Merlin belongs to the good people at the BBC and Shine. Blesséd be the Licence Fee. Written for the Help Fight Depression Auction for a friend who requested a Merlin-verse fic based on the Doctor Who episode 6x07 'A Good Man Goes to War'. I have also borrowed a similar concept from Sleeping Beauty. The title of this fic was inspired by two poems by William Blake 'A Little Girl Lost' from Songs of Innocence and 'The Little Girl Lost, The Little Girl Found' from Songs of Inexperience.
It was being called the Age of Hope in Camelot.
Although the king's unconventional wife had not bore the kingdom a prince they were nonetheless filled with delight at the birth of the little girl. Immediately, the council and the people began to plan the christening. They wished it to be the most joyful day that could be mustered, a public holiday for all and sundry.
The celebration lead and the desire to pay homage to the infant child and the queen led to everyone of high and low estate to descend on Camelot. The royalty, the nobility, the gentry, the merchant class, the artisans, and yes even the peasantry, lined the streets and filled the courtyard just to catch sight of the royal couple and the baby.
They had called her Awena.
Indeed, there were Bards from the north travelling to the city to seek inspiration and write high art for this brand new little muse, each one playing on the meaning of her name. 'Sweet Awena, guiding spirit through Albion's turmoil,' one bard sung on the long pilgrimage towards the city from Gwent in Cymru, 'Surely it is she who inspires the good in all men's heart.'
Of course people knew much of what was said was rather over-the-top considering the child was just a week old by the time the christening drew near.
'[awena] faegersawol heorte to mann
heo sy brytencwen tha sy blod to us...'
...that was the chant of the Druids and those who knew the language of magic. When Merlin heard it, it made him smile that his people were now free to serenade the new princess with a prayer of old. Many people, including the Bards, had forgotten that this holy language had not always been used for spells.
Now they could remember again.
'She is the poetry of our hope,' one bard concluded after the chant ended and "...sothsegen!" replied the druid, reunited with the Bards in song for the first time since Uther Pendragon began his war on magic. Now Arthur allowed them to practise their religion openly, and that magic was permitted – although not fully condoned in all circumstances yet.
Arthur was fair, and that was all most people who practised the Old Religion could ask. The only people who still had a problem with it were Morgana and Mordred, who wanted Morgana to be queen so she could basically make the whole of Albion bow to her wishes by use of magic and Mordred, in particular, wanted all those who did not confirm to what he considered to be 'minimum' capability in regards to magic, should be lumped into the same group as the ordinary people.
No one by the most extreme people agreed with them, and they all skulked away in the depths of the Perilous Lands, still waiting to be liberated from torment by the great Emrys. That could only happen once he destroyed all three of them...
Morgause had been awfully quiet recently. No mad statements from her, nor outlandish plans to bring down Merlin and Camelot since she parted ways with the gruesome twosome.
Her silence worried Merlin more than Morgana's grand-stands by far.
But nothing was going to ruin Awena's christening, he told himself. Nothing.
"You don't suppose it will affect her, do you?"
Merlin turned to look at Awena lying in the cradle and Arthur leaning over her. She clutched to his forefinger with her tiny fist. Her other hand reached up to him happily, comforted by the sound of his voice but completely unaware of the concern that lay beneath it.
Arthur was talking about the origins of his birth.
Since he had discovered the truth of why his mother had died and the numerous betrayals his father had gone through in order to bring it about, then avenge it, and then prevent anyone from knowing the truth, he had wondered whether there wasn't something different about him as a result. It was magic that brought him into being; it was magic that created his life. All those years he had been the embodiment of everything his father supposedly hated.
There had even been a time where Arthur resolved never to have children of his own. It was not just because of his doubts of being a father, but his fear that Gwen would be killed if she were to give birth to a child. This could happen to any woman and it had concerned Arthur each time he thought about their future together – but the discovery of his origins had only intensified this fear.
Merlin thought on all of this, and took a deep breath. "Gwen asked me the same question this morning," the warlock said dimly.
The truth was Gwen had embraced Arthur suggestion that they should not have children when he first expressed this feeling. It wasn't so much to do with the possibility that the origins of Arthur's birth might affect the child, but the fear of what Morgana would do if she ever got her hands on Awena.
"We both know she wants the crown, Gwen had said to Merlin in confidence. "She has a right to the throne and no one can take that away from her, no matter how much she is hated. This child – it will just be another obstacle to her...
Merlin had taken her hand.
"I will protect her, he promised her devoutly, "I swear to my last breath, I shall defend Awena with my life."
Arthur stood up straight, taking his finger away from his daughter. She still reached out for it, longing to get it back. It broke his heart to take it away from her even though it was only to directly address his friend and not through lack of desire to be with her...
"What did you tell her?" he asked.
Merlin swallowed, "That I don't know for sure. There has never been record of a child of magic other than you, and certainly no theories for how it would affect their own children."
He walked slowly over to the cradle to look down on the princess. She was very small, smaller than he imagined most babies were. Gwen had deliver Awena a little early but she was healthy and strong. As he watched the way she punched her fists up, grasping for both of them with demand – it already reminded Merlin of Arthur.
He smiled, "I don't see why it would make any difference. It has never affected you."
Arthur glanced over at Merlin, pulling his eyes reluctantly away from his daughter.
"You mean apart from inciting all my relatives to plot to murder me and my father?" he said sarcastically. When Merlin just looked at him with nothing to say in witty response, the king turned his eyes back to his daughter and sighed, "I was the root cause of so much pain..."
Before Merlin could speak another voice rang through the room.
"It was not you," the queen said calmly. "It was your father – he is to blame, not you."
Arthur tuned to face Guinevere, his heart softened by her very presence as always. Merlin stepped to one side to admire them from afar as the queen took the king's hands into hers and held them passionately.
"Never be ashamed of what you are," Gwen said softly. "None of us are responsible for us being here. But we are here, and that's all that matters."
Arthur's eyes grew heavy with emotion, and he freed one hand to cup her face gently.
"You and Awena are here," he said gruffly. "That's all that matters to me."
Merlin watched like the spectator he was to his king's family life as Gwen leaned into the cradle to pick up her small infant. She then turned to her husband and smiled with all the warmth that many years of love brought to any wife's face.
"The people are waiting," she said confidently.
Arthur nodded and turned to Merlin.
"We had best go and greet them then."
Awena was presented to the court, lying blissfully and peacefully in her royal cradle before the court like the princess of a fairy tale as numerous kings, princes, knights and ambassadors each presented gifts and congratulations to the child and her parents.
The kings, dukes and lords presented their congratulations in person and had their servants present their gifts before the child, who cooed indifferently at each one and was far more interested in the succession of strange faces that were paraded before her, one after another.
Then the knights stepped forward. Along with Merlin they had all consented to be godfathers and had, in true tradition, has a spoon fashioned for the princess – which they had voted collectively that Elyan should present the gift.
He grinned as he handed it to Gwen, "We all chipped in to it. I even fashioned it himself; we were just so worried at how you would react to six separate spoons. Nothing is too good for my niece."
Guinevere chuckled, "It is much appreciated, Elyan."
Then the religious leaders stepped forward.
There were three in all; the Bards, the Druids and the Vates.
Each one of them was there to give the princess a charm each. It had once been traditional in the Old Religion to gift newborns with these charms, and for royalty it had been a necessity. So in compliance with the reintroduction of old customs, they began their presentations:
Nuada, the leader of the Bards, presented the royals first with a book of the poetry they had all written on their way to Camelot (which King Arthur accepted awkward, not quite knowing what to say as he had never been a poetry reader). Then came the charm; he was led to the cradle side by the queen and began to speak the words:
"Sweet Awena," he began softly, so as not to startle her. "We the Bards were once the writers of spells and enchantments, as well as the original charms that are presented to you. Now our powers are reduced merely to that of telling stories. Therefore our gift to you is that of fine language..."
'fram hire tunge beorht spræc cymth'
Emhear, the leader of the Vates, had only recently brought the Order back together. While the Druids remained the secretive leaders of the old ways and the Bards rebranded as poets, the Vates had either been wiped out or been forced to conform entirely under Uther's regime. Emhear was a very old woman who had served under the Vates in the old days before fleeing abroad.
With motherly tenderness she walked towards the cradle with a simple, kindly smile on her face.
"Little Awena," she said. "It once was the case that the Vates aided the Druids during religious ceremony. We were the soothsayers who aided people understand the world around them. We were the healers who cured the sick. We were the ones who carried out the sacrifices. There are many gifts that a Vate Godmother could gift a child, but the greatest one is wisdom..."
'fram hire brægen god thohts cymth'
Iseldir, the leader of the Druids who had regained his former title as a High Priest, came forward to offer his thanks to the King and Queen of Camelot for their understanding and kindness to his people in allowing them to live at peace without fear of persecution.
He stepped forward to address the monarchs and all those watching.
"For many years we lived in fear for our lives," Iseldir said with gloom, which quickly changed to cheer. "Now we are able to stand beside our fellow man and praise the dawning of this new age, the one my kind have waited a long time for; the time of the Once and Future King."
He nodded to Arthur.
He then turned to Merlin, "I would also like to thank wise Emrys, who to my people embodies the power and the freedom with which magic should be used."
Merlin simply nodded in reply, unable to find apt words. Iseldir's speech had already been quite humbling for everyone.
He then turned to the crowd and beckoned forward a young boy.
"With your permission I would like my nephew to present the princess with the charm," Iseldir said, taking the boy by the shoulders and saying his name, "Galahad."
The child was just seven or eight years old but very polite and respectful as the queen came forward to lead him to the cradle. He stood in awe of her but bowed gracefully. As he was led over to the cradle he peered into it and watched the child for a moment. She had started to fall asleep from all the people looking in on her and barely noticed him.
He sighed and began to speak.
"Awena, the Druids were the—"
Galahad's words were almost immediately cut off as, in a burst of loud wind, the doors to the great hall swung open with an unholy crash and the tapestries shook above the courts' heads. Outside the wind was just as strong, and knocked the commoners from side to side. Everyone tried to maintain their balance.
Only Merlin seemed capable of standing defiant against the wind. He knew what was going. It might have seemed strong to everyone else but the magic behind it was painfully below him.
Then it died down and, as he had expected, at the other end of the hall stood Morgana – looking like the bad fairy godmother from a fable. It was yet another grand-stand to add to her list, the warlock thought as he stared across the hall at her. He would see her off in no time...
Rather than a horrified gasp, Arthur and Gwen remained silent. Merlin stepped forward and, before anyone had known what happened, he shot in a blur of the eyes to the centre of the hall to address her. He sounded more irritated than anything else.
"What do you want?" Merlin said, simply.
With the same blurring zoom, Morgana appeared right before him so that their faces were inches away from each other. It provoked another gasp from the audience. Her manner was as over-the-top as ever, sending shivers down the guests spines while making those who knew her skin crawl.
"This is the christening of my niece, isn't it?" she began with a general tone, as if the question had been a stupid and foolish one, as if she was here to play Awena's loving aunt and present her with yet another spoon. "Elyan is here and she is his niece too," she remarked, glancing at the knight in question. She then added sarcastically, "I felt rather offended out at not receiving an invitation..."
Merlin cocked his head to one side.
"Oh dear, were your precious little feelings hurt again?"
"Don't provoke me."
"Come now," Merlin replied indifferently, before his tone began much more dark, "That might work on the defenceless villagers you force to do your dirty little deeds – but this is me we're talking about. You don't want to provoke me."
Morgana said nothing, but stepped back to create some distance between the two of them. They stood up straight, still defiant.
"Say your peace and then be on your way," Merlin told her.
The witch looked around the room before glancing down the hall to address her brother and sister-in-law. Arthur seemed ready to kill at any moment while Gwen looked with a rare look of disgust.
"It seems the whole of Albion turned out for this assembly, brother," Morgana said mockingly. "It was very naive of all of you to think I wouldn't drop in too. After all," she went on, her eyes wandering over to the cot, "the child is of my blood."
...and of the same blood that entitled her to the throne of Camelot, swiftly becoming the throne of all of Albion from the way so many people turned out today to crawl before Arthur and his damned baby. If she could have, Morgana would have gashed Awena's brains out against the wall now.
Her mental desire beckoned her to step forward...
Merlin's arm blocked her, again moving faster than the human eye could detect. It was an odd thing to watch even from afar. She could have slipped past him, but he would have caught her before she would ever reach Awena. Most of her magic was not her own, but stolen – some of it from Merlin himself. This is how she had acquired the speed she otherwise would not have had...
But Merlin was the source of these abilities, and he would always trump her at them all. So Morgana settled for now for being the thorn in his side. She would figure out a way to trap him eventually even if she couldn't kill him...
Morgana looked lazily up at him.
"You don't go anywhere near her," he said firmly.
She groaned, "Oh very well!"
Morgana began to turn as if to leave. Merlin still kept his guard firmly up.
"I can tell where I'm not wanted," she muttered under her breath. "I'd best be on my way. I'd never come here with the intention of killing Awena, or any of you for that matter. Mordred will take care of it soon anyway—"
"What are you talking about?" Merlin asked coldly.
Morgana turned around, smirking as usual.
"Oh, now you want to know?" she said, almost teasing him. "Funny how often you presume to understand everything when really you're just guessing. Any fool would have looked at this gathering and thought of the prophecies—"
Annoyed by her put-on show, Merlin lost his temper. In one swift moment he had shoved her to the end of the hall and just outside in the antechamber, clutching her throat with his hand.
The people gasped out loud a third time.
"Enough of your games," Merlin said gruffly, and slowly let go of her throat.
Morgana stayed still, staring him in the eyes and noticing the proximity between them. She chuckled wickedly at it. "This is quite intimate, Merlin," she whispered to him. They were so far away that no one in the hall could hear them. "All this fighting, isn't it a pity we aren't channelling all this passion into something more... productive?"
"Enough," Merlin barked.
The dragonlord raged inside him. His sounded more like that of blazing fire than a mortal man. Had she provoked him anymore he might have 'accidently' growled for real and called the dragon right to the doors of Camelot.
This was something Morgana definitely wanted to avoid.
"Alright," she said slowly. "Let me go; I'll say what I came to say, and then leave."
Merlin moved his hand away completely.
Another zoom and they were both back at the other end of the hall again. It was starting to make everyone dizzy, not least Arthur and Guinevere, the latter of whom and picked her daughter out of the cradle to shield her from any possible attack from Morgana.
The moment Morgana reached the other end of the hall, where she was just five feet away from the king and queen, Arthur's sword was drawn and pointing nervously close to her back. One move and she would be run through.
He held Guinevere close to him with his other arm, determined to be the shield for both his wife and daughter should things begin that way here.
Merlin too caught up with her the moment she appeared and stood to feet in front of her, ready to attack at the first wrong movement.
But she made none and addressed the crowd malevolently.
"Listen well," she echoed through the hall, turning her body to circulate the one hundred and eighty degrees of her brother's subjects before her. "Mordred is gathering an army of renegade sorcerers that are prepared to march on Camelot – by the end of the week, those of you who remain here will be caught up in an attack on the city."
She then moved, not towards the royal family, but back towards Merlin and turned to face them finally, looking Gwen in the eyes for she was the one holding the child.
"By the end of this week, Awena will be dead," she promised cruelly. "So says the prophecy, so we will make it happen."
Gwen's only natural reaction was to clutch Awena all the tighter to her body. The baby started to cry, as if her mother's fear radiated on her. "No," she whispered weakly. "I'd die before I'd let either you or Mordred near her..."
Arthur began to draw his sword.
Morgana raised her eyebrows, paying no heed to her brother and all of it to her sister-in-law and niece. "I'm sure you will, Gwen; the more of you here that die, the better it'll be for me."
"It's been two years since Uther died and all you still think about is your hate for him?" Merlin questioned pitilessly.
"I am his daughter," Morgana retorted with anger. "I am owed what should have always been mine." And she pointed viciously at her brother, "He shouldn't even be here in the first place. He's nothing more than... a freak of nature. He is a life that should never have been."
Arthur narrowed his eyes. "You really think you're going to get to me this way?"
"It's still a fact, isn't it brother?" Morgana said cruelly, and she smiled in her disturbingly unhinged manner. "If you had never been born then all these people would have been spared thirty years of torment and I would have been given what is rightfully mine!"
Gwen couldn't help herself at this moment.
"It would never have been yours," the queen said, managing to hide her fear as she held her daughter very well. "Uther wanted a son; a son that was his and Ygraine's. Your father loved you... but he would never have given you the throne of Camelot. You were not what he wanted."
The witch's blood boiled.
"And your daughter," Morgana said slowly, threateningly. "Is she what you and Arthur really wanted?"
Gwen stared definitely into Morgana's eyes. The longer this went on, the easier it became.
"I thought you and Arthur weren't going to have children," the witch finished.
Merlin was so distracted with watching the queen at that moment it allowed for Morgana to zoom her way back to the doors of the hall. He immediately span around as he felt her go and stared down the long aisle again as she spouted her villainy at Arthur, Gwen and the whole hall one last time.
"You should have kept your word about never having children, little brother," she crowed with a satisfied grin, "I still have a right to the throne." At this point her voice became darker, more embittered. "I am still a queen-in-exile. That crown on your wife's head is still mine... and if I have to kill both you and your little runt daughter in order to lift it from her lifeless head, then so be it. As far as I'm concerned Awena is just another obstacle I have to overcome."
She turned to Merlin, ignoring the look of pure unadulterated hate from Camelot's monarchs.
"Don't try to follow me," Morgana said with a smirk. "You'll want to set up your defences here because before this week is out, we'll be back to kill the girl."
Merlin glared at her, "Hell will rise before I let that happen."
She tilted her head, "Then it shall rise. Goodbye."
Then with a blaze of wind and violent flaps of her cloaks, Morgana faded loudly and slowly away into thin area. Once she was gone the great hall fell quiet again and everyone was so speechless that not another sound was uttered for a long pause.
Iseldir stepped forward.
Arthur was clutching his wife to him, comforting her as she held their daughter to her bosom. She had stopped crying now, also feeling safe in the mutual grasp of her mother and father. Gwen leaned her head against her husband's shoulder, refusing to let herself cry in confusion. It would not help in saving Awena.
They both looked to the Druid Elder.
This was their signal to him to let him speak.
"Your majesties," he bowed. "Although it is against our beliefs to engage in warfare I hereby pledge the loyalty of the Druidic Order to you both. We may not warriors but we can summon powerful magic to defend the castle from these renegades."
Galahad stepped forward, "I can fight—"
But his uncle placed his hand on his shoulder to stop him and pull him back.
Iseldir went on, "It is our duty to protect innocent people from Mordred. He is still one of our kind and he is abusing his powers by allying with renegades."
At that moment Emhear came forward.
"We Vates on the other hand are not against warfare," she said menacingly. "The witch Morgana brings shame to every seer in our Order. You can be certain that they will not fight fairly and use magical weapons, so we will enchant the swords of your army."
She nodded to Merlin with respect.
"I promise you that I personally will fight to the death if need be to protect the child," she concluded.
Everyone then looked to Nuada. He swallowed nervously, "We just write poems... but anything we can do to help, of course."
"You can help with the enchantments," Emhear said firmly.
Merlin replied to all three with gratitude, "I will work with all of you make sure our magic holds Mordred. It won't hold forever but it will bide us time. We have to remember that he is a Druid—"
"And a Vate," Galahad suddenly said.
Everyone looked to the outspoken boy. He was initially shy but he went on once he saw the curiosity in the queen's eyes. "He and I were raised as brothers—"
"Galahad," Iseldir whispered.
The boy turned to him, "They have to hear this, uncle."
He looked back to the royal family and Merlin.
"Mordred was a foundling child," Galahad explained. "My parents took him in before I was born. His mother had abandoned him. We don't know why but we assume it was because his magic frightened his parents. Even as a baby he had strange powers to... move objects with his mind, to sense people's emotions, to—do all sorts of things that are extremely rare in sorcerers, especially from birth. They are all very desirable to our people."
Merlin sighed sadly. "Just like me when I was younger."
Galahad smiled despite himself, "My mother was a Vate—well, she still is—and she taught us both Vate magic. You won't be able to hold him out for long, eventually he will find a way to break through our barriers."
"Then I must back it up with my own magic," Merlin declared with darkness in his voice. "Morgana may have stolen some of my powers over the years but I still have more inner strength than any sorcerer alive. It will take the whole combined strength of an army to overpower me."
There was brief silence.
It was broken by Guinevere.
"But what happens then?" she said frailly, still holding her silently sleeping baby. "Do we stay inside this castle forever and hide? You know Mordred will never give up until all of us are dead. He's like her – only worse. Morgana is mad, but he is perfectly sane. He is just cruel."
"A match made in heaven," Arthur grumbled under his voice.
Gwen looked up at her husband anxiously. "Arthur, you know about the prophecy, don't you?"
"Of course I do," he said slowly. "And if I die in the process of protecting my kingdom and my family, then so be it. But I fail to see how this applies to Awena."
A tiny breeze picked up and settled, as if an open window had just seeping in a tiny gust from outside. But all the windows were closed. Yet no one paid heed to the wind or the sudden appearance of a young woman right in the middle of the hall.
No one noticed her at all until she spoke:
"There is a lion, a mortal king but great he be,
Shall return from exile to reclaim his land
And hope to terra firma, and set it free.
His sire failed and fell, for at his hand
A fair lady of the grand played a victim
To a double deception from old and him;
She is the first victim of his terrible sin,
For a lion cub that is solely our kin;
The sacrificial lamb, the cause is thee..."
All eyes turned to towards this voice. Its owner was quite young, no older than twenty and she wore a red and white hood that completely covered her hair. Her robes were loose fitted and hung right down to the floor in several layers. She looked like a young Sister or Priestess. She was a very pretty looking girl.
"Who are you?" Arthur was the first to ask.
The girl stared up at him with a soft, friendly smile but made no attempt to reply to his second questions, instead focusing on the first. "That verse which I just quoted comes from the Red Book," she explained. "It was written by Taliesin on the subject of the 'Once and Future King'."
Arthur stared, "What has this to do with Awena?"
"Does that matter?" the girl replied. "The point is that there are prophecies out there and the one that says your daughter will be killed by the end of this week is just one of many."
"So it might not come true," the king said, more confused that hopeful.
"I didn't say that, my lord," the girl said. "It just means that the prophecy may not be all that it seems. One thing I know for certain is that nothing will keep Mordred out. Not even Emrys can hold him off in the end—not because he's more powerful, but because he believes that Awena must die, and so she shall."
Gwaine, who had remained silent until this point, stepped forward on behalf of the other confused knights. "What are you saying?"
The girl spun around to face him. Almost immediately they were all floored by her beautiful, huge dark eyes.
"Never underestimate the power of self-fulfilling prophecy," she said simply.
She looked to Merlin. The pair stared into each other's eyes for a moment. All he thought about was who she might be. She had literally appeared out of nowhere. No one in the hall knew her. Merlin had checked every guest before they came in. She was clearly a sorceress – and her clothes suggested she belonged to an order – but she came with none.
Then Gwen asked the question that was burrowed away inside his mind.
"What is your name?"
"Ganieda, your majesty," the girl said, smiling to the queen.
Merlin drew her attention back with a stern tone. "Where did you come from? You didn't enter this hall with the other guests. Why did you come here, who are you?"
Ganieda held out her hand.
"Touch me," she ordered him.
Any normal person would have been apprehensive about this but Merlin obeyed the order. It was true that his overbearing power gave him the confidence to confront even the most powerful of sorcerers without any fear for what might happen. He knew he could twist the situation around in his favour even if worse came to worse. It was what he did.
He reached out to touch Ganieda's hand. As he did, his grasp fell through her and he quickly realised it was impossible to hold her hand or feel her.
He looked her in the eyes. "Who are you?"
"I am the spirit of the yet to come," Ganieda said simply. Her manner remained calm and cool as everyone at caught stared at her cautiously. She went on, addressing Merlin with a quiet whisper so no one else could hear, "I come from the future and now, just for a brief moment, I have appeared to give you some advice."
He raised his eyebrows.
"That's impossible," Merlin replied darkly.
"Emrys," Ganieda grinned. "You know better than to make such assumptions."
The way she used his 'other' name struck Merlin slightly. He knew better these days than to trust any attractive young sorceresses claiming to be a friend. History had taught him they were usually trouble. Yet he humoured this young woman.
"What advice do you have for us?" he said sceptically.
The woman glanced behind him at the king and queen, still clutching their child to them with defensive devotion. Guinevere in particular watched Ganieda would a mixture of caution and curiosity. There was something about this girl she didn't understand. It was something that made her feel that she should trust her and yet made her feel uneasy.
Arthur was somewhat more aloof, but even he felt taken in by the apparent enchantress.
There was a shine in Ganieda's eyes.
Her eyes then fell on the by Galahad, "Give him the gift you wished to give to the princess."
Galahad blushed and looked to his uncle for permission. Iseldir nodded, and so the boy slowly produced long golden chain from the folds of his robes. As it unravelled before the court it was revealed that a shining protective charm hung at the end of it.
He placed it in his palm and showed it to Merlin.
Ganieda made a soft, well-meaning smile that let everyone's guard down a little.
"I wish to present the new princess with a bulla*," Galahad explained nervously. Merlin could sense the protective magic on it from where it hung five inches from his face. "They are always presented to children amongst my people."
He drizzled the charm and chain gently into Merlin's own palm. It felt warm with goodness. It was comforting to feel this rare type of magic that had clearly been crafted and bound with loving care.
He looked at the charm; on one side it had runic symbols on it. Being well reversed in the magic runes after years of studying magic he knew exactly what it said: 'AWENA'. The other side was blank.
Ganieda explained, "Magic is woven into the very being of the bulla. We believe that as long as a child wears it, no harm will ever come to them."
Merlin closed his fingers over it.
A jolt shot through his body.
He didn't understand why.
"Ensure Awena wears this around her neck always," Ganieda told him. Her deep brown eyes crept straight into Merlin's soul, and all he could do was nod slowly. She nodded back, "As long as she wears it, she will be safe and you will always be able to find her."
Even as he held it he could feel the power binding him to Awena. She was very close by, cradled in Gwen's arms. It was so warm and sweet...
Merlin cleared his throat, "You came all the way from the future to tell us this?"
"No, as I said," Ganieda went on. "I also came to give you all advice for the battle to come."
The queen stepped immediately took note of the girl's words. Still carrying her infant, she walked down the throne steps to approach her. As could be expected Arthur followed a step behind her.
"Let her speak," Guinevere declared.
Ganieda took a deep breath. "You're not going to like it, but please hear me out."
"Go on," the king said, as an order.
She looked around the hall at the different magical orders, at Merlin, at the king and queen, and finally down at the tiny princess. She smiled with interest before she swallowed a faint concealed emotion and said what she came to say.
"Merlin's magic is strong," Ganieda began. "If he creates a protective charm with the help of the Vates, the Bards and the Druids... that will keep even a thousand strong army out. But you must ensure that everyone take refuge inside the castle."
Arthur nodded his head to one side.
"Thank you," he said a little unconvinced. "That goes without saying—"
"But you cannot keep them out indefinitely," Ganieda said darkly. She looked into Gwen's eyes with sympathy, "You said it yourself. Mordred won't give up. He will besiege the castle forever... and you don't have forever."
She looked back to Arthur.
"You must ready yourself for a hard and painful time," she warned carefully. "But that's not all. You must send Merlin to seek the help of another powerful sorcerer, someone who hates Mordred just as much as you do."
Merlin stepped forward.
"Tell me who it is and I will find them."
Ganieda looked over her shoulder at him, prepared for an angered reaction, "Morgause."
The reaction was as could be expected. Most recoiled in disgust while others rolled their eyes at the ridiculousness of the suggestion. Arthur was one of the latter. He even laughed in a low hysterical while shaking his head.
"There is no way in hell I am letting that harpy anywhere near my daughter," he finally declared, his tone shifting from hysteria to dark determination. "Calling on her aid is out of the question. Even if she agrees to fight Mordred, I won't have my daughter be an excuse for her petty revenge."
"I'm not saying you bring her here," the girl said calmly. "I'm saying that she will have vital knowledge about the prophecies... knowledge that even the Three Orders don't know. She was trained by the high priestesses and still owns many books and writings on the matter."
Arthur still seemed reluctant.
But Gwen's attention had been caught. She turned to address her husband and spoke as gently and smoothly as she could manage given everything that had happened today. "We need not even bring her over Camelot's boarders. If we send Merlin with two or so knights over Odin's boarders..."
Emhear stepped forward, "It just so happens I returned from giving her a peace offering just before coming here. I can assure you that she is still at her hideout."
Merlin turned back to address Ganieda.
"What if I call on the Great Dragon?"
Her tone was firm, "Would you taint the Dragon by entreating him to do to your enemies as he had once done to Camelot?"
He understood what she meant. The dragon's gifts should be used to aid the cause of good, not simply engulf the cause of evil. Nonetheless he would keep his old friend in mine; although Merlin decided there and then not to turn him on Mordred's renegades, he hoped the sight of the last dragon would frighten some of them to flee the battlefront.
As if she was reading his mind, Ganieda smiled and nodded. "Good thinking, Emrys," she told him. "There are very few men in Mordred and Morgana's faction willing to actually die for them."
Her instinct about his mind gave Merlin goosebumps.
"But even then, keep it as a last resort," Ganieda finished.
Meanwhile Gwen continued her appeal to Arthur, who was still uncertain about sending Merlin to seek Morgause's help. "I don't want to do it anymore than you do," Gwen admitted after a while, comforting Awena as she awoke again and began to whimper. "But this woman clearly knows things—"
"Exactly," Arthur said, turning his head to look harshly on Ganieda. "If you know so much then why don't you give us the information we need yourself? What does Morgause know that you don't?"
Ganieda sighed, "Just because I know the future doesn't mean I have studied every last detail. All I can tell you is that Morgause knows something that all of you, and Mordred and Morgana, don't know."
"So you're basically saying we have no choice," Gwen said, taking this to be Ganieda's meaning.
The sorceress smiled, "Your majesty, there are always choices."
Arthur paced back towards his throne. The others watched him from afar as he walked up the chairs to glance into the empty cradle.
"Merlin," he said under his breath. "If I were to send you, how long would it take?"
"Two days to get there," Merlin replied bluntly. "I cannot transport there as I have no attachment to the place. However I can transport myself, and any other knights, home again afterward."
Arthur turned to his wife and slowly asked her, "What do you think?"
Gwen looked down at the baby she held in her arms before replying. "I would walk to see Morgause myself if she knew something that could protect our daughter from those monsters."
A sad smile briefly crossed the king's lips. It then quickly returned to a monarch's restrained frown as he addressed Merlin. "Then I give you permission to go," he told the warlock. "Merlin, before you go I want you to help the Three Orders prepare the defences. Gwaine and Lancelot will go with you. I want the three of you back as soon as possible – I would send other knights but I cannot spare them. Leon, Percival, Elyan and the other knights will remain here with me to prepare for the renegades' arrival."
Merlin looked over at Gwaine and Lancelot, who both simply nodded at the king's orders.
Arthur then walked back towards his wife and carefully took the baby from her arms. He still seemed a little nervous when he held her. He seemed overly careful with Awena cradled against her.
"We must prepare the castle for siege..."
Merlin and turned back to Ganieda.
"What exactly am I supposed to be asking Morgause about—?"
But to no one's surprise, she had vanished.