Disclaimer: Merlin or anything else to do with Arthurian Legend does not belong to me.
A.N. Thanks once again to my lovely reviewers, Your Favourite Oxymoron, hillevi (I hate the BBC canon too. But I think you'll like the epilogue I have planned. I'm going to be as cryptic as Kilgharrah here and only tell you this- it includes both Aithusa and Morgana, gets a little closer to the legend than the BBC and takes place after the last time we see them after Camlann.) and sergeik(I honestly could not have put my feelings about these two better myself. What makes it sadder for me is that with just a little bit more time, Aithusa could easily have redeemed Morgana completely. In some ways, she already has. And that line in A Servant of Two Masters, when Morgana says she has no one left to be loyal too- for me, this is her proving that now she has Aithusa, she will stay loyal to her and protect her with everything she has ). I hope you enjoy this chapter!
When Morgana awoke, she found that it was not just her head that was hurting.
Her arms were burning with a feeling that could only be described as having needles jabbed into them, however they were, thankfully, beginning to go numb. Her wrists ached from the cuffs that encased them. Her hands were held above her head, making her shoulders and back scream in agony, and they were chained so high, that her body was not entirely resting on the ground.
She tried to open her eyes to see where exactly she had been imprisoned, but she didn't seem to succeed. Seem, being the operative word. It didn't take long for her to realise that her eyes were indeed open and that she had not been rendered blind by the blow to her temple, but, instead, she was in a place where no light had access to.
Forcing herself to stand up to relieve the stress on her arms, and making herself quite dizzy in the process, Morgana felt something brush her leg. Desperately trying not to panic, she let her eyes adjust and, catching a flicker of a familiar light colour, she calmed and rasped out, "Aithusa?"
A whine arose from the ground beside her feet that most certainly came from Aithusa. The young dragon had been chained, her wings bound to stop her from flying around their cell. Morgana tried to reach out to her in her mind, only to find that her magic was still blocked.
That would make escaping significantly more difficult, but not impossible.
"I'm sorry, Aithusa," Morgana whispered, not wanting to speak loudly in the quiet of their cell. "I've really messed this up. But I'll get us out of here, I promise you!" Morgana might not have been able to see Aithusa, but the familiar feeling of the dragons head rubbing against her leg was enough to tell her that Aithusa didn't blame her- more sorry that she had managed to get captured in the first place. "Are you hurt?" Morgana asked anxiously. She remembered the Sarrum's threat all too well. A chirp answered her, which Morgana took to mean as 'No'.
She stood in silence for a little while longer as her eyes adjusted some more. There seemed to be a sliver of light getting in to allow her eyes to do so, from somewhere high above them. As things became clearer, Morgana realised that they were not in a cell, so much, as a pit, with a heavy stone slab covering the entrance far above them. Her chains, and Aithusa's, travelled up the wall to the lip of the pit, where they disappeared from view.
And so the escape attempts began.
At first, Morgana tried to break the cuffs by cracking them against the stone wall that surrounded them. For several hours, she ignored the pain in her jarred wrists and the cuts and welts that were forming there. But, eventually, she gave up. The cuffs weren't even dented.
Her mobility was limited due to the chains, so she attempted to move in the only direction in which there was any give- up. This did not go as well as Morgana had hoped, however it also didn't go as badly as it could have. With Aithusa watching on curiously, Morgana gripped the chains themselves, rather than having the cuffs on her wrists support her, as she tried to climb up them, using the wall beside her to help her get off the ground.
Initially, scaling the pit worked quite well. It was only when she began to tire that things started to go wrong. The first time her foot slipped off the chains, Morgana managed to grip tightly enough to them that she was able to right herself, instead of dropping to the ground beneath. Below her, Aithusa squawked in concern. She continued to climb, determined, at least, to get a better look at whatever was roofing this pit. Just over half way to the top, she could see that a bit of the rock had been worn away to let the chains out of the top of the pit, but even from here, she could see that it was too big, too heavy, for her to lift without her magic. It would take a team of men to do so, or some sort of mechanical system. She sighed, twisting her body around to try and see, in the gloom, if there was another way out.
That was when she slipped.
This time, Morgana was taken so unawares that she did not have the wherewithal to tighten her grip on the chains. She went plummeting down, trying to catch the chains as she went to slow her fall. Beneath her, Aithusa was screeching in alarm, and all Morgana could thing was that this was a very bad idea.
Somehow, her fingers grasped onto the chains again, but gravity was not on her side. She felt the skin on the fingers and the palms of her hands shred against the cold metal, but she forced herself to hold on. When she hit the ground, it was with her feet first. They slid out from under her and her shoulders and wrists jerked painfully as the chains were pulled to their limit.
Morgana lay there for a few minutes, chest heaving as she took in great gulps of air, her arms and part of her upper body dangling from her restraints. Aithusa crowded round her, prodding her gently with her nose. Even now her eyes had adjusted fully to the darkness, she could barely see the young dragon, and she assumed Aithusa could scarcely see her, though for all she knew, dragon's could have night vision. But Aithusa had picked up the scent of the blood from Morgana's palms and she drew herself up in a way that Morgana had come to realise precipitated a healing.
Aithusa was most perturbed. Even her instinctive gifts had been blocked. Morgana could feel the frustration emanating from her friend. The witch chuckled wryly, "I know how you feel."
As Aithusa curled herself around Morgana in an attempt to both warm and comfort her, Morgana found herself contemplating some fears that she hadn't realised before. Aithusa was a dragon and dragon's were creatures of magic. Were the chains harming her in ways that Morgana couldn't detect? Morgana assumed that magic was to Aithusa what air was to herself. Would they stunt her development? Make her wither away until she eventually died? Morgana didn't know- whilst she was born with magic, she didn't notice its absence until she tried to use it. Perhaps it was the same for Aithusa, perhaps not.
Morgana didn't want to be here long enough to find out.
Morgana wasn't sure how long they had been in the pit when she heard a rumbling above them, followed by the harsh light of day. As she squinted to try and see what was happening, she realised that the roof of the pit had only been pulled back a fraction of the way. She heard something drop beside her and something else slap the walls as it was lowered down on a rope. Before her eyes had even begun to adjust to the light- they streamed with tears from its brightness- the rumbling sound resumed and darkness took hold once again.
She groped in the darkness for what had been dropped down to them on the rope. The rope dangled beside her and she pulled it up to find a water skin attached at the bottom. She could assume that whatever else had been thrown down was some sort of food. So the Sarrum didn't intend for them to starve then. Aithusa found the food that had landed out of Morgana's reach and shoved it into her hands. From the feel and the smell, Morgana discovered it was a hunk of stale bread. Enough to feed her, yes, but nowhere near enough to feed Aithusa adequately. She frowned. Perhaps he did intend to starve them, just in a much slower, more painful method.
She took two small bites from the bread before forcing Aithusa to take the rest, ignoring her when she tried to shove it back into her hands by grasping for the water skin. Thankfully, Aithusa never seemed to need all that much water- Morgana supposed it had something to do with dragons being creatures of fire. Still, she only took a mouthful, determined to conserve it at all costs, before holding it up for Aithusa to drink from. Who knew when the Sarrum would be obliging enough to provide them with such luxuries again?
She corked the water skin again and leant back against the wall, trying not to contemplate their dire situation. Unfortunately, there was little else to do. Something pressed against her hand, and she looked down to find Aithusa nudging the last scrap of bread towards her. Morgana smiled, taking it thankfully. She would not throw away such kindness- not when it was all they had to live on.
It was not long before they found other issues with their new domain. The first that arose was that of the latrines. Or, rather, the lack of them. Not even a chamber pot had been provided, and Morgana certainly didn't want to live in her own filth. Nevertheless, there seemed to be little other option. So, eventually, she overcame her distaste for the whole idea, hitched up her skirts and stretched her chains as far as they would reach before relieving herself, and settling down again as far as she was able in the opposite direction.
Aithusa was far more bashful about the whole process, walking around with her tail between her legs for an entire day before finally succumbing to the basic need.
They had learned to tell the passage of days by how often they received food and water. Once each day the lid of the pit would be pulled back just enough to allow a silent guard to drop a chunk of bread down and to pull up the water skin, refill it, and lower it back down, only to leave them to their darkness once more. They knew it was night time outside their new domicile when the temperature dropped significantly. Aithusa had taken to curling herself around Morgana to keep the young witch from freezing to death in the harsh winter nights.
As the days passed, Morgana felt increasingly helpless. She was aware that the longer she waited to try and escape, the less chance she would have of it succeeding. Without adequate food or water, she just wouldn't be strong enough. However, she just didn't see a way of escaping. She couldn't climb to the top of the pit and wait until the guard who delivered their food opened it because he always opened it from the other. She had tried hollering for an audience with the Sarrum, but had gone ignored. She'd even gone so far as to try the old, 'The dragon's sick and maybe dying' trick. Needless to say, that hadn't worked either.
As the days passed, she could feel her body getting weaker. The scraps of food she ate only seemed to make her hungrier. Still, she gave what she could to Aithusa. She was still growing and needed it more.
Hope finally came on their seventh day in the pit when, along with their rations of bread and water, a slab of raw meat for Aithusa was dropped down. The young dragon leapt on it with glee and devoured it rapidly, contentedly licking her jowls when she was done whilst she watched Morgana fill herself with bread.
A.N. Yeah, sorry this chapter's not exactly up to scratch. I've been ridiculously sick (seriously, I can't look at a computer for more than ten minutes at a time without my head going all funny- which is really awkward when I'm trying to do my university honours project in programming) so it's all a bit disjointed. I should probably also warn you now the rating for this fic will increase to M in the next couple of chapters or so. Yeah, dark times. Hope you all enjoyed this, I realise it was a bit of a filler chapter, but really, there's only so much you can write about being trapped at the bottom of a dark pit... Please review!