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.
"But she can't have magic!" Merlin cried, still struggling in painful confusion. "She's Arthur and Gwen's daughter and neither of them have ever displayed magical ability, so how can Awena possibly have inherited magic from Arthur when he has no magic to pass on?"
Gwaine cleared his throat.
"What are you thinking?" Lancelot asked.
The other knight sighed, "We all know how Arthur was born, don't we? It was no ordinary birth. His father used magic to help his mother conceive a child. It is effectively magic that holds Arthur's very being together..."
"But the magic has never manifested itself," Merlin pointed out, trying to understand what was obviously clear logic to Morgause from her notes. "Arthur can't actually use magic."
"Moreover Awena was born like the rest of us," Lancelot agreed, helping to put together the knowledge they had. "She was conceived naturally. If Awena had been born of magic like Arthur, then someone would have died; to create a life, a life must be given. A sacrifice would have to have been made. That's why his mother died in childbirth; she had to in order for Arthur to live."
Merlin finished the point himself:
"That rule is paramount and cannot be overcome. You remember what Arthur said when he finally learned the truth about his mother," he said. "He said he would rather live a childless life with Gwen than sacrifice her for an heir. He wouldn't play dice with her life like that."
Gwaine silenced them both again, calling over all of them.
"That's not the point I was trying to make," he told them all. He paused for a moment, denoting the seriousness of what he was saying. "Morgause knows that it is magic is the source of Arthur's life... but what happens when a child of magic has a child of their own...?"
Merlin stood silent, contemplating what his friend was saying. A terrible thought was slowly starting to dawn on him and he was ashamed that he had not thought of the possibility in the first place.
"Surely nothing special would happen, would it?" Lancelot asked.
"Think about it," Merlin said with dreading realisation. "The magic of life and death is one of the most powerful in existence. Only someone like Nimueh could possibly have managed it..."
"And you," Lancelot asked.
Merlin said nothing, which indicated that what Lancelot asked was true. "Anyone else trying to mess with the forces of life and death would, I don't know, rip a hole in the fabric of reality!"
He took a deep breath.
"The magic between the dead, the yet-to-live and the never-born is fragile at best," Merlin said grievously. "Yet all that magic is right there inside Arthur. The reason it doesn't manifest itself is because it is part of his being. Without it, he wouldn't exist."
Merlin concluded his point.
"But where did all that magic go when Arthur had a natural child of his own?"
Emhear had pulled up a chair to sit opposite the cradle so she could face Awena from the front. The baby began to make solemn little noises, once again appearing to sense a darkened mood. It interested the sorceress, who then gently reached forward to rock the cradle in a bid to comfort the baby.
But she still made the sad little sounds.
It was like she could feel her parent's anxiety from where they were.
"Hush, little one," Emhear said soothingly. "There is nothing to be afraid of."
Just as she said this there came a small creak from outside the room.
Startled, even by this small sound, Emhear stood up swiftly and shielded the cradle with genuine protectiveness. It still remained that a murderer was in the castle.
With a swift moment of the head she locked all the doors with a simple enchantment. They all clicked loudly, creating a safe barrier for her and the baby.
Then she slowly turned back to lean into the crandle.
Awena's large dark baby's blue eyes stared up at her. She fell silent at the sight of this stranger.
Emhear smiled, "I promised I wouldn't let anything happen to you."
The Vate glanced down at the bulla around her neck, facing 'AWENA' up.
Merlin was trying to be the voice of reason, but it was not working very well. The tragic irony was that Uther's desire for an heir and his hatred of magic would eventually lead to him having a granddaughter with the gift. Then again the irony had already played out his production of a murderous witch of a daughter.
"I always thought that magic was hereditary," Lancelot said. "That to have it one or both your parents also had to have the gift. I mean, Merlin – your powers are hereditary, aren't they?"
Merlin bit his lip.
"My father was a dragonlord," he explained. "But my powers go beyond anything he had. I don't know the true route of my powers... but I can definitely guess at Awena's."
"Aren't we jumping to conclusions?" Lancelot asked. "None of us have seen anything to suggest that Awena might have magic..."
"That doesn't matter," Gwaine said seriously. "Morgause believes she does, and from the looks of things she has been waiting for a long time for this child's potential birth."
Merlin's mind wandered again over the things that had happened during the run up to Awena's birth. As he did so, he muttered to himself and then moved onto the next point.
"Gwen was worried the baby would have magic," he whispered as the other knights spoke among themselves. He should never have ignored the instincts of a mother, but it wasn't just her. "Even Arthur seemed worried about it being a possibility."
He thought of what he had said.
"You don't suppose it will affect her, do you?"
The warlock picked up the notebook again.
"There's one more thing that doesn't make sense," he said, ending his mutters. "Even if all of this is possible, even if Awena had inherited magic as a result of the circumstances of Arthur's birth... why is Morgause so interested in her?"
Gwaine and Lancelot exchanged glances.
"Merlin," Lancelot began slowly. "In your mind, if Awena had inherited magic from the power of life and death, just how powerful do you think she would be?"
There was no reply to that. Merlin had an idea but there was no way of knowing if, or until, the magic began to present. And that could happen at any time. Even then he could not begin to guess what her actual gifts might be. His own powers had always been about controlling the environment around him, whether it was objects or slowing the passage of time. Merlin's self-awareness and eyesight were faster than even other powerful sorcerers he had encountered. The only one who came close to matching him on every front was Mordred, yet no amount of power could trump the gifts of the dragonlord. Still, he knew that not all his powers were linked to being a dragonlord.
He shook his head, "I don't know."
He took a deep breath.
"However, given the amount of power needed to harness the magic of life and death – even half of that power would be able to crush most sorcerers," Merlin finished.
Another stifling silence past between them.
Lancelot nodded, "And you could expect Awena to have inherited at least a half of that power from Arthur, if it is true."
"There can't be any doubt," Gwaine said firmly. "Morgause wouldn't have spent all this time waiting for nothing; she knows it's true."
Merlin glanced out the ruined panes that had once been a window in his abandoned castle. The others continued to talk amongst themselves.
"So Morgause wishes to kill Awena in fear of what she will become?" Lancelot said, more of a statement than a question. It made sense that this would be her plan. She tried to kill Merlin every week. "In which case, we can assume she is still working with Morgana and Mordred..."
Gwaine cleared his throat again; no one had noticed until this moment that he was holding the Red Book in his hands.
"I have another suggestion," he said slowly.
The other two men turned to look at him.
Once the fire was lit Gwen and Arthur wasted no time in lighting the candle with a splint. They then carefully carried it back into the corridor in an attempt to light up the shadows.
"What are you thinking, Arthur?" the queen finally asked.
He stared down at the candle, "You said it looked like someone had picked up a massive brick and hurled it at the back of this guard's head?"
Gwen nodded, "From a distance, yes."
"What sort of distance?"
She sighed as she thought. "I'm not sure—maybe ten to fifteen feet?"
Arthur held the candle aloft towards the ceiling. Its light glowed at the high ceiling. "Could it have been a vertical drop?"
Gwen glanced up before shaking her head. "Then the wound would have been at the drop of his head, not the back. Besides," and she pointed at the lack of support or balcony up there, "Unless we're dealing with a giant stone-throwing spider, I don't see how anyone could have attacked him from above."
Although it was not appropriate, the king could not help but smirk. "I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a giant spider just yet."
He brought the candle down. It shone brightly upon the murder victim.
The king nodded, "So it would have to have been an attack on floor-level?"
"Yes," Gwen said again. "Which leads me to ask again, what are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking," Arthur said, keeping hold of this rare moment of clarity. It was a rare thing when he was the one coming up with thoughts and ideas in these situations. "What if rather than having something thrown at him, he was thrown against something?"
"From fifteen feet—?"
Gwen's words were interrupted as Arthur moved closer towards the shadowy end of the corridor. It dawned her too what he was getting at.
"How long would you say this corridor is, Guinevere?"
"Between fifteen to twenty feet," she replied in monotone.
Arthur took another step closer to the wall and finally uncovered what he was looking for. It cause both him and his wife to recoil a little as there, splattered onto the once clean white wall, was a murky stain of blood and below it, a drag-trail leading to where the body was lying.
He looked at her with serious eyes. "Usually people slam their backs against the wall and break their spines," he said slowly. "That's what kills them."
"But this man must have hit the wall head first."
Arthur blew the candle out. His blood was fired up with resolve.
"This could only have been done with magic," he concluded. "No man could hurl another against the wall that far and furiously. One of Mordred's men must be in the castle..."
Gwaine finished reading and showed it to Merlin.
"This is the passage that Ganieda quoted when she first appeared," Gwaine explained, handing the book to Merlin. "After reading it again I realised what it was talking about."
'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...'
"The Lion returning from exile is Arthur, and I think it is talking of how overcame the immortal army, hence why so much is made of his mortality."
'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...'
"Arthur's birth," Lancelot muttered.
"That bit was obvious," Merlin agreed. "It's speaking of how Uther failed to bring freedom to the land because of the loss of Arthur's mother Ygraine. 'The first victim of his terrible sin,' refers to the Great Purge. I suppose in many ways she was the first victim."
Gwaine allowed them to digest this before he finished the passage:
'...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...'
"At first I thought this was talking about how Arthur was a child of magic, seeing as Ygraine was the 'sacrificial lamb' at his birth," Gwaine said thoughtfully, and the other two muttered to confirm this. "But then I realised that the passage refers to this person as 'a lion cub', in other words the child of a lion..."
Merlin snapped his head up, "Awena."
He thought for a moment.
"If refers to Awena inheriting magic – solely out kin, the kin of magic – because of her grandmother's death, because Uther used magic which Arthur had in turn passed on to his daughter!"
He threw the book down and rubbed his head viciously.
"Why didn't I see that?"
Lancelot cleared his throat and patted Merlin's shoulder comfortingly. "It wasn't exactly obvious, Merlin."
Gwaine nodded in agreement.
"So imagine this," the knight said gruffly. "Morgause doesn't want to kill Awena, but use her. She's done it before; taken people, corrupted them and fashioned them into weapons to suit her own desire for revenge. She tried to do it with Arthur, and she did do it with Morgana, Cenred—"
"But why would Awena be a weapon?" Lancelot quizzed.
There was a long pause where they each thought in silence.
"If Awena is as a powerful as Morgause believes she could be," Merlin finally said. "She could kill Mordred."
Another dreadful silence went by.
"She could kill me," he concluded.
It was then that Merlin realised what this whole quest Ganieda had sent him on had been about. Right there was the answer he had been sent to gain. But that couldn't be all!
He stormed out of the room.
Emhear continued to lean over the cot, trying to comfort the princess.
The moment her parents laid eyes on the blood staining the walls and floors in the shadowy corridor, Awena started to fuss again. Just a baby and unable to understand the feelings she was having. She was not to know that other babies never experienced this. That she was unique.
To Awena, the world was no bigger than her cradle.
She opened her eyes to look Emhear in the eyes.
Slowly, the Vate lifted her from the cradle again.
"Come here, little one," she whispered sweetly. "Let me have a good look at you..."
"Where're you going?" Lancelot called after Merlin.
In sheer confusion Merlin was opening all the doors to the abandoned castle to see whether there was anything interesting he had missed. Each room still looked as ruined as the last.
"Merlin," Gwaine spoke hurriedly. "If Awena has such powerful magic then what could her ability be?"
"I don't know," Merlin muttered in anger. "Who says it has to be anything? All we need to know is that it is powerful."
"But the magic of life and death," Lancelot called from behind the two of them. "What if it has something to do with that?"
Merlin turned around.
The two knights stopped to catch their breaths as chasing Merlin through a ruined castle had proved more tiring than they had thought. Lancelot finally made his point, "Morgause wants to use Awena to kill people she herself is not powerful enough to stop. What if she thinks the magic can be used to bring people back to life?"
Merlin turned to open another door.
The moment the hinges swung outward, a body fell through onto the floor.
"What if it's not one of Mordred's men?" Gwen suddenly said, remaining still and still staring at the blood on the walls. Behind her she could hear Arthur stop and turned around to listen to her. "If it was him, or one of his men, they would have killed a lot more than this one servant."
He slowly walked back up to her.
"So why would anyone kill one innocent man so violently?" she finished.
The Vate slowly reached into her pocket.
She pulled out a small, dead bird.
Awena's face scrunched up but she did not cry.
Slowly Emhear laid the dead avian across Awena's chest. Then she licked a blood stain from the creature on the tip of her finger and brushed it gently against the princess's forehead, leaving a small mark.
She rocked the baby steadily...
Emhear smiled down at the tart face of little Awena.
She was about to invoke magic she was not yet certain was inside the child. But holding her now and feeling the magic bond that many sorcerers felt, she was certain it was there.
Despite being a tiny child, the power inside her stifling.
"Dôn* below!" Lancelot cursed.
Gwaine lurched forward to analyse the body. It was wrapped up in a black shawl. Its hands had been bound behind the back and, as the knight slowly un-hooded the face and turned it towards them, it appeared to have been gagged as well...
"Who is it?" Merlin asked.
"Unless they killed him for a reason..." the queen went on.
"What reason could there be to kill a bystander?"
Gwaine removed the gag from the corpse's mouth and showed the face to Merlin and Lancelot. They both gasped in disbelief, confusion and realisation as the cold, dead eyes of the victim started blankly back at them.
"Emhear," Merlin said slowly.
"Emhear," Lancelot echoed. "The leader of the Vates... but how can she be here?"
The other knight stood up and walked to stand beside his two friends. "She's completely cold," Gwaine told them both. "She's been dead for at least two days."
"But how is that possible?" Lancelot asked rightly. "We saw her just one day ago."
Merlin knelt grimly beside the dead Vate leader. It was now he realised his mistake. This was what Ganieda had wanted him to find. This is what Morgause wanted him to find. To find, and to realise...
"That wasn't Emhear," the warlock grimaced. "This dead body, she is the real Emhear. Didn't she mention before left that she had visited Morgause?"
Gwaine nodded, "Visited her, but never came back..."
Merlin placed his hand on her forehead.
Even though she was fully expired he felt he heard a tiny cry from inside Emhear's head.
Her last thought.
'The child!' it said, 'The child...what is she?'
'Emhear' started to hum a lullaby.
A shine came across Awena's eyes and it reflected in the witch's.
"Let me help you," the witch whispered softly. "Let me bring forth your gift."
She took hold of Awena's tiny hand and forced it to touch the bird.
A tiny white spark passed between them.
It that second, the bird sprang to life. Its head literally snapped back into place, it pulled itself up from where it was lying on top of the princess and spread its wings to fly.
Awena stared fixated with her creation.
It squawked and took off. It perched itself up above the cradle.
Morgause smirked with achievement. It was just a bird, not a human. Yet it was like nothing she had ever seen before. Awena could maintain expired life. If her studies were correct, given time, Awena could kill or save whoever she chose. The power of life and death would literally be at her command. No cup, no sacrifices or overstated rituals. Just her fingertips and her mind.
She smiled down at the silent, almost perplexed child.
Slowly she started to sing another lullaby, one with a spell hidden beneath it.
The king comfortingly stroked the back of his queen's neck. She slowly eased against it, briefly taking comfort in it. Then she braced stiffly, suddenly.
"Guinevere?" Arthur asked questioningly.
A jolt shot through Gwen's mind.
An instinct deep inside her called out.
"Awena!" she gasped.
Gwen sprang up and ran off down the corridor again, beckoning Arthur to follow her.
Merlin closed Emhear's eyes again and back away from her.
The three men continued to stare down at her.
"Emhear is dead and Morgause is the only one who could have done it," Merlin said conclusively. "And is there in Camelot right now; we must return immediately!"
He held out his hands for the other two to take.
Magic was the fastest way to get home...
"...cume forthweg, lufubearn."
By the time they had finally managed to unlock the doors to the royal chambers, it was too late. The room was empty. The windows were closed. There was no sign of escape... yet Awena and the woman they thought had been the leader of the Vates were gone.
All that was left behind was an empty cradle.
With a dead bird lying in it.
Merlin rushed ahead of Gwaine and Lancelot was they materialised in the courtyard.
He ran as fast as he could through the castle, calling out to everyone, anyone, who would listen. It did not even occur to him that the magical barrier was down and the people of Camelot were walking solemnly around the castle and the square, already aware of what had happened.
Yet he pressed on regardless. As if somehow his words could turn back time.
"Gwen," Merlin called, "Arthur – it's not Emhear! It's Morgause. She killed her and stole her form!"
He finally reached the Great Hall where everyone else was assembled; the knights, the guards, the nobility, the foreign royalty and, at the very end, the king and queen in comforting embrace.
Sorrow burst from Merlin's heart.
"Awena," he said to himself.
Elyan stoically came forward a nodded, doing well to hide his own despair at the loss of his niece. "Yes," he said slowly. "We know."
Gwaine and Lancelot appeared at the door. Their gasps for breath immediately became subdued as they realised they were too late. All they could do was exchange guilty looks with Elyan, Leon and Percival. The latter two patted the two men on the back and began to tell them what happened.
Merlin did not stay to listen as he followed Elyan past the bewildered Vates, Druids and Bards. Iseldir was questioning the young women who had come with 'Emhear', demanding to know whether they suspected anything about their mistress. Many of them were in tears, some weeping hysterically. It was partly for the princess but mostly at the realisation that the real Emhear must be dead. "We didn't suspect anything," cried one girl. "We should have realised," sobbed another. "We should have protected her..."
The Bards were being as useless as ever. Nuada stood with a blank look on his face, watching Merlin walk by.
He finally reached the elevated thrones where Arthur and Gwen stood.
Gwen had laid her head against Arthur's shoulder. She was not crying but instead her expression was completely drained, as if all strength had been sucked from it – even her ability to shred tears. As could be expected, Arthur was trying to remain as impassive as possible. Yet Merlin could feel the pain bubbling underneath.
"She took her," Gwen uttered mournfully. "She was here the whole time, and she took my daughter away..."
Merlin was at a loss for words.
"Now we have no idea where Awena is," she went on, biting her lips. The tears were finally starting to be released from her eyes. "Mordred could find her—Morgause could be in league with him—and we have no way of protecting her..."
The warlock stepped forward.
"I am..." he began, swallowed the lump in his throat, and went on, "Gwen, Arthur... I am so, so sorry."
Gwen gave him a look that she had never given him before. It was not accusing, or angry or even devastated. It was at a loss for a reaction. Her tears were finally starting to fall but she seemed completely unaware of it. Her eyes stared at him, unblinking.
Arthur glanced at Merlin. "It's not your fault."
It felt like his fault. Merlin knew it probably was his fault as he had sworn to protect Awena but had failed. He should have been able to second guess Morgause. He spent so much time focusing on Mordred and Morgana that he had completely forgotten about her. Then when he finally did consider her motives, he fails to sense that she was right there in Camelot, hiding beneath the skin of one of their allies.
Iseldir stepped forward.
"Emrys," he said quietly.
He wanted to call him away from the king and queen to speak with him privately. The warlock nodded and walked over to address him properly.
"My nephew Galahad wishes to tell you something," the Druid leader explained.
Galahad had been lurking behind the other druids, but came forward at the mention of his name. Merlin looked down at the boy and waited for what he had to say. He remembered what he had told him before he left... but it still didn't make sense.
"Emrys," the boy said shakily. "There is still a chance to find her. Morgause has sworn hatred on Mordred, and that alone should keep her from harming the princess."
Merlin did not move.
"Forgive me if I do not count on that," he whispered darkly. "Even if what you say is true, it is just as possible that from fear of Mordred and Morgana killing Awena – this baby who she only wants for utterly selfish reasons – that she will take her aboard, and out of our reach."
He looked up to Iseldir.
"It's too late," Merlin uttered. "And it's my fault..."
"You're giving up?" said Gwaine, over hearing the conversation. "The Merlin I know would never do that."
Merlin turned to face him. "Well if you have any bright ideas, let me know."
Gwaine rolled his eyes as Lancelot and Percival came up either side of him. Merlin turned away to look over at Arthur and Gwen, who looked at their friend in disappointment. Then he felt ashamed to have let his own sorrow deflect theirs, which couldn't be anything other than the greatest of all.
Their little girl was lost...and no one knew where to search first.
A glowing flash of light suddenly erupted in the middle of the hall, accompanied by a gust of wind. Everyone stood with bated breath, prepared for the worst to appear out of that glow. As Merlin turned to look at it too he saw that it seemed to open like a door, as if the air around it was a wall.
It then faded away with a sudden bout, leaving behind the occupant of that power.
It was Ganieda.
She smiled sympathetically to Merlin and said, "Was my advice helpful?"
A cruel silence fell over the room. Some people blamed her as much as they blamed Morgause. This was certainly Lancelot's attitude and Leon's too as both drew swords. It took Gwaine and Percival to force them to put their weapons down. Others in the room wondered why this girl had returned and why hadn't warned them that Emhear was really Morgause.
That was the question forefront in Merlin's mind.
He strode towards her.
"Helpful?" Merlin said emotionally, feeling a part of him die with every step he took. "You led me away from Camelot. If you hadn't come here in the first place, Morgause wouldn't have been able to take Awena. What the hell makes you think you have a right to meddle with the past?"
Ganieda remained composed.
"I told you how to defend yourself against Mordred," she said compassionately. "He won't attack now because she's not here."
"And instead in the care of a sociopath," Merlin retorted.
"I prevented Mordred and Morgana from killing Awena," Ganieda told him. "But I couldn't have stopped Morgause from taking her."
Merlin turned away from her. "I could have a found way..." he muttered coldly.
"Just as you always do," Ganieda said, with a hint of accusation and even sarcasm. It was very brave, as great sorcerers had met their ends by provoking Merlin with such taunts.
He spun around to look at her.
Ganieda ignored him and looked to the king and queen.
"I know you both must hate me," she said softly. They braced themselves against each other, as if her words had somehow left them exposed to more danger. Not that they could possibly care right now. Nothing worse could possibly happen now. "But wait a while because I will help put things right."
Merlin approached her again. "You think it was good this all happened?"
"Isn't it," Ganieda said, more like a statement than a question, "Awena is safer hidden away from you than she ever was here in Camelot."
"With someone who has nothing but hatred for Camelot?"
"Morgause hated Uther," Ganieda corrected him. "She hates you. Camelot just happens to be the place you both called home. Isn't that really what you fear, Merlin?"
He stared at her.
"What do I fear?"
"That you are right," she replied. "That Awena will be as powerful a sorceress as you believe she will be. You fear that Morgause will hoodwink her against you. And rather than using that power to fight for Camelot – to you the side of good – she will aid your enemies – the side of evil – against you."
She stepped closer to him. Her face was softly serious.
"But it is so easy to forget that one person's evil is another's good," Ganieda went on. "As far as Morgause is concerned, the great Emrys is just as bad as Mordred and Morgana. You're not all that different, are you?"
No one was quite sure what Ganieda meant by that last bit. Was she herself Merlin to Mordred and Morgana, or to Morgause? Either way the confusion kept everyone nice and quiet for Ganieda to keep talking. The silence unnerved Merlin a little as he could feel one or two people, even amongst his friends, agree with either meaning of her statement.
"She was obsessed with prophecies too. You saw it yourself at her castle. Instead of trying to uphold them she spent most of her life actively trying to defy them," Ganieda sighed; knowing against this was a subject close to Merlin's heart. "But she failed. She couldn't even keep control of Morgana. In the end she turned to prophecies for an answer and found one, in the form of a little child. A child who is said to be powerful enough to kill all three of you, the daughter of a child of magic..."
Merlin turned away from her again, unable to take this.
"So she has stolen Awena," Ganieda continued, "who is such a child. And Morgause intends to turn her into a weapon to destroy you... and all this, Merlin, because of a prophecy, which need not have ever come true."
The gravity of what this young woman was saying startled everyone to the core. She was affectively saying that the nature of prophecy was a flux made real simply by obsession. It was just as Arthur had said to Guinevere earlier, the self-fulfilling prophecy. If anything what Ganieda was saying was that to defy or seek out a prophecy could put the future in danger; and it was better convince yourself you are no governed by them. But even doing that was very hard.
Moreover the idea of Awena being raised to murder Merlin was a haunting thought.
Yet he was not disturbed by them or by anything else Ganieda had said. He had been shaken, offended and in denial about them... but he was not disturbed. In fact, he disregarded everything she had just said, because it did not answer the questions he really had.
He put them forward now.
He walked closer to her despite knowing what was incorporeal and could not be touched. Then, when he was finally face to face with her, he realised instinctively something was different. Ganieda was slightly older than she was before. Moreover, something else was different...
Merlin reached out to touch her.
He felt the warmth of her deep red robes.
Ganieda smiled, "It's only been two day for you. For me, it's been two years."
"You were just a ghost before," Merlin said in awe.
"It takes the most powerful magic in existence to open a gateway between times," she explained with a smile. "It took me a long time to master it although I cannot maintain it very long. If I try to stay longer than it will let me, the walls of reality will collapse."
The warlock removed his hand and stared into her dark eyes. They seemed so earnest yet they hid so much knowledge.
"Who are you?" Merlin asked. "Why do you care about any of this?"
Ganieda continued to smile. She reached into her robe and pulled out her own bulla. There, she held the precious charm in one palm as she took Merlin's hand with the other. "I don't need to tell you who I am, Merlin," she assured him, finally using his real name. "Haven't you realised yet?"
A silence fell over the room as Merlin regarded the mysterious girl. In his anger he had forgotten briefly about the feeling of familiarity he had with her. It became even greater now she was holding his hand. A spark of powerful energy passed between them. It was unlike anything he had felt before yet one he felt he knew.
Then he looked at her other hand, which held the tip of the bulla between two fingers. It was the usual thing anyone could expect from a bulla of the Old Religion. It looked like Awena's and many others worn in the room. It even bore Ganieda's name on it.
Galahad's words then came to mind. 'Her original name was Anna.'
He stared another three seconds at Ganieda's fingers before he realised what he was looking at. It was as clear as day. It was staring him right in the face, and it had been the whole time.
He slowly looked up at Ganieda, seeing her for the first time.
She smiled knowingly, delighted to have finally made him understand. And the knowledge thrilled him to the core.
Despite the sombre tone of the rest of the room still thick in the air, Merlin suddenly seemed to light everything up with joy.
"Hello... Ganieda," he grinned.
They stared into each other's eyes for half a second before they both burst out into laughter. Every eye in the room was noticeably offended and confused by Merlin's sudden change. But he did not see any of it. All he did see was the look of perplexity on the king and queen's faces, yet he did not linger on them too long he was so enraptured with Ganieda's delightful face. He felt he knew it so well.
"But that means – that is – you know?" Merlin asked.
Ganieda nodded, "Obviously."
He smirked, "So does that mean—?"
"Yes," she said simply.
Merlin felt filled with a new lease of life, so great and so hopeful, that he instantly spun around to address Arthur and Gwen. They did not know what to make of any of this. They were so trapped in their guilt and grief that they suddenly felt as if they had slipped into another universe when they saw Merlin smile.
"Arthur, Gwen, I'm going to find your daughter," Merlin announced with great delight. "Morgause won't harm her and on my life I will bring her back to you."
He turned to Ganieda and whispered, "You'd better fill them in yourself."
Then with lightening speed he rushed to the end of the hall to leave the castle, leave Camelot on his seemingly impossible quest. A task he had just said was too late to venture on. Yet after speaking to Ganieda for five minutes, all that doubt had disappeared.
However, the queen's had not.
She rushed forward but Merlin was too quick for her. "Wait!" she cried desperately. "What do you, Merlin?"
He turned one last time to face everyone in the hall. He focused on Gwen and Arthur, who stood behind her. But nothing was said and he disappeared in a blaze of his own power which winded up all around them until he was no longer there.
The silence that followed left Gwen not assured but all the more empty.
Arthur placed his hands on Gwen's shoulders. She weakly leant against him for a moment, but then caught sight of Ganieda out of the corner of her eye.
Suddenly, she found her strength again and advanced on the girl.
"Where is he going?" Gwen demanded, her voice shaking with emotion. "What did he tell you? What did you tell him?"
Ganieda turned to face the king and queen.
"Your majesties," she said calmly. "You must listen to me."
Without a second thought Gwen pulled Arthur's sword from his own sheaf and pointed it menacingly at the young sorceress.
"What did you tell Merlin?" she demanded again.
Arthur's emotions were running high too but he managed to keep his head together enough to gently restrain his wife, "Guinevere, you have to calm down..."
The sorceress looked between the two of them.
Ganieda stood coolly, waiting for Arthur take hold of the queen's shoulders and whisper comfortingly into her ear. The sword in her clutches lowered slightly but even her husband's words could wrench it from her hands.
Once the pair of them had approached her, slowly, she began to explain.
"I can't stay much longer," Ganieda warned. "It takes a lot of power in order to pass through time lines, so I will have to leave soon..."
"You said you come from the future," Gwen said coldly, her eyes still damp from a mother's tears. "You knew this was going to happen but you couldn't stop it – then why come in the first place?"
Ganieda took a moment to reply.
"To bring you some comfort," she finally said.
Gwen's only reaction was to laugh hysterically. Then the sword was raised again. "Well," she growled in sorrow, "you failed at that!"
The king took hold of her wrists again to lower the sword.
Ganieda went on, "This will bring you some comfort, I promise you."
Slowly, she lowered her hood to reveal her light-brown waves of hair and reached under her clothes to reveal her own bulla. It was crafted in exactly the same way as Awena's had been, in the true fashion of the Old Religion. Likewise there were charms attached to it too.
Ganieda removed the bulla and placed it into the palm of her hands to show the king and queen. The facing side had her name 'GANIEDA' written in the magical runes. "This is my bulla," she said, explaining the obvious first. "Like your daughter's it bears my birth name, and the name given to me by the priesthood."
Gwen scowled, "What has this to do with my daughter?"
The young woman bit her lips.
"A child would never keep their birth name once they were taken by the high priestesses," Ganieda explained soothingly, undisturbed by the queen's anger. "None of us do, including Morgause. Her original name was 'Anna'."
A faint wind started to pick up around Ganieda. It took Arthur and Gwen a moment to realise that the breeze was not coming from either side of them but seeping from her own skin like she was the source of breath and that every breath she took made the wind stronger.
Ganieda looked around her and sighed.
"I'm running out of time," she said quickly, and taking hold of Guinevere's hand she transferred the bulla from her palm into the queen's.
"It will fade with me soon after I go," Ganieda warned them quickly. "The past and the future cannot co-exist, even in regards to objects. Please, look at it!"
Arthur and Gwen both looked down at the name 'GANIEDA' staring up at them
They then looked up to see that Ganieda was in fact starting to fade. She smiled to them both, "It's alright, I'm returning to my own time."
The wind became strong and a bright, white light seemed to slowly cover the whole of Ganieda's body. Before she disappeared, she left them both with these final words:
"Morgause will not harm your daughter and Merlin will find her," echoed her voice across the hall. "And you needn't worry about her gift because he will do everything he can to help her. No matter what happens she will always use her magic as a force for good. I can promise you that."
As the bright light began to fade away and take Ganieda away with it, the king and queen looked down at the bulla again. In a spark of realisation, Arthur reached gently into his wife's palm to see the charms closer. The three charms of the Druids, the Vates and the Bards were there – but that was likely a tradition that all children accepted by the priesthood received.
He then turned the golden tag that read 'GANIEDA' over to see the other side.
In that moment all of Arthur's hopes and fears seemed to be right there before him in Gwen's hand; staring both of them in the fact with a look dull, twenty-one year aged dread. All the pain, all the waiting and all the hardship before them was represented in this very bulla... as was the great feeling that Ganieda had left them with both joy and sorrow.
The queen closed her palm weakly. Crushed with emotion, she slumped against her husband while he held her tight for support. Then as if standing on the edge of limbo they stared at the spot where Ganieda had just been standing and tried not to cry.
Slowly, the bulla too faded away...
[My Old English is very limited and I am no good at the Anglo-Saxon form. However I do understand the words and, if you don't have The Cambridge Old English Reader to hand, all the translations have been described as they appear below. I have tried to replace all the accents and that 'þ' have become phonetically 'th' sounds.]
awena: From the Old Welsh word 'awen' meaning "muse", "poetry" or "prayer". It is usually associated with the type of poetry the Bards used to write.
braegen: "brain", used here to refer to the mind.
brytencwen: 'bryten' meaning "British, or of Briton" and 'cwen' meaning "queen".
faegersawol: 'faegers' meaning "beautiful" and 'sawol' meaning "soul".
lufubearn: 'lufu' meaning "love, lovely or loved" and 'bearn' meaning "child".
mann: "people" or "humans"
réodbóc: 'réod' meaning "red" and 'bóc' meaning "book".
sothsegen: 'soþ' meaning "truth" and 'segen' meaning "statement, or story".
tunge: "tongue" or "language"
(*) A bulla was a protective charm worn by Roman children until they were considered adults. For boys this was when they officially had their coming of age ceremony and for girls it was when they married.
(*) Dôn was the Welsh name for the Mother Goddess.