Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by the BBC.
Spoiler: For all three seasons of Merlin.
Thanks to: Kathy, as splendid a beta reader as always, and Zahra, for many an inspiring discussion.
Author's note: Originally written for the Remix Redux challenge, inspired by "All my dreams, torn asunder" by Glinda. Considering the title of the original vignette is also the title of a Babylon 5 episode, I could not resist naming my remix after the episode succeeding it.
When the servant Merlin dares to blackmail her with Morgana's life, Morgause hesitates. Not for long, but there is a moment when she considers: the chance to finish her successful conquest of Camelot, for there is no one able to stand against her now, or the life of the sister she barely knows. She's close, so close to what she always dreamed of achieving, and the temptation to swat the servant like a fly is very strong.
But Morgana shudders in her arms, and she can feel her sister's pain in her own body. Morgana has no one else to save her, and every heartbeat counts. So Morgause gives in, ends the enchantment that powers her knights, learns the name of the poison, and calls on her magic to whisk Morgana and herself away. She trades a kingdom for a sister, and does not regret it.
But she is still determined to have both.
Morgana is and is not what Morgause expected. She takes weeks to recover, not just because of the poison but because of who gave it to her, and how. Apparently, she really trusted the serving boy, and actually liked him.
"He deserves a horrible death for what he did to you," Morgause says, "but you can't trust servants under the best of circumstances, you know. When the purge started, there were so many who turned on their masters and betrayed them to Uther, for money and greed and envy of the magic they can't understand. They're peasants raised a bit higher, what do you expected? You can only trust your own blood."
It's what she believes, but she also doesn't want Morgana to be attached to anyone but herself, and Morgana has expressed longings for her servant girl, who is undoubtedly only waiting for a chance at betrayal as well. No matter, Morgana will learn. She has to. Morgause gave a kingdom for Morgana; she's not willing to share her with anyone else after that.
Swordfighting with Morgana is pure joy. She's a bit out of practice, but that is remedied soon enough. Their sparring serves a double purpose. It strengthens Morgana physically after her near death, and it allows them to get to know each other. It also allows Morgause to remake Morgana, to purify her of the Pendragon influence. It's obvious she and the boy Arthur learned to fight together; Morgause recognizes several moves from her own fight with Arthur, including the way Morgana twirls her sword just for the fun of it, which is endearing but could get her killed.
"It's a move for no practical gain and allows your opponent to attack you," Morgause explains, and she notices with satisfaction Morgana discards it.
They don't talk about Arthur that often. Early on, Morgana naively suggests they should tell him the truth about what Merlin has done. Morgause, sadly, has to explain about her earlier effort to make Arthur into an ally, and how even the shade of Ygraine revealing to Arthur that Uther had murdered her for a son did not stop Arthur from continuing to love and serve his father. "His own mother was nothing to him," Morgause scoffs. "Do you honestly believe he'll care about you? If you trust him to avenge your wrongs, he'll laugh at you and betray you just as he did with me and Ygraine."
She can see the doubt in Morgana's eyes and drives her point further. Admittedly she's a bit jealous of Arthur, who was raised with Morgana, which should have been Morgause's right. And he did betray her and Ygraine; she's seen it. "He does not love you, sister," Morgause says gently. "He does not even know you, not the real you. How could he? He has no magic. He is only a younger version of his father, and you know how Uther has abused your love. Don't make the same mistake twice."
Morgana is quiet for a long time, and then she says: "I won't."
The nightmares start again after Morgana stops talking about anyone in Camelot in terms other than scorn. This is disquieting. Morgause doesn't have the sight herself, but she thought that now, now that they were together and there was no bigoted king to fear, now that Morgause is giving her lessons in the ways of magic that they can share, Morgana would learn to use all aspects of her magic and become mistress of them. So she encouraged Morgana to dispense with the bracelet, only for Morgana to wake up screaming again. Morgause comforts her as best she can, but she is also intrigued, because Morgana keeps seeing Camelot, and both of them there.
"Well then," Morgause says. "We will return, and it will be glorious, sister. There is nothing to be afraid of."
She shares her newest plans, and Morgana proves clever and willing, making excellent suggestions to refine them. But Morgana's dreams still do not make her happy and she continually wakes up sobbing. At first, she won't reveal why, and Morgause is afraid Morgana's heart isn't yet hers entirely but partly still with the Pendragons. But then Morgana confesses that the sight that haunts her is of Morgause herself, falling, and Morgause is reassured, even while questioning what this could mean.
"We cannot fail," Morgause says to Morgana, stroking her hair. "We have right on our side."
"That is what Gorlois our father believed, and I saw his dead body brought back to the castle," Morgana replies. "Be careful, sister."
"I always am, sister. These are just nightmares, not true prophesy, they will pass. All you need is to have faith."
Before she leaves Morgana, she puts the bracelet back on Morgana's wrist, just the same.
When Morgana returns to Camelot, as they have planned, Morgause misses her desperately. She's also worried for her, surrounded as Morgana is again by enemies and conniving, murderous servants, and wishes there was another way for them to reach their goals, but there is not. Not if Morgause is to have her sister and kingdom both.
It's not that she wants to become queen herself. Morgana can have the title, gladly. But Morgause is willing to steer her gently, as she has done since rescuing Morgana; Morgana needs her as advisor and co-ruler, that much is clear. Never more so than when Morgana finds out that Uther is her father in blood as well as in raising, that he has taken that from Gorlois as well. Morgause can see the advantage there at once. But what well and truly shocks Morgause is what Morgana says about Uther's lack of acknowledgment, that it means he does not love her and hence deserves to die. Because this means Morgana, despite all her professed hatred of Uther, despite their agreement on Uther's tyranny and despicable war against those who have magic, would have been ready to genuinely return to Uther's side if only he had openly acknowledged her as his daughter.
Against her will, Morgause remembers what became of Morgana's earlier magical allies; she turned against the first one and stabbed him herself, thus dooming the man's revolt against Uther, because, as Morgana herself has told Morgause, "I believed Uther cared for me". Can Morgana truly make her loyalties not dependent on any right or wrong, but solely on who loves her and who does not?
For the first time, Morgause wonders what choice Morgana would have made that day when Camelot would almost have been hers; if it had been Morgause's life at stake, and Morgana the one to hold it in her hands.
Morgana in her glory, wearing the crown, with Uther at her feet could not be further from the desperate, dying woman Morgause rescued from Camelot, and she is both proud and happy. There is some trouble with the servants, but that was to be expected, small-minded, envious non-magical creatures that they are. The knights' stand was similarly predictable, given none of them is magical, either, and they're bound to lose status if they acknowledge Morgana as their queen, not to mention that they have to be afraid they'll be held to account for what they did to magic users under Uther. It's Morgana's way of dealing with this that catches Morgause by surprise again. The order to shoot the townspeople instead, so that the knights will comply, which they do.
It's not something Morgause has taught her. She doesn't have that much sympathy for the townspeople, true, who would only have been too happy to see her and hers burnt at the stake, but on the other hand you can't have a kingdom without peasants and burghers, and once everything has calmed down, someone will have to do the work. This is a bad beginning. This… is something Uther would have done.
Morgause looks at her sister from the side, her fierce determination, her burning anger, and it is familiar in a way that she has not expected.
Only Uther would be perverse enough to be defeated only to be resurrected in the woman who defeated him.
As soon as the treacherous thought has entered her mind, Morgause argues against it. Morgana is new to power, still; she's not used to wielding it. She would grow wiser and calmer as soon as the Pendragons were dealt with for good, as soon as they were all dead. And then everything would be as it was meant to be, Morgause and Morgana with nothing left in Morgana that was ever anyone's but Morgause's, ruling as they were meant to do.
Being defeated not by Uther, not by his son, but by yet another servant adds insult to injury, but as Morgause falls she can hear Morgana cry out. She can feel Morgana at her side, pulling Morgause towards her, and while she can't speak, can't move, feels her heartbeat go slower and slower, just as Morgana when all this began, Morgause knows Morgana is indeed being given the same choice. Stay, and continue the fight, or save her sister.
"I love you; don't you dare die" Morgana whispers in her hair, so low only Morgause hears it, and then she hears nothing else anymore though she can sense the magic gathering around them as Morgana calls the spell that will move them away.
She shouldn't have doubted Morgana. Maybe Morgana has no other loyalty but love, but it goes both ways. Morgause has taught Morgana that no one else loves her, and Morgana believes her still. She will always choose Morgause, without hesitation, trading a kingdom for a sister.
Sister, we still can have both, Morgause wants to say, but Morgana's love takes her breath away, and Morgause is gone.