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ANIMUS

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Gwen woke up that morning knowing something felt...off. The blood in her veins was hot; not necessarily uncomfortable just odd. She dismissed the feeling and got up to get dressed.

The sun wasn’t up yet. Camelot was quiet, still asleep in those early hours of the morning. Gwen usually got up before dawn so she could get ready and go to her mistress’ chambers before she woke up. It bothered her at first, ruining her existing sleep schedule, but she got used to it over time. She just had to go to sleep early to get in those hours lost. It wasn’t that hard with how much she worked.

While pulling on her dress, Gwen felt that sensation sear through her veins again. Her skin prickles, but she dismisses it. That was, until she heard the shattering sound from her kitchen area.

The maid jumped around, grabbing the nearest vase as a weapon. Instead of seeing a bandit or some other intruder, she saw...nothing.

Gwen blinked and lowered her arm. She walked forward and hissed in pain when something stabs into her foot. She leapt back, finding broken glass all over the floor. The mug that had been sitting on her nightstand was in pieces. The weird thing was that the base was still in its place- it’s like the rest of the cup just...exploded in every direction or something.

She tentatively picked up the bottom part that was still intact, observing it with a confused expression. How did this even happen? It didn’t fall off- not that it could since it wasn’t near the edge. She tried to think of a logical explanation, but she couldn’t come up with one, so she just pushed the situation out of her mind.

That lasted for only a few moments before another mug spontaneously shattered. And then another. And then another.

Gwen whirled around in fright, watching a fourth cup break apart right in front of her. Nothing was there to cause it, so she crossed off the thought that someone was messing with her. Maybe it was a ghost? That wasn’t completely out of the question.

She glanced around and then looked at her mirror. For a moment, she could have sworn she saw a shining hue in her amber eyes. Slowly, she walked forward and in the reflection she noticed a vase full of flowers wilting rapidly. The shine became more prominent until her irises were completely gold.

Guinevere screams.

———

Morgana didn’t get mad when her maid didn’t show up for work, unlike some of the others in the castle. She couldn’t expect her to always be there on time; she had a life of her own after all.

So when Gwen wasn’t there when she woke up, Morgana didn’t think much of it. This wasn’t like the young woman, but she wasn’t going to get angry about it. She only got concerned as the day passed and Gwen still didn’t show up at all. She didn’t see her until the very next day, but that didn’t quell much of her worry.

Gwen’s face was ashen and she looked scared about something. Her muscles were tense and she seemed very exhausted, like she hasn’t slept in twenty-four hours. She was there when Morgana woke up, but she just mumbled a “good morning” and kept her back turned the entire time.

Something was wrong.

“Gwen?” Morgana called out, sitting up in her bed. “Is everything okay? Why didn’t you come in yesterday?”

“My apologies, my lady,” Gwen said quickly, “I wasn’t feeling well and I didn’t want to make you sick, too, so I stayed home. I’ll work extra today to make up for it.”

“If you are ill then you shouldn’t be working today, either.” Morgana says, standing up. “Maybe you should go home.”

“No, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”

Gwen shuffles over to the dresser and started looking through the dresses. She heard her mistress approaching from behind and froze when her shoulder was touched. She willed herself not to do anything, but she heard the quiet cracks of the glass on the window. The fear grew, as did the cobwebs spreading further across the window. Morgana noticed, but didn’t draw back her hand.

“What in the...?” She muttered.

Gwen shuts her eyes tightly, digging her fingernails into her palms. Inside of her head, she was screaming. She screamed at herself to stop this but she didn’t know how. The chipping sounds got louder and the window suddenly shatters, spewing razor sharp shards in every direction.

Both women scream and Gwen reeled backwards. Morgana steps back and whipped her head around to look at her maid.

Pale green met gold.

“Lady Morgana?!”

A guard rushed in and Gwen turned around to hide her discolored eyes from sight. She was trembling and began fearing the worst.

“Lady Morgana, what happened in here? Are you alright?” The guard asked, stepping into the room to take in the damage done. “Did you maid do this?”

Gwen considered grabbing a piece of glass and gouging out her eyes right then and there, but she couldn’t get herself to move.

“No, she didn’t.” Morgana said, stepping in between her maid and the man. “I did.”

“You did?” The guard raised his eyebrows in surprise. “How?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Morgana waved a hand dismissively, “What matters is that we’re both okay.”

“Right. Of course.” The guard nodded.

“You may go now. I’ll get her to clean this up right away.”

Perfect! That was an amazing opportunity to kill herself!

The guard bobbed his head and exited the room, leaving the two alone in silence with a floor covered in glass. Gwen knelt down and went to start picking up the pieces, not caring that her hands were uncovered and she could get cut. A warm hand grabbed her own and she didn’t dare look up at her mistress crouched beside her.

“Guinevere,” Morgana says softly, “Guinevere, I need you to look at me.”

The smaller of the two slowly, begrudgingly lifted her head to make eye contact.

“What was that?” Morgana asked quietly.

“I don’t know.” Gwen whispered fearfully, “I-I really don’t know. It just /happened/. That’s why I didn’t come in yesterday. I-I don’t know what’s going on.”

She had an idea, actually, but didn’t want to believe it was true. The result from it would be disastrous so she had to pray that it wasn’t the case.

The words were bubbling up in her throat and she tried to choke them back but it felt impossible. The terror built and her chest began to ache.

“I think-“ She spoke breathlessly, “I think I have magic.”

Gwen tried to bite off her tongue, but she could only draw blood, not sever it completely. What was she thinking? She couldn’t just go blabbering this to the king’s ward, even if she was her best friend. The consequences could lead to her death and she thought about throwing herself out the window to just get it over with.

Morgana was silent- not a good sign. She seemed to be considering something; maybe if she wanted to call for Uther or not. In the end, she wrapped a comforting arm around Gwen’s trembling frame and held her securely. Not exactly the reaction her maid was expecting.

“Magic?” She murmured.

Gwen made a choked sound and screwed her eyes shut. She kept thinking a blade was going to come down through her throat at any second, ending her life and severing the horrible ability she may now possess.

“I-I don’t know. I’m sorry, my lady.” She stammered, “What is /wrong/ with me? This-this has never happened before. It-it doesn’t make any sense.”

“How about we go see Gaius?” Morgana suggested. “He’ll know what to do.”

Gwen wanted to scream and run away or fling herself out the window, but she only ended up nodding. She didn’t really want anyone else knowing, but Gaius could be trusted and she had to hope it was all a misunderstanding.

Morgana helped her stand, keeping one arm around her securely. Gwen staggers when she walked- a newborn colt had more balance than she did. She kept her head down to avoid the stares they were probably getting and to hide her eyes, which still might be discolored.

When they stepped into Gaius’ tower, Gwen’s blood ran cold when she saw that Arthur was in there. She couldn’t go blabbering that she might have magic in front of the prince of a kingdom where said power was highly illegal. Morgana seemed to realize this, too, and squeezed her in a comforting way.

“Morgana?” Gaius raised an eyebrow at the pair and Merlin peeked over from the staircase.

Great, he was here, too.

“You two look comfortable like that.” Arthur snorted, “Cold?”

Gwen refuses to lift her head, but she’s almost positive he has a smug expression. The usual for him.

“Definitely. Much colder than the armory.” Morgana said without missing a beat.

The prince furrowed his eyebrows.

“Excuse me?”

“The armory.” Morgana repeats, “It’s on fire. I came in here to tell you.”

“What?!” Arthur yelped, “It was Gwaine, wasn’t it? Of course would be! Damn him.”

He hurried out, grumbling about his knight and the apparent fire. Gwen never realized the prince was that gullible; or maybe Morgana was just really good at persuading others. Probably both.

Gaius went to say something about this, but stopped when he noticed Morgana smirking and shaking her head at him.

“Please explain to me why you made up a fire.” He says.

“Guinevere needed to see you and Arthur couldn’t be in here.” Morgana answers.

Merlin quietly steps down from the staircase and pretends to be doing something with herbs. It’s obvious he was trying to act natural so he wouldn’t be told to leave, too. Honestly, he didn’t matter. He was one of Gwen’s best friends and knew he wouldn’t rat her out. And the king probably wouldn’t even believe him if he did.

“Oh?” Gaius raised his eyebrow, “About what?”

Gwen swallowed hard and she felt Morgana nudge her encouragingly. When she finally got herself to speak, the words scraped down her throat like jagged hot iron.

“I think I have magic.”

Merlin spits out the water he was drinking. The other three look at him and he stops choking to stare back at them. Then, he whips his head down and goes back to pretending to do something in silence.

“Magic?” Gaius exclaimed, but made sure to keep his voice down. “Guinevere, that is absurd. You don’t have magic.”

“Yeah, how could she have magic?” Merlin piped up, “Someone like her? You’re just a serving girl.”

Morgana glares at him and he jumped a little.

“N-no, that’s what I thought, too.” Gwen says, “But I saw it, Gaius. I /felt it/. Everything started to break without me touching it. Like my mugs at home! They just shattered out of nowhere.”

“You probably set them too close to the edge.” Gaius tried to reason.

“I didn’t!” Gwen said, getting slightly worked up. “Gaius, they were nowhere close to falling. And-and the window in Lady Morgana’s room j-just broke this morning!”

Morgana nods, vouching for her claim.

“It’s true, Gaius. I saw it happen.”

“Guinevere-“

“I have magic, Gaius. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but-“

Gwen was getting way too overwhelmed. That feeling like she had to run away returned, but her legs wouldn’t move. She felt a familiar hot sensation course through her veins and, suddenly, Merlin’s scarf is on fire.

The serving boy yelped loudly, jumping backwards before realizing he couldn’t flee from something that was on him. He tore off the scarf and dunked it into a pot of water nearby.

Gwen has her hands over her mouth, eyes flickering menacing marigold. If all the glass shattering wasn’t bad enough, now she could light things on fire without wanting to? She could have seriously injured one of her best friends.

Gaius looks utterly shocked and speechless. The first thing he does is check on Merlin, who luckily didn’t get hurt. His poor scarf, on the other hand, didn’t quite come out unscathed. After assuring that the secret warlock was okay, he turned to Gwen, who has managed to back herself into a corner.

“Oh god,” Gwen whispered over and over again. “Oh god. Merlin, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t /want to/.”

“Gwen, it’s okay,” Merlin attempts to reassure her. “See? I’m not hurt. I’m fine.”

“It’s not okay! I could have badly injured you. I could have /killed you/! Oh god, if I had...” She trails off into incomprehensible fearful muttering.

Gaius exchanges a look with Morgana, who looks equally as concerned about this. He couldn’t quite wrap his head around what was going on. Never had he expected Guinevere, the serving girl, to have magic. It never crossed his mind once.

“Guinevere, I need you to listen to me.” He started softly and he saw Gwen’s eyes dart up slightly to look at him, “You were correct. You have magic.”

Gwen would have yelled, “I told you so!” if she had a voice to speak with. She was too scared to talk or even be smug about this.

“We aren’t going to turn you in. But you have to her extremely careful. Other people might not be as kind.”

That didn’t help at all. Merlin and Morgana both seemed to agree, as they hissed softly when that was said.

“What?” Gaius said, hearing them, “It’s the truth. That’s what I told both of you.”

“You-you have magic?” Gwen asked her friends softly.

“We do.” Merlin nodded, “We can help you, okay? It can’t be that hard?”

Morgana snorted and Gaius rolled his eyes.

“Just look on the bright side of things, Gwen.” Merlin tried to cheer her up, “We three could be a trio! Of magic users! Two witches and a warlock! Like three peas in a pod!”

Morgana slapped her forehead.

“Could you be any louder about this?”

“You’re just jealous you didn’t come up with the idea first.”

“I am not.”

“With that attitude I don’t think you should even be allowed to be in the trio.”

Merlin crosses over to Gwen and manages to coax her out of the corner. He squeezes her shoulder comfortingly.

“Everything will be okay, Gwen. Magic isn’t as bad as the king makes it out to be.”

It was if you couldn’t control it at all. Gwen didn’t have to energy to argue with him on that right now and just nodded quietly.

She thanked all the gods out there that she didn’t trigger her magic when Arthur suddenly bursted through the door. She tensed and Merlin and Morgana seemed to sense her panic and stepped in front of her, just in case her eyes decided to switch colors.

“There was no fire!” He yelled and Morgana laughed at how gullible he was. He blinked a few times and sniffed the air. “But maybe there was in here. What happened?”

———

It’s not that Guinevere was afraid of herself, but-

No. Wait. That’s exactly what it was.

The things magic could do was limitless it seemed. So many ways to cause destruction and hurt people. She almost started to understand why Uther made it illegal. Too bad that she was now one of those people who would be killed for having the ability.

Gwen quickly tried to educate herself more on magic, though that was difficult since there weren’t many books on it left. She had to ask Gaius and Merlin and Morgana about some things, but she felt like she was just bothering them when she did. This was her problem, not theirs. She couldn’t continue to drag other people down into this hole with her.

She wondered if other could notice something was wrong with her. Standing next to her was like standing too close to a volcano. Not safe in the slightest.

There were many effects that Gwen didn’t like about her new ability, and one of them was definitely what happened to her in the dining hall that one evening.

One moment, there was just the normal chatter during dinner. Then, voices. Hundreds of voices that were way too loud and way too discernible.

When is the next council meeting going to be?

Are we going to go on any quests anytime soon? I didn’t become a knight to patrol the city everyday.

What would the king say if I asked to get my pay raised? Actually, I don’t think I want to ask him anymore. His reaction probably wouldn’t be in my favor.

What would it be like to be a woman?

How is the prince still single?

The king should really do something about the bandits terrorizing my village already.

It didn’t take Gwen long to realize the voices were not only familiar, but they were also rebounding around in her skull. Hundreds of other people’s thoughts filled her mind and the sudden pain it brought with it was nearly unbearable. It felt like her head was being split open.

Gwen staggered backwards and entered the firestorm that was the king’s mind. An inferno of blazing, angry thoughts forcefully burned their way into her head. Yelling and growling overcame all the other talking she heard, so loud she felt like it might make her go deaf.

She ripped herself free from the wildfire, leaving a horrible and painful feeling stinging in her brain. She stumbled, knocked somethings over, and then ran out of the dining hall. Voices griped at her for something, but she didn’t bother listening to them. She just had to get away as the adrenaline urged her forward.

Gwen collapsed eventually, landing hard on her knees. She pressed her hands over her ears and screamed, unable to hold back the cry itching in her throat. She muttered and begged and sobbed for the voices to stop- for her magic to just go away or turn off or to mute the voices. She never asked for mind reading; that was just torture!

In the middle of her mental breakdown, a cool drizzle eased the burning in her mind. She fell into an oasis shrouded with silver mist. Gentle rain pattered down onto her soothingly.

“Guinevere!”

Morgana’s arms around around her. Gwen slips deeper into a crystal clear pool of water. Her aching body is embraced and she relaxed slightly, even when the new voice starts to talk. Even though the tone was worried and panicked, it remained easy to listen to.

“Gwen, I’m here. It’s okay. It’s Morgana. I’m right here.” Her mistress said, rubbing up and down her back.

Gwen curls into her, shuddering in pain. A hot, thrumming sensation throbs behind her eyes and she absolutely hates it. She’s sure her irises have faded to glowing gold again, so she keeps her head down.

“It’s okay, Gwen. I’m right here. You’re okay.”

The pain worsens and Gwen considered ramming herself into the wall at full force so she would be knocked unconscious. Once again, though, she couldn’t move. Being paralyzed seemed to just be a common feeling for her.

“Can you stand?” Morgana asked, “I’ll take you to Gaius.”

“N-no, my lady, I-“ Gwen wheezes, “Make it stop. /Please/. I can’t- I can’t take this anymore.”

Morgana held her closer and Gwen relishes it. She clutches onto the ward’s sleeves, clinging as tightly as a drowning woman would to the edge of a boat. Her head tucks beneath her mistress’ chin and she feels a little bit safer.

“I know, Gwen. I know. It’s extremely hard at first, but it’ll get easier, I promise. You’ll learn to control it.”

Gwen sniffled and then nodded slightly. She chose to believe Morgana; it’s the only thing that would comfort her and quell her fears. She clung tighter.

“I’ll be right here with you, okay? Every step of the way. I promise.”

Gwen inhaled shakily and nodded again. She still didn’t know where she got her magic from, but she kept telling herself that it wouldn’t feel like a sin for forever. As long as she didn’t keep lighting people on fire, then maybe she could see it as a gift and not a curse.