There are three cardinal rules for a king; three rules directed toward another that she had snuck into her mind while listening through doors closed to her. Do what is best for your people. Provide no sympathy, no mercy, no leniency for your enemies and the enemies of those you lead. Allow no wrong go unpunished. Morgana had not desired kingship at the time but she stored Uther's words inside the crevices of her heart all the same.
Could you have loved me?
She had once wondered this, absentmindedly, staring out of her window at the nearby glimmering fields where the knights were training. It shocked her, this thought that had crept through her hatred of Camelot, her hatred of her oppressors, of being confined by irrational laws and imposing walls. He had looked up at her then, almost as if they were still synchronized, as if he knew her attention was on him. Catching her eye, his lips had twitched instinctively into that little nearly imperceptible smile that used to quicken her heart.
Morgana had hurriedly shut her windows, and had barred the question from her mind.
We are linked, you and I. It is ingrained, it is inescapable.
It is our doom.
There is an old tale her mother used to tell her of, about a queen, a peasant, and a golden prince. The queen, beautiful and elegant with royal blood flowing through her veins, took the throne, and yet the peasant was able to snatch it with dainty little hands, a sweet tongue and trembling eyes. It was told by other mothers to inspire hope in their pretty village girls, hope of being fortunate enough to catch the attention of someone powerful and rich.
It was employed by her mother as a warning.
Kings will vie for your heart Morgana, and you will no doubt make a beautiful queen. You grow lovelier each passing spring. Yet even beautiful queens have their limits. Kings always want more than they possess, and you may one day find yourself losing his interest and his admiration. Be powerful, Morgana. Gain allies, and princelings will not matter. Love will not matter. Hearts will not matter when the world is kneeling at your feet.
It was one of her only memories of her mother, vastly different from those of Gorlois. Morgana committed it to memory.
Once, Agravaine had informed Morgana that Arthur foolishly threw away a potential alliance with another great kingdom, all for the sake of Gwen. It was rumored that he told the princess Mithian, pale as the moon with doe-eyes and unnatural grace, that he would throw away his entire kingdom for the servant-girl.
Such insolence, such stupidity resides in that boy. I almost feel sorry for him. Morgana had mocked, contempt etched into her face.
No one had ever informed her this- he would have given away the very same kingdom for her.
When she seeks vengeance for the pain Uther brought to her and her people, she remembers his lessons on kingship. Morgana has the tyrant confined and sentenced, and goes to him whenever she feels she can stomach him, so that she can inflict torment upon him slowly.
I'm simply abiding by your lessons, father dearest. She lifts her brow in a perfect arch, as if in inquiry, when there are tears streaming down Uther's face. Her face is stone; she is without sympathy for the broken king. Is this not what a proper king does?
And later, when Morgana hears of how absolutely adored the newly crowned Queen Guinevere is, of how her old servant is beloved by the people, she laughs. Such naivety. Hearts do not matter when I command the larger army, when I hold such magnificent magical power, when I have the ability to crush a thousand queens. Her lip curls. She sneers.
This is your lesson on power and allies.
She watches as Mordred gains the upper hand fighting Arthur. A flash of Guinevere, clothed in peasant attire appears in her line of sight, as if Guinevere is there on the battlefield herself, staring regally without a drop of regal blood.
This is your lesson on love.
When his blood is on her hands, when the red seeps into her consciousness, when she realizes the full extent of this war she has carried out with conviction and passion, it is too late.
She carries him to Avalon, praying to the Triple Goddess that his blood will not run out before they reach the sacred land, on a boat that seems too small to carry figures of such importance. She holds him as if she's been holding him her entire life, holds him as if she had not sought his end hours ago, holds him as if he were the last remnant of her soul. She holds him as if she could not survive an eternity without him.
It is true. She could not.
There are eleven cloaked in white waiting for her when she arrives. The blow from Mordred is deep, but together they hold unmatchable power, and they manage to save Arthur.
When he wakes, his eyes find her first. They drink her in, and she breathes again.
They do not speak of anything pertaining to Camelot, these days. They do not speak of the servant-queen forever etched in stories but mortal in a mortal realm, the other queen who had a far greater capacity for love and a far gentler soul, but who would never return. They do not speak of him, the warlock who gave all for a princeling turned king, imprisoned in lands without darkness nor light. They do not speak of the knights, Arthur's steadfast companions, their fates and location a mystery to even the priestesses.
It is a fairy world they reside in, and only a select few are able to set foot within.
They do not speak of the loneliness.
You could have spared us all had you loved me enough.
It is a sentiment they both carry.