Disclaimer: Merlin and anything else related to Arthurian Legend does not belong to me.
A.N. Thanks so much for everyone's kind comments on the last chapter! I'm really sorry this is so late, but I've had a mass amount of coursework for university and assessment centres for jobs to attend, which has kept me from writing! Sorry!
The seasons began to change, and the two companions changed with them. Aithusa had visited many kingdoms with Morgana, as she continued on her quest for knowledge, but as Samhain approached they had settled in one of the cosier hideouts of Morgause's. It was on the southern border of Deira, a kingdom that welcomed magic in all its forms, but just north of Amata, run by Lord Sarrum, a man who's attitude to magic made Uther's look genial. It was because of this that their journey to Deira had taken so long, as they had skirted around the border of the Sarrum's lands.
Morgana had learned much on her journey, thus far. She had returned to an old haunt of her sister's in Essetir and found the equivalent of a goldmine in books. She had spent some time there with her young dragon friend, learning what she could from the tomes she was not able to take with her. Morgana had traded items that were of little worth to her endeavour, but priceless to others, for a strong horse and a steady cart and once again they set off, now with volumes of healing spells and, rather ambiguously, a book on interrogation techniques that Aithusa disapproved of immensely.
Morgana had been reluctant to travel to Daobeth, had planned to avoid it entirely. Should any of the few people who had managed to make a home for themselves there now see the little dragon they would want the innocent creature caught, slaughtered and burned. The entire kingdom had been destroyed by dragons many years before the Great Purge. But Aithusa had fluttered on ahead of Morgana and Cabal, the horse she had acquired, and refused to turn back, giving Morgana little choice but to follow her, or abandon her altogether.
If the dragon had to spend their time there covered in the cart or hiding under Morgana's skirts, Morgana decided, it was a situation of her own making.
As it happened, they encountered only a handful of people who were leaving the ruined kingdom, having given up trying to farm the land that was damaged beyond repair. Not that they stayed their long- Morgana only found one book she felt was worth taking with her, though it was one that she found most interesting.
It was a book on dragons. Well, actually, it was a book on a variety of magical creatures, but it had a very long and comprehensive chapter on dragons and Aithusa honestly believed it was the only chapter worth reading. Every time she caught the High Priestess with the book opened at any other chapter, she would forgo curling up on Morgana's lap and instead, would take a nap on top of the page Morgana was trying to read. After all, she didn't want Morgana to wish that a different breed of magical creature had attached itself to her. Aithusa was upset enough that she now had to share Morgana with a horse! Still, she knew her work had been completed successfully when Morgana stroked the top of her head and murmured, "Great and noble creature? You're more like a jealous puppy, aren't you?"
If Aithusa was upset that Morgana worked out the meaning behind her actions, she didn't show it.
And so, they found themselves travelling towards Deira. Aithusa was still growing at a steady and healthy rate and had occasionally dragged a small deer back to the campsite for the evening meal, rather than the hares or rabbits they had become so used to. She was also getting too big to comfortably sit on Morgana's lap, though it didn't stop her from trying.
As for Morgana, she was changing too. Perhaps it was her recent brush with death, or maybe Aithusa was a moderating influence on her life, but as they travelled, rather than threatening those with whom she could not trade nor pay, she had taken to doing small services for them instead. Oh, the change certainly hadn't happened overnight, and Aithusa had spent more than one night curled up on the opposite side of the campfire, giving Morgana a disapproving glare when she lapsed in her reform, but more and more the young woman was using her magic for the direct and immediate benefit of others.
Morgana had known for some time now that she had a natural instinct for healing. Many in Camelot would have scoffed at that statement, finding it, if not preposterous, at least ironic. But she had kept her sister from the clutches of death for a year, much longer than even the most talented physician could have hoped for, with only what she had taught herself. Even when she was a child, tormented by nightmares and unable to sleep, she had watched as Gaius had mixed remedies for a variety of illnesses and listened to his explanations on the uses of herbs in his work. Unconsciously, she had absorbed that knowledge and it remained with her, even to this day. She may have despised the old man, but she could not fault his work as a healer.
Mostly it was small illnesses or injuries that required very little skill for her to cure. In fact, usually all she did was speed up the healing process, rather than perform any miracle. Still, people were grateful and it was enough of a service for them to offer her oats for Cabal or food for herself and her mysterious 'pet' as the air became colder, the wind bitter and wild game scarce.
Of course, things couldn't always go according to plan. They had been asked to stay in a village, Denvorn, about a weeks' journey from Deira, as the miller's wife, Ellyn, was expecting to give birth in just a few days. Ellyn was a young thing, only sixteen years of age and absolutely terrified. And she had every right to be; Morgana was pulled from sleep only three nights after she had arrived in Denvorn during an ugly storm that, had she been paying attention to it, would have seemed foreboding. The birth was hard and on more than one occasion, Morgana had thought all hope was lost for both mother and child.
She was half right- the child, a boy, was born healthy, but Ellyn passed away a few scarce hours later.
Distraught, the miller had gathered the villagers and convinced them that Morgana was responsible for Ellyn's death. The Priestess and the dragon had been chased out of the village in a whirlwind of swords, pitchforks and fire. They only stopped their flight after darkness had fallen and they were too exhausted to go on, and if Morgana had screamed curses and let loose a barrage of explosive destruction on the wildlife that surrounded them, Aithusa didn't judge her harshly because she could see the tears in Morgana's eyes, even if she refused to shed them.
They made do with what provisions they had left and with what they could hunt and gather from the forests for the rest of their journey. During those days, Morgana would occasionally let her hand hover over one of the books on healing, but would retract rather than open the book, fearful that she might find something that she had overlooked- something that could have saved Ellyn.
And so they arrived in Deira, only a week before Samhain, and it was immediately apparent to Aithusa that they wouldn't be leaving any time soon. The winter months were fast approaching and while dragons were built to withstand the outdoors, Aithusa was not adverse to the comforts of a roof over her head and a fire to sleep beside. That, and humans did not survive quite so well in the cold as dragons did, and she had become quite attached to Morgana.
Oh, Aithusa had been warned about the witch. Kilgharrah hissed and spat whenever she was mentioned, seeing only the darkness in her. But the Great Dragon was old, embittered and above all, proud. He couldn't see that it had been he and his Dragonlord, who had led Morgana down the path she now followed.
Aithusa was young and innocent and could see how events had conspired against the young Priestess much more clearly than Kilgharrah could imagine. She could see that Kilgharrah, in his desperate need for revenge against Uther Pendragon, had arranged it so that his magical daughter would become isolated and frightened. He had bargained on her truly being her father's daughter and becoming defensive when cornered between Uther and the pyre. And he had been right. She had lashed out and Uther had been destroyed in the process, granting Kilgharrah his fondest wish.
And so, when Kilgharrah had left to help his Dragonlord, Aithusa had ventured from their nest to learn if what Kilgharrah had prophesised was actually true. She had saddened to learn that it wasn't.
If Morgana had been rotten to the core, her decision would have been an easy one to make. Instead, what she found was a white strand, much like Aithusa's own colouring, woven though Morgana's destiny, hidden though it was by abandonment and betrayal. And while Aithusa knew she couldn't let that last little strand break, she was also aware that it would take more than saving the witches life to save her last shot at a destiny not wrought with death and destruction.
But it was her kin who had caused this grievance and so it was Aithusa's responsibility to fix it.
A.N. Oddly enough, this was not how I expected this chapter to go. The next chapter should have in it what I thought this chapter would contain. It should be up on Wednesday or Thursday and, as previously promised, it will be a fair bit longer than any of my other chapters! Please review and let me know what you think so far!