A/N: Like an idiot, I started watching Once Upon a Time even though I knew full well I'd probably get obsessed with it. I started writing a multichapter fic for that fandom as well, so I've decided to update both fics only once per week so I don't end up getting behind on either. When I do finally complete this story though, the update rate will increase to twice a week again.
When Morgana returned to her room, she was momentarily startled to see it occupied by Morgause. Though they shared living quarters, she did not expect her… sister to come back so soon; she knew how furious Morgana was with her. So she stopped dead in the threshold, her face masking in disapproval as she watched Morgause rise from her seat on their bed to greet her.
"I know you do not wish to see me," Morgause started, her tone apologetic. She could barely meet her gaze, and rightfully so. She had every reason to be ashamed of herself and Morgana had no desire to relieve her of that burden just yet. "I just… I wanted to tell you that I've asked Llamrei to make other arrangements for you. After this morning, I thought it best to assume that you no longer wished to share a bed with me."
"You assumed correctly," Morgana told her flatly. The hurt in Morgause's eyes tore the Ward's heart in half, but she stood her ground. If they ever wished to move past this, Morgause needed to give her space.
Morgause brushed the hair from her eyes, yet still looked everywhere but at Morgana. "I don't know how long it will take until she can find somewhere for you," she told her. "So in the meantime, you are welcome to my bed. I will find somewhere else to sleep."
That made Morgana pause. "And who do you expect will share their bed with you?" she asked, a bit of an accusation in her tone. Though Morgause had told her that she was the only one, with everything else she had lied about, Morgana found it hard to believe anything her sister said anymore.
"Even if someone should offer, I would never lie in anyone's bed but yours. I would rather sleep for a thousand years on jagged rocks than have anyone else beside me, Morgana."
Morgana's heart clenched and her cheeks flushed crimson. It wasn't fair, how Morgause made her feel. She was so angry with her, so mistrustful of her, yet her words made Morgana feel something too powerful to ignore. She hated it.
"I'm sorry," Morgause apologized, at least having the decency to look ashamed of herself. Morgana wished it made a difference, but the words could not be unsaid. "I only wished to be truthful."
"Surprising, as you seemed to have such trouble with honesty before," Morgana snapped, forcing herself to focus on her anger. It was the only thing that made any sense to her anymore. When she looked up at Morgause, all she saw was the pain of regret on her face.
"I'm so sorry," Morgause told her, taking a step towards her. But when Morgana took a step back, Morgause halted, knowing better than to continue advancing on her. "I was afraid. I feel so much for you, Morgana, more than I would have ever thought possible. I didn't want it to end."
"That still didn't give you the right to lie to me!" Morgana shouted, pointing at her accusingly. Morgause's gaze met the floor, her face coloring in shame. Her voice was small.
"I don't trust you anymore, Morgause," Morgana told her. Though her voice was strong, the Ward felt as though she were falling apart inside. "And you cannot begin to know how much that pains me."
Morgause chewed on her bottom lip, looking about as broken as Morgana felt. "I wish now that I had done things differently," she admitted softly, "even if it meant never knowing what it would feel like to be with you. In the end, I value your trust above all else. I am so very sorry for having broken that."
Morgana pursed her lips. Part of her ached to tell Morgause that she would never wish the time they had away, but she could not bring herself to say the words. It would be like admitting that she still felt for her, and though she did, she did not wish Morgause to know that right now. Morgana still did not know what that meant, or what she wished to do about it. Right now her heart ached and she just wished to drop the subject. She was not emotionally ready to forgive Morgause, so this conversation was futile.
Morgana was silent for a long time. For as badly as she wished to have space from her sister, she also knew that it would do more harm than good right now. "I need you to train me," she told her finally, though would not meet her gaze while she said it. "I need to be ready for when we rescue Gwen, and Nimueh has made it painfully clear to me that I am nowhere near prepared. "
Morgause's eyebrows rose at the mention of the other sorceress. "You spoke with Nimueh?" Morgana nodded.
"I went searching for someone who could send my letter to Uther. I found her in one of the towers."
"She never leaves it," Morgause told her. She peered at her sister for a moment before taking a step forward. "Morgana, I… I don't think it's wise that you told her of your plan to rescue Gwen."
Morgause's expression turned puzzled, but realization dawned on her quickly. "Her fount," she guessed. Morgana nodded, and was surprised when Morgause began to look rather irritated. "I should have known," she said, shaking her head. "She is obsessed with Camelot, with Uther; she spends most of her time watching him through the damned thing. Her thirst for revenge has consumed her. She, of course, would see your need to rescue Gwen as an opportunity for herself." She turned to Morgana, advising her, "You shouldn't speak with her. She'll manipulate you to her own ends, I'm sure of it."
Morgana said nothing. Though she didn't trust Nimueh, she did hold the power to see whether or not Gwen was safe. Until Morgana learned to do such a thing herself, she needed her. However, she did not wish to tell Morgause that; the last thing she wanted from her was a lecture. She didn't have the right to it; not anymore.
"Well it is lucky for you then, that I do not trust so easily anymore."
Morgana knew the words were harsh before they even came out of her mouth, yet she could not stop herself from saying it. Morgause looked away, hurt. "I deserved that," she admitted softly. She swallowed hard before she looked back at her sister. "But I will still urge you to heed my warning. Nimueh is not the person she used to be and I fear what should happen should you get involved with her."
"Regardless of your feelings about her, she raised a good point," Morgana told her, not wishing to commit to a promise she knew she could not follow through with. "I need more time. I chose not to send my letter to Uther right away, so I can allot myself that. Still, we do not have forever. Do you wish to train me, or should I ask someone else?"
"Of course I do," Morgause told her, without thought or hesitation. "But you must know, I may not be the best person for the task. Though I can teach you some things, I could never begin to further your abilities as a Seer, as I am not one."
Morgana let out a heavy breath and shook her head, disbelievingly. "Another thing you failed to mention to me. I don't know why I'm surprised."
"If you don't remember, after you discovered your magick, we were a little preoccupied!" Morgause defended, not wishing to take the blame for that. "I planned to tell you everything I knew about your magick once we got here, but first I wanted to make sure you were safe! Do not fault me for that, Morgana; I have done wrong by you, but prioritizing your safety is not among my list of faults."
Morgana's lips formed into a tight line, yet she did not retort. Perhaps she had jumped too quickly to anger, when Morgause was not to be blamed. At least, not for that. "What else do you know?" she asked finally, wishing to know as much as her sister did.
"Outside of you being a High Priestess yourself, that is all."
Morgana's eyebrows rose. "Me?" she asked, surprised. "But I thought that was a title given to those with the highest skill." Morgause shook her head and Morgana wished she had asked before she assumed. It made her feel so foolish, how little she knew about her own kind, about herself.
"It is a birthright. It's in our blood," Morgause explained. "We inherited the title from our mother."
Our mother. The words sounded so strange to her ears, yet they seemed to pull Morgana towards her. The connection they shared, whether blood linked or soulbonded, seemed even stronger now that Morgana knew the truth. She hated that and it took everything Morgana had to fight against it; she did not wish to confuse Morgause, or herself. She stopped after just a few steps, but the movement she made towards her did not go unnoticed by her sister.
"I promise you, Morgana," Morgause began, her eyes swimming with emotion, "I will never hurt you again. If you believe nothing else that I say, I beg of you to believe that."
The ridiculous thing was that, despite how much she distrusted Morgause now, Morgana believed her words without a second thought. There was no reason why she should, yet she knew in her heart that Morgause meant every word. And with time that knowledge, perhaps, might finally help Morgana start to forgive her.
Morgause's back ached terribly. She had meant it when she said that she would not share a bed with anyone but Morgana, so she took to sleeping on the hard floor of the meditation chambers. Though Llamrei had offered to get her a cot, Morgause believed it better if she declined. She had done wrong by Morgana and thought it best that she deny herself the pleasure of comfort. She felt as though she deserved to be punished, and though it was nothing close to what she deserved, it was better than nothing at all.
It had been a week since Morgause had begun training her sister. Though Morgana was naturally gifted, she lacked focus. Morgause knew that between her worry for Gwen and her discomfort with being around Morgause after all that had happened, that it was only to be expected. Still, it worried her. Morgana was driven, but without the ability to really concentrate on what she was doing, training her would take more time than they had. Despite how badly she wished otherwise, Morgause wondered if it might be more prudent if Morgana was taught by someone else.
It was hard for her to bring herself to say the words, however. If she were unable to train her, Morgause feared that her sister would no longer have any reason to spend time with her. Still, her selfishness had already destroyed what was between them, and the last thing Morgause wanted to do was allow it to weaken Morgana's abilities. So Morgause began asking around, seeing if anyone else was willing to teach her.
But just as she exited the council chambers, having found a few elders willing to do so, she saw Morgana descending the staircase that led up to Nimueh's tower. She quickly darted around the corner so she would not be seen and pressed her back against the wall. The pit of her stomach burned with disappointment, that her sister did not heed her warning. But mostly she was enflamed with anger towards Nimueh, and so once she was sure Morgana was gone, she stole up the stairs and entered Nimueh's room.
The witch did not even bother to turn around. "I expected you here much sooner than this," Nimueh told her, eyes still locked onto her fount. "Your lack of awareness disappoints me, Morgause."
Morgause narrowed her eyes, not appreciating the woman's mockery. "What is your business with my sister?" she demanded. Nimueh still did not turn around. It was perhaps that that bothered Morgause the most; it was as though she did not even regard her as worth the effort.
"I'm not sleeping with her, if that's what you're worried about," Nimueh told her, sounding amused at Morgause's expense. "That, I believe, is the position you seek."
Morgause colored in embarrassment, quickly growing angry. She strode towards her before she could think, her hands roughly connecting with Nimueh. "Jest about my affairs again and I promise you I will see that it is the last laugh you ever have!"
In moments she was blown backwards, pain shooting up her spine as she landed violently on her tailbone. Morgause groaned in pain. She should have expected that, but her anger had blinded her to rational thought. Nimueh towered over her, an intimidating look in her eyes. "If you value your hands, you will not touch me again," she warned. Though Morgause was skilled, she knew she was not yet a match for Nimueh. She stayed down, yet glared at her fiercely. Gods, she hated this woman.
After a moment's silence, Nimueh tilted her head as she assessed her. "I do not wish your sister harm," she told Morgause finally. "She comes to me because I can show her that her friend is still alive, that is all."
Nimueh merely looked amused by Morgause's disbelief. "You believe I have other intentions?"
Morgause pulled herself to her feet, trying not to wince in pain. She didn't want to give Nimueh the satisfaction. "I know you do," she told her strongly. "Everyone knows you've been biding your time up here, waiting for an opportunity like this. But if you think we will take you with us when we go to Camelot, you are dead wrong. You would do more harm than good."
Nimueh arched an eyebrow at her. "You speak as though the elders would allow it, even if I wished to. You know that is not the case. I am watched constantly."
That was true, but it still did not put Morgause's mind at ease. "Then what exactly is your endgame here? You and I both know that you wouldn't help Morgana unless it furthered your own ends; there must be a reason you have her continue to come back here."
"Your sister is a Seer," Nimueh told her, as though Morgause was stupid for not drawing to the obvious conclusion. "She needs training, to hone that ability. There is no one else on the Isle who is able to train her in that aspect, save me. I wish to get her to trust me, so that when the time comes to teach her she would be more receptive."
"No," Morgause told her strongly, shaking her head. "You're not even a true Seer; you were trained, not born. You couldn't help her in that aspect, not fully anyhow, and besides I will not allow it."
"It's not up to you," Nimueh told her bluntly, a challenging look in her eye. "It may be hard for you to accept, but any of the elders will tell you the same thing; I am the best choice for the job. I have spent years studying the ways of the Sight; no one else here has the same claim. Your sister is the last of her kind, Morgause. If you wish her to learn the ways of her birthright, you will not stand in my way."
"You'll poison her mind!"
Nimueh smiled at her. It was not genuine in the slightest and it unnerved Morgause to her very core. "Now why would I have to do that, when the truth will do the job for me? So many of us know here, even your precious aunt. Even if I do not tell her, Morgana will learn who she truly is one day."
Morgana's eyebrows furrowed and a sinking feeling made camp in the pit of her stomach. "What are you talking about?" she demanded. She did not like that Nimueh mentioned Llamrei, for if what she was saying was true, then her aunt was keeping things from her as well.
"You never wondered why Morgana has hair as dark as night, while your mother and father were fair-haired?"
Morgause stared at her. No, if truth were told, she had never thought about it. "What are you getting at?" Was Nimueh trying to tell her that she wasn't related to Morgana, like she was always led to believe? Morgause didn't know how to feel about that and it made her stomach twist into knots.
Nimueh seemed to be taking a lot of pleasure in revealing the truth to Morgause. She took a step towards her as she spoke. "There was another that desired the Lady Vivienne," she began. "So when your father was off to battle, he took her as his own. A child was born from his betrayal."
"Who?" Morgause demanded, getting irritated with Nimueh's dramatics.
"You really do not know?" Nimueh asked, looking at Morgause as though she were being terribly thick. The blonde hated her for it. "The same man that had your mother murdered during the Purge. The same man that led your father to his death. The very same man who Morgana looked at as a father figure all these years, not knowing how true that bond really was."
Morgause felt nauseous and all the color drained from her face. "Uther," she whispered, nearly choking on the words. She stared at Nimueh in disbelief, not wanting to see the truth in her words. "No," she said, shaking her head. "That doesn't make sense."
"Doesn't it?" Nimueh countered. "You never asked yourself why Vivienne chose to give Morgana to Uther instead of smuggling her out of the city with you, instead of leaving the city herself with the both of you?" Morgause stayed silent. She could not speak even if she wished to; she found her throat had gone very dry.
"The King knew Morgana was his from the moment she was born," Nimueh explained to her. "That is why Vivienne knew she could not leave. When Uther finally found out the truth about what she was, he demanded to know if Vivienne's gift would be passed down to her children, to his child. It was he who ordered her to bind Morgana's powers and hand her over to him, before he had your mother hanged for sorcery. He then sought to destroy you, a child with magick who was not born from his own seed. You are lucky Vivienne foresaw this, for when the time came she had already given you to Llamrei and planted the lie of your demise during the riots."
Morgause didn't know what to say. She was allotted too much information at once and it overwhelmed her, pushing the breath from her lungs. But it seemed Nimueh was not expecting an answer, at least not yet. She took another step towards her, continuing, "Do you not see the opportunity that we've been given? A sorceress is second in line to the throne of Camelot. Imagine how much could change, should she be able to take her birthright. We would no longer have to hide; we could be free once more."
Morgause shook her head violently, backing up a few steps from the witch. "No," she told her. "That is too much responsibility for a young girl to bear; I will not allow you to burden her with it. Morgana has gone through enough already!"
"It is the destiny she was born for," Nimueh hissed at her, displeased with Morgause's noncompliance. "You cannot change that, no more than she can. You cannot shelter her from the world forever, Morgause; she will come into her own, with or without your help."
"Stay away from her," Morgause demanded, anger rising within her once more. Though she understood Nimueh's perspective on the matter, and though it would be a blessing should magick no longer be condemned in Albion, she did not want something like this thrust on her younger sister. Not now. Morgana had gone through so much; she did not need this weight of responsibility on her shoulders. Perhaps one day, when she was older, but this was too much too fast. Morgause did not wish to overwhelm her and she would not allow Nimueh to do so.
"You cannot stop it," Nimueh told her, her tone unapologetic. "Despite your caution, the girl will continue to come to me. I hold the power to show her that which gives her comfort. And if you continue to defy me, I will make sure that she is forever unable to trust you. I will make sure it is I she comes to for comfort," her gaze turned vicious as she finished, "in every sense of the word."
The rage inside of Morgause became overwhelming. It built up inside of her so quickly that she had no way to control it. The ground rumbled, the glass in the window panes shattered. "You will not touch her!" she bellowed, the mere thought sending Morgause to madness. She conjured fire in her hand and it barreled towards Nimueh, who quickly raised her own, stilling it. Her eyes glowed gold as she dissipated the flame, lightning being cast from her fingertips shortly afterwards. Morgause had to drive out of the way to avoid it.
"What did I tell you?!" Nimueh shouted, her own anger starting to get the best of her. Pieces of the walls began to crumble around them and Morgause had to cover her head to avoid being hit by the debris. A part of her was frightened, to have antagonized someone of Nimueh's ability and skill, but it paled in comparison to her need to protect Morgana. She quickly threw out her hand, successfully managing to hurl Nimueh backwards. The witch collided with the wall, but not as hard as Morgause would have liked.
"You foolish girl," Nimueh spat as she composed herself. "Morgana is not yours. She is merely an instrument to our cause. She will lead us back to power; it is her destiny. Your feelings for her blind you from the truth and if it begins to blind her as well, I will see it end."
"You will not take her from me!"
"Oh you stupid, stupid child," Nimueh goaded, laughing cruelly. "Haven't you already managed to do that yourself?"
A pillar of fire rose up between the two women, blowing Morgause's hair back as it illuminated the rage on her face. She wanted to hurt her; more than she ever wished to hurt anyone in her entire life. But before she could send it towards Nimueh, her whole body froze. It was as though invisible ropes bound her, and at first she believed the spell to be cast by Nimueh, but when she looked at her she realized that she too was bound.
Both women turned to see Llamrei in the doorway, looking positively enraged. Both of her hands were held out, separating the two sorceresses whilst she bound them in place. "Idiot children," she spat. "Do you wish to bring the whole castle down on us? You will stop this foolishness right now."
The binding spell broke so suddenly that it made both women collapse. Nimueh looked positively murderous, to have been bested so easily like that. But Llamrei was much older, so much more skilled. She should not have been surprised.
"Morgause, come with me," Llamrei commanded. "Now." Morgause quickly picked herself up, feeling ashamed of herself. She hated to disappoint Llamrei, even if Nimueh did deserve that which she had given her and more. She stood behind her aunt, yet did not move to leave just yet.
"And you," Llamrei said, turning towards Nimueh. "If you know what is good for you, you will stay away from my daughter."
"She is not your daughter."
The words were meant to sting Llamrei, but they didn't seem to faze her in the slightest. "She is as good as," she answered passionately. "And I will not have you harm her. The elders let you stay here out of pity for all you have gone through, but I swear on the Goddess herself I can see your home taken from you with just a few words. Do not test me."
Nimueh glared at her, but knew well enough to say nothing. Behind Llamrei, Morgause smirked. But the moment her aunt turned around and caught her she snapped, "What are you looking so pleased with yourself for? I have never been more disappointed with you in my entire life; now get downstairs."
Shame colored Morgause's face and she turned, doing as she was told. When she heard Nimueh cackle behind her, it took everything she had not to turn around and come at her again. Despite how she felt about her, she knew Llamrei had every reason to be angry with her; their rage nearly brought the castle down around them.
But Morgause still couldn't help but wonder if it would have been worth it, if it had made her able to prevent Nimueh from taking the one thing she valued the most.