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Not So Good as Rest

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She wakes screaming from dreams of blood and fire to find her father gone. He doesn’t return. Later she learns he is dead.

The king brings her to Camelot. On the road she cries herself to sleep again, and dreams of a girl with a smile that could make faeries cry; she wakes with the bedroll dry beneath her sore eyes. Camelot is clean and stark and ice-colored grey but there—there—at the smith’s forge, there is the girl from her dream, with a streak of soot across the warm brown of her nose. Morgana says “Stop” in a thin voice, weak from days of silence, and reaches out a hand to the blacksmith’s daughter.

She makes Gwen coronets of braided flowers and doesn’t ask even herself why. (Years later, years and years, she will see Gwen crowned Queen and wake shaking with rage.)

It is a long time before she dreams of Arthur. The first time she does she wakes still trembling with energy, muscles ready for battle. She makes him teach her how to fight and falls asleep with cobweb ghosts of herself fighting by his side, with Gwen, with a dark-haired boy whose eyes burn gold.

(In the deepest parts of the night she dreams and forgets: her blade raised against him.)

Time passes, and people change. She meets the boy she’s seen but his eyes are the color of water, not fire, and he thinks she’s beautiful but he never admits he recognizes her power.

They drug her and lie to her. They call her jealous when she’s concerned, fanciful when she’s determined, deluded when she’s triumphant, and she watches Merlin as she drinks her potion and wonders what he has that she doesn’t.

Just dreams, they tell her.

She wakes with the aftertaste of hemlock in her mouth and the sky stretched huge above her. Morgause’s hair glitters like sunlight.

They are wrong, they are wrong, and they are afraid of Morgana because she knows it, because she will make them know it. A seer, she is, but she will tear the veils from everyone else’s eyes as well.

Magic in Camelot is fire and midnight, is triumph and fear. Every day is a battle and when she returns to Morgause she is drunk on victory and goes back hardly sobered.

And then comes the battle in truth.

She screams the castle down around her and in the crumbling of its walls is every just nightmare. She screams for the silent dead, all of them, the sorcerers and the innocent and the knights, for her father’s foes and her sister’s. She screams out every terror this castle’s men ever told her to be quiet about. Morgause’s heartbeat is faint and fading beneath her hands. She screams and the stones that bound her do not touch her skin. The air tears to shreds around them.

Morgana has seen two futures: Arthur’s crown and the druids’ ink. She stares up into the heavens and cannot reconcile them. Neither Albion forged by spell and blade is hers.

When she allows herself to rest, in the intervals of caring for Morgause while they recover from the failed attack on Camelot, she dreams easily. There is sunlight, and laughter. In the heart of Camelot she teaches magic with her sister, a coronet moonbeam-light on her head, and from there goes to help her brother plan his next summer’s campaign, a blade an almost-forgotten weight at her hip. And there is Gwen’s sun-bright smile for her, and Merlin’s apology (her absolution).

She wakes. Above her the sky goes on and on and on, darkness broken at intervals by the piercing brightness of stars.