Spoilers: mostly up to 2x03, vague for 2x04
Characters: Morgana, Merlin, Gwen, general
Genre: Drama, Supernatural, Adventure, light Romance
Black Wind Over Saffron
There once was a magician
Fair he was, and handsome
Well, he brought to the table
All the fool's gold and wine.
And he promised us three favors
Said he was a savior
But we drank all his glory
And we borrowed all his time.
The wind followed Morgana through Uther's castle, weaving around her soft-soled boots and waltzing with her skirt. She attempted to set part of her concentration aside to suppress it, but it was difficult to focus on controlling something so minor when her instincts wailed with anxiety left-over from the previous night's dreaming. As Morgana walked, remnants of her vision ghosted in front of her: Arthur stalked down the hall in full armor before her, his sword on his back instead of his side. Merlin, with embers for eyes, beckoned from a side hallway. He held a dust-covered book in one hand and a flower in the other, its six petals curling out in purple splendor, and he smiled when she eclipsed his hiding place. Through a passing window she saw the soft gray clouds of autumn in one step, and a black miasma in the next. This was not a waking vision, merely echoes of what the burgeoning sorceress had seen, rising to the surface of her mind when she let malaise take over her moods.
It would not do to be careless, however. She stopped before a tapestry in the Eastern wing of the castle, a gaudy portrait of men and pack dogs hunting a unicorn.* Placing a hand over her stomach, she drew in four slow breaths. With each inhalation the zephyrs trailed away, settling back into the static atmosphere of the stone fortress interior. Morgana's affinity for the movement of air only emerged two weeks past, when she swept out her hand in anger and the curtains around her bedside ballooned like sails while her sheets rose in voluminous bubbles. It had occurred the day before Gwen returned home safely, and this on top of destroying two successive night candles in frustration at her friend's endangerment. Ever since that morning the breezes pursued the Lady Morgana like a besotted pet, entangling her one moment and caressing her the next. It was better than the fire, not the least because it was less noticeable unless you were close by, but it heckled Morgana at the most uncomfortable moments. To banish the wind--to her cease unconscious movement of it completely--took delicate manipulation of her control, and times like this she'd rather be focusing on something else.
Today, that object of her attentions was her nightmare. The problem presented by her visions didn't evaporate once she identified their source, despite her hopes that she might be left in peace. Realizing they were a result of mystical powers, that they somehow erupted from within, did not bring Morgana the satisfaction she longed for. Knowing of her magical talent only meant that she'd begin to reason out the inevitable: her visions would be part of her life for a considerable time to come. Visions were born from magic, and to master them or banish them, magic would be required. Yet she was alone in this place, swimming upriver without a even a log to cling to, and ignoring her own magic might be the cost of keeping her head on her shoulders.
"It's not so bad as all that," she whispered as she paced her steps toward the physician's study, "If I don't let it frighten me." In truth, fear was the object of Morgana's visit to Gaius today: fear and courage. Gaius, and perhaps Merlin if he were present, would hear her out. She'd make certain they understood her intentions with a clarity that brooked no bargaining. As it happened, she'd rather Merlin weren't there (he knew so much already), but Arthur always gave his manservant the mid-morning hours to attend his apprenticeship, and she could not bear putting this off another candle length. She supposed it did not matter, but all the same this was a private issue and no point in it getting back to Arthur or the king any sooner than necessary.
Morgana straightened her back and, without thinking of it, ran a hand over the dark waves of hair that rested across her shoulders. Taking a grimace and a gulp of air, she knocked with closed fist. There was a moment of scuffling, then Gaius's apprentice opened the door. Merlin gawped at her with a look of blank idiocy for a moment, as if Arthur's every insult to the boy's intelligence were accurate and he could not comprehend the simple fact of her existence at his door, nor fathom the etiquette required for her arrival. His mouth dropped, and Morgana thought she saw the glow of embers leech out from the rings of his eyes, but she put that down to wishful memories.
It took a second more of staring for the king's ward to realize she'd stopped too close to the door when she knocked, and now they looked at one another from a distance that was, as Arther might've put it, "most definitely unbecoming." She raised her chin and stood her ground; of all things this summer, Morgana was most tired of giving in.
"Mor--My lady," said Merlin, suddenly a basket of smiles and peacemaking dimples. He trot backward, and waved her inside with such servility that Morgana instantly jumped to suspicion. But she kept her face as serene as she knew how to, and entered with her gaze focused on Gaius. As she approached the work table where the old man with rounded back and heavy shoulders leaned over a set of small mixing bowls, she noticed a mop, a bucket, and several rags piled in a wet mess on the other side of the room. Lemon pervaded the atmosphere of the chamber.
"Lady Morgana," Gaius greeted her, setting his palm-sized pounding mallet to one side and stepping forward. "You look quite fine this morning, if a bit pale. Are you feeling well?"
"I am well enough, thank you. I've caught you in the midst of a project?"
Gaius glanced back at his table. "Yes. I'm recovering my poultice stock, and some of the combinations are particularly sensitive. They must be prepared with a delicate hand--but that is dull work to you, I'm sure." He smiled, always gentle in sharing. Morgana returned it with ease.
"Not at all, Gaius. Your skills are valuable and your experience speaks its own benefit. One day soon you may find me here, trailing at your elbows to learn."
He raised his eyebrows, and looked sidelong at his apprentice. "A willing and attentive student? I've heard tales, but surely they are extinct." To their side, amidst the water mess, Merlin snorted softly then tried to smother it. "Until that delightful day, what brings you to us, Morgana?"
"The potions, Gaius."
Of the easily visible, nothing changed in the physician's countenance, but it was clear to Morgana that she steered his full and unhappy attention. "They are not working, still?"
Morgana shook her head, pulling her mouth into a pressed line. She pondered the wisdom of dismissing Merlin from the room, but decided against it. The young man mopped with deliberate concentration a few paces away, as mild and invisible as a piece of furniture. She wanted to snap at him to stop it, but she wasn't clear what precisely he ought to stop doing. Stop cleaning? Stop eavesdropping? Stop acting as if he weren't neck-deep in these murky waters too?
"I no longer require them, dear Gaius."
This time, his reaction was swift and visible. His face dropped its mask and his eyes held such a deep sadness--sadness for her--that it almost took Morgana's breath from her throat.
"You aren't taking them."
"I am not."
"How long ago did you stop?"
Morgana curled her toes to the floor, pressing her weight on her heels, and said, "It doesn't matter, does it?"
Gaius sighed. Merlin's mop was quiet with inactivity, but Morgana didn't give into the impulse to check. "I suppose it doesn't," he agreed. "You've chosen a hard road, and a dangerous one. If you would allow me to prepare you a different solution--"
"No, no more solutions." Morgana's voice slid over his, eclipsing it with her certainty. She held out a vial, one belonging to Gaius, still two thirds full. "No more potions or tricks. I must face these nightmares on my own."
She moved her eyes away, across the work chamber, to Merlin. He watched her openly, surrounded by the artifice of his chores but no longer pretending at them. Her gaze returned to Gaius, and she inclined her head. Without giving him the answer he wanted or the chance to rekindle debate, the king's ward turned and left the physician's study.
As she passed the threshold to the white, pitted stone hallway, certainty settled anew in her heart, alike to a guest tucking itself in for a long and welcomed stay. A cool wind bucked at her heels, dancing the door shut behind her, and the Lady Morgana did not refuse it.
*The tapestry describe is one of seven that portray the Hunt of the Unicorn
*Lyrics from "Lover's Lullaby" by Janis Ian