A/N: Perhaps this came from me just so that everyone could know never to trust anything that I say in my author's notes. But after I said that nothing had inspired me to write much, along came this aria from The Bohemian Girl that simply screamed Morgana's name. So, here it is. Also, a small disclaimer: there is nothing here that was intended to suggest any romantic pairings, although I understand that perhaps some of it may seem like it.
I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls
I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls,
With vassals and serfs at my side,
And of all who assembled within those walls,
That I was the hope and the pride.
I had riches too great to count, could boast
Of a high ancestral name;
But I also dreamt, which pleased me most,
That you loved me still the same.
Alfred Bunn, "The Bohemian Girl"
In time, Morgana realised that not all of her dreams were prophetic. The whole situation with Gaius and the water-pitcher, for example, had never occurred, and Morgana was fairly sure that circumstances had now rendered such an event impossible. As she descended into despair and horror, sustaining Morgause by the sheer force of her magic, the enchanted bracelet bringing what peace it could to whatever hell Morgause endured, these other dreams – normal dreams, perhaps? – took an unforeseen turn. Morgana reasoned that her heart was so entirely devoted to her sister's survival that only her dreams could reflect her dearest, most desperate wish.
At first, Morgana had believed that these dreams were prophetic; they had given her hope beyond hope that Morgause would recover, that all would be as it had been, as it should have remained. In her dreams her sister smiled at her side – oh, how she missed her sister's smiles! – and the sun streamed into Morgana's throne room, and everything was golden. The courtiers smiled as she passed; the knights kneeled before her and pledged their undying allegiance. Morgana would wake from these dreams beaming, and would shower her unresponsive sister with love and tenderness for the entire morning. She would smile for a whole day, until the following night, when dragons, swords and fire would haunt her sleep.
Morgana clung to those dreams. Each time she forced herself to notice something new, to see the happiness of the peasants under her rule, to see the stores overflowing with grain, to see her sister whole. She saw magic practiced without impediment, and valued and respected. People admired her; they saw her magic and kneeled before her. She laughed in her sleep at the power she held, and in her sleep, she began to explore this golden world. She saw her own crest, the raven and the rose, engravened around Camelot; she danced among verdant gardens; she exulted as she visited the dungeons and saw her enemies, faceless and chained; she lingered at the gallows, savouring the thought of watching them die. If this was the future, it was worth enduring her present pain. If this was the future, she would fight for it.
And then, as Morgause fell further and further away from her, unsettling things began to appear in Morgana's dream world. They started as glimpses, as mere suggestions, things she could easily ignore. An overheard murmur, a half-seen eye. Nothing. Less than nothing.
Until, one night, she dreamt of her chambers, as she had so many times before, draped in the royal colours, luxurious, home. She smiled, sitting before her mirror, seeing the joy reflected in her own face. And then, a hand pulled her hair behind her ears – gently, so gently – and began to arrange it.
"Did you sleep well, Your Majesty?"
Morgana laughed. "Of course! You know it has been years since the nightmares."
She turned, and Gwen smiled down at her. What she said next had little connection with Morgana's reply, but then, dreams are seldom linear.
"Your Majesty," her servant said, kneeling before her, "I would do anything for you, always. I have always been loyal to you, Morgana."
The last image Morgana saw before she woke was the total sincerity in Guinevere's face.
In the days that followed, Morgana tried not to remember that part of the dream, for when she did, the perfection of her dream world seemed to slip. Morgana told herself, again and again, that she hated Gwen; she reminded herself that her servant had lied to her, betrayed her utterly, without a second thought. Gwen's loyalty was to Arthur, she thought savagely. To the princeling. The tyrant's son.
Gwen seemed to be a persistent presence in her dreams after that, but Morgana – in her waking moments – managed to remove those parts from her daydreams. But then others appeared.
Gaius was in the throne room, kneeling before her. "Your Majesty," he said, "Mercian forces will be at the border in a matter of days. We cannot delay any longer."
She looked down at the man before her. "Rise, physician. What is your advice?"
Gaius rose and kissed Morgana on the cheek. Some tiny part of her mind pointed out that this was wrong, that a commoner should never be permitted to kiss the Queen, but this was drowned out as a wave of happiness swept through Morgana. She laughed, and kissed Gaius's forehead in return.
After this, it became harder to ignore these moments; more and more of them came. She saw Sir Leon, training her knights for her, loyal to a fault; she saw Geoffrey of Monmouth's face shining with pride as he raised the crown above her head.
And finally, one night, it all went out of control.
First, there was Arthur. He came to her chambers, knocked politely.
"Your Majesty." He presented her with the head of some monstrous beast, a blur of incongruous features and sharp teeth.
Morgana laughed. "Let the bragging begin. How did you manage it?"
Arthur laughed with her. "With truly inspiring bravery, my lady. I wish you could have seen it."
"So do I," she said, raising him from his knees. "I'm glad you're back."
He enveloped her in a tight hug, as he had done when they were both young. "I will never stop serving you, Morgana," he said, the crown prince's circlet glinting in his hair. "Never, ever forget that I love you, sister."
Then there was Merlin. Bringing her flowers. "I hope you're better," he said as he passed the roses to Gwen, who placed them in the vase on the table. "You know how we miss you when you're unwell."
She thanked him graciously, and he bowed before her.
Morgause appeared beside her. "Can we trust him?" she asked incongruously. "He is just a servant – and his loyalty may not be to you, sister."
Merlin stood up, and fixed Morgana with eyes that blazed with love. "Never think that I would betray you," he said to her, taking her shoulders in his hands. "You are my friend, Morgana, and I would never, ever do that to you."
And last ... oh, last ...
He was in the library, oddly, but it seemed perfectly natural to Morgana as she sailed in, dressed in shining white. She had a vague notion of requiring something from among the books and scrolls, but whatever it was was soon driven from her mind.
"Morgana." His voice, that voice! "Daughter."
She stood before him. "I suppose," she said, with a tinge of asperity that seemed totally alien in the glorious light, "that you hate me for what I am, for what I have done."
Her father's eyes crinkled; she saw tears – tears! She savoured them, gloried in them.
"Whatever you are, Morgana," he said, "you are my daughter, and I love every part of you. I can see that I was wrong, so wrong to persecute your kind. You are my daughter, and you are a sorceress." Her heart raced – would it come? Could it? "Morgana ..."
She was shaking, shaking all over. Let it come, please, let it come.
"Can you forgive me?"
And even as she smiled in her dream, shouted joyously to the skies, it vanished – the golden sun, her royal court, her father kneeling in shame and regret before her. It was dark, so dark, and she lifted her hand to her face to feel the tears streaming down her cheeks.
Morgana screamed. She knew no one could hear her, knew Morgause was beyond hearing, knew she was miles from anyone. She didn't know how long she wailed, cried, beat the walls with her fists. She screamed for everything, everything she had lost.
At length she stopped; her voice was gone. Eyes wild, hair whipping around her, she stumbled her way to where Morgause lay, silent and still as she had been all these months. Morgana did not hesitate, but took the bracelet from her sister's arm and placed it firmly on her own. She needed it more than Morgause did.
The bracelet did its work. Morgana had no further dreams of any kind, no premonitions and no golden visions. She had nothing to hope for, nothing to strive towards, nothing to keep her going, especially after Morgause slipped away and took what was left of Morgana's love with her. All that remained was pure hatred. She saw them all in her mind's eye – Merlin, Gwen, her father, and all the rest – and cursed them to all the gods she could think of, cursed them for ruining even her dreams. Nothing was safe from them, nothing, nothing.
Hate sustained her, and all she could think of was destroying them all, destroying everything they had ever touched. She thought of nothing else, nothing but their faces, their horrid, smiling faces, smiling for anyone but her. She would ruin them, tear them apart, watch them die a thousand terrible deaths, and delight in all of it.
Morgana would enjoy destroying them. She would destroy them and then, she supposed, she would destroy herself. There was nothing more for her, nothing in this world to live for but her revenge.
For none of them would ever, ever love her again.