priestess's lip quivered. She knew, that if Guinevere went through with her threat, even she would it be able to resist the Mandrake's effects for long. An image of Gwen crying out in the tower flashed in front of her. She closed her eyes.
"Please..." She could barely whisper.
"We cannot be sure of her intentions." Gaius said, cautiously.
"She had caused the war. She is certainly capable of very powerful magic."
"She is also capable of deception, My Lady. She has done it before."
"She is not pretending Gaius. Not this time. She came looking for a home."
"Then it would be wise to offer her one."
It was a large room. Not quite as embellished as the room she had lived in as the King's ward, but she knew it was far more luxurious than the quarters offered to most servants. Gwen was being generous, to an extent. She had never imagined a time when their roles would be reversed, when she would be the one waiting on Gwen, and yet here she was. She had no doubt the Queen would employ guards, perhaps even trusted sorcerers to keep watch on her. But this was far better than she had expected. A personal handmaiden to the Queen. Her old friend trusted her after all. An inadvertent smile played about her lips.
"My Lady." Morgana greeted graciously when the Queen entered her room.
"I should think we are beyond such formalities, Morgana." Came the icy reply.
Morgana remained silent. She walked up to the other woman, heels clicking against the wooden floor. Gwen sat down on her bed with her head in her hands.
"Long day?" The former Priestess asked, with a gentleness she had not heard in her own voice for a long time.
Gwen merely turned away.
Morgana knew not to pursue it further, and instead began to unlace her corset. The fabric fell into her hand. She would not admit to letting her fingers run on skin a little longer than was required.
Guinevere would not admit to the shudders down her spine that she feels with each brush of the other's hands.
"Leave." She said, not really wishing it.
Morgana left, albeit hesitantly.
For once, the Queen let herself sob.
Morgana raised her head at the sound of footsteps in the quiet library. She smiled at the Queen who was standing near her now, looking quite interestedly at the book she was holding.
"Is it from the Magical Archives?" Guinevere asked, referring to the books that had been kept in the dungeons for the better part of the past few years and would have been burned by Uther had Gaius not intervened.
"Yes." Came the reply.
The Queen continued to inspect the leather-bound pages curiously.
"It is a book of spells by Nimueh." Morgana said, answering the unasked question.
Gwen frowned. She was surprised, if a little anxious that her friend might return towards the Dark.
"The woman who cursed the whole kingdom's water supply."
"The woman who created a large number of useful spells and charms, some of which I hope to use to protect you someday. She was a brilliant witch. Before Uther..."
Gwen nodded in understanding. She walked away into the shelves, returning with a book of her own. She quietly sat across her companion and the two read in silence.
The knights momentarily stopped their training to bow to the Queen, who was passing by with her servant – for they never considered Morgana more than a servant. Gwen paused to watch them, bidding them to continue.
Morgana was watching them train with a yearning in her eyes.
"Go ahead." Gwen insisted, nudging her towards the weapons lying on the ground.
Morgana picked up a glinting sword. The knights paused again, this time, with shock.
"Your Majesty, surely you do not mean for her to fight us?" Leon said incredulously.
"Afraid, Sir Leon?" Morgana teased.
"Of you? Never." He replied, gritting his teeth and charging towards her.
In a few moments Morgana was standing over him, her sword at his neck.
"You...you have used magic." The fallen knight said, fuming.
Morgana drew back. So this was what they still thought of her. She chided herself. She should have expected it.
"She has not." Gwen called firmly, closing the conversation.
Morgana cast her a thankful glance, and then walked back to her, dropping the sword.
Gwen pretended not to notice how beautiful the High Priestess looked when she rejoined her, with her pale face flushed due to the fight.
It had barely been a month since Morgana's return to Camelot when the messenger from Cenred's former kingdom brought the threat of war back to the kingdom.
"His Majesty, King Lot hereby declares war on Camelot."
"Camelot is not prepared for another war." Gwen said, trying not to let her voice shake.
Gwen knew the messenger had no say in the decisions made by his king, yet she could not help but feel anger towards him.
"There must be a way to prevent this war. An agreement with your king, perhaps." She suggested.
The messenger smiled.
"The King seeks a private audience with Your Majesty, should you wish to discuss this matter further."
"Then he shall have it." The Queen replied.
"It is always the same. They believe a queen cannot rule as a king would. Camelot is vulnerable. If Lot attacked now..." Guinevere confided sadly as Morgana brushed her hair.
A part of her chided her for sharing the kingdom's weaknesses with a traitor, for even trusting the sorceress. But the memories of the times they had spent together overshadowed her doubts.
"You must take knights with you when you go to his kingdom." Her companion suggested.
She shook her head in reply.
"The citizens of Camelot will grow suspicious, as will Lot himself. When men like him ask for a private audience..." Her voice trailed off.
Morgana laid an arm on her shoulder.
"Then I shall accompany you."
"My Queen, if I may..."
"I will not be taking knights with me, Leon. I trust you, and Gaius, to take care of any matters that might arise in my absence. Send a messenger, if you require anything from me."
"Your Majesty, take a sorcerer if you wish, but Morgana – "
"Has changed more than you know, Gaius. We can trust her."
"It has been a while, since we rode together." Gwen remarked.
"Yes." Morgana replied shortly, the memories of her trying to kill Gwen in this very forest, returning to her in flashes of guilt.
"It's in the past now, Morgana." Guinevere soothes, sensing her thoughts.
"Gwen, I... of all the people, I never meant to hurt you.
Silence reigns, broken only by the clop of the horses' hooves.
The sun soon set. A fire was lit.
The queen soon fell asleep, exhausted. Her companion lay awake, looking down at the sleeping face beside her.
A sudden thought struck her, surprising even her with its maliciousness.
How easy would it be to kill Guinevere, now that she was asleep. Not that she would have any difficulty even if Gwen were awake…
Her intentions for returning to Camelot had not been entirely charitable. She had meant to eventually take over her rightful position as queen. But something had changed. Her feelings for Gwen...
She dozed off to a peaceful slumber, thoughts of her closest friend occupying her mind.
"Welcome, My Queen." The King said, although the expression on his face made said queen feel very unwelcome indeed.
"King Lot. I believe I am here to discuss the matter of the war."
"Such official and ordinary subjects of conversation, my dear? How boring." He grinned salaciously.
"Then perhaps you shouldn't have been so hostile to my kingdom." Guinevere retorted.
"We should discuss this later in my chambers then, Gwen."
Morgana seethed at the familiar moniker coming from a stranger's tongue.
A slight wave of the Queen's hand told her to keep her calm and go quietly to the rooms where Lot's attendants took them.
"I will not stand by..." Morgana began as soon as the doors closed behind them.
"Yes you will." Gwen replied firmly.
"No Morgana. This is my battle. Camelot's battle. Whatever Lot wants, he will get." She sounded defeated. She had given up to him.
The sorceress sank down on the coverlet.
"Camelot is my home too." She said, almost inaudibly.
"My Lady." The king held out his arm to her as he rose from the feast. Gwen hesitantly took his hand and was promptly led out.
Morgana watched her leave with a twinge of fear and bitterness.
Gwen approached the intricately carved wooden doors apprehensively.
Lot bent down to whisper in her ear.
"It is much more beautiful on the other aside, my sweet."
Gwen shivered with fear.
Soon she was unwillingly lying on the silken sheets, while the king ran kisses down her neck. A quiet sob escaped Gwen.
He reached for the hem of her dress, running his hands along her legs as he did so.
Suddenly he was thrown back to the wall.
Pinned to the brick pillar, he heard someone hissing.
"You will regret this, Your Majesty."
He turned just in time to see a dark figure disappear from the room along with the Queen.
Back in the safety of the woods, Gwen looked at her abductor with shock.
Morgana smiled back.
"He will raze Camelot to the ground! What have you done?" Guinevere nearly screamed with horror.
"I doubt he will get very far without his weapons and their horses." The High priestess smirked.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I let his stable hands have a little nap. The horses are in a glade by the lake. As for the weapons, they might be useful, but only if he can find out how to put out the magical flames in his armoury."
Gwen sighed in relief. She walked forward and wrapped her arms around the other woman. After a pause, Morgana hugged back.
An inadvertent "I love you." slipped from her lips. She paused fearfully, inwardly scowling at her folly.
Guinevere stepped back in astonishment. Then, she smiled and echoed the words, pleasantly surprising her companion.
"But I thought Arthur..." Morgana began, still in disbelief, her insecurities lacing her voice.
"He is a past I hope to cherish for a long time. Yes, I loved him. I grieved for his death. But I cannot be the weeping widow forever You, you are with me in the present. And I love you, here and now."
Morgana wondered how long it had been since she had felt so comfortable and secure someone, as she lay in the arms of the woman she loved, that night.
She knew questions would be asked and there would be queries and anxieties about the Queen. But those were worries of the morrow. For now, she wanted to revel in the beautiful feeling, the fascination of being home .