Characters: Morgana, Gaius, Merlin (Arthur, Gwen)
Warnings: No more violence than you’d see in the show
Spoilers: 1x07 The Gates of Avalon, general for season 1
Word Count: 4027
Written For: liminalliz
Prompt: Morgana finds, embraces and blossoms into her magic
Author's Notes/Summary: A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Best your enemies learn that early. Beta’d by significantowl and backup_mars
A Little Knowledge
She dreams of a girl with beads in her hair and a staff in her hand, watching Arthur drown, and Arthur falls for her as he never has for any other girl.
She dreams of a man with golden roses on his shield, and he comes to Camelot, charming the women of the court for three days, then suddenly disappears, leaving Uther near death for most of a week.
She dreams of a woman, dressed head to toe in the palest of greens, standing over Gaius with a knife in her hand, and when she comes riding though the gate, Morgana lies to Uther about the woman stealing a trinket of Morgana’s to make him send her away.
She dreams of two men on white horses, with red ties in their black hair, moving through Camelot in the night, searching for someone. She waits for days for them to come, always at the window, watching people come and go until she feels she’ll go mad with the sight of white horses, dark-haired men, looking for someone who isn’t there.
And then, just as she has begun to believe it is nothing, she awakens to find Arthur and Gwen missing.
“Is it true?” she demands, sweeping into Gaius’ chambers. He’s bent over a book, and there’s no sign of Merlin.
“Morgana.” Gaius stands, closing the book as he does. “Should you –“
“Is it true?” she asks again. She should have gone to Uther, should be asking him, but his fear for Arthur frightens her. Anyway, she can’t ask her questions of him, even now. “Arthur and Gwen, is it true that they’re missing?”
Gaius sighs, nods. “I’m sure Arthur will look after her.”
Morgana paces to the window and back. She feels as though she will burst, too much inside her for her skin to hold it. She wishes she was Arthur, so she could give in to the urge to hit, to hurt, not Gaius, but something. “I know who has them,” she says.
“We don’t even know that they’ve been taken,” Gaius says, reasonable as ever.
“Gwen would not leave without telling me,” Morgana says. “Nor Arthur. Ask Merlin.” She knows it to be true. In the year since Merlin came to Camelot, it has become increasingly less common to see Arthur without him. If Merlin doesn’t know of Arthur’s sneaking away, then he didn’t do so. “Where is he?”
“Running an errand for me,” Gaius says, looking away. “How do you know?”
Morgana walks over to the bookcase, studies the spines. “I saw them,” she says quietly. The table beside the bookcase holds a selection of small glass bottles, and she thinks of the sleeping draft in her room, the one she hasn’t taken for weeks now. Gaius hasn’t asked her why not. “I dreamed of men creeping through the castle, they took Arthur. They didn’t intend to take Gwen as well, she saw them with him.”
“The mind –“ Gaius starts.
“It was not a trick!” Morgana insists, turning to him, the purple skirts of her dress swirling with the motion. “You told me, when Sophia was here. They’re not just dreams.” Gaius looks at her, silent and deferential, and she longs for Gwen, who believed her without question when she said she’d seen the future, and said nothing when she saw Morgana hide the trinket. “Are they?” she asks, quiet.
Gaius shakes his head, turning away to fiddle with jars on his bench. “I don’t believe so,” he says softly. “What you see…”
“Visions of the future,” Morgana says. She turns back to the bookshelves. “I borrowed a book from Geoffrey, about the oracles at Delphi. People went to them for advice, for answers.”
She watches Gaius nod again. She still has the book, tucked into the depths of a trunk, where no-one will think to look for it. She remembers reading it, the story more vivid than any memory, like reading a story of herself. “I’m like that.”
“So it would seem,” Gaius says. He still has his back to her and for an absurd moment, Morgana wants to go to him, offer comfort, though for what ill she cannot say. He is not the one who risks his life should Uther discover the truth of what he can do. “You say you dreamed of the men who took Arthur and Gwen.”
Morgana nods, turning slightly to look from the window into the courtyard. The knights are gathering there, ready to ride out in search of their missing prince. She finds herself looking for Merlin and makes herself stop. As though he would be with them when Arthur is not.
“They came to Camelot for Arthur,” she says, sure of it. They moved with certainty, directly to Arthur’s rooms, prepared to silence him with a draft.
“You dreamed this?” Gaius persists. Morgana nods again. “Who were they?”
She shakes her head. “Men, on white horses. They had black hair, they wore black clothes, and red ties in their hair. Two men.” She closes her eyes, trying to recall more. She could draw a picture of them, but it would tell them nothing, *nothing*, of use.
Gaius turns, watching her intently. “Where have they taken them?” he asks. Morgana shakes her head helplessly. What can she tell the knights? To look for two men, she doesn’t know where or who or why. Two men she dreamed of. “You must think,” Gaius says intently.
“I have!” Morgana snaps. “I should have said something to Arthur, or to Uther. He could have posted a guard for Arthur’s rooms…” She finds herself wringing her hands in helpless agitation and makes herself stop.
“I may have something that will help them,” Gaius says. “But I will need you to do something.”
“Anything,” Morgana promises. “Gaius, anything, to get them back.”
“I may have a way for you to control your dreams, to let you direct what you see. I’ll put you into a light trance, very like sleeping, but you’ll be aware of what’s happening around you.”
She thinks of Arthur, drugged into sleep and carried away, of Gwen, sweet-hearted Gwen who can never stand by when she thinks someone might be in trouble. Of Arthur, when Uther had her chained for speaking out of turn, coming down to her. She would do anything, for either one of them.
“Tell me what to do,” she says.
Think back to the dream. Two men in black, with red ties in their hair. Creeping through the castle. Subduing Arthur. Taking Gwen. Two men on white horses. Tell me where you are.
She’s standing in a doorway, looking down into the courtyard. Down, because she’s at the top of a flight of stairs. She’s still within the castle walls, and she doesn’t understand how they got so far without being challenged.
Don’t worry about that now. They’re in the courtyard, with Arthur and Gwen. Can you hear what they’re saying?
They’re not talking in a language she knows, and it’s quiet, a rush of hissed vowels and slow consonants. She steps out of the shadow, moving down the steps, closer. They don’t see her, too busy loading Gwen’s and Arthur’s unconscious bodies onto the horses.
Can you follow them?
They’re on horseback, moving fast. How do the guards not hear them in the night quiet of the castle grounds? They’re easier to follow than Morgana expected, out of the castle, out of Camelot.
Which way do they go?
Off the roads. Away from the woods, away from the rivers. Over the fields. She follows them, not sure how she’s doing it. Maybe this is all a dream.
Morgana, concentrate. Wherever they’re going, they’re probably already there.
It’s a village. Small, smaller than Ealdor. Only a few huts. Two small children sitting outside one, no other signs of life. They stop the horses outside the last of the houses, drag Gwen and Arthur down. They’re still unconscious. One of the men says something, and the other puts his fingers against Gwen’s neck. Nods. Still alive.
What else do you see? Where are they?
A long ride – the sun’s already up.
This isn’t the future. This has already happened –
Not now, Morgana. Concentrate.
It’s a village. A long ride from Camelot. Not in Uther’s borders. There are mountains. A river splitting, not far from the village. A tiny island, with trees.
I should go back to the village.
No, Morgana, you’ve done very well. You can wake up now.
Gaius is already at the bookshelves, pushing papers aside, when Morgana opens her eyes, almost surprised to find herself back in Camelot.
“Now where – ah. Yes.” Gaius pulls a scroll from the stack and unrolls it on the bench, pushing jars aside as he does. Morgana straightens up from where she’d slumped back into the arm chair, and goes over to join him. It’s a map, showing Camelot and the surrounding kingdoms.
She picks out mountain ranges, over the borders, then a river, a fork and an island. “There.”
Gaius touches his finger to the same spot, obscuring the name. “Yes. We must tell Uther.”
“Tell him what?” Morgana starts to her feet again, moving to the window. Uther is down there now, watching the knights. They’ll leave soon, and it will be too late. “That I saw two men in my dream take Arthur and Gwen to a village in another kingdom? We don’t even know why they took them.”
Gaius nods. “Perhaps…”
“I’ll go,” Morgana says, turning back to him. He already has his mouth open, to argue, she’s sure, but this, this is easy. “I know where they went, I’ll go after them.”
“Morgana, think about what you're suggesting,” Gaius says, coming over to take her hands, trapping her. “Even if you can find this village, what will you do when you get there?”
“I know how to fight,” Morgana reminds him. “Do you expect that Arthur will be pleased to learn he’s been captured, once he wakes up?” She doesn’t think of Arthur and Gwen, unconscious and being moved around like sacks of grain. Doesn’t think of what she saw having already happened, what that means. How much time has passed.
“You can’t go alone,” Gaius says.
“I’ll go with her,” Merlin’s voice says. Morgana blinks, and he’s standing inside the door, closing it behind himself though he must have been stood there for some time. “To get Arthur and Gwen,” he adds, as though she might have been speaking of something else.
To get Arthur and Gwen. Not find them, get them. Bring them home.
“Merlin-“ she starts, ready to swear him to secrecy, make him promise, but he cuts her off, one hand raised towards Gaius’ bench and its collection of small bottles and jars. He says something in a language she doesn’t understand, still looking right at her, and turns his hand up, a small blue jar that had teetered on the edge of the table now in his palm.
“I won’t tell,” he says, his face twisted into something like a smile, something she doesn’t recognise on him at all.
Getting out of the castle is the hardest part: they have to wait until the knights have all gone, watching from Gaius’ window where no-one will think to look for the king’s ward. Hiding is easier while the king is occupied with the knights. Once they’ve all left, he’ll think to look for Morgana, just at the moment that she needs him to not.
Gaius may think their plan is stupid and risky, but Morgana promises, wide-eyed and sincere, and Merlin just looks at him, innocent and pleading, and he sighs, says yes, and goes to distract Uther from looking for Morgana until she’s gone.
It still isn’t easy to get out of the castle, not with the crown prince missing, but there are some advantages to being the king’s ward. Chief amongst them the way that the guards will do as she asks, if she asks with a smile and the insinuation that the king has given permission.
They carry Gaius’ map with them, but Morgana doesn’t need to open it. The path is as clear as though she’s travelled it a thousand times before, and they ride in near silence beneath the beat of the horse’s hooves. They travel light – the village is less than a day’s ride from the court – but the weight of her sword, leftover from the fight in Ealdor, is a comfort against Morgana’s hip.
They stop less than an hour’s ride from the village, as the sun begins to set, already in agreement that they should attempt to slide in under cover of darkness. It may be the first time she’s ever been alone with Merlin for more than a few minutes, and it’s clear he finds it as strange as she does, fusing around their makeshift camp and looking up at her with smiles that are almost shy.
“Do you know of these people?” she asks him.
He smiles again. “I don’t know anything except that you saw where they took Arthur and Gwen.”
“You dreamed it,” he expands. “Gaius said you’re a seer, when Sophia was trying to steal Arthur away.”
No need to worry about Merlin keeping her secret then, when he’s been keeping it for longer than she’s been ready to allow that she has it. “Two men, dressed in black. Black hair with red ties in it, on white horses. They moved through the castle like they weren’t even there. No-one saw them.”
Merlin frowns at her. ”You’re sure? That no-one saw them? They weren’t just, you know, keeping to the shadows?”
“I’m certain,” Morgana says, and then she understands, can’t see why she didn’t before. “They used magic.”
Merlin nods, anxious and tense. “Maybe. Probably. Arthur doesn’t sleep that heavily.”
Morgana knows this well from attempted childhood pranks. “Can you –“ she starts, unsure what she means to ask.
“Am I stronger?” Merlin asks, looking at her. She nods; close enough. “Probably,” he says with a self-deprecating smile, and looks away. Morgana doesn’t turn her own head. She can’t stop looking at him, this boy who came from nowhere, who lives with Gaius and serves Arthur, telling her that he’s a stronger magician than two men who stole away with Camelot’s crown prince. She can’t imagine telling any of her own secrets so easily, especially a secret like this, one that would have him killed if Uther ever found out.
Except, of course, that Gaius must know, and Merlin would have known that Morgana has as much to lose from telling this secret as he does, whatever Gwen says about how much Uther cares for her. And it isn’t as though they don’t already have secrets shared between the four of them, fighting off the avanc and spiriting the Druid boy from the castle.
“Do they know?” she asks, not quite intentionally. “Arthur and Gwen, do they know what you are?”
“Do they know what you are?” Merlin returns, then, “my lady.”
Morgana waves the title aside. Like this, it seems irrelevant. “Gwen – suspects,” she says. It’s the closest word she has for Gwen, who believed her when she said she’d seen Sophia in her dreams, but allowed it to be forgotten when Morgana chose.
Merlin smiles wistfully. “That must be nice,” he says quietly.
Morgana thinks of Arthur’s tangled relationship with his father, how far Arthur will go to defy Uther for what he thinks is right, while still trying to be the son Uther wants him to be. She’s not sure she would trust this kind of secret to Arthur either, for all that she cares for him.
“Come on,” she says, brushing off her skirts as she stands. “Time to go.”
The village is dark as they slide in, but for one house, lit up inside. Morgana isn’t surprised to see that it’s the same one she saw in her trance, and she feels her hope rise.
“Are you sure about this?” Merlin whispers, nervous, as they crouch in the shadows, watching as nothing moves inside. Their plan can barely be graced with such a name, and Morgana’s not sure it can stand up to anything unexpected.
“Of course,” she says confidently. “Just stay behind me, and try not to let Arthur see you do any magic, if we need it.”
“Just like always,” Merlin says, so quietly that Morgana barely hears it over the slide of her sword from the scabbard at her waist. The weight of the weapon is only half-familiar in her hand. It hardly matters: these two strangers have Gwen, and there is nothing Morgana wouldn’t do to get her back.
And Arthur, she supposes, if only because the clear line of succession evidenced by his person means that Uther is less interested than he might be in finding her an advantageous marriage. And she might miss him, if he were truly gone. Though only a little, of course.
“Right then,” Merlin mutters at her shoulder, and they both rise.
Morgana would have wondered, two years ago, before Merlin arrived, at the silence of the village, the way the moonlight illuminates nothing but sleeping houses. That was before she spent two nights in Ealdor. Now, she’s simply grateful for it as they move the last few steps through the village.
She presses back against the wall, peering carefully through the open window. At first, all she can see is Gwen and Arthur, collapsed together in the middle of the room, unmoving. It’s that which makes her notice the flicker of movement in the shadows, a person sitting guard over them, dressed all in black.
This is it, then.
The door flies open at Merlin’s hand, letting Morgana sweep in, sword in hand, skirts fluttering behind her, and she knows exactly how dramatic it looks. “Take one step,” she tells the man, already on his feet and reaching for a knife, “And I will cut your throat.”
His hand keeps moving, and she takes another step inside, feeling Merlin drop beside Gwen and Arthur. “Do you really want to test me?” she asks, putting every ounce of purpose and iron and power into her voice. “When I go under the protection of King Uther of Camelot?”
The man laughs. “I took his son. Do you think his ward is any threat, playing at being a sword-bearer?” His accent is unfamiliar as the language he spoke, making Morgana wonder if he and his friend even come from this village. “You would make a worthy additional offering,” he says. “More so than the girl.”
“You will never have a chance to offer up either one of us,” Morgana assures him. His hand is on his knife, not yet drawing it, and she takes another step closer, easy under his contempt of her, until the tip of her sword is pressed to the base of his throat.
“You do not have the strength for killing,” the man says.
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Merlin says, close against Morgana’s right side, and she feels the air change, would swear to it, later. “About either of us.”
The man lifts his hand from his knife, reaching out towards Merlin, then his arm is flung back towards the wall of the hut, his body following, twisting, pressed against the wall. He cries out, inarticulate and full of rage, head thrashing side to side.
“He's right,” Morgana tells the man. “I would have no trouble killing you. None. Or letting him do it. I’m certain he would.” She spares a quick glance for Merlin. His eyes are golden, his face set and angry. “I don’t believe anyone would miss you.”
She lets the man hang for a long moment of complete silence, then lowers her sword. “But we have more important things to do.”
Merlin’s hand twitches, and a chain snakes from the wall, wraps around the man’s right wrist. The rest of his body sags towards the floor, and he cries out again, sounding pained. Morgana swallows the smile that wants to cross her face, pure satisfaction at his fate. She has, as she said, more important things with which to concern herself. “Merlin?”
“They’re alive,” he says. “Um, we should probably leave.”
Morgana spares one more look for the man, then turns, dropping to Gwen’s side. She looks as though she is sleeping, but for the bruise spreading purple across the side of her face. Morgana reaches out one hand to touch, feeling the warmth of Gwen’s skin beneath her palm, and Gwen stirs, takes a breath, opens her eyes.
“Morgana?” she asks, sounding sleepy, then blinks. “Oh no, did I fall asleep? I’m so sorry –“
Morgana cuts her off with a hand careful over her mouth. “You did nothing wrong,” she says firmly. “You were kidnapped, trying to help Arthur. Can you stand?”
Gwen looks around, eyes anxious. “Yes. Of course.” Her gaze flickers to the man chained to the wall, then to Morgana. “Of course,” she says again.
“Um, Morgana?” Merlin asks hesitantly. When she turns to him, he’s still half-crouched over Arthur, but he reaches out as though he’s going to take her hand. “Can you –“ He hovers one hand over Arthur’s shoulder, looks at her again.
“What is it?” Morgana asks, impatient. The other man must be nearby – sleeping, maybe – and they cannot linger.
“Put your hand –“ Merlin starts, then does take her hand, pressing it to Arthur’s shoulder, where his tunic has slid aside, revealing pale skin. Morgana’s about to pull away when Arthur starts, waking, looking right at her.
“Oh, my head,” he says. “What happened?”
Merlin is looking at Morgana, eyes wide and stunned, more than Morgana has time to deal with now. “Coincidence,” she tells him firmly. “We need to leave.”
“Right, of course,” Merlin says, shaking himself out of it. “Arthur, can you stand up?”
“Can I – of course I can stand up, Merlin, what’s wrong with you?” Arthur proves it, getting mostly steadily to his feet. Morgana helps Gwen rise, feeling Gwen lean in to her briefly as she straightens. She should have brought a wrap for Gwen to wear – the journey back will be long and cold through the night, even tucked together on Morgana’s horse.
“Excellent, someone thought to bring a sword,” Arthur says, ducking to take it, but Morgana moves faster, sliding it from beneath his reaching hand. “Morgana, now’s hardly the time to –“
He stops abruptly, but Morgana barely notices, already turning towards the back door none of them noticed, as it creaks open. “I will kill you,” she says to the man – the second man, the one she thinks hit Gwen. “Consider your friend a warning. You, I will kill. I followed you across two kingdoms for taking my friend, do you doubt what I say to be true?”
“Morgana –“ Arthur starts, stepping forward. On the edge of her vision, Morgana sees Gwen put out a hand to stop him, and Arthur do so, possibly too surprised by her gesture not to.
Morgana takes advantage of the man’s moment of distraction, stepping forward, the point of her sword against the man’s throat, drawing blood. “Do you doubt me?” she asks, lowering her voice, putting every part of the thing that lets her see the future, let her see him, into it, her voice as terrifying and untamed as her magic. “Do you want to test me?”
The man swallows, shifting the sword, and says nothing.
“Leave,” Morgana says, unmoving. “Take your friend and go far away. You will not find way into Camelot again.”
The rings of the chain fall away, and Morgana honestly can’t say whether it is she or Merlin who causes it.
Riding ahead of Merlin and Arthur, the sun slowly coming up over the horizon, Gwen leans into Morgana, her eyes almost closed. “How did you know where to find us?” she asks softly.
Morgana looks at the shimmering haze that could, perhaps, be Camelot coming in to view. “I dreamed it,” she says.