CHAPTER XIX
Lessons

"I don't like this at all."

Morgause was pacing back and forth, growing increasingly uncomfortable with the present situation. Her aunt let out an exasperated sigh and placed her hands on her hips; this was hardly the first time she was hearing of Morgause's disapproval. In fact, the blonde had made a point to express her unease with the situation at nearly every chance she got that day, hoping that Llamrei would change her mind.

"Then it is lucky for Morgana, that this is not up to you," the woman said pointedly before turning towards the Ward. "Come along, dear, Nimueh is waiting for you in the western tower." Morgana followed Llamrei obediently, but not without glancing back towards her sister with apprehension. It made the pit of Morgause's stomach twist into knots.

"Wait!" she called out, causing her aunt to exhale an impatient breath as she turned around. Morgause knew she was being rather repetitive, but she could tell that it wasn't just her that was uncomfortable with this plan. Morgana had realized rather quickly, after Morgause's constant protests that day, that it had been Nimueh who she was speaking of on the beach yesterday. "Let me go with her," Morgause pleaded, not wanting her sister to be alone with such a woman.

Really, Morgause was pretty sure she hated Nimueh to her very core. She was positively wretched.

"This doesn't concern you, Morgause," Llamrei told her patiently, despite her lack of it at the moment. "And besides, earlier you said yourself that you need to work on your conjuring. Outside of fire, you do seem to be terribly unskilled with it. Though I suppose that is because you seem to lack the care for any other element."

Morgause glowered. She did not need a reminder of her failures, thank you. Besides, fire was mesmerizing, powerful; she adored every aspect of it. Who wouldn't? But Morgause knew she had trouble in other areas because of her one-track fascination and was willing to work on her weaknesses, but not yet. Not now.

"If it isn't too much trouble, I think I would be more comfortable if Morgause were to accompany me," Morgana requested. Morgause was thankful for her words, as they seemed to make Llamrei consider the offer at least. "If no other time, then at least just this once."

Llamrei sighed. "Very well," she relented. Morgause looked elated that her aunt had agreed, as she would be able to protect Morgana better that way. But her smile quickly faded as Llamrei turned to her and pointedly finished, "But if the castle starts to come down again, so help me, Morgause."

Morgause averted her gaze, cheeks coloring in embarrassment at being lectured in front of Morgana. "Understood," she said quietly.

After they had climbed the stairs to the tower, the three women stood in the threshold of Nimueh's door. When the sorceress turned around, her face soured at the sight of Morgause. "I did not send for her," she told Llamrei, the distaste evident in her tone.

"Morgana requested that she be here," Llamrei told her, her voice indicating that it was not up for discussion. "As she is our guest, that will be obliged. If you have a problem with it, you may bring it up with the council; however, for now, Morgause is to stay. Is that understood?"

Nimueh said nothing. She merely continued to stare down Morgause, in an effort to intimidate her. Though her gaze made her uncomfortable, Morgause made a point to smirk in response, knowing that it would irritate her. It worked. Nimueh, knowing that she could do nothing about it, scoffed in aggravation, yet obliged, "Fine. But she is to stay in the corner and is not to speak; I do not need her distracting us."

"You heard her," Llamrei told Morgause. The blonde clenched her jaw, not enjoying those terms very much, but said nothing. When her aunt turned to leave though, she paused momentarily to whisper in Morgause's ear, "Do not do anything foolish." Despite knowing she may not be able to comply with that request, Morgause nodded. Llamrei turned then, exiting the room and closing the door behind her.

An uncomfortable silence enveloped the room.

"I believe congratulations are in order," Nimueh began after a moment, her eyes locked on to Morgause to convey more meaning behind her spoken word, "on your new position, Morgause. Well done."

Morgause's eyes flashed with anger at her words, yet she stayed silent. She knew what Nimueh meant; yesterday the witch had made it very clear that she knew what position Morgause wished to hold in Morgana's life. However, she did not want her sister to know that Nimueh was all too aware of what level their relationship had reached, as it would only embarrass her. Though it pained her to do so, she bit the inside of her cheek to bite back a retort.

However, that unfortunately did not stop Morgana from asking, "What do you mean?" She turned to Morgause then to ask, "What position do you now hold? Did the council allot you another title?" Morgana looked confused on why Morgause wouldn't tell her something like that, but the blonde did not get a chance to tell her that it was nothing, that Nimueh was just being an irritating little flea and to disregard anything that she said.

Nimueh chuckled, amused with what she was about to do to Morgause. She spoke, however, only to Morgana. "Come, child; there is something I wish for you to see." She walked over to the broken remnants of the window Morgause had shattered no more than a sunrise ago, beckoning Morgana to follow her.

"Morgana, don't," Morgause pleaded, trying to caution her sister from being thrown into a feud she was not prepared to be in the middle of. But her sister did not listen, her curiosity getting the best of her. She followed Nimueh until she was standing beside her, looking out the window.

"Do you see?" Nimueh asked, pointing out at something below them. "Just there." Morgana looked for a long time, not realizing what it was that Nimueh was showing her at first.

Suddenly, she went pale.

As Morgana stumbled away from the window, her face going from white to the brightest shade of red imaginable, Morgause snapped. "What is wrong with you?" she demanded. "What pleasure could embarrassing my sister possibly bring you? If you feel the need to toy with anyone, then do it to me; it is I that you dislike, not her."

"This is how I toy with you, dear," Nimueh answered, her tone condescending and cruel. "You care for your sister more than you care for yourself. She is your weakness, and it is the love you hold for her that will destroy you in the end, should you not learn to keep your sinful little dalliances behind closed doors, where they belong. You make it far too easy, I must say. Take this as a lesson, and also as a warning: I do not take kindly to those who disrupt my plans, especially when they should know better by now."

Morgana's hand was still to her mouth, her eyes wide. "You saw…?" she whispered, having recognized the spot where she and Morgause had made love yesterday on the beach.

"And heard," Nimueh told her, her tone much too straightforward for such a delicate subject. "And not just me, you know. You both caused quite a lot of attention to yourselves yesterday. But then, what else could you expect, being both out in the open and irritatingly loud. You really do have quite the mouth on you, Morgana; I'm not sure whether I should be impressed or disgusted, but no matter…"

"Stop it!" Morgause demanded, glaring at Nimueh as she took Morgana into her arms. Her sister hid her face in her neck, too embarrassed to face the world. For someone of Morgana's status, something like this was positively unbearable. Morgause could feel her sister's tears begin to dampen her tunic and it took every ounce of control she had in her not to throw Nimueh out of that damned window. "You've made your point, now drop it. Can't you see that she's had enough?"

Nimueh raised a challenging eyebrow, but then assessed Morgana's current state. "Very well," she said, as though the topic suddenly bored her. "Shall we begin then?"

Morgause looked at her in disbelief. "Right, because I'm sure Morgana is just anxiously awaiting her lesson from you now, you disillusioned sociopath." Nimueh merely clicked her tongue in impatience, shrugging lightly. Morgause scowled at her.

She led Morgana to the farthest corner of the room, away from Nimueh. "Hey," Morgause prodded gently, coaxing her sister to look at her. Morgana's tear-stained cheeks broke her heart and Morgause wiped them away with her thumbs before cradling her face gently in her hands. "She's lying," she told Morgana softly. "Though she may have seen us, it is unlikely that anyone else did. Only the tallest towers in the castle would provide anyone with the view, alright? It's not as bad as it seems, I promise."

Nimueh's bored tone floated over towards them as she said, "Another lie. I wonder, Morgana, how many you will allow her to tell you until you finally get tired of it."

Morgause whipped around to face her. "You seem to have some terrible ache to get set on fire today, don't you? I'm growing tired of your shit. Morgana does not need you; she is a High Priestess and is skilled enough and intelligent enough to learn these things on her own." Her fingers laced between Morgana's and she beckoned her, "Come, sister; we're leaving."

But Morgana held her ground. "No," she said in a small voice. Morgause turned to face her, disbelief coloring her features. Behind her, Nimueh cackled in triumph. This time, it was Morgana's turn to glare at her.

"Shut up," she told the witch boldly. It was as though, quite suddenly, Morgana had sprouted from a seed into the tallest of trees. There was fire in her eyes as she pushed past her embarrassment and addressed Nimueh, "I do not like you. In fact, the very sight of you makes me wretch. You are manipulative and cruel and I pity you, Nimueh, for whatever made you so unfathomably bitter must have been something truly terrible."

Nimueh's eyebrows rose at Morgana's statement, but it was the singular word of 'pity' that made her noticeably wince. It seemed that was the last thing that she had ever wanted from anyone. Morgause looked at her sister, impressed that she seemed to find the chink in Nimueh's armor.

"But I do not fear you," Morgana told her, the strength inside of her growing with every word. "And I am not so foolish to believe that I could not benefit from your teachings, nor am I so stupid to realize that, for whatever reason, you need me to be here. So if you wish to train me then so be it, but I am through with how you believe you can speak to me or my sister."

Morgause could not have been prouder of Morgana than in that moment. That was... simply glorious. There was no other way to describe it. Nimueh was staring at her, seemingly at a loss for words. Morgause had to wonder if this was the first time that had ever happened to her.

It was a long time until Nimueh spoke, but finally she said, "Fine." Her tone was flat, though it was clear it bothered her that Morgana knew she needed her here. It bothered Morgause more though, as she knew why. Nimueh glanced at Morgause out of the corner of her eye before addressing Morgana. "But she leaves. If you wish to finally stand on your own two feet, little bird, do so without a crutch."

It wasn't the request that bothered Morgause, it was the newfound nickname. She knew it was solely used to form a bond between the two of them and Morgause did not like it. She did not want, in any way, for Morgana to trust her. Nimueh would lead her down a path full of death and despair; she was sure of it.

But Morgana had made her decision. She turned to Morgause and clasped her hands in hers. "I'll be alright," she assured her. "I can handle myself. But I need to do this, do you understand?"

"Yes," Morgause replied softly. She appreciated the strength Morgana was beginning to find within herself as she came into her womanhood, but she still felt wary about leaving her. It seemed she had no choice though and all she could do now was hope for the best.

But before Morgause could turn to leave, Morgana grasped the back of her neck and pulled her towards her. She kissed her fiercely and Morgause could hear Nimueh scoff in distaste behind them. She was surprised that her sister chose to do that, but when they broke Morgana whispered against her lips, "I knew that would bother her." Morgause smirked.

Perhaps she shouldn't worry after all.

[x]

Morgana stood in the threshold, watching her sister from afar. Morgause was sitting on their bed, staring at a potted plant that rested on the side table, looking at it as though it were here greatest enemy. As Morgana watched Morgause grow more frustrated, the Ward had to contain a smirk. When Morgause grew angry with her magick, she would wave her had rather violently at the object she was trying to best and swear loudly, which, incidentally, did not make anything easier for her. The more she lost control over her temper, the more she lost control over her magick.

Morgause was a master of fire and was rather decent with air and water, but earth? That element seemed to best her constantly. Morgana didn't know what it was, but when it came to conjuring, Morgause always had such a difficult time with it.

A slew of rude words flowed from Morgause's lips as she finally gave into her aggravation and pushed the plant from its resting place. The pot shattered on the ground and dirt went everywhere. Morgana raised an eyebrow.

"If you don't respect it, Morgause, it will not bend to your will. Isn't that the first thing everyone learns here?"

Morgause looked up, momentarily startled that she was not as alone as she originally thought. Her eyes landed on Morgana and she glowered. "Don't preach at me, Morgana. I'm not in the mood."

Morgana crossed the room to sit beside her sister on the bed. "What were you trying to do?" she asked as she looked down at the remnants of Morgause's failure on the floor. Her sister shrugged.

"Make it grow, I guess. It wasn't cooperating."

Morgana smirked and, though she knew she shouldn't, the younger sister in her felt the need to impress. Her eyes turned golden and with a twirl of her hand she coaxed the plants roots to grow into large, thick looking vines that waved around as though they wanted to taunt Morgause. The blonde looked unamused and set the entire plant ablaze without a second thought, which made Morgana yelp and back up. Now it was Morgause's turn to smirk.

"Don't show off then."

Morgana quickly conjured water to put the plant out and it fell lifeless and charred to the floor. "Don't do that indoors!" she exclaimed, hating whenever her sister did foolish things like that. But Morgause didn't looked faze din the slightest by her lecture.

"This is why you can't control fire, you know," she told Morgana pointedly. "You fear it."

"Well it's dangerous!" the Ward protested. "I don't know how you can so easily play with something like that and yet you can't control a simple plant. At least that can't kill you, should something go wrong."

"Yeah, because it's boring."

Morgana looked at her sister, realizing something. "Is that why you can't?" she asked. "Because you have no interest in learning anything that isn't dangerous or, I don't know, awe-inspiring?" It made sense, now that she thought about it. Morgause loved offensive spells; it seemed she deemed anything else as not worth her time.

Morgause shrugged. "Probably."

Morgana scrunched up her face, not understanding how her sister wasn't fascinated by every aspect of magick. Perhaps it was because she grew up with it, that even the simplest thing seemed trivial. But to Morgana, it was all amazing. The problem was, as Morgause had mentioned, some of it frightened her. It was those spells that she was the worst at, she found.

"Even the simplest of things can be beautiful, Morgause," Morgana tried to tell her. She held out her hand and as Morgause watched her, she conjured a lovely purple flower in her palm. She smiled at her and reached out, decorating her sister's blonde locks with her accomplishment. "See?" Morgana brushed the hair from Morgause's shoulder, letting her fingertips lightly run down her arm.

Morgause still didn't look impressed. "In the end, it's still just a flower. That spell holds no purpose."

Morgana sighed. Sometimes she didn't know why she tried. "Everything holds a purpose," she told her. "Perhaps it's just that you're too blinded to see anything other than grand gestures. Don't think I haven't realized that the majority of spells you know are only things that can make people look upon you in wonderment and fear."

"What's so wrong with that?"

"Simple things can hold meaning too," Morgana tried to explain, wishing her sister would understand. Morgause was a very powerful sorceress and Morgana wished she could be half as good as her someday, but in the end, there was more to life than making a statement everyone would notice. Nimble fingers touched the flower petals that resided in Morgause's hair. "You're welcome, by the way."

That, at least, seemed to make Morgause understand a small part of it. "Oh," she realized, looking embarrassed that she had dismissed Morgana's gift to her, just because it wasn't some grand show of sorcery. "Thank you. It's beautiful."

To further her point, Morgana requested, "Give me something. Something simple, yet meaningful." Morgause noticeably hesitated. 'Simple' was not exactly in her vocabulary when it came to magick. She hesitated for a long time.

But finally she held out her hand. She conjured fire before Morgana's eyes, but it wasn't just any flame. She twisted it, shaping it until it looked to be in the shape of a heart. "Cute," Morgana replied dryly. While she was impressed that Morgause could do something like that, it only further enhanced what she was trying to prove. "But you see my point?"

Morgause merely shrugged, closing her hand around the flame to dissipate it. "We have different skills, different areas of interest. There's nothing wrong with that, Morgana."

The Ward sighed. No, she supposed not. Perhaps it was futile to try to get Morgause interested in the simpler things, for her sister was far from a simple being. Sometimes that was the problem though. It had been nearly a fortnight since they had consummated their physical relationship, but Morgana found that as each day passed, she found it harder and harder to completely trust her sister. It didn't help either, that Nimueh had suggested she test her, and that Morgana complied without a second thought. But she was curious, needing to know if she had made the right decision.

Morgana didn't understand what went on in Morgause's mind. She never looked plagued by the things she kept from her, yet Morgana knew that if the positions were reversed that she would feel obligated to tell her sister what she knew without a second thought. Part of it infuriated her, if she were to be honest. Sometimes she felt as if Morgause didn't have any respect for her, which was why it was so easy to do the things she did. Yet Morgana held her silence, trying to give Morgause time to come to her senses and just learn to be honest with her, because she was so in love with her that sometimes it was hard to think straight.

Morgana was quickly losing patience, however. She could only keep up the façade that everything was alright between them for so long.

She rose from the bed, knowing it were best if she didn't have too much alone time with Morgause. "I think I'm going to go get something to eat before I see Nimueh," she mentioned, although she wasn't hungry in the slightest. But Morgause grabbed her hand before she could leave.

"No, stay," she requested, looking up at her sister pleadingly. "You've been so obsessed with training that we've hardly had any time to ourselves." Morgana knew that, but that was the point in all of this. Morgause chewed her bottom lip slightly before admitting, "I… I miss you, Morgana."

"I'm right here."

"Yeah, but never for long," Morgause told her, finally voicing her concern out loud. "Honestly, sometimes it seems like you go out of your way not to be around me for an extended period of time." Morgana pointedly stayed silent. That made Morgause's grip on her hand loosen and she allowed it to fall lifelessly back to her side as a hurt look crossed over her face as she realized, "You do, don't you? Why?"

Morgana really didn't want to get into this now, but she knew Morgause would never let her leave without an answer. So she finally allowed herself to feel it, all of it. She sat down heavily on the bed, an aggravated sigh falling from her lips as her hand reached out to grab a fistful of Morgause's hair. She didn't pull on it, but she needed the demonstration to accent her point.

"Why then?" Morgana demanded, looking into her sister's eyes with an explanation to her own question that spoke volumes louder than her words. "Why is it, Morgause, that we look so different? Tell me. I gave you so many chances to do so willingly, but you haven't!"

Morgause noticeably paled. She knew exactly what Morgana was referring to, as the Ward expected. Morgause stared at her for a moment before her shock turned to anger. "That bitch!" she exclaimed, jumping to her feet in her rage. When Morgause was angry, she needed to move. So she paced back and forth, looking as though she would like nothing more than to tear Nimueh's head from her body. "She had no right to tell you!"

But those words only stood to make Morgana angrier. "She had every right!" she shouted. "It's my life, Morgause, my lineage! How could you think that I never needed to know where I really came from? And worse than that, how could you allow someone like her to tell me the truth, instead of you? Do you think I liked hearing that Uther was truly my father from someone I could never seek comfort in during my confusion? How could you?"

"I was trying to protect you!" Morgause exclaimed, gesturing erratically like Morgana should have known that without being told. "You didn't need to know something like that, not now! One day, yes; but not when so much else had changed in your life, and certainly not before we go back to Camelot to get Gwen. Do you realize, Morgana, why she told you this? Do you understand what Nimueh expects of you, what I'm sure many of the people here expect of you? I wasn't about to take you away from someone who thought they could control your destiny, only to allow someone else to do it here!"

That made Morgana fall silent. Though she still believed Morgause should have told her, it was hard not to see her reason why she did not. "I'm not a child," she told her sister finally. "If I don't wish to assume the throne, I don't have to. Even if I wasn't a bastard, Arthur is still in line before me. Just thinking about it is pointless, Morgause."

Morgause frowned at her use of the word bastard. "Don't call yourself that."

"Why? It's true," Morgana told her, wishing she was strong enough not to sound upset about it. But it was hard, knowing Uther was her father and yet realizing he would never truly accept her as family. Treating her like a daughter and acknowledging her were two very different things, it seemed. It made her feel like she wasn't good enough and more than anything else, she hated that the most. "I'm an illegitimate child. Unless Uther acknowledges me to his people, my royal blood means absolutely nothing."

Morgause looked frustrated. "Don't you see that she doesn't care?" she asked loudly. "Pendragon is in your blood and Nimueh has been obsessed with destroying Camelot ever since she got banished from their court. She's going to try to convince you that with Uther and Arthur gone, you can take the throne; that instead of just returning to Camelot to save Gwen, that you could have a higher purpose; you could bring magick back to Albion, and yes," Morgause admitted, "perhaps you could, one day. If that's what you want, I'll support you. But not yet; you're far too young and much too unskilled to ever hope to lay siege on that city and win. You'll be slaughtered, and I right alongside you because I could never let you die alone."

Morgana stared at her. Though she knew her sister was probably correct in assuming that, she still took offense. She hated when Morgause treated her like a child who was not yet ready to venture out into the world. Morgana was old enough to make her own decisions; she didn't need to be coddled. "Your lack of faith in me is incredibly disturbing sometimes."

Morgause looked exasperated. "Morgana, I'm just trying to be realistic. And above all, I'm just trying to protect you. I meant it when I told you she would poison your mind; look at what she's doing now! She told me before that if I stood in the way of her plans for you than she would take you away from me and here we are fighting because of her. What's next?"

"We're fighting because you treat me as though I'm made of glass!" Morgana shouted, fed up with it all. She loved that Morgause wanted to protect her, but sometimes she went too far. "It is not your place to decide what I should and should not know, nor what you think I should do with my life or who I should listen to! I can decide for myself, Morgause!"

"And I'm sorry," Morgana continued heatedly as she rose to her feet, wanting to be on even height with her sister, "that you believe me to be so feeble minded that I cannot see for myself what others are trying to do around me. I know what Nimueh wants; I'm not stupid. She's ridiculously transparent once you make a point to look hard enough at her. And despite that fact that she's harsh and cruel in most of her delivery, she still tells me the truth, unlike some people."

That statement, more than anything, seemed to hurt Morgause the most. Her face masked in upset and she let out a small, defeated breath. "I was just trying to do what I thought was best," she whispered, as though she knew that it was probably pointless that she even say the words, as they wouldn't make a difference. She pushed the hair back from her face as she turned from Morgana, looking at a loss about what to do.

Morgana stared at her, beginning to grow just as upset. "Haven't you realized yet, that during this entire conversation, you haven't even once asked what it is that I feel, what it is that I want?" That was the thing, above all else, that bothered her the most. "For someone who wants me to be able to control my own destiny, you seem to believe that you should be the one to show me which path is best taken."

Morgause was beginning to look defeated. "I don't…!" she began, but her words turned into a sigh before she finally turned to look at her once more. "I'm sorry," Morgause apologized finally. "That was never my intention. I just… I want what's best for you, Morgana. And maybe it's arrogant of me to assume I know what that is, but I worry. I can't help it. I have never felt for anyone the way I feel about you, that even the mere thought of something happening to you destroys me inside. And Nimueh… I feel as though she'll bring you down a path you cannot come back from and that terrifies me."

Morgana stared at her, arms wrapped around her form as she softly sighed. "Then ask," she instructed her. "Ask me if I plan to follow her down it."

Morgause leaned against the wall, closing her eyes for a moment. She seemed to be realizing that, once again, she was not doing what Morgana asked of her. Even after it being spelled out plain as day, Morgause still chose to caution her before knowing that there was a reason she should. Perhaps it had become habitual, but Morgana wished to change that, one way or another.

"Do you…?" Morgause finally asked, looking up at her. It seemed she was scared of the answer, which was perhaps why it took her so long to ask it. The truth could sometimes be hard to change, once it's been said out loud. That always made it so much more real.

Morgana took a hesitating breath before she answered. "You deserve an answer to that," she replied honestly. But when she looked into her sister's eyes, she continued pointedly with, "And that's exactly why I'm not going to give you one." Morgause looked at her in disbelief as Morgana turned away from her, heading towards the door. She knew it was cruel, but she needed her sister to understand. Perhaps it would be the only way she would learn, as her words didn't seem to do much good.

"This is how it feels, Morgause," Morgana told her harshly, hand on the doorknob as she looked back at her sister. "It's horrible, isn't it, when someone believes you're too fragile to know the truth you deserve?"

Her words caused Morgause terrible unrest. "What do you mean by that?" she demanded, drawing to the worst conclusion. Morgana let her. "Morgana—!" But Morgana had left, slamming the door in her wake.

She had made her point.

TBC…