When Arthur was three, he learned what a secret was. He’d been waving his hands in the air as his nursemaid cleaned his chambers, following the red string that wrapped once around his wrist before disappearing out the window. It danced on an imaginary breeze as he watched, loose and free in the morning light.
“And what are you doing over there, my prince?” His nursemaid had asked.
“I’m watching the string.” He’d answered, then gave her funny look because wasn’t it obvious?
“What string?” She’d asked, and Arthur hadn’t recognized the panic back then.
“The string around my wrist.” Arthur tugged on it, laughing as it wrapped around his fingers. “It’s soft.”
He couldn’t really remember what happened after that. There was a lot of hushed voices, and then a lot of yelling. He remembered his father screaming at his nursemaid until she cried, and crying himself even when he knew he wasn’t supposed to. Princes weren’t supposed to cry.
Something he had never forgotten, however, was the way his father stalked towards him and gripped his shoulders tight. It had stopped his tears, but he still sniffled as his father stared at him.
“Arthur.” He’d said. “You must never tell anyone that you can see your heartstring, do you understand me?”
Arthur had nodded, even while asking quietly. “Why?”
“Because it’s magic son. And what have I told you about magic?”
“It’s evil.” Arthur whispered, fearful of all the terrifying stories he’d been told. “Does that mean I’m evil Father?”
A large hand had pulled his head to his father’s chest. “Of course not Arthur. You’re my son. But you must never tell anyone else of this. Sorcerers could use it against you.”
“Okay Father.” Arthur had said, and that was his first big secret.
When Arthur was seven, he learned what a soulmate was. Everyone in the world had one. Gaius had even told him some people had more than one. Arthur thought those people very lucky – they’d never be lonely, with three or four or twenty soulmates! Gaius had just thought it funny when he’d said so.
Gaius had told him many things that day. Like how soulmates felt a strong pull towards each other, and once they touched for the first time, they knew right away they belonged together. Gaius said it was like coming home after spending the day in the forest or sitting by the fire on a cold winter night. Arthur had asked if he had found his soulmate, and Gaius had drawn away, looking sadder than Arthur had ever seen him. He hadn’t asked again.
Then Gaius had told him about magic soulmates. Sorcerers, and their soulmates, had a unique ability no one else did.
“If someone has magic.” Gaius had told him. “Or if their soulmate has magic, then they’ll be able to see their heartstring.”
Arthur almost gasped aloud. It was only his prince training that kept him from visibly reacting. He shot a glance down to his wrist. The ever-present red string was there, weaving merrily through the air like it was putting on a show. It curled around his left arm, as if asking him to dance.
Gaius was still talking. “This, of course, makes it extremely easy for sorcerers and their soulmates to find each other. They can simply follow their heartstring until it leads them to their other half. They say the first touch is even more intense between magical soulmates. One pair was said to have shaken the very earth when they touched.”
Arthur wasn’t really paying attention anymore. He was staring at his heartstring as it disappeared through the window behind Gaius’s head. If he followed it, Arthur had wondered, what would he find? His soulmate. The one that Gaius had said was his other half. But how could that be true? Because Arthur could see his heartstring, and Arthur definitely didn’t have magic. Which meant his soulmate was a sorcerer.
His soulmate was evil.
Gaius had dismissed him not soon after, saying there wasn’t much point in continuing the lesson if Arthur wasn’t going to pay attention. Arthur was just glad to be away. He was so confused, and he wanted to ask Gaius to explain how Arthur’s soulmate could be evil, but it was his first big secret and he had promised his father he would never tell anyone.
He had all but ran back to his room. He wanted to be alone. He needed to think, and his father always sent people away when he needed to think, so surely it would help Arthur.
Ten minutes later a maid had arrived, telling him the king had requested his presence in his chambers. Arthur had sighed, but he couldn’t ignore his father, and he definitely couldn’t ignore his king.
“Arthur.” His father had called as he entered his chambers. “Come here.”
His father was standing by the window, watching the people of Camelot move around below. Arthur got on his tip toes to peer out at their people.
“Camelot is peaceful.” His father said, and Arthur knew from his tone that he had to listen closely. “It is peaceful and prosperous. Do you know why?”
“Because you’re a great king?” Arthur asked, tilting his head back to look at his father.
There was a chuckle, and then a warm hand ruffled his hair. “Yes son. But there is another reason. Camelot is the great city it is because I have made it my life’s goal to destroy the evils of magic.”
Arthur gulped, looking back out the window. The red blur of his heartstring wound down and out the closed window, into the town below.
“Arthur.” His father said, and suddenly he was spun around to stare his father in the eyes. “There is something you must understand. All magic is corruptible, and all that use it are evil.”
“I know Father.” Arthur had said, though his eyes wondered to his wrist. “They want to destroy us.”
“Exactly.” His father affirmed. “Which is why you must never allow yourself to get near your soulmate.”
Arthur jerked, look at his father with wide eyes. “What?”
“Don’t pretend Arthur.” His father admonished. “You can see your heartstring, which means your soulmate is a sorcerer. You must never let yourself be tainted by their evil, do you understand me?”
Arthur nodded, the motion more of a jerk than a nod. It seemed to placate his father.
Arthur frowned, worry curling tight around his chest to sink it’s claws into his heart. “What if they sneak up on me? I don’t want to be evil.”
His father hesitated, then his eyes glinted like hard steel. “If ever your soulmate gets that close to you, you must kill them.”
Arthur was pretty sure he stopped breathing. In the corner of his eye he watched his heartstring shrivel and curl in on itself. Everything in him wanted to say no. This person was his other half! How could his father order him to kill them?
But his father was the king, and he was very wise. And anyway, sorcerers were evil. You were supposed to kill them, before they could kill you.
Arthur struggled, but ultimately, he nodded. “Yes Father.”
And then Arthur had his second big secret. If he were to ever meet them, he would have to kill his soulmate.
Morgana arrived at the castle when he was eight. He had thought they could be friends, since Morgana had lost her parents and his father had said she would need a friend. But then he met her. She was ten, and very quiet, and refused to play with Arthur. She called him stupid and said that he was terrible with a sword. Arthur had hit her for that, and then they’d both been escorted to Gaius.
Gaius had tittered when they came in, both bruised and covered in dirt. Morgana refused to look up from the ground, and Arthur had glared at his fist. His cheek throbbed where Morgana had scratched it and his hand stung where she had bitten it after he’d punched her.
“What’s this then?” Gaius had asked as he tilted Arthur’s chin in the light. “Have you two been fighting like a pair of wildlings?”
Arthur pouted. “She started it! She called me stupid!”
Morgana crossed her arms, still not looking up from the floor. “If you don’t like being called stupid, then you shouldn’t be stupid.”
Arthur gasped. “You can’t talk to me like that! I’m the prince!”
“Prince Arthur.” Gaius warned, and Arthur fell silent. “Lady Morgana is your father’s ward now. You have to treat her with respect.”
Arthur glared as Gaius finished with him and moved to Morgana. She let him tilt her head and examine the bruise forming on her jaw.
“Lady Morgana, please hold your hair back for me.” She did so, still silently staring at the ground. “What prompted you to insult the prince, my lady.”
Morgana’s eyes flickered to his, and Arthur couldn’t resist sticking his tongue out at her. She glared back.
“He wouldn’t leave me alone, and then when I suggested we play knights, he said I couldn’t hold a sword because I’m a girl, and all girls are weak.” She winced as Gaius poked her bruise gently. “So I called him stupid, because that’s stupid.”
Gaius frowned. “It’s true, woman are far from weak. I have known many excellent woman warriors in my time.”
“Really?” Arthur had asked, disbelieving.
Gaius had nodded, stepped back, and let Morgana go. “Indeed. But that is in the past. Now, no more fighting you two. I don’t want to see you back here again.”
Gaius had shooed them out then. They had shared a glare, then walked off in different directions.
Arthur tried to avoid Morgana after that. She was odd, and very clearly didn’t want Arthur’s company, or anyone’s from what he had heard. She snapped at everyone, even his father. Arthur thought she was hiding something. His father scolded him and told her she had just lost her father. She needed time, he said.
Arthur had rolled his eyes when his father wasn’t looking, but he did feel a little guilty for hitting her now. Arthur had never known his mother, and he still missed her so much it hurt some days. He tried to imagine losing his father, and then quickly decided he’d give Morgana another chance. Maybe she did just need time, like his father had said.
He made his way to her chambers to offer his friendship for the second time, and maybe he’d let her sword fight with him, if she asked very nicely. When Arthur had gotten close enough to knock on the door, there was a faint tremor under his feet. His heart beat in panic as he thought of the stories of earthquakes, of how entire castles had fallen and crushed everyone in them.
It took a second, but finally the tremors stopped. Arthur shakily put a hand on the ground, making sure that it was unmoving beneath his feet. Once he was sure the castle wasn’t going to fall down around him, he burst into Morgana’s room. The girl in question was sitting on the floor, a young serving girl Arthur had never seen before sitting in front of her.
“Did you feel that!” Arthur yelled, then took in the state of the room with ever-widening eyes.
Morgana glanced around at the mess of her room, panicked. “No!”
Arthur frowned. “The whole castle shook. It was like an earthquake! There’s no way you missed it.”
Morgana huffed and got to her feet, one hand tugging the serving girl to stand with her. “Maybe it was all in your head. You can be so pig headed I wouldn’t be surprised if you imagined the castle shaking.”
“Hey!” Arthur growled, because really, he’d come here to be friends and she was acting worse than last time. “I’m not pig headed! You’re just hiding something!”
He didn’t mean it, not really, because he had come to believe his father’s claims of her just missing her father, but at her sharp gasp and the way the serving girl hid behind her Arthur had thought maybe his original suspicions hadn’t been too far off.
“You are hiding something.” Arthur hissed, and stepped closer. “Tell me what it is.”
“No!” Morgana yelled, one hand on her hip, the other still holding the other girls’ hand. “It’s none of your business!”
“I’m the prince!” Arthur argued, though Morgana really should know by now. “Everything is my business. And anyway, who are you?”
The serving girl squeaked as he turned his attention to her. “I’m Guinevere, my lord.”
Arthur narrowed his eyes. “I haven’t seen you in the castle before.”
“Leave her alone Arthur.” Morgana snapped. “She’s new.”
Arthur decided to let it go, because the girl did look terribly frightened, and he highly doubted she was any kind of threat. “What’s your secret then?”
Morgana glared daggers. “Nothing, now leave us alone!”
Arthur had taken a step back then, to survey the room and its contents with the eyes of the strategist his father wanted him to be, and that was what made everything click. He glanced from Morgana to the serving girl – Guinevere – and then at their tightly clasped hands. Like they never wanted to let go.
His breath caught. “You’re soulmates.”
Morgana pounced. Arthur cried out as she rammed into him, only just managing to avoid slamming his head hard on the floor. Morgana was panting hard, and she looked terrified, like Arthur was the one attacking her. She raised a hand to punch him, and he focused long enough to block it and roll out from under her.
He had scrambled as far away as he could get, all the way back to the door, panting and confused and maybe a little bit scared. “What was that for!”
Guinevere was standing still, hands covering her mouth and tears in her eyes. Morgana picked herself up off the floor and immediately ran to take her hand again. Guinevere glanced from her to Arthur, and she looked like she was far more scared of Arthur than Morgana, which he thought was remarkably unfair. She had attacked him; she was the scary one!
“You can’t tell anyone.” Morgana commanded.
Arthur frowned, not liking her tone one bit. “I don’t have to do anything you tell me. I’m the prince.”
Morgana still, infuriatingly, didn’t seem to care for his status. “But you can’t tell anyone!”
“Why not?” Arthur asked, crossing his arms. “You’re crazy. You attacked me out of no where! Maybe I should tell Father so he can protect your soulmate from your insanity.”
“No!” Both girls yelled, and it startled Arthur so much he almost fell back against the door.
“You can’t.” Morgana hissed, and Arthur realised how serious she was when he saw the beginnings of tears in her eyes.
“Please sire.” Guinevere whispered, pleading.
He blinked, looking around the room again, something whispering in the back of his mind that he chose to ignore. “Alright. I won’t tell anyone.”
Both girls sighed in relief.
Guinevere smiled. “Thank you sire!”
He nodded, then narrowed his eyes at Morgana. “Are you going to tell me why?”
“No.” She said, challenging him to say more.
Arthur huffed. “Fine.”
He had hesitated then, knowing the girls probably wanted him gone, but he was curious, and they owed him. He moved back into the room, sitting in a nearby chair.
“What’s it like?” He asked, because he had to know, since his own soulmate was evil and he’d never get to experience this. “The first touch?”
Guinevere sighed, melting back to the floor as Morgana sunk to her knees. “It’s like sitting by my father’s forge in the evening. Cosy and warm.”
Morgana nodded. “It was like seeing the world all over again, except everything was more. All the colours were brighter, and all the sounds were louder. It was overwhelming, but I’d never felt more alive.”
Arthur watched out of the corner of his eyes as his heartstring moved to their words, winding and dancing through the air. “That’s what Gaius said it was like.”
He sighed wistfully, and Guinevere tried to smile reassuringly. “I’m sure you’ll find your soulmate some day soon my lord. Then you’ll understand.”
Arthur looked to where his heartstring disappeared out of the window, a lie already heavy on his tongue. “I hope so.”
He had left the girls then, though he surprised Morgana with an offer to teach her sword fighting if she really wanted. She had given him a smile then; the first one Arthur had ever seen on her face. It looked better on her than her frown, at least.
And so, Arthur ended that day with his third and maybe most important secret. Morgana and Guinevere were soulmates, and no one could know, for reasons he hadn’t been told. Although, perhaps if he had looked a little closer, or listened a little more to that nagging voice in the back of his mind, he would have figured it out on his own.
When Arthur was ten, he got very sick. He felt freezing, but everyone kept insisting he was burning like a raging fire. Nothing he ate seemed to want to stay down, and he barely had the energy to sit up, let alone walk around and be a proper prince. He hated it. It had felt like he had been sick for a lifetime.
Gaius didn’t know what was wrong with him. He thought Arthur was dying. Arthur agreed with him on his worse days, when even the smell of food had him heaving sick into a chamberpot. It certainly felt like dying.
Of course, Gaius hadn’t said so to his face. He had told his father, on one of the nights when the king put aside his duties to just sit with his son. They had thought he was asleep. There had been whispering, mostly about things Arthur couldn’t understand, but he understood enough. He was sick with something Gaius had never seen before, and he was slowly dying from it.
His father visited him every day, mostly in the evenings. Morgana and Gwen visited him twice a day, always just after breakfast and just before it was time for him to sleep. They were brilliant company, his two closest friends, and Arthur loved every minute with them because it was infinitely better than the pressing silence of his room. Once, he got a visit from one of the new squires that had taken Arthur under his wing. His name was Leon, and Arthur though he was going to make an excellent knight. He even told him so, on his visit, and he’d blushed and thanked him.
Gaius was in his room almost constantly. He was always shuffling about, from one test to another, trying to figure out what mysterious illness Arthur had fallen under. Nothing worked, and Arthur often watched through a fevered haze as the physician grew increasingly frantic as the days passed.
When Arthur developed a large rash all over his chest and back, Gaius had gone pale and dove straight for one of his books. He’d come back shaking and ordered a guard to fetch his father.
That was when Arthur knew he was going to die soon.
His father had arrived, red faced and formally dressed like when he was feasting with visiting nobles. Gaius had whispered something to him, and he had turned to Arthur with such grief in his eyes that he had to look away. A cough racked his body, and suddenly his father was there, rough hands gentle and cool against his head.
“There must be something you can do Gaius. Anything.” His father ordered, but to Arthur it sounded more like a plea.
“I’m sorry sire.” Gaius said, still pale and shaking and grief stricken, and Arthur wasn’t even dead yet. “But this is a powerful curse. I don’t know anyone that could stop it, especially not with how far along it is.”
Magic. So it was magic that had made him sick. Now it made sense why Gaius hadn’t been able to treat him. Gaius could treat anybody. But not against magic. He coughed again, and thought magic was the evilest thing in the world. If the sorcerer had wanted to kill him, why couldn’t they have done it quickly? His whole body hurt.
He had fallen back into sleep then, and from there his memories turned blurry. All he knew was that every breath hurt, and he’d never been so cold, even while he sweated more than he had in all his life. His father was by his side more often now. Gaius had seemed to have disappeared. Arthur guessed he wasn’t really needed now, since he was sick with magic that Gaius couldn’t heal.
The next thing that Arthur remembers clearly is a bright green light. It was one of those rare nights where Arthur had been left alone. He’d been doing better the day before, talking with Morgana and staying awake for almost the whole day. Gaius deemed it best if his father rested in his own room, and so reluctantly the king had left his bedside for the first time in days.
The green light pulled him from his sleep. It had slid in through his open window along with a cool breeze. Arthur shivered awake. He would have screamed when he saw the light, but he’d long lost the energy for such things. Instead he flinched back as far as he could, which was an inch to his left before his body betrayed him and collapsed. He could do nothing but watch the green light cautiously.
It seemed to float in the breeze, and it lit up Arthur’s entire room with its glow. He watched it for a moment, before realising something odd.
His heartstring was reaching for the light. It was as loose around his wrist as ever, but it danced as the light came close, drifting up until they were almost touching. Arthur held his breath as the green light circled his heartstring, something almost joyous in its movements.
Then Arthur coughed weakly, and the light jerked to a stop before it sped towards him.
He had yelled then, but it came out no louder than a whisper. He whimpered and closed his eyes seconds before he magic touched him. So this was how he would die. Tears sprang into his eyes and he cried, knowing he didn’t want to die just yet. He was only ten! He hadn’t even become king and ruled his people as his father did. He wasn’t supposed to die yet!
Then the magic sunk into his left arm, where his heartstring disappeared into his wrist. He could feel it, tingling underneath his skin as it made its way into his heart. The instant it his his chest Arthur gasped.
In seconds he was completely calm. He knew this magic, even if he had never felt it before. It was the same magic connected to his heartstring, the same magic his other half wielded. It was his soulmate, and it was there to help.
Within minutes Arthur had felt better than he had in weeks. The magic tingled through his entire body, and he relaxed into his sheets with a sigh. In the instant before he fell asleep, he’d thought that perhaps his soulmate, and their magic, wasn’t so bad after all.
He woke to Gaius and his father hovering over him. The first thing he realised was that nothing hurt anymore. The second thing he realised was that he didn’t feel cold. In fact, with so many blankets piled on him, he felt a little too warm. He relished in it, having thought he’d never feel warm again.
“What happened?” His father whispered, as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
Gaius leaned over him, pulling his still sleepy body this way and that as Arthur protested weakly. “It would seem that he has been completely healed sire.”
“How?” His father growled. “You said it was a curse, that nothing could be done.”
“It was my soulmate.” Arthur said before he could think any better of it.
The two men froze, his father gaping at him. “What?”
Arthur cleared his throat, wishing he had some water to clear the croak he had when he spoke. “My soulmate healed me. They sent a green light last night.”
He managed to stop himself from telling his father how pretty it was, or about how nice and safe it had felt as it drew the curse from him, but it was a near thing.
His father launched forward and grabbed his arms tightly, ignoring Arthur’s surprised cry and struggles. “Are you absolutely sure Arthur?”
“Yes!” Arthur said, energy waning again as he tried to pry his father’s fingers off him. “My heartstring was dancing around it, and when the magic touched me I knew. They sent it to make me better!”
He snapped his mouth shut in horror as his father’s face turned pale, then a furious red. Arthur stopped struggling and fell back into his bed, shaking slightly. His soulmate had used magic to heal him, and last night Arthur had thought that maybe it meant not all sorcerers were evil. But what if it was a trick? What if…
“Am I corrupted now?” He asked, tears already gathering in his eyes, though he refused to let them fall.
“No sire.” Gaius said instantly, shooting a frown at his father.
The king schooled his expression, hands loosening from their death grip. “No son. But you must not let this cloud your judgement. This was more than likely a trick to get you to trust magic and turn you against me.”
Arthur’s eyes widened. “I would never Father.”
He got a smile for that, tight lipped as it was. “I know Arthur.”
Gaius had cleared his throat then, and ordered Arthur get more rest. He obliged, and within two days he felt healthier than ever before. Gwen called it a miracle, while Morgana just gave him a weird look and told him she was happy he was better.
He never told anyone, for it was a secret that was all his own and he wanted to keep it that way, but he knew without a doubt that despite everything he’d been told, his soulmate’s magic had made him feel safer than all the guards his father assigned to protect him. He knew he shouldn’t be swayed by it. Knew it was dangerous thinking.
His biggest secret was one he could never tell anyone – that, perhaps, magic wasn’t so evil after all.
On Arthur’s fifteenth birthday, almost all of his secrets were discovered all at once by the one person he had always suspected would find out one day.
He had just finished cleaning himself up after his birthday feast. He had felt like he was flying, after having been knighted for all to see that morning, then allowed to drink as much wine as he wanted at his feast. It was a great honour, and Arthur could feel the drink buzzing through his whole body.
He was relaxing in his bed, idly watching his heartstring float around his room. It was something he tried to avoid doing, but the drink made him forget why he was supposed to ignore his tie to his soulmate. He found himself waving both his arms around, giggling drunkenly to himself as his heartstring curled around his fingers and wiggled in his palms.
He hadn’t heard the door open, or noticed the footsteps approaching him.
It was only when Morgana gasped, her eyes trained on his hands waving in the air, that he realised how much trouble he was in.
He had scrambled up, practically throwing himself off the bed. His head spun, and he staggered as his stomach complained about the sudden movement. His heart had beat so fast that in a moment of drunken panic Arthur had thought it would beat right out of his chest.
“Morgana!” He yelled, louder than he had been planning. “What are you doing in my chambers? You can’t just, just… burst in here whenever you want!”
Morgana ignored his slurred stuttering, staring at him with eyes far more sober and understanding than Arthur liked. “You were playing with your heartstring, weren’t you? You can see it!”
“No!” Arthur yelled. “That’s stupid!”
“Don’t lie!” Morgana hissed, stalking forwards until Arthur was forced to step back to avoid her finger poking him in the chest. “You can see your heartstring, can’t you?”
Arthur crashed into the wall, wincing as the back of his head started throbbing. “Go away Morgana.”
“Not until you tell me the truth!” Morgana yelled.
Frustration bubbled in Arthur’s chest, and before he could even think it through words were falling from his lips, words he was never meant to tell another soul. “Yes! Alright! I can see it! Are you happy now Morgana? Is that good enough for you? Going to run off and tell your soulmate so you can both giggle over how I’m never going to be able to have what you two have?”
Arthur glared at Morgana as the last of his words seemed to ring in his ears. Morgana had her hands over her mouth, eyes wide and shocked. A second later, Arthur realised what he had said. He gaped at Morgana, wondering where all of that had come from. Silently he swore to never drink so much ever again.
“Arthur.” Morgana breathed, hands still over her mouth. “Is that really what you think? You think we’d do that to you? That Gwen would?”
Arthur thought of Gwen and winced. “Of course not.”
They stood in silence for a moment, then Morgana gently guided him to sit down in his chair. It was only as he flopped into the cushions that he realised he was shaking. Morgana tutted and prodded at his head, only moving away when Arthur growled and weakly slapped at her arm. She sat across from from him, giving him a moment to gather himself.
“So your soulmate has magic.” She said bluntly.
Arthur winced again, though this time the pain wasn’t physical. “Well I certainly don’t.”
Morgana glared, but Arthur thought he was justified in snapping at her. She had just forced his deepest secret from him, and instead of dropping the subject like she should have and leaving him in peace, she was asking him obvious questions.
“Does anyone else know?” She asked.
Arthur shrugged. “My old nursemaid was the one who first realised what was going on, and she told my father. Gaius also knows, somehow, but I’m convinced Gaius knows everything.”
Morgana nodded, then frowned. “How long have you been able to see it?”
Arthur frowned too. “For as long as I can remember. It’s always just been there.”
“Don’t you think that’s weird?”
Arthur blinked. “What do you mean?”
“Well, if you’ve always been able to see your heartstring, that means your soulmate has always had magic. So they’re either twenty years older than you, or…” Morgana hesitated.
Arthur narrowed his eyes at her, not getting it. “Or what?”
Morgana took a deep breath. “Or they’ve always had their magic.”
“You mean, they were born with it? That’s impossible.” Arthur dismissed. “Magic is an evil, corruptible force that people choose to learn. Nothing I’ve ever heard or seen has proven that wrong.”
Morgana looked pointedly to his wrist. “Except your heartstring.”
Arthur shifted, uncomfortable. “That doesn’t prove anything. They’re probably just years older than me, like you said.”
“But what if magic isn’t something you choose?” Morgana pressed. “What if magic chooses you?”
“Morgana!” Arthur yelled. “That’s treason! You can’t talk like that!”
Morgana drew back, glaring at him again now. “Are you serious? Do you honestly still believe magic is evil? That your soulmate is evil?”
Arthur looked away. “Magic has hurt many people Morgana.”
“So have swords, but no one’s banned them!” She hissed. “Arthur, this is your soulmate we’re talking about! They’re literally your perfect partner! You can’t honestly think that they’re evil.”
And maybe, if Arthur was a little less drunk, he would have yelled and thrown Morgana out for that. Because it came dangerously close to his own thoughts, the ones that rose whenever he remembered a bright light sinking into his heart and making him feel safe and warm. He always did his best to shove those thoughts away. Curse Morgana for giving voice to them.
“What has your father told you?” She asked, drawing Arthur from his thoughts.
He glared at her, and once again his mouth moved before he could think. “What do you think Morgana? My soulmate is a sorcerer. And we all know what my father does to them.”
Morgana grasped his hand, almost crushing it her grip was so tight. “What has he told you?”
And Arthur found he couldn’t hold back this secret, not now she knew his first. “He commanded that if ever I should see my soulmate, I am to kill them before we can touch.”
Morgana hissed and jerked away from him like he had burned her, staring at him in horror, and maybe a little bit of pity. “You wouldn’t.”
Arthur huffed. “I must do as my king commands.”
“Arthur that’s your soulmate! Killing them would be like killing yourself! I couldn’t imagine losing Gwen, let alone killing her.”
“Well then.” Arthur snapped, tone growing dangerous. “Aren’t you lucky she isn’t a sorcerer.”
Morgana flinched back again, something raw and vulnerable in her eyes. Her hand curled into a fist, then relaxed, over and over as she seemed to wage an internal battle. Arthur watched, distantly curious, as she seemed to come to a conclusion.
“If she was.” Morgana said lowly. “If she did have magic, I wouldn’t let anyone hurt her. I’d protect her, no matter what.”
Arthur thought he probably shouldn’t be surprised, considering how Morgana had always fought for magic users to be judged fairly for their actions whenever his father caught them, rather than just executed right away for the crime of having magic. Arthur was, however, surprised at the look of fierce determination now on her face, and the words spilling out of her mouth.
“And you Arthur?”
He blinked, finally finding his voice again. “What about me?”
“If Gwen had magic, would you turn her in? Would you kill her?” She asked, gaze piercing.
Arthur barely needed anytime to consider it, the answer already on his tongue. “No.”
Something eased in Morgana then, even as something else tensed further. “And me? What if I had magic? Would you think me evil?”
“Of course not.” He snapped, frustration returning. “Not that it matters! Morgana, why don’t you go back to Gwen and just leave me alone.”
“It does matter.” She whispered.
Arthur paused, trying to figure out what she meant. “How?”
“Because!” She hesitated, looking from his face to her hands in her lap. “Because you aren’t the only one who can see your heartstring.”
Arthur reeled back, and somewhere in the back of his mind a voice was screaming at him to just run away from this whole mess. He didn’t want to hear what else Morgana had to say. Didn’t want to think about what it meant, for him, for her or for his father and his kingdom. But it was cowardly to run away, and Prince Arthur Pendragon was no coward.
“I’ve always been able to see mine too, ever since I can remember. My father told me to never tell anyone as well. That day I met Gwen, when she showed up in my chambers and my heartstring led to her, I-”
“The earthquake.” Arthur breathed, everything suddenly making sense. “That was you.”
Morgana nodded. “Our first touch. It was… intense.”
Arthur sat in silence for a moment, before finally speaking again. “And is she? Or- or you?”
Morgana smiled, tight lipped and if Arthur was being honest with himself, a little terrified. “We’ve both come to the conclusion that it’s not her.”
Arthur gulped. “How can you be sure?”
“For the past month or so I… I’ve been having these… dreams.” Morgana said slowly, something Arthur had never known her to do. “And when I wake up, those dreams happen. Like they weren’t dreams at all but… but visions.”
“You mean you dream of the future?” Arthur asked, and though he’d never admit it, he was impressed by the idea.
Morgana nodded. “We think so.”
Arthur took a deep breath, allowing himself a moment to come to terms with this new information. “Okay. Alright. You have magic.”
“Yes.” Morgana bit her lip. “Do you think I’m evil?”
“No!” Arthur said, leaping from his seat to fall to the floor next to her. “Morgana of course not. I’ve known you for years! You’re not evil. A little rough sometimes, but you’re not evil.”
Morgana laughed shakily. “You should get drunk more often. You actually show more than one emotion.”
Silence, and then.
“I won’t tell a soul, you have my word.”
Morgana sniffled. “Thank you. You have no idea- you don’t know what it’s like. Thinking you were born a monster. Even with Gwen to tell me otherwise, sometimes I can’t help but feel like maybe she’s wrong and it’s just a matter of time until I do something horrible.”
Arthur struggled to think of something, anything to say, and finally blurted out the first thing that popped into his mind. “So you were born with your powers?”
Morgana frowned. “Well I would certainly have never chosen to learn magic in Camelot!”
Arthur nodded. “I don’t believe anyone is born evil Morgana.”
“And if magic does corrupt those that use it? I might not have been born evil, but I could turn it.”
Morgana was pleading with him for an answer. An answer he honestly didn’t have. His whole life he’d been told the horrors of magic, the destruction it could bring. But looking at Morgana, all of that was flipped around. He couldn’t imagine her doing any of the things he’d been told sorcerers did. It felt wrong, just like killing his soulmate felt wrong, no matter who they were.
“If you’re the one that has magic.” Arthur said slowly. “Then I believe it can be used to help. To do good. Because you’re a good person Morgana. And I can’t imagine anything changing that.”
Morgana sniffled again, quickly leaning forward to pull him into a hug. Arthur pat her on the back awkwardly, trying to ignore the tears he could feel dripping onto his shirt. He got the feeling that was exactly what Morgana had needed to hear.
“Thank you Arthur. You’re a good person too.” She laughed wetly. “Especially when you’re drunk.”
“Sod off.” Arthur protested. “I’m not that drunk.”
And as Arthur walked Morgana back to her own chambers, where Gwen was tending to the fire waiting for her, he felt even lighter than he had before. All of his secrets he now shared with Morgana, and would soon be shared with Gwen, he was sure. Even the weight of Morgana’s magic, and how they would keep it hidden, couldn’t weigh him down. His grin felt like it would last forever, if forever could just be this one night.
When Arthur was twenty, his heartstring tightened around his wrist. It startled him so badly he almost threw his goblet across the high table at the feast his father had thrown for one of the new knights. His father had sent him a disapproving frown, and from his other side Morgana glanced at him in concern. Gwen hurried forward to clean up the wine he had accidentally spilled. He muttered a thank you under his breath, glancing down at his heartstring as he did.
The string, which was usually wrapped loosely around his wrist and left to float and dance around the room above his head before disappearing into the distance, was pulled tight. It had barely any room to tangle in the air, and for a moment Arthur wondered at how wrong that was. His heartstring had always flown free through the air. He’d never known it to act like this.
As it tightened further around his wrist, he realised what was happening, and cold fear gripped him.
His soulmate was getting closer to him.
His soulmate was coming.
His heartstring gave another tug.
Arthur felt like he couldn’t breathe.
The rest of the night passed in a blur. He could feel multiple eyes on him. His father glared at him every time he saw him glancing around the room. Morgana wouldn’t stop sending him concerned looks. He could feel Gwen’s eyes burning a worried hole in the back of his head. Even Leon threw him a few glances from his place among the other knights.
He ignored them all, sneaking glances at his steadily tightening heartstring.
When his father called the feast to an end, Arthur was the first to scramble from his seat and all but run out the door, court etiquette be damned. Morgana made to follow him, but he gestured for her to stay. His father’s glare burned a hole next to Gwen’s. He hadn’t cared.
He slammed the door to his chambers shut, breath coming fast as he stared at his wrist. His heartstring tugged, and he followed it to his window. He tossed it open, uncaring about the cold autumn air, and followed where it disappeared into the darkness. It tugged again.
His soulmate was coming to Camelot, and Arthur had never felt the weight of his secrets baring down on him quite this hard.