“Well? What are you waiting for?”
In an instant, the shocked silence in the throne room was broken. Uther leaned forward, a look of rage crossing his brow as he turned towards the nearest knight. In a booming voice, the Iron King yelled:
“KNIGHTS! Arrest her!”
At his command, half a dozen armoured soldiers surrounded Sarah. They quickly closed in, forming a rapidly tightening circle as their hands reached for their weapons—
“Touch me and I’ll rot off your manhood.”
It was like the maidservant had struck them with a whip. They jumped back, their training instantly forgotten along with their pride as a strange, almost primal fear took over.
“Don’t just stand there, you loggerheads! Arrest her!”
But Uther’s words fell on deaf ears. The knights stood frozen, watching in a mixture of fear and superstitious self-preservation as Sarah calmly walked past. No one made a move to grab her. In that moment, no one dared. The nobles in the crowd gasped and backed away as she approached, almost pressing themselves up against the wall to get as far away as possible.
But Sarah wasn’t coming for them. In short, resolute steps, the maidservant marched straight to the front of the throne room. Straight to Guinevere-
And straight to Morholt.
“Don’t do this.”
He did. Morholt stepped out of the way and silently let her pass. The crowd gasped as Sarah reached the end of the walkway. The maidservant scowled as, for the second time that night, she addressed the King of Camelot without a single shred of respect.
“I believe you were looking for a confession, clotpole. Here I am.”
Uther narrowed his eyes.
“Are you claiming ownership of the girl’s crime?”
“I am. And you misunderstand, saddle-goose,” she continued, a smirk spreading across her lips. “The crime is not hers. It’s mine. It’s always been mine.”
“Rejoice, Uther. You’ve finally found your Big Bad Witch. It only took you eighteen years to do it.”
On the ground behind her, Guinevere finally realised what was happening. The girl lifted her head, looking up at the back of her old mentor as an expression of horror slowly began to seep in.
“S-Sarah- no, wait—”
But she didn’t get the chance to finish her sentence. With a cold look of disdain, the maidservant glanced down at Guinevere over her shoulder.
The young redhead didn’t say anything else. She couldn’t. After what she’d been through, Guinevere simply didn’t have the strength.
And Sarah was counting on it. The maidservant took another step forward, moving directly in front of Guinevere and blocking her from view.
“Servant girls are easy to control, you see,” she explained, lying through her teeth. “Easy to bewitch. So are young knights. Guinevere and Gawain share no blame. They weren’t acting of their own will. All I had to do,” Sarah continued, “was get close to them both, then bide my time and wait for the right moment. Until I could position both of them where I wanted.”
“Until I could get them next to your son.”
There was not a single shred of truth to Sarah’s words. But after her years at the castle, the maidservant knew that the truth didn’t matter. The only thing that counted was what people believed. By now, she knew exactly what type of lies were weak, and what kind of tales would be believed without question. Even if it wasn’t the truth at all.
She knew that the easiest lies to tell were the ones that people already believed in.
“My son?” Uther gasped, physically taking a step back at her words. Sarah chuckled in response; a dry, sarcastic sound that bounced across the heavy walls in the throne room.
“Are you really that surprised, Uther?” she smirked. “Please. You of all people should have known better. The plan from the start has been to make him kill you.”
Sarah did not have to say anything else. She didn’t have to justify herself, or explain her actions, or defend her story against the many holes that she knew someone like Morholt would notice. Sarah didn’t have to do anything. The maidservant watched as the Iron King took the bait, falling for her lies without as much as a second thought. She knew that he would. He always had, for as long as she’d known him. It was the kind of person he was.
The kind of people they all were.
“Well? As I said…”
Waking up felt like slowly rising up from the depths of a thick, impenetrable fog. Morgana groaned, drifting in and out of the void as she struggled to regain consciousness. The sorceress slowly rose back to the surface. The blurry shades of white and blue around her gradually took on the shape of curtains. Her bed frame. A ceiling.
She was back in her bedchambers.
When did she get back to her bedchambers?
She couldn’t remember. As Morgana stirred, the sorceress slowly became aware of her own body. She had a throbbing headache, like something hard had struck her on the back of the head. Her vision was swimming. She could feel the cool night-time air on her exposed arms. Someone had taken off her dress. She didn’t have shoes on, either. Morgana couldn’t remember anything. The sorceress groaned, shifting on the bed as she tried to remember what was going on—
At which point everything rushed back at once.
It was only then that the witch noticed the other people in the room. The grey, elderly shape of Gaius, their physician. He was standing on the other side of the bed, tending to a softly whimpering Guinevere. As soon as Morgana laid eyes on her, she could feel her body relax.
She was alive. She was still alive.
Oh, thank the Goddess.
“Milady. You’re awake,” Gaius said softly, turning away from Guinevere. “You lost consciousness in the throne room. How do you feel?”
“Like someone threw a rock at the back of my head,” Morgana groaned. Gaius frowned in response, a frown that deepened even further when he saw her swing her legs over the side of the bed.
“Please don’t,” he said. “You should take it easy. You might have suffered a head injury from the fall. I haven’t had a chance to fully examine you yet, but a concussion would not be—”
But Morgana didn’t have time to lie down. She didn’t have time to worry about injuries. Right now, she had to figure out what was happening. The sorceress shook her head, grimacing as her headache immediately worsened because of it.
“It’s- it’s fine. I’m fine. Thank you.”
She had to get up to speed. Immediately. Morgana needed to figure out what moves Morholt had made while she’d been unconscious– what attack she’d have to defend against next. Instinctively, the witch turned to her other maidservant for answers.
“Sarah, what did I miss? How long was I out for?”
But there was no answer.
The chamber was empty.
“…Gaius? Where is Sarah?”
The heavy, suffocating silence in Arthur’s bedchambers was interrupted by the sound of a door. The Crown Prince could hear shoeless footsteps slamming against the wooden floor, storming in his direction as a familiar voice called out to him.
“They’ve taken her to the dungeons!” his sister gasped, her voice laced with panic. “They’re going to execute her, we need to move, we need to do something right now—”
Arthur sighed, lowering his head.
“If you know, then why are you still sitting there?!” Morgana snapped, her panic immediately mixing with outrage. “Every second counts! We need to act now, we need to get her out of there—“
He couldn’t look at her. The Crown Prince wouldn’t be able to bear it. Arthur forced himself to focus on the flames in front of him, the heavy knot in his stomach tightening as he looked at the charred ashes underneath.
“Of course you can! You’re the Crown Prince, for crying out loud! You can do anything! If you use your influence—“
“I will not.”
“Wh… what do you mean?”
“Look, if you’re worried about the consequences, I hear you, all right?” Morgana continued, trying and failing to keep her voice under control. “But I’m sure we can find a solution. If we just work together, I’m sure we can—”
She was wrong. There was nothing more to be done. And the Crown Prince knew that, too.
“It’s over, Morgana,” Arthur said softly. “She turned herself in. She confessed in front of the entire court of Camelot. At this point, there’s nothing more I can do.”
“We need to let justice run its course.”
He knew that his sister wouldn’t be able to accept that. And the Crown Prince was right. He still wasn’t able to look at her, but Arthur didn’t need to. He could feel the intense, white-hot rage radiate out from her in waves.
“J…justice? You call this justice?!”
“How dare you call this justice!” she snapped, tearing into him without mercy. “You worthless, spineless coward! You and I both know that Sarah did nothing! She’s just trying to cover for- for Guinevere! She’s innocent!”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s gone too far. I can’t undo this, Morgana.”
“Yes, you can! You’re just too much of a dunghill to stand up and make a move! She trusts you, Arthur! She’d do anything for you!”
Morgana’s words had the same sting to them as a knife that got jabbed into his chest. They physically hurt- and Arthur knew that they were deserved. Because his sister was right. There were a dozen things that he could still try. A dozen paths that he could still choose, options that were still open to him.
But he couldn’t move. He wouldn’t.
“I’m sorry, Morgana.”
“Arthur Pendragon, if you let her die, I will never forgive you!”
The Crown Prince didn’t have to look behind him to know that his sister had left. The sound of footsteps rapidly moved away from him, sprinting around the corner before vanishing entirely. He could hear the doors close. He could feel the air settle, the heavy silence returning to his bedchambers.
He could feel his own pain.
Arthur groaned, burying his head in his hands. He wanted to act. He wanted to do something, anything, to stop what was about to happen.
But he couldn’t. He couldn’t move.
Not without condemning others.
Not without condemning Guinevere.
“Arthur. Listen carefully.”
“Do you want to protect the people you love?”
“Then do nothing.”
Sarah had broken free from her restraints hours ago.
They’d been laughably easy to disarm. All it took was a piece from a lockpick, concealed and hidden under her tongue. They hadn’t searched her properly when the guards had stripped her of her uniform. Nobody wanted to. After her little display in the throne room, the knights actually had to draw straws just to get someone to touch her.
Poor Barden ended up drawing the short end of the stick. Sarah hadn’t seen him even once after they’d thrown her in jail. He’d probably gone straight home, spooked and panicking about his rod.
He wouldn’t be the only one, Sarah thought, smirking. Her little comment had made quite the impression on the soldiers around her. She knew why. Sarah had slept with more than half of the castle regiment – and that was before she even became a maidservant. The woman had flirted with most of the castle staff, too. Sarah let out an amused chuckle. With a bit of luck, Gaius and his clinic were about to be overrun with frantic, embarrassed people panicking about their private parts. Probably for weeks on end.
Sarah felt proud. As far as legacies went, that was not bad at all.
As she gazed up at the ceiling, thinking of what other trouble her death would cause, Sarah could suddenly hear a commotion at the far end of the corridor. She knew that Uther had assigned half a dozen men just to guard her—
A job that, apparently, they were abysmal at. Sarah could hear the heavy clang of multiple metal bodies hitting the floor. A short silence. Then the sound of footsteps, echoing across the stone corridor and rapidly approaching her cell.
She knew those footsteps.
Sarah let out a sigh as she saw the familiar shape of Morgana come dashing around the corner. The Princess was barely clothed, running around in just a corset and breeches. She hadn’t even bothered to put shoes on. Sarah watched her teenage mistress kneel down next to the nearest knight and fish around in his pockets. A soft metallic clanging signaled that she’d found what she was looking for.
That wasn’t good.
“Morgana. The castle is crawling with guards. Did anyone see you?”
The Princess turned around, shaking her head at Sarah as she tightly gripped onto the key ring.
“No,” she said. “The guards are knocked out. I made sure that they saw nothing. We need to act fast, before they wake up. Hold on- I’m getting you out of there.”
Morgana ran over to the door of Sarah’s cell. The woman watched as she began to fumble with the key ring, almost dropping it as she tried to open the lock.
“Just give me a moment, I’ve almost got it-“
The girl wasn’t looking at her. And she wasn’t thinking. Sarah knew that, too. The maidservant let out a sigh, taking a moment to compose herself before pushing Morgana’s hand away from the lock.
“Morgana. I’m not leaving.”
“What? Of course you are! Look, just step back, I’ve almost got it—”
But Sarah refused to let her finish. With a firm hand, the maidservant pushed her away again, using her other hand to cover the lock.
“Morgana. Listen to me,” she spoke. “This is a mistake. If I escape, then Morholt and Agravaine will know that someone helped me. Your uncle will start looking for an accomplice. Even if you outwit that Witch Hunter, you will not be safe. And neither will Guinevere,” she continued, looking Morgana straight in the eyes. The girl wildly shook her head in response.
“That doesn’t matter! They already suspect her-”
“And my confession in the throne room turned her from a culprit into a victim. Uther only suspects me now. But if you let me out of here, then that will change,” Sarah continued. “They will keep digging. Morholt or Agravaine will drag her in front of the court a second time. Gawain, too. And before long, we will be in this situation all over again. Only this time, it will be Guinevere behind bars. Or Gawain. Or you.”
“I will not have that on my conscience,” the maidservant said, her voice calm but unwavering. “Not again. Do you understand? There is no other way, kiddo. You need to let me die.”
“Like hell I do.”
“No,” the girl snapped. “I am not losing you. If they won’t stop, then we’ll run together. I’ll bring Guinevere, too, and Gawain, and whoever else that bastard decides to use as—”
She still wasn’t thinking.
How could she? She was still a child.
“Flee Camelot?” Sarah replied, raising a single eyebrow. “Listen to yourself. Don’t you have a reason to be here? A reason for sticking it out so long?”
“Don’t you have something that you want to achieve, Morgana? Something important?”
“That doesn’t matter!” the girl shrieked, grabbing for her head as she lashed out at Sarah.
“No! I don’t care! I need you! I can’t DO this on my own!”
Sarah knew the girl in front of her well. Over the years, she’d seen so much more than what Morgana was aware of. She’d supported her more than she realised, in areas that the Princess had no idea about. This time was no different. Sarah knew that her words had hit the girl where it hurt. But she had to.
She knew what Morgana was trying to do.
It was the same decision that had consumed her mother.
“I never raised you to be a quitter, Morgana.”
“I’m not a quitter!” Morgana yelled, her emotions finally overtaking her completely. Sarah could see tears beginning to drip down as the girl grappled with herself.
“I’m not- I just- Sarah, please come with me! I can’t do this! I can’t let you-”
“No! I- I can’t let you die for me!” she snapped, clawing at her forehead. “I can’t let either of you- I don’t- you’re not to blame!” Morgana yelled. “You’re not the monster! I am! It’s me, it’s always been me-“
Sarah watched in silence as the girl in front of her finally… crumbled.
“It’s me, Sarah,” Morgana sobbed. “I’m the sorceress. I have magick. I’ve had magick for years. And I never did anything to help them. I’ve let all of those people die for me. I was going to let… to let…”
“I can’t do it. I can’t let anyone else die for me. I’m the monster, not them. It’s my fault. I’m the sorceress.”
It’s not you.
That you can’t see that… is on me.
She’d sunk onto the ground, trembling. She was so far gone that it took several seconds for the meaning of Sarah’s words to fully sink into her mind. Slowly, Morgana raised her head and made eye contact.
“…what?” she asked, her voice barely audible as she looked up at her. Sarah let out a sigh in response. The maidservant reached out, grabbing her by the arm and lifting her back to her feet.
“Morgana. Did you really think that I could raise you for seventeen years and not realize? I’ve known what you are from day one.”
“You… you knew?” she whispered. The maidservant couldn’t help but smile at the baffled expression on her face.
“Of course I knew,” Sarah replied. “Your temper tantrums were the worst. You flung me into a table. Twice. Hiding those outbursts from the rest of the castle was a real pain.”
Sarah watched as, slowly, understanding began to sink in, followed by confusion… and then a raw, painful heartbreak that pierced right into Sarah’s soul.
“But, if you knew, then why… why didn’t you tell me?” Morgana sobbed. “We could’ve- I thought- why didn’t you say anything? Why did you let me…”
Be on your own?
I’m sorry, Morgana. I’m so sorry.
“I had to protect you,” Sarah said softly. “I couldn’t take you from the castle. And if you knew, you wouldn’t have been as careful with hiding your magick. You would have felt too safe. Over time, you would’ve gotten careless and slipped up, just like you have now.”
“That’s not- I wouldn’t-”
“Yes, you would have,” she said, gently correcting the girl. “I know you, Morgana. They would have executed you long before you reached your teens. I couldn’t let that happen to my kid.”
Sarah’s smile widened. The maidservant raised her head, proudly lifting her chin as she looked at Morgana.
“Of course. I told you, didn’t I? I’ve had your back for seventeen years. That doesn’t stop just because you throw me into tables during temper tantrums.”
“Zip it, Your Highness. You’re stuck with me. Always have been. You may have Uther’s features, but you are my child.”
“Haven’t you noticed, Morgana?” Sarah asked, spreading her arms wide. “You have my wit. My mannerisms. My sense of humour and my resourcefulness. You even have my smile. That’s all I need. You may have his blood, but you are my child.”
“Let me do this for my daughter.”
It was more than the girl could take. Sarah could see her crumble, falling apart before her eyes. The maidservant reached out, her hands closing around the Morgana’s arms and keeping her from falling. She could feel her entire body tremble. The girl let out a sob.
“I… I can’t.”
“You can,” Sarah smiled, , gently rubbing her fingers across Morgana’s skin. “You’re stronger than you know, kiddo. You and Arthur both,” she continued. “The two of you can make a difference in the future. A real difference. You’re the only ones who can. If you work together, you’ll finally be able to make a real change. Do you understand?”
“I… I don’t know how.”
“Yes, you do. You’ve already started. Morgana, if you hold on, if you keep standing strong, then one day…”
“One day you’ll turn this into a world where your mother would have lived.”
“Can you do that for me?”
“Sarah Elison. Do you have any last words?”
“Take a bath. Your beard looks like a greasy boar’s rear end.”
Last words? Not for you.
Never for you.
She couldn’t do it.
She couldn’t let her suffer.
“If you’re powerful enough…”
“You could heal a badly damaged heart.”
“You could even stop it from beating altogether, if you wished.”
I did it.
I kept her safe.
Did I do enough?
If we meet again…
If it’s possible to meet again…
Would you choose me again?