Merlin was telling the orphaned boy beside her the story of Camelot and Morgan felt her resistance wavier once again. It seemed in one day her whole idea of what Arthur and Merlin were doing had changed. She had set out in Igraine's body, hoping to come across secrets that would bring both men down, but she had gotten thrown off course. The people here where actually happy! Happy being led by a boy king. She hadn't expected to observe Camelot as anything up a sham, but it seemed Arthur really was a fit ruler. Watching people work during the day had shown her that maybe she didn't need to have the crown. She had never inspired this love from her people despite how much she wanted to. Sybil and the other nuns had always told her that she needed the crown, that her father's people would not be happy until Morgan was on her throne. She had been told that no one would be anyone without the crown. Despite the voices that filled her head since childhood she could not stop herself from believing Merlin's earlier words; maybe this was the place she belonged. This place was so tranquil that Morgan wanted to believe she could have Igraine's life.
Without Sybil whispering in her ear at all hours she had actually relaxed and enjoyed the woman's life far more than she thought she would. For hours she played with the little orphaned boy and Merlin. But with every passing minute Morgan wondered more and more why she needed the crown. She felt her resolve to be Queen weaken each time one of them looked at her with a smile. She finally realized, once the orphan told her he loved her, that she couldn't keep doing this. She actually did love the smiles and the mundane of this existence. She'd had that once, and her heart ached to have it back now. She'd never had the opportunity to do something as ordinary as she had today and it had felt wonderful. She didn't have to worry about plots or manipulating people. She was good at both, but this tranquility was new to her and she wanted to learn more. Half of her wished she could stay Igraine far longer than she knew she would be able to. She knew she would have to go back to her own life, but she wondered as she walked with Merlin silently across the castle, why she couldn't have this even then. The only people that had ever stopped her from this had been Sybil and Uther she realized. Now that Uther was dead she thought about Sybil seriously. Sybil was adamant that without the crown Morgan would be taken advantage of, tortured for being alive by first her father and then Arthur. But seeing the orphan and Merlin together she didn't think that would ever be true. It wasn't in Arthur's character, or Merlin's for that matter. She'd worried earlier when Merlin had insinuated that she could be killed so easily that she was not the only one plotting. But when he did not bring it up again she put it from her mind. It was hard to worry about that comment when he had followed it up adamantly that she belonged in Camelot. It seemed now she only had to worry about what Sybil would do, but looking into Merlin's eyes in the fire light as she asked him about children, she didn't think she cared anymore.
"Merlin…what would you do if Morgan came through the gates now?" she asked suddenly, turning around so as not to betray herself, taking in the beauty from Camelot's balcony. He took a deep breath before he answered and she dared to hope.
"Depends on her motives I suppose. Why do you ask? What is this sudden fascination with Morgan? Perhaps we are both besotted." He laughed and she chuckled pathetically. Not having the nerve to turn around she gazed into the dark hillside.
"Igraine? Is something wrong?" He asked, taking a few steps closer to her while she took as many as she could closer to the rail away from him.
"Yes…something is very wrong. Did you mean what you said earlier about her place being in Camelot? I agree that I think if she saw this she would have a better understanding." she questioned and Merlin shot her a frown she couldn't see.
"Yes, I did. Do you not agree? Do you prefer she remain at Pendragon?" So many manipulative answers popped into her mind, but she just couldn't lie to him for some undetermined reason. She really hoped it was the feelings she had inherited from Igraine, but she very much doubted it. She'd had this feeling when she'd tied him up many days ago. She'd given into his requests then, and now felt no different.
"Merlin…" his name sounded ridiculous to even her own ears.
"Igraine, whatever it is you know you can trust me." He whispered, moving to place his hand on her shoulder. She didn't dare touch him back for fear she would lose herself completely. He was so nice to Igraine. He was always suspicious of Morgan and she had enjoyed having his affection for that day.
"Morgan is not what she seems…" She breathed out pathetically, watching an approaching lightning storm as the pressure on her shoulder increased.
"How would you know that Igraine?" It seemed he was starting to get angry by his tone, but Morgan could not face him, thinking he would push her off this rail if she identified herself. But then she felt the urge to throw herself over if she didn't. She had taken advantage of his affection for Igraine and she spared a thought to what he would do when he found out.
'But what was there to go back to?' Morgan wondered silently. Sybil was waiting for her. That thought sent a shiver down her spine. The woman could do so many things to her that Morgan flinched openly. But Pendragon would never feel like home, it never really had. Camelot had everything Morgan ever wanted; truly caring family, love, and Merlin. Morgan had not felt as if she deserved these things in a very long time. She doubted she had felt like this since before the nunnery, perhaps she had when her mother was still alive.
"They do things to people there." She whispered images of screaming souls and dark rituals flashed before her eyes quickly. Sybil's discipline the one and only time she had ever betrayed her had given her the powers she had demonstrated to Merlin. It had hurt so badly that she couldn't remember anything after the mother superior of the nunnery had stabbed her that last time. She just remembered waking up in pain, in her body of two years before. Merlin had stayed silent, a blessing Morgan would thank later when she was given the opportunity to think everything out.
"Where?" He finally asked quietly, his tone indicating he knew something was amiss but was content to let Igraine tell him on her own time.
"There is something you don't know Merlin…Do you promise not to call to Arthur's guards if I tell you? Everything?" Morgan turned desperation clear in her voice and on Igraine's face. Merlin looked long and hard into her eyes, causing a shiver to run down her back. She didn't know what he saw there, she hoped he didn't see through her as the orphan had. Whatever he saw he did not say to Morgan's slight annoyance.
"Yes." He all but slithered out in curiosity.
"Not here. Perhaps we should retire to a more private location?" Morgan almost begged, eyes raking the vicinity for another living soul though she found none.
"After you my lady." He motioned while his eyes narrowed at the fake smile she threw onto Igraine's face. Having played in these ruins as a very small girl she knew where she would take him. She only hoped that no one else had found the small hallway that led to the storage area. It hadn't been used for centuries and Morgan hoped that it was still vacant. She nodded and smiled to those she passed, playing her role as Igraine as best she could with the butterflies taking root in her stomach. Merlin's hand on her lower back was not helping any as she crossed into the dusty room. Her eyes took in the hanging papers with curiosity, but she paid it no mind given the current situation. Pacing back to him, Morgan slid a nearby chair and empty trunk to bar the door. Merlin gazed on silently, his arms crossing over his chest.
"I have only ever gone against her once." Morgan told him though more to herself than anyone, standing before him as he looked at her confused she took one last look into his accepting eyes before she reaffirmed that this was a good idea. He was so trusting of Igraine it made her heart ache for that look. He'd never looked at her like that. No one had ever looked at her like that. Sighing heavily Morgan let her hand trace his cheek, Merlin turning into the gesture with wide eyes of confusion. She didn't understand why he seemed confused, but she moved away.
Bowing her head she willed her limbs to return. It only lasted a moment, but it was the most horrible thing she had ever experienced once again. Her screams echoed on the almost empty walls as her body fell the floor. It seemed with each morph the pain intensified. Trying to muffle her screams she felt her face even out and she shook without noticing. The floor was cold to her exposed shoulders, but Morgan welcomed it a moment. Keeping her eyes shut she rolled over to slowly climb to her feet not trusting her limbs entirely. The wall helped her greatly to get to her feet. Morgan took a couple steps away, eyes still shut to both pain and nerves. She tried not to trip on the gown of Igraine's she had worn that morning when she resumed the woman's life. After several long and deep breaths Morgan finally looked up, fully expecting the glare she was receiving from Merlin, though it still hurt in the pit of her stomach.
"Why are you here? Where is Igraine?" He hissed at her, advancing on her threateningly and Morgan suppressed the flinch that bubbled to the surface.
"Are you going to let me tell you or not?" Morgan snarled, crossing her arms to mimic his posture. He indicated with his head that she should continue as he stopped his assault.
"Igraine is locked up at Pendragon Castle. No one is hurting her, she just can't leave…" Morgan revealed though she felt exposed. Merlin had once told her she was at her most vulnerable when she used her magic and at that precise moment she knew in her heart it was true. Her body was still tingling in pain, but she wouldn't let Merlin see that. She began to question whether this had been a good idea, her emotions may have clouded her. Too much of Igraine had messed with her head and she was beginning to realize just how stupid divulging herself to Merlin really was. As if seeming to read her mind, the man crossed the few feet between them. Morgan held her ground, turning a hesitant glare at him as he dropped his arms to give her a stern though less angry look.
"You have no idea what you are messing with even still. Igraine had better not be hurt by your charade; I am warning you now Morgan…Why are you here?" He threatened and questioned while Morgan sighed, turning her gaze to the small window that overlooked the ocean on the opposite wall. She'd expected his anger, but at least he hadn't attacked her as she had dreaded.
"When he sent me away…it wasn't to the place any of them thought." She revealed with a snarl, moving away from him toward the window providing them moonlight enough to see. She was silently glad that he was keeping his promise not to call the guards on her because she didn't feel like changing into Igraine again. She'd begun to loath the woman even more as Merlin trusted her.
"What does this have to do with anything?" He growled and Morgan felt her shoulders slump as a pain ripped through her abdomen. She grunted as she was forced to bend, her hand steadying her on the cool wall as she grit her teeth against this agony. A wolfs howl ripped through the castle then, gaining the attention of all but Merlin and Morgan.
"Sit down." Merlin instructed giving her a sympathetic gaze after his anger seemed to cool a minute but Morgan shook off his help. She would not let him think she couldn't take care of herself. She felt cornered and she kicked herself for bringing this on. Composing herself with much difficulty and several shaky breaths she managed to stand upright.
"I'm fine." She lied, meeting his gaze. She stood frozen as his eyes pierced through her and her back hit the stone. She wasn't afraid of him just then, but she had a feeling she should be. She watched his right hand every inch it progressed toward her face. She almost fought him, but at the last second she understood he was not going to strike her. She leaned into his hand as it grazed her cheek, wiping away a bloodied tear she hadn't known had fallen. But it was his eyes that caught her attention as they seemed to contract and expand, as if seeing something she could not. His fingers lingered on her cheek far too long for Morgan's comfort, but she did not dare move. Morgan looked on curiously as Merlin's closed fist expanded to caress her face with his fingertips. He'd done this once, when she had drugged his wine. His callused fingers felt as wonderful now as they had then she noted. A slight bit of fear raced through Morgan as his head tilted and the cold stone against her shoulders reminded her that she had no where left to run. Merlin it seemed was content not to say a word as his other hand mimicked his right. She stood frozen like that. After the first couple of minutes Morgan begun to relax, even as Merlin did not. After her fear drained from her, she realized what he was doing. This must have been how he found out that she killed Uther. She didn't know how this power of his worked, and she felt her own curiosity peak. She'd always wanted to explore her powers. She'd been taught at the nunnery, but not to the extent Merlin could teach her she imagined. It seemed he might have heard her last thought as he tore his hands away from her face as if burnt. Morgan watched as he stumbled back from her, backing into the side of a table as he gasped for hair.
"Merlin?" she questioned, suddenly very scared of his reaction to whatever he saw though she would not let it show on her face. His shaky breathing echoed off the walls and Morgan felt her heart speed up. She wondered what he could have seen to illicit such a response, but she couldn't get her tongue to move. Morgan had never expected to ever see Merlin so shaken in her presence. She wasn't Igraine anymore, he didn't trust her. So why was he seeming to be so vulnerable just then Morgan didn't know. She took in the sweat that had started forming on his neck as he gasped for air and clung to the table behind him that he had stumbled into. She wanted to help him though she didn't know how or why. Taking a step closer to Merlin, Morgan was then met with the most intense gaze she had ever received. His eyes seemed to see into her soul and Morgan heard those words her father had said whisper into her ears. Words she had told him when they had last been alone with each other. She didn't think she could return a gaze like that, but she tried. Crossing her arms Morgan retracted her last step. She felt naked to his eyes despite the purple gown draping on her altered figure.
"Me…Merlin?" Morgan questioned again, cursing her voice for breaking as she dipped her head, sliding along the wall a few steps toward the exit she felt stupid for barring now. To Morgan's confusion Merlin's breathing leveled out and he stood up straight as if he had not just been gasping for air. He did not seem to want to break eye contact with her and Morgan decided she'd had enough. She seriously considered that she had made a grave mistake. No one knew about her mistake yet, she still had time to leave and manipulate Arthur a little before she left and Merlin told the king of her scheme. Morgan broke eye contact as she quickly stepped over to the door, tossing the chair from the knob. She had managed to kick the trunk across the room before Merlin's voice froze her.
"You don't need to leave Morgan." He said with such conviction that Morgan didn't know whether he meant it to mean only one thing. Her hand on the door knob, she debated with herself. She could just leave the room. She could throw Igraine's face onto her form and leave Camelot. She could return to Pendragon, to Sybil, as she had always done. It was the safer plan she thought. She would come up with another plan to get the crown and come back another day. Or…or she could turn around. She could look into Merlin's eyes and get lost. She could remain in Camelot, the king's sister. Never anything more, expect maybe… she thought… maybe she could have a life here she didn't at Pendragon. She could Arthur with Camelot so much if she chose to. Maybe she would be able to gain the look Merlin gave Igraine in time. With a heavy sigh Morgan closed her eyes tight against tears she would not allow to fall. Sybil had been the only mother she really knew. She didn't know if she was ready to fully betray her. And that is exactly what turning back to Merlin would be; a betrayal. It would mean giving up the crown, the only thing the sisters had raised her to need. But they had been so kind to her when they thought she was Igraine. So accepting that her heart ached for that. She wanted to know what it felt like to be loved and not used just once, but every time she thought she'd gotten that it had all been fake.
"I don't want to but I can't turn around." Morgan whispered out shakily, hand shaking on the door knob as a tear slid down her blood stained cheek. She heard her pathetic acknowledgement bounce across the walls before his rumbling voice filled her ears.
"Yes you can. You NEED to Morgan. You CAN trust me." He said with so much determination seeping into his tone that Morgan looked up at him, knowing instantly that it was a mistake. His frame was being illuminated by the moonlit window behind him and before she could think about it, her hand slipped from the door knob. The smile that spread across his face warmed her as she took a step closer to him. Crossing her arms, still feeling completely exposed, Morgan made her way over to him. She held her head high, but she could tell neither of them believed it. Standing before him, under his gaze it seemed as if nothing else mattered. She stood there, just gazing into his eyes for a moment before his smile dropped a little. Tilting her head curiously Morgan went to ask him what was wrong, but he moved before she could. Merlin lifted his arms as he closed the one step between them. Morgan stepped backward startled, but Merlin did not stop his advance and before Morgan knew what had happened Merlin's arms were locked around her. His chest pressed against her crossed elbows as his forehead dropped to her shoulder. Startled Morgan waited for him to speak, but it seemed he was not going to explain himself. Very slowly Morgan dropped her arms, allowing Merlin to get a fraction closer to her though she did not hug him back.
"You are safe here Morgan. I am not letting go." He whispered into her ear, pressing a kiss onto her temple as he hugged her as close to his body as she would go. Not really knowing what she should do Morgan stood there several long moments before she hesitantly brought her arms around his waist. She leaned her head onto his shoulder and she felt sudden warmth spread through her. Merlin didn't acknowledge she'd moved, save to tighten his grip. Morgan looked over his shoulder, to an empty stone wall and began to realize what she had just done. She could never go back.
"It's okay." Merlin whispered as Morgan felt the sadness build in her eyes. Sybil would never accept her back now. The woman had been the only one to ever hug her like this, but she'd only done it when Morgan begged for it. Sybil wouldn't understand. The woman had raised her to believe the crown was all that mattered. Peace was weakness according to Sybil, and to want that was to beg for pain. Camelot was not something that one should want, love was not something one should want. But Morgan loved Sybil. By accepting Merlin's help to try to understand and get the life Igraine had she was betraying the one woman that meant the most to her for a chance at something else. With an anguished cry for her life Morgan let herself go. Tears swept down her cheeks as her arms clung to Merlin. Her breathing became erratic as quiet sobs erupted from her at first. Though as she thought more about just what Sybil's face would look like when she found out she broke down more and more. She didn't know how long she clung to Merlin as she screamed and wailed, but he just held her. Eventually the sorrow consumed her and the only thing holding her up became Merlin. She didn't notice when Arthur and the real Igraine stood in the doorway some time later. She didn't notice the startled expressions on both as they took in the scene in front of them. Merlin seemed to notice, but he shook his head for them to leave. Igraine followed his direction after only a moment, openly staring at Morgan uncertainly, but Arthur required a sterner glare to remove him from the room. Once their audience had left Merlin guided Morgan to sit on the floor, still in his arms. Morgan just clung to him without regard for anything else until she finally stopped crying what seemed like hours after she had begun. The morning sun had risen, but Morgan just tilted her head to look at Merlin as he lifted her gaze to his long after the tears had subsided.
"Sleep." He instructed and Morgan felt herself to exhausted to argue. Instead she snuggled into the welcoming scent of Merlin and closed her eyes. Merlin for his part looked down at the top of Morgan's head, still having trouble believing all he'd seen of Morgan's traumas. She rivaled his own experiences, and he had decades contributing to his. It astounded him how much he had been right when he'd called her a wounded deer. He watched her fall asleep quickly, running his fingers through her hair softly. He didn't need to fear seeing anything else from Morgan, but each time his fingers touched her skin he worried he would. He had seen so much that he was still processing it all as she slept. Uther had truly become a barbarian after he had left. Merlin felt guilty, but he had a certain light heartedness combating the feeling, knowing Morgan would remain in Camelot where she belonged. He had always been thinking about Morgan in the back of his mind since she had drugged him. He had worried about her use of her powers. The costs were always high, something he'd seen her experience. How he had only seen three instances in his contact with Morgan before that day he did not know. He had lost count as they had all flashed before his eyes today. She'd unwittingly allowed him to see more and more when she didn't move. That simple gesture, to wipe away her tears, had revealed Morgan's character to him and he now knew why Morgan was after the crown. Merlin now knew just how much Morgan had suffered at the hands of Uther and how much had been taken from her and denied her by the nuns she was sent to. He could only imagine how Morgan felt about Arthur, the boy who had been taken away from the misery she had experienced. It was no wonder she loathed the boy, even if he hadn't been in possession of her most coveted item. Merlin looked down at Morgan again, his eyes softening as she rubbed her nose in the hollow of his throat lightly. He tightened his grip on her with his left arm, shifting his back off the wall for only a moment for relief before leaning against the stone once again. The sound of the door hinges brought his gaze up, and he was not surprised to find Arthur joining them.
"Arthur." Merlin whispered, tilting his head to indicate the sleeping woman in his grasp. Arthur seemed to take in Morgan with a grime expression, but closed the door as quietly as he possibly could. The king moved to sit on the ground in front of Merlin as quietly as he could, all the while staring at Morgan.
"What did you do?" he asked and Merlin resisted the urge to laugh, settling instead for a well humored smirk.
"I did nothing." Merlin whispered, Arthur looking into the man's face for honesty. Seeming to find it Arthur turned his attention back to his half sister. He had never seen her like that. Normally Morgan was composed, guarding every word, but here she was. She had screamed as if she was dying and it had taken all Arthur's trust in Merlin to move him from her side that night. She looked worse for wear and Arthur resisted the urge to hug her himself.
"Then what happened? Igraine says Morgan locked her up. She escaped by killing a guard. Why is she here? And if Igraine was locked away how is it possible I saw her yesterday?" Arthur questioned, turning to Merlin, his hair tickling his neck from where he had confined it. Merlin it seemed was forming his answer, something Arthur did not like.
"Morgan took the form of Igraine yesterday." Merlin explained as he watched confusion cloud Arthur's face.
"How is that possible?"
"Morgan was taught some things by the nuns that kept her." Merlin snarled, startling Arthur uncomfortably.
"That still doesn't explain why she is here." Arthur pronounced, motioning to Merlin's current position in a hurried annoyance. Merlin raised his eye brow at the young king, placing a stray lock of Morgan's hair behind her ear absently.
"Morgan has seen what Camelot can be. What we are building here. She came to the decision that she wanted to be a part of it, rather than take the crown from you." Merlin smiled at Arthur as the king gave him a disbelieving look, taking a moment to fully comprehend that news.
"I underestimated her as well." Merlin chuckled lightly as Arthur smiled sheepishly at him.
"But why did she break down like that Merlin? When Igraine and I were in here last she was screaming. I thought you had killed her or something." Arthur told him, watching as Morgan's head tossed on Merlin's shoulder a moment. Both stayed quiet, thinking they had woken her, but when she didn't move any further Merlin continued his explanation to Arthur slightly annoyed.
"The nun at Pendragon is not what she appears. She has been manipulating Morgan." He declared, purposely not telling Arthur any more about Morgan's relationship with the woman. It was his curse to see the trauma's a person went through, but that did not mean they were his to talk about. Morgan's life was full of misery and Arthur did not need to know anymore than what he told him. If Morgan should chose in the future to tell her half brother then he would know, but just like Uther's death, this was not one of those times.
"That makes since. Igraine said it was a nun that held her captive at Pendragon. But I had trouble believing her since I saw her yesterday." Arthur told Merlin who simply nodded. The two men sat in silence for a moment before Arthur moved to kneel from his sitting position.
"Is she going to be okay?" He asked, Merlin seeing exactly how much he craved for Morgan's affection in his voice.
"Fine." Merlin told him before the king nodded as he left. Merlin stared at the path Arthur had just left with a small smile. This would change close to everything in his vision, but Arthur didn't know that.
"Is he gone?" Morgan whispered into his ear causing him to look down quickly. So she had woken earlier.
"Yes." He smiled, Morgan moving stiffly out of his arms. He felt a sense of loss hit him, but the blood that flowed back into his limbs was pleasant as well. Morgan stretched her arms a little before she stood gracefully. She did not feel like herself. She imagined she did not look like herself either to her displeasure. Merlin moved to his feet behind her and Morgan took a step away from him for a little clarity as her mind unwove itself from sleep.
"There is water beyond the table." He motioned and Morgan felt relief as the knowledge that the real Igraine was here came back. She hadn't heard all of Merlin and Arthur's conversation but she assumed she had picked the most pressing bits of information to remember. Splashing water onto her face was a small bliss Morgan smiled at. Her cheeks felt stiff and she wiped at them with the sponge she found hurriedly. The water grew pink as she wrung out the sponge and ran it over her hair a few times. Her face had come clean with normal effort, but Morgan felt as if she would never come clean. Turning from the basin she caught Merlin staring at her. Leaning against the table he'd stumbled into the previous night Morgan felt irritation, but she waited for him to look away. When he didn't she could not stop her next remark from crossing her lips.
"You know Merlin; you never did answer my question yesterday. Perhaps you really are besotted." She laughed, only faulting when he did not join in. Fidgeting with the sponge in her hand Morgan met his gaze curiously.
"No Morgan I am not besotted. I am merely amazed." He replied back with a smirk. Morgan took a shaky breath from hearing that. She wished it wasn't in jest, but she didn't think she could take it if it wasn't either. She had never trusted someone as she had last night and she felt a little hesitation in even talking with him now.
"Well, finally you come around Merlin." She chuckled lightly, dropping her eyes back to the basin before moving away. "What did Arthur want? Ask your advice on having two Igraine's?" She smirked to herself, tossing the sponge into its watery hold.
"In a manner of speaking…" Merlin conceded, "Morgan, before this goes on any further I need to tell you something." Morgan met his gaze again, suddenly feeling very vulnerable with that lone sentence.
"You need to know…I see traumas like this." He whispered as he was suddenly touching her cheek again in the same manner he had yesterday. Morgan blinked, not knowing how he crossed the room so quickly. Letting his words sink for a minute, Morgan's face drained of its color with understanding.
"How…how much…" she muttered, not able to bring herself to ask the full question because she was scared of the answer.
"All of it." He answered her anyway, dropping his hand from her cheek to hold her gaze. Morgan felt faint then as things she had not spoken of even to Sybil crossed her mind.
"That's not possible." Morgan growled, breaking away from him, heading for the door.
"You just don't want to believe it is Morgana." He called after her and Morgan stopped in her tracks. Only the nuns had ever called her Morgana, a name they had thought fit better with their country while she was there. A name she hadn't ever really grown to like. He really did know then.
"Well this is hardly fair, now is it?" She snarled, feeling violated and manipulated. She did the manipulating! Feeling slightly betrayed she did the only thing she could and lashed out with her words.
"No it is not. I understand your anger, but I stand by what I said. You can trust me Morgan."
"Can I now?" Morgan scoffed, crossing her arms around her waist with a sigh. Knowing this new information Morgan replayed the conversation Merlin had with Arthur not too long ago with a new understanding. She slowly realized there was so much more he could have told Arthur, and he didn't. She didn't know how to trust someone with the information he had gathered without her permission. Sybil used it against her; she waited for Merlin to do the same on edge.
"Yes and you aren't going to want to leave like that. Wait here." He instructed, causing Morgan to look down at Igraine's dress hanging from her body quickly.
"Fine." She growled moving out of Merlin's way. She didn't spare him a glance as he closed the door behind him. Instead she decided to sit in the corner until his return and try to think about what she would do now. She had always been taught to rely on no one but the nuns. It was foreign to trust Merlin, but knowing he knew everything sent a shiver down her spine. She was going to need time to come to grips with that.
Merlin for his part tried to put the images he had seen to the back of his mind. Instead he chose to set his full attention on the task at hand. He weighed the pros and cons of asking for Igraine's help before deciding to seek her out. While probably still shaken the woman would never turn down the option to help, even if it was for Morgan. Finding her was not as hard as he thought it would be. She was sitting with Arthur in the great hall, though Arthur appeared to be deep in conversation with Leontes. However, when Merlin made his presence known he looked up with a question clearly in his gaze. Giving Arthur a reassuring nod he sat beside Igraine, who appeared to have been deep in conversation herself with the woman Merlin knew to be Leontes' wife and Arthur's fantasy.
"Merlin, I trust you are well?" Igraine asked, seeming to shoot an accusing glance at him that changed his mind about asking her for anything.
"Yes, how are you?" he asked, seeing the bruise coloring her temple though not taking note of any other injuries. Merlin took a bowl from the far end of the table full of several apples into his hands before he acknowledged her response.
"Fine now." She declared, and he deduced that Guinevere had been talking about something 'she' had done yesterday.
"Good to hear. Guinevere, would you speak with me a minute?" He smiled as the girl's eyes went a little wide. He had never spoken to the woman, but he could feel her husband's eyes on his back as she nodded and rose. Merlin nodded to Igraine, glad she was alright but his mind occupied elsewhere, as he led Guinevere to the other side of the room. He made sure to take his and Morgan's lunch with him as he did. He would give no one reason to doubt him so he stayed where they could be seen.
"It would seem I need some assistance." Merlin smiled at Guinevere in slight one sided humor since he could see three pairs of eyes on them.
"What can I do?" she nervously answered and Merlin's mind flashed to a six year old Morgan before he pushed it aside quickly.
"Well it would seem we have an unexpected and unprepared guest. She needs some attire." Merlin chose his words carefully; it wouldn't do Morgan any good for all of Camelot to discover she had been hiding in the basement wearing Igraine's clothes. The dress she was currently wear made it difficult to walk as it hung off her smaller frame by close to three inches.
"Oh!" Guinevere all but sighed in relief as she smiled at Merlin. "Oh of course! I am sure I have something she can wear. If she comes upstairs I'd be more than happy to let her look through anything she likes." she offered and Merlin began to understand why Arthur liked her so much a little.
"Well I think she'd be rather embarrassed to leave where she is now in what she's wearing. You wouldn't mind bringing her something to me would you?" He asked, smiling in good humor as she returned it this time. Though he saw an assumption in her eyes that he did not like.
"Sure, I'll only be a moment." She nodded as she left toward the stairs and the room she occupied with her husband. Merlin turned his gaze back to Arthur and Leontes, who were openly staring, along with Kay and Igraine. Giving them a pointed look each turned away, but Merlin grew annoyed with the rest of the occupants in the great hall. Guinevere was very quick to Merlin's gratitude. Making sure to turn his back so that the clothes she passed him could not be seen from onlookers he thanked her before moving on his way. Some day's people annoyed him, even Arthur. Keeping the bundle of light blue as concealed as he could from random people he passed with both hands full, Merlin made his way back down into the basement. His arrival was marked by the creak of the ancient door as he backed into the room. Looking around quickly in a hidden panic when he didn't see Morgan he sighed.
"When I do not return soon Sybil will know. I will not let her harm Vivian." Morgan spoke from the corner of the room behind him and Merlin slowly pivoted to face her as she moved to take the clothes from his grasp. Placing the bowl on the table next to where she set the gown Merlin picked up an apple.
"Once you are dressed we will speak with Arthur and then we can leave for Pendragon." He told her, rolling his eyes as she grimaced at the color scheme of the gown she unfolded from where she had put it.
"We?" she scoffed lightly, beginning to pull her arms from the sleeves of the purple gown she had worn from Igraine's closet that morning. It had been the closest to her size, and cleaner than her own gown, but she didn't have the curves to fill it out. Merlin rewarded her with an annoyed sigh as he turned his back to her, taking a small knife from his pocket to cut at his apple and eat it.
"Yes. You will not face that woman alone." He declared, seeing a summoning the woman had done with Morgan flash through his mind before he shoved it away and ate another bite.
"She will be suspicious when she sees others with me. Perhaps it would be better if I did go alone." Morgan reasoned, stepping out of the yards of soft purple and into the baby blue. As much as Morgan loathed Igraine she agreed more with her fashion sense than whomever Merlin had gotten this dress from.
"While it may sound good to your ears, it is not going to happen." Merlin threw at her over his shoulder. Morgan paused with her left arm over her head as the long billowing sleeve fell into place. Had he said something like that to her a few days ago she might have thought he was teasing her, but now she wondered just what it meant. Morgan returned to getting dressed with a sigh. She smoothed the fabric under her fingers. The baby blue gown, inlaid with small beige leaves outlined in soft gold was not something she thought she would ever be forced to wear. The colors just seemed too innocent to her eyes, but she carried on, reaching behind her torso to pull at the laces. The bust line was built for a smaller woman, but it wasn't so off like Igraine's, and Morgan didn't fell herself coming out of the gown, instead it just stretched to accommodate her. Her biggest problem seemed to be the laces holding the gown closed. She did not wear gowns like this often because they took skilled hands to wear, hands she did not have.
"Who did you get this from?" Morgan asked with an irritated sigh, moving closer to Merlin with an eye roll. She was far from a modest virgin; he hadn't needed to turn around in her mind. He'd seen too much for that, but in the pit of her stomach she was slightly grateful.
"Her name is Guinevere." Merlin answered, confused when her left hand found his shoulder, turning him around. He tried very hard not to laugh at the image that greeted him. Morgan held the gown to her chest using her right hand, turning as he lost his fight and chuckled. He put his half eaten apple back into the bowl before he acknowledged her request silently.
"Leontes' wife. No wonder." She scoffed, moving her hair for Merlin. Setting to work Merlin just chuckled, pulling harshly every once and again to tease Morgan. Morgan growled as he laced her into this ridiculous gown.
"It's fitting." He laughed, seeing the irritation on her face as he tucked the last of the laces into their hidden place and she turned around, arms crossed.
"Then perhaps you ought to wear it Merlin. Blue would be a flattering color on you." She teased back, enjoying the banter though keeping it from him. Reaching for the only garment left on the table, a golden head piece, Morgan glared at Merlin's grin.
"That would be a sight, though this one is fairly appeasing." He teased her, indicating her cleavage that was clearly emphasized in this particular gown. Fixing Merlin with a teasing, but heated glare Morgan finished securing the head piece behind her ears. She did not enjoy wearing her hair down often, but it seemed she had no other choice until she was at Pendragon. She took a step toward the window experimentally, glad when the gown did not reach under her feet to trip her as Igraine's had done, but it still seemed a little to long.
"If this is the Camelot wardrobe I may resend my acceptance." Merlin was quiet a moment and Morgan wondered if she'd said something wrong, but she held her head high. She blinked when he threw an arm over her shoulders and chuckled.
"Lunch." He laughed as he deposited her into the lone chair left pulled to the table, the other lay scattered on the floor several feet away. Raising her eyebrow at him she watched with slight annoyance making its way onto her face when he sat beside her on the table, legs dangling beside her.
"I see your manners have not improved." She jabbed at him as he resumed eating his apple and she reached for one. Grabbing his heart in mock pain Morgan watched him smirk. She was wondering if he had actually seen everything then because it was beginning to feel as if nothing had changed. But he didn't act like this with Igraine she thought bitterly as she bit the apple hungrily.
"The manners are only as good as the company." He teased back, slicing himself another piece of his apple as he secretly watched every move Morgan made.
"You think very high of yourself then Merlin."
"No, I just do not see any reason for formalities, Morgana." He whispered on purpose to gauge her reaction. She seemed shaken only a moment before she continued to eat her apple, though silently. Merlin watched her a moment before he tossed his apple core back into the bowl.
"What I said before about Patricide…" he started, leaning forward to catch her eyes, seeing the sadness there he had always seen, "Uther deserved much, much worse." He told her, both watching her scream behind their eyes. Morgan broke the eye contact first as she threw her apple core where his had landed.
"I don't trust you Merlin." Morgan lied, standing as she did. "So if anything you claim to have seen becomes public knowledge I will kill you, make no mistake." She threatened. Merlin hopped up slowly to stand beside her with a smirk.
"Then I will avoid giving you a third chance to kill me off. Wouldn't want that now would we? Who would be around to annoy you then?" Morgan smirked as he teased her, though she still remained tense.
"Perhaps I already have a plan to kill you Merlin and you just seem to be of more use alive?" She sniggered, causing Merlin to chuckle darkly beside her.
"Well let us go speak with Arthur so that you can be rid of these bright colors that do not suit such a remark then, shall we?" He chuckled and Morgan gave him a serious look. Gathering the hem of this gown, made for a woman a few inches taller than Morgan, in her right hand she proceeded toward the door. Merlin paced ahead of her, letting her walk slowly as her eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight coming down the hallway before prodding her forward which earned him a glare. Both noticed the stares they received as they made their way into the great hall. Morgan followed Merlin by only a step since she did not know where Arthur was as it was just past the noon sun. Holding her head high as was befitting her Morgan did not pay any of these strangers any mind. Entering the great hall the pair found Arthur, sword fighting with Leontes. Merlin suppressed the conclusion his mind was eager to jump to as he noticed Gawain behind the pair, coaching.
While Arthur had Merlin's attention, it was Igraine that held Morgan's. It seemed they had not been spotted by the great hall inhabitants yet. She looked unharmed to Morgan's delight and disappointment. She supposed she should feel guilty for imprisoning the woman, but just her presence enraged Morgan like few had been able to do. She'd never told anyone of the betrayal she had felt at the hands of Igraine, the silent torturer. Knowing that someone else, Merlin, knew now lessened her loathing only a fraction. She had always assumed that was why she was given Igraine's form, her hate of her. Igraine seemed to love the attention she was receiving from passing people as they asked her if she was alright. Maybe she had been harmed after all to Morgan's silent delight.
"Arthur." Merlin called, placing a hand on Morgan's lower back only a second to propel her forward before removing it. That light touch, however brief was exactly what Morgan believed she needed. Knowing he was here, after everything he'd seen, gave her a greater comfort than she had ever known and everything else didn't seem as important anymore. Arthur turned to Merlin's call and Morgan watched as Leontes took that moment of distraction to press his sword to Arthur's throat. She tried to suppress the pleasure the gesture brought shamefully, but she showed no signs of it.
"Merlin, Morgan." Arthur greeted cheerfully once Leontes had lowered his blade. "You look lovely Sister." He smiled at them, motioning them further into the room as Guinevere's eyes widened.
"Thank you Arthur." Morgan replied, sparing a glance at both women behind him.
"We need to talk." Merlin indicated to Arthur, as Morgan held eye contact with those that doubted her. She prided herself on being able to stare down even the most stubborn of men.
"Of course." Arthur nodded, sheathing the sword that had cost Merlin so much to stand before them.
"Are you alright Morgan?" Arthur asked, whispering not to be overheard. His question took Morgan by surprise but she resisted the urge to allow him that knowledge.
"I am fine your highness."
"We are leaving for Pendragon." Merlin spoke, cutting Arthur off from replying to Morgan, who was grateful.
"Alone? You sure that is wise?" Arthur whispered harshly, clearly not liking the idea.
"Yes, you can't fight this battle Arthur." Merlin told him cryptically, irritating the young king. Instead of arguing as Morgan expected however, Arthur turned his gaze to her.
"Morgan, we have not seen eye to eye on anything, but if you need me I am here. Are you sure about this?" He asked and Morgan felt as if she had missed some very big development in the boy. That question had sounded as if it had come from a real king.
"I've seen my errors Arthur and while it may take me some time before I am trusted and forgiven, this I am sure about." Morgan lied, resisting the urge to lean into Merlin. She watched Arthur nod grimly with a start as Igraine's hand found the boy kings shoulder.
"Is everything alright Arthur?" she questioned and Morgan frowned. The woman never knew when to stay away it seemed.
"Fine. Safe journey you two."
"Oh we'll try." Merlin joked sarcastically and Morgan resisted the urge to smirk. She always loved knowing something someone else didn't.
"Merlin?" Igraine called questioningly as the pair attempted to leave the great hall. Freezing at the clearly implied threat in Igraine's voice Morgan spared a glance at Merlin. Though a frown tugged at his lips as he stopped, Morgan felt a weight drop into her stomach. After the day she had spent as Igraine she wondered if he really would stay by her side through this as she wanted to believe. She reasoned quickly that Sybil did not know she had decided to stay in Camelot if he did turn back. He turned around, looking at Igraine, Morgan viewing the scar on his cheek fully, anxiously awaiting his answer. Though she expected him to go to the former queen she couldn't help the small smile that pulled at the corners of her mouth when he just tilted his head toward Igraine and turned back to her gaze. His eyes widened when he saw Morgan's small smile and rolled his eyes, turning to continue out the great hall doors that opened in front of them, a small smile tugging at his own lips. Morgan let out the breath she had been holding, until she turned to follow him. It seemed the great hall doors had opened for another person; someone that made the color drain from her face. She didn't stop to think before she started back peddling, Merlin joining her.
"Get Arthur out of here!" She screamed, Sybil's eyes widening as she took her in. Everyone looked around curiously but Merlin.
"Get him out of here now!" He reaffirmed, Leontes and Kay moving to take Arthur's struggling arms, trying to comply though he would not be moved. Leontes stopped when he saw who had come through the door with confusion.
"Morgan?" Sybil asked her, voice laced with what sounded like concern as the nun wrung her hands before her, her crucifix swinging. Morgan backed into Igraine without realizing it, but she kept backing up, not paying attention to the woman as Sybil held her gaze. Morgan knew then that Sybil knew she meant to leave Pendragon, to seek something other than the crown, to disobey her. Morgan doubted she had been able to keep the decision from the woman's magic more than a minute after she'd made it yesterday. Merlin stood in front of Arthur, though he made sure he was still in front of Morgan at the same time.
"Child? Are you ill?" Sybil questioned, Leontes looking at her, clearly conflicted when Arthur ordered him to let him go.
"No…" Morgan whispered, seeing the glinting metal of Sybil's crucifix where the others didn't. It seemed she had nowhere else to go. She caught the woman's suggestive glance at Arthur and she felt her heart stop. The woman had taken everything from her last time she had attempted disobeying her, and Arthur was more a part of what she wanted than she realized.
"You are done here." Merlin told Sybil, drawing her eyes as Morgan locked eyes with Arthur. Arthur was concerned for her, something she hadn't let herself believe the few times she had seen it on his face before. His silent unwavering support raced through her without warning and Morgan realized no one could fight Sybil except herself. Taking a moment to realize exactly how far she had fallen in those last moments she straightened herself from the posture of a wounded deer. Morgan turned a glare at the woman masquerading as a nun and moved to stand next to Merlin slowly, passing Arthur with an imploring expression before she faced her head on. Holding her head held high she decided she was not going to fold that easily; Sybil had raised her to be the very essence of a strong woman if nothing else. Feeding off Merlin's confident aura Morgan looked down at Sybil, who let her disapproval show upon her face at Morgan's rapid change in stance. That expression had made Morgan do more than she would care to admit.
"Leave…please." Morgan's voice cracking on the last word as everyone stared openly confused and taken back by the word that had just come from Morgan's lips.
"Oh you silly girl. You really think this is all it takes?" Sybil laughed, causing Morgan to flinch but she held her ground as she stood shoulder to shoulder with Merlin. She reminded herself with the knowledge that Sybil had never loved her like she did her.
"I am…begging you." Morgan whispered, trying to show Sybil how much she truly cared for the woman that had raised her. The woman had taught her so much while she was using her that Morgan did not want to see any harm come to her. She had been the only person in the world that showed her even an ounce of affection after her mother died.
"Oh sweet child, I told you your arrogance would be the end of you." Morgan barely had time to widen her vacant eyes before Merlin stepped in front of her to intercept the invisible rope headed for her. Sybil wrapped the wind around his left arm instead, throwing him across the room into the wooden balcony rail above all of them with a flick of her head. Morgan watched as Merlin fell to the ground with cold dread filling her heart. Igraine yelled behind her, but she couldn't afford to stare. Turning her gaze back to Sybil, Morgan prayed to whatever deity would listen for the strength to fight her.
"Come with me child. You know they will just hurt you. I am trying to protect you, like always." Sybil tried, extending her hand toward Morgan, but it was Arthur's sword that met her from beside Morgan. His hand found her shoulder and Morgan blinked at him, astonished beyond words.
"You have no place here." Sybil growled, using her hand to send another gust of air toward the pair, but it was Morgan's turn to step in front of Arthur with a cry.
"No!" she screamed, using her hands to force the air in front of her to push back. Sybil looked startled a moment, giving Morgan the upper hand as she pushed Arthur with both her hands into one of the tables a few feet from her.
"You are unwise to continue child." Sybil warned, extracting her right hand from under her habits pockets to reveal the pentagram Morgan had been told was the source of power for all of the nunnery. Taking a shaky breath Morgan stepped closer to the woman unconsciously, Guinevere's gown scrapping across the steps as she moved.
"Very good child. Come here." Sybil smiled as a tear escaped Morgan, her feet taking her closer to the woman as a plan formulated in her mind, even as the woman controlled her body. She heard Merlin's labored breathing call her name from Igraine's arms, but she couldn't turn to him for fear of giving herself away. Sybil's magic was urging her forward and she couldn't fight it if her plan was going to work.
"Sybil, leave them be. They are nothing to us, they pose no danger. We could just leave, forget all about this." Morgan whispered coming to stand even with the nun. She held her gaze for a moment, hearing Arthur call her panicked as Sybil raised her arms to accept Morgan. Hesitation filled her as Sybil let her body go from under her spell, but she staggered forward and allowed the nun to encase her in the hug she'd used as a crutch since childhood. She compared Sybil's aura to Merlin's as the woman caressed her hair and gave a triumphant smirk to Arthur before Merlin joined him with Igraine's help.
"Very good child. I knew you were not lost. Let us leave this abomination. Go home, we just have to take care of a few loose ends. Hmm, and then we can go home." She coaxed and Morgan moved her left arm to circle the nun and put her head on the woman's shoulder as another tear rolled down her eyes. There was something missing in the embrace that Morgan had never been able to identify, but being in Merlin's arms had felt so much better. She'd felt safe with Merlin, Sybil had only ever given her affection when she most needed it to accomplish her ends. Merlin's face as he rode off even after she had tied him up and drugged him crossed behind her lashes as she blinked. She knew what she had to do, but that did not make it any easier.
"Sybil…I have been so wrong…you once told me that peace doesn't exist. That it isn't ours to search for but create through war. I'm sorry for not listening to you then." She declared causing Merlin to call out her name again behind her in obvious pain.
"It's alright child. I am here to guide you." Sybil replied and Morgan shifted slightly, her right hand moving inch by inch unnoticed by Sybil. Leaning back from the embrace, though still in the nuns grasp, Morgan looked into her eyes.
"You of all people know that I understand war…pain…" Sybil smiled at her, placing a lock of Morgan's hair behind her ear, "And while I may have been wrong once, you are still wrong." Morgan growled, her hand pressing the hidden button on Sybil's crucifix. Before the nun could do more than give her a questioning look, Morgan grabbed the dagger and twisted it into the evil woman's chest with a cry of fury. Tossing Sybil away from her Morgan ran backward to stand beside Merlin and Arthur in front of his throne, watching Sybil remove the dagger with a scream of pain she put a hand on Merlin's arm unconsciously.
"You ungrateful child! You think this is the end?" The dagger clattered to the floor, echoing off the silent stone walls.
"You only remember that being longer." She snarled indicating the dagger on the floor, raising the pentagram before her, Latin flowing from her lips. Morgan panicked then, combating Sybil with her own Latin. It seemed the two thought a like as their magic met each other, causing fire to catch the closet table once the streams of it connected. Both women dropped their advance once they realized they had chosen the same spell. The wooden table burned brightly, casting an evil light over its occupants as the fighting started. Sybil chanted venomously as Morgan did the same.
Merlin shook off Igraine, shoving Arthur to the back of the hallway with the rest of the rooms remaining occupants. Leontes and Kay had Guinevere and her cousin guarded behind them and Arthur took up a similar position before Igraine, Gawain standing in front of them all. Merlin turned to see Morgan struggling to fend off the assault Sybil had made out of the nearby cutlery once he knew Arthur was safe. Her arms moved to block each razor sharp blade with a gust of wind, but she was beginning to lose ground. Merlin joined her side in time to save her from the butcher's knife that came up behind her, but Morgan slipped the necessary second for a fork to imbed itself in her thigh. Screaming with the sudden pain she fell to her uninjured knee out of breath. Merlin continued protecting her as she had done, gusts of magic throwing the cutlery in every direction causing it to echo endlessly as it clattered against rock and stone only to reengage them.
Merlin began to move forward once Morgan pulled the fork from her leg. She was strong and for that Merlin was grateful. He waited for her to hobble to her feet before he pushed away from her, advancing on the nun. Seeming to realize she was about to be forced on the defense Sybil turned half her silver forces onto the remaining people in the room. The distraction was well placed as swords clashed with dinnerware and Merlin lost his focus a second. However it was Morgan that picked up the slack as he had done earlier. By then Merlin decided that he'd had enough of this woman. Switching tactics he left Morgan to guarding them both for a split second as knives flew at them. Extending his hand toward Sybil he shook with the force of magic he summoned, unleashing the wall of ice brought him to a knee. The shining wall towered twelve feet above them, sharp blades carved out of the icicles comprising it. With a yell of determination he brought the block down to crash on top of the nun who guarded against the blades, but was powerless against the sheer force of the heavy object. The cutlery dropped to the floor upon impact and scattered with chunks of ice. Both Morgan and Merlin sagged as they looked on with heavy breathing.
"Ice is no match for fire!" Sybil screamed, crawling to her knees from the floor. Merlin forced himself to stand. Morgan straightened herself as well, knowing what Sybil was about to do before Merlin.
"We are in trouble." Morgan managed to punctuate every word as a massive fire ball burst from the pentagram Sybil held in front of her for all she was worth. But despite logic saying the fire stream should have headed for the pair of them, it instead built before their eyes. The shape grew and Morgan had to stop herself from taking a step back as she craned her neck to see the creature that emerged. The beast of flames opened its massive jars to release a wail causing the women in the room to scream save Morgan as they were led from the room. The beasts tail whipped threateningly as what would be its eyes, though they were not well defined in the massive heat the beast radiated, turned to the pair remaining.
"It seems you are right." Merlin growled, throwing his arm out to move Morgan behind him slowly.
"The pentagram, we have to get the pentagram. She can't do anything without it." Morgan declared, backing away as Merlin did slowly trying not to provoke the dragon before them. The heat caused sweat to pour down her flesh, not helping her walk in Guinevere's gown. She almost cursed as she tripped, toppling a chair in her wake. Having triggered the beast to open its jaws and release a torrent of flame Merlin cursed for her. Merlin dove toward his left while Morgan chose her right just in time to only get her garment hems removed. Breathing deeply in both panic and need her eyes sought Merlin, her back against the halls wall. She found him over the fire still coming from the beast's mouth, taking in her with his eyes as well. He looked as if he had escaped as she had. The sudden knowledge that Merlin was going to die with and for her filled her with new life as he nodded to her. She smiled to him like she hadn't smiled at anyone in a very long time as she returned his nod, wanting desperately just to be held by him one last time but knowing it wasn't possible she settled for communicating with him through her gaze. It seemed he had a plan and Morgan nodded again even as the overwhelming heat lifted a moment as the dragon snapped its jaws closed.
"Yaaaaaa!" They both screamed at the same time pushing off from their perspective walls. Merlin began to chant as Morgan molded the air around her into a sword she wielded against the beasts tail as the fire licked at her flesh. She managed to get a yelp of pain from the beast as the wind separated a major chunk of flame from the rest of its body unwillingly even as it doubled in size away from its body, burning Morgan. The flame dragon turned toward her with a snarl. Merlin took his shot and summoned the ocean from beyond the balcony as he moved to catch the beast's eye. There was no one left in the hall to get in his way as the others had fled when they had the chance once the cutlery had stopped attacking, knowing they could do nothing but get out of the way.
The salt water roared to life as it climbed the cliff and begun to pour into the great hall. Everything began to flood as the beast roared in surprise and then what could be considered pain. Steam filled the room as the dragon tried to fight back, breathing its fire into the ocean coming toward it. Morgan feel to her knees, exhausted as the water swept her into the rooms corner where she clung to a vine on the wall. Her eyes turned toward Sybil to see she was also clinging to a vine as the beast decided it was not going to win and then turned to try to eat Merlin instead. Merlin held his ground, manipulating the water around him to absorb the beast's fury though several singed him as they very nearly met their target until the pathetic whine of an all but dead creature filled the air. The water was waist deep in all directions as the creature fell into the sea. The final steam that escaped the beast floated heavily in the air as Merlin finally stopped. He threw his exhausted body against the wall as water begun to return to its point of origin fiercely, cascading in a magnificent waterfall over the cliff. No one seemed to notice Arthur wade up behind Sybil as the remaining drops of water fled the hall, each too exhausted to hardly breathe. Morgan crawled to her feet, using the wall for support. Taking labored steps toward Merlin she fell to his feet as he fell from the wall.
"You have betrayed us all!" Sybil screamed and both Morgan and Merlin turned toward her tensed with anticipation but were only shocked to see the point of Excalibur sticking up from the nun's chest. Gawain grabbed the cursed pentagram from her grasp and Arthur kicked Sybil off his blade. Morgan watched in overwhelming sadness as Sybil's dead eyes sought her out as she fell. A single tear slid down her right cheek before she turned away, looking instead into Merlin's eyes.
"Morgan? Merlin?" Arthur called, running across the hall as both faded from consciousness with each other's gaze the last they saw.
Arthur kneeled before Morgan worriedly as Leontes turned Merlin onto his back. Both were burned in several places, but to Arthur's eyes he thought that they would both be okay, but he would wait for another opinion. They both smelled of burning flesh, but the men were not fazed. It seemed Leontes had come to the same conclusion as the men shared a glance. Arthur moved Morgan's hair from her face, seeing a red burn marring her cheek's skin he sighed feeling completely useless. He couldn't believe he hadn't seen this. She'd needed his help and he had been too occupied with Guinevere to see it. Merlin had seen this, long ago. Arthur had just wanted to put Morgan into the role as his sister and not believe anything else. He pushed back the sadness as Igraine's hand found his shoulder, her other hand covering her nose.
"We need to move them." She said, taking charge as they were joined by a surrounding audience. Guinevere took a look at the damage, holding her nose as Igraine did, that had been done to the hall; taking in that Arthur's throne had been blacked, but not destroyed before she raced from the room to get the only doctor she knew that had arrived yet. The older man had come to Camelot only two days before and she was definitely glad for his timing. Igraine watched as Arthur picked up Morgan, mindful of her injuries as he would a porcelain doll, followed by Gawain and Leontes carrying Merlin. Arthur thought only a moment about how light Morgan was before he followed Igraine to find a place to put them. They laid Morgan and Merlin next to each other in Merlin's quarters for a lack of any better place to take them. Arthur it seemed would not be moved from their sides as the doctor examined them. He turned away as the elderly man peeled the top of Morgan's garment away from her chest. The fabric, while not quite burnt into her skin, still hampered the doctor's progress to the burn across her left shoulder. Arthur produced one of Merlin's shirts and a pair of his trousers for the doctor to redress his sister in once he was finished dressing the wound. It seemed that Morgan had gotten the same amount of injuries Merlin did, something that calmed the king only a little since it meant she had held her own. Both would be okay according to the doctor, whom Arthur thanked profusely, but they would need rest.
The doctor had treated Morgan for a burn on her left shoulder, a slight burn on her left cheek, and the stab wound to her thigh before he checked over Merlin. Merlin to his credit had taken more burns than Morgan, but that knowledge still did little to comfort Arthur since they each held three wounds. A large red welt looking burn spread across the man's chest, presumably from the dragon as he attempted to kill it. The burn to his right forearm and left leg were the same glancing blows that Morgan had sustained, but Arthur had never seen anyone so badly burned. The day turned to night, but Arthur refused to be moved from their sides. Merlin was his foundation and Arthur didn't know what he would do without his advisor. While he had gotten along without the man before, he had never doubted he would come back. Even, Morgan had wedged herself into his heart when he wasn't looking, the reason he had never been able to believe it when others told him she was evil. Guinevere sat with him a little while, but her presence was more of a distraction than help and it made him feel guilty. Igraine had sat with him the longest, but she was needed to rebuild the great hall. It seemed that the magic unleashed there had torn the place apart. Kay and Leontes had stopped by, but Arthur was the only one that remained and he was not going to be moved. Leaning his chair against the wall on a precarious angle he fell asleep lightly as the hours dragged on.
It was Merlin who awoke first in the first hours of morning light, nearly twenty four hours since the Morgan's decision turned the future upside down and he felt it throughout his whole body. Gritting his teeth he sat up, knowing the worst was yet to come when the blood price set in, he pushed it aside. He noticed Morgan after a few minutes, Arthur a few minutes after that. He sighed at the boy as he realized he had probably been there all night when he should have been out there reassuring his people. It wasn't that Merlin didn't care for the boy, but he had seen the terrible future awaiting them if Arthur failed.
"Arthur…Arthur!" Merlin called out, causing the boy to fall from his chair as he awoke with a start. Arthur blinked a few times before a smile broke onto his face seeing Merlin sitting up right.
"You're awake." He said stupidly, looking at Morgan, who had not moved even in the deepest of her slumber.
"Yes, while I appreciate the concern, you need to get out there for the people." He chastised, despite knowing it would wound the boy. He didn't want to be close enough to hurt Arthur, he'd made that mistake in the past, but the slight pain that crossed the boy's eyes stung.
"You're right. I'll see if Igraine can come bring you some food." Arthur nodded, looking down at Morgan softly before he rose from the floor.
"Don't. Concern is well and good; however everyone is going to need to vacate this room the next few days. Food will not help." Merlin tried to inform the king without giving anything way, even as he felt a stabbing pain in his gut.
"What? But why? Is everything okay? Morgan hasn't even woken up yet." Arthur argued and Merlin sighed, looking up at the boy with a fatherly patience.
"What Morgan and I did will have consequences, and we are the only ones equipped to handle them. It is nothing we cannot handle, but you are going to need to leave us alone. I will not harm Morgan, Arthur. She will be fine." Merlin said, shakily standing to his feet to look Arthur in the eyes as he panted with the effort. The king sighed as he nodded in trust, but that didn't mean he had to like it.
"Okay, but…" he tried to argue, but the king could not think of a good argument.
"Good bye Arthur." Merlin gestured, to the staring boy as blood started to trickle from Merlin's nose.
"Merlin, you are not alright. The doctor can…" He started, but Merlin cut him off harshly.
"The doctor can do nothing now!" He yelled, knowing the moment he woke up Morgan by her groan.
"Alright!" Arthur yelled back, but instead of leaving immediately his eyes raked over Morgan. With a sigh he finally left several minutes later and Morgan struggled to sit up. She watched as Merlin moved a writing desk in front of the door with several curses, to tired still to ask what he was doing. She noticed briefly that she was in a man's shirt and pants while Merlin kneeled to the floor in pain.
"Shit!" he cursed, the paint covered rag in his hands dropping as he grabbed his midsection in pain. Morgan moved to put her feet on the floor to help him, but the movement screamed through her body and she grit her teeth, feeling the blood start to flow from her ears. She balled her fists against the effects of magic before she turned her attention back to Merlin, who was sweating profusely with the effort of drawing on the floor. She watched as he disappeared behind the bed frame unable to move, for fear of more pain, until he reemerged beside her and she realized what he was drawing around them. She'd seen this circle drawn for her the last time she had paid this cost she realized with both a sigh of relief and anguished anticipation. Merlin straightened up before her, but he limped over to his side of the surprisingly comfortable bed as he completed the circle and dropped the white covered rag without care. He lay down beside her, staring at the vine covered roof above him absently as neither moved.
"It helps if you stay still as much as possible." Merlin advised Morgan after an hour of silence had passed. Blood was seeping from his ears and eyes, while Morgan was experiencing the same.
"How many times have you done this?" She questioned, blinking the blood out of her vision as she grit her teeth against the feelings of fire encasing her body spread with every second. Merlin ignored the feeling himself, realizing that he had never actually endured this with anyone else.
"A few." He answered back cryptically, causing Morgan to scoff as she twitched despite his advice.
"Are…" she grunted in pain, "…Arthur and Igraine going to bother….bother us?" she questioned, in too much pain to realize she'd lumped herself together with Merlin.
"No," Merlin grit his teeth together, "Igraine knows better now. Arthur…will take a hint." He huffed as he exhaled.
"Great." Morgan snarled against the pain that never grew numb. She hadn't experienced this last time. Last time her death had felt as if she had just gotten sick and would need a few days rest until those final hours where it had been this kind of torture. This was a new hell she realized. Everything in her was screaming for release, but she knew if she moved she would be in twice as much pain. Neither one dared speak so they stayed quiet for several hours; the sun setting in the window to Merlin's left, facing the sea. He found himself proud of Morgan in those hours as she refused to scream, but he knew it wouldn't last. Sooner or later he knew Morgan would scream. He knew he would scream as well, but he would be damned if he didn't fight as hard as he could. Usually he would let this pain take hold, feeling he deserved it, but now Morgan lay next to him. It was four hours after Merlin had thought that when Morgan began to show the signs of it. Merlin had already started going insane with the torture. It always broke his mind first, but it seemed Morgan would be the opposite as she first let out moans of pain before she started screaming breathlessly as blood tears ran from her eyes. And despite knowing how much pain it was going to bring with it, Merlin reached over the inches between them to hold her hand as he let out a small scream as well.
They alternated screaming in what Merlin prayed were the last hours. Their bodies could lose no more blood he thought as images of flame dragons flew past his eyes in his silent torture. He imagined this is what it felt like to be burned at the stake without the grateful end of death in sight. Morgan was still twitching next to him as she whimpered since her voice had given out, much as his had.
"Me…Mer…Merlin…"she whimpered and he summoned all the energy he had to reply.
"It…." He breathed heavily, causing a fresh wave of razor sharp pain to spread up his chest. "It…will…be...al…alright." He told her, not even believing his own words as his vision swam, knowing he was finally going to get some release soon. The thought of dying comforted him, knowing not to fight it as he hoped Morgan knew. Neither one was capable of saying anything more after that for a long while, the pain to immense to think of anything else. Merlin still grasped Morgan's hand, afraid to move through the hours. It was just as the morning sun rose that Merlin began to feel the sweet embrace of death. His limbs went blissfully numb and he took in a deep ragged breath before everything went dark and his head rolled to the side. Morgan heard his breathing and felt a panic sweep through her for illogical reasons. She screamed as she forced her fingers to tighten around Merlin's hand and every fiber of her arm blazed with the effort.
"Do…Don't!" She screamed through the pain, bloody tears falling as she screamed in every kind of agony imaginable. Merlin did not respond and Morgan panicked in terror, seeing Sybil's laughing face swimming above her in a misty hallucination. She did not feel the pain start to lift as death came upon her. She only begged for the end before it took her, her body going limp next to Merlin's as the dark descended on her in the sunlight…
Gasping with much needed air Merlin sat up, groaning as he did. He stared everywhere for several minutes, eyes taking in everything that didn't seem real. Every muscle in his body twitched on edge with the adrenaline that coursed through his body. He made to jump out of the bed, but was stopped by the unbelievably painful grip Morgan had on his right hand. He drank in Morgan with his eyes, seeing the bed soaked in crimson from the pair. Normally he panicked when he awoke from death, needing to be everywhere and nowhere at the same moment, not know what was real, needing to think. However, looking at the cold figure of Morgan grounded him minute by minute.
He ignored the burns that tugged at his skin as he sat on his knees quickly before Morgan, adrenaline still coursing through him without stop. He turned her face to look at him as he would force a stone to roll. Her face was so relaxed that Merlin ran his fingers over her skin to make sure she was real. He'd watched so many hallucinations in the dark that her solid form began to relax him, dead or not. Merlin watched Morgan what seemed like hours, the moonlight filling the room adjusting his view. Slowly he stopped twitching; knowing Morgan would awake scared sobering him. He had almost managed to calm his body when Morgan's eyes opened suddenly and she gasped for air as he had done. She sat up, staring right at him as she flailed in panic. Merlin watched her take in everything as he had, muscles twitching as his were still doing, but more pronounced. Her eyes finally latched onto Merlin's before she launched herself at him, knocking them both over the end of the bed onto the floor with huffs of acknowledgement of pain, but not feeling any. Neither said anything as they lay there, Morgan shaking on top of Merlin, but managing to reclaim his hand as she pulled it to her chest, needing to affirm he was real as he had. They lay there longer than either could comprehend, each putting their own personal demons they had confronted during death behind them. Neither one dared be the first to move should the real world vanish again into nightmare, though Merlin spoke first.
"The floor is real, need to get up." He told her, finally feeling the fall long after it had happened. Morgan just stayed with her head on his chest unmoving.
"Real?" she questioned, Merlin not needing to ask for further explanation to her question.
"Yep." He replied cheerily, happy to be alive even if he knew it wouldn't last since it never did. The mood when he awoke after dying usually lasted a few days until his senses came back to him fully. He moved his left hand to demonstrate to her that it was okay to move. He watched her twitch as she moved to sit up, sitting beside him as he sat up right. He smiled at her, earning a smile in return despite each being covered in blood and sweat. He laughed as she tackled him again to the floor without warning, laughing as she did. They lay there again, laughing until it hurt and neither really understood why but felt the urge to. Merlin stopped laughing first, but still smiled up at Morgan who was straddling him. He couldn't explain it, and in his haze he didn't bother, but he reached up with both hands and brought Morgan's lips down onto his own feverishly.