To many that practiced the sacred art of magick, the festival of Beltane held a special significance.
Falling between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, Beltane was a festival of Fire and Fertility, in all its forms. It marked the steady approach of Summer and all the promised gifts that the sun would bring with it. At its core, Beltane represented passion. Growth. Drive, as well as sacred sensuality and the eternal cycle of sacrifice and rebirth that was needed for the continuation of life.
The height of Spring was celebrated throughout all of Albion. Some lit bonfires, while others gathered in rituals or performed handfasting ceremonies. And the reverence did not end there. The festival was welcomed everywhere, both by those with and without magick. Although the names and exact rituals differed, the height of Spring was honoured and celebrated in all corners of the world.
But to those that held nature’s gifts, the night that preceded Beltane had a special meaning. It was a night of unification. Of connection. What would come to be known in the future as Walpurgisnacht was the night that spirit flowed most strongly, and the night where magick was at its most powerful.
In many ways, the night before May Day was sacred.
And Morgana’s coven knew that, too. Every year, the five of them travelled to the same location, taking part in the festivities that the night brought with it. Sometimes they arrived weeks in advance to prepare. It was one of the highlights of their entire year.
But this time, the coven was exceedingly late. Morgause had insisted on waiting until the last possible moment, creating as much extra time as she could. She couldn’t help it.
Their sixth and final member wasn’t here. And the witch did not want to leave without Morgana.
Mere hours before the festivities would begin, Morgause’s uneasy patience was finally rewarded. A rush of spirit flowed out of the nearest faerie circle, causing a flurry of leaves to swirl around and heralding the arrival of the person they’d been waiting for.
It was not a moment too soon.
Morgause immediately stopped dancing. A large, almost exuberant smile played on her lips. She turned towards the circle, her hands firmly planted on her hips as the greeted the materialising form in front of her.
“Just barely in time,” the witch grinned. “Cutting it a bit short, aren’t you? You sure know how to time your…”
She never managed to finish that sentence. As a human body materialised in the center of the faerie ring, Morgause’s voice suddenly failed her. Her smile vanished. Her body abruptly froze. With eyes opened wide, like a deer caught in a hunter’s aim, she stared at the scene in front of her.
And she wasn’t the only one. Every witch that was present displayed the exact same reaction. Their eagerness and relief immediately made way for shock and confusion – and then fear.
Because what came out of the faerie circle was not Morgana.
It was someone else entirely.
At the shocked, thunderstruck expressions displayed in front of her, Morgana let out a frustrated groan.
“Right. I know how this looks,” she said. “But I promise I have a good explanation—”
She did. She had a valid reason for stepping through the faerie ring while still looking like Uther, too.
But Morgana never got to explain herself.
“Cut me down, then. I’d rather die.”
“And her? Would you rather let her die?”
“…err… Morgause? It’s me. I know this is confusing, but—“
Everything happened all at once. Morgana could feel all the hairs on her body stand upright as an enormous amount of raw spirit suddenly began to leak from Morgause. She could feel the temperature around her drop. She heard the sound of running footsteps. Morgana could see sparks of lightning begin to gather on Morgause’s skin, jumping off her as a crackling ball of energy formed between the witch’s fingers—
“Wait! Stop! That’s not-!”
Morgana never had a chance to react. She didn’t even have a chance to move. Morgana didn’t notice Monoroe until the Huntress was right on top of her, slamming into her with so much force that it instantly knocked off her feet. It made both of them crash towards the ground. Hard. All of the air was squeezed from Morgana’s lungs as she roughly collided with the dirt beneath her. The sorceress could feel a sharp, piercing pain shoot through her as her head hit something hard—
But the next moment, she’d already forgotten about that pain. Morgana watched, shocked, as a massive lightning bolt struck. It tore right past them, slamming into and blackening the spot where she had been standing just a split second ago. The force of it was overwhelming. Morgana gasped as the energy just barely grazed them; she could feel a sharp pain in her arm, causing her fingers to twitch and seize before the entire limb went numb. All sensation in her arm stopped. She couldn’t feel it at all anymore. Morgana looked on in shock, just barely aware of Monoroe’s body pressed against hers as the Huntress yelled:
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?!”
The crackling sound of electricity in front of her grew in intensity. Morgana felt shockwaves of it travel into the ground, making the earth underneath her vibrate and shudder. She could see Monoroe grit her teeth in pain. Morgana could hear Morgause’s voice booming through the clearing, her tone overtaken by a wild rage that the sorceress had never heard before.
“GET OUT OF MY WAY.”
“No can do, Goosey,” Monoroe growled in response, crouched over Morgana’s shapeshifted body like a human shield. The sorceress could see another lightning bolt streak by. She knew that she had caused this- but she didn’t know why. Morgana had no idea what was going on. She tried to turn around, desperate for an explanation as she made eye contact with Monoroe and yelled:
“What in the world is-”
“Shut up and stay down, Morgana!”
But Monoroe’s words came too late. The damage was already done. The sound of Uther’s voice caused another volley of lightning bolts to shoot forth from the witch, tearing through the entire clearing indiscriminately. They slammed into everything nearby, charring and blackening roots as they tore into the plantlife around them. Morgana could see another bolt streak straight towards them; the sorceress closed her eyes, bracing herself for impact—
An impact that never came. Morgause’s rampage was suddenly intercepted by Lincoln, who jumped between the witch and her target at the last moment. With a raw power that he’d never shown before, the Faun intercepted Morgause’s attack. He deflected it, redirecting the rampaging lightning bolt towards the nearest rock. The earth shook again as the massive standing stone absorbed the impact.
For a split second, Morgana could see the rampaging witch hesitate. It only lasted for a moment, though. Then, Morgause let out a hostile growl.
She took a step forward. The electricity moved with her, fatally harming the plant life around them and grazing against Lincoln’s raised hands. Morgana could see his fingers twitch in pain. But the Faun didn’t budge, simply shaking his head at her.
“Lincoln, Goddess help me—”
But the bard cut her off.
“She won’t help you,” he said sharply. “Not while you’re like this. And not if you harm your sister.”
The witch blinked. The swirling vortex that surrounded her faltered for a split second as her rage turned into confusion.
“It’s not him, Morgause,” the Faun replied, immediately making use of the opportunity. “Can’t you feel it? Morgana is using spirit magick.”
“Yes. It’s a disguise. You’ve seen magick like this before. You need calm down, Morgause, before you electrocute your sister.”
“Yes. Your sister. It’s Morgana. Now release your energy, please. Before you blast us all off the cliffside.”
Slowly, the swirling vortex that surrounded Morgause began to diminish in strength. Her eyes stopped crackling. The sparks flying of her skin vanished. Morgana could feel the hairs in her neck lower, returning to normal as the unnatural charge left the air. Morgause let out a sigh. The witch lowered her head into her hands. When she spoke, her words were so soft that Morgana almost couldn’t hear them.
But she did.
With a huff, Monoroe dropped herself onto the nearest dirt patch.
“Dear lord,” she grumbled, annoyed. “You sure know how to make an entrance, don’t you?”
Morgana gave her an apologetic look in return.
“Sorry. I didn’t think… I may have neglected to think this through,” the polymorphed Princess sheepishly admitted. Monoroe let out a dry, sarcastic laugh in response.
“No kidding. Who even taught you how to weave illusions in the first place? And why’d you pick a wrinkly old man? You look terrible. Undo it already.”
“Err… about that…”
“…it’s not an illusion, is it?” the Huntress groaned. Morgana shook her head.
“No. It’s not. And, well… I might be stuck. Like this. For… a while.”
Morgana had never timed how long it took her to recharge in between shapeshifting. She didn’t know how long she had to wait. All she knew was what she remembered from her previous experience – that twice in a row almost killed her. With another sheepish look, she glanced over at Monoroe.
“The whole night. Probably.”
The frustration in the Huntress’s long, drawn-out sigh was unmistakable. Monoroe facepalmed, rubbing her fingers across the sides of her forehead as she let out a groan.
In the end, Morgana did not have to spend the night masquerading as an unwilling Uther.
After coaxing her back out of her hiding place and clarifying the situation to her, Glitonea explained that what she needed was a ritual circle. A way of guiding the spell’s process and dispersing the spiritual backlash instead of letting it burrow into her. It would still hurt, she explained – but Glitonea’s gentle guidance ensured that the budding witch was able to turn back into herself. This time without it ending with her on the ground, unconscious and lying in a pool of her own blood.
Morgana cautiously decided to see it as progress.
As Monoroe took off to find Tyronoe, who’d bolted straight into the forest, Lincoln had handed Morgana a beautiful white robe. They’d told her to wear it that night, explaining that they’d all wear one and it was meant for special occasions. Morgana had accepted immediately. She quickly stripped out of her father’s clothes, discarding them without a second thought as she hid behind one of the standing stones for modesty. Lincoln remained on the other side, his eyes trained firmly on the sky above him.
But he wasn’t ignoring her. To the contrary. That afternoon, Lincoln spoke more words to her than he ever had.
And every single word of it was meant to lecture.
“…And that is why you must never enter a hidden sanctuary while disguised,” he concluded, admonishing her in a soft, baritone voice. “It is dangerous, not to mention incredibly rude. Next time, you could lose your life.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose,” the budding witch complained, part of her being too stubborn to admit fault. “I just thought- I figured I’d step through the faerie ring first. You saw how hard it was to change a second time. I didn’t want to end up lying unconscious in the middle of the woods.”
“True. That would not have been wise,” Lincoln admitted. “But neither is entering your coven’s sanctuary without warning, while looking nothing like yourself.”
“Then what was I supposed to do?” Morgana huffed. “It’s not like I can send a homing pigeon through a bloody faerie ring, can I?”
“No. But you can send a faerie.”
“Yeah, so what was I… wait, what?”
The Faun let out a chuckle, amused at her sudden confusion. Morgana could hear him shift as he leaned back against the standing stone.
“You can send a faerie. A pixie, specifically. You know them as the winged creatures that dance around the faerie rings. If you are welcome at your destination, you can send one ahead with a message.”
“Really. Once Beltane is over, I will teach you how to do it—”
“Once you apologise for being an incredibly rude guest, that is.”
“… I’m sorry,” Morgana said, begrudgingly. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
It was the truth. She really hadn’t. Morgana had simply been so focused on making it to that faerie ring, and making it across, that she hadn’t considered the reactions of the people on the other side. Until today, they hadn’t even known that she could shapeshift. Glitonea and Tyronoe had been especially shaken. The red-haired witch hadn’t even returned, bolting at the sight of a stranger’s face like a frightened deer that ran from a hunter and forcing Monoroe to take off after her. Morgana couldn’t help but feel guilty over it.
“She’ll come back… right?”
“Tyronoe is very skittish,” Lincoln answered, correctly guessing who she was referring to. “But she’ll be fine. Monoroe will find her and they’ll both be back before nightfall.”
“… I hope so.”
As she tied the robes together behind her back, Morgana glanced off to her left. Morgause had been quiet for the entire exchange. The witch was staring into the distance absent-mindedly. It was completely unlike her. Part of Morgana was worried for her, wanting to distract Morgause and pull her away from whatever memory she’d slipped down into.
The other part…
The other part of her could not let it go.
She knows Uther’s face, Morgana thought, glancing at her from the corner of her eyes. She has to. There is no other reason why she would have such a strong reaction to a stranger. Even if she was just protecting the sanctuary. That has to be it. She knows Uther- no, there’s more to it than that.
Those two have a history.
She had to know. With a calculated frown, Morgana leaned around the standing stones and made eye contact with the witch next to her.
“Morgause, why did Lincoln call me your sister?”
Morgause made a mocking face in response.
“Of course he did. It’s what we call everyone in our coven—”
“That is not what I meant and you know it.”
Morgana could see the pained expression on her face. But she grit her teeth, ignoring the guilt that Morgause’s expression brought. She was done waiting for answers. After seeing Morgause like that, after seeing her in that much rage, the drive to find the truth had finally won out.
“I’ve been patient for long enough, Morgause,” she spoke. “Give me the truth. We really are connected, aren’t we? By blood.”
Ever since their first meeting, Morgana had had an inkling. A strange feeling of connection that she couldn’t quite place. Couldn’t explain. But there were simply too many similarities between them for it to be a coincidence. Too many moments of recognition.
Morgause looked entirely too much like Ygraine.
And Morgana was tired of waiting.
She had to know.
The witch looked away. Morgana watched as she deflated, letting out a deep, worn-out sigh.
“By Ygraine?” Morgana pushed. Morgause gave her a single, reluctant nod in response.
“Yes. She is my mother.”
“How? Who are you?” the Princess frowned. It just did not make sense in her mind. Nothing that she’d been told connected to the person in front of her. There had not been a child before Arthur. Her brother was firstborn. Morgana shook her head, her frown deepening.
“If Ygraine is really your mother, then how are you possible?” she thought out loud. “How can you exist? Ygraine was married to my father for years. They risked war and carried a torch for each other long before Uther became King. ”
“…Is that what you were told?”
“Don’t avoid the question, Morgause,” Morgana snapped. “I need to know. Where are you from? Where are you really from? Because I know it’s not Scarborough.”
“I… don’t want to tell you.”
That was not what the budding witch wanted to hear. Morgana stepped out from behind the standing stone, approaching the woman in front of her. As she made eye contact, she could feel her confidence fading. Her anger left her. Morgana could feel herself deflate, her voice wavering as her demand turned into a plea.
“Morgause. Please. I can’t stand being in the dark—”
But the witch did not let her finish.
“Please stop,” she muttered. “Don’t… don’t ask me that. Don’t make me tell you.”
“Because those answers will have consequences. And I don’t want to think about that. I don’t want that to happen. Not tonight of all nights.”
“Morgause, you can’t just-”
“But I can,” she said, suddenly grabbing hold of Morgana’s arm. “Don’t you see? That’s exactly what we can do. We don’t have to worry about anything,” she continued, her eyes gleaming with a strange sense of desperation. “We don’t have to think about anything. Not tonight. Not while we celebrate. I just want to celebrate with you, Morgana. I just want to share my life with you. That’s all I want. Is that really so much to ask?”
“Is that so wrong, Merlin?”
“Please,” she pleaded. “Not now. Not tonight of all nights. We can think about it later. I promise you I’ll give you the truth in time. But I just want to be happy with you now. I just want you at my side. Can you do that for me? Please?”
As she looked at the woman in front of her, Morgana could feel the last remnants of fighting spirit leave her. For the second time in one day, she wanted to refuse. Morgana wanted to dig at the truth until her hands were bloody. She wanted to pull it out of Morgause, getting what she wanted by whatever means necessary- but one look at her pained expression sapped away all thought of saying no.
She couldn’t do it.
“…all right. I can do that.”
She could see the relief on Morgause’s face, her eyes filling with gratitude as the witch pulled Morgana into a hug.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I know this is unfair. I’ll explain everything eventually, I promise—”
But Morgana cut their hug short, pushing Morgause away before she could finish her sentence.
“I can do that… on one condition.”
“Swear to me. The next time I ask, you will tell me everything.”
For a split second, Morgause wore an expression as if she’d been struck by a whip. The next moment, that expression faded, and the witch broke eye contact. With a tired sigh, she nodded.
“… I swear. You have my word.”
“All right. Then consider it dropped,” Morgana smiled, immediately falling back into a friendly mask and ignoring Lincoln’s raised eyebrow. It was fine. She could be patient. Knowing when to play the long game was one of her greatest strengths.
There was no hurry. She had all the time in the world.
“So… why the robes?” Morgana asked, folding her hands behind her back. “What kind of celebrations are we having?”
It was a very transparent attempt. But Morgause accepted it, a brief look of gratitude flashing by as she accepted the change of subject.
“We’ll all wear them,” she explained. “And we won’t stay here tonight.”
“No. For celebrations this large, there’s a special gathering place that everyone travels to.”
“I see- wait. All? It’s not just the six of us?”
Her smile widened. Morgause turned around, gesturing towards the faerie circle.
“Not this time. It’s all of us. The druids, the witches, those with and without a coven, the Fae-touched… they’ll all be there tonight. And we’ll reach others, too. The night before Beltane is the moment where magick is at its strongest. It’s the time to celebrate the spirit that connects us all.”
“I… have no idea what you mean, Morgause.”
“I know. That’s okay. I’ll show you.”
Morgana watched as the witch reached out, taking hold of her hand.
“There’s so much you don’t know,” she smiled. “I’ll explain what I can in time, I promise. But in the meantime…”
“Let me show you our people.”
Over the years, Morgana had been told those exact words multiple times. By multiple people, and for very different reasons. By Uther, when he taught her about Camelot. By Agravaine, when he explained his network of spies to her. In the ballroom. During court. At the tournament.
And every time, to Morgana, the words had felt hollow. Fake. Like she was an outsider looking in, trying to fit a puzzle piece in a place where there was no connection.
They had never once felt like her kin.