Morgana slept for most of the next day too and even when she awoke, she still felt exhausted, barely able to sit and eat the light meal Gwen brought for her.
She barely looked at her former maid. She had no desire to speak to her, a great rift between them, words of thanks sticking in her throat. Things could never be the same between them so why resurrect a ghost of their former friendship?
Morgause, on the other hand, she was constantly attentive too. Her sister never left her side and Morgana worried about her. She was looking pale and tired, but her attention was entirely fixed upon Morgana, foregoing her own needs. She assured her that her strength would return in a day or two. That her body was still healing itself inside and she would have to be careful.
Morgana didn’t care. She worried more about the magic Morgause had used to heal such a wound and what danger it had put her in. Such a spell would have been powerful and could take much out of a person. She didn’t want her left weak and vulnerable to attack from those here.
A soft knock on her door signaled Gwen’s arrival yet again and Morgana tensed in anticipation. But it was Arthur.
“You’re looking better,” he said quietly, an awkward glance at Morgause. Clearly he wasn’t comfortable saying anything less formal with her around.
To Morgana’s surprise, Morgause leaned over and kissed her forehead. “I need to freshen up. I’ll be just a moment.”
She withdrew to the side room with the wash basin, just out of sight behind a heavy curtain and Morgana was puzzled, wondering why she would choose to give them such privacy. Morgause did everything for a reason yet Morgana couldn’t figure this one out.
Arthur was silent for a long moment, arms folded across his chest, expression suggesting that he had no idea what to say. He was thoughtful for once, and she almost mocked him for it before he even said a word.
“You planned to take Camelot back once we’d defeated Cenred, didn’t you?”
It was hardly the friendliest topic of conversation, but Morgana respected him for his honesty.
“Yes,” she said, seeing no reason to hide it.
“Because you think it’s your right?” he asked.
Morgana could have laughed at that. Being her right made it easier, but it had never been the reason, surely he understood that by now?
“Because your father murders my kind,” she spat angrily.
“Magic is banned under our laws, Morgana. It hurts people. You’re evidence enough of that.”
“It hurt him,” she corrected sharply, ignoring his dig. “And everyone else has to suffer for his mistakes.”
Arthur looked almost surprised.
“She told you the same lies,” he said with a frown. “And you believed her.”
“You’re a fool not to.”
He was silent for a moment. Troubled by the venom in her tone? He didn’t show any outward signs of being suddenly convinced about the truth of Igraine’s death. He seemed more confused as to why she believed it.
“What happened to you, Morgana?”
“Why?” she challenged. “Is there something wrong with me?”
He looked torn between saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
“You’ve changed,” he eventually settled on, seeming greatly saddened by the fact.
“I’ve got better,” she said. “I’m stronger now.”
He was angry beneath the steadiness of his words and, much to her annoyance that got to her, wondering how he dare judge her after all he’d done for his father’s wicked crusade. It seemed he could still get under her skin as much as she could his.
“You don’t know what it’s like,” she insisted, voice hard and tight as she felt the need to justify herself. “To be horrified by what you are. To know that everyone you love would turn on you in an instant if they knew.”
“You can’t believe that,” Arthur said, apparently absolutely certain that he would have done otherwise.
Morgana didn’t believe him in the slightest.
“Why not? When have you actually lifted a finger to help someone ‘guilty’ of witchcraft? I saw what you did to the druids. Why would I put my life in your hands? Your father would have burned me for what I am and you would have stood by and let him. The good little soldier as always.”
The thought had terrified her more than once before she’d been found by Morgause, that she couldn’t even rely on Arthur to be on her side. That she truly had no one.
Arthur shook his head. “No. I wouldn’t have let that happen.”
“What, like you didn’t let him grab my throat for disagreeing with me? Like you stopped him when he locked me in the dungeons?”
Uther had shown signs of violence towards her without her showing a hint of magic. She’d dreaded to think of what he’d have done if he’d found out. And Arthur had always just let it happen. He’d berated Uther mildly for his actions towards her at best and seemed to agree with him at worse. Tutting at her and scolding her for angering the king. Telling her he couldn’t always protect her. How could she have ever trusted Arthur with her life?
Arthur was quiet for a long moment.
“I’m not my father, Morgana,” he eventually said. “You told me I was a better man.”
“Maybe I was mistaken,” she said harshly, remembering his speech when Elena arrived about wanting to carrying on his father’s good work in his own reign. That had haunted her greatly.
“Maybe,” he said solemnly. “But if I was his pawn, do you think I would have let you and your sister live?”
Morgana was silenced for a moment. That much was very true.
A small part of her found hope in that. The idea blossoming again that King Arthur could be much different from his father. But actions spoke louder than words and he had much to prove yet.
Hope wasn’t something she trusted any more.
“Do you trust me?” Arthur asked, almost as if he’d read her thoughts.
“No,” she said bluntly, not bothering to cushion that. “Not whilst you’re Uther’s loyal son.”
Arthur nodded in acceptance.
“No man reigns forever,” he said quietly. The suggestion of a different future perhaps? “I understand why you’ve done this Morgana. That doesn’t mean I think you were right.”
She smiled coolly.
“I suspect we’re going to come to that conclusion over a lot of things.”
He nodded again, his tone more formal now. Like he was talking to a foreign emissary and not his own sister.
“I know there are a lot of wounds to heal in this kingdom. I know things aren’t perfect. But my father has kept us safe.”
“At what cost?”
There was a heavy pause as he seemed to contemplate that. She knew Arthur, knew he didn’t like to think when he could act on instinct instead. Clearly all these changes and revelations were troubling to him. She suspected it would be a long while before he came to any sort of conclusion.
Which, she supposed, was a bonus to her. She had no intention of stopping trying to remove Uther from his throne, and Arthur must have realised that, but he was too hampered by his former affection for her to do what a harder soldier already would have. Eliminate the threat whilst it was weak.
“You’re not going to have it easy, you know,” she said, eyeing him carefully. “I’ve seen it. There’s times of peace, yes. But heartache and death too. And even she will betray you.”
Arthur frowned. He looked like he was about to ask her what she meant but then he closed his mouth again. As if he’d decided he didn’t want to know after all.
“We’ll talk again later,” he nodded stiffly. “Get some rest.”
Morgana expected Morgause to reappear the moment he left and when she didn’t, she frowned, calling out for her sister. On getting no reply, Morgana eased herself gingerly out of bed and shuffled over the side room where the sound of splashing water still came from.
The water splashed of its own accord though and the room was empty.
Morgause moved through the castle in the guise of a maid, perfecting her look as she went. Assured but not too confident. She knew the place, but she didn’t own it.
No one questioned her. Many bustled about, restoring what they considered to be rightful order to things, tearing down the old banners and repairing any remaining damage from the fighting. Some glanced at Morgause, but they would see the face of a sweet blonde haired girl - one who none of them would have known but who had died because of their king - and just assumed that she was a servant going about her business.
She stopped outside Uther’s bed chambers, kneeling to scrub the floor, working diligently towards the door. She almost smirked as a guard held the door to the antechamber open for her so she could continue.
Uther was in the next room, surrounded by men - Gaius, counsellors, knights. He was still in bed, had been ever since he’d been rescued from the dungeons. Rumour had it he’d flitted between listless sadness and furious rage, both cursing his daughter and sobbing over her.
It was a torture sweeter than any Morgause could have dreamt up for him.
It would almost be too easy to kill him now, to get as close as she could, stand and fire a flaming post straight through his diseased heart. But Morgause already had another plan and she wouldn’t risk it even for the satisfaction of securing his death. She certainly wouldn’t risk getting hurt herself and leaving Morgana at the mercy of these people.
Arthur entered and walked passed her, sidestepping the damp patch where she’d been cleaning - whether to avoid making the floor dirty again or to save his boots from the wet, she wasn’t sure - heading into the bed chamber. She couldn’t hear what he said but she could hear Uther’s anger, Arthur trying to reason for a moment and then Uther’s ranting response.
“Are you mad?! I want them dead! Executed for high treason! Every one of them! Every person who so much as breathes the mention of magic!”
Arthur hurriedly stormed passed her again like a cat with his tail alight.
“Do you hear me?!” Uther bellowed after him.
Morgause snorted a laugh. Had the young Prince actually tried to reason with him? Surely he must know his father better than that? Uther’s hatred seemed deeper than ever and if he hadn’t been in the mood for negotiation before…
Abandoning her bucket, she stood up and walked away, her manner entirely different this time. The confident walk of a High Priestess of the Old Religion who was determined to protect her people.
If Uther was making demands for their heads, then it was clear where they stood. And it was high time for she and Morgana to leave.
The flowers were wilting a little under the warm summer sunshine. Even in the shade of the tree they sat under, it was hot. Not that Morgana really minded. She was still healing and constant chill shivering through her bones. It’d been her idea to come and sit outside, to try and settle herself. Ever since returning home from Camelot she’d been uneasy.
Morgause moved serenely as she crossed the gardens of the castle to join her. She, on the other hand, seemed surprisingly at ease with everything considering how badly things had gone. They’d lost their most powerful ally, Morgana no longer had her position in Camelot from which to help their plots, and Uther was more bent on killing those of magic than ever. Hardly a rousing success.
“You are troubled, Morgana,” her sister said, coming to sit beside her.
The way Morgana was distractedly shredding blades of grass had probably given that away even if her manner in the past few days hadn’t.
“Why would I not be?” she asked bitterly, still surprised her sister was so calm about it all. “I failed you. We lost Camelot and most of our advantages.”
Morgause reached out and cupped her cheek, forcing her to look up at her.
“You didn’t fail me,” she said firmly, letting her see the truth of that in her eyes. “If there is any fault it belongs to me. I should have seen through Cenred’s trick. He was more shrewd than I’d given him credit for.”
Morgana smiled a little.
“Apparently not if he thought attacking me in front of you was a good idea.”
Morgause returned her affectionate look.
“Indeed.” She moved her hand to hold Morgana’s. “But the endeavour was not entirely wasted. Uther’s mind has been weakened by this. The more inconsistent he is as a ruler, the more his people will doubt him. Which is only good for us.”
“I suppose so.”
Morgana would prefer him not to be ruling at all.
“And Arthur…” The expression on Morgause’s face was one of intrigue. “He shows…promise. He’s an honourable man but his honour is directed the wrong way. If we could make him see the truth about his father...”
Morgana laughed bitterly. “Arthur is entirely blinded to his faults.”
“Even a blind man cannot hide from an inescapable truth.”
Morgana wasn’t sure if she was simply too distrustful to believe that.
“And in the meantime,” she pointed out, “whilst we wait for Arthur to find this truth, Uther is still King and more of our people die.”
This couldn’t be a waiting game. Morgana wouldn’t stand by any more - like she had for so many years - and see people executed for their very existence.
“Then we need to offer haven and protection,” Morgause said.
“Here? Uther won’t allow you to create a sanctuary for those of magic inside his borders. He’ll never stop attacking us.”
And he only needed to be lucky once.
Morgause smiled broadly.
“Whoever said anything about bringing them here, my dear Morgana? There is a kingdom ripe for the taking after all.”
Morgana frowned at her a moment before she realised what she was referring to. She knew her sister had been brewing a plan but…
“We have no claim to that throne,” Morgana said quietly.
But Morgause was pleased, as though she’d been keeping this to herself for some time and was invigorated by the opportunity to share.
“No one else does either,” she said. “Cenred has no heir, his army is gone and the few lords of his council will be easily persuaded to accept us. One way or another.”
Morgana wasn’t so sure. It sounded too good to be true.
“Someone will claim it,” Morgause said, squeezing her hand in reassurance. “If it’s us then we can make a kingdom that is a haven to the old ways. That celebrates them and brings them back to their rightful place in these lands. And punishes those who harm our own.”
Morgana had never heard her sound more passionate about anything and it instantly made her want to do it.
“We would all but be declaring ourselves an enemy of Camelot…” she said, sounding more convinced if somewhat wary. “Uther won’t like us on his border.”
Morgause smiled, so much power and assurance in the look.
“Let them come. We’ll create a kingdom to rival Camelot. To better it. To beat it down if it continues to defy us.” She brought Morgana’s hand up to her lips and kissed the back of it. “And it will have a most magnificent queen.”
It took Morgana a moment to understand her meaning.
“Me?” she asked, surprised. Morgause was their leader, the High Priestess.
“You’re the daughter of a king and more than fit for it. Some people are born to be queen.”
Morgause had that look in her eyes again, one that seemed to say that she had never seen anything more wonderful that the woman sitting in front of her.
Morgana couldn’t help but smile at her.
“You are too kind to me, sister.”
A strange sort of hesitation came across Morgause’s face that Morgana had never seen before. Morgause looked down, nervous.
The air around them seemed to pause.
“That endearment was use a lot by the priestesses of the old religion,” she said cautiously. “We are a sisterhood. It doesn’t mean we’re related.”
For a long moment, Morgana’s mind refused to take those words in, as though it was trying to protect her by not acknowledging them. When it did, she shook her head, denying it. But the truth was in Morgause’s eyes, and Morgana felt like her insides had been hollowed out as she realised what the other woman was saying.
Morgana’s hand went limp, her body numb and her head spun so badly she was surprised she didn’t faint. It didn’t matter, she tried to tell herself quickly. It changed nothing. They were still of the same kind, they still believed the same thing.
Yet the security she felt was suddenly gone. She felt betrayed. And alone again.
“Why did you lie to me?” she croaked out in a whisper.
Morgause looked terribly upset, grabbing both Morgana’s hands and drawing her closer.
“I didn’t, not intentionally. I thought you were my sister. That Gorlois was your father too.” She stroked her cheek with utter tenderness, Morgana frozen under the touch she’d once loved. “When you found out that it was Uther, you were so disturbed by the notion, I didn’t want to bring you more pain. I didn’t want to make you do something reckless and risk losing you.”
Morgana felt tears burning at her eyes, shaking her head. Why couldn’t she have kept it secret? She could have happily lived not knowing.
“Why are you telling me now then?”
Morgause was silent. Then, as though she had made a decision, her hand dropped to Morgana’s shoulder and drew her closer. Her nose nudged softly against her cheek but Morgana didn’t realise that she intended to kiss her until Morgause’s lips brushed, sweet and tender, over hers.
Morgana had never felt anything more incredible in her life. Suddenly, everything was warm and right again. Better.
“Because,” Morgause breathed softly against her lips, “I could no longer suppress the urge to do that.”
It was an urge Morgana could appreciate, tangling her hands in Morgause’s hair as she pulled her closer for a deeper, intense kiss that meant the world to her. Now she finally understood what had been missing in her liaisons with Lily; she wasn’t Morgause.
“Make me yours,” Morgana pleaded softly, breath warm and sweet.
Morgause was happy to oblige.
Her hands were truly magic, skirting over Morgana's body as they kissed most desperately. Morgana wanted all of her and everything she had. She wanted to hide in her and never leave. The fastenings on her dress came away easily, Morgana not caring that they were outside. Nothing mattered as long as she was with Morgause. Everything was well as long as she had her love.
She shivered as Morgause drew the dress from her shoulder with the greatest of care, kissing along her collarbone. She’d seen her naked before of course but this was different. The way she looked at Morgana now with such passionate awe, it made Morgana shiver.
“So beautiful,” Morgause murmured, in appreciation, pulling the dress over her head and quickly ridding Morgana of her under garments before drawing her back to her lap. Her hands skimmed over Morgana’s body reverently, gliding over the soft flesh of her breasts as she kissed her again. Morgana pressed into those touches, not caring if it made her wanton.
“I have wanted to do this so long,” Morgause confessed hotly. “My beautiful sorceress.”
Morgana didn’t get an opportunity to respond to that, gasping softly as the other woman tilted her back and her lips found her breasts. She couldn’t help rocking her hips and she felt Morgause smile against her flesh.
“My sweet girl…”
She was so possessive, and Morgana adored it.
And teasing, she realised as Morgause’s hand slid down her stomach, caressing carefully over her healing scar before going lower and stroking softly across her curls. Morgana was wet and needy, whimpering gently as she was beautifully tormented.
She cried out with abandon when those teasing fingers finally slid inside her, thumb circling that spot of pleasure as the other fingers thrust. She was curled onto Morgause’s lap, straddling her, holding her, rocking desperately. Her head was tilted back, hair tumbling over her shoulders as she gasped and writhed. Morgause kept whispering to her, telling her how magnificent and beautiful she was. Telling her how much she loved her.
She called out Morgause’s name in bliss and devotion as the pleasure reached its peak, not caring who might hear her.
Morgause would keep her safe.
The other woman kissed her slowly, a pleased smile on her lips that turned to pleasure as Morgana started to undress her too after taking just a moment to recover. She was flushed and still panting slightly and quite desperate to see Morgause.
She was just as beautiful as she’d imagined, all pale skin and long, delicate limbs. Small, perfect breasts and gently tapered hips. Morgana laid her back in the grass, taking time to adore her, kissing down her collarbone and tracing her ribs. Taking each dusky nipple into her mouth and caressing it with her tongue. She loved how Morgause moaned, letting her customary control slip as her hands moved through Morgana’s hair and she arched. It was nothing though in comparison to how she reacted when Morgana slid down her stomach. The look in her eyes was pure desire, eager and burning, groaning softly as Morgana kissed her soft inner thighs. But she didn’t tease her glorious sorceress too long before her tongue starting to explore her intimately. Morgause writhed sensually, moaning in pleasure, hips rocking and hair wildly spread out beneath her. She looked like a goddess in Morgana’s eyes. She tasted heavenly and when she parted her legs further Morgana felt incredible.
When she found her release, crying out Morgana’s name, over and over again, Morgana knew she had never heard anything more beautiful.
She lay over Morgause afterwards, their legs tangled and bodies pressed together. Morgana’s hair was fanned messily across her back, her hand stroking Morgause’s side with easy intimacy.
She couldn’t believe they had suddenly ended up here but it all felt so perfect. So right.
“Tomorrow,” Morgause murmured between laying butterfly kisses to Morgana’s shoulder, “we will take the Blood Guard and claim our new land. For tonight we will celebrate. My queen.”
She was grinning at Morgana, apparently liking the idea very much.
“Now, now, my dearest Morgause,” Morgana teased in return. “Where is it written that a kingdom cannot have two queens?”
The kiss Morgause claimed from her at that was passionate enough to last several blissful minutes. Enough to leave her lips swollen and her normally pale skin flushed.
“I have a question actually,” Morgana said, unable to stop touching her it seemed, fingers tracing over the curves of her breasts.
“Anything, my love.”
She adored the sound of that endearment.
“If Gorlois was your father and Vivian wasn’t your mother…?”
Morgause smiled as though Morgana had stumbled across the most wonderful secret of them all. She took a moment, kissing up her jawline and nibbling on her earlobe gently before whispering just one word to her.
PROLOGUE | PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN