Summary: Things go as implied in the legend. Set after series 4. Arthur is the King of Camelot. Morgana, still evil, returns to the court. Merlin as the advisor is caught in the middle, and the dark game of seduction begins. AU. Merlin/Morgana. Oneshot.
Rating: Between T and M. Mild language, adult themes.
Disclaimer: No ownership, no profit.
Unbetaed - sorry.
. . .
- Fata Morgana -
(The Grand Illusion)
He had ruined her peace of mind. It is only fair she took his.
. . .
"Arthur, do you really think it's wise?"
Generosity falls as deaf on Morgana's heart as pleads to Uther's ears. Merlin understands the sentiment - his desire to have her once again in their midst, to see the return of the good old Morgana - a taunting hope, however faint.
He also knows the futility of his attempts to dissuade the King on the eve of this fatal event. The deal has been struck, the arrangements made. All that's left now is to wait.
"You know what they say about friends and enemies," Arthur muses, studying the darkened window. Flames are dancing on the glass, and from inside, it looks like Camelot's on fire. "l intend to keep her as close as I can."
- a -
They put her up in her old quarters. In the northern wing, overlooking the executions.
A bit symbolic, if you asked him. (But no one did these days.)
She'd arrived, as promised, under the cover of the night. No sounds of trumpets or cries of war this time. The people of Camelot will not be informed until the daybreak. Her brother will serve her coming as a truce, a bloodless victory of some kind.
In the court, she'll be presented as a captive. To appease the crowds and create an illusion of security.
And what a grand illusion it is.
- b -
Merlin walks in silently, without knocking, lingers in the doorway for a while. The room is mostly empty, pieces of furniture poised like chess pieces, waiting to be acted upon. She's already started settling in, heaps of clothes thrown on the bed: black lace on black silk on black wool, her only color these days. That and a splash of green.
"I expect you'll be asking for some adjustments around here, cobwebs and mold, to make you feel more at home." He grins and folds his arms, leaning against the four-poster bed.
When she looks up, her smirk is already in place, and he gets an eerie feeling he's been long expected. Does he really run like clockwork to her?
Voice smooth from all those years in the court, Morgana responds in kind, "How thoughtful of you, Merlin - but all that's missing is you tied to the ceiling."
Merlin smiles, looking up at the vaulted arcs above.
"You've picked the wrong place for your games. Too high for you, if you ask me."
Toying with an untold force, Morgana leans in, teases his jaw. It twitches. Something alarming awakens in his guts.
"Or perhaps," she hums - all poison and sweetness, "I could simply let you hang."
- c -
So it's settled. Morgana will not dine with Arthur like a proper family. Merlin is somewhat relieved, and hopes the same goes for Gwen. The Queen, though forgiving, has seen the true extent of her corruption.
(Smiles with compassion as she sends him to check on that room.)
The dinner is laid out on a silver tray. An hour later, he returns to find it untouched. As he studies it, he can't help a sacrasm from seeping into his voice.
"Perhaps Her Highness does not need to eat?"
Morgana snipes back, effortless. "Perhaps His Eminence still takes me for a fool."
Merlin stares back at her, offended. "You know Arthur would never poison your food."
Some dark amusement enlivens her face, Morgana reaches shoves the tray at him.
"Who said anything about Arthur?"
- d -
Merlin chews, slowly, carefully. The meat has no weird aftertaste, and bread is the same colour as usual. The chances of being poisoned are next to none, but the intent with which she watches him won't let his suspicions subside.
He ignores his instincts and the way her eyes are fixated on him. - Not unlike Gaius, when he's teaching him a valuable lesson.
Morgana leans back, enjoying him squirm.
"Not so pleasant, is it, Merlin? Living in doubt and fear."
He shakes his head, swallows the bread. Washes it down with the last of the wine.
Her slim fingers hold out one more grape and as he opens his mouth to protest, she plops it in.
The press of her fingers ghosts his lips.
- e -
It goes without asking that Merlin should take up the duty of watching over her. He's practically following her day and night as it is.
Being the King's advisor, he no longer needs to empty his chamber pot nor muck up the stables - though Arthur still japes at him in his anger when he messes up too bad.
This times, it's no punishment, just a tiresome task that can't be trusted to anyone else.
"It's not that I do not believe her," Arthur admits with a quiet sigh, "but there's more than just my trust at stake."
- f -
Camelot bores her, that much is certain.
For more than a week, the knights have been plagued by bad luck. Toads congest the wells and snakes upset the stables. Statues and tapestries change overnight, strange happenings all around the castle. Finally, a day comes when she demands to be allowed outside, to reacquaint herself with the neighboring woods.
Arthur is silent for a moment. Then, almost predictably, he relents. "We both know it's inevitable. You can't tame a beast without giving it some leeway."
"I'll tell them to prepare the horses."
- g -
The cuffs are a humiliating detail. The crowds gather and stare at her as they ride through the city. Morgana holds her head high, as if fuelled by some sacred mission - something that lights her from inside and won't let all else affect her.
What could possibly be worth all of this? Merlin wonders, knowing the true extent of her powers. With one fit of temper she could blow away a tower, flee - or burn - Camelot with a single word.
When they reach the clearing, she dismounts her horse. They're in a field of flowers, a sea of forget-me-nots, ready for reaping. She kneels down and picks a single blossom.
The knights of Camelot surround her like a ring of mushrooms.
A fairy circle.
- h -
It's a long-held custom, a tradition of old, that the women of the royal household bless the knights as they go into battle.
Morgana, the Fay, approaches the men in arms, laughing softly at the retreating rows, arching away from her like plague.
In the end, only one man stands his ground.
(The entire hall sighs in relief.)
She ties the handkerchief, white for surrender, around Melin's arm.
- i -
Know thy enemy and you know yourself.
Alator of Catha once warned him about her. But more than that, he warned him about himself.
He does not visit the Crystal cave anymore, given how things shown there tend to be unchangeable to begin with.
He can't confide in Gaius, so old and weak now, his aging heart might not survive another one of his adventures.
So Merlin sits, alone, on the rooftop, unable to shake the feeling of Destiny about to swoop down, digging its claws in an unsuspecting prey.
- j -
Guinevere, the fair, invites her to the midsummer's feast. In truth, there are just too few women in for the game. (Arthur, possessively, keeps Gwen from joining in.)
Merlin volunteers to blindfold Morgana - the one way to ensure that she won't cheat - and sends her whirling around as the hall grows loud with song and cheers.
Pickety witch, pickety witch...
He, too, is amazed by the merriment as the crowd chants on "Who's got a kiss for the pickety witch..." . Guinevere is smiling. Even Arthur is amused by the sight. For the shortest, strangest of whiles, it's feels like the old times. (Hiding from Uther, fighting bandits, joking with Arthur in the midst of it all.)
There's a cheer and cruel laughter as the witch catches her prey. - Without the executions, the crowd's bloodlust runs high. -
He knows she knows it's him, but regardless, Morgana presses her mouth on his, hard.
- k -
There's a secret weapon, one she's not yet put to work.
Sick and tired, (and slightly drunk from the feast) he finally corners her and demands a straight answer.
"What is this - this twisted game you're playing?"
"You'll know. In time," she laughs and turns to go.
This time, he won't let her. A hand on her wrist - and the challenge is on.
- l -
It's a fight, a scuffle, a battle of wills.
Merlin thinks he's winning. Until she closes the distance, as she disarms him with a kiss.
Warm, wet, and sweet as mead. So sweet.
There's a loud clank and a nearby pitcher is dropping, his mind completely removed from his limbs. She is soft and pliant and unresisting.
He gasps and pins her onto the mattress. To slip - it's incredibly simple.
- m -
He enters her. The sensation is so entirely overwhelming that Merlin freezes in the act. The implications crash down on him, and yet ... whatever he does, he cannot take it back.
Both still clothed, this should be much easier this way, but instead, it makes it even more bizarre. As though they've skipped some crucial step in the natural progression of things.
Hovering above her, hands flat on both sides, he tries to come to a decision. Morgana wiggles under him, watching him (failing to) breathe, and with a decisive tug at his neckerchief, she exposes more flesh.
It's over, it's already done, a voice chimes inside his head, only grows louder at the friction of her hips. You can turn back from this, another voice says.
Her black shift ruffles, scraping against his trousers, and the sound in tantalizing, tempting. Urging him on.
There's a soft sigh and a sense of falling.
Slowly, with eyes closed, Merlin begins to move.
- n -
Guinevere believes in him, the goodness in his heart. Tells him to - always, no matter what - stay true to himself. But what if your soul is sold, your heart no longer yours?
It won't happen again. It's the least he can do to pardon his actions.
"You think I'd tell him? The Once and Future King?" Morgana mocks and smiles at him, before growing annoyed and serious. "I've kept our secret safe, better than you your own."
Her eyes crinkle and point at the centre of his anatomy, where the traitor lies. Already stirring.
- o -
His fall is expected, almost foretold.
He can see her setting up the traps, but in the end, it's him that walks right in it. Almost willingly so, for he's always resented the games as such.
- p -
"What is Morgana up to these days," Arthur wonders as he prepares to retire for the night. "I don't recall seeing her in a while."
"I'm sure she's out there somewhere, sparing us from her presence," Merlin supplies with a shrug, eager to move on.
Arthur frowns at the lack of accusations, his sudden indifference to his sister's conniving behaviour.
"Still, better keep a check on her, just to be sure."
- q -
It's not Morgana the King should be worried about. It's Merlin's precious soul that's at risk.
The candles are lit, a warm yellow glow that shifts behind the screens.
"Morgana?" he calls, before entering.
She's lying on her bed, feigning a surprised look. Dressed in pure, white silk - a sweet, dainty thing.
"Did you need something?" she asks, determined to make him crawl. He swallows, sharply, looking away.
A bare knee pokes out from between the sheets.
There's nothing to tell, needless to say.
- r -
There's no one to discuss their little arrangement. Because, well, how could he?
He cannot even look the King in the eye anymore, for the fear that somehow the shame would shine through. Telling him that his advisor had done exactly what he'd advised against.
How easily, without resistance, he played yet another trump in her hands.
(One she, no doubt, will put to good use.)
- s -
Weeks pass and Morgana still hasn't make a move.
The Kingdom blossoms. Knights return from another glorious battle. With the exception of Merlin, Camelot seems more peaceful than ever. Even Arthur strides through the castle with untroubled mirth.
There must be a plan, of course she has one. He just hopes he finds it out first, before she has a chance put it into action. So he spies and hides in the alcoves, with a sense of deja vu so strong he has to consider himself for the moment.
They are right back in the old times, just not the ones he'd wished for.
- t -
Her lips, blood-red, mar his neck.
He's already sunk too deep in sin to escape now, and it gets better as they progress. Morgana's movements grow more erratic, less calculated or concerned about domination. The pleasures mount and he's not far behind.
It's pivoting out of her control, he can tell. (For some reason it does not make him feel any safer.)
- u -
Bards pile verses when they speak of fated love. His feels a lot more like a nightmare. A horror story to frighten little kids.
(More than once had he caught himself thinking of her during the council. The smooth span of her waist and the sway of her hips.)
"Where the hell are you?" Arthur asks in one of those times.
"You've already answered that," Merlin mutters, far out of sight.
- v -
It's been a long while since he's called out to the beast. Merlin watches the flap of his enormous wings, the wind swooping down and the impact of his landing.
The Dragon has become the last one he turns to. An option reserved for the outmost plight.
Merlin's voice sounds thin to his own ears.
(Kilgharrah just laughs and laughs.)
- w -
It takes two more moons to lose himself. If she wants him, she'll get him, and he's come too long a way not to claim his own delights.
The sheets are brittle as they twist and tangle, and he works her milk white body, making sure no shadows remain.
And, even as they move, something's building up - a strange kind of expectation, the threatening finality of some grand reveal.
"Emrys," she gasps and his eyes, they flash gold.
- x -
"You knew?" Of course she did, says the little voice at the back of his head. "How.. Or rather, when?"
"Quite some time ago," Morgana yawns and stretches like a cat. "In fact, I returned as soon as I heard."
"That's why..." Merlin moans into the pillow, shudders from betrayal. Going straight to Arthur would have been so much easier. Merciful, even. But that is not her. Instead, she'd seduced him, played him for a cat pretending to be a mouse.
There's a poetic sense of justice, to lie and be lied to in return. She traces his back, and whispers, almost in comfort, "You know what they say about enemies..."
"Same thing they say about friends."
- y -
It's Guinevere who finds out first. As always, it's Merlin who bears the brunt of the blame.
"I told you to keep a watch over her, not to bed her!"
The King is naturally, understandably, upset. His glare demands a justification. Merlin has none whatsoever.
At last, a weak, strangled voice, with tears welling in his eyes.
"I - I couldn't... resist."
Arthur's shoulders relax in something of a pity. He's a man too, after all. His voice is surprisingly calm when he speaks.
"Morgana has many... charms, I give you that. But imagine - the complications, if she were to produce an offspring. The conflict she'd set up in the line of succession..."
- z -
"The King thinks you want to beat them to an heir."
Morgana is amused, actually laughing at this implication. He's pouting and, obligingly, she straddles his lap.
"Relax, Merlin. Besides, that can't even happen."
"Whyever not?" he asks despite himself, toying with her robe.
Morgana pulls away, stands and walks over to the window. "When Morgause took me, I was already dead, Merlin. She saved me, using dark magic."
A wave of remorse crashes around him. So sudden, so strong, and ever present.
"But... " Merlin wrestles with denial - she is not a mindless shade, no undead of any sort.
"You are saved. She brought you back," he argues, staring at the truth. The woman before him is all flesh and blood. Undeniably Morgana.
The smile he gives him is broken on the edges.
"Yes. But not all of me."
He wants to take her to the mossy fields of green, far from man-made towers or hills. A place where battle cries have never washed the shores. He'd take her by the hand and say their vows in the Old Tongue, before the Gods of Old, the passing breeze their only witness. If he could.
(She'd call him a romantic fool and have exactly none of it.)
He wants to take what's left of her and fill it up with light. If she insists on being so one-sided, why on Earth can't that side be Good?
"Fairytales, Merlin," she says, but that is not a 'no'. He grabs her hand and entwines it with his. One day they'll reach an agreement.
(When they're both too tired to fight.)
. Fin .
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