WOOT! I GOT IT DONE! IT IS FINISHED.
So, who out there is thirsty for my blood? :D Never fear… um… TAKE HIM INSTEAD! *uses brother as human shield* No, really. Kill him if you want to. He annoys me. I wrote a long paragraph on how to- you know what, nevermind. Back to the story.
First of all, I must apologize again muchly for the long hiatus. Lots of crap in my life -_- Plus I just got back from Germany. Anywho, I am back, and so is this story – but do expect very long breaks between updates, because the devil known as school has reentered our lives and is ruining mine. D:
In case you didn't see in the ending A/N in the last chapter, this episode is one you may like ;) *cue dramatic music*
the Fires of Idirsholas!
"Okay, so apparently I have 'nothing to fear from you,'" Arthur said harshly. "Now show me something that you regret."
Merlin gazed at him mournfully. "This will do nothing for you, Arthur. I'll comply, but I'm warning you, a lot more rests on my shoulders than you'd think. The same goes for Morgana, and…" he hesitated, "Mordred. But we'll get to that later." A flash of golden eyes, and…
They were standing on a grassy field, in front of a strange castle that was clearly falling into disrepair. Then they were suddenly looking at a cobweb-filled room, and a certain blonde sorceress pacing around it. Around a small disused fireplace stood seven dark, still figures. Morgause – the sorceress – began to chant.
"Cnihtas Medhires, éower sáwla sind min sáwla. Onwác and cóm hér eft. Rid eft ond forsliehð eft. Gehðu, Uther Pendragon!"
"I know this one!" Arthur exclaimed. Merlin rolled his eyes.
A fire flared up in the small bowl, and one by one the figures began to turn their heads to look at Morgause. She smirked, much like her sister.
"Is it just me, or is that smirk stalking us?" Elyan asked off-handedly.
Merlin shuddered. "It's not just you. Must run in the family." Seeing the look on Arthur's face, he quickly shut up.
"I'm a herder from the northern plains, Sire," a nervous looking man in ratty clothes began. "Three nights back, we were camped beneath the walls of Idirsholas."
Uther scoffed slightly. "Not sure I would have chosen such a place."
Leon visibly shivered. "Many evil legends surround that castle. I suppose we're going to see them come true, eh?" Gwaine opened his mouth, about to ask, but Merlin raised his hand irritably.
The herder, Joseph something or other, defended himself tentatively. "Good pasture is scarce at this time of year, Sire."
"And what is it you have to tell me?"
"Uther was not a very considerate person," Gwen remarked sharply. Arthur started to protest, but she glared icily at him. "My father?" she said, coughing lightly.
"While we were there we, we saw smoke rising from the citadel." Joseph looked terrified at the memory.
Gaius spoke up. "And did you see anything else?"
Uther almost rolled his eyes. "Did you go inside?"
"Condescending, irritable, inconsiderate, doesn't listen, temperamental…" Merlin began to list, ticking off a finger for each one. Arthur threw a goblet at his head, hitting him dead on and ignoring his indignant yelp.
"No. Nobody has stepped over that threshold for 300 years! You must know the legend, Sire," Joseph pointed out.
"What legend?" Gwaine asked impatiently.
"It'll explain in a moment," Merlin soothed.
Gaius spoke up again. "When the fires of Idirsholas burn, the knights of Medhir will ride again."
Gwaine started to ask something again, but Merlin quickly lobbed a discarded apple at his head. The knight swore, then grinned at his friend. "You have good aim, mate."
"See to it this man is fed and has a bed for the night," the king ordered one of his knights, who showed Joseph out. Then he addressed his son. "Take a ride out there."
"Why?" Arthur scoffed.
Uther started to stand up. "So we can put people's minds at rest."
"Surely this is superstitious nonsense," the prince drawled incredulously.
"Gather the guard and do as I say." Uther left the room.
"He really is worried," Percival rumbled. Merlin nodded and grimaced. For good reason, his expression seemed to say.
Back in the physician's chambers, Merlin grabbed his leather satchel and started questioning Gaius. "Why is Uther so worried?"
"Because the Knights of Medhir are a force to be reckoned with," his mentor replied.
"Do you believe the story as well?" Merlin raised an eyebrow.
Gaius frowned at this. "It's more than a story, Merlin," he reprimanded. "Some 300 years ago, seven of Camelot's knights were seduced by a sorcerer's call. One by one, they succumbed to her power. At her command, they became a terrifying and brutal force that rode through the lands leaving death and destruction in their wake."
Gwaine whistled. "Okay, that's not good." Merlin rolled his eyes.
"What happened?" Merlin asked, eyes wide.
"It was only after the sorcerer herself was killed that the Knights of Medhir finally grew still. Merlin, if what Joseph says is true, then something has awoken them, and I fear for each and every one of us," he finished gravely.
"Dramatic scene ending!" Gwaine groaned comically. Merlin threw another apple at his head.
Briefly it showed Arthur, Merlin, and a platoon of knights clattering out through the gates on horses.
Then it cut to Morgana in her green dress, entering her chambers and closing the door behind her. Moving over to the window, she saw it was open and noticed the small metal box sitting on the windowsill. Carefully she opened it and read the small piece of paper inside. The Round Table were able to catch a glimpse of the words 'My Dearest Morgana,' before Gwen appeared over her shoulder and asked, "Are you alright?"
Quickly crumpling up the note, she replied, "Yes. Just a little cold."
As she closed the window, Gwen gazed at her worriedly. "Do you need something warmer?"
"No, thank you."
"I miss her. The old Morgana," Gwen commented sadly. "This was after she'd sided with Morgause. You could already tell she'd changed… for the worse." Arthur stayed silent.
Merlin and Arthur rode through the forest, behind them the knights. "What is it, Merlin? Don't tell me you've been listening to Gaius's bedtime stories again," the prince snorted.
"I just hope that's all they are," the manservant shot back nervously.
"And… they weren't," Merlin muttered.
Morgana stepped quickly down a flight of stairs, in a dark dress and a cloak. Exiting the castle, she waited in the woods for a moment, then turned to find Morgause waiting for her.
"Again with the cloaks!" the warlock moaned dramatically. "At least this one isn't bright blue."
"You look well," Morgause greets her.
"Thanks to you," Morgana smiled, fingering the enchanted bracelet around her wrist. "I wear it all the time. I can't remember when I last had a bad dream."
"Cool bracelet," Elyan remarked, gazing at it curiously. "So it's enchanted to keep Morgana from having nightmares?"
Merlin frowned. "Not quite. It's more like a healing bracelet – it can cure nearly anything. In Morgana's case, that was nightmares."
"Yet you do not seem happy," the blonde sorceress observed. "Why is that?"
Morgana's expression soured. "I would be. If I didn't have to pretend."
"Pretend?" she questioned.
Her brow lowered further. "That I am Uther's loving ward. When I hate him."
"I can actually understand that," Merlin murmured softly. "But there is no way I would have stooped so low as to killing him. Oh, and Arthur, about that – it was Morgana who killed your father."
Arthur's eyes narrowed. "No, it was that Dragoon bloke. If I ever meet him again, I'll kill him in an instant." Merlin winced at that, but the king dismissed it as the thought of the justified (in his mind) murder of one of his kind. Magic users are all the same… there's no way they can be trusted.
This seemed to excite the elder, and she started to pace slightly. "Have you ever imagined a new world, Morgana? One where Uther was no more?"
"Sometimes," she admitted.
"And is that what you'd like?"
"I once had the chance to be his assassin," Morgana informed her sister.
"She what?!" Arthur yelped.
Merlin sighed. "That is another memory, for later."
"And what stopped you?" Morgause asked.
Morgana's eyes narrowed. "I don't know. I believe he cared for me. But not anymore. He cares for no one."
"So, you want Uther destroyed and his reign to end?" she finished triumphantly.
"So this is where she was finally led astray…" Gwen murmured, full of sorrow.
"More than anything. But it doesn't matter what I want. The future's not of my making."
Merlin raised an eyebrow. "Wow. So she didn't know about her destiny? That's rather surprising, but I understand where she's coming from."
"You are wrong, Morgana. You underestimate your importance. The decisions you make now will
change the shape of everything that is to come."
"Is that true?" Leon asked Merlin curiously. He nodded.
"We all have our destinies. Some are merely more important than others. Morgana, Arthur, and I – no, make that Morgana, Mordred, Arthur and I – are all spun in a web none of us can truly understand. And when I told you I was immortal, that's not entirely true. I'm not immortal, but I'm not mortal either. And no, I don't understand it either. Guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens when Arthur sticks his sword through my chest."
Arthur looked alarmed. "Why would I do that?! Wait… what have you done, sorcerer?!" Merlin winced at the name, but shook his head and waved towards the memory.
Morgana looked hopeful and curious. "What do you mean?"
"Whose side are you on, Morgana? Are you with Uther? Or are you with me? Are you prepared to help me bring about his downfall?"
"And that," Merlin announced, "is where she only started to betray us."
Morgause moved closer and touched her sister's cheek gently. "I can't tell you how much it means to hear you say that." Her eyes flashed gold and Morgana crumpled to the ground, but the blonde caught her and laid her down slowly. Then she stood, took a simple wooden staff, and started drawing a line around the raven-haired woman on the ground. "Acene slæp swilce ... Acene slæp swilce ... Acene slæp swilce ..." Morgana began to glow with a faint blue light.
Then she was sitting up, awake, back in her own chambers in the light of day. Staring off into the distance, clearly confused, Morgana was interrupted by Gwen coming in.
"Morning, My Lady. Morgana. Morgana."
Finally she looked up. "Yes?"
"Wait, how'd she get back there?" Elyan asked. Merlin shrugged.
"Did you sleep well?" The dark haired maid yawned.
"Yes. Better than you, by the looks of it."
"Sorry," Gwen apologized with a sigh.
Gwen frowned. "I remember that. That spell Morgause put on Morgana – that was what was making us sleepy?" Merlin sighed and nodded. All these questions… showing them these memories is getting complicated. I'll kill that dragon when I see him next.
Uther sat up in bed, sweating. "I have court business that needs attending to," he mumbled.
Gaius, sitting at his side, dismissed this. "You have to stay in bed, Sire. You have a fever. I'll prepare a tonic for you. When did he first fall ill?" The last question was directed at Sir Leon, as the physician moved from the king's bedside.
"Hey, it's Leon!" Gwaine cheered. Leon rolled his eyes.
"It came on this morning. It's not something to worry about?" the knight asked anxiously.
Gwaine frowned. "Your hair was shorter. Looks weird." Leon smacked him over the head.
"No. It will soon pass. Be sure to let me know if there's any change."
Next they saw Arthur and Merlin's party, arriving at the gates of Idirsholas. Entering the ruins, they move cautiously, all the knights with their swords drawn. "What's that noise?" Merlin asks nervously.
"What noise?" Arthur answered.
"A sort of trembling sound."
"That's your knees knocking together."
Gwaine, Leon, Gwen, and Percival laughed slightly at that. "Definitely your knees, mate," Gwaine joked. Merlin glared at him.
Gwen sat in the physician's chamber, yawning, waiting for Gaius to find her a remedy. "I fear this contagion is spreading. You're the fifth person I've seen today," the physician admitted.
"I'm sure it's nothing," she reassured him. Gaius knocked a potion bottle to the floor, off of a shelf, which shattered.
"Damn," he cursed.
"Gaius swears?" Merlin yelped. The others looked incredulous as well.
Bending down to pick it up, Gaius stops. "Oh. I'll pick that up later. I think I might need a little something myself. If I can ever find what it is I'm looking for."
"The sleeping spell was affecting everybody," Arthur remarked. Merlin nodded for probably the millionth time.
Back in Idirsholas, Arthur, Merlin, and the knights entered a small chamber. Moving over to the firepit, Arthur felt the coals with his gloved hand, then frowned slightly. "It seems part of Joseph's story was true. Probably just travelers passing through."
Merlin, looking the opposite way, grimaced. "Or maybe not."
Arthur groaned. "Seriously, you're making the rest of us look bad. Like we can't notice anything and yet a servant always is the first to know when danger hits." Merlin didn't know whether to take this as an insult or a compliment, so simply smiled hesitantly.
The knights whirled around to find the Knights of Idirsholas standing in stone-still formation. In unison, they drew their swords, mirrored by the Camelot knights. For a while they fought, being stabbed many times, but never faltering. Arthur lost his sword in the gut of one, and ducked as another swung at his head.
"Arthur!" Merlin yelled, tossing him a sword, Arthur caught it and started to fight.
"Run, Merlin! Go!" he ordered, but Merlin stopped. "What are you…? Do as I say!" Shoving the manservant ahead of him, Arthur continued to fight. Merlin paused in the doorway and looked up at the ceiling.
The warlock pulled Arthur with him as he backed away, muttered "Ahríes þæc!" then tugged the prince away as the ceiling collapsed, cutting them off from the Knights. Both then ran into the woods, back to their horses. Arthur pointed at Merlin's arm.
"What happened to your arm?"
Gwaine had the gall to laugh. "First battle wound?"
"Oh, I must have caught it on something," the manservant replied easily.
"Let me see," the prince ordered. Looking at his closer, he grinned and said breathlessly, "Your first battle wound! Here." He started to rip the bottom of his tunic.
Merlin looked apprehensive. "Er, no. No, don't… you'll ruin it."
"And you can mend it!" Merlin, Arthur, Elyan, Gwaine, and Percival chorused. The knights cracked up.
"Don't worry. You can mend it!" Arthur said cheerfully.
"Copycat," Merlin pouted.
"Did anyone else escape?" he added, more serious. Merlin shook his head. "We need to get back to Camelot, gather reinforcements." They leaped on their horses and took off for Camelot.
As they entered the citadel, they found the guards lying in a heap at the entrance. "Are they dead?" Merlin asked nervously. Arthur checked.
"No, they're breathing," the blonde said, puzzled.
"Ding ding ding! And nobody points to Morgana?" Gwaine said in mock despair. For probably the fifteenth time, he was whacked upside the head.
"What's happened to them?"
"I don't know." Arthur stood up. They jogged into the square and looked around in confusion. The same phenomenon had happened here – knights, guards strewn about the place, looking for all the world to be asleep. Yet they wouldn't wake up. "What's going on?" the prince questioned no-one, baffled.
Leon frowned. "That spell seemed to definitely have worked well for Morgause. Is there no cure?" Merlin winced.
"There's a cure, just… you'll see."
"I'll get Gaius," Merlin announced, heading into the palace. A moment later, he reappeared and called anxiously, "Arthur?!" The prince followed.
Inside was the same as outside. Courtiers and servants alike littered the steps, sound asleep. "They're sound asleep," the warlock diagnosed. "Must be some kind of sickness."
"Where's my father?" Arthur asked quickly. The pair trotted up the steps and rush into the Council Chamber, but no one is there. "Where is he?!"
"You really cared for him," Gwaine stated matter-of-factly. Arthur glared, the I-know-and-now-he's-dead-so-shut-up glare.
Next they enter the physician's chambers. "Gaius!" Merlin exclaimed, running over to his mentor, fast asleep on a book at his desk. "It must be the work of magic," he continued.
"We have to find my father!" Arthur pressed.
Merlin rolled his eyes. "Yeah, we got that."
As they entered Morgana's chambers, Arthur noticed Gwen lying on the floor. He picked her up and laid her on the bed, tenderly moving a strand of hair away from her face.
Both flushed deep red and looked away from each other, although Gwen decided to rub it in her husband's face and snuggle a little closer, which just made him blush more. That was probably her intention.
Suddenly there was a rustle from behind the curtain.
"Don't tell me the Knights of Medhir were hiding in the king's ward's chambers, behind her curtains?" Gwaine said jokingly. Arthur threw a random goblet that was lying out after their meal earlier at his knight's head. The small indignant curse was drowned out by noise from the memory.
As Arthur pulled back the screen with a shout, Morgana screamed.
"Oohhhh…" Gwaine grinned. "Very manly shout, Princess."
Merlin sighed. "And poor skittish Merlin manages to keep completely silent…" He shot a patronizing pout at Arthur, then immediately drew back as he saw the murderous look on the King's face.
"It's me!" the prince tried to comfort her, grabbing her shoulders. "It's me, Morgana! What's happened?"
She shuddered slightly, still looking terrified. "I didn't know it was you!" she babbled.
"She looks really freaked out," Elyan commented. Merlin snorted.
"She's a good actress. Although I do believe she might have been a little truly freaked out there…"
"Calm down, Morgana. Just tell me what happened," he soothed.
She took a deep breath. "People were complaining, saying they weren't feeling well."
"I wonder why," Gwaine added sarcastically.
Merlin shrugged. "Actually, she didn't know," he muttered. "She really is scared at this point."
"And what then?"
"They started falling asleep. Everyone, everywhere I went." She looked terrified.
"Was someone here?" Morgana shook her head.
Leon looked at Merlin questioningly, but the servant waved him off. "Later."
"Then why were you hiding?" he asked.
"I told you, I didn't know who you were," she answered indignantly.
Gwen smiled sadly. "She still has her old spark."
Arthur's expression grew even more serious. "Where's my father?"
Shaking her head slightly, she stammered, "I don't know."
"Arthur, she's distressed," Merlin cut in.
"If she was awake then she must have seen something," the prince insisted.
"She actually didn't," Merlin pointed out.
"I didn't see anything."
Arthur was getting impatient. "You saw people getting sick, what did you do?"
"There was nothing TO do," Merlin sighed.
"What could I do?"
Gesturing the tiniest bit in his confusion, Arthur continued, "Morgana, I don't understand. Why is it that you're the only person awake?" She didn't answer.
Gwaine munched on an apple thoughtfully. "Could be the spell, but I'm just guessing."
Next was the knights of Idirsholas riding out from their castle. Then it was Merlin, Arthur, and Morgana walking down a corridor towards Uther's chambers. Merlin kept surreptitiously glancing at the king's ward, who kept her eyes glued on the floor.
"Tensiooon," Gwaine sang.
"Don't worry, I won't say anything," Merlin whispered.
"About what?" Morgana answered, glancing at Arthur, who had hurried farther along the corridor.
"You knew?" Gwen asked curiously.
Merlin shook his head. "No, I had my suspicions, but I didn't think it was actually her. Yet."
They found Uther. More tension, then Merlin goes off to find the mystery potion. In a forest, Morgause meets with her knights, who bow to her, then all ride off to Camelot. Meanwhile, Merlin visits the dragon and learns that Morgana is the key to ending the spell.
"She was the key all along?" Elyan muttered. "But how did you break the spell? She isn't dead…"
Sighing, Merlin turned away from the crystals and waved his hand to make it stop. It came out as more of a 'stop it', pained wave then an 'in-control' wave. "I… I'll explain," he said sadly, blowing out a breath and glancing sorrowfully at Arthur.
"Once I realized I had to kill her, I didn't- I didn't know what to do. Honestly, I really didn't want to kill her. I thought there was some way, all along, that we could make this out alive and friends. That was never meant to be." He placed his head in his heads. "So I poisoned her. While Arthur was out keeping the Knights of Medhir busy, I offered her a waterskin tainted with hemlock from Gaius' stores. Morgause arrived and…" he sighed again, grabbing fistfuls of his own hair and clenching them into fists, "we made a trade. I showed her what had poisoned Morgana, and she stopped the knights and the sleeping curse." Then he visibly slumped, as though a metric ton of heavy lead had just been lifted from his shoulders.
All was silent. "Merlin…" Gwen whispered, seeing her friend in a whole new light. Even the talkative knights, the wisecracking Gwaine, stayed quiet. Arthur visibly struggled for a moment with this explanation, then exploded,
"So you let Morgause take her?"
Merlin's eyes, usually a clear blue, looked up – now clouded and filled to the brim with sorrow. "Yes," he whispered.
"And Morgause is the one who corrupted her?"
"So it's you!" the king snarled. "You're to blame for Morgana turning…" he swallowed. "Evil. It's all your fault. I should have known!" He threw his hands up in the air, breathing out of his nose hard. "I knew it. Magic is pure evil. It corrupts." Pointing an accusing finger, he continued harshly, "Just how long until it corrupts you too?"
"Arthur!" Gwen's sharp tones broke her husband's rolling temper. "Leave him be. At least let him," she gestured vaguely to the crystals, "explain."
Gritting his teeth, Arthur worked over this for a moment. Then,
"Fine." Sulking, he sat down heavily on one of the polished rocks Merlin had summoned, then leaped off a second later like he'd been burned. Magic made that rock. He'd be better off sitting on the floor. Doing just that, the royal blonde turned his angry blue eyes towards the white glittering crystals, signaling Merlin to continue.
The manservant took a moment to uncurl himself from his balled-up position, and when he raised his hand again to show the next scene, his once-bright eyes were dull and weary with a grim sadness far beyond his years. A flash of golden eyes, their warm touch visibly dimmed, and the crystals came once more to life…
How many of you hate me? Let's see some hands! How many love me? Yay, more hands! SHOW THE LOVE~
Thank you so much for all the support, all the wonderful people who kept reviewing long after the disappointment of last chapter had grown stale, who urged and poked and prodded me to update, and the tenacity of my FF friends who wouldn't let me stop thinking about this. x) This chapter is dedicated to How many of you hate me? Let's see some hands! How many love me? Yay, more hands! SHOW THE LOVE~
Thank you so much for all the support, all the wonderful people who kept reviewing long after the disappointment of last chapter had grown stale, who urged and poked and prodded me to update, and the tenacity of my FF friends who wouldn't let me stop thinking about this. x) This chapter is dedicated to you, dear readers.
Now, show your appreciation and warm this tired author's heart by leaving many more beautiful reviews!