She'd Get Away With Murder
Morgana gets away with everything, Arthur Pendragon once observed wryly. In fact, she gets her way with everything too. Whether she smiles sweetly, uses a witty remark or is just plain rude, she gets away with it every single time. It is a lesson he learns the very day he meets her. His father's informed him that the Lady Morgana, who's just lost her father, will be coming to live with them. Uther told him that she is mourning and that she is coming to a strange place, so he'll have to be nice to her and be patient with her.
Arthur dreads it. He's at that age where girls only classify as vain and boring. They don't run around, they don't know how to use a sword and they certainly have no sense of humour to speak off. All girls ever do is curtsy and smile at visitors.
At first glance Morgana is no exception. The whole court has been assembled on the steps of the castle to greet her at her arrival, but Morgana's eyes only glance over them once before she apparently decides they're not at all worth her time. The king steps forward to embrace her.
'My dear Lady Morgana, you are most welcome here,' he tells her. Arthur is tempted to tell him to speak for himself, but he's a prince and that is something he can decidedly not say. Princes are never rude, he's been told from a rather young age.
He takes a step forward and bows to his father's new ward. 'My lady. It is a pleasure to meet you at last. I have heard much about you.' Those are the lines that he is expected to say. When he was first instructed to say things like that, Arthur had felt the need to point out that he neither looked forward to her arrival, nor had he heard anything about her at all before his father informed her that she would be coming. He's been told that apparently does not matter; it is just the polite thing to say.
Morgana curtsies before she sizes him up. 'No, you haven't,' she tells him.
Uh oh. 'Yes, I have,' Arthur disagrees, desperate to come out of this with his dignity intact. So far, all his ideas about girls have been confirmed in the last couple of minutes.
Morgana folds her arms across her chest as she stares down at him. She's a little taller than Arthur is, although he'll probably outgrow her in a couple of years. For now, however, she has the advantage. 'What is it you've heard then?' she demands.
Arthur is forced to make something up on the spot and prays that he won't make a fool out of himself. 'That you are very beautiful,' he replies promptly. One of the lords told him that's always a good thing to say to a woman. Morgana is a woman, albeit a miniature one. 'And…' He hesitates as his brain works overtime to come up with something else. 'And… that you have a…' He glances around and is relieved to notice the horse Morgana arrived on. 'Beautiful horse,' he finishes.
Morgana merely gives him a look of pure disdain. 'Liar,' she tells him to his face. Then she picks up her skirt and stalks past him into the castle.
His father, the traitor, is trying and failing to bite back a smile. He's amused by this? Arthur's self-esteem lies in pieces on the floor, but he's laughing? It all seems horribly unfair.
'Give her some time, Arthur,' he tells his son as he lays a hand on Arthur's shoulder. 'She has just lost her father and she is hurting, therefore she lashes out. She'll come round soon enough, I promise.' Uther chuckles. 'And she is a very spirited girl.'
Spirited, is that what she is? Arthur is thinking more along the lines of rude, but his opinion is clearly not shared. The next time however he tries to be spirited, he gets sent to his room without dinner. Morgana laughs.
It doesn't take Arthur all that long to realise that his father dotes on Morgana. Whatever she does, he loves it. More than once Arthur has to sit through dinner, gritting his teeth as his father sings Morgana's praises all dinner long. Morgana knows this and uses it. Uther gives in to her every whim, whereas Arthur is not indulged half as often. His father claims it is because he is a boy, and a prince besides, and he has to learn he can't get everything he wants. He endures it, but in the meantime tries his hardest at lessons and training, to show his father that he, unlike Morgana, can actually achieve something. There's not much else he can do. Protesting would be utterly useless.
So he avoids Morgana best he can. It isn't easy in the castle; for some reason he keeps bumping into her whenever he doesn't want it. But the training ground is a Morgana-free zone. Women are not meant to be fighting and Arthur has come to love the idea of that ever since the king's new ward moved in. Here he hasn't got to be afraid that she will come barging in, stealing all his thunder, and therefore he spends as much time on the training ground as he can.
Until the day that is not enough anymore. It is a beautiful summer's day when, halfway through training, the knights suddenly stop moving and all turn their heads. Arthur, curious as to what is going on, does the same and gets the shock of a lifetime. Morgana, clad in armour and carrying a blunt sword, like the ones the knights train with, marches over to them.
But that is going too far. This is Arthur's territory. He won't have her take that as well. 'You can't come here,' he informs her bluntly. 'You're a girl.'
Morgana only glares defiantly. 'The king told me I could.'
Arthur inwardly groans. He should have known that his father gives into her every demand, even if it is something as ridiculous as wanting to train with the knights. And objecting is not likely to do his case any good. Even though this is unladylike behaviour, if his father has given permission, there is nothing to be done. Once the king's mind is made up, it won't be swayed. Arthur has known his father long enough to know that by now. But Morgana should have known that she would not be welcome here. So, why did she come? Arthur has a lingering suspicion she's doing it to spite him.
'Fine!' he snaps at her. 'Just don't come running to me if you're hurt.'
The thing is, Morgana doesn't get hurt. To Arthur's absolute horror, she is far too good. And she enjoys it too. In the months that follow she becomes a permanent fixture on the training ground. Arthur ignores her as much as he can, but there is no ignoring her when she challenges him to a duel. For a moment Arthur can only stare at the glove she's thrown onto the ground in front of him. 'You can't be serious.' He had meant to say something nasty, but that is what comes out.
Morgana smirks. 'Afraid to be beaten by a girl, Arthur?'
That is an insult he cannot let pass unanswered and that, as it turns out, is one of his worst idea in years. Because he does get beaten by a girl and the consequences of that are disastrous. Morgana is triumphant for ages and Uther can't stop laughing for nigh on two weeks. Arthur's humiliation is as good as complete.
Fortunately for him, Morgana is not unbeatable. Arthur has assigned her to Sir Bedivir for a sparring partner – being prince still has its perks – who's a formidable fighter. Arthur knows better than to take him on these days, but Morgana doesn't. And what Arthur hopes really happens: she gets beaten, time after time. Sir Bedivir makes fun of it as well and Arthur knows the lady well enough to know that this enrages her like nothing else. Part of him hopes that she will throw in the towel now and let him have at least the training ground to himself again.
Naturally, Morgana has different plans. One day, after training, she knocks on his door. She barges in before Arthur has even gotten the chance to say something. 'We need to take on Sir Bedivir,' she announces.
Arthur blinks. 'What?'
'You can't beat him on your own,' she states. 'I know; I've seen it from the window. And I can't do it either.' Frustration rules supreme. 'So, we should do it together. We really should take him down a peg or two. I won't be laughed at.'
Arthur has done a good deal of laughing himself lately, but the idea of taking on the knight who's humiliated him so many times does sound rather tempting. Already he's thinking strategy. 'All right,' he agrees. 'On one condition: you stop laughing at me.'
Morgana thinks about that for a moment and then nods. 'Deal,' she says. 'At training tomorrow?'
It's strange, being on the same side for once, but it does work out. Sir Bedivir is beaten and for once they get the pleasure of laughing at him. Arthur decides it feels good. Maybe Morgana is really not all that bad after all.
Of course this doesn't mean they're best friends immediately. They're still at each other's throat half the time. But it's more good-natured these days and to be honest, Arthur enjoys the break from the arguing from time to time. It's growing into sibling rivalry as they are growing up. Strangely enough, it turns out that about many things, they share opinions. Stranger still, they form united fronts against the king sometimes, even if Arthur is often wiser about doing it than Morgana is. Like when her serving girl is arrested for witchcraft. Arthur tries to gently reason with his father, the only approach that has any chance of success, as he knows from bitter experience. Morgana on the other hand stalks in and starts to insult his father, which of course won't work at all. But it is nice to have an ally from every now and then and they both acknowledge that fact.
It doesn't mean that the teasing is suddenly at an end. Arthur gives as good as he gets by annoying her with the idea that she fancies him. Nothing makes Morgana angrier, it seems. They both know it isn't true, but it is so much fun to tease her and misinterpret her actions deliberately.
But Morgana knows how to play the game too, and today is no exception. Arthur is searching for a Druid boy that has hidden somewhere in the castle, or that is what they think anyway. Morgana's room is among the places that has not yet been searched and of course someone needs to do it. It would be better by far if it is him. It won't make Morgana like it, but it's better than having her room turned inside out by guards, who either ignore her and make her temper all the worse for it or run the moment she starts to snap insults at them. Arthur at least knows how to handle her.
But he isn't off to a good start. The moment she opens the door, she blocks the entrance with her body, a clear message that she does not want him to come in today. Her sarcastic words only confirm that assumption. 'To what do I owe this pleasure?'
Arthur responds in kind. 'Don't get all excited; it's not a social call.' No one in his senses could mistake Morgana's attitude for excitement. The same applies to him today. He'd so much rather not be here at all. 'I'm merely looking for the Druid boy.'
Morgana scoffs. 'What, in my chambers? Do you think he's hiding in my laundry basket? Or was the wardrobe more what you had in mind?'
Arthur grins at her. 'No, I suppose he's more likely to hide under your bed. But I'm not sure yet, so I'll need to search your chambers.'
Morgana settles for a glare that almost has Arthur doing a step back. 'You're not searching my chambers.'
He's physically stronger than she, so he pushes his way in almost without effort. 'Orders, Morgana. Don't take it so personally.' Privately he doesn't believe for a second that the child is hiding here; Morgana should have noticed by now. He needs to be sure all the same.
'I'm not having you mess up my things!' Morgana is quick; she's in his way before he knows it.
Arthur rolls his eyes. 'I'm not interested in your things. I'm just looking for evidence that the Druid boy is in the castle.'
The king's ward is definitely not his ally now. 'Perhaps he's hiding in your room,' she says accusingly. 'It's usually such a mess that you'd never know.'
'It's not my fault I have such a lazy idiot for a servant,' Arthur points out. 'He hasn't been in this morning. Again. And I can't find him anywhere.' There, that's justification enough.
Morgana frowns. 'Let me get this straight: you can't even find your servant and yet you hope to find a Druid boy who's actually trying to hide?' If she is trying to make him feel stupid, she is doing a truly tremendous job.
And so he cuts it short. Already he's having a desperate wish to leave and search in more likely places. 'As much as I'd love to stay here and talk, the sooner I get started, the sooner we can get this over with.'
'I'll save you the trouble then,' she says. 'The Druid boy's hiding behind the screen. Go on, take a look.'
Arthur frowns at her. They both know the Druid boy is not even in her room and he is certainly not hiding behind the screen she's pointed out. Part of him wants to go and look though, if only to check. But that would make him look like a complete buffoon. 'So you can have the satisfaction of making me look a complete fool?' he demands. I don't think so, no.
She smirks. Arthur hates it when she does that. 'In my experience you don't need any help looking like a fool.' Arthur has the idea they both remember the day they first met. It is only with a lot of effort that he can suppress an embarrassed blush. 'Go on then. You should look.'
His irritation is boiling over and he stalks back to the door. 'Why don't you go back to brushing your hair, or whatever it is you do all day?' He won't be wasting any of his time here and his patience with the Lady Morgana is practically non-existent by now.
'Bye, Arthur! Good luck with the search!' Her laughter follows him down the hallway. He tries to drown it out by slamming the door behind him as loudly as possible.
Of course that is not the end of it. Two nights later he finds her trying to smuggle the boy out of Camelot. His father is understandably livid, but Arthur doesn't know what to make of it. He has a lingering suspicion that he has been lied to or, more accurately, he's been told the truth in such a way that he would not dare check it out. And so, when he finds her making herself at home in his chambers a few hours after the latest shouting match between his father and the Lady Morgana, that's the first thing he asks. 'Are you telling me he really was behind the screen when I came to search your chambers?'
Morgana nods and really, he has every right to shout at her for that, and for a number of other reasons. Yet that is not what happens. Instead he finds himself smuggling the boy out himself in her stead. How on earth does that keep happening?
Things are changing though. Lately Morgana seems more troubled and Arthur can't lay his finger on it. He knows better than to ask her about what's the matter though; she'd bite his head off for having the guts to ask. If it is something she wants to talk to him about, she'll come to him. He doesn't think that she will though. If she comes for help, it is for practical help, something she for some reason is unable to do.
He is not disappointed. Guinevere has been taken and Uther refuses to launch a rescue mission, which has Morgana in a state of permanent fury. Arthur can't blame her for that; Hengist is a ruthless man and as soon as he realises Guinevere is in fact not the Lady Morgana, he will certainly kill her, if only to deal with his own sense of frustration. Arthur has no intention of letting it come to that however, even if he agreed with the king in the council chamber. He has informed his father that he is going on a hunt, that he's taking Merlin with him and that he will be gone for several days. That way his father won't throw a fit and he gets to rescue Guinevere as planned.
He only realises he really should have told Morgana of his plans when she storms into the room. 'How can you be so heartless?' she shouts, trying to be his conscience, as she has been doing for the past few years. Arthur usually values that, but he doesn't do that when she hasn't got a valid cause. But she's angry now and there is just no stopping her once she gets started. 'Gwen is the most kind, loyal person you would ever meet, and she has been more than a friend to all of us!' Arthur knows that; lately Gwen may becoming more to him than she was before. But that is not something he'll tell Morgana. 'Would you really leave her at the mercy of those animals?' Incredulity and anger are fighting for dominance.
'Morgana…' he tries to interrupt.
To no avail. 'I knew you were many things, Arthur Pendragon, but I never knew you were a gutless coward!'
It's been a while since he's seen Morgana getting worked up over something like that and he hopes that it's a sign that, whatever it was that had her scowling at the world – even more so than usual – lately, is at an end. She seems her normal, irritable self again. That does however not mean that he actually likes being shouted abuse at, especially when there is no real reason for her behaviour. 'Morgana!' he booms. 'If you'd stop shouting at me for one second, you'd see that I am packing.'
That makes her frown at him. 'For a hunt, yes. You should be rescuing Gwen, not shooting arrows at defenceless animals!'
Now it is Arthur's turn to glare. 'The animals I am going to shoot at are hardly defenceless, Morgana!'
That seems to do the trick. 'You're going after Gwen.'
He rolls his eyes. 'Of course I am going after her, but I couldn't disagree with my father in public now, could I? Give me some credit, will you?'
He's caught her off balance and she seems a bit confused. 'But…'
'Yes, I lied to my father. And yes, he'll be angry when I return. But he'll accept it when all's said and done. You know him. It's how he functions. Say one thing, do another. You should have known that by now.' It's not a very nice thing to say about his own father, but it's the truth. Lately Arthur finds it harder to obey the king's every command and sometimes, like now, it feels better to do what he thinks is right.
Morgana nods. 'Thank you.' She almost never says that and so Arthur commits it to memory. 'Bring her back?'
He nods. 'I will.' She turns to leave. 'Morgana?'
She turns back and arches an eyebrow, his cue to speak.
'Are you all right?' He never asks that normally, but today is a day for firsts, it seems.
He gets a tentative nod. 'Just bring her back.' It's more of a command than a request, but Arthur smiles. There is the Morgana he remembers.
He remembers thinking the same thing after they rescue her from the woods. A year, she's been missing for a year, but here she is, strong and head-strong as ever. At first it seemed as if she was too damaged by her ordeal. When she talked to him about what she had endured, she seemed vulnerable. She had even cried and if there is one thing Arthur knows about Morgana, it is that she never cries. Never for as long as he's known her has Arthur Pendragon seen her cry. It is more unsettling than he'd have thought.
But all that is in the past now. The castle has been under attack by both Cenred's army and an army of skeletons with swords that seemingly can't die. But that too is over now. Cenred has been defeated and is on the run. The skeletons just dropped to the floor. Arthur still can't come up with a reasonable explanation for that. He can however find an explanation for the reason that they were there in the first place: magic.
The castle is a buzz of activity, but Arthur is not severely injured and so he goes to the crypts. There's only one place where so many skeletons could have come from after all. And he's looking for clues. Maybe the sorcerer who did this has left some sign, a piece of evidence that he has forgotten to remove. If there is such a thing, Arthur will find it and then they can bring the evil sorcerer to justice. Arthur has half a mind to deliver that justice himself. He has seen the corpses and the wounded. So much death. How much hatred must someone feel to do something like this?
He's almost there when he hears someone groaning. It's a reflex to grab his sword and freeze into place, hoping he'll hear what's coming before he's attacked. But he only hears silence.
'Hello?' he calls. 'Is someone there?'
There's another short silence. Then: 'Arthur?'
It takes him a moment before he can place the voice, especially because its owner has no business being here. She should be looking after the wounded, so what on earth is she doing in the crypts?
'Morgana?' He runs into the crypts. Normally he would have taken more notice of the tombs that have been broken open, the clearly magical staff that has been sliced in half and the debris that is littering the floor, but not today. Today Arthur's attention is drawn immediately towards the figure that has propped herself up against a wall, massaging a sore spot on her forehead. There is no one else here and so Arthur hurries to her side. 'Morgana, what are you doing here? Here, let me look at that.'
She grimaces when he touches the wound. 'I thought that'd be obvious,' she comments. 'Arthur, will you just leave it? It's obvious that you are no physician. I'll ask Gaius to look at it.'
'What happened, Morgana?' he demands again.
Morgana rolls her eyes, but apparently that hurts too, because she groans again. 'You haven't grown any smarter in that one year, have you?'
Arthur admires her for her ability to joke and so he means to go with it, until he realises what it is that Morgana is not telling him. 'Are you saying that you went down here alone and ended the spell that made those skeletons appear?' He can't even believe this is happening. His father is going to kill him when he finds out. 'You were supposed to stay with Gaius and Guinevere!'
She meets his eyes with her old defiance. 'Would a simple thank you kill you?'
He leans back. 'You could have got hurt, Morgana! I can't even believe you could have been so reckless.' That is not the truth though, because he can imagine it. It was what she always did before she was abducted. This is nothing new. 'How did you even know where to go?' Trying to argue with her has never worked before, so he might as well ask the question he'd been wanting to ask.
She smirks. 'Even you worked it out,' she points out. The smirk intensifies. 'Eventually.'
She's insulted him, Arthur knows. He should be coming up with some witty reply, but he's overwhelmed by relief. The old Morgana is not lost after all and for the time being that makes him put up with whatever insult she hurls at his head. She hasn't changed, not one bit.
But she has. Months later he finds himself crouching on a balcony, watching powerlessly how immortal soldiers force his father to his knees and take his crown. Fury is making Arthur's blood boil with rage as he watches Morgause mock the king. It's not fair, it's not fair, but he can't run down and try to stop this from happening. He wants to, but in this rare case, Merlin is more sensible than he is. They'd cut him to ribbons, the servant said. The soldiers Morgause has at her disposal are immortal. No matter how much skill Arthur has with a sword, that is a fight that he can never win.
'This is unlawful!' Uther shouts. His voice bounces off the walls. 'You have no right to the throne!'
'No, she does not.'
Arthur knows the owner of that voice and he wants to rush down there all over again, if only to save her from herself. Morgana should have run by now, should have gotten away from this place the moment she realised something was wrong. She should not be in this throne room jumping to his father's defence, for heaven's sake!
But what he expects to happen does in fact not happen. 'But I do,' Morgana continues. There's a tone in her voice that Arthur finds difficult to place, but he doesn't like it. 'I am your daughter after all!' The tone is easier to place now: it is hateful, vengeful and it breaks Arthur's heart into thousands of pieces.
And it sends his head reeling. None of this is making any sense. Morgana is his sister? Strangely enough that is the first thing he can think of. That, he realises, is the one thing in this that does not feel wrong. They have been acting as siblings for years now. Arthur used to think of her as a sister, even if he has never really said so. There was never any need for that.
It is the rest that refuses to add up. He can't believe that no one ever told him. His father's lack of protest is all the confirmation he needs for Morgana's words. She is his sister, but why then would she ally herself with someone such as Morgause? Morgana should be helping them, should be on their side, so why is she letting herself be crowned by that horrible witch?
It doesn't take long for his question to be answered. When his father tries to wriggle free, Morgana's eyes flash gold and the rightful king is thrown across the room, landing a few meters away. Arthur's heart clenches once again. She has magic. Heaven help them all, Morgana has magic. Is that why she had been so quiet, so taciturn, why the banter between them had grown ever scarcer? Had she changed so much because magic had gotten to her? Arthur feels his heart break all over again.
He's almost relieved when he can run away and leave it all behind him, even for a few days. He needs to think it through, needs to try and understand, even when there is no real understanding possible. There's just pain and he is on the verge of crying. But that is something he doesn't do. It's one of his unwritten rules: Arthur Pendragon does not cry, not ever. But he is in mourning. That is the best word for it. The Morgana he knew is dead and she'll never be coming back. At one point he almost thinks it would be easier if she were dead. If she were dead, he'd not have to see that familiar face and think he saw Morgana there, while she's changed into someone he doesn't know anymore.
He's relieved when he doesn't even see her when they do take the castle back. It is easier that way.
But he can't avoid her forever and he well knows it. Sometime, sooner rather than later, he will have to face her again and Arthur dreads the moment. She has disappeared after the presumed death of Morgause and has not been seen since. Camelot is liberated, but it is too late for his father; Uther has retreated deep into himself. He hardly responds when people talk to him and he's lost a lot of weight because he refuses to eat most of the time. He's a broken man, which means that all responsibility falls to Arthur.
He is the first one they lift from his bed when there's a crisis to be dealt with. Arthur is really not in the mood for this – he's been run off his feet all day long and he just wants to sleep till sunrise. Is that really that much to ask? – but there's an intruder, the bells are tolling and there is really not that much of a choice. No, there's no choice at all. And so Arthur drags himself from his bed, finds his sword, cloak and boots and runs ahead of the guards to the throne room, where the intruder was last seen.
Said intruder has left a trail of unconscious guards for them to follow. Arthur has a nasty suspicion about who could have done such a thing. There are no wounds on them, no bruises. This has magic written all over it and he doesn't like it one bit, not one single bit. He doesn't even dare think her name, for fear that it will turn out to be her if he suspects her of doing this. And he just doesn't want to believe that she could ever be capable of doing such horrible things. The Morgana he had known would never have harmed innocent people.
He's angry with himself for thinking her name and pushes the door to the throne room open with more force than necessary. And she's there. He had known it from the start that she would be, but still his heart stops a moment before it continues beating. She's there, sitting on Uther's throne as if she has every right to be there.
'Arthur!' she calls. 'How good of you to join me. To what do I owe this pleasure?' It is their banter, but it is twisted and dark. It feels wrong, but Arthur can't summon up any anger. Foolishly enough, all he feels is grief and sorrow, maybe a touch of guilt because he was not able to prevent this from happening.
'Morgana,' he acknowledges. He glances around the room. He stops at a motionless body that's lying at her feet. It's hard to determine who it is while the room is so badly lit and it is still dark outside, but Arthur is convinced it is one of the lords on his council. Lord Owen, one of the world's biggest complainers, but a strong man still, even for his advanced age. But this was a fight he could not have won and now he is lying in a pool of his own blood. There's no doubt that he is dead. 'Why?' It is all he can ask. He's still trying to understand, trying to make sense of something one cannot ever make sense of. It doesn't stop him from trying it all the same.
'He was in my way,' Morgana says nonchalantly. 'He was trying to deny me what is rightfully mine.' Her eyes, now cold, no longer twinkling as they used to do, settle on Arthur. 'As are you.' She is serious, deadly so.
He stares back at her, trying to ignore the feeling that someone is stamping forcefully on what still remains of his heart. 'It's over, Morgana,' he tells her. 'You're surrounded.' And that is the truth. There are archers all around. She'll die before she gets the chance to either neutralise them or escape. Yet Arthur is reluctant to give the order. Because this is not just any intruder, not just any sorceress. This is Morgana, the woman he treated as his sister long before he even knew that she truly was his sibling. His brain knows that she is a threat, a danger, and must be eliminated before she can cause any more damage, but his heart cautions him to stop, to have patience, to give her time, as his father urged him the first time they met. What if the old Morgana is still there? Could he just wait for a little while longer?
His doubt costs him the element of surprise. Morgana shouts something he doesn't understand and then there's a whirlwind. By the time Arthur has found his tongue again to give the order to fire, Morgana is gone, vanished literally into thin air. It doesn't make him feel any better about himself when he realises he's been waiting too long on purpose, but at the same time he's relieved. Morgana is still alive. There is still time for her to repent and become who she once was.
It is only when he looks at Lord Owen's corpse that he realises he has let her get away with murder.
Arthur keeps hoping for more than a year still, keeps praying to whatever god out there that she will see the error of her ways and stop doing what she is doing. He'll be able to forgive her for practising magic, he'll be able to forgive her for every crime she's committed since he let her get away, as long as this living nightmare stops and she comes back home and all can be as it was. Naïve of him to think so, and he well knows it, but he can't help but hope all the same.
But it is a foolish hope and it dies, bit by bit, every time he has another encounter with her. Arthur's stopped counting all her wrongs long ago and he doesn't want to linger on them either. It simply is too painful to contemplate. But she is an enemy of Camelot now; he has no choice but to have his men hunting for her. He is no longer a naïve prince, he is a king. He was a duty towards his people. Privately, he keeps hoping though.
And it is not Arthur who deals that hope the killing blow in the end, it is Morgana. There's been another coup and Arthur has found himself running like a coward, dressing up as a simpleton – although he has no real memory of the fact, nor can he remember consenting to such a ridiculous scheme, which of course was entirely Merlin's idea – and pulling an ancient sword out of a stone before he's standing in his own council chambers again, facing Morgana and her latest partner in crime, a despicable man by the name of Helios.
'Welcome, dear brother.' It is as if mocking is her default setting these days. 'It's been so long.' Far too long since they were friends, on that Arthur at least agrees. 'I apologise if you've had a difficult reception, but it's so hard to know who to trust these days.'
I used to trust you, I used to trust Agravaine… Part of him longs to run her through, but there's still something that stays his hand and so, instead of killing her, he sheathes his sword. It is not the wise thing to do, but maybe it can reach that part of her that is still the Morgana she used to be. 'What happened to you Morgana?' He's asked this question of himself so many times that he's lost count, if he ever kept count to begin with. It finds the way to his mouth almost of its own volition. 'I thought we were friends.' I thought you cared, I really thought you did.
For a moment he thinks he got through to her. The hard look in her eyes softens somewhat and the hope flares to life in his chest. Could it really be that, even after all this time, the old Morgana – the real Morgana is what he calls it in the privacy of his own mind – is still there, is not lost after all?
But the hope dies again as soon as it has grown. 'So did I.' The answer is not what he expected it to be. 'But alas, we were both wrong.'
'That is not an answer. Why, Morgana?' He tries and fails to keep the desperation out of his voice.
She shakes her head at him, laughing, but there's no mirth in it, only hatred. 'How could I not when you've made it perfectly clear how you think about me and my kind?' she questions. 'You're not as different from Uther as you'd like to think.'
Maybe she is right, but she has overlooked something. 'Nor are you,' Arthur realises. It is true, his father never had any magic, but he could be cruel. Arthur loved him, still does, but he's no longer blind to his father's faults as he used to be. In some things, it is alarming how much Morgana takes after their father. It is quite a shock to realise.
Apparently it is the same for Morgana. She does a step back as if he's physically hit her and then the look in her eyes hardens again. 'I'm going to enjoy killing you, Arthur Pendragon.' She growls the words more than she speaks them. 'Not even Emrys can save you now.'
Arthur doesn't know who Emrys is, but now is admittedly not the time to spare that any thought. He has tried and he has failed and now there is nothing he can do, not even to save his own life. But at least he'll die trying and that has to be worth something.
And then the miracle happens. For whatever reason, her magic fails her. She tries, once, twice. The third time nothing happens the panic is obvious in her voice. When she looks at him, it is in her eyes as well and for only a moment Arthur sees a vulnerable little girl, someone who ought to be pitied rather than killed.
Then she runs and for a few seconds Arthur is extremely tempted to let her go. He has seen a glimpse of the old Morgana today, so that surely must mean she is still there. But no, she tried to kill him. She made it perfectly clear where she stood and what she wanted and it is that which eventually decides him. He needs to stop living in the past and pay more attention to the present.
'After her!' he orders.
He squashes the mental voice telling him that this is a mistake.
Still, all those years later when he watches her die on his own blade, held by Merlin's hands, only shortly before he himself will breathe his last, he still feels a touch of sorrow and regret. 'I'm sorry,' Arthur whispers while Merlin's back is turned to clean the sword on the grass. He doesn't even know if Morgana can hear him or if she is dead already, but it needs to be said. 'I wish it could have been different.' And he wishes so with all his heart. But when Merlin returns, he hides his tears and moves on. After all, the real Morgana died years ago.