Title: Morgana, the Vampire Slayer
Word Count: 9,566 words
Warning(s): Slaying/violence, and some steamy scenes (but nothing graphic)
Summary: Into every generation, a slayer is born. Five years in the life of Morgana, the vampire slayer.
Disclaimer: Merlin does not belong to me.
A/N: My submission to the Ladies of Camelot AU Challenge. Prompt: Major AU: Morgana/Arthur; Morgana, the vampire slayer. And, yes, having Uther be her Giles. ;) Alas, though I wanted Giles-Uther as much as anybody else, it just didn't make sense canon-wise. Gaius got the dubious honor of Watcher in this.
A/N #2: Beta'd by ed_84, and special thanks to my flist; they totally helped and encouraged this fic into completion!
Morgana remembers a time when graveyards were a soothing comfort; she used to like the peace and quiet she found in walking through them, row after row, and perhaps it had something to do with the distant memory of her father walking alongside her toward her mother's grave.
Now though, if she can stop vampires from rising from them and trying to kill her, well, that would be lovely.
"Vampire slayer," a demon hisses, face distorted with ugly veins and a protruding brow. "Do not worry. Your death will be quick and painless-"
She stakes him without waiting for the delivery, watching the malformed face come apart in specks of ash and dust. "No quicker than yours," she quips under breath easily. She turns back, tossing a searching gaze about the nearby pile of hay, before an unruly head pops out. "Merlin! Are you all right?"
He scowls, spitting out straws of hay from his mouth. "I did not sign up for this!"
"Into every generation, a Slayer is born. One girl in all the world, a Chosen One. One born with the strength and skill to fight the vampires, and stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers. She alone is the Slayer."
Or so the story goes, anyway.
Gaius reads it in a book somewhere, and it essentially serves as their only source of information. It unravels because of another one of Morgana's strange dreams, except this time instead of the future, she has dreams of the past. Past slayers, past deaths, past demons that crawled up from the underworld and into theirs.
Two weeks later, vampires emerge in the back woods of Camelot and Morgana slays her first demon. One by one they appear, then in larger numbers, drawn towards their castle where the entrance of Hell lays still beneath their feet, envisaged as the gaping mouth of a huge monster.
Hellmouth, Gaius calls it.
She keeps the magic a secret because her life depends on it. Only two others know, Gaius and Merlin, and the later is drawn into their conspiracy when her secret is not so much as exposed, but exchanged.
"Morgana, the vampire slayer," Merlin mumbles in surprise. "It does have a certain ring to it."
"Merlin, the sorcerer," Morgana replies, testing the flavor of it in her mouth. "That just sounds... odd."
Merlin scoffs, rolling his eyes. "Better than Merlin, the manservant."
"I doubt Arthur would agree."
They both grow silent, staring at one another. There will be no telling anyone else these secrets, not even to Gwen and especially to Arthur. It would spell disaster for them all. The sting of these lies weighs heavily, but in Merlin, Morgana finds, she has a confidant. A friend. A true kindred spirit that understands her plight, even when she can't voice them.
"Morgana and Merlin," he says suddenly, cheekily. "You realize we could fight crime?"
"Morgana," Arthur warns, pulling his sword free. "You shouldn't be here. Go back with Gwen and Merlin-"
"Someone needs to watch your back."
"I am capable of taking care of myself."
"So am I," Morgana defies, creeping along his side with her own blade in hand. "Your manhood is not threatened by my presence."
"My sanity is," Arthur counters. "This is no place for a woman."
Morgana rolls her eyes, because oh, if only Arthur knew the foolishness of that statement. The night is dark, but when the demons attack, both Arthur and Morgana move back-to-back, swords clanging in the silent air with elegant twists and turns.
Morgana doesn't mean to show off; she tries so hard to maintain the ruse of a simple well-trained swordsman (or woman, more appropriately), but unlike training, during live battle Morgana has to let go. She flips a demon on his back, broadsides another, and jabs her sword into the chest of a third - all within a moment's breath. Her hair flares around her in a crown of locks as she whirls, blocking an attack and sending a demon twice her size reeling back to the ground.
When the demons lays slain, Arthur looks up at her in shook. "Where did you learn-How did you-"
Morgana shrugs dismissively. "Arthur, if you want me to teach you how to swordfight, you only need to use the wordplease once."
Arthur scowls, moving away, and the matter is dropped.
Belatedly, the presence of a counsel member appears at their gates to confirm the horrors. Gaius is appointed her Watcher as a matter of compromise and practicality, one risen under the hardships of Uther's reign that will not tolerate any magic in his kingdom, not even one that bestows his ward with the duty to save the world, over and over again.
But suspicions grow, whether Morgana is diligent or not.
"Morgana," Gwen whispers in concern, one morning. "I washed blood out of your clothes again last night."
Morgana stiffens, then shakes her head dismissively. "Think nothing of it, Gwen. Look at me. I am fine."
Morgana offers a laugh. "Gwen, do I have any wounds?"
"No," Gwen answers, expression pinched and worried. "And I am looking very closely."
The Seal of Danzalthar is a demonic symbol, featuring an inverted pentagram and something resembling a goat's head. It rests atop the Hellmouth, sealing it closed, and over the years there has been more than one demon that has tried to open it. It is Morgana's duty to make sure that never happens.
Some nights, it is easier said than done.
Tonight, there are two problems: a vampire, and his bitch of a demon dog. The beast is already in the air, leaping at Morgana's throat and she ducks, blocking teeth with her forearm, the bite piercing flesh down to her bone. Morgana launches the beast over her head and it goes sailing through the air, hitting the ground with a hard crash. For a moment it struggles vainly to its feet then collapses, unconscious.
She takes a moment to catch her breath, but the world is dizzying, spinning about her like a whirlwind.
"The bite," the vampire taunts, advancing on her helpless form. "The bite is deadly. You will not live through the nigh-"
The vampire stops, a startled expression appearing on his face, before he vanishes into dust and ash. As the cloud falls Morgana is stunned to discover Gwen standing there, holding a stake in her quivering hand. Morgana opens her mouth to voice her shock, but the world blackens around the edges and she collapses back to the ground.
"Morgana!" Gwen calls in horror, rushing to her.
"Vampire," Morgana coughs. "Poisoned beast."
"I know, I heard," Gwen replies in a rush. Morgana looks to her, studying the knowing expression on Gwen's face, the lack of shock or surprise to discover her lady fighting demons in the middle of the night. "I have known for several month, Morgana," she confesses softly. "You're a vampire slayer."
Morgana struggles to sit up. "How-why didn't you say anything?"
"Why didn't you?" Gwen counters, then shakes her head. "Never mind. We must get you to Gaius."
The trip back to the castle is long and arduous, and Morgana nearly blacks out at several points. Gwen wedges her arm further under the nearly dead weight of Morgana's body, and leads them through the roads and into the castle hallways. It's dark and late, but when they hear footsteps approaching behind them, they cannot escape the shadow that befalls them.
Arthur stops, staring at her in shock. "What the bloody hell happened?"
Morgana blissfully blacks out.
She awakes two days later, groggily, to find a rally of men around her. Uther is by her bedside, Gaius attends to her, Merlin stands in the doorway, and Arthur... Arthur is nowhere to be seen.
"Rest, child," Uther says. "You were poisoned, but all is well now. Rest and recover."
Morgana looks to Gaius first, then Merlin in the back. "You were attacked by a creature," Gaius says, his eyes imploring her to keep quiet and play along with whatever story he tells. "Lucky for you, Arthur stumbled upon you and managed to save you and kill the beast."
Morgana is too tired to even raise an eyebrow, incredulous. "Arthur saved me?"
Uther quiets her. "Rest, child. Close your eyes."
Morgana's eyes fall shut, almost despite herself.
"Arthur found out?"
Gwen feeds Morgana from a bowl of lukewarm soup. "You passed out in the hall," she explains, "and I pleaded with him to take you directly to Gaius. To not tell Uther. He agreed willingly, at first. But as Gaius worked to cure you, Arthur began asking questions. More and more, he became frustrated when I would not or could not answer. Then Merlin came, and there was a discussion - a fight, really. Things unfolded and... it became obvious to him that everybody else knew things he did not."
"What did he find out?"
"Everything," Gwen answers grimly. "About you being a slayer, about Merlin being a sorcerer. It just all came spilling out like a broken dam. It was horrible, Morgana. I have never seen Arthur look more betrayed."
Morgana's eyes widen. "Everything?"
Gwen glances away. "He did not take it well."
It's two days before Arthur speaks to her again, while Morgana recovers quietly in her bedchambers. Two days before she sees even a glimpse of him, and when he finally deems to see her, the visit erupts into a fight within moments.
"You will stop this at once," he says, arms crossed over his chest, obviously trying to use the authority of his bloodline on her. "This... slaying," he continues, like he just said a filthy word, "you can't continue it."
"It doesn't stop just because you-"
"We have knights in this kingdom to protect the people, Morgana. I don't need you running out into the darkness just because-"
Morgana rolls her eyes. "Closing my eyes and wishing away the darkness will not make it go away for me. This is my fate-"
"Stop saying things like that!" Arthur barks angrily. "These last few days, everybody has been telling me the same thing. That this is your destiny. That you're one girl in all the world meant to fight the darkness, and what bloody nonsense is that?! One girl? To fight all the demons in the world. Have all of you gone completely mad?"
Morgana's eyes narrow. "I am more capable than you think."
"It is not your capability that I question. It is the sheer absurdity of the claim. No one person can change the shape of the world."
"You will," Morgana counters, "as king."
Arthur waves that away. "That's different."
"So am I! So is Merlin! You can hate it all you want, but it doesn't change a thing."
They stare off at each other, both silent and fuming but Morgana suspects for entirely different reasons. She has no idea what Arthur's problem is; this is her duty, her calling, and it should make no difference to Arthur one way or another. Is it his ego? Does he feel like less of a man because Morgana is more capable with a sword than he - and she is. Even in this weakened state, she feels aggrieved enough to challenge Arthur to a duel to prove her-
"Morgana," Arthur speaks, in a voice so softly she has to strain to hear it. "This will get you killed one day."
Morgana stills, all anger fleeing her in a single breath. "I know."
He stares at her, eyes open and fear exposed, and Morgana reassesses him entirely. They aren't used to showing vulnerability with one another; they both almost always have their armor in place, but there are these moments - these rarely seen instances. Morgana stares at him and realizes Arthur Pendragon deeply cares for her, perhaps as more than just friends.
"I won't watch you die," he says.
"All great men and women dream of a peaceful life," Morgana counters softly, "but few of them are ever meant for it."
Arthur turns and strides away from her room without another word.
"Do not worry," Gaius soothes later, clutching her hand. "Arthur has a strong head on his shoulders, and he knows the hardships of duty. He'll come to terms with this. I only pray that it will happen soon."
She keeps silent for a moment. Morgana has always come running to Gaius with all her troubles and woes, ever since childhood. Through the years since his appointment as her watcher, he has become the encouraging father figure that Uther never was; Gaius appreciates her difficulties and uniqueness. But her relationship with Arthur is...complicated, and though Gaius is a calming presence, this time his words fail to inspire the solace she seeks. He couldn't understand.
"What of Merlin? Has he-"
"Arthur has revealed no secrets to anyone," Gaius answers quickly. "He will accept this. Just give him time."
"I do not know, Gaius. Arthur is a stubborn breed."
Gaius smiles knowingly. "He is one among many."
It is a full two months before the chill from Arthur begins to thaw, and that, too, is a forced hand.
The knife lands three inches from Arthur's head, quivering in the wood of the door. He looks up at her and scowls, and Morgana shrugs an apology before rolling once more toward the nearest weapon. Behind her, Merlin wields a magical incantation and throws a spell at the three-headed monster, while Morgana snatches the sword by its pummel and flips it around in a move that probably makes Arthur smirk or scowl.
"I suspect," Gwen says, afterwards, prodding a lump of disgusting flesh with her shoe, "that this is dead?"
"I wouldn't be so positive," Arthur remarks wryly, pulling her back by the arm. "Merlin, why don't you go touch it and make sure?"
Merlin scowls. "Why do you always send me to-"
"It's dead," Morgana insists, sheathing her sword. "Now, quickly, we must return to the castle before Uther suspects a thing."
Arthur pauses for a beat, and there is dead silence as he deliberates for a moment. Morgana wonders if he is retreating behind his wall again, back to the cold front that has been Arthur's mood ever since learning of Morgana and Merlin's secret. She's caught between two urges: hitting him upside the head for his stubbornness, and a prayer poised on her lips that he will move past it.
"Thieves attacked us," Arthur declares eventually, sheathing his sword. "I can deal with the rest of the story, but act distraught when we reach the castle."
Morgana lifts an eyebrow. "Distraught?"
Arthur rolls his eyes. "Women are generally distraught after being attacked, Morgana. Act like a normal woman... or Merlin, actually."
Merlin trails behind them, bemoaning, "Oh, yes, because there hasn't been enough of those Merlin-is-a-weakling jokes from Morgana lately."
"I haven't been that bad!" Morgana moves to defend herself. "It was simply one comment!"
Gwen scoffs, throwing Arthur a look. "I think she felt obligated to tease him in your absence."
It's strange, but during the walk back to the castle, Arthur almost looks pleased.
She is twenty-one years of age. That is older than most slayers ever manage to be.
It all happens so quickly, so swiftly, but her path has always been steep and treacherous. Things in Camelot take a turn for the worse, and in that year alone, Morgana faces more demons than the previous two combined. They fight, mostly they win, but sometimes they lose. Sometimes, people die because Morgana did not slay fast enough. They grieve and try to move on, but darkness comes upon Camelot like a building storm, thick and looming.
Once, after slaying a Kardoth demon, Morgana has a vision late at night. She still has those on occasion, though they occur with less frequency as the years progress. The ability to pierce the veil of her dreams has been a skill she has never mastered, too absorbed with the other more tangible demons of the night.
Still, these dreams are useful if nothing else. That night holds a vision that's made of pure foreboding evil. She foresees a demon approaching Camelot - a demon so foul she has never seen the likes of it before. He whispers to her of destiny, of sacrifice, of a tempting future for Morgana if she merely accepts his hand.
The scariest part of her vision is always the end, when Morgana can see herself straining to reach.
Life isn't always hard, though. She owes such fortune to her friends; Arthur had been stubborn at first, but over time his loyalty to his friends wins over his predispositions. He's learned to trust Morgana with the steel of a blade more than he trusts any of his knights, and slowly the bond between them is reestablished - perhaps even strengthened.
Through the many months, together with Merlin and Gwen, the four of them carve out a strange corner of the kingdom where secrets are guarded as well as the welfare of Camelot's people.
It is a sight to see, the four of them together.
"Arthur was watching you tonight," Gwen murmurs to her quietly, looping an arm through hers as they walk back to her chambers. "He was watching you very intently."
Morgana arches a brow. "And? It is his duty to watch my back when we are fighting."
"And is it his duty to watch your backside afterwards?" Gwen teases boldly.
"Gwenivere!" Morgana feigns a scandalized tone.
Laughter fades down the corridor as they move.
Uther raises the goblet in the air, declares his toast, and idly swallows the wine as he settles back in his throne. Morgana eyes him, well aware that something is preoccupying the King for the toast had been short and brisk, without the usual flare that Uther imbues in his words. Morgana sits at his right side and looks beyond to spy Arthur on the other side of the throne. They share a look, and Arthur nods.
"What is it, Sire?" Morgana asks Uther. "You seem upset tonight."
Uther exhales heavily, looking to her, and she wonders for a startled moment if the King is drunk. "It is nothing."
"It is not nothing," Morgana counters knowingly. "What is it?"
He glances briefly at her, then turns toward Arthur and lays a hand over his son's, pulling him into the conversation. "A man comes to a point in his life where he wants to see the fruits of his labor flourish. A king needs that, in fact. I am growing old, Arthur. Don't you think it time to find yourself a wife? To find this kingdom it's next Queen?"
Before either can respond, Uther rises to his feet, leaving Morgana and Arthur staring at one another over his vacant throne.
The following night's slaying is eventful, to say the least.
They patrol through the eastern woods in awkward silence, and every time Morgana meets Arthur's eyes, Uther's words ring clearly in her ears and she has to look away. They've barely talked since the feast. They've barely been able to look at each other since - at least, noticeably. Morgana knows Arthur is watching her when he thinks she is not looking.
She knows, of course, because she is looking too.
To be Arthur's Queen... it is not at all an unpleasant thought. More and more as the years have gone by, the attraction and emotions they've felt for one another have only grown. It is strong and undeniable - like a force mounting, growing, one that does not quell.
Morgana knows that many think her destined to be queen. Despite the fights, despite the claims, she knows Arthur harbors feelings for her. She clearly harbors them as well. The dilemma lay in the fact that her destiny is to be the Chosen One. Morgana has often wondered if being slayer and being queen are two mutually exclusive identities, never meant to cross.
But as she stakes the last vampire and turns to gather her things, she hesitates, captivated by the sight Arthur presents. The prince attacks in the shine of the moonlight, hair dampened by sweat, strong arms sweeping in an arc as he brings down his blade.
When Arthur finally beheads his enemy, the unexpected sound of clapping and laughter cut into Morgana's observations. The four of them turn around to discover another demon approaching. This one is different, though: red eyes, clawed hands, a black cloak that billows behind him like a cloud of smoke. Morgana recognizes him at once, the fear and chill working up her spine.
This is the demon in her visions.
"What a performance!" he hollers, tossing a wicked grin as he deftly jumps over the carcass of the slain beast. "The coordination, the agility. The slayer has friends. That is most unusual."
She steps forward, in front of the others. "Who are you?" Morgana demands, and holds Arthur back with a placating hand. "What do you want?"
His eyes glow red in the dim moonlight. "I am but a humble traveler in these woods." He pauses, glancing over from one person to the next, before he settles his gaze on Arthur. "Your highness," he greets with a mockery of a bow. "I was wondering if the stories were true. You've taken the slayer as your lover? Tell me, she must be a vixen in bed."
Arthur unsheathes his sword and strides forward. "You piece of vile-"
It happens so fast Morgana does not even see it coming. The demon throws a fireball that slams into Arthur, sending him reeling back. Merlin reacts, his own spell falling from his lips but he is seconds too slow. The demon sends another burst of flame that knocks Merlin back into Gwen.
Morgana races forward, sword drawn, but she makes it no more than a few steps before the demon is attacking. He moves with an agility that outmaneuvers her own. He bears down on Morgana with a strength and series of assaults that leaves her backpedaling, fending off with block after block, sword clattering to the ground. She trips and tumbles, landing hard on her back. The demon climbs atop of her, holding her head up between his hands, claws fisted around her hair.
"You have much to learn, Morgana Le Fay," he whispers, eyes glowing as he stares her down. "Much to learn about the power within you. Much to learn about the sacrifice. You will learn your limits-"
"Go to hell," Morgana seethes, spitting up blood.
"Eventually," the demon agrees with a smile. "But before that, expect to greet me with a kiss. Give it a year or two."
He draws back his fist and slams into her, and darkness claims Morgana.
When she awakes later that night, Arthur alone is by her bedside. Her entire body throbs with a pain that robs Morgana of breath, and for the first few minutes, she wants nothing more than to crawl under the covers and never emerge. She knows just by the look in Arthur's eyes that her face is black and blue. What story they have told Uther this time, she doesn't have the energy to ask.
"That demon," she rasps, finally daring to sit up with Arthur's help. She winces when her bruised ribs make their displeasure known, and settles against the pillows and headboard with a hard swallow. "It was powerful."
Arthur doesn't comment. The fact that it had so easily dispatched the four of them says enough. Morgana has never before taking such a severe beating, and that scares her. Thoughts race through her head. Why did he let her live?Much to learn about the power within you. Much to learn about the sacrifice. You will learn your limits. What did the demon mean by that?
Lost to her own musings, it isn't until several moments pass that she realizes Arthur has been silent for too long. Her gaze draws to him, and Arthur's eyes are bluer than usual in the moon's glow, his features pulled into a guarded expression.
"What is it?" she asks. "You look pale."
"I have not slept much lately."
She pauses, reading his concerns and worries so easily. "I'll be fine, Arthur."
He looks to her, a bitter laugh escaping his lips. "Not with your bloody calling."
"This demon won't-"
"Don't," Arthur says abruptly, bolting up from his chair. She sees the tension in his shoulders and wonders how long it has been mounting. He turns back to her, eyes desperate. "Morgana, please, you cannot do this any longer."
She stares at him, incredulous. "Arthur, we've had this conversation before. I have no choice-"
"You do," he cuts in, stubbornly.
She stills, studying the fraught look upon his face. It is an expression she has seen on the prince of Camelot only a handful of times. It seems this demon has managed to scare Arthur more than it did Morgana, and for a moment she imagines what it had been like for Arthur to witness her take such a beating.
"Arthur," she whispers. "I cannot stop being a slayer, just like you cannot stop being a prince. We both have our paths to follow."
He plunges a hand through his hair in frustration. "It's different with you."
She thinks briefly about the responsibilities he will have to endure when made king. "Not as much as one would think."
After a pause, she extends her hand and waits until Arthur takes her grasp, then tugs him to her bedside. He perches on the edge of her mattress between the two posts, and Morgana studies him, noting the elegant curve of his jaw, the dark swirl of concern in his eyes, the way he holds her hand so gently like she would break if he grasped too tightly.
Arthur's need to protect his people goes down to his very bones; it is one of the many reasons she knows he'll make a great king one day.
"What?" he asks, curiously. "What is that look on your face?"
"I am just admiring the future king of Camelot," she says with a teasing smile. "Am I not allowed to do that?"
He cups the side of her face, the curve of his palm warm against her cold cheek. He stares at her like he is mesmerized by her features, but in that moment she knows she is far from beautiful, her face bruised and colored. It leaves her feeling oddly self-conscious, but before she can dare turn away, Arthur surprises her.
He winds his hand through her hair, then draws her to him. Her breath catches in her throat and then their lips are meeting. Morgana lets out a faint whimper as he runs his tongue along her lower lip, but the embrace is gentle - oh, so gentle. Her hand falls to splay against his chest as she leans forward, her fingers meeting the fine hair at the open neck of his tunic. If anything the kiss is an exercise in restraint, but the intention behind it is undeniable.
He pulls back only marginally. "If you insist on slaying, just remember this," he whispers against her lips, exhaling softly, "Camelot needs a queen for many years to come."
Morgana's breath hitches. "Arthur..."
He continues undaunted, "And I need my queen by my side for a full lifetime, not one cut short by violence. Remember that, the next time you face that demon."
He kisses her again before she can formulate a single thought. She rises to meet him, making their kiss more forceful this time, pushing her tongue into his mouth, tasting and exploring for a long moment.
"Queen Morgana, the vampire slayer," Morgana mumbles heavily between kisses. "It's quite a mouthful."
Arthur pulls back to study her, before his lips quirk into a devilishly charming smirk, such unbridled happiness at her words that Morgana's chest aches with the beauty of it.
Queen Morgana, she repeats to herself, numbly.
Her life's direction changes in that moment.
Months later when they tell Uther, he is beyond pleased, and makes an announcement for a magnificent engagement feast for the summer solstice. Gwen gathers an arrangement of fresh lilies the next morning, placing them in a vase besides Morgana's bed. "My lady, you must rise," she prods softly. "It is far past the morning hours, and people will grow suspicious."
"Let them," Morgana mumbles, burying deeper into the layers of her blankets. "I came back from slaying barely an hour before sunrise."
Gwen sighs. "They do not know that, and it is probably best it stays that way. You must arise, Morgana." Morgana mumbles something distinctly unladylike under her breath, and Gwen laughs. "That's hardly proper language befitting the future queen of Camelot!"
"Arthur would not care," Morgana insists, then pulls the covers over her head. "Besides, I am not queen yet, dear Gwenivere."
By the time she makes it back to the castle, she wonders if news of her absence has spread yet. She ties a strong bandage across the slash wounds on her forearm, and covers it up with one of her long-sleeved dresses. She slips back through the gates of the castle unnoticed, and is nearly to her bedchambers when she hears her name called out.
"Morgana!" Merlin screams from down the hall, behind her.
"Shh!" Morgana beseeches with a glare. He draws closer and she tells him in an exasperated whisper, "Merlin, there is no use to me sneaking about when you announce my presence with a shout that rings through the halls."
"Sorry," Merlin says sheepishly, before he joins her in a walk through the corridor. "Where are you headed?"
"Gaius' first, then my own chambers to sleep like the dead."
"Rough night?" Merlin questions.
"No more than usual," Morgana replies, then studies him a bit. "Is there something you wanted, Merlin? You look concerned."
"What? Oh, no, no, no," he stammers, obviously lying. "I am just asking after your welfare. None of us like it when you go slaying by yourself."
Morgana rolls her eyes because this is an argument she has had with everyone. She always points out the legends speaks of a Chosen One - not a Chosen One, her betrothed, her servant and a sorcerer. Sometimes, Morgana likes to hunt in solitude; needs it.
"Merlin?" she questions, when she finally notices that he has gone too silent. "What is it? What is bothering you?"
Merlin has that look on his face, the one gets when he knows something she does not. For a man that is horrible at lying, she has come to know that Merlin can keep a secret if he has too. "Just be careful when you're out there, Morgana," he says. "You should at least take Arthur with you for the rest of the week. Please? For my sanity, if nothing else."
"Why?" Morgana questions. "What has you so concerned?"
"Please, Morgana," Merlin merely repeats. "Just take Arthur with you when you slay this week."
She pauses. "All right."
Arthur proves to be particularly distracting on patrol.
She has no idea what Merlin intended when he insisted this, but Morgana's slaying is cut short when... well, at some point they kiss, then kiss again, and then there's hands involved, and the journey back to the castle seems eternal. It's only due to Morgana's intervention that Arthur doesn't start ravishing her in the middle of the hallway.
He pins her against his door, and neither has the mind to lock or bar it, unwilling to lose contact for even a second. His hands are everywhere and his mouth is demanding and aggressive, and when Arthur draws them toward his bed, she goes willingly. She moves to straddle his lap, and Arthur holds her hips, steadying Morgana while she places open-mouth kisses up along the column of his neck.
She's captivated by the way he swallows a moan, how the moon highlights the strong line of his throat and the bob of his Adam's apple. She runs her tongue across the spot where his pulse beats, and he groans, abruptly rolling them so they tumble across the expanse of his large bed. Arthur's weight lands on top of her, strong and heavy, his kisses heady, and he tastes of sweat and salt and battle.
He sinks his hands in the curves of her body, hiking her up underneath him so he can bury his face in her hair. Their clothes are disheveled and a wreck, and Morgana wants desperately to strip him of his clothing until he is defenseless and naked against her. Arthur winds a hand in her hair and wrenches her head back so he can suck at her throat. She whimpers and he loosens his grasp instantly, but she doesn't want him to be careful.
They should slow down. They should stop. Both have come to the difficult decision of waiting until their wedding night, but in these reckless moments of pure want, Morgana can't bring herself to halt. She wants this, and so does he. Their wedding is still nearly a year away, and she curses the wait, because he is hers and she can't have him yet.
She can feel his hardness pressing against her thigh, and she trails her hand down and brushes her palm over the bulge. "Morgana," he groans in a warning.
She pulls his arms down and presses her forehead against his, catching her breath. "Arthur... I want..."
His breathing is so hard and delicious against her lips, and it feels intoxicating. "You want what?" he coaxes lowly, the tone breathless and ragged but trying so desperately for control. "Morgana?"
She can hear his unvoiced plea so clearly.
Morgana kisses him again, because he's too close and it feels wrong not to. She doesn't mean to make that her answer, but Arthur takes it as one, renewing his kisses and exploration with abandon. Her body more than her mind decides, yes, she doesn't care anymore. Arthur is her husband in anything but name. He stops her when she reaches to remove her dress, taking over and then floundering, uncertain where the hidden clasp is; she has to guide his fingers.
An abrupt knock at the door pulls them to a sudden stop. "Price Arthur?" a guard calls through the heavy oak door. "Your father calls you for an urgent morning meeting with the knights."
They look to the window, shocked to discover the sun rising. Arthur curses under his breath.
It is almost painful when Morgana pulls away from him, fixing the folds of her dress. Arthur presses a kiss to her mouth, groaning against her lips in a way that leaves Morgana almost whimpering, then forces himself to pull away. She watches him put his clothes back in order, then he leaves but she does not abandon his chambers until several minutes later, taking a long pause to pull herself together.
"You look a mess," Gwen says, assessing the state of Morgana's clothes when she walks through her chamber doors. "Rough and tumble last night?"
Morgana diverts her gaze. "Something like that."
That morning, while recovering with a nap, Morgana has a dream.
It begins with a bright day, and she sees a shadow creeping towards a shapeless figure wearing white. It is a long pause before Morgana discovers the person is herself, on her wedding day. The gown is elegant and elaborate, fit for a queen, but her focus shifts to the shadow befalling her.
The demon emerges, and Morgana watches in horror as the bride steps forward to give him a kiss.
She awakes with a piercing scream in her throat.
"What does it mean?" she demands of Gaius, frantic and raw. "Why does that demon haunt me even after all this time? It's been a year since I last saw it!"
Gaius tries to calm her. "Perhaps this was just a dream and not a vision? Your mind may be twisting your worries. Marriage can be a daunting thing for any girl-"
Morgana rolls her eyes. "If I could get married to Arthur tomorrow, I would. This isn't about my nerves."
Gaius studies her. "What is it, Morgana? It's been many days since I've seen you this distraught over a dream."
She pauses. "What if it is true? What if I am just not meant to be a queen and a slayer at once? Camelot deserves someone that can bring years of service to her people."
"You can live years," Gaius insists. "You have proven stronger than most slayers of our written history already."
Morgana looks to him. "But I am not invincible, Gaius."
"You see it coming, too," Morgana declares, when she corners Merlin that evening. Merlin opens his mouth to play dumb, but that ruse hasn't worked on Morgana in years. "Do not deny it, Merlin. You know exactly what I am talking about."
After a pause, Merlin finally nods. "The demon with the red eyes."
A treacherous stillness washes over her and Morgana sits down in the corner, her fears confirmed. "Why is it after me?"
"You are powerful. Very powerful."
Morgana rolls her eyes, a bitter laugh escaping her lips. "I am strong and agile, yes, but sometimes I wonder..."
"If it's more than that?" Merlin finishes softly, knowingly. "It is. You have more power in you, Morgana. Power that has nothing to do with being a slayer."
Startled, Morgana looks up at him before the meaning behind his allusions becomes stingingly clear: her visions. Her magic. She has never giving her powers much weight in her daily life because being the Chosen One has taken up all of Morgana's concentration. But as Merlin's declaration hangs in the air, she feels a cool sense of purpose rush over her.
Yes, Morgana needs to be better than a slayer. Being a slayer will get her killed within a few short years. Physical strength isn't sufficient, not if she plans on living long enough to be Camelot's queen.
"You must help me," Morgana pleas, suddenly. "Teach me to fight against this demon."
Merlin blanches. "I am not the one-"
"Yes, you are! There is no one better to teach me magic. Spells."
Merlin backpeddles. "Spells? I am not sure Gaius would like that-"
"He doesn't need to know. He's always been too cautious when it comes to me."
"Gaius shields us from our own stupidity," Merlin argues. "The man knows our limits sometimes better than we do."
"And you know just as well as I do that Gaius would throw himself on open flames if he thought it would protect us." She pauses, waiting for Merlin to meet her gaze. "That doesn't make it right. We have to do what we think is right."
He sighs heavily, warning, "Arthur will hate this."
"Arthur doesn't need to know about this, either," Morgana finishes, rising to her full height. It took Arthur a long time to come to terms with Merlin using magic, and even now he still harbors some reservations that come from a lifetime of Uther's backwards tutelage; she doesn't want to navigate passed the same roadblocks. She takes Merlin by the hands, pleading. "I need you to help me, Merlin."
Merlin stares at her for a long beat, then his shoulders sag. "Oh, bloody hell, fine! But if Arthur finds out about this, you're going to have to protect me from him."
"Then it's best if he doesn't find out," Morgana soothes.
Their lives are destined for secrecy, it seems.
Winter is bitter that year, more so than usual.
Morgana feels strangely old for a woman shy of her twenty-fourth birthday. She feels as if she cannot remember a time before being the Chosen One, and though she can lie to everyone else, she cannot lie to herself. Morgana is tired of fighting, of slaying. Even the magic she now wields, a magic more potent and intoxicating than any she could have imagined, has a flavor of age to it.
Merlin has taught her many things. Levitation spells, protection spells, defensive spells, spells that create fire and destroy objects with a few uttered words. Somehow, by opening herself up to magic, her dreams have also become more powerful. Her visions are more frequent now, and in much greater detail.
She still sees the demon coming for her, and she still sees him win.
"Arthur," she says to him, one night. "Have you ever imagined running away? Just leaving your kingdom behind - your responsibilities, your concerns. All of it. We could find a small house somewhere, just you and me."
Arthur grins fondly. "And little Morganas and little Arthurs running about the place, causing havoc? They'll have your good looks, and of course my quick wit, charm and intelligence."
"Why can't they look like you, and have my quick wit, charm and intelligence?"
Arthur rolls his eyes. "I wouldn't curse anyone with that tongue of yours." He pauses. "Though there are some good uses you-"
"Arthur!" she chides, because there is only one direction such a comment can go. "I'm being serious here."
"About what? I've forgotten."
She sighs heavily. "Arthur."
"What?" he defends himself. "I got distracted by some pleasant thoughts for a moment there."
"Thoughts? In your head? I could see how that would throw you."
"See? There goes that tongue of yours again, Morgana. We really are going to have to find a better use of it."
She hits him in the arm, and Arthur lets out an exaggerated yelp. Or, at least, Morgana thinks it exaggerated. Sometimes she can't recognize her own slayer strength. A small pout forms on his lips as Arthur rubs his arm, and Morgana rolls her eyes, but she can't resist it. The pout is soon replaced by a smirk that gets lost to a kiss, and Morgana melts into his arms.
When they pull back, Arthur quirks an eyebrow. "What were we talking about again?"
She smiles softly, shaking her head. "It's nothing. Never mind."
"Beautiful," Gwen beams, depositing another new gown on Morgana's four-poster bed, the mattress filled from head to foot in drapes of velvet, silk and the richest materials Morgana has ever seen. "Can you believe you will be married in just under two weeks? It's all happening so fast."
Morgana rolls her eyes, smiling affectionately at Gwen who seems more enthralled with all the preparations than anyone else, including herself. For a bride to be, she is less than thrilled about all the madness surrounding the wedding ceremony. Morgana just wants to be married, but of course, there is a kingdom to think of.
"What?" Gwen asks, catching the look on Morgana's face.
Morgana is silent for a long beat, before she settles on the edge of the bed and admits softly, "I just think the next two weeks will seem long. I have this strangest worry in the pit of my stomach, like something will go wrong. But I suppose every bride feels the same way?"
Gwen pauses, then recovers with a smile that most would call carefree. Morgana knows her friend too well, though. Gwen always tries to remain optimistic, but not every bride has to worry about vampires, demons, magic and midnight slayings. Not every bride has to worry about a kingdom. Morgana doesn't say any of this, but both of them can hear it as clear as church bells on a wedding day.
Gwen settles down, placing a hand over Morgana's. "You've had another dream?"
"No," Morgana answers. "Just the same one, yet again."
"You are a great slayer, and you will make a greater queen. Smile, Morgana. Do not let idle thoughts and concerns destroy a time that is meant for happiness."
"You're right," Morgana concedes, pulling back. "Of course, you're right."
"You still look sad," Gwen observes, concerned.
She shakes her head. "Just tired."
She ducks her head, watching the scythe fly by and slice off an inch of her hair. Morgana flips on her back and glares, swinging her sword by her side as she advances. A few minutes later, she adds another number to her long list of slays for that night.
She wipes her sword clean, then sheaths it before the sound of clapping halts her movements. Before Morgana even turns around, she knows instinctively who it is - the demon that has been haunting her for almost as long as she has been hunting. He greets her with a smile, teeth barred and vicious.
"Morgana Le Fay," he greets, then sniffs the air. "A formidable Morgana Le Fay. You've been gaining power, little girl."
"You," she seethes. "Do you have any idea how long I've been looking forward to this day?"
"Fantasized about me that much?"
"About killing you," Morgana warns. "You have been a bane in my existence for long enough."
But all the training Morgana has put herself through to defeat this demon proves entirely moot. When she fires a spell, sending a lightning bolt his way, he ducks it. She swings her blade; he shields himself with a force field that knocks it back. She rushes forward, ducks and parries, drops a low kick and rams her palm up into his face, but he moves like the wind, a whirl of motion that stands at one side and moves to the next within a blink of an eye.
When she sends another bolt of lightning his way, he reverses it on her and sends Morgana flying back into a pathetic pile on the ground. As she recovers on all fours, eyes stinging, breath winded, she realizes this demon sees everything she wants to do before she does it. She cannot win against a demon that never lets her get close.
The demon holds his hand up. "You do not want to kill me. I'm going to give you everything you ever wanted."
She takes a moment to get her breath back, rising to her feet again. "I want your death, demon."
The demon eyes her, head to toe. "Look at you, my lady. So tired. So worn thin by the duties thrust upon you. I can help you ease the burden. You can be Camelot's queen, Morgana Le Fay, or a seer, or the slayer. You cannot be all, and you know it. I can help you choose."
"Can you, now?"
"Wish it," the demon says, suddenly, with such force that Morgana reaches for her sword to block an accompanying attack; one that never comes. "And I can strip away your powers. I can make you but a humble woman worthy of a long life as queen."
"What are you talking about?"
"Give up your powers as the slayer and as a seer. Become queen."
It feels as if all the air has rushed out of her lungs.
As instinctively wrong as the thought is, for a treacherous moment Morgana stands frozen in indecision as a dark hope flourishes. It is an offer to take away her burdens of being the Chosen One, even her visions. For Morgana, after all these years fighting against unrepentant darkness, it could be a reprieve. She cannot deny that the idea of no gifts and no powers isn't entirely a ghastly notion.
She is tired of the constant fighting.
"I can make wishes come true," he says, drawing closer. "Tell me, Morgana Le Fay, what is your greatest wish? I can-"
"You," she warns, raising her sword, voice trembling. "I cannot trust you. I've always dreamt that you-"
"That I would what?" the demon barks. "I never attacked, I never killed. You saw yourself embracing me. You saw yourself accept my offer. That is all. This is the future you saw."
"I never wanted this!"
"Maybe not before," the demon replies, knowingly. "I had to wait until you were ready, and I have, all these years. You're quite impressive, Morgana. Most slayers never live longer than two years, but you... very impressive. You marry in two days, correct? Tell me, how long do you think you'll manage to keep the marriage bed warm?"
Morgana feels bile rise in her throat, because his words speak only a truth that Morgana has known for many years. The oldest slayer in written history died at the age of twenty-six. Gaius had tried to hide the fact from her, but Morgana found out anyway. Twenty-six. How cruel is that?
She narrows her eyes at the demon. "And what do you get out of this deal?"
He shrugs. "Nothing," he says, making a cross over his heart. "Promise. My trade is in wishes. That is my payment."
"How can I possibly trust you?"
"You don't. I am a demon. You are a slayer. That is not how this will work, but that is not to say that this won't work at all. You don't have to make the decision yet. I'll give you time to think."
He turns away, and she stops him. "Wait. Why did you choose me?"
He quirks a smile. "Because you are special, Morgana Le Fay. In every 'verse I have seen, you are uniquely special."
He vanishes into thin air before she can open her mouth to respond.
That night she pauses just outside Arthur's chambers to take a deep breath, quelling the tremble of her hands. There is a chill in the air, but her shivers have nothing to do with the cold; she thinks back to the demon's offer - his temptingoffer. Morgana checks either side of the hallway for a wandering guard, and quickly unlatches the door to slip inside.
In simply two short days this room will be hers as well, but as she enters Arthur's bedchambers, moving through the faint moonlight, she knows this visitation is ill advised at best. It is dark inside, and when Morgana reaches the large bed near the open window, she finds Arthur sprawled on his back, shirtless, thick hair tousled, bonelessly relaxed.
He looks peaceful, too peaceful. After a few moments of studying his features in the shadows, she can't bring herself to wake him, so she moves instead to the open window. The moonlight is faint tonight, the stars shining, and she stands watch over the valley of Camelot for a long stretch of time until she hears Arthur stir awake behind her.
"Morgana?" he mumbles in confusion.
She turns her head, watching him rise in bed. He rubs his palm over his glossy eyes, before he moves from under the covers. Morgana turns back to the window, allowing him the privacy to reach for his tunic - not that such modesty is necessary. She has crossed many lines of propriety with Arthur in their year-long engagement, but tonight, Morgana is heavily aware of the one line they have yet to breach.
Her thoughts instead turn to stew over with the demon's words. You can be Camelot's queen, Morgana Le Fay, or a seer, or the slayer. You cannot be all, and you know it. She silently curses the demon for exploiting her weaknesses so well.
Arthur's breath tickles her ear as he moves to wrap her up in his arms, almost possessively. She can feel the warmth of him starkly contrasting the cool air seeping in from the open window. He doesn't ask a single question about her unexpected presence, and for some reason that makes Morgana feel frighteningly reassured, like her place is only fitting by his side and there is no need to question it.
She instinctively leans back into his embrace, his hands on her belly, her fingers over his, and her worry stems just for a moment. "I had a bad dream," she simply says, and it is truth enough. She has been having bad dreams all her life. "I couldn't sleep."
He mumbles heavily, resting his chin on her shoulder. "I thought you were slaying tonight?"
She makes a noncommittal noise.
He turns too distracted to continue with the questioning, soon kissing his way up the column of her neck. Her breath catches in her throat, and heat floods her body, overpowering any other emotion she feels. "Morgana," he breathes heavily, voice seductive and low. "Come to bed with me."
For a moment, Morgana stands frozen in indecision. This is so tempting, as tempting as that demon's offer. She takes a drawn out breath, gripping his arms around her waist tightly because the want of him is so overwhelming. She doesn't turn around, though. It had been unwise for her to come to him this late at night, as the resolve to wait until their wedding night has been worn very, very thin in recent months.
After a beat, Arthur gives respite in his kisses, pausing. She hears him draw a heavy breath, clearly trying to rein in his control. "Morgana," he says eventually, softly, and something has changed in his tone. "Come to bed."
Arthur slides his arm more firmly around her waist to steer her back to the bed, pulling the covers back this time. "Lie down," he urges, sliding back in the bed to make room for her. He lifts the blanket for her and she looks at him, but she barely hesitates, moving to lie beside him.
He curls his body around her, breath warm and steady against her neck, an arm tossed over her waist to pin him by his side. It should feel suffocating, but it isn't. She stubbornly wants to feel more of him, though, the tunic he wears to bed an annoyance, but they stand so close to the edge that Morgana hesitates to even breathe. Everything is in limbo.
"G'night, Morgana," he breathes softly, closing his eyes.
It takes her a long pause to realize this is it; he intends nothing further. Her breath dislodges from her throat, and the tension in her body - both the heat and the anxiousness - slowly slides away into the cool night air. In those moments wrapped up in his arms, Morgana can feel something easing in her chest, a pain unraveling and a decision being reached.
When he awakes in the morning, Morgana is already gone.
The demon lifts his head, eyes glowing as the light rises over the hills; the sunrise is so vivid red it looks as if the sky is on fire. Morgana comes to stop before him, head lifted to return his piercing gaze.
"I've come to a decision," Morgana says.
The demon smiles, knowingly.
It is her wedding day.
Morgana feels every pair of eyes turn to her as she moves passed the pews in a gorgeous gown of ivory crushed velvet, elaborate lace sewn down the front and along the lengthy elegant train. She wears a golden crown set with crystals and red gems, a veil of sheer purple silk over her ornately plaited hair. When she stops before Arthur, there is a pause of quiet astonishment as Morgana realizes this is actually happening.
When Arthur slides the ring onto her finger, a part of Morgana knows she has defied fate this day.
Later, during their first dance, he holds her much closer than custom deems. He turns her, she steps her right foot to his left, and they move in practiced steps that she has known since childhood when court dances were taught to her alongside her reading. This time feels different, though - dancing with her husband in front of their kingdom.
Merlin and Gwen stand off to the side, beaming at them with affection. Gaius tips his head, and Uther sits upon his throne with an affectionate smile and a golden goblet in his hand.
All of this, she thinks, came so close to never happening at all.
"And what is your decision, Morgana Le Fay?" the demon asked of her, that fateful morning. "Just speak it, and it shall be yours."
She stepped forward, knowing a searing kiss was necessary to seal any deal with the devil. This close, she could smell the stench of death on his cloak, and Morgana thought back to all the visions she had of this moment, all the dreams and foresight. "Release your burdens," the demon encouraged, brushing a strand of hair out of her face. "Become Queen." "Oh," Morgana said, then slid the small knife into his stomach, silently, smoothly, like slicing butter. "I will. Just not by anyone else's terms but my own. " The demon's eyes widened, the glow dimming. "But... but it was fate that you-" "Do not speak to me about fate," she warned, pulling the knife free. "When you are burning in hell, and others gaze upon you and say, "look, there goes the fool that thought he bested Morgana Le Fay, slayer, seer and Queen of Camelot," I want you to remember this moment, right here." He fell to his knees, and Morgana watched the demon wither and die.
She stepped forward, knowing a searing kiss was necessary to seal any deal with the devil. This close, she could smell the stench of death on his cloak, and Morgana thought back to all the visions she had of this moment, all the dreams and foresight.
"Release your burdens," the demon encouraged, brushing a strand of hair out of her face. "Become Queen."
"Oh," Morgana said, then slid the small knife into his stomach, silently, smoothly, like slicing butter. "I will. Just not by anyone else's terms but my own. "
The demon's eyes widened, the glow dimming. "But... but it was fate that you-"
"Do not speak to me about fate," she warned, pulling the knife free. "When you are burning in hell, and others gaze upon you and say, "look, there goes the fool that thought he bested Morgana Le Fay, slayer, seer and Queen of Camelot," I want you to remember this moment, right here."
He fell to his knees, and Morgana watched the demon wither and die.
Fate could only dictate so much.
"Wife," Arthur bows to her at the end of their dance, grinning smugly. "I just called you wife. Can you believe that?"
Morgana smiles brightly, in that moment merely a woman without a care in the world. "Yes, Arthur, I can."