Disclaimer: I own nothing; for fun, not profit; etc.
Spoilers/Setting: Through The Fires of Idirsholas.
Notes: I've just started watching Merlin, and though I have much of the first half of series two to watch, I have been sucked in, unsurprisingly, by Morgana - but then, I've always had a soft spot for her, in whatever incarnation she takes. It's been a long time since I've read or written anything Arthurian related, and had almost forgotten how much fun this myth is. The Uther/Morgana relationship is a twisted one, and I love the way it's played - and how much it will eventually figure into everything that follows.
(Morgana once quietly asks Arthur if Uther has apologized for not believing him in the Knight Valiant incident.
Arm linked with hers, and with an outwardly charming smile to match her own in the face of his throng of applauding admirers, he just as quietly replies, "He'll never apologize."
They both know Uther well; and she is as unsurprised by the answer as he is accepting of it. Morgana feels the king's eyes on her, and continues to smile. She does not push the matter further.)
Uther sometimes catches himself admiring Morgana and the woman she's grown into these last years, all slender grace and pale skin and flushed lips, dark hair and too blue eyes. She is stunning; and he is not alone in this assessment. He has always known that she would bring a profitable marriage with her beauty and her dowry.
What her would-be suitors don't know is how often those eyes flash and turn mocking, or how often he has tried, and failed, to reign in her tempestuous nature. Yet even after everything she stilldoes not fear him; and this, more than anything else, infuriates him.
He doesn't often lose his temper so badly that he strikes her, but occasionally when he does he leaves bruises Morgana hides for a week, for the length of which he showers her with pretty gifts and distant affection she never accepts, and catches her maid giving him piercing looks that state too clearly, I know.
This maidservant will marry Arthur years into the future, when Morgana herself will have long ago left in a whirlwind of her own rage, his own relegated to the sidelines for once, confronted with the force of one power he'd never suspected she'd had. Uther will never share anything with Guinevere but a deep seated longing to have handled things differently so many years before.
It is a strange thing how he craves the approval of this girl, his ward, over whom he has always been too willing to assert his authority to leave him to his decisions, because with the weight and importance they carry, they cannot be wrong, and he refuses to entertain the notion that they are.
But though her words are those of a man, she is always female, and easy to overpower with a word from the king. It is too easy to cast her in the role of woman and not Morgana.
(Except in the instances when Gorlois would shine so brilliantly at him through her eyes, and he would shrink in fear because of the way he has treated his oath to his friend, and the ways in which Morgana herself has assumed Gorlois' place in his life.)
"You would tear the kingdom apart for one woman?" one particularly brave knight asks him once.
Morgana has been missing from Camelot for but a night, and surely cannot be far from the city; but he feels her absence and the potential loss of her like fire to his brain, all consuming and all torturing, climbing down to his lungs with each inhalation. For lack of any other way to aid the search, he pores over his maps in his council hall, planning to plan, ever the consummate chessman.
(Unbeknownst to him, this will not be the last time she is stolen from him, even this year. The next time she will return to him a mess, but safe, and demanding a rescue party be sent out for her maid.
"I fear she may already be dead," he will tell her then, and she will react violently; and unknown to him now, it will be much an inverted image of his situation at present.)
"We are not yet to that point," Uther replies with a deadly calm, bending over his maps on the table.
"Even for the Lady Morgana?" the knight presses, undeterred.
"Especially for the Lady Morgana!" Uther thunders, something inside him snapping, his voice mercifully seeming to shake from rage more than tremble with fear.
Arthur returns with his search party in two days, Morgana riding silently in front of him on his white horse; and thankfully the conversation is moot. He pulls her down into his arms, ghosting a hand over her cheek and taking in her expression. As always, her eyes meet his straight on, but for the first time he can ever recall, he cannot read them.
(There will come a day when Uther discovers the one secret Morgana harbors that she still vainly hopes, above all others, will never be discovered by him. Merlin has known for some time, of course, and she is certain that Gwen knows it, but says nothing; it may be the same with perhaps even Arthur, who may be a prat but is not entirely naïve. She trusts these three with her life, but someday it will not be enough, and someday is encroaching on the present quickly. Her fit of hysterics in front of Arthur and the knights did not go unnoticed at the time, nor have the increasingly frequent draughts she takes at the king's expense more recently.
Uther has only appeared truly concerned, visiting her in her chambers on the rare days she is too disturbed to leave and her absence in court is glaring.
"For all his abuse," Gwen tells her softly, "he does care for you."
"You cannot be telling me you think him a good guardian," Morgana says after a moment of surprised silence.
"Of course not," Gwen replies calmly, sitting next to her on the bed and taking her hand. "I do not think him a good king or even a good man either, as you well know, but if he is to hold such power over you, it is not a bad thing that he feels concern for your wellbeing."
"When he himself has not endangered it," she mutters.
"My lady," Gwen replies, "you well know that he would tear the kingdom apart in search of you should you go missing."
Gwen says it because Uther has, more than once, and she cannot contradict the truth of it. Morgana imagines him giving a sweep of his arm from his lofty parapet instead, her severed head thudding on the wooden planks below the executioner's block on a warm and cloudy summer's day. She does not doubt that he would do it in a heartbeat, but she is comforted by the fact that this, at least, is not her fate.
After all, she sees the future; and having ghostlike wandered halls too foreign and familiar, bare of her presence and fearing her name, this is one thing she can make sense of.)
And Uther sometimes catches himself admiring Morgana and the woman she's become these last few years, all spirit and warmth and love of truth and beauty in whatever form she saw them take, and defiance in the face of all things that opposed them. Six months ago, she had forced her way into daily court audiences, much to Uther's surprise and scorn; but she shows no sign of tiring of the proceedings that would be dull to most ladies, and every sign of desiring to take a more active role.
"She will make a great queen, someday," he tells Lot, the only surviving son of an aging northern ally.
Lot, already married to a lovely woman named Anna with two small sons of his own, replies, "Camelot will indeed be fortunate to have her."
It is not the first time that someone has presumed his son is to marry the Lady Morgana, but it is the first he considers it seriously for himself. In the five years since Morgana has come to Camelot, Arthur has come to accept her as something passing for family, makeshift though it may be; and the two have grown close, for all Morgana belittles him and for all he mocks her. Arthur needs belittling at times, with the ego he's naturally developed as first knight and heir apparent, and Morgana needs mocking with all the airs she affects, and affects well. They are good for each other.
At the far side of the hall, she and Arthur are engaged in conversation; and even from this distance he can see the smirk on his son's face and her answering expression. He says something to her, and she swats him affectionately.
She has never feared Arthur, either. And, watching Arthur's response to her, perhaps his son is a better man for it, and a better man than himself for being able to accept it; and heaven knows that Arthur, being a better man already than his father, would benefit greatly from ruling with Morgana at his side.
"My friend," Uther says gravely, "Camelot is already fortunate to have her."
And sometimes Uther catches himself thinking of Gorlois, and how the man had been his last true friend, the only man he could always count on to be true to him and keep him true to himself. How many times had he and Gorlois nearly come to blows or drawn swords over Uther's own pride? Gorlois had been his friend long before he ascended to the throne, when his pride and power did not amount to much in the grand scheme of things. But by the time Gorlois had died, and Uther had been king ten years, Uther had already lost anyone else he might call friend to either battle or fearful respect of his office. The loneliness and bitterness he'd felt in the wake of this last, personal loss had been rivaled only by that of his friend's daughter, small and dark and defenseless in the castle in Cornwall, alone high up on a cliff at the edge of the world, the waves violently pounding the rocks far below.
Morgana had been so very quiet when he'd made the journey back to Camelot with her, and Uther was at a loss as to what to do with her.
"I don't want to die," she confessed to him suddenly three days into the journey. When he looked at her, startled, she bit her lip. "I don't want to allow harm come to person or character because it is not seemly for a woman to defend herself."
Her father's death still heavy on his mind as well as hers, he touched her cheek gently, and she flinched, though neither could say why.
"Then you shall not," Uther promised.
(Uther promises her years later, "I shall strive to listen to you more, and quarrel with you less." He touches her cheek, and she flinches.
She has laid a trap for his murder, and he does not know it; and her eyes are wild at his earnest words.
It is strange how she craves affirmation from this man, who plays at filling the role of her father, who may have indeed been the cause of his death. It is stranger still, and even more infuriating, how a few moments of affection from him can cause such conflict in her soul, and wreak such havoc in her mind.
She gives him warning when the murderer appears, and kills the man with whom she conspired herself. In his arms, his hand running soothingly over her hair, she thinks that Uther never has been very good at keeping his promises; and the thought is like a warning.)
He will truly be an old man before he realizes just how much of Morgana's hate he has earned over the years, and how often she has been involved in plots against his life.
But this will not matter by the point he does, because she will have earned enough of his hate too, the insolence from long ago rising to the power of rage in her glowing eyes; and this, this is something he understands, and not something he can let go.
She will flee before he can sentence her to the death she has surely been anticipating for years; and it will only be when she never again appears to wreak her revenge and destruction, even on his deathbed, that he will feel anything but fury and betrayal at her absence.
"Father, you are in pain," Arthur will say, a man of twenty-six and married a year to a woman he'd been too ill to prevent him marrying; and Uther will allow him to believe it, catching Guinevere's eye where she stands in the shadows until she turns away from him.
("The king would tear the kingdom apart in search of you," Gwen had said to her, and Morgana believes it still.
She imagines power clinging to her, dark and fantastical, building up around her like an aura; imagines herself running because of her magic, but with it; imagines being able to breathe, for once; imagines freedom. It should be strange that she can picture a death that will never come for her more clearly than this, but this is still merely a feeling, instinctual and terrifying – both in how tenuous and how true it rings.
Morgana certainly believes that Uther will never stop hunting her when she leaves Camelot – she is beginning to doubt, however, that it will be for the reasons Gwen had been thinking when, prophecy-like, she'd first uttered the words.)
At what he perceives to be the end of the line, he is left grasping at threads, standing alone in Morgana's empty chambers, gently fingering a string of her beads as they slide futilely through his gloved hands. He'd like to say this piece had been one of her favorites, but he doesn't know, and her maidservant isn't at hand to question even if he could bring himself to ask. The filmy drapery hanging from her bed flutters gently in the breeze from the window, but there is an utter stillness in his soul it cannot disturb.
But each time he feels it on his skin, she disappears behind his eyes in a whirlwind of rage, unconscious and cradled somehow dearly to Morgause's chest; and much as it feels like a reckoning, it feels like a premonition.
Uther is aware he's acting like a man who has lost his child without hope of return; to marriage, or death, or something yet worse. Here at least he can hear her too rare laughter and feel the depth of compassion he'd hardly let himself see in her when it mattered most. This he can sense, but he cannot picture this string of jewelry on her when he is almost sure she'd worn it frequently, one of the few gifts from him she'd taken to.
But then he has not seen her as of late at all, and he knows the fault is his. He doesn't believe the look in her eyes the last time she left his council chambers will ever leave him, the first and last he's been able to read with certainty in months: contempt.
He had told her once, "Your counsel is invaluable, as is your friendship, and your love," and he had meant those words with everything in him.
("Your people are rising against you!" she'd yelled at him, not weeks before.)
He had told her once, "You have been a blessing to me, the daughter I never had."
("I disown you," she'd said, eyes blazing and voice soft as velvet.)
He had told her, "Without you, I cannot hope to be the king this land deserves."
("And you, Uther," she'd said, "will go to hell.")
There is nothing left to say, after this.