Note: look at the tiny dragon divider… look at it 😍
Two hours earlier….
The sorceress looked up, making eye contact with Merlin as he held onto her shoulders. She could feel his hands squeezing her arms, unwilling to let go.
“I want you to stay with me,” he muttered. “Don’t go back to Camelot. You don’t belong there. You’ll be safe with us, I promise. You won’t run the risk of ending up on the pyre like my grandmother did. You can be with your own kind, where you belong. I can teach you how to be a druid. I can show you how to cast spells without burning yourself up, like you used to do as a child. I can help you use magic without hurting anyone.”
“Don’t go back. Stay with me. Please.”
Morgana was torn. Part of her was overjoyed at his words, having waited for years to hear them. The sorceress wanted to be with him. Morgana longed to be with her own kind more than anything. After Scarborough and her failed escape plans, she hadn’t thought that she’d get another opportunity. But here it was. Holding on to her. Looking at her with a look of pleading desperation on his face.
Morgana longed to say yes. It would be so easy to just abandon it all, to follow Merlin into the forest and never look back.
Slowly, Morgana removed herself from Merlin’s embrace. The sorceress took a step backwards. She broke eye contact with him, sighing as she looked down at the ground.
“Merlin… I can’t.”
“Because they would look for you?” the druid replied, his face darkening. “I’m not a child anymore, Morgana. It wouldn’t be like last time. I can make you disappear-”
But Morgana shook her head.
“That’s not it. It’s more than that. Don’t you see? Arthur sent us here himself. He went behind our father’s back to do so. Arthur risked the King disowning and banishing him, all because he was worried about you.”
“Do you know how many Kings would have done the same?” Morgana continued. “I’ve read our family history. The Pendragon line has existed for generations. So has its hatred against magick. Arthur can be a real ponce from time to time, but he is a gentle person at heart. Do you know how many of his ancestors would have done what he did?”
“None?” Merlin guessed. The sorceress nodded at him in response.
“Exactly. Not one of them, Merlin. Arthur is one of a kind. We might never see someone like him on the throne again. But it’s not just him.”
“The two men that are with me- Gawain and Lancelot. They don’t believe that magic is wicked. Not anymore. And they came to that conclusion all by themselves, without me needing to push them.”
Merlin shook his head at her as his face pulled into a sad, regretful expression. The druid took a step towards her.
“Morgana, listen to me. I can see where you’re coming from, but-”
But the sorceress cut him off.
“No, you don’t understand. They are changing, Merlin. It’s not like how it was when we were children. I’ve never seen Arthur act this open-minded before. Gawain even volunteered to come here and protect you, without anyone having to order him. They don’t think of us as monsters! Gawain might actually accept me if I told him I have magick and Lancelot already knows-”
“The knight knows?” Merlin replied, alarmed. Morgana nodded at him in response.
“Yes. He might have known for a while. But Lancelot openly stated that he’d be an ally in Camelot. He’d be on my side. I might have a chance here, Merlin. A real chance. Gawain and Lancelot are Arthur’s closest friends – he trusts them more than anyone. If the three of us work together, we could convince him-”
“No,” Merlin said, cutting her off. His expression had slowly morphed from concern into worried, frustrated anger.
“You can’t. It’s too dangerous, Morgana. This isn’t a fight that you can win with a few knights for support. You know how much the Kingdoms fear magick. Even if you change Arthur’s mind, you’re still going up against two centuries of misplaced hatred.”
“I know that-”
“Then you should know that you can’t win!” the druid snapped, a mixture of fear and anger seeping into his voice. “None of us can! Countless people have tried and failed – they’ve burned hundreds of us, Morgana! Uther executed my grandmother for healing his own soldier’s injuries! There is no reaching people like that. No matter how hard you try.”
Morgana’s answer came without hesitation.
“Uther can be replaced. Arthur will be a better King than he ever was.”
“And then what?” Merlin replied. “This problem does not end with replacing Uther. You’re going up against two hundred years of history. Not just that, but there are six other kingdoms in Albion. And the other Kings are exactly the same as Uther Pendragon-”
“Not all of them,” Morgana whispered, her voice barely audible. “Not all of them are like that.”
Her mind turned into a jumbled mess of ideas as the druid talked. One thought after another forced its way to the surface, moving and changing chess pieces on her mental game board. The sorceress had long since stopped listening to Merlin.
But even then, Morgana could still read Merlin’s facial expressions. He had not changed a bit. The sorceress still knew what the look in his eyes meant. Merlin was reacting in the same way that he always did when she was about to do something that he didn’t like- try to talk her out of it, and slowly panic as he came to realise that his words had no effect.
“Morgana, I am begging you,” he finally said. “Just stay with me. You’ll be safe here, I promise. You won’t have to worry about anything- the knights can find their own way home. I’ll make sure that we can’t be found. You could leave right now and vanish into the forest with me-”
But Morgana took another step backwards.
“No. I don’t want to hide in a forest, Merlin.”
“No,” she said again, shaking her head at him. “Don’t you understand? I don’t want to live in fear, Merlin. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for Uther’s soldiers to hunt us down. I don’t want to have to hide. I don’t want people like us to be shunned and feared and murdered for what we are.”
Morgana placed a hand on Merlin’s arm, giving him a pleading look as she willed her childhood friend to understand.
“I want to walk through the streets of Camelot freely, Merlin,” she continued softly. “As a witch. I want to be able to use magick openly- I want the day to come where I can finally stop hiding half of who I am. I want to use magic and be liked for it, instead of feared. I don’t want to hide forever.”
“You want a world that does not exist,” the druid muttered.
Morgana softly caressed his cheek.
“I want Arthur to know who I am and still look at me as an equal,” she muttered. “I want him to accept me. That’s all I want. Is that so wrong, Merlin?”
A silence fell between the two of them. Then, the druid let out a deep, defeated sigh. He closed his eyes, leaning into her touch.
“I know those eyes. There is no changing your mind, is there?”
“No. There is not.”
“You’re risking an early grave, Morgana.”
“That’s all right,” she smiled. “The dice aren’t cast yet. And our odds aren’t zero.”
She stepped away from him, looking up at her childhood friend. For a moment, Merlin seemed conflicted. She could see him struggle with himself. Then, that moment passed. Morgana could see his conviction break as, with another sigh, the druid accepted defeat. When Merlin made eye contact with her, she could see an uncertain, fearful expression –
Together with just a glimmer of hope.
“You really believe that things can change?“
For a split second, Morgana could see the child in him again. Some parts hadn’t changed. Even after four years apart, underneath it all, the old Merlin was still there.
“My people have been waiting for a time of change,” the druid said softly. “My predecessor told me about it before he passed away. The druids have been waiting for the day that magick returns to Albion, and the old world is reunited with the new. They’ve been waiting for hundreds of years. Do you really believe that your brother could bring that change? Do you really think that Arthur Pendragon could do that?”
“…yeah. I think he would.”
One hour earlier…
“…what is this?”
“Flower seeds,” Merlin explained. “Monoroe asked me to give them to you.”
“She did? Why?”
“Do you remember what a faerie ring is?”
The sorceress nodded. She had no idea where he was going with this. But Merlin didn’t leave her wondering for long.
“These seeds were taken directly from the flowers of a faerie ring. The Fae do not part with them easily, so they are incredibly difficult to obtain. The seeds carry the same magick in them that the flowers do.”
“You mean, if I plant these… they’ll turn into a faerie ring?”
“Yes,” Merlin replied. “They are dormant throughout Winter, but will take root come Spring. It takes about a month for them to grow to maturity. They’re hardy, too. If you plant them during Imbolc, they will bloom on Ostara.”
Morgana’s eyes grew wide. She could feel her heartbeat pick up. A giddy anticipation spread through her chest, coursing through her body like electricity as the sorceress realized what Merlin’s words meant.
“I… I could make my own circle?” She asked, unable to keep the smile from forming on her lips. The druid in front of her gave her a single nod.
“Yes. You can.”
Morgana’s hands clasped around the small satchel like it was a precious diamond. Her mind felt dizzy with possibility as a thousand thoughts raced through her head at once. She immediately understood why Monoroe had given her the seeds. They were her way out. She could use the circle to travel back to her coven, who were waiting for her in Northumbria. The sorceress could use them to visit Emrys, even if she didn’t choose to stay with him. She could come and go whenever she liked. If she had a faerie circle, she could do whatever she wanted-
She could even stay in Camelot, Morgana suddenly realised. She’d always believed that, when it came down to it, she would have to choose – but with a faerie circle, she wouldn’t have to. Morgana could do both. She wouldn’t have to leave Arthur’s side. As long as she was careful, she could be with her kind and still help Arthur at the same time. She wouldn’t have to leave Camelot.
She wouldn’t have to give up anything.
For the first time in weeks, Morgana could feel a glimmer of hope. A smile spread on her lips as she let out a surprised, audible laugh. The sorceress clutched the seeds to her chest. Just like that, the little satchel had become the most important thing she had. It had opened so many doors. She wasn’t sure where she’d even begin. The possibilities were overwhelming.
But that was all right. She could figure it out later. As long as she had a faerie circle…
“I could do anything.”
The journey back to Camelot was a peaceful one. No wolves jumped out at them. No bandits appeared on the deserted roads, waiting for travelers to ambush. Even the troops sent from Camelot proved easy to avoid.
Gawain wanted to warn them about Eurydice – the last thing they needed was a repeat of the nightmare that had just happened – but he was quickly stopped by Lancelot and Morgana. They were not supposed to be there. They couldn’t step in to warn them. Not without consequences. If they were discovered, they would be put on trial as traitors. Arthur and Morgana would have to deal with Murkwood after the three of them came back.
And they would. Everything would be fine. The sorceress had already formed a plan in her head on how to keep their people away from the forest. All she had to do was get to Arthur and make sure he said the right things to Uther.
Her brother would probably welcome the distraction. Civil petitions and court audiences sounded important, but Morgana knew that playing referee during people’s petty squabbles was anything but fun. And they had only been gone for a few days. Surely, nothing else had happened with him while they were gone. Her brother might not even have noticed her absence.
Everything would be fine.
After all, how much could happen in a few days?
“You did WHAT?!”
“You went to Murkwood with Gawain?!”
“You hid a toddler in my bedchambers?!”
“Your maidservant can break people out of jail?!”
“You used my maidservant to break people out of jail?!”
Morgana and Arthur threw their hands up in frustration, letting out a loud and simultaneous:
“What were you thinking?!”
They spent a moment looking at each other, both huffing angrily. Then, Arthur spoke up. The Crown Prince ignored the tail end of their conversation, instead choosing to focus on the problem that was Murkwood.
“And what in Watcher’s name am I supposed to tell father? ‘Don’t let them go into the forest’? How am I supposed to justify that information? The Fae told me?”
“Of course not! A scout told you,” Morgana replied, angrily fabricating his lie for him. “You sent a scout ahead, who saw all of this and reported back just now. Or a spy. Or whatever else you can think of- you’re the Crown Prince! You could have sent the bloody town baker if you wanted to.! And you can stick to the truth for the rest of it. Nemeth’s troops were massacred by angry forest Fae.”
“Morgana, he’ll want to kill it-”
“Good luck with that. It can’t die,” she retorted. “There’s no fighting that thing, Arthur. Everyone from Nemeth who tried, ended up scattered into little pieces. If Uther is wise, he will keep our knights far away from Murkwood. If anything, we should make use of this.”
”Make use of it? Make use of it how?”
“Think about it. Murkwood just gave Camelot one hell of a shield-”
“A shield?” Arthur snarled. ”You’d call a murderous, bloodthirsty forest monster a shield?”
“Yes,” Morgana growled back. “It all depends on your perspective-“
“It’s a murderous, bloodthirsty forest monster!”
“And Uther has more important things to deal with,” Morgana continued, unfazed by his anger. “Like, oh, I don’t know, a war with half of Albion. He won’t care about a faraway problem in the woods. Not now. Especially not if we sell it as an advantage. If Nemeth is stupid enough to try and cross it again, then they’ll get stopped in the forest in the same way that the first soldiers did. We can use that. We have a barrier between us and Nemeth without Camelot needing to lift a finger.”
Arthur stopped halfway his sentence, closing his mouth as his mind processed this new information. She could see the wheels turning in his head. The Crown Prince carefully mulled it over, letting a silence fall between the two of them.
Morgana didn’t want to use Eurydice as a weapon. Not really. But they had to come up with a reason to keep their people out of the woods. And the only way to persuade their father to do that, without also making him immediately want to murder the Dryad, was to present her as something that they could use.
It wasn’t fool-proof. Morgana knew how her father tended to react whenever magick got involved. But it was better than nothing.
Her brother seemed to realise that, as well.
“Dear Watcher,” he groaned. “Leave it to you to dress a forest monster up as a war tool. Fine- fine. We’ll go with that. But you can be the one to tell Uther. Not me. I am not taking responsibility for this.”
“Fine. I’ll do it myself. As long as we give him something to justify keeping our people out of there.”
The Crown Prince turned away from her, letting out a weary sigh as he rubbed the top of his nose. Arthur looked tired.
“For Watcher’s sake, Morgana. I turn my back for one second and you go running off to Murkwood. Of all places.“
“Where did you think I went?“
“How am I supposed to know?“ he huffed. “You never tell me these things in advance. I thought that you were meeting with a secret suitor, or something.”
Morgana crossed her arms angrily at his words.
“Of course not. Why would you even consider that?”
“I don’t know!” Arthur replied, exasperated. “I had no idea where you were! And Sarah was making that face! I was trying to think of where you’d gone – and hiding away to listen to love poems seemed more plausible than this!”
“Uh-huh. And who would read them to me? Lionel?”
Morgana watched as Arthur buried his head in his hands, groaning to himself. Then, her brother suddenly fell silent. He frowned for a brief second. She could see his eyes flicking over to her. Then Arthur lifted his head, looking at her with raised eyebrows.
“Wait, is Lionel-”
“Of course not! I’m not going to vanish for days just to listen to love poems from Lionel!”
“But you’d listen to love poems from someone else?”
“No! I vanished for days to help you, you mymmerkin!”
Arthur bristled at that, crossing his arms as he let out a frustrated huff.
“Could have fooled me. You really need to talk to me more.”
“And you need to trust me more,” the sorceress retorted sharply. The Crown Prince gave her a scowl in response.
“I do trust you. But I turn my back for one second and you’re off diving into dangerous forests-”
“That’s my line, Arthur. I leave for just a few days and you already have my maidservant poisoning guards left and right-”
“It was her idea! Why does she even have aconite, anyway?!”
“Oh, that. We were going to poison Richard, but Sarah never got around to doing it.”
“I still want to, though,” Morgana continued. “He’s more than earned it after sending me a severed head as a wedding gift.”
“He- you would- he sent what?!” Arthur sputtered. Morgana raised a single eyebrow in response.
“Oh, right. I never told you. It was a gift in poor taste, anyway. You didn’t miss much.”
For a moment, the Crown Prince was completely flabbergasted. He looked at his sister as if she was a creature from a different universe, his mouth wide open as his thoughts were stunned into silence.
Then that moment passed. Arthur abruptly found his voice again. The Crown Prince let out a long, deep sigh, rubbing his fingers across the bridge of his nose.
“Dear lord. All right. We need to have a conversation.”
“About everything. Everything that has happened over the last few weeks. You’re going to tell me every single detail, starting with poisoning the Prince of Nemeth. And call over Sarah while you’re at it,” Arthur added in a huff. Morgana raised a single eyebrow.
“I’m going to need way more sugar for this.”
* Imbolc is held at the beginning of February. Ostara takes place in the second half of March. The story is currently at the end of November and is slowly headed towards Winter.
** on that note, if anyone knows where to find some good medieval winter clothes, please let me know, because I do not have enough and my cast is complaining about having to re-use costumes 🤣
*** Tiny dragon divider 🤩