Disclaimer: Merlin and anything related to Arthurian Legend does not belong to me.
A.N. Thanks for the reviews for the last chapter! I hope you enjoy this one- we're now reaching two years prior to the prologue! Enjoy!
With their new method of communication, of course, came a new method of arguing. Not that Aithusa and Morgana didn't get along, it was just that there were some slight issues that they disagreed about, and now they had a more vocal way of making their displeasure known than simply glaring at each other from opposite ends of the room.
Things all came to a head just before the Winter Festival. They had disagreed about the book ever since Morgana had first decided to add it to her collection. It was a book on interrogation techniques- or, rather, how to extract information through pain. Morgana had felt it could be useful.
Aithusa had though it was an abomination.
Aithusa had deemed it her purpose in life to right the many wrongs committed against Morgana and give her a reason to use her magic for the benefit of others. Torture was most definitely not benefiting anyone at all. Therefore, her decision to snatch the book from Morgana's hands, when she found her reading it, and incinerate it on the spot, had seemed justified. Naturally, Morgana disagreed.
In hindsight, Aithusa could see exactly where their debate fell apart and descended into a cruel fight. Whilst their first words had been spoken in mutual distaste to the others opinion, Aithusa had put Morgana on the defensive as soon as she professed her disappointment in the young Priestess.
"Disappointed? You're disappointed? Who do you think you are to lecture me in disappointment? You're a child, Aithusa, and let me tell you something, life is nothing but a steady stream of disappointments. Maybe when you grow up, you'll realise that. Come back and talk to me then!"
Of course, to 'come back', Aithusa had to go away in the first place. So she did. She rammed into the door with her head, frustrated that it wouldn't open, and even more so when Morgana laughed- but not with her usual, happy laugh, this laugh was bitter- and commented scathingly, "What, not going to burn down the door, too?" as she approached.
As they brushed against each other as Morgana opened the door, Aithusa was able to comment, "If you tried to keep me here, I might."
She took a few steps through the threshold and with a few flaps of her wings, she took off, not looking back. Perhaps if she had, she would have seen the look of sheer, unadulterated hurt that now graced Morgana's face.
Morgana caved to her worry after the second night. It had been cold and windy, with hail stones battering against the roof of her cottage. She had spent more of the night looking out the small window, agonising over whether she should search for Aithusa or now, than sleeping.
Yes, dragon's were born to live outdoors. They could cope with the harsh weather far better than human's would ever be able to. But Aithusa was such a small dragon, for all she had grown, and she had become accustomed to sleeping in the relative warmth of the indoors. What if something had happened to her? What if another, bigger, magical creature had decided to take her on? Aithusa wouldn't stand a chance! What if she had crossed the border and the Sarrum's men had taken notice of her- started tracking her?
Of course, there was no guarantee that Aithusa was even close by. For all Morgana knew, she had flown to warmer climes. But that didn't stop her from scouring the nearby forests where she knew Aithusa preferred to hunt as soon as dawn broke.
She walked for miles, searching for a flash of white whilst calling the little dragon's name. She didn't stop for food, nor water, and barely noticed the cold even though she had forgotten her furs in her haste to begin her search. She returned to the cottage at dusk, with nothing to show for her efforts.
Aithusa knew her behaviour was childish. She could hear Morgana calling her name- she could even see her through the crop of trees, though Morgana could not see her. But she would not approach. Not yet.
Just because she knew her behaviour was childish didn't mean she wanted Morgana to know. She didn't want to prove her right. But Aithusa feared she had already done so. She had acted rashly, burning the book. It was such a silly thing to get upset over. How could she expect Morgana to trust her and to continue using her magic for selfless purposes if even she betrayed and abandoned her.
Another thing Aithusa didn't want to admit, but must, was that she was lonely. She missed Morgana's presence, that reassuring constant touch on her mind. She had no intention of returning to Kilgharrah, not yet at least, and where else would she find such a comfort. Her Dragonlord? No, he hadn't even visited her, or called to her since her hatching.
But the fact that Morgana was looking for her made her heart swell in hope. It meant she wasn't angry any more, that she had forgiven the young dragon for her hasty actions.
Aithusa would remain in the woods one more day, then she would return.
She lasted until nightfall. It was cold and wild game was scarce. The rivers had frozen so she couldn't even drink. In the end, she returned to the cottage with her tail between her legs.
Aithusa nudged the door open gently, not daring to fully walk inside after having spurned Morgana in the forest earlier in the day, whether she knew it or not. But she didn't have to worry. The moment Morgana saw her white head poking around the corner, she stepped towards her, dropped to her knees before her and touched their foreheads together.
"I'm sorry," Aithusa whispered in her mind.
Morgana wrapped her arms around the dragon's neck, pulling her fully into the cottage. "So am I," she replied, though the words could not be heard by anyone but them. "I promise to try and consider what you say more often. Can you forgive me?"
If Aithusa had ever considered saying no, she would have revoked it five minutes later when Morgana produced a leg of mutton. But as she lay by the fire, her friend beside her, gnawing at the meat, Aithusa felt somewhat more complete.
It had been the day that Morgana had spent searching for Aithusa, that the company the little dragon kept had been noticed by some people of the undesirable kind. In particular, it was a patrol of the Sarrum's who had heard Morgana calling Aithusa's name and, following a hunch that they would be laughed out of the Sarrum's presence, just like the first man who had reported to have seen a dragon of all things, without more proof, they had followed the woman home in the dark, hiding far enough away that they wouldn't be detected, but not so far away that they wouldn't see the dragon should it return.
If only Aithusa had stayed away another night, they might have given up and returned to the Sarrum empty handed. Instead, they returned with news of a powerful witch who controlled a dragon.
Obviously, the Sarrum felt that if a woman with such power that even a dragon would come to her when she called was truly so close to his own kingdom, she must not be allowed to live freely. She was, after all, an abomination of the worst kind.
And so he sent a few of his more intelligent men to the villages nearby where the witch was said to live. And it was from the information they gleaned from some of the more naive villagers, and some of the more drunken ones, that the witch in question was a healer by the name of Morgana. A lovely girl, they said, not from around these parts. No one knew where exactly she had come from, but many suspected, from the way she spoke and they manner in which she held herself, that she had not at all come from an impoverished background. That, perhaps, she had given up many luxuries to come to Deira, because of her magic. The girl had no kin that they knew of and was all alone in the world.
All alone, it seemed, apart from a young dragon.
It was not the Sarrum who put two and two together, in the end, about the witches true identity. Instead, it was one of his men who suggested, rather tentatively, for it seemed so unlikely that the most feared sorceress in the Five Kingdoms could be working as a village healer, that, could she not be Morgana Pendragon, the former First Lady of Camelot?
Fate, it seemed, had given the Sarrum a gift for his work in eradicating magic from the land.
Aithusa loved hunting. There was something exhilarating about the chase. Sometimes, she would stalk her prey, letting it run before she snatched it between her talons. Morgana pretended to disapprove of her playing with her food, but really, the young Priestess found the whole situation quite hilarious. Or, at least, she had when playing involved Aithusa dropping a piece of meat in her lap and looking up at her with those doleful eyes, begging her silently to levitate it through the air, navigating it through a series of twists and turns, all so Aithusa could chase it.
Aithusa had stopped that particular game after Morgana had somehow speared the meat on Aithusa's tail, making the dragon dizzy flying round in circles, only to bite the tip of her own tail. Devious woman.
But game was scarce at the moment, and Aithusa expected that she would return with nothing to show for her efforts, but she had to try. Yes, dragon's could survive for days, sometimes weeks at a time without food, after ingesting a large meal. But Morgana insisted that she eat, she was still growing after all. But money was scarce and for her to buy the amount of raw meat required to feed Aithusa, it usually meant Morgana had to go without.
Aithusa wasn't a particular fan of that arrangement.
And so she hunted. But the forests were quiet today. Quieter than usual. Even the birds that she would chase when there was nothing else left seemed to have deserted their perches.
Aithusa fluttered to a halt, landing softly on the ground beneath. Something wasn't right here.
She didn't hear the whistle of the dart as it flew though the air, but she felt it penetrate her scales, not old enough for them to have thickened, and embed itself in the flesh beneath.
She tried to take flight, to head for safety, but found herself disoriented, unable to function. Her wings refused to carry her, and when she managed to lift off, it was only to come crashing down to the earth again.
What's happening? her befuddled brain wondered, panic rising in her gut. It was only then that she saw the men approaching, carrying with them chains and a net. Aithusa tried to defend herself, but her flame was too weak and it barely sent them back a few paces in shock.
As they captured her in the net, she felt the drug pull her towards unconsciousness. She needed help, she couldn't get out of this alone, she wasn't strong enough.
Her first instinct was to call out for Kilgharrah. Surely her fellow dragon would help her. But she could not feel him in her mind, and no reply was forthcoming. Her Dragonlord then. He could not fail to hear her call- they were linked from the moment he hatched her. But no words of reassurance reached her.
She was alone. There was no one else she could call! In her last moment, before darkness claimed her, in blind panic, she reached out for Morgana. Her hope was slim- it was nigh-on impossible for Morgana to hear her without direct physical contact. But she was her last hope. Her only hope.
'Morgana, help me!'
Unknown to Aithusa, several miles away, Morgana started so suddenly at hearing the young dragon's voice in her mind that she stumbled, nearly falling head-first into the fire she was lighting in the hearth.
As oblivion claimed her, Aithusa's hope returned when she heard Morgana call out to her, 'It's going to be alright, Aithusa, I'm coming!'
A.N. And so, we meet the Sarrum. Git. I hope you all enjoyed this chapter! Please review and let me know what you think!