The deed had been done. Morgan had successfully seduced Arthur, her half-brother, and lay with him that night. She beseeched one of the servants to call him to her bedchambers just as she was stepping out of the grand pool, naked and dripping wet. When he saw her in her natural state, he shyly turned around and she feigned bashfulness, her maid draping a robe around her. She tied the ribbons around her waist and dismissed the servant girl. She put on quite an act, beckoning him to the edge of the bed and touching him lightly on his thigh. Her eyes narrowed into his, shooting an arrow that surely pierced his heart. She kissed him passionately, but only once. The affair itself lasted mere minutes and then, just like that, it was over. Realizing his folly, Arthur quickly dressed and bade Morgan to leave the castle. And for once, she obeyed.
That night, she found shelter in a nearby inn and arose early the next morning to set out for Avalon. She took her time, however, stopping at each town she came to for food and rest. By the third day, she found herself wandering around aimlessly, having drunk too much ale in the last citadel. The sun was setting, and she was growing more and more weary with each step. She cursed herself for not stealing a horse. With nothing around for miles but the harsh dirt, she sunk down onto the ground and closed her eyes.
When she awoke, she was disoriented and still groggy. She turned her head over on the soft pillow and could make out the shape of a man huddled over a small fire. She lifted herself up on her elbows, which dug into the biting gravel. She tilted her head up, expecting to see the night sky littered with stars, but a low hanging cave wall blocked her sight instead. She sat up too quickly and let out a groan.
"Whoa, easy, easy now," the man said. As her vision focused, the man became clearer.
"Merlin?" she asked in a low voice, shocked that he was her rescuer. He handed her a jug of water and sat back by the fire. She took a swig of it, never letting her eyes stray from his form. She wiped the water from her mouth and handed him the jug. As she positioned herself closer to the fire, she let her eyes roam around the small red cave. The opening was just a few feet ahead of her, but it was camaflouged by strands of ivy hanging in front of it. There wasn't much else in the small space, save for a cot fashioned from animal hide in the corner.
"Well, I see you've not done much in the way of decoration, have you?" Morgan said with a smirk sneaking up on her face. Merlin sat stoic, staring into the flames.
"I am where I am needed," he said. Morgan let his words hang in the heavy air. She was too tired to play on his emotions tonight. What she needed was some rest.
"Here," Merlin said as he handed her a morsel of meat, "You need to eat." She took the offering from his hand, but did not bite into it. Instead, she stared down at it, wanting to eat it, needing to eat it, but somehow unable to. Merlin noticed her hesitation.
"I did not posion it, if that's what you're thinking," he said. She shook her head without saying a word. Merlin burrowed his eyebrows in confusion, and afraid of looking weak, Morgan finally ate the meat in two bites. After several minutes of silence, Morgan finally spoke.
"I do not deserve your hospitality," she said in a flat voice. Merlin snickered, knowing all too well the games that Morgan played.
"You have my hospitality, but you will not get my pity, Morgan," he said in a gruff voice. Morgan shot him daggers with her eyes.
"How dare you! I shall not be pitied!" Morgan said, her nostrils flaring. "At least I'm not the one who's exiled themself! Why do you live in a cave when you have a place in Camelot?"
"Because the King no longer needs me!" he bellowed into the tiny cave, shattering all traces of silence. At this, he stood up, for at least there was room enough to do that in the small space, and clenched his fists as he continued to stare into the fire. Not one to be bested, Morgan stood as well.
"This is your penance, then?" Morgan said, her tone even. Merlin scowled and shot her an angry glance, but it had no effect on the woman standing before him.
"I know what you're capable of, Merlin. You taught me many things. In some respects we are very similar, you and I. But the one thing that sets us apart, is that there is good in you, somewhere in the pit of your soul. You do not deserve to live in a hole in the earth. Whereas I..." and at this, Morgan stooped down and picked up one of Merlin's daggers, brought it to her chest, and with a shriek of pain, pierced the soft flesh of her chest.
"Morgan, no!" Merlin yelled as he rushed to her limp body, snatching the small knife away from her grasp. She wrestled against him, vying for the dagger, but without success. A red stream of blood glided down her chest. Merlin used his hand to put pressure to the wound. As he did, he focused all of his energy on healing the small cut. His hand shook as the flesh seamlessly came together, leaving not even a trace of a scar.
Merlin heaved breathlessly as he stood up, bringing Morgan up with him. She leaned her weight against the cave wall.
"You should have let me die!" Morgan spat at him. Anger bubbled up inside of him and he pounded his fist against the wall, inches away from her head.
"You ungrateful wench!" he cried, his voice cracking towards the end. Seeing the tears that threatened to prick his eyes, Morgan bit her lip and clenched her fists. He was using his hand that was still hammered onto the wall to keep his balance, thus he loomed over her, his face just inches from hers.
For the first time in her life, Morgan let out a phrase that she had never uttered before: an apology.
"I, I'm sorry, Merlin," she said in a small voice, squinting her eyes so that maybe no tears could escape. Merlin dropped his hand from the wall and stood before her. Although her often indignant demeanor made her stand up straighter and seem taller, in reality her frame was much smaller than his. He could snap her in two if he so chose. Merlin grasped her neck with his hands, imagining what it would feel like to choke her. He let his hold grow tighter, but not much. When she didn't fight back, he loosened his grip. His thumbs were under her chin, and when a single tear fell from her cheek, he used his thumb to smear it away. His hands traveled from her neck to her cheeks, and he lifted her face up to his. Her eyes were bloodshot and swimming in tears. Every time she blinked, a new one cascaded down her skin. He gently moved his thumb over her full, pink lips. She shivered under his touch.
Every voice in his head told him no. But every touch sparked new curiosities. She moved her hands up to hold his arms, and the warmth of her touch sent chills all along them. He inched his face closer to hers, and lightly brushed his lips along her chin and mouth. He let his hands fall to his side as she moved away from the wall. Standing before him, she took the strings of her bodice and began untying them. When they were loose enough, she pulled back the robe and let it glide down to the cave floor.
She was not a virgin by any means, but out of all the times she had been naked in front of a man, she never felt a lack of control. However, as Merlin stood there looking at her, she felt completely unnerved. He took off his jacket, unlaced his tunic, and removed his trousers. After what seemed like an eternity, he moved closer so that there was barely a crevice between their bodies. Morgan looked up at Merlin with anticipation, and finally, he grabbed her by the neck and kissed her firmly.
Merlin once said that magic was like another emotion. Making love to Morgan was like that. They moved to the cot, laying against the smooth, plush animal fur. He kissed her gently, but with passion that Morgan had never felt before. She reciprocated his push with low moans and occassionally tugged on his beard, lowering his face to hers for another kiss. They rolled over, so that Morgan was on top of him. But instead of initiating her usual dominant pose, she lay her body flat, pressing her chest into his. Merlin wrapped his arms around her and caressed the small of her back. They rolled again, and Morgan hooked her leg over his bare hip. She looked up at him and smiled a genuine smile for the first time in a long time. Merlin recognized that smile from when she was younger, before her heart had hardened. Merlin ran his thumb along her lips before he kissed her again.
He hadn't meant for it to get this far, but he had done his duty as mentor and tutor for many years, stifling his emotions and replacing love and longing with hate and anger. As for Morgan, she knew this would only last within the confines of the cave, and after the morning sun spread its light among the earth, the magician and the sorceress would become enemies once again.
Morgan arrived in Avalon early the next morning. She was greeted by Morgause and then retired to her room for some much needed rest. A small part of her regretted what she had done with Merlin. She wouldn't realize it until much later, but she gave up a part of herself to him that she had never given to any man before. She had been reckless and free with her feelings, an act that would prove to work against her in her quest for the crown.
Her room had gone unchanged in the years since she left, but she had yet to enjoy it as she was suddenly struck with a fit of nauseousness. It was nerves of course, but she could feel the power emanating from her torso. The feeling grew stronger until, for a split second, it felt like a jolt of energy was coursing through her veins. She gripped her stomach as she doubled over in pain. After a few moments, it was gone, but it had sapped her of all her remaining energy. She lay on the bed, sweaty and in shock. In that instant, she knew without a hint of doubt in her mind, that the child she was to bear, was not Arthur's. It was Merlin's.