A/N: One shot! Yay! I took some liberties of how each character is portrayed because my brain likes to do that. Elyan isn't a bad guy, just kinda still angry. This is set many years after season...I can't remember. 3 or 4. Just something I wrote up because my brain wouldn't let up with it. So.
Reviews please because I like hearing back from people. :3 Thankies!
Morgana huddled at the back of the boat, pulling the cloak tighter around herself to keep the chill out. The water gleamed grey and silver as the boat glided effortlessly through it, the water rippling in gentle waves. There was a heavy mist that blanketed the expanse of the water only allowing limited vision all around. It would have been dangerous if not for the fact that the boat was enchanted to arrive at a certain destination.
Under the cold and biting air, Morgana could smell the acid scent of burning wood and oil. After glancing at her two companions, she closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, allowing her senses to travel further towards their destination. The brutal clang of steel against steel made her flinch and she briefly saw a man impaled upon a jutting spear.
The sharply spoken words brought her back to her own body and her eyes snapped open. Her pale green eyes met dark brown ones and she nodded, accepting the gentle chastise for what it was. Her companion faced the front once more but now the boat began to move faster upon the water, the water frothing slightly from the pace. She sighed and slid the hood of her black cloak over her face to protect her from the wind. They were nearing their destination. The companions, both women, turned around and considered her.
"You are our High Priestess," the one who had yet to speak, murmured. There was a slight hint of reservation in her tone as if she didn't care for that thought. It made Morgana's hackles rise and she stared at the woman, eyes glinting with flashes of gold. It had taken her years to control her powers, years of heartache to get to where she was now and she was not about to let a little upstart priestess belittle her. The other priestess didn't lower her eyes, a spark of challenge in them.
"And as such, we will follow your lead in this mission," the one who had chastised her spoke, shooting the younger woman a sharp, warning glance. She had known the Lady Morgana for a long time which lent her some freedom in addressing her but she knew how ruthless the High Priestess could be. It would not bode well for any of them should Morgana lose her temper. The girl, for that was what she was, no matter how much she protested it, paled slightly as if finally noticing the dangerous beast she was provoking. She nodded demurely, her eyes downcast, shoulders hunched. The older priestess nodded subtly and turned back to Morgana. "We are nearing the shore. How shall we proceed?"
"As we have planned," Morgana replied. The women faced the front once more and Morgana sighed inaudibly. Lately, more and more of the priestesses were challenging her authority in Avalon and it was becoming a hassle. The little chits had no idea what the responsibilities of being the High Priestess entailed. They were fortunate that they were even accepted as initiates much less promoted to priestess. Through slitted eyes that were slightly teary from the cold, she studied the two priestesses she had chosen to accompany her on this small journey.
Siofra, the younger, was small-boned and spritely, living up to her name quite well. There was likely Fae blood running through her veins. Unfortunately, she suffered from the same arrogance her magical brethren did. The girl was always complaining about her share of the food, space and attention. A spoilt child from a wealthy family, indeed. It had irritated her to no end which was why Morgana had chosen her instead of all the other hopefuls. Perhaps seeing what the real world and all it's suffering would quiet her.
Eithne, the older, was a full decade older than her. She had also been one of the few priestesses who taught her how to use potions and the like. It had always surprised her why Eithne never nominated herself to be High Priestess; she was more than competent and the other members liked her. Quiet, strong-willed and determined, Eithne was an incredible healer even among the skilled healers on the island. Perhaps she preferred to help rather than lead. No matter. Morgana trusted her to keep a lid on things when she was unable to see to some of her duties.
The boat continued quietly even as the sounds of distant battle became louder. Over the slight rushing of the water, she could hear the painful moans and dying gasps of soldiers. It made her sad. Yet she understood the cost of war. Mellow as she was now, in her younger years she had been driven to take over Camelot, to dispose of her kingly half-brother so that her brethren could live in the open as they should have. It had been a dark time for all involved. The guilt that she carried around always threatened to rear its head once again but she tamped it down ruthlessly. Now was not the time.
A soft thud announced their arrival but the banks of the shore were still shrouded in the mist so she whispered a soft spell and the mist moved, allowing a wide area around them but not disappearing altogether. Eithne secured a rope around a large tree root, tightening the knot to keep it secure. They all got up and without a word, stepped from the boat and onto the soft earth of land. Keeping the cowl over her face, Morgana signalled at the other two to wait.
"I will go first."
Siofra, predictably, opened her mouth to protest but Morgana was having none of it.
"Cease!" she hissed, anger colouring her words. "I am only saying this to protect you two. Should I be attacked, I will send a warning and you and Eithne will be able to escape by boat. Now be quiet, else you bring unwanted attention to yourselves."
Siofra's mouth snapped shut and she nodded, her eyes fearful now. Morgana looked at Eithne. "I will be back soon."
The older woman nodded. "Be careful."
Far too late for that, she thought but nodded in thanks anyway. With a bracing breath, she turned around and made her way through the trees and into the forest. It was familiar to her, having gone here once with Morgause for her initiation into the Old Religion. The tree limbs twisted and turned this way and that way, like fingers reaching out to grasp her. A small wind played through the leafy branches, whistling and crooning to her. A haunting song in a haunting forest. As she continued further into the dark depths of the forest, she saw glimpses of men standing but more often it was men lying on the ground in a pool of their own blood. A ghastly decoration. Some of them, the ones still able, looked up at her, eyes glazed over with pain, grief and a growing hollowness. Some but not all. Others were too busy caring for the mortally wounded, pressing ineffectively at stab and slash wounds, the blood gushing out between their fingers anyway.
And the dead. They littered the forest floor like broken rag dolls, limbs as twisted as the tree limbs she walked under, the forest floor painted a dark scarlet like paint splattered upon a dark canvas. Their still bodies a stark contrast to those who were just unconscious. It was horrible. The groans and cries of pain added another layer of despair and death to the heavy atmosphere. She could sense the passing of several souls and it made her sad. Yet there was a glimmer of gladness within because they were no longer suffering the pains of the physical plane.
She turned her eyes away from the dead and dying and continued with hurried steps, her fingers clutching the cloak tighter around her. Discarded and broken shields were dropped everywhere. It took some time but after manoeuvring through all that, she finally reached her desired place.
Here, the cries of the wounded were louder and more agonising as physicians and healers attempted to save them. Stretchers carried by the ones less affected bore bloody bodies. Dead or alive, she didn't want to know. There was a tent, the only on in fact, that was erected at the base of a giant tree. Unmarked, plain and white, but she knew who was lying in there, waiting for her. And slowly dying.
Her heart thumped hard in her chest, a galloping rhythm that almost threatened to overwhelm her. It had been so long since they had met. The last time had been devastating. A hush fell across the camp as they realised someone other was in their midst. Perhaps there were a few older knights who recognised her but most of them were young, only conscious of the fact that she was not like them. It wasn't entirely hostile, their regard. Just curious and wary. It had taken her so long and through so many mistakes before she had been able to understand the difference between wariness and hostility. How many lives had that cost, she wondered, regret an open wound on her soul.
She turned around. Sir Elyan. Gwen's elder brother and the man she had once tortured. His dark skin gleamed in the sunlight, sweat beading his face. The grim set of his jaw and the stony look told her he remembered their history as well. They were several feet away from each other but the tension between them was palpable.
"Sir Elyan," she murmured.
"Arthur told me to expect you," he rumbled. He was angry, his eyes flashing. "I am to escort you inside."
"Do not worry yourself, Sir Knight. I am more than capable of walking the short distance myself."
"Nevertheless. They are my orders."
She sighed. "Very well. Escort away."
He turned around sharply and started for the tent, Morgana following close behind. Some of the knights who recognised glared at her with malice. She knew that given the chance, any one of these men would strike her down here and now. She met their eyes, refusing to look away. She may regret her actions but she still remembered them executing the magic folk without a hesitation. Regret was one thing; shame another.
Elyan pulled the entrance flap aside and waited for her to go in first, giving her a warning glance. As she passed, he leaned close to murmur into her ears. "Be aware, witch. I will be watching."
"So long as Arthur allows it," she murmured back. Ignoring the black look he gave her, she went in and paused a little way from the entrance. Inside the tent it was bare, mainly cluttered with herbs and poultices. It was likely a hastily made healing tent for the wounded. At the back, closest to the tree was a mound of furs and atop it lay the heaving body of a man.
The King of Camelot.
Her heart began to race again and as she neared, the physicians who she hadn't noticed before rushed towards her, snapping orders for her to leave the tent immediately.
"Enough," croaked a hoarse, weak voice. "She is here on my request."
"Sire – "
"Leave us. I wish to speak to her alone."
Elyan, who had come in behind her, protested. "But she is our enemy, my lord!"
"Enough, I say!" A hacking cough. "Obey me and leave us in peace. She will not harm me any more than I already am."
With a low grumble, they all left.
She had been quiet the entire time they exchanged words and now Arthur turned his attention to her. He lifted a trembling arm and beckoned her. "Come. Closer, for I cannot see well past the pain."
She went over and sat down, gently next to him, careful not to disturb the furs too much else she caused him greater pain. "Hello, Arthur."
He smiled through the pain clouding his eyes. "Morgana. It's been a long while, hasn't it?"
"Too long," she said, softly. Her hand reached out to brush sweat-soaked hair from his eyes. His face was familiar yet not. The grooves around his mouth had deepened but the laugh lines around his eyes more than made up for it. "How has life treated you, brother?"
"Besides this stupid war?" he joked. "Very well."
"I'm glad. You deserve all the happiness you can get."
"Are you still feeling guilty about our early years?"
She pressed her lips together tightly. "Why are you not angry at me? After what I did to you and your companions."
"We all move on, Morgana." He spoke softly. She had to lean forward to hear him clearly. His hand came up to cup her chin. "We were both young, full of our own importance and ideals that we were blinded to what would have been instead of what was."
Her eyes burned and she gave him a watery smile. "It seems you've gotten wiser over the years."
"And older," he added. A brief spasm of pain made his eyes clench shut, his fingers digging into her skin. It stopped after a moment but his breathing was harsh and gurgling. His eyes opened and he peered up at her. "I'm dying, Morgana."
"Will be realised." She pressed her own hand against his. "Arthur, what was prophesied by the Great Dragon and Emrys will come to pass. But not in this lifetime."
"A long time," she whispered. "Beyond our years for many generations."
There was silence as Arthur absorbed that information, his breaths coming short gasps. "All my loved ones will have passed then."
"Yes," she answered even though it wasn't a question.
"And you? If I am to leave for Avalon who will guard my body? You are not immortal. You too, will die one day."
"Avalon is your guardian," she said firmly. "It and its inhabitants will safeguard you until the time is right."
Arthur sighed. "I'm tired, Morgana. And frightened. What will happen to Guinevere when I leave?"
"She will continue as we all must. And I will look after her for you as well."
He smiled wryly. "A reversal of your roles, I see. How amusing."
"Yes, well. I think after what I did, I should do everything I can to help her."
"Again with the guilty conscience. I understand that you regret what you did, Morgana, but justifying your actions based on your past will force you into a rut. I went to war and innocent men died fighting for me while I was protected by my personal knights. I felt guilty and wanted peace for them so I ruthlessly subjugated another kingdom that was our enemy. More men died. It is a vicious cycle and one that will continue if we keep on the same path. So enough. I forgave you and so too has Guinevere. We cannot speak for others but I believe that between moving on and towards the future and hiding in the past, many will wish for the former."
"Aren't we the idealist." But she smiled, taking the sting out of the words. "Where has my arrogant brother gone? The one that would always argue until he was blue in the face."
"It's been twenty years, Morgana. Camelot would not tolerate a man-child on the throne."
"So I see."
They fell silent once more.
"I believe it's time," he finally said. "Waiting or wanting will not stop the inevitable."
"It never has."
"Something Merlin needed to learn. Physicians!"
"And what has happened to him?" she asked as the men filed in again.
"He's been captured, the sorceress vowing vengeance against him. I have no inkling of where he is." He pushed one of the physicians away as he prodded at Arthur's injuries. "All I know is she will free him when she feels like it. Prepare a stretcher, these blasted legs will not work," he added, waving his hand at said appendages. "Elyan!"
Elyan raised the flap and entered. "My lord?
"Gather Percival and Leon. I wish to speak to them."
"No need to worry. We'll need them to carry me to the boat, yes? Besides, I trust them above all of my knights."
She nodded and stepped to the side as Percival, Leon and Elyan returned. Arthur began instructing them on what to do, getting more pale with each moment. He won't last long, she thought, worry eating at her. Will he even survive the short trek through the forest?
A hand thumped on her shoulder, making her start. Everyone had fallen silent and was watching her. Arthur smiled.
"Shall we go?" he asked, gently.
Clearing her throat and returning his smile, she nodded. With an unreadable glance at the three knights, she left the tent, blinking slightly at the harsh sunlight. The flap opened and Elyan and Percival walked out, carrying Arthur on a stretcher between them. All the able knights, those who could still stand, rose. She waited as he said goodbyes before closing his eyes and resting, releasing a deep sigh. As one, they held one clenched fist in the air and roared his name, a thunderous sound coming from only a small number of them. There was grief and pride on their faces, knowing they would never see their king again. It was a sight that made her chest ache. She silently wished them all the happiness they could find.
She turned around and began walking, looking over her shoulder every now and then to make sure the knights and Arthur were still close behind her. It was a silent affair, broken by twigs and fallen leaves crackling beneath their boots and the cold wind whistling and weaving through the twisted branches. She hadn't noticed it earlier but the camp had seemed very warm and as they continued further in, it had gotten more and more chilly. There was a nagging thought at the back of her mind, trying to make her understand something. A familiarity to the atmosphere. She furrowed her brow. When and where had she felt this before?
She twitched in surprise and realised she had stopped walking. Nodding apologetically, she continued, the knights' armour clinking gently behind her. Soon enough, they reached the last of the trees and she spied the boat, tipping lightly from side to side from the waves. As they passed under the final copse of trees, Eithne and Siofra stood up from where they were sitting. They gave the men wary looks as Morgana came closer. She gestured to the ground near where the boat was docked. "Over here. Eithne, please have a look at his injuries."
She hadn't been completely oblivious to Arthur's injuries but she felt mentioning them when they were finally talking would have made it awkward. Hopefully, the short journey through the forest hadn't undone the work his physicians had tried very hard to do. The knights set the stretcher down carefully then stepped back as Eithne hurried forward, still casting them suspicious looks. Morgana watched with an impassive face though inside she was trembling. Arthur's face was deathly pale and he hadn't said anything at all since the goodbyes. She hoped it wasn't too late.
"High Priestess," Siofra whispered. She looked up and met the girl's eyes, quizzically. Strange, the girl had never called her by title without a sneer in her voice before.
"Yes? What is it?"
Siofra's face was pale and she pointed behind the group, somewhere near the trees. Whatever it was had struck her speechless. Morgana turned to see what had so incapacitated her and was struck speechless herself. Inside, she laughed helplessly. So that was what it was. The cold atmosphere when it should not be. A spirit from the Otherworld was present.
"What is it?" asked Percival, repeating her question to her as he noticed her mute self. The knights looked up to see what she was staring at and gaped.
"Is that – ?"
"Yes," breathed Leon. He grinned and made to move but stopped himself at the last moment. Uncertainty washed over his face as he looked down at Arthur. "My Lord?"
Arthur cracked open an eye and, unerringly, glanced towards the new presence. His smile was small but the joy in them was evident. "Hello, old friend. Come to see me off then?"
A faint chuckle echoed.
"Go to him. He won't be here long. Say your goodbyes."
The knights all grinned and rushed over, talking over themselves in their excitement to see their old comrade. Arthur closed his eyes once more, breathing deeply, as Eithne finished checking his injuries. She stood up and went over to Morgana, a frown on her face. "Morgana."
Morgana forced herself to look away from the group by the trees and turned expectant eyes towards Eithne. "How is he?"
"Doing quite well for all the seriousness of the wound. Though it would be prudent to take him to Avalon as soon as possible."
"I see." She looked over at the group once more. "Would he be alright for a few minutes more?"
Eithne hesitated. "Yes. But perhaps we should ask him?"
"Yes." Without a word, Eithne returned to Arthur's side and whispered to him. A faint nod was his reply. When the older woman looked up, Morgana nodded to acknowledge the answer. Eithne beckoned to her though, after Arthur whispered something into her ear, so she went over and crouched down on the other side of him. "Yes?"
"Do you not wish to speak with him?" queried Arthur. "I know you had affections for him once."
I still do. "It would be best to leave his goodbyes with friends."
Arthur opened his eyes and pinned her with a sharp look. "Are you not his friend as well? I know your agendas may have differed but he is not exactly the predictable sort. He made friends with you, did he not?"
"Then I do not see why you should restrain yourself so much. Honestly, Morgana, when have you ever shown restraint when we were younger?"
A reluctant smile came to her lips. "You'd be surprised how close you've been to getting thumped from behind."
"Very funny. Go to him and say your goodbyes, sister."
Morgana nodded, pressing her hand against his in gratitude before turning around and headed towards the now silent and watching group. Each step closer to where he was with the others was like a slow and agonising wrench of her heart. Her hands clenched tightly together under the folds of her sleeves and she tried to take deep and even breaths. She avoided looking at him for the moment and concentrated on the knights instead. She never quite knew how they had reacted when it became clear what had been going on behind their backs for several years. Frankly, she didn't want to know. Not then and not now. She looked at their faces. Elyan, still hard and unforgiving; Percival, uncertain but no malice; and Leon, eyes understanding yet full of pity. She looked away.
And lost her breath.
"Gwaine," she whispered, her lips trembling and voice cracking on the single word.
"Morgana," he said. As a ghost he didn't age and she felt her heart lurch at the same charming grin she had last seen twelve years ago. His body was incorporeal and she could clearly see the outlines of the trees and branches behind him. She stepped closer, a hand reaching out. In a distant part of her mind, she was aware that the knights had shuffled off, leaving the two of them in private if for a brief moment.
"Morgana," he said again, this time reaching out his own hand and hovered it over her cheek. She had to stifle a gasp. He couldn't touch her but she could feel the icy cold touch of death. His smile turned a little sad and he dropped his hand. "You've grown even more beautiful since last I saw you."
She felt a flash of amusement. "Don't start with the flirting, Gwaine."
"I can't help it when such beauty appears before my eyes," he replied, straight-faced.
"Now you're being ridiculous," she said, dryly.
They shared a q quiet laugh that tapered quickly into an uncomfortable silence. There were so many things that had been left unsaid when he was still alive but she felt it wasn't right to say them now either. So she said the one thing that she was completely honest and free with expressing. "I miss you."
There was a bittersweet look in his eyes. "And I, you."
She took a deep breath. "We can't stay long. Arthur-"
"I know," he said, interrupting. "You should leave right now. I...I had just wanted to see you one last time, as well as the others. It will be a long time before any of us will ever meet again."
Tears pricked her eyes and she swallowed the lump in her throat. "I know."
"My Lady?" It was Eithne, her tone apologetic and a little apprehensive at seeing a ghostly spirit. "We should hasten. His Highness is fading fast."
"Yes, thank you." She nodded and the older woman disappeared back to where Arthur was lying. Morgana felt a icy yet gentle breeze brushing her neck and she glance over to find Gwaine had floated closer. He gave her a somber look. "You should heed her words, Morgana."
"You won't say goodbye to Arthur?"
"I will spend enough time with him soon enough," he said quietly. "Go."
"Many times have people ordered me to 'go' today," she remarked tartly. "A simple 'you should leave now for the better' would suffice."
A exchange of amused smiles before they too faded like the earlier laugh.
"Goodbye, Gwaine," she said, softly.
"Goodbye, Morgana," he replied, raising a hand in parting. For a moment, they just stared at each other, remembering their shared past and then he began to fade. A flicker and then he was gone, taking the cold with him. It hurt. Seeing him and then saying goodbye was both a blessing and a curse. She had finally managed to say farewell but now it would take her more time to get over him and she barely pulled herself together the last time. She closed her eyes, took several bracing gulps of air and then went back to the waiting party. Arthur regarded her gently, holding out a hand.
She smiled at her brother. "Yes."
Centuries pass. The Old Religion has barely survived and only in small pockets of the countryside. Arthur's legacy has been lost in the books of myths and legends, his companions even more so.
But not all is lost, especially for the love between Lady Morgana and her Beloved Knight, pushed into oblivion in so-called 'historical' texts. In Camelot, it began in a quiet forest. In modern day London, it begins in a quiet coffee bookstore.
"Excuse me, miss, but I can't help admiring those lovely green eyes of yours."
The woman snapped her book shut and gave the man opposite her an arch look. "That line work you all the time?"
"Not all the time," he said, grinning and held out a hand. "But I'm hoping it will today. Gwaine Rhydderch."
She stared at him, wondering if he were an idiot but she couldn't help the twitch of her lips at his charming grin. What the hell. "Your lucky day, Gwaine." She took his hand. "I'm Morgana O'Draig. Nice to meet you."