AN: I have cleaned up this chapter in the years that this story was lying dormant. When I revisited this story to see if I could continue writing this series, I discovered that I really liked this story enough to continue on with it. There will be between ten to fifteen chapters for this novella. I do have other stories for the Merlin fandom that have more than one story, but to be honest, I believe that this one is going to be a standalone.
The sound of swords clashing together echoed along the walls of the tomb, a sharp noise that made Merlin lose concentration for a few moments and search around the empty burial chamber and away from Morgana's sudden and relentless attack. Merlin had considered before that the confused and bitter ward of the king would fight anybody who stood in her way- what he hadn't counted on was that he himself would be that person and he was still confused by how fate and destiny worked so deviously together when Morgana's vicious attack finally seemed to triumph over his feeble attempt to defend himself. The sword clattered to the floor, useless now as Morgana advanced with a sneer on her once kind face.
The great battle for Camelot has begun.
Merlin remembered those words of warning that the Great Dragon had told him, the warning that had come out as a riddle to Merlin and one that he had been trying to decode since the night that the words had been spoken to him.
He found himself distracted by the brightness of the magical staff and felt the power pulsate through the room. He knew that he would have to destroy the staff soon or it would be too late for Camelot to be saved- Merlin had the sinking feeling that even Camelot's own elite knight's would not be able to hold on for much longer, especially since he saw them fighting a battle on two different fronts. They would need to focus on the more pressing danger and fast or all would be lost- Camelot would be in enemy hands.
"Didn't I tell you to get away while you still can?" Morgana hissed between clenched teeth as she followed Merlin, her sword rose defensively as her body crouched down like a cat waiting to pounce upon a mouse. "You don't know what powers I have, do you?"
Merlin gulped. "I know that you have magic, Morgana." He paused as he searched the room for a source of distraction, anything to force Morgana to take her attention from him as he sought out his sword- unwilling to fight Morgana with his magic just yet, almost hoping that he could talk some sense into the king's ward himself but knowing that it was impossible. He found nothing but empty tombs where moments before skeletal remains had rested within them; Merlin focused his attention on Morgan and began to seek out the woman he knew to be hidden deep within her bitter heart. "The Morgana I used to know would be incapable of doing this; she'd be unable to become so heartless."
Morgana laughed shrilly, a horrible sound that forced Merlin to cover his ears and duck his head as pieces of the ceiling came loose and fell to the floor around him. "You think that Morgause is the one who wants this, Merlin?" She asked suddenly, her voice curious.
"I don't think that you really want this. All this violence isn't like you at all."
"People change, Merlin. Nobody stays the same forever."
Merlin did not have an answer to what Morgana had said and instead remained silent. Was it possible for a person to change so drastically? Where one moment they appear to be friends and the next to be nothing more than enemies? He supposed she was right- people do change and while some prefer to change for the good, others choose a worse path to changing themselves.
"Morgana, please listen to me," he said desperately. "You are using your magic for bad and I know that the gift that you have been born with can be used for good."
"Merlin, stop with your lies!" Morgana said coldly. "There is no good magic in this world according to Uther, but I plan to change that when we achieve in our plans. All you are doing is standing in my way!"
"In the way of what? Is it power you seek, Morgana?" Merlin asked. "There are better ways in achieving that and you know it."
Morgana smirked. "What we have planned will be more terrifying than you could ever imagine, Merlin. It will bring Camelot to her knees and we will rise triumphantly to claim her."
Merlin had no response to this as he wondered what exactly Morgana and Morgause had planned for Camelot; however he knew that whatever was planned as not going to bode well for Arthur or the knights. His back suddenly pushed against something and looking behind him, he found that he had been pressed into the wall by Morgana and was now at her mercy.
"I have magic, Merlin," Morgana whispered suddenly, as if she wanted to explain her actions to him and suddenly she looked like the woman that Merlin knew. "It will be a swift death sentence if I were to say this to Uther or to Arthur."
"Do you think that what you are doing is going to change Uther's mind about magic?" Merlin asked taking Morgana's momentary calm to his advantage and taking a step away from the wall. "If anything Morgana, this will harden his heart more. I know Uther's war with magic through Gaius, all the horrors that he has done to villages and families. He's heartless and cold and he will become more unforgiving and cruel if he finds out that you are behind the events of the past few weeks."
"He deserves this," Morgana hissed, suddenly coming out of her reverie. "He deserves losing his kingdom and watching as his people die as he watched the execution of hundreds of innocents!"
"Then you're as bad as he is!" Merlin cried out in anger and hurt. "By killing innocent people like Uther does will do nothing but cause you to have a bitter and hostile heart. One that will hold the guilt of going down the same path that Uther went on!"
"No, I am killing a murderer!" Morgana cried out in a voice that echoed along the cavernous room. "How can he deserve a kingdom when he kills those he had sworn to protect? Those people were innocent, the ones he had executed. He does not care who he kills whether it be a man, woman or child. Some did not even have magic, Merlin! He wiped out an entire family because of a mere rumour!"
"Does that give you the right to judge a man based on his faults?"
The question seemed to surprise Morgana because she stopped advancing and took her gaze away from him. In the distance a long drawn out scream was heard and for a moment, Merlin imagined for a split second that he had heard Arthur's battle cry pierce the night and visualised a group of knights loyally surrounding their crown prince as they charged towards the enemy.
He tried once again to get through to her while her mind was elsewhere, wishing that she would listen to him and see sense. Hoping that the old Morgana would come back to them and stop the hatred and bitterness she felt and become friends with those that she now viewed as enemies. "Morgana, there is another way. You don't need to resort to measures such as this. If you are seeking a world where magic is accepted you first need to harness your gift for good before that can happen."
"You have no magic, Merlin," scoffed Morgana. "You don't know what it is like to be an outsider. You don't know how it feels to be terrified of who you are and what will happen if somebody finds out about your secret. You can't trust anybody with a secret such as mine."
"Morgause is using you, Morgana! Can't you see that? You can't trust her like you can us. She is using you for her own personal gain. I realised that after what happened. You have friends here that you can trust with your life!"
"No, I had friends that I thought I could trust with my life!" Morgana snarled as she brought her sword up once again and swung. Merlin jumped out of the way just in time and ducked as Morgana aimed for his head. "I trusted you and you did nothing but poison me!"
How could he explain to her that he had felt the magic within her that day? How could he possibly explain the Great Dragon's advice that he had to kill her because she was a vessel for the sleeping sickness that had abruptly swept through Camelot? Breaking through the defences and putting everyone in danger, not just Arthur and himself but the whole kingdom. He couldn't do that without telling her his own secret.
No! He couldn't tell her, not now when she was like this. When she made herself untrustworthy for doing Morgause's bidding. How could he trust somebody who hated him for the sin he committed? When she was the king's ward and threatened him that she would tell Uther about what he did? If he told her his secret now, that would bring nothing but disaster his way, a swift execution for being who he was and hiding it from them all. He knew that once Uther's mind was made up with a judgement that nobody could sway him from it, not even Arthur. Though he supposed the question was if he were found out for the magic he was born with would be, would Arthur understand? Would he be there for Merlin if that time came? He didn't want to find out that answer just yet.
Still he could not help but wince at the words that Morgana had said just now. He closed his eyes at that awful memory as her struggles for breath once again came to him, the struggle that she had put up as he held her in his arms as her breath left her. He didn't want to poison her, had meant to find out another way through the Great Dragon but he gave him no other alternative, no magic spell or enchantment to cast to break the sickness and return things to normal. To have an army of soldiers fight and bring down Morgause so that the Knights of Medhir could be defeated. He had to save Camelot; he had to protect the people that he cared about.
"Morgana, I didn't want to do it. You were used by Morgause as a vessel for the enchantment, she made everybody fall asleep. I was at a loss; I didn't know what else to do. I was told there was no other way."
"You were told to have me poisoned? I doubt that is what happened, Merlin. Morgause told me all about it. Hemlock poison wasn't it?"
"I bargained with Morgause to relieve the enchantment in return for your life," said Merlin distraught now. "I didn't want to see you die. I wouldn't have ever forgiven myself if you died in my arms that day..."
Morgana looked stony; it was obvious that she was told something different. "Stop with your lies, Merlin! You are the reason why I changed. I want this as much as Morgause does."
"Are you really that blind to her intentions? She tricks people into doing her dirty work; you are a pawn in her game Morgana."
"Your words mean nothing to me, Merlin!" She charged forward and began to swing her sword once more.
She is the darkness to your light, the hatred to your love.
Again the Great Dragon's voice rang out in his mind, the warning that he gave to Merlin when he had found out about Morgana. As he was pressed backwards from the attack, Merlin found himself wondering how exactly the Dragon knew of these matters and what to say. However he could not help but feel that Kilgarah was wrong when it came to Morgana, she wasn't evil and it wasn't too late for Merlin to teach her to harness her magic for good.
Perhaps if Morgana didn't feel so alone in carrying a secret that could get her killed, a secret that forced a person to feel like an outsider and to hide who they truly were because the fear of Uther forced them to keep their silence, to keep what they were a secret from their friends and strangers because Uther would have them executed for it... then she wouldn't be doing this right now.
The thought came to Merlin so suddenly that it took him a while to fully accept that this was the answer to everything... even if it meant Morgana turning him in to Uther after this was done. He should have told her this when he first found out that his friend had magic, should have told her the truth so that she would have known that she was never alone in dealing with this. If he had told her that he was a sorcerer before then none of this would be happening and Morgana wouldn't be so hateful towards him.
"Morgana you are not alone in this," Merlin said, catching her off guard. "There are lots of people who have magic and you have to consider them as well. What would Uther do if he found out that you were behind this? People of magic would have to go into hiding or risk capture and death; Uther will not have them on trial because he'll think of your betrayal... he'll send them to their death the moment that he sees them."
"He sends them to their deaths anyway," Morgana snapped. "The moment that he hears that they are being accused of sorcery his mind is made up."
"I understand that you hate him Morgana," Merlin told her. "Keeping a secret to yourself is a hard thing to do... especially one that's so terrifying."
"What do you know of secrets?" Morgana asked Merlin. "You have no magic, you have no terrible secret that you must keep to yourself or risk Uther sending you to your death."
Merlin gave her a look of sadness, not realizing how difficult this was going to be. If he told Morgana the truth about what he was he too risked everything, he risked the fact that Morgana could betray his trust and go to Uther with this information and he risked a lot more than ruining his friendship with her, he risked his life if anybody else were to find out.
With a shake of his head he decided to tell her his secret and hoped that he could ease her pain of keeping a secret so deadly.
"No I do have a secret that I have never told anybody," Merlin said his heart beating fast as he wondered whether or not she could be trusted. "A secret so much like yours that we are the same."
Morgana stopped in her tracks when she heard this and she eyed Merlin in curiosity. "What do you mean? You have a secret like mine as well?"
Merlin nodded grimly, finally glad that he had her full attention now. "You and I have the same thing in common, the same secret that we guard with our lives."
Morgana was shocked when she heard this bit of information and she interrupted Merlin as he tried to speak again. Suddenly everything made sense to her, the way that Merlin survived the enchantment that Morgause put him under... everything else made perfect sense as well and in her shock she said out loud:
"You're a sorcerer... a person of magic?" Morgana was thoughtful. "Everything makes perfect sense now! How you and Arthur seem to survive everything, how you survived when Morgause put you under that enchantment."
Merlin sighed, now that he told Morgana his secret he felt better. "Yes I guess it does."
But suddenly Morgana turned angry. Angry that Merlin kept a secret from her and the rest of his friends, angry that he hadn't bothered to say anything until now, and angry that he didn't trust her before when they were close friends.
Morgana made to lunge at him with her sword in hand but before she could move a step the sound of Merlin muttering a few words under his breath and the sound of the rocks above her head begin to crash down upon her reached her ears.
And as she lay on the floor as more rocks crashed around her she heard Merlin's voice whisper an enchantment and watched as Merlin raised the sword in his hand, before hitting the magic staff with all his might.
She watched as the staff shattered as if it were made of nothing but glass, the pieces fell to the floor of the tomb and shone as the last of the magic died. Morgana lost consciousness not long afterwards, she realised that everything was finished- she had failed Morgause.
Panting from the effort it took to break the staff's magic that was more powerful than he realized Merlin remembered another thing that the Great Dragon had told him before he had come back to Camelot.
Trust is like a double-edged sword.
He only hoped that Morgana could be trusted with his secret. Just like he hoped that the Great Dragon was wrong about her.