Morgana's eyes fluttered open. She lay on a soft thatched cot tucked in the corner of Gaius' workshop. Scattered across the tables were dozens of ingredients jars and various measuring instruments, multicolored fumed wafted from brass cauldrons, and the court physician could be heard barking orders at Merlin.
"Gaius, she's awake!" Guinevere called from her mistress's side. "My lady, are you alright?" Merlin and Gaius ceased their work and rushed across the room.
"Are you alright?" Merlin parroted Gwen's question, expression showing genuine concern.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," she said sitting up. She refused to look the man servant in the eyes. He couldn't be trusted anymore. If she meant so little to him that he wouldn't help her in a time of need when he had the knowledge and power to do so, then he was her enemy. Gaius' wrinkled fingers came to her neck and felt for a pulse.
"Drink this, Morgana." Gaius placed a small glass beaker filled to the brim with a grayish liquid in her hands. She gulped it down obediently, but nearly spat it out in revulsion. It tasted like cabbage fermented in pig blood, and knowing the old man and his potions, that was probably what it was.
"Just something to settle your mind," Gaius said kindly. "Do you have any idea why you collapsed? The king is worried sick, we all are."
"I'm fine," she insisted. "Just a little tired. I didn't sleep well last night." This was true of course. "How long was I unconscious?"
"About quarter of an hour," said Merlin.
"Arthur and the King wished to come and check on you, but they had to go off and prepare for the tournament its starting soon." Gaius turned to his ward.
"Speaking of which Merlin, you'd better be off as well. I don't think Arthur would be able to get his armor on straight without you, and it would be rather embarrassing for the Prince to be disqualified on a count of incompetence." Merlin nodded. He looked back to Morgana almost pleadingly.
"Are you sure you're alright, my lady?" Morgana gave a curt nod. She could see through his false compassion and lies now, she wouldn't be manipulated by anyone. Merlin left the room, speeding up to a light jog in order not to be late.
"Arthur really can't get his armor on straight without him," Gwen whispered in her ear. "I saw him trying once, it was a disaster." Morgana gave a small laugh and Gaius sniggered a little. Only in this group of people could you get away with ultimately laughing at royalty. The doors opened again and a young girl, maybe fifteen years old, and dressed in a simple servants dress, stepped into the room.
When she saw Morgana she gave a respectful courtesy. Her eyes quickly looked around the room, as if in search of something. They stopped briefly on Gaius, before immediately coming to rest on Morgana, whose brow furrowed in confusion. She'd never seen this servant before. While she looked vaguely familiar, she seemed odd, a bit out of place.
"Pardon me my lady, but the king wishes to know if you're well enough to attend the tournament." Morgana stood up and straightened her slightly wrinkled dress.
"Yes of course, come Gwen," she said to her maid who got up to follow. "Thank you for your help, Gaius. I'm sorry for the trouble." He bowed.
"It's never any trouble at all for my favorite patient." The two women walked past the servant girl and exited the room. When they turned at the end of the corridor, Morgana asked.
"Who was that girl Gwen?" I've never seen her before."
"I believe it's her first day today, her name is Rowena." Morgana felt relieved. Her paranoia was misplaced; the girl was just a random passerby. "Do you wish for me to accompany you to the tournament?" Morgana shook her head. Something was going to go wrong at the tournament, that was clear, and she didn't want her friend to be anywhere near the place when it did. Merlin may have betrayed her friendship, but Camelot's ward refused to believe Gwen had done the same.
"You've done enough for today Gwen, take the rest of the day for yourself. That should give you plenty of time to fantasize about Arthur. By the way, how was last night? I didn't hear anything in my chambers, so you must have kept quiet." She smiled wryly. Despite the harsh situation that loomed on the horizon, she couldn't help but tease her best friend about her overly dramatic love life. Gwen's olive skinned burned scarlet, and embarrassment filled her face.
"We didn't do anything, I swear," said Gwen. "I'd be put to death if were caught! Please don't-"
"Don't worry," Morgana cut her off reassuringly. "My lips are sealed. Just be careful. Now go home and get some rest. You've done enough." The two embraced momentarily. Gwen turned down the corridor and hurried towards home. Morgana sighed. Every part of her screamed for her maid to be spared.
"She must die. Her loyalty is first and foremost to the prince." Out of nowhere Morgause had appeared beside her, looking grimly serious. She was dressed in her usual armor and a sweeping black cape. On her wrist was a silvery bracelet identical to her sisters, and around her neck hung an amulet embedded with a large blue sapphire that looked to be slowly turning to dust. The sheen of the gem was fading, and gradually the jewel took on the color of sand.
"A teleportation charm," said Morgause. "Courtesy of Ulmen. I could have done it myself of course, but it would have taken far too much energy. Pity it's only good for a single use." She ripped the necklace from her throat and it disintegrated completely. Her face softened. "Your maid must die, sister. Surely you know this."
"And why is that, sister?" Morgana burst, spitting the last word venomously. "What has she done to deserve death?" The two women looked each other up and down meticulously. Half-sister or not, Morgana didn't trust this strange woman who was apparently her kin.
"It's not that she deserves it," Morgause answered. "It's that it's required. Every trace of Uther's anti-magic ideals must be wiped away."
"But Gwen isn't against magic," Morgana argued. "She seems indifferent towards it really."
"She is loyal to Arthur, and he follows his father. If war were to break out, when it breaks out more accurately, she will align herself with them. We cannot allow our enemies allies even for the sake of saving a friend." Morgana fell silent. "When you take your seat at the tournament, wait for my signal of red sparks. At that time let your magic flow. Don't worry about controlling it, sister, I'll be doing that part. And don't fret about Gwen for now, no one is being assassinated today, not even Uther. We're simply drawing our enemies into the open. The servant girl Rowena is far more than she lets on."
"Sir?" Rowena asked as she stepped into Gaius' workshop. Within her mind she was gathering every ounce of courage she possessed. The time was now. She needed help. Her father was off serving Arthur and it would be impossible to get him alone. Gaius, who Rowena had always seen as a sort of surrogate grandfather figure was the ideal substitute. He was wise, intelligent, and one of the few in this era who wouldn't have her decapitated simply for possessing magic, though he may still think her insane when she started babbling about time travel, alternate timelines and the like.
"Yes child?" said Gaius from his stool. He turned away from his work and removed his glasses. "Can I help you?"
"Yes, but I'm not sure you'll believe me. In fact you'll probably think me mad…. I'm Merlin's daughter." Gaius blinked. Silence followed, and it was only broken by laughter. The court physician wiped a tear from his eye.
"Oh Merlin and his jokes. This amazes even me; he's sending servants to pull them off for him. I do apologize for my nephew. He has a rather delusional sense of humor, albeit an active one." He went back to grinding sheep bones into powder with a mortar and pestle. Rowena lifted her hand and flexed her fingers carefully. Magic would help her prove her identity. Merlin would most likely sense it, but that didn't matter now, in fact it was best that he knew who she was. He'd be more willing to aid her then. Her eyes glowed gold, and the mortar, pestle, and the Gaius' stool were all lifted into the air. It took several moments for him to realize his increase in elevation.
When he did, he did a double take, and promptly plummeted to the ground. He clambered to his feet and snapped around to look at Rowena, eyes full of shock.
"I mean it Gaius, I'm Merlin's daughter, well future daughter anyway. I need your help."