3.57 – A Witch’s Loyalty

Guys, remind me to never decide to manually add in purple sky again. My gods, that took forever to edit. 😆

A dragon.
Cenred was a dragon.

The image of his real form looming above her, teeth bared and scales gleaming, had permanently carved itself into Morgana’s mind. The horned monstrosity had only hovered over her for a few seconds. But it had been long enough. He’d stayed in dragon form just enough for her legs to give out from under her.

His true identity had completely taken her by surprise. Morgana just couldn’t accept it. She couldn’t comprehend it. None of the old myths and legends had mentioned this. Dragons couldn’t shapeshift. They weren’t that cunning and intelligent. They’d been described as no more than savage beasts. As monsters. They had to be. If they weren’t, if they could be more, then during that time, too—

The sorceress could feel her thoughts spiralling. The consequences of this new reality called everything into question that Morgana knew about the world. It changed everything.

He was a Fae.

All this time… he’d been one of the Fae.

And… he hadn’t been the first one to call out to her.

Why do you protect him, child?

She’d convinced herself that it was a dream. A delusion. Somehow, Morgana had forced herself to believe that the Fae stood far away from her. That they had nothing to do with her. That they were mysterious, detached beings that lived in an entirely different world than her own.

How blind she’d been. 

“Why in Watcher’s name is a dragon posing as a King?” Morgana muttered, looking up at Cenred. His eyes narrowed in response. The sorceress could hear Cenred’s voice project directly into her mind, like a beacon in the middle of a black, stormy ocean.
I am not posing, Morgana. I am a King. Everything that touches the earth in what you call Albion is rightfully mine.
The witch let out a hollow chuckle in response.
“I think that six other Kingdoms would disagree with you there. Albion doesn’t belong to the Fae.”
And that is where you are mistaken. You and most of your kind. I intend to rectify that mistake.

“By doing what? Killing us?” Morgana asked, tilting her head back as she leaned against the stone bench. Cenred slowly shook his head at her in response.
No. By doing what we were meant to do.
“And what the hell is that?”

The question hadn’t been aimed at him. Not really. Morgana had spoken without thinking, addressing herself as much as she was addressing Cenred. She wasn’t sure what she was even asking.

Or… maybe she was. Maybe she knew exactly what was hidden in her question. But in that moment, Morgana didn’t know the answer. She had no idea what she was supposed to do. The sorceress was out of moves to play. Out of reasons to play them.
Out of reasons to care.

She’d failed.

“Do you really think that he’d change the Kingdom for you?”
“…yeah. I think he would.”

“I… can’t.”

“We need to let justice run its course.”

It hadn’t meant anything.

Morgana could feel an odd pressure in the back of her mind. Like something was gently pressing down on her temples from the outside. It faded almost as quickly as it had begun, vanishing so abruptly that it made the sorceress wonder if she had imagined it. She blinked, watching as Cenred’s expression rapidly darkened.

Morgana. You are not well.

“I’m fine,” the sorceress replied. But Cenred shook his head a second time, not accepting her answer.
Your body is filled with tainted spirit. If you continue like this, it will corrupt you beyond repair-
“I said I’m fine,” Morgana spat. This is nothing. I’ve gone through worse.”
No, Morgana. You have not. For a mortal, there is no greater corruption than using magick to take a life.

“Shut up.”

I will not. Listen to me. I am trying to save your life. I do not know what has happened to you, but there are consequences to taking in darkness without—

“It doesn’t matter,” Morgana growled, tilting her head back as she looked up at the purple sky. “I can take it. I can bear it. I always do.”

Morgana was lashing out without thinking. She didn’t know why, herself. All she could think about was the stormy ocean inside of her, rapidly growing in strength. She’d expected Cenred to push her, or plead with her to open up. But the King of Essetir did neither. Once again, his answer ended up surprising her.

Of course you can, he said softly. It is what you are meant for.

But you are not meant to hold on to it. And murder through spirit is too much. Even for a Dragon Priest.

Let it go. It is not your burden to bear.

Morgana’s body had long since become numb. She couldn’t feel the dark, tainted spirit that slowly began seeping out, twisting and coagulating around her. She couldn’t see the effect that it was having on her. She couldn’t realise that the dark, stormy ocean in the back of her mind was real.

She didn’t understand that she was drowning.

As Morgana looked down at the ground, she felt a vague tugging sensation. It was barely more than a whisper. But it lingered, slowly growing in strength. The sorceress could feel something getting pulled out of her, seeping from her exposed skin like poison from a wound.

The effect was immediate. As soon as Cenred took the tainted spirit away, the cold chill around her vanished. The feeling in her limbs came back. Morgana exhaled, blinking against the purple sunlight in confusion as she could finally feel the warmth.

She could… feel again.

What was left was a black, writhing orb of darkness. Morgana watched as Cenred placed his hands on opposite sides of it, forcing it to stay in place. His eyes flared up with arcane energy. She could see the darkness begin to drain out of the orb, seeping into his outstretched fingers in the same way that it had drained from her. The sorceress could sense the magick in his hands slowly returning to its true form. 

To the form it was meant to have.  

How do you feel? Cenred asked, looking down on her as he let go of the orb in his hands. The spirit immediately dissipated. Morgana slowly exhaled. It felt like a massive weight had been lifted from her shoulders. A weight that she hadn’t even realised was crushing her.  
She could feel again.  
“I… better. I think.” 

“I feel… so much better.” 

A smile spread across Cenred’s lips. For a moment, the horned Fae looked… almost proud. 

Of course. This is what you were made for.  

In that moment… Morgana believed him.  

“You’ve known from the beginning, haven’t you?” the sorceress asked, narrowing her eyes as she remembered their first meeting. Cenred’s smile widened.  
Of course I have. Creatures like us can sense one another. This is what you were always meant for. 
“Creatures like us?” 

Cenred placed his hands behind his back. She could see him gaze down on her with a look of authority that put the entire court of Albion to shame. It felt oddly intimidating – and strangely magnetic at the same time. Morgana found herself unable to look away. Unable to focus on anything other than the winged Fae in front of her.  
She was not prepared for what she found. 

Before Nimueh betrayed me, my counterparts and I tended to a vast empire, the dragon explained. We ruled over hundreds of thousands of mortals. They revered us. They worshipped us. And the most sacred of tasks – ruling in our name, cleansing humanity’s corrupted spirit and delivering it to our temples – was entrusted to Dragon Priests. They were powerful, chosen mortals that were gifted with our blood and spirit. Mortals like you. 

“Like… me?”  

Yes. Your spirit is that of the Fae. It is passed down from mother to daughter and from father to son. At their core, Dragon Priests are living vessels of spirit. It is highest honour that we can bestow on humanity. The closest that a mortal can ever come to one of our kind.  

There used to be hundreds of you. It is what you were meant to do. What you are meant to be. You belong to the Old Faith, Morgana. You always have. It is your sole purpose. 

His explanation was from a time long past. A time that Morgana had never known, that had vanished long before she’d ever been born – and yet, something about it grabbed hold of her. Something about it felt right. Morgana’s years at court whispered at her not to believe him. Warned her to be careful. But this time, Morgana found it very difficult to listen. 

How could she? 
Morgana knew that he was right.   

You are one of only two that remain, Cenred continued, a vague feeling of sorrow suddenly accompanying his thoughts. 
“Just two?” 
Yes. The blame for that lies with me. I was not there to guard you. To protect any of you. 

Cenred suddenly stepped forward, quickly bridging the distance between them.  
I will not make that mistake again.  
The power that radiated from him was overwhelming. Morgana’s breath got caught in her throat. The sorceress could feel her surroundings fade into the background, completely forgotten as Cenred placed a hand on the small of her back.  

You are… all that is left. 

His usual voice had made way for a low, deep tone that made shivers run down her spine. It stunned the witch into silence. Morgana couldn’t look away. His gaze was magnetic. The sorceress could see an intense glimmer in his eyes that completely rooted her into place. She could feel herself drowning in that expression, unable to move— 

On instinct, Morgana stepped back. She pulled herself loose from Cenred’s embrace, not entirely sure why. She didn’t know why she’d suddenly remembered Monoroe, of all people. But it didn’t matter. In those few moments of distance, Morgana could feel her mind re-focus. That strange magnetic pull faded away. Her thoughts cleared. 

She was back in control. 
And she wanted answers. 

“Tell me everything, Cenred. I want to know what happened.” 

For a moment, Morgana could swear that she saw frustration in his eyes. Then that moment passed. The horned Fae stepped back, lowering his head as he gave Morgana a single nod. 

Very well. Walk with me. I will show you what was… and what is meant to be. 

Morgana was led out of the chamber. Cenred led with purpose, seemingly knowing exactly where to go. The horned Fae guided her towards a stone staircase that entered a large, crumbling, ivy-covered central tower.  
“What are you doing here, Cenred? What are you after?” 

The King of Essetir glanced at Morgana over his shoulder. 
Your loyalty. Explanation requires altitude. 

“My loyalty? We’ve already made an alliance, Cenred,” Morgana replied, carefully combing through her regrown hair. “At the tournament last year. Don’t you remember?” 

I care not for allegiance. I want your loyalty. 
“It’s the same thing, Cenred,” Morgana frowned. She watched as the horned Fae shook his head, his expression darkening for a fraction of a second.  
It is not. Not to the Fae.  

Morgana followed him through the stone archway and into the tower, looking up at the crumbling walls and overgrown windows. Not much of this place remained. The sorceress could imagine how majestic the structure must have been in its time. Most of that majesty had faded, being replaced by nature and crushed by the weight of time.  

Strangely, Morgana didn’t feel like they were alone. Their footsteps echoed across the broken stones, reverberating against the walls and giving the illusion of others there with them. It was disturbing and oddly comforting at the same time. Like she was listening to a memory.  

Like she was looking at an echo of a distant past. 

“Cenred, what is this place?” 

The horned Fae stopped, looking up at the countless cracks in the ceiling. 
A Temple of the Old Faith, he spoke. One of the last few that remain. They were lost to oblivion and fell into ruin when the Old Faith did. 
“What happened?” Morgana asked, glancing around at the crumbling structure around her. She could hear Cenred let out a long, deep sigh.  
Nimueh happened. 

“Nimueh?” 

Follow me. 

She did. Morgana trailed behind him as Cenred led them up the staircase, carefully avoiding crumbled sections of stairs. The disguised dragon guided her to the very top of the tower. They emerged onto an old, worn-down bridge.  Cenred stopped in the middle of that bridge, moving to the edge and silently looking down. She could see his wings lower. Quietly, Morgana joined him.  

For a moment, neither of them said anything. His gaze was fixed onto the ground below. As he took in the slow, structural decay around him, Morgana could see Cenred’s expression slowly shift from sorrow into anger. 

“It’s still beautiful,” Morgana muttered. 

It is a pale shadow of what it once was, Cenred sneered as he looked down at the crumbling structures below. A cruel mockery of what was meant to be. It did not stand a chance without me. Nimueh made sure of that.

That name again. Cenred had mentioned it twice now. For some reason, the name felt oddly familiar, like Morgana had met its owner somewhere in the past. Like she was supposed to know it. The witch didn’t know why.
“Who’s… Nimueh?”

A fellow dragon, Cenred explained. The living embodiment of water and one of four counterparts to myself.

Out of everyone, Nimueh is one of the most benign… and one of the most dangerous.

“Dangerous? What do you mean?” Morgana asked. The witch could see Cenred hesitate. Twice in a row, it seemed like he was about to say something, only to change his mind at the last second.
“Cenred. I want to know. Please.”
That worked. After a few more moments of silence, the horned Fae shook his head in frustration, seemingly breaking through his hesitation.
It is difficult to explain, he said.  Powerful Fae live by certain… convictions. Specific rules that they set for themselves and cannot deviate from. Ifri’s is to mark all she touches, and to burn all that she can’t mark. Zephyr’s is to never touch solid ground. Mine is to rule those beneath me.
Cenred stopped, pausing for a second as his expression darkened.
And Nimueh... Nimueh decided to grant humanity’s wishes. Every wish that reached her.

“She grants wishes?” Morgana asked, amazed. The sorceress had read tales of knights and saints going on holy quests to have a wish granted. Henford had an entire legend surrounding their local lake. Those stories, too, usually involved dragons – but they were always portrayed as the enemy. As the monster to defeat. Morgana had never heard of miracles coming from dragons themselves.

Until now.

“She’d grant anything? Any wish?”

Any wish. Without prejudice. Any mortal that managed to reach her alive was given a chance to state their desires.

Over the centuries, her magick developed a reputation among humans. That reputation had consequences. The desperate started to come to her in droves. Soon, requests turned into expectations. Expectations turned into demands. What was gifted by the Fae became commanded by humanity.

Demands then twisted into threats. Threats became violent. Nimueh herself came to resent her choice, growing to despise humanity over time. Her magick became malefic. But we are not allowed to change our convictions once they are made. Nimueh can never refuse a human’s first wish.
“Why not?” Morgana asked, confused. “What happens if you do?”

It’s simple. We die.

These days, the outcome of those wishes is rarely what the human is after, Cenred continued. Especially if Nimueh is forced into it. She’s gotten quite good at twisting a person’s desires against them.
“That’s… horrible,” Morgana muttered. Cenred merely shrugged in response.
It is the result of her own folly. Her own stupidity. It would not have mattered to the rest of us at all….

If not for what happened next.

Morgana could sense Cenred’s anger grow. His eyes narrowed, their irises glowing ominously as an ancient outrage simmered just beneath the surface.

Her compulsion to grant humanity’s wishes ended up being our undoing, he spoke. Over the years, relations with her decayed. We devolved into enemies. My plan was to oust her from our temples entirely… until a human came to her with a new wish. A wish to destroy us. To overthrow us dragons and destroy the Old Faith.

He had no name. She named him Pendragon.

Nimueh could not refuse. I do not think that she wanted to. She encased me in ice, forced a slumber that lasted centuries and gave free reign to those beneath her. They rose to power without remembering who it was that gave them power in the first place. Humanity traded their adoration for arrogance. They turned on the ones who had guided them. And then they turned on their own kind. Your kind.

“Witches,” Morgana muttered. But Cenred shook his head at her.

No, Morgana. I mean your kind. Witches are all that remains of what was. My counterparts allowed humanity to believe themselves as superior. To build their own Kingdoms and shift the gift of magick from a blessing into a threat. They waged war on my temples and systematically wiped out my priests. Then they rewrote history to their liking.

Their precious Watcher does not exist, the horned Fae concluded, his tone a deep, threatening growl in Morgana’s mind.  I intend to correct that misconception. Enough damage has been done in my absence already.

The sorceress couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Cenred’s tale sounded too fantastical to be true. And yet, a part of her believed it. The puzzle pieces that she’d found over the years fit together too perfectly. It explained too much to be false.

It also didn’t matter.

“What could you do? People fear dragons, Cenred. They barely believe you exist. And Albion won’t-”

In a split second, Cenred bridged the distance between them a second time. Morgana could feel his hands lock around her shoulder, then her face as he looked down on her. The raw, unbridled emotion in his expression completely took her by surprise.

She couldn’t look away.

Your Albion is a pathetic mockery of what it is meant to be, Cenred spoke, looking at her with such intensity that it took her breath away. A cruel charade where humans fear those with magic in their blood. People like you. Morgana – you should be revered, not hunted. I will not stand for it. I will have this world go back to the way it was – the way it is meant to be.

For the second time that day, Morgana could feel an odd pressure in the back of her mind. Like something was gently pressing down on her temples from the outside. It faded almost as quickly as it had begun, vanishing so abruptly that it made the sorceress wonder if she had imagined it. But Morgana didn’t have the time to think it through.
She didn’t have time to think about anything.

You should not have to live in fear, Morgana, the horned Fae continued, speaking directly to her core. You should not have to hide, constantly looking over your shoulder, waiting for soldiers to hunt you down. You are not meant to be shunned and feared and murdered for who you are.

“She was just trying to help. Why do they always… why do we always—”

Under my rule, those with magic in their blood would walk the streets proudly, Cenred spoke. They used magic openly, without fear. And they were revered for it. They were worshipped for it.

“I could… lead?”

The sorceress could feel her surroundings fade into the background, forgotten as Cenred wrapped his hands around her waist. The power that radiated from him was overwhelming. His usual voice had made way for a low, deep tone that made shivers run down her spine. It stunned the witch into silence. Morgana couldn’t look away. His gaze was magnetic. The sorceress could see an intense glimmer in his eyes that completely rooted her into place. She could feel herself drowning in that expression, unable to move.

She couldn’t look away.
She didn’t want to.

She wanted to hear more.

This is how things are meant to be, the dragon smiled. This is what has been stolen from you, Priestess. I would give that world back to you. I would give you what should always have been yours.

“I just want to be free. That’s all I want. Is that so wrong, Merlin?”

Merlin hadn’t been able to help.
He hadn’t been able to do anything.

But… someone else could.

Cenred could.

The time has come for magick to return to Albion, the Dragon King whispered. For the old world to reunite with the new. I could do that. I could facilitate that. I would gladly do that for you.

He let go of her. Cenred took a single, deliberate step backwards. The urge to follow after him was so powerful, so overwhelming that it took all of her willpower to resist. Instead, the sorceress watched as Cenred reached out- and offered her a single hand to grab hold of.

Don’t you want to finally stop hiding who you are? To be accepted without fear? To be loved instead of despised? Morgana…

Don’t you want to be free?

3 thoughts on “3.57 – A Witch’s Loyalty

  1. EEEEEEEE DRAGONS!!!!!!!!!! I feel like all this revelation is scary for Morgana in a way. She’s already got plenty of ties to the Fae, but it’s still worrying because you know what they’re capable of deep down. I was going to say, Morgana, in the eyes of the Fae everything belongs to them!

    That ‘doing what we were meant to do’ line is…unnerving. In kind of a ‘higher being that claims it needs to cull another species for a greater good’ vibe kind of way. I like that Cenred is trying to get through to Morgana, but good luck with that whilst she is still in ..not sure what to call it but she’s not had enough time to process any of this before she’s ready for what he has to say. And the Fae will tell you what you NEED to hear and not necessarily what you want to.

    Didn’t the ‘pulling out all the bad stuff’ happen before? Didn’t it happen involving Lincoln I think it was? Hey, Cenred, feel like trying that thing out on me too? XD Haha Morgana is distracted by the pretty Fae : P Albion, owned by the Fae, and yet Uther is all NOOOOOO NO MAGIC IN ALBION haha go fuck yourself Uther! Cenred just coming out like ‘Bitch please.’

    WAIT!!!! So if Morgana is a Dragon Priest…DOES SHE TURN INTO A DRAGON TOO?!?!?!??!?!?!XC JFLLGF You know those scenes where THE EYES come out I always thought they looked like dragon eyes. I ALWAYS THOUGHT MAYBE, JUST MAYBE…. am I right? : O O O O I knew the Fae stuff would come up at some point because of the whole Morgan le Fey thing and now WE ARE HERE AND I AM SO HAPPY. I was on the mark the whole time XD I love this so much. SO MUCH. SO MUCH SO MUCH SO MUCH SO MUCH

    Yup, now she’s double-distracted by the pretty Fae…And the picture underneath ;-; I love that Cenred reminded her of Monoroe. Out loud just ‘WHY ARE FAE SO DAMN HOT?!?!?’ Ohhh nope, no, Morgana, Fae want definite answers. I love the castle scenes < 3 Yup, the Fae's granting of wishes is often too good to be true. Nothing is free with them and when you owe them YOU OWE THEM! And of course humans took advantage on top of that. I relate to Nimueh, I regret being selfless too. XD Thing is, people don't know what they truly want most of the time.

    WOAH…The twist with the Pendragon asking a Fae to destroy the other Fae had me like : O Humans turning on their own kind, sounds real enough. Go on, tell Aggro the Watcher doesn't exist. The' make the world go back to the way it was' sounds good in one way, unnerving in another though. I feel like itll take the witches to go feral. Which actualy now I mention it yes I want that to happen XD

    Though good luck getting magic back to Albion with Uther and Aggro around. Thing is who could resist saying no to that? Who wouldn't want to not be pushed around for who they are? It all seems very enticing indeed, but FAE! Fae fae fae you do NOT SAY YES TO THE FAE unless you mean it! Who knows what it could entail?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I can feel the dragon enthusiast in you shine through very brightly here 🤭 dealing with dragons is bad enough but dealing with dragons that also are fulltime Fae is a recipe for disaster. Everything Cenred says is phrased for very specific reasons.

      You have seen that with Lincoln before, yes! With him it’s a very painful process though, poor dude. Who knows? If you reach out to him, he might just do it. It’s what he’s meant to do, after all. Of course, it’s never quite that simple, is it?

      Yes! You were correct this whole time 😁 and I finally get to tell you that now, yay!

      Haha, I tried doing this with actual interactions first, before defaulting to poses. Most of the animations I wanted are flirty – and the second he starts romancing, Morgana rolls a whim to go flirt with Monoroe instead. I laughed so hard. Sorry, dude. Can’t argue with that.

      [Thing is, people don’t know what they truly want most of the time.] This. Imagine constantly giving people exactly what they ask for, and constantly getting yelled at for not giving them what they *actually* wanted. I suppose we can draw parallels with Oskar here, too.

      Who knows what saying yes here could entail, indeed… we’ll find out pretty soon. Stay tuned for more episodes of Roller Coasters with Yimi! I mean, ToC. Yes. 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so surprised more people haven’t commented on this yet. This is great! ❤ Hopefully, I'll be back tomorrow for Chapter 3.58 (before the war – that title is yikes! I don't think it can be worse than Mother, though…). A lot is going on in this chapter, but I will only focus on a few things.

    I previously said that I liked Cenred. I have changed my mind about that for the moment. He's doing too much. Something feels incredibly off. I'm glad someone is finally giving Morgana information, but she needs to gather information from more than one person before making a big decision.

    Cenred's worldview, as he explains it to Morgana, is problematic. I don't like him dictating her "sole purpose." He's painting a super seductive, tempting picture – telling Morgana she should be able to use her magic openly and be worshipped for it, especially when all she knows is hiding in fear. I'm proud that she's even able to take a step back to try to consider things because he's pressuring her so hard. Telling her she has one purpose isn't really offering her freedom, though. It seems like a new trap, a different prison, where she has to do what he says instead of what her father says. Also, she's about 16, and he's extremely old??? Manipulating children is not right. Trying to force their "loyalty" is also probably not right.

    Like

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