The carriage rattled towards Camelot, carrying precious cargo. As it rolled down the unpaved roads, the rain whipped around it. The driver huddled in his cloak, urging the horses onwards. Then, suddenly, someone stood directly in his path. A woman, seemingly calm as the carriage careened towards her. The driver swore and forced the horses to a stop. They reared up, whinnying in panic, and throwing the driver from his seat and underneath the wheels.
As he looked one last time on the world, he thought it strange that the mysterious woman had disappeared into thin air. Then he felt a sharp pain on the back of his skull, and knew no more.
Inside the carriage, the Lady Vivian heard the driver's scream and felt the coach jolt unpleasantly. It swayed off course, making Vivian fall out of her seat. She scrambled for a grip, shaking as the it came to a thudding stop, the side splintering as it hit a tree. Her back smacked against the opposite side. She grabbed the handle of the door to steady herself and sat there for a moment, trembling. At last, she opened the door and lifted herself from the wreckage.
A few feet away, one of the horses lay dying; the other raced around, still tethered to its partner.
"Whoah, steady!" she ordered the horse.
It slowed, eyeing the lady with suspicion.
"It's alright," she whispered, reaching her hand out and calming the horse.
"That's right. Good girl," Vivian untied the horse and led it back to the path. The driver lay in the road. Or more correctly, what was left of him. Her stomach churned at the blood. She closed her eyes, turning back the horse and fighting down her desire to be sick.
Feeling sick wasn't an unusual occurance, given her current state. She ran her hand over her stomach. The child was due any day now, and she had hoped that Camelot's physician would be able to tend to its birth. He was the best in all the kingdoms, or so she'd heard. Now, it appeared she'd be giving birth with a horse for company, in the middle of nowhere.
She swung herself up onto the horse, moaning at the lack of saddle. At her bidding, the horse walked forward. The most pressing need was shelter, but out in the woods, there was little chance of finding any.
As they rode, she found herself talking the horse, "Just you and me. And since we've got God-knows-how-long with nothing to do but talk to each other, I shall have to name you..."
"How about Hope? It's a nice name, and I've been told it never fails."
"So tell me about yourself, Hope. Where'd you grow up? On a farm, I suppose. Or maybe you were a Camelot horse?"
"Perhaps your children will one day carry great leaders on them. Not like you, carrying me."
She continued her babbling, eventually giving up and lapsing into silence. Tears flowed down her face at her predicament. Not just being lost in the woods, but what would become of the child. Her prayer was that it would favor its mother's looks over its father's. Her husband, Gorlois might never know of her affair that way... But perhaps it would be the spitting image of Uther Pendragon, and then perhaps Gorlois would have her and the child executed.
She hung her head in shame and pushed Hope onward, willing them both to continue and find somewhere safe. Then, like a miracle, a warm glow appeared in the distance.
"Hope," Vivian whispered, unsure of which hope she was referring to. She kicked the horse into a mad gallop towards the light.
Horse and rider arrived at the small village. A group of men gathered near around a bonfire, oblivious to the storm in the woods beyond.
She approached the fire, sliding off her horse and moving towards the group. They appeared not to notice her until she had joined them.
"Who are you?" one of the men jumped in surprise when she tapped his arm.
"My name is Vivian... I need shelter. I can pay, I just need—" something felt odd. She placed her hand on her stomach, her eyes widening.
"Miss?" one of the men looked concerned. "Miss?"
"I'm going into labor," she gasped.
Eva was brilliant midwife. In fact, there'd been nothing she wanted to do more with her life. Only with all her skills and knowledge, it was an emotionally painful job, and not just because so few children lived past a few hours. For Eva, being a midwife was something else entirely. In a child's first breath, she saw its whole life. It was some kind of magic; an ability she'd possessed for as long as she could remember. The small town of Ealdor had no other midwife, and Eva was forced to continue the work, watching children live out lives she'd already seen. A girl proclaiming her intention to go to Camelot, only to fall and break her neck a week later; an infant boy, dead a week after his father. Eva saw it all, and she could hardly bear it.
When her friend Hunith had fallen pregnant, she had confided in Eva that the father was the banished Dragon Lord, Balinor. Eva had feared the child's birth. Her instincts told her this child would be unlike any she'd ever delivered; a child of magic.
The day Hunith went into labor was unremarkable in every way, save for the storm that set in an hour after it started. Eva fought back her worries and focused on bringing the child safely into the world. Magic and dragon lords be cursed.
"Any idea how long?" Hunith asked, fighting to keep her breathing steady through her pain.
"You still have a few hours," Eva said.
Hunith winced. "That long?"
"Yes," Eva sighed.
The door burst open and Avery stormed into the room.
"What do you think you're—?" Eva stopped when she saw the panicked, pregnant woman in his arms.
"Her name is Vivian. She's seeking shelter and she just went into labor. Would you rather I have knocked?" he added sarcastically.
Eva folded her arms, "Set her down on that cot; then get out of here!"
"Yes, ma'am," Avery desposited the woman onto the cot and hurried away.
Eva sighed, hands on her hips. It was going to be a long night.
When the children were born, it was unlike anything Eva had ever seen. Merlin and Morgana's futures were too deeply entwined to be seen separately, though their births were hours apart. When she watched Merlin's first breath, it was as much Morgana's future as his own.
But that wasn't the only strange thing. There were two different versions of their joined future. The first much clearer, and much darker. Death, betrayal, and pain lay down that path. They would become the bane of each other's existence. The second offered more hope. While their lives were still joined, it was not as enemies. They united for a common goal and became legendary. As with all things to do with her gift, Eva understood. The second future would not come to pass unless she acted upon it.
Vivian and Hunith grew quite close over the next few days, both cooing over their newborn children. Eva had forbidden anyone from entering the house while she contemplated what she needed to do.
At last, she sat them down at the table.
"What is it?" Hunith asked, rocking her son.
"I have a gift," Eva explained. "Ever since I started my work; when I see a child's first breath, I see their entire future."
"You have magic?" Vivian asked.
"Yes," Eva said. "I was born with it. And I saw your children's future."
"What did you see?" Vivian asked, apparently not bothered by Eva's gift.
Eva explained everything she could remember from both futures, citing the differences. They listened anxiously.
"What do we have to do to get this second future?" Vivian asked. Hunith seemed more uncertain, but listened all the same.
"Are you prepared to do whatever it takes?" Eva asked.
"Of course," Vivian said. "I will not see my daughter turn against her friends and family."
"Very well," Eva said slowly, "In that future, Merlin is raised by Lady Vivian and Morgana by Hunith."
The two mothers stared at her.
"I know what I ask is very hard, but I truly believe... this future would be an improvement upon the other. They hold Camelot's fate in their hands. This second destiny is a chance at getting it right. They are destinied to destroy each other, otherwise. Please consider this."
"I was always told that knowing the future was dangerous," Hunith said.
"It is," Eva agreed. "But it is my gift, and what other use is there for it, if not to save lives?"
Vivian glanced at Hunith. "I cannot begin to imagine giving up my daughter to anyone."
"I know," Eva said. "But if you make this sacrifice, many lives could be saved. Including theirs."
Vivian and Hunith exchanged long looks.
"Do you trust her?" Vivian asked Hunith.
"Yes," Hunith said.
"Would you look after Morgana as your own?"
"You need not ask," Hunith said. "And you would take care of Merlin?"
"Then it is decided. I feel as though we are meddling with destinies, but if you are right, Eva, then it will be more than worth it."
19 years later
"Are you all set, dear?" Hunith asked.
"Mother, I'm fine," Morgana promised. "Really."
"I know, but you're a girl. Out on your own..."
"I'm not on my own. I'll be with the group headed to Camelot for work at the feast. I'll be fine. It's only a mile or two on my own and it's not like I can't defend myself."
"There'll be no 'defending yourself' in Camelot. Understand? Control your magic. No sending objects flying around the room because you're angry. You can't risk any magic there, unless it is absolutely necessary. Gaius already knows about your gifts, you can trust him. Understand?"
"Of course," Morgana said. "I know these things, Mother."
Hunith sighed, hugging Morgana, "Be safe."
Hunith smiled, watching as the girl departed. She leaned against the frame of her door, dreading the coming years. Morgana would discover who she was before long. Gaius knew. Of course Gaius knew. He knew everything. Who Merlin was. Who Uther would think he was. Who Morgana was. Hunith had been in contact with him for years and Vivian trusted her judgement.
Vivian and Hunith had stayed in touch over the years, reporting whatever they could. While Hunith still felt a connection with her son, her love for Morgana couldn't have been more if she had been her own daughter.
When Vivian's letters had stopped suddenly after ten years, she'd written to Gaius. He informed her that the Lady Vivian had taken ill. They continued to write, and eventually, Gaius reported the Lady's death. Merlin had moved in to the castle, becoming the king's ward.
Gaius and Hunith stayed in touch in the coming years, and they secured a date for Morgana's departure to Camelot. A new letter was making its way to him, in Morgana's pocket.
My dear Gaius,
I turn to you, for I feel lost and alone and don't know who to trust. It is every mother's fate to think her child is special. And yet I would give my life that Morgana were not so. Ours is a small village; everyone knows the night she was born. They suspect that something was amiss. Morgana has not my looks, but Vivian's. They have no idea who she was, but it is possible that they might find out before too long. Her talents are also going to attract attention before long. If she were to remain, I fear what would become of her. She needs a hand to hold, a voice to guide. Someone that might help her find a purpose for her gifts. I beg you, if you understand a mother's love for her child, keep her safe.
I know how much pressure this puts on you, but you are free to tell her of her birth when the time is right. When that is, I cannot say. I trust that you are looking after Merlin. I've heard so much about him and hope to meet him before too many years pass.
Give Morgana my love,
A/N: What IS this? I don't know. I shouldn't be starting another multi-chapter fic. I really shouldn't. Plot bunnies are meddlesome creatures.
I will promise this: Morgana and Merlin will not be stereotypically copy and pasted into each other's roles. For one, I doubt Merlin could ever, under any circumstances, be that much of an evil meanie-face. I also highly doubt Uther would approve of Arthur having a woman as a personal servant.