Actions

Work Header

Silk (The Strange Magic Mix)

Work Text:

There are dreams that Morgana has, terrible, violent, brutal dreams. She has the gift of prophecy, she's certain of that now, her dreams show the future. Over time she has learned that the future is not immutable, things can change, people can be saved. She has seen Arthur return triumphant from battle with terrible beasts, when her dreams had shown his bloody death at their hands. Seen an unspoken grateful look in Merlin's eyes as though her fearful confessions have been a helpful warning. Her dreams are not nightmares, but that doesn't make them any less terrifying.

~

Her first prophetic dreams were of Gwen. Sometimes she thinks she dreamed her friend into life, to be her comfort and her companion. Morgana has often dreamed Gwen into fine silks and satins, has seen her decked in brocades that even Morgana could barely afford. Has known since the moment Gwen first stood in front of her, when Uther decided she needed a ladies maid, that one day Gwen would pass with ease for a noble.

It is customary for noblewomen of Camelot's court to pass their old dresses on to their servants. It is not until she's almost of age that she discovers this is not universally the case, however as Camelot is a court without a Queen, Morgana has been the highest born female member of the court since she arrived. The noblewomen presume that this had been the custom of Morgana's mother at Trevena and follow her lead. Morgana revels in this small power and stops attempting to be subtle about her gifts. A well-dressed servant reflects well upon her mistress, she firmly tells anyone who looks askance at Gwen's new dresses.

The nights when Gwen curls up in her bed with her are rare and precious, more frequent as her dreams worsen, but treasured all the same. Those where Morgana has not been wracked by terrible nightmares are all the more precious to Morgana now and Morgana gladly embraces them. She loves the slow build, after a feast when they have time to themselves. Edges softened by wine and candlelight, Gwen undresses her more slowly than normal, brisk efficiency giving way to tenderness. The slow loosening of laces and peeling away of silk from skin that never fails to feel like Morgana is shedding a beautiful but too small skin. Naked beneath Gwen's gaze she feels all coltish and brand new, like a butterfly waiting for her wings to dry. The feel of those hands, the calluses and old scars that marks them as uniquely Gwen's, trailing over skin and cupping her breasts. The silky smooth slide of her own hands on Gwen's skin, their hands mirroring each other inside and outside each other's bodies. Instinctive and familiar, no need for questions or suggestions beyond "please" and "more". Afterwards they speak in half sentences, nonetheless hearing what the other says.

"You know I'd…" stay with you anyway, the dresses aren't necessary.
"I do."
"You know I'd…" make you my consort if I could. You deserve riches.
"I do."

It's a vow of sorts, unspoken though it remains.

~

It is the little things that Gwen seems to treasure, the things that only they know about, that wouldn't mean anything to anyone else if seen or overheard. Shared knowledge making the slightest of trinkets into something special; a memory made solid. Morgana likes stumbling across those things months later, loves hearing Gwen shyly recounting the memories attached to a simple bracelet or a dried flower pressed in a book. Even the ones that aren't memories they share, she likes hearing the stories that reveal the casual companionship Gwen shares with Merlin or unexpected gestures of kindness from Arthur that suggest he might yet be a better man than his father.

It is a particularly tiresome afternoon spent with a dressmaker in preparation for the latest feast. Morgana's vague suspicion that Uther is trying to marry her off, solidifying minute by minute as the dressmaker prattles about the eligible lords in attendance and the importance of making a good marriage. Really the only thing stilling Morgana's tongue is the surfeit of pins and the wonderful faces that Gwen is pulling behind the dressmaker's head. The dress is beautiful she supposes, the silk certainly looked fine shimmering between blue and green on the bolt when she chose it, but she cares not for the compliments of those at tomorrow's feast. She demands Gwen's opinion on the dress, dismissing the dressmaker's objections, with an imperious assertion that she trusts Gwen to give an honest opinion. In a brief unguarded look Gwen's eyes tell Morgana everything she needs to know about her friends approval of the dress, before Gwen eyes the dress critically and pronounces that it needs an extra inch taken from the bottom to ensure she need not wear heels too high to dance in. Chastised, the dressmaker does not even question the instruction to hem the edges of the off-cut into a ribbon that won't fray.

It ends up in Gwen's hair, rather than Morgana's and afterwards makes its way to Gwen's pocket, where it never fails to provoke a secret smile from its new owner whenever her fingers brush it. A smile that warms Morgana's insides as surely as Gwen's own touch, peeling silk from skin as though what lay below was more precious by far.

~

After Ealdor Morgana dreams of Gwen in tunic and trousers; dreams of the pair of them far from Camelot, her as a knight errant and Gwen her squire and blacksmith. Earning their own way in the world, free from the confines and dangers of living under Uther and answering to no man. They fight back to back and defeat all comers, until the day they take back the castle Morgana was born in. Morgana dreams that then she will set Gwen up as a fine lady, in gowns of forest greens and vivid blues, to live together as husband and wife far from prying eyes and meddling tongues that would insist on their need for a man and an heir.

The dreams seem closer to reality after Morgause appears on the scene, but somehow Gwen is sliding away from her both in waking hours – she can blame no one but herself and her desire to protect Gwen from the secrets she holds for that – and in her dreams. Gwen continues to wear finery in her dreams, but now there is a crown upon her head and the castle corridors and halls she wanders and holds court in are not those Morgana half remembers from childhood but those of Camelot. She cannot hide from the truth any longer, something has changed and Gwen will no longer be her Queen but Arthur's. After that Morgana cannot be easy with Gwen the way she once was. Nor can she acknowledge that part of the rage that now drives her is borne of a broken heart.

~

Years pass and the world turns, war is coming to Camelot and preparations are being made. Yet a tournament is being held, Morgause is full of scorn and sees it only as another sign that Arthur is as arrogant as his father before him, but Morgana suspects that he's using it as a cover to recruit more knights for his army. So she leaves her elder sister to her plotting and returns to Camelot in the guise of a knight. Morgana is still more seer than sorceress so she prefers a sword to pure magic in a fight. There is something centring and reassuring about a good clean sword fight, letting the pure physicality of the action guide her movement. It is a relief too not to have to think of a dozen things at once, no one here is seriously trying to kill her, and the only magic she need use is to lower and disguise her voice.

She tries to be unobtrusive in her movements and observations of the other knights, but while she succeeds in gathering much information without arousing her fellow competitors suspicions, Morgana manages to attract a certain amount of attention. It's not as though she's been trying to win, too busy spying, but she's always been good at this and despite numerous recent casualties some of her fellow competitors are knights she's fought against and alongside since both she and they were in their early teens. She knows their strengths and weaknesses like her own, anticipating their moves is so familiar it's almost instinctive. Her own movements can't have changed that much as she notes the Queen of Camelot is paying particular attention to her fights. Following each thrust and parry closely, cheering loudly each point earned, clearly marking her out as favourite. Before her last fight the Queen comes forward and bestows a favour on her champion, it's a simple ribbon, nothing out the ordinary but Morgana recognises it instantly and understands what it means. Gwen holds her eyes steadily through the slit in the helmet for a long moment before speaking.

"Be careful out there, my champion."

"Always am, my lady," Morgana replies voice gruff with something other than magic.

Morgause will doubtless scold her when she finds out, but Morgana wins the fight and the tourney easily, taking only a stolen kiss from the Queen as her prize before disappearing into the night.

~

She keeps the ribbon safe in the breeches she often wears for practicality and runs it through her fingers in times of stress. It's only an off-cut of silk, she knows: a fragment of a dress that has no doubt gone to dusters long since. Yet whenever she catches herself running it through her fingers as she remembers Gwen doing so often she remembers what the sight always made her think about. Perhaps it's sense memory, perhaps a simpler, more instinctive kind of magic but it awakens parts of her heart she thought long since locked and bolted, if not entirely dead. It cannot possibly still carry the smell of her old rooms, of powder and silk against skin, yet when she holds it to her cheek she can remember sliding it from Gwen's hair and into her pocket, twisting it around Gwen's fingers while she slept and Morgana lay sleepless yet content. Just a tight coil of silk and shimmering colour that unravels at the barest touch of her fingers, unravelling long buried memories along with it, a little bit of a love lost yet enduring to keep in her pocket. Rare and hidden and safe.

There is war coming and nothing will ever be the same. Morgana sleeps with the ribbon twined around her fingers and dreams of happier days.