The Isle of the Blessed was a maze, Ros soon learned. Most of the buildings had collapsed and the ones that hadn't were close to it. They ran into a few blockades made by fallen walls on their way to where Merlin believed Morgana to be. The Section Chief was tempted to demand how the hell he even knew that, but refrained from doing so. It was not as if they had very much to go on apart from Merlin's intuition and now was decidedly not the time to argue.
And even she would have to admit that they were slowly getting closer to the centre of the Isle. She had a good sense of direction and they were getting to where they wanted to go. The only thing that she was not certain about was if that was where they needed to go. The Isle was larger than it had seemed from a distance and it had taken her less than two minutes to establish that there were hundreds of places the witch could be hiding out. She could be watching them this very minute from at least a dozen places and Ros would never be able to see her until it was far too late.
All this made her rather touchy-feely with her gun. The Section Chief knew that guns were not a lot of use against magic, but it was better than being entirely unarmed. And it would probably be a fair guess that Morgana was focusing her attention on Lucas, who was out there somewhere, alone and ridiculously vulnerable, something Ros feared. She should never have allowed him to do this on his own.
She quickly pushed the mental mute button before the sentiment could cloud her judgement any further. She was always quick to blame others for getting emotionally involved in operations, but now she had to be careful not to make the same stupid mistake. That same sentiment had driven her into Yalta's waiting arms after Zaf's disappearance and she remembered all too well the cost of that decision.
'Are we there yet?' Arthur's annoyed hiss sounded like a child getting bored in the car after just a five minutes' drive when there were still hours to go, but Ros found she was wondering about the same thing. They had been walking for at least ten minutes. Of course there had been blockades and dead ends, but she had hoped to be anywhere near their intended destination by now. And it did not exactly help that it was bloody difficult to see much with all those high walls around, crumbling or otherwise.
'Nearly.' Merlin's patience seemed nearly non-existent by now. 'One minute.'
Arthur at least had the good grace to shut up before Ros could tell him to in true Arthurian fashion. They followed the warlock through another set of alleys and hallways that were looking rather deserted. Merlin was leading, Arthur came after him and Ros covered their back. It was something that went without saying, but it was the best way to deal with the current situation. Both Merlin and Ros had weapons that were effective on a long distance, Arthur had not. The king only had his sword.
Merlin turned out to have spoken the truth. It hardly took them a minute and then the tall ruined buildings gave way for a large courtyard with an altar in the very middle of it. And the courtyard was not empty. Ros could see Morgana's back. The witch stood next to the altar, looking basically the same as she had been the last time Ros had seen her. Some meters away from her was Lucas, concentrated and looking like he was on top of his game for once. It reassured her more than she was ready to admit to even herself.
'Closer,' she ordered. It was obvious that there was a conversation on-going between the two; Ros could hear the sound of their voices and Lucas was doing most of the talking, but she could not make out the exact words, not even with the advantage the acoustics of this place offered. And she needed to hear it, needed to be there, just in case it all went wrong.
Merlin nodded and led on, directing them to a place closer to Morgana than to Lucas, from where they could hear the conversation and could hide behind a large piece of wall that might at some point have belonged to a building that now no longer existed.
'Then why are you here?' Morgana's voice was cold and wary. 'You're a traitor. You betrayed me to save my pathetic excuse for a half-brother. You're not on my side.'
Ros gave the witch a once over. She looked as determined and unyielding as Ros remembered her, but there was something different. It took her a few seconds before she had realised what exactly it was that was different: Morgana was still injured where she had been shot. And that was strange, because she was quite convinced a powerful witch like Morgana should be able to heal injuries like that within seconds. So why hadn't she? Was she weaker than Ros had been led to believe if she could not pull that off? But that question aside, the fact remained that Morgana was not at her full strength, weakened and needing the support of that sodding altar to remain standing on her own two feet. That was good news, even if she doubted it would have any effect on the strength of Morgana's spells. It did not seem very likely.
'I am on my own side,' Lucas replied. 'A rogue officer, as my former friends would call it. You see, they don't trust me anymore. My association with you has made me… unreliable, they think, dangerous even.'
Ros audibly sucked her breath in. That was a bloody dangerous game he was playing and he was treading a thin line doing this. Maybe this was even more dangerous than he had already done when he had first gone to Morgana with a false story. This, this was just the same, but this time the stakes were higher. And there was enough truth in his words to make Ros's stomach twist and turn. Because although these words had not truly been spoken out loud, Ros knew the sentiment was felt and to her shame even by her. And Lucas knew that. It was evident from the words he spoke and the way he spoke them. He was playing this too close to home and if she had known what he was planning beforehand, she would have forbidden him to go in.
But now, she could not bring herself to end this. Because, had she been in his place, she would have done the same thing. This whole showdown reminded her painfully of another showdown in an old manor, when she had been trying to convince Yalta that she was still on their sides with reasons that were entirely too close to the truth.
Her hands clenched around her gun, fully prepared to use it should she get any indication that Morgana was going to turn violent. The Section Chief had been preparing for several scenarios since the moment she had heard this was what they were going to do. The first one was that she was going to give Lucas the chance to deal with this on his own, as he so clearly wanted, and needed. Colleagues were okay, they had agreed, and she had to believe that he was, had to believe that Lucas knew what he was doing. He knew Morgana better than any of them, and that included Merlin and Arthur, who had known her for far longer. Lucas understood her on a deeper level, and while that was an enormous danger, it was also a huge asset if he could keep himself from sympathising with her.
But Ros was a spook, someone who had to plan ahead in order to keep her country safe and preferably stay alive herself, in exactly that order. There was always a worst case scenario and she liked to prepare for them. In this case that meant that she was prepared to pull that trigger and kill the witch should she do anything Ros considered a danger to her colleague. And she knew herself well enough to know that she would not lose sleep over killing that woman from behind. And if she would, it was nothing the occasional vodka couldn't sort.
But at first it would seem that she had worried for nothing. Lucas was holding his own better than expected given his recent ordeal and Morgana seemed to be a little more receptive to the possibility of the Senior Case Officer being on her side. She was actually starting to let herself believe that there was a real possibility that Lucas had made the right assessment with this and was close to turning her. Of course that was the moment it all went to hell.
'Where else do I go?' Lucas replied to Morgana's incredulous question why he had come to her, even if he was telling the truth and his own friends had turned their back on him. 'And you need me.'
Wrong thing to say. Ros knew it before he had even finished speaking and she involuntarily cringed inside. He had been too eager, had wanted results too soon. She could understand that. The temptation would be huge, the desire to end this enormous, but he ought to have known better than to try and go in for the kill this soon. This was asking for trouble, practically inviting it, and Morgana was still not entirely convinced. 'Fool,' she whispered under her breath. 'Bloody fool!'
Arthur and Merlin tensed as well when they saw Morgana's instant change in attitude. Where she had been suspicious in the extreme – almost to the point of plain old paranoia – but willing to listen, maybe even starting to allow herself to believe that she had an ally after all, she was hostile now. 'I don't trust you,' she snapped. It escaped nobody's notice that the hand she had used to lean on had left the altar. No doubt she was fully prepared to use magic, violent magic, unless Lucas somehow managed to talk her out of doing so. The fact that she had not yet attempted to blast him into oblivion was telling, but nevertheless Ros's fingers clenched around the gun.
Arthur did not have as much self-restraint. He was already on his feet and in the process of drawing his sword. 'Let's go!' he hissed at warlock and spy, clearly not understanding why they were not already standing and prepared to rush out like headless chickens to try and save the day. It seemed he was completely disregarding the fact that Morgana could magically kill him before he could get anywhere near her, but that was Arthur for you. He didn't think anymore the moment he thought his friends were in danger, whether it was them being in danger of an insulting campaign led by Richard Dolby or being killed by Morgana's magic. He just hurried to their aid and common sense had nothing to do with it.
'Arthur, no!' Merlin grabbed the nearest thing he could reach, Arthur's cloak in this case, to pull him back down to the ground unceremoniously. The king landed on his backside, very unworthy of a king, but at least it prevented him from doing something incredibly and life-threateningly stupid.
Arthur of course did not appreciate that. 'What on earth do you think you're doing?' he demanded. 'He's in danger!'
'You'll be in danger if you go out there now!' Merlin was positively furious and for just this once Ros could understand that.
'As much as I'd hate to say it, he is bloody well right,' she informed the king. 'If you rush out there now, she'll kill him. Give him a chance. He knows what he's doing.' Or at least he should know what he was doing. But it wasn't the same thing and Ros was painfully aware of that.
Arthur looked like he was going to protest, but Ros fixed him with her sternest glare – the one that had made Samir the I-really-don't-know-anything-else-I-swear-terroris t wet himself when she directed it at him – and he changed his mind.
Ros directed her attention to the scene in the courtyard again. Lucas had looked panicked for only a moment, but then he showed a relaxed smile. 'Do you really think I am going to sell you to MI-5?' he scoffed. 'Do you really think that? I am not welcome with them any longer. My loyalties are no longer with them.'
Now it was Morgana's turn to huff in disbelief. 'Because I am MI-5. I was MI-5 all those years in prison, I was MI-5 when I came back and I am MI-5 still.' From the tone she was saying those words Ros thought it a fair guess that she was quoting Lucas. She was both quoting and mocking him and it made Ros's stomach clench in something that might have been called fear if it wasn't a fact commonly known that Ros Myers didn't do fear.
Lucas dismissed it with another snort. 'That was before they turned their backs on me. You see, Morgana, loyalty needs to come from both parties in order for it to work. And it doesn't work anymore.'
'You are not loyal to me.' Morgana's tone of voice was accusing and for a moment Ros feared that she had made a mistake in not stepping in after all, but then Lucas diffused the explosive comment seemingly without any trouble at all.
'And you are not loyal to me,' he told her, holding her gaze, face a perfectly blank mask. 'I am not asking for loyalty. I am asking for an ally. You want Arthur Pendragon? Well, so do I. He turned his back on me when I risked my life for him. I want to make him pay for that. We share a common goal. My enemy's enemy is my friend. Isn't that the saying?'
Ros had to admire this, even if it was still all kinds of crazy. Maybe because it was so crazy Morgana would eventually fall for it. But even if she did, they would have to proceed with caution. The witch was no fool, no matter what Ros liked to believe, and she was wary to the point of being paranoid. Her trust could easily change into distrust within seconds if they did not play this right.
'You are offering me your services, yet you are not loyal to me?' Morgana did not seem terribly enthusiastic yet.
'I propose that we work together for the time being,' Lucas corrected. 'I do not have any interest in being loyal to anyone. Apparently such things do not work for me. And they do not work for you either, so why bother with them?'
Ros knew this was a side of Lucas that Merlin in particular feared, because it confirmed just about everything he had thought about him when this operation had first begun. It was the cold and calculating, the being prepared to do anything to achieve his own goals that frightened the warlock. Ros hoped to God he was not thinking about suspecting him of really wanting to join Morgana all over again. The Section Chief knew that he had no intentions of ever doing that. The events of the last two weeks had proven that beyond the shadow of a doubt.
For a moment she started to believe that this strategy was going to work. Morgana was just as ruthless as Lucas pretended to be. She would be drawn to that if Ros understood that witch at all. Lucas was displaying a similar attitude as she practised. It had to work.
But it didn't. Morgana shook her head. 'Because I need to work with people I can rely on. I cannot rely on you. You may be telling the truth, but you already betrayed me once. I won't risk you doing so another time.' And therefore I'll have to kill you. It were the words she didn't say, but the words they all heard.
This was what she had been fearing. And Ros Myers did something she did not often do: she threw caution to the wind and got out of hiding, pointing her gun at the witch. 'One wrong move and I'll splash your brains all over that altar.'
She was pleasantly surprised to see the startled look on the witch's face as she swivelled around to see who had spoken.
Merlin didn't know if he should think it stupid that Ros had spoken up, or if he should admire her for the bravery to do so. He could not deny that it was probably a necessary thing to do right now, but to go at the most dangerous witch in the history of mankind with only a gun for protection, that was either insanely brave or just downright stupid.
But Ros Myers was like Arthur in that regard: she had absolutely no reservations when it came to protecting her team at all costs, even if that cost was her life, which could well be the case if she insisted on being so reckless. Morgana's powers were impressive and lethal. If he needed any confirmation of that he only had to remember the station bombing. He did not recall the exact death count, but it had been high.
Arthur had already jumped up, craving the opportunity to do something, so Merlin followed suit. It would be no good to any of them if he sat back and did nothing while his friends got themselves into danger. And he was the only one on their side who could use magic and that was something they would need if they were to save this operation.
Morgana appeared to be startled and shocked as well. If anything, they had just discredited every word Lucas had told her, but since he was already in danger of getting killed, Merlin did not think that would matter. She recovered quickly though, facing them with something that might be called mocking. She did not believe that they were strong enough to take her on and recent events taken into consideration, Merlin was not entirely sure she had no reason to think that.
'It seems we have company,' she commented. She turned away from Lucas entirely to face the new arrivals, but her gaze was inevitably drawn to Arthur, who was walking just after Ros, trying to catch up with her. 'Welcome, dear brother. It has been so long. What do you think about my new lodgings?'
'Shabby,' the king commented. It did not escape that Arthur had drawn his sword and was holding it in front of him protectively. He would be right to suspect foul play on Morgana's part. Foul play was all she did nowadays, but a sword was not going to stop her from killing him. She had magic for that and ordinary weapons could do nothing to stop that. 'Keep your hands where we can see them, Morgana. It's over.' The tone of voice was cold and commanding, so very different from the pleading tone Merlin had heard in the barn, just before it all went wrong. Things had changed since then. There was no affection for her left now. Maybe there was, deep down inside, but if that was the case it was buried deep. Arthur was completely focused on the job now.
Morgana cackled. There really was no other word for it. 'You can't kill me!' She sounded almost incredulous. 'I am too powerful for you.'
This was a challenge, and one Ros was fully prepared to meet. She fired a bullet, but Morgana had seen that move coming long ago. Even before the Section Chief had started to pull the trigger, she threw her hand forward, muttered an incantation and there was a shield rising up in front of her. The bullet was deflected and landed somewhere on the stone of the courtyard, doing no damage to anything or anyone whatsoever. Ros cursed, and not quite under her breath.
Morgana only seemed to think it terribly amusing, if her laughing was anything to go by anyway. 'It won't work,' she informed the fuming Section Chief.
'Oh, I would not say that.' For some reason everyone had forgotten about Lucas the moment the three of them had barged in to keep Morgana from killing the spook. Morgana had even made the mistake to turn her back on him. And that this was a mistake became painfully clear now. While everyone had been distracted by Ros's failed attempt to shoot Arthur's half-sister, Lucas had sneaked up on Morgana and had grabbed her hands, holding them so that she could not use them to direct her spells.
This plan however had one fatal flaw. Morgana might have it easier if she had the use of her hands to do magic, but it was not necessary. Her magic closely resembled Merlin's. Neither of them needed to have their hands, their mouth or their eyes to do magic. It was instinctive. They could be bound, gagged or blindfolded and still perform every spell they could under normal circumstances, be it a little less accurate. And Morgana would know that, he supposed. She knew she was powerful and she would use that power to her full advantage, Merlin knew.
Or maybe she did not know, because the mocking amusement had left her eyes the moment Lucas had grabbed her hands. There was a glimpse of something, fear, panic maybe, in her eyes before she got a hold of herself and hid it behind some mask or other. But the smirk was gone for real.
Lucas stood behind her, holding her against him, preventing Morgana from moving. The warlock did not think she could move at all if he did not allow it. The spook was physically stronger than Morgana, quite a bit stronger. And Morgana was already weakened by her injury, an injury that she for some reason either had chosen not to heal, which Merlin thought unlikely, or had been unable to heal. That too did not make much sense, but maybe there was something about the weapons from the twenty-first century that was different for sorcerers. He didn't know and at the moment he was not truly inclined to spare it much thought. It was just the way it was and that was what he needed to deal with now.
'Do it,' Lucas said. He had locked eyes with Ros, giving her a curt nod. His face was carefully wiped blank, no emotion visible on it.
Maybe that was why Merlin was so surprised to see emotion on Ros's. Her hands were shaking slightly and if he had not known better he would have said that there were tears in her eyes. What on earth was the matter here? Ros Myers, crying? Why would she do that? Why would she hesitate? Morgana was clearly not aware that her magic could also be used when she was being restrained and that was giving them the best opportunity they had had since the start of this entire operation. And Ros didn't seem like the person to have much trouble with shooting people. Merlin had taken her for the kind of woman who could kill a person without batting an eyelash and then go on with whatever it was she had been doing before, not sparing the killing as much as a second thought.
Lucas too could see the hesitation. 'Shoot her, Ros,' he snapped at his colleague.
But Ros did not shoot. She just stood there, gun at the ready, but not moving. It was almost as if she had frozen into place. And it refused to make sense to him. Why did she not shoot? She had the chance now!
His eyes strayed to the gun and then the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. He recalled the first time he had seen a gun being fired the day they had first run into the spooks and their suspect. The terrorist – or at least Merlin suspected that he was one – had fired his own gun, but because Ros had dived at him at the same moment his aim had been off and the bullet had most likely ended up somewhere in the forest instead. But Merlin had magically slowed down the time and seen the force and speed with which aforementioned bullet had gone up into the air, remembered thinking that such a weapon could cause untold damage to the human body.
And if there was such speed behind such a weapon, would that bullet then simply stop once it was embedded in a body or would it go on, regardless of what stood in its way, harming whatever it could before it lost its speed and crashed to the ground? Ros's current behaviour seemed to suggest that it would be the last option. And in that case she would kill Lucas as well as Morgana the moment she pulled that trigger. After she had gone to the extremes to keep her colleague alive, it was wholly understandable that she did not want to be the one to kill him, even if it meant killing Morgana with him. Even now that Lucas seemed prepared to lay down his life if that meant they could kill Morgana, Ros was clearly not prepared to do it.
And that hesitation cost them. Morgana may not be aware of the possibility of using magic without the use of her hands, but she did not need her magic to fight. She had been trained to along with Arthur from a rather young age. And Lucas did not know that. So when she kicked his legs unexpectedly, he cursed and foolishly let go of her hands. Morgana used that opportunity to fling him away from her. Lucas landed several metres away from her on the hard stones. He did not seem unconscious, but the fact that he did not get up was not a very good sign.
And Morgana knew that. She laughed at them. 'You cannot stop me,' she informed them. 'None of you can!' She spoke those words in a way as if she knew something none of them did, never a good sign with her.
Ros still had her gun aimed at Morgana's head and now Lucas was no longer involved, her hands were no longer shaking. She was fully prepared to fire again if Morgana gave her as much as half a chance.
'Can't or won't, Morgana?' To Merlin's surprise it was Arthur who spoke up. He had been remarkably quiet throughout the entire encounter, but he hadn't missed anything.
The witch seemed far too relaxed and at ease for this situation and it made Merlin's stomach twist itself into knots. This was not good. 'Oh, I think you wouldn't, dear brother,' she said mockingly. 'You're too soft-hearted to do what it takes. But even if you would, you couldn't.'
For a moment Merlin stupidly wondered if she had spent time with Kilgharrah and if that was the reason she was suddenly speaking in riddles, but then he remembered that Kilgharrah was more likely to burn her to cinders than he was to give Morgana advice. It did not solve his question, though. And what on earth did she mean?
Arthur's thoughts seemed to have been running along the same lines. 'Why is that?' he questioned.
Morgana's trademark smirk returned. 'Because you are not Emrys,' she explained. 'It has been foretold that he is my destiny and my doom. You are not him. You can't harm me.'
But I can. Merlin felt like he had been whacked over the head with the cook's finest frying pan, the impact of Morgana's words was that huge. He had no idea where Morgana had learned of these words, but it only confirmed what he himself had already suspected needed to happen. He had to be the one to put an end to Morgana.
He already knew Arthur was not the man to do it. He would do it when necessary, but he would hate himself for it afterwards. And really, Arthur should not be forced to kill his family. There was something completely and infinitely wrong with that. Killing one's own family was frowned upon in every society Merlin had ever heard of and Camelot was not an exception. This could be asked of no one.
Lucas was currently in no condition to do anything. He was slowly trying to work himself into a sitting position, but he was looking rather cross-eyed from his encounter with the stone floor. It was a good thing that he could not see any blood, but the spook could still very well be concussed. At any rate he did not look like he was about to be moving anytime soon.
Ros was a more likely candidate for killing Morgana and she looked actually like she would like to do nothing better than put a bullet in Morgana's brain. She had already attempted to do so and her gun still had to be lowered. And Ros Myers was a dangerous enemy, someone no one wanted to be on the wrong side of. And Morgana had gotten on her bad side by abducting and torturing someone Ros believed herself to be responsible for. It was almost a plea to be killed, because Ros was nothing if not protective of her team.
But the Section Chief did not have any magic. Morgana had already proven that she could easily take on that gun. Had she felt so inclined, she could have killed Ros in the same movement. But she had not and that proved that she was playing with them. She didn't think they stood a chance against her and she was enjoying that fact far more than she should.
And that only left Merlin. It was more or less his mistake that Morgana had become like this, because if he had told her about his powers when hers first started to reveal themselves, then she would have had someone to turn to and things might have turned out altogether different. Now it was up to him to correct that error and apparently it even fit with some prophecy Morgana had heard. And Merlin by now knew better than to disregard those.
'You're wrong, Morgana.' He was a little shocked to hear how calm he sounded, how in control and at the same time distant as well. It was almost as if someone else was speaking.
Morgana snorted. 'Arthur is Emrys? Please, Merlin.' Her attention was now focused on him. She did not seem to think any of the others particularly important. Thus far her eyes had never left the gun in Ros's hands, but they did now and she did not even seem to be fully aware of that.
'No, Arthur is not Emrys,' he admitted, still in that cold tone of voice. It did not even really sound like him. 'But I think you know who is.'
Morgana for a moment looked completely confused.
Merlin decided to provide her with some extra information. 'Did you not think he looked familiar in some way?' The longer he talked, the more her attention would be drawn from Ros and her gun. Her eyes still occasionally flashed in the Section Chief's direction, every time Ros seemed to be about to pull the trigger. And so it would be up to him to make Arthur's half-sister forget about the gun. And he thought he knew exactly how to do that. 'You always thought the eyes were like the eyes of someone you knew, that the insults were sounding remarkably like someone else's,' he went on. 'You already know that I have magic, that I have been thwarting you at every turn. Did you truly never realise?'
The realisation dawned. Merlin could see it in her eyes. There was shock, understanding, but disbelief as well. 'Impossible…' she whispered.
'Not impossible,' Merlin disagreed. 'I am Emrys.' For some reason it felt liberating to finally say it, to finally stop hiding who he was all the time.
Morgana's eyes widened. She openly stared at him now and with something of fear as well.
It didn't last long. A shot rang out. And Morgana was too late. Ros's bullet had already hit her body before she could even launch a defence.