Just Another Normal Day (Normal Days I)

Chapter 28

Chapter 28

It was a few minutes before four in the morning, or so the clock on the wall of Jo's living room told him. Merlin shook his head at it and proceeded to the kitchen, too wound up to sleep any longer.

He had been in a state of shock since yesterday afternoon, he supposed. The very thing he had feared, Arthur sending him away, had shaken him to the core, leaving him with the feeling as if the ground had suddenly disappeared from underneath his very feet, leaving him falling into nothing. He had never consciously given it much thought, but now that he came to think of it, protecting Arthur had become his main purpose in life. There was hardly room for anything else.

And now he had been bereft of that. Arthur had as good as kicked him out of his service, leaving Merlin out in the cold, wondering what he was supposed to do with himself now. He already felt like climbing up the walls in frustration. Of course he could still help Section D to bring this operation to a successful conclusion. His help may even need to prove invaluable before the end, especially if they were to directly take on Morgana. But ultimately defeating Morgana wasn't his destiny. It was a small part of it, yes, but it was protecting Arthur that was his real goal in life and he had just been robbed of his best chance of doing that.

Of course he could always protect Arthur from a distance. He had done so a few times before, but it wasn't ideal. And he was quite certain Arthur would not thank him for it, even if it were Merlin's actions that saved his life in the end.

He felt empty, he decided. Arthur had been his friend, a brother in many ways. To have that stolen away was like missing an essential part of himself. He supposed it was only to be expected, with Arthur being what the Great Dragon called 'the other side of Merlin's coin.'

This had happened before, the warlock remembered as he poured himself some coffee in the hope that it would clear his head somewhat. Back in the day, when he had only just been appointed Arthur's servant, he had been dismissed from his service as well. Then he had not even really liked Arthur, but even then he had been out of sorts. Now, he was devastated.

I no longer require your services.

I have no need of you right now.

I need a servant I can trust.

This makes me sick.

Get out of my sight!

That is an order.

Arthur's words from both past and present went through his head until he could not tell them apart. And maybe there was no need for that either. After all the message was the same and Merlin could not see it this easily remedied this time as it had been then. The rift was too deep, the gap too wide. Back then it had been only about Valiant's cheating in the tournament. Now there was so much more at stake. This time it wasn't just about the operation and Lucas's loyalties, it was also, first and foremost, actually about them and where they stood now that the secret of Merlin's magic was out. And wherever it was that they stood, their friendship was probably ruined forever.

He only returned to the here and now when Jo, still bleary-eyed and a little clumsy with sleep, stumbled into the kitchen. 'You're up early,' she commented, trying and failing to suppress a yawn.

He conjured up something resembling a smile. 'You too,' he countered.

She grinned wryly. 'Bad dreams,' she muttered. 'And then I saw the light downstairs, so I figured you hadn't been able to get any sleep either.' She studied him carefully. 'Did you get any sleep at all last night?'

Merlin shook his head. 'Coffee?' he asked, hoping to escape her questioning. He liked Jo, he really did, but he wasn't sure he was quite ready to discuss this with anyone just yet. It was still too fresh, too painful. He wasn't even sure what he really felt himself, never mind that he knew what he was supposed to be doing now.

'Yes, please,' she said, yawning again. 'Sorry.' A rather sheepish grin followed the apology. 'You feel really bad, don't you?'

His resolve not to talk about this melted away in an instant. 'We've just never fought, not like that. I mean, we had disagreements before and he's thrown me in the dungeons and in the cells, but it's never been like this. He sent me away this time and there's so much hate and anger.'

'Maybe he just needs to sleep on it,' Jo replied wisely. 'You were both tired and wound up yesterday.' She accepted the coffee he offered her with a grateful nod. 'You both feel strongly about this case. There's nothing wrong with that. Arthur reminds me of Adam, our previous Section Chief, sometimes. He too could be so passionate about things, you know.' A sad smile graced her features. 'He too would have thought it a shame to doubt one of our own.'

Merlin had heard snippets of information about this Adam person. Whoever he had been, it was clear that he had been greatly appreciated on the Grid, and that he had some resemblance, and not just in looks, to the king of Camelot.

'And do you?' he wondered. 'Doubt Lucas, I mean?'

Jo didn't meet his eyes. She took a spoon and stirred the sugar through her coffee. 'I don't want to,' she replied after a lengthy silence. 'He has been through a lot in Russia…'

'And you can relate to that because you have been in a similar situation,' Merlin understood, recalling what she had told him on his first night in London. He could understand that she was unwilling to distrust someone who had endured the trials she herself had faced, but in Merlin's opinion that didn't make Lucas any less of a traitor. 'Apart from that?' he urged. 'Do you think he's betrayed us?'

She bit her lip. 'I'm not sure,' she admitted. 'He's so difficult to read. It's like… We never can't be sure about what he thinks. On one hand Malcolm keeps saying that he was a really good spook before Russia, capable of even fooling Harry from time to time. On the other hand it all feels so real. I'm not sure anyone can act that well. He really flew off the handle when he learned you had poisoned Morgana.' That made her look up. 'You really did, didn't you?' When she asked there was no accusation, no hurt in her voice. There was only a genuine desire to know the whole story.

Merlin nodded. He didn't remember giving himself permission to speak, but the words came rolling out of his mouth anyway. 'Morgana was the vessel for a spell,' he told her softly. 'It made all of Camelot fall asleep so that Morgause and her men could take over Camelot without any resistance. Morgana… I don't think she even knew she was the vessel. She was scared and confused. She didn't know why everyone around her fell asleep and she stayed awake.' He looked down at the mug in his hands, trying to force back the memories that tried to overtake his mind as he told the tale. 'The only way to break the spell was to kill the vessel to which it was bound, so I tricked Morgana into drinking poisoned water.'

Jo frowned. 'But she is still very much alive,' she pointed out, confused. 'She didn't die then.'

Merlin shook his head. 'Morgause must have felt her spell weakening. I'm not really sure, but she came in, yelling Morgana's name. She commanded me to tell her what I had given Morgana. She was already unconscious by the time, so she never knew what really happened then, I think.' He shook his head as if he could shake the unwelcome memories away with the simple movement. 'Morgause threatened to kill me where I stood, I told her that in that case Morgana would die with me. In the end Morgause all but begged me for the cure. I told her she could have it if she lifted the spell.'

'You couldn't do that?' Jo wondered. 'I mean, you're a powerful warlock…'

Merlin shook his head. 'I didn't know that many spells back then and I doubt anyone but the caster could have undone it anyway.' As the silence dragged on, he added: 'I didn't have any other choice, Jo. If I'd done nothing, we would all have died.'

The blonde spook shook her head, downing the last remnants of her coffee. 'I didn't think that. I just think you should have told this to Lucas when he asked about it.'

Merlin threw her an incredulous look. 'He would not have listened.'

'He listened to Arthur,' Jo countered. 'He may be on Morgana's side now, but he would still have listened.' She bit her lip again. 'It might have given him another reason not to turn to her side if you had been open with him. I'm not saying it's your fault, Merlin, but it could have made a difference.'

That took the warlock by surprise. He had never even looked at it like this. 'You really think so?'

She nodded fervently. 'I think he's vulnerable now. Harry thinks so too.'

Merlin arched an eyebrow. 'He didn't look vulnerable to me.' More like cold, determined and dangerous, but never vulnerable or weak.

'I'm not supposed to say this, I think, but we all suspect that he more or less blames Harry for his ordeal in Russia.' Jo looked at the tiles. 'He doesn't have anything against you or Arthur…'

A few dots connected in Merlin's head. 'Until I gave him a reason to,' he realised, wanting to bang his head against the wall for not thinking of that earlier. 'Do you think he'll be on the Grid?' If there was a chance, no matter how small, that he could still turn this around, should he not take it? If there was just a small chance of Lucas remaining on the straight and narrow and appeasing Arthur in the same conversation, then that wasn't really much of a choice at all. He would take that chance.

Jo glanced at the watch. It was only half past four. 'He suffers from insomnia,' she said thoughtfully. 'And he tends to go into work earlier whenever he can't sleep. He might already be there.'

Merlin felt slightly guilty about asking this. Slightly. 'Do you think we could…?' he wondered.

She smiled at him, the look in her eyes telling him she had already expected this question. 'Give me ten minutes.'

Merlin was eternally grateful to her. For the first time since last afternoon he felt something that might well be called hope. It felt like he had some measure of control over the situation again and that was by no means an unwelcome feeling. In all his time in Camelot he had never felt so helpless as in the last twelve hours. But now it was within his powers again to do something about the situation.

Jo drove faster than was permitted, Merlin was sure. His stomach still protested against the very notion of sitting in a car that moved faster than a horse, but he found that he could ignore the movements now. It was remarkable what physical discomforts one was able to forget about when there were far more important things occupying one's mind.

Jo drove the car into the car park just as another car, a big black one, was leaving. Merlin raised his eyebrows. 'Do you lot work that late normally?' he wondered.

His companion gave the passing vehicle a fleeting glance. 'Sometimes, yes,' she nodded. 'Frequently, actually. And Harry is known to be spending entire nights on the Grid, with only whisky for company. Ros too, I think, but then without the whisky.' She grinned at him.

Now that things didn't look so glum anymore, Merlin found himself capable of giving her a genuine smile in return. 'And you only know that because you've seen that yourself?' he teased lightly.

Jo turned off the motor and got out of the car. Merlin followed her example, sending her an amused look from over the vehicle. She laughed. 'No, but they sometimes tend to be at their desks already when I arrive in the morning, still in the same clothes they wore the day before. How about you?'

He grinned guiltily. 'Frequently,' he confessed. 'And the worst thing about that is that Arthur somehow seems to think I spent all that time in the tavern, even when I was actually too busy saving his ungrateful backside at the time.' Those words came out harsher than he had really meant them. But it was true: it had been bothering him from time to time, especially when Arthur was being his charming I-am-the-king-and-I-am-God's-gift-to-mankind self again.

'He can be a bit of an arrogant prat, yes,' Jo admitted.

This got a chuckle out of him. 'I told him the very same thing the first time I met him,' he reminisced. 'Naturally he didn't like that and had me in the stocks right away to be pelted with rotten fruit.'

'Really?' Jo shot him an incredulous look. 'He seemed… well, reasonable, just, is the word, I suppose.'

'It was years ago,' Merlin explained. And sometimes he longed for those times. Things had not always been fun, but they certainly seemed simpler than they were now.

They had reached the Grid now and the pods prevented them from talking for a few seconds. Those few seconds of silence made him realise once again that he was here to set some things right. The prospect of having to recount the tale a second time in a few hours' time made his stomach twist and turn in protest. Poisoning Morgana had been the worst thing he'd ever had to do and he had never been able to look back on the event without regret, even if he knew he had no choice in the matter. He certainly wasn't proud of his actions.

So he could not quite decide if he was disappointed or relieved when the Grid proved to be entirely empty. His eyes sought out Arthur's desk right away. The surface was covered in papers and files, scattered all over the furniture in a very Arthurian way. It closely resembled the king's own desk in Camelot.

The king in question however was nowhere to be seen. He must have been succeeding better at falling asleep than Merlin himself. Well, he was not in a hurry to face the Once and Future King so soon already. Even if he had cooled off some, he was certainly not going to be in a good mood this early in the morning and Merlin knew better than to wake him before sunrise. He doubted Arthur would get away with throwing goblets at his head around here, but that would not stop the king from giving his servant a tongue-lashing of legendary proportions for waking him before the crack of dawn.

The man he had come here to see wasn't there either. His desk too was abandoned, although his working place was in far less disarray than Arthur's. Lucas was an organised person, Merlin had found out. If he was on their side that would have been a good thing, but if he wasn't it would only mean that whatever plan he had to deliver Arthur into Morgana's hands would be well thought about and that would make it that much harder for the rest of them to stop him from doing the unthinkable.

'Would you like to have another coffee?' Jo asked as she made her way to the small kitchen.

Well, they had a long day ahead and one more cup surely wouldn't hurt. 'Yes, please,' he called to her. 'If it isn't too much trouble.' He had been a servant for too long, he supposed. He wasn't used to people doing things for him. He was used to do them for other people, not the other way around. But he had to admit that it did feel nice for once.

Merlin looked around the Grid, wondering what to do with himself now that he could not yet do what he had come for. He supposed he could always try and follow up some of the tips that had come in during the day concerning Morgana's whereabouts. Most of them would be rubbish to be sure, but they could not afford to leave even one stone unturned, not when there was a real chance of finding her before she managed to wreak any more havoc on the citizens of this kingdom.

But then his eye fell on Arthur's desk again and the servant's instinct won out. He wasn't officially sacked yet and he was being paid to clear Arthur's mess, so that was what he would do. And it was something he knew how to do. It was a familiar task and right now that was what he needed to calm his nerves.

He at least didn't have to wonder about what the king had been working on before he had gone to sleep. Hogan's file lay open on the desk, several papers from it all over the place. Some of the king's own notes that were written on those yellow papers they called post-its were attached to them. Arthur must really care about this if he made such work out of it. Somehow Merlin had overlooked just how much. The warlock may want to take down Morgana, but Arthur was no less passionate about it, he now found. And if he truly believed that sending Lucas undercover was the way to achieve their goal, it was understandable why he had gotten so mad when Harry pulled Lucas off the case.

But hopefully, maybe, it was not too late to mend the rift. Suddenly Merlin found himself hoping Arthur would wake from the noises on the Grid, so that they could sit down and have another, honest conversation. Merlin was pretty sure he would say anything the king wanted him to if only that would mean they could restore their previous friendship.

He was just establishing that as something else suddenly caught his attention. It was a note written on a piece of paper that had been taped against the screen of the computer on his desk.

Lucas and I have gone to deal with Morgana. Do not send the cavalry after us. We'll be perfectly fine. We'll be in touch. Arthur Pendragon, king of Camelot.

Merlin read it and read it again. At first the words refused to make sense. It seemed quite ridiculous, especially since Arthur had attached his royal seal to the message. But the message itself was far from laughable. It was a downright disaster if nothing else.

'Oh, Arthur, what have you done?' he moaned when the meaning finally fully registered in his mind. Had the king been out of his mind? What had he been thinking, going with the traitor without informing anyone else of the team?

The worst thing was that Merlin was wholly convinced this hare-brained scheme was entirely of Arthur's own making. He had as good as suggested this already yesterday in the meeting room. Of course it had been slapped down instantly, but Arthur was a stubborn clotpole if nothing else. The warlock could all too easily imagine how the king had presented this plan to Lucas. And he was fairly sure that he would have had no problems whatsoever in "convincing" the spook into giving this plan a try. He had as good as proposed his own death sentence.

'Merlin, are you all right? You look like you've seen a ghost.' He only vaguely became aware of Jo's voice talking to him and her hand on his shoulder.

Without a word he took the note from the screen and handed it to her so she could read the message as well. All the blood drained from her face. 'We should red-flash the team,' she spoke after half a minute of silence. 'Immediately.'

Arthur was confused. That was probably the best word to describe his mental state. He was completely and utterly confused.

He opened his eyes to sheer darkness. For a moment he doubted that he had even opened them at all, because it didn't really seem to make a difference at all. Maybe he was still sleeping, only dreaming of darkness. That idea would have made sense, were it not that he did not have any recollection of going to sleep in the first place. Besides, he was sure he would have found himself a far more comfortable position to sleep in if that had really been the case.

He could not really feel the rest of his body, a fact that disturbed him even more. Whatever it was that had happened to him, he very much doubted it would have been pleasant.

He tried to feel something now that his eyes refused to provide him with information. The first thing that he could make out that he was lying on a relatively hard surface. His shoulder protested against the maltreatment. He was being shaken by some force that came from outside his small and dark prison. Arthur strongly suspected that he was somewhere in a large box or a coffin that was being moved. That realisation surely did nothing to steady his nerves, or his stomach for that matter.

The king of Camelot felt like throwing up. Being transported like this reminded him strongly of being on a ship that was being tossed about in a storm on open sea. He had the pleasure of experiencing that once in his life and had not found himself eager to repeat it. His stomach heaved with every movement and he felt slightly dizzy as well. Add to that that his head was pounding like it had ended up between hammer and anvil and his mouth felt like he hadn't had something to drink for at least several weeks and it would be safe to say that Arthur Pendragon felt positively miserable.

The worst thing was that he could still not for the life of him figure out how on earth he had managed to get himself into such a tight spot. The last thing he remembered was being on the Grid, holding a cup of coffee, wondering about what he was supposed to do with Merlin's strange behaviour and the operation Harry had so foolishly called off because the head of Section D didn't seem to think his best officer was trustworthy in the field anymore.

He tried to follow it on from there, straining his memory. Lucas had come in, he now recalled, and they had talked. He wasn't exactly sure what the topic had been, but it would be safe to assume that it was in some way related to the operation. They had been on the same page about that, most definitely.

Arthur's forehead wrinkled in concentration as he tried and failed to conjure up what had happened next, the missing links as to why he was now in this dark place with his hands bound in front of him and something taped over his mouth to prevent him from speaking.

They had been discussing the meeting. Arthur now recalled Lucas mentioning that. They had also been speaking about trust, although briefly, and then he had said something about… The memory suddenly hit him with the force of a sledgehammer being swung full force against his chest. He had been proposing to go out and do it themselves. They would ignore Harry's orders and go to Morgana themselves to deal with her once and for all. Arthur remembered now. That had been the plan. He would pose as a prisoner in order not to alarm his half-sister before they could reveal their true intent, which meant that Arthur had to be tied up for the journey. But he hadn't had a problem with that. He had proposed it himself after all.

What he had not proposed was the needle that Lucas had stuck in his flesh several seconds later. The spook had told him he was sorry for doing this. After that there was just no more memory, nothing between that moment of passing out and waking up in this dark hole, which he now believed to be the boot of a car.

Arthur wondered why he had agreed to this. On the Grid it had seemed like the best option they had, no, the only option still open to them. Here, tied up and all alone, Arthur Pendragon started to doubt Lucas North for the first time. So yes, they had to make it convincing. He understood the need for that. But this? This was more than convincing. This was so convincing Arthur himself could not tell for sure it was even an act.

He told himself he was being a fool, a dollophead, as Merlin so often liked to call him. Morgana wouldn't fall for an only loosely tied-up king of Camelot. She was being paranoid enough to question that, especially after last afternoon. Her faith in Lucas had already been greatly lessened, so the king understood that this was not the time for half-hard measures. But this, he had not even known about this. He had just been sedated without as much as a warning and now he was here, waiting to be handed over to Morgana on a silver platter.

The noise of what Arthur suspected to be a motor stopped, as did the movement that had made him want to throw up. He expected that someone would soon come for him, but he could only hear the slamming of a door and then the silence returned, leaving the king of Camelot alone with his thoughts.

Arthur was severely tempted to kick against the sides of his prison in the hope that anyone would hear him and come to his rescue, but a little voice in the back of his head told him that would be useless. Morgana and Hogan preferred abandoned places for their meetings. The only ones to hear him if he started to make noise were his enemies and those were the last persons he wanted to come and find him.

And Lucas, how had he been able to treat him like that? Arthur believed them to be friends. Friends are either a nuisance or they're boring. He could recall Lucas's voice all too easily and Arthur realised he had been a fool. He had let himself be led around by the nose like the dollophead that he was, ignoring Merlin's far more realistic assessment of the situation.

I have been so blind.

It would not even be the first time this happened. He had been ignoring Morgana's strange behaviour as well. Then too it had been Merlin who had been on to her long before everyone else. Arthur himself had thought nothing of it, had conveniently ignored all the signs telling him that Morgana had changed. Only when she took the crown and kingdom from his father with an immortal army had he realised that those signs had been there all along.

And he had clearly not learned from his mistakes, because here he was, the result of once again trusting someone he should have been wary of right away. Arthur was quite sure Merlin would tell him I told you so when, no if, they met again. And he would be right to say it too, Arthur would even admit to that if only he would make it out alive.

He was snapped out of his musings by the sound of people talking and laughing. This would have been reassuring if Arthur had not recognised one of the voices as belonging to Morgana. A cold shiver went down his spine. This was really it. He was really about to be delivered to his worst enemy and there was no doubt that she wanted nothing more than to see him dead.

The hopelessness of his own situation became all too clear to him. Thanks to his own foolishness it might still be hours before someone would come across his note. It was hard to measure time here in the dark and he had no clue as to how long he had been unconscious. It may have been minutes, it may have been hours. But even if Section D had already started what Ros called a full-scale witch-hunt, they would have no idea where to start searching and by the time they had located him it would most likely be far too late already. He felt like he was going to throw up all over again.

The boot of the car was opened and light filled his prison. Arthur blinked against it. He would have used his hands to shield his eyes, but as it was he was still incapable of moving.

But it would be good to know who was facing him. If he was going to die, he was not going to die like a coward, hiding from the world, cowering back into the prison he so hated in the first place. He was a warrior, not a frightened child.

After a few times of blinking he could make out Lucas's face looking down on him. The man's expression was totally blank. If there was one thing that could be said about it, it would be that it was unreadable. Arthur hadn't got a clue as to what he was thinking

The spook grabbed him and literally yanked him out of the car and to his feet. The movement was so sudden that Arthur's stomach protested, making him want to vomit all over the place, or preferably all over his captor who had betrayed him. He felt light-headed and unsteady. Only Lucas's death grip on his arms prevented him from collapsing on the spot. He had no idea what he had been sedated with, but it was strong and not that good for a human body it would seem.

'Act scared and betrayed,' he could hear someone whisper near his right ear. It was spoken so softly that Arthur first believed it to be some kind of hallucination. It was only when the last instruction reached him that he realised that Lucas, under the pretence of steadying him, had leaned close to him. 'Struggle.' That instruction was followed by the rather painful removal of the tape from over his mouth, making Arthur gasp.

But it wasn't just the pain that made him inhale sharply. Could it be? Could it really be that this was still an act? Arthur found he had great difficulty believing that. But then, he was in a totally different time than his own. Maybe this really was the way things were done here. Arthur could not know for sure, but he found that he wanted to believe it. Because that would mean that Lucas still knew what he was doing. The spook would keep Arthur safe, if he really still was on their side.

But that mattered not anyway. It was all too easy for the king to act betrayed and scared. He felt both emotions strongly, to the point where they might overwhelm him. No need for acting in that department. Struggling was a little more difficult. Arthur still was weak, frustratingly so, and it was already a job in and out of itself to even remain standing on his own two feet without help.

'Look at you now, dear brother,' a mocking voice commented. 'So weak, so helpless.'

Arthur only now remembered he had indeed heard Morgana's voice. He looked up, seeing her leaning against a nearby tree. Behind her was the man whose face Arthur knew from the file he had been ploughing through since five o'clock yesterday afternoon. In real life he was even less impressive than on the photographs Arthur had seen: fat, lazy and extremely bored he didn't feel like a dangerous enemy to the king. But Arthur had no illusions. This guy had assisted Morgana in the station bombings. There was no doubt that he was more lethal than he looked.

'Morgana,' he acknowledged with as cold a voice as he could manage.

Her responding smirk would surely plague his nightmares for years to come, if he lived long enough to have any, that was. 'Welcome, brother. It's been far too long.' It could have been a friendly greeting, a casual remark on how long it had been that they had seen each other, had they been different people. Now, there was only hatred and malice in her voice, the likes of which Arthur had never heard before. 'We should spend some time catching up.'

Arthur could only look at her. She had changed so much. Her dress was black, resembling the darkness within, he supposed, and her hair was messy. He hardly recognised the sophisticated and good-humoured girl with her colourful dresses and her love of jewellery in this cold and scheming witch. But the eyes were the same, even if the expression in them was so much colder than he had been used to.

Morgana's attention shifted to Lucas. 'You surprise me, Lucas,' she drawled. 'Our friend here was convinced you would not be able to get your hands on him.'

'I aim to please, my lady,' Lucas replied pleasantly. 'And it was not that hard to get my hands on him at all. The naïve fool even proposed it himself.' A bark of laughter followed. 'And there won't be anyone coming after us, because they don't know where we went.'

Arthur felt like he had swallowed a large piece of ice. This was not an act at all, was it? This was real. No one could act so well. He conjured up every bit of energy he still had and started to struggle. Part of him knew it would be no use at all, but he could not do nothing while he was about to die. He was a warrior and that meant that he would not go down without a fight.

But his struggling was pathetic and he knew it. He was far too weak and Lucas far too strong. It wasn't much of a contest and he was all too aware of that.

Morgana snorted at his attempts. 'Take him inside,' she ordered.

Arthur was manhandled to the nearest building, which he had not even noticed until Morgana mentioned it. It was nothing more than a large barn, standing in what looked to the middle of nowhere. All he could see where fields and a bit of forest far off in the distance. There were no houses nearby, no people to be seen.

He still tried to resist Lucas's hold on his person, but he didn't even seem to feel all the effort Arthur put into it. He dragged the king with him into the barn, after which Hogan closed the door and bolted it. There was no way out.

The place had most likely been in disuse for years. There were cobwebs all over the place and it was dusty too, but somehow it seemed to fit this new Morgana. The old one would have shied away from places like this, scared that some of her precious dresses might get dirty. This new one leaned against a dirty wall without hesitating and somehow it helped Arthur to see the difference in her, to make a difference between the kind and justice loving woman he had grown up with and this evil witch bent on his destruction.

'What happened to you, Morgana?' He had been meaning to only think it, but the words came out of his mouth anyway. 'I thought we were friends.' The question came right out of his heart. He had never wished her ill, had never even hurt her. He had not known about her magic until she had used it for evil, but he knew for sure he would never have been capable of harming her in any way. He would have accepted her, magic and all, like he had done Merlin. So how did she come to hate him so much?

'As did I.' The reply was soft-spoken, almost vulnerable, but the hard edge found its way back into her voice almost right away. 'But alas we were both wrong.'

It struck him then. She looked at him and saw only Uther. 'You can't blame me for my father's sins,' he told her. Quite frankly, the notion was ridiculous.

'It's a little late for that, don't you think?' she sneered. 'You've made it perfectly clear how you feel about me and my kind.' She looked at him as if he was the single most disgusting thing she had ever laid eyes on. 'And yet you allow a sorcerer of your own to do your dirty work for you. Tell me, dear brother, how long have you used Merlin for your own ends, used him to kill his own kind? How did you manage to turn a sorcerer to aid you in your precious war against magic?'

It was more like Merlin had used himself to do all those things Arthur would probably never know about. 'You're wrong, Morgana,' he told her, all the while wondering why he was even trying to reason with her when it was obvious that she would not listen, no matter what he said.

'It's all words, Arthur,' she scowled. 'You're not as different from Uther as you'd like to think.'

Arthur knew that. He knew he had made mistakes. Magic was still outlawed in his kingdom, but before Morgana showed up in London, he had already been planning to change that. He was not his father. But looking at his half-sister now, he could tell that she was. She may not resemble their father in looks, but deep down they were so alike that it frightened Arthur. They were equally cold, calculating, passionate about the things they cared about, ruthless in their ways of achieving them.

'Nor are you,' he told her. Somehow the fear of dying seemed to have left him. He had all but forgotten about the presence of the two others in the room. Now all he felt was sadness and regret for what could have been if they had all acted differently. Where had they gone wrong and was there anything Arthur could have done that would have avoided them ending up here?

But this had been the wrong thing to say. The look in Morgana's eyes hardened and she backed away from him as if he had physically hit her. Had he believed that there would still be a way to turn back the tide, that hope was now gone. All he could see was this witch, this stranger as she held out her hand towards his chest. 'I'm going to enjoy killing you, Arthur Pendragon. Not even Emrys can save you now.'

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Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.