Hello, all! It's time for another flash fiction. When I looked at this photo, the first thing I thought of was Albion's Circle, my Arthurian-inspired series, and the lives the characters lived in the past. So I went with that--a little piece from the world of Albion's Circle and their first life in Camelot. 🙂
I walked through the corridors of the castle, heart heavy and vision blurred with tears. Only days before I had been longing to be here, sore and weary from the countless nights of sleeping on the ground and drawing upon my magic more than I ever had before. I just wanted to return home. Return to Camelot. And now, here I was. The battle was won; Mordred had been defeated.
But at what cost?
When this began, when we formed the Circle, we had all agreed Mordred needed to be stopped no matter the cost. And every one of us had known the price would be a hefty one, that we’d have losses.
I knew better than most—often waking up drenched in sweat and physically ill from the visions I’d had. Visions of blood, pain and death. But I had never imagined it would end like this. Nor how cold and empty I would feel when all had come to pass. I pulled the heavy red cloak more tightly around me. I didn’t think I’d ever be warm again.
Now that I was here again, it didn’t feel like home, anymore, and I wanted to be anywhere but here. Thank the Goddess I didn’t have to stay. Once I did my duty and completed the task that had fallen on my shoulders, I could put as much distance between Camelot and me as I could manage.
I squared my shoulders as I approached the throne room. The guards pulled the large doors open, heads bowed respectfully as I strode past. Unlike the last time I’d been here, the room was empty, save the woman who waited. The queen.
My gaze immediately fell on the unoccupied throne beside her, and tears threatened again as the air left my body in a whoosh. Darkness edged my vision, and my magic vibrated along my skin, pushing out, wanting an outlet for the anger and grief welling up.
“Lady Morgana.” Queen Guinevere stood, hands clasped in front of her.
Annoyance flared at the formality of the greeting, considering we were alone, but I pushed it aside as I lowered into a low curtsy.
“Your Majesty,” I murmured.
“You bring news?” she asked, moving down the two steps to stand directly in front of me.
I rose and inhaled deeply, again quelling my irritation. I had no ill feelings toward the queen—my brother’s wife—but I was exhausted and had little patience for foolish questions. I wouldn’t be here if I had no news. I wouldn’t leave the battle if it continued, and she knew that. Or she should.
“I do,” I said tightly. “It’s over. Mordred is dead, his army defeated. Albion is safe.” I closed my eyes, trying to be strong enough to say the next words. “Arth…” My voice cracked. “King Arthur fell in battle, Your Majesty.”
Her gasp echoed in the large chamber and I opened my eyes to see her stumble back, one hand pressed to her stomach, the other covering her mouth.
“We suffered many losses, but we—”
My magic snapped outward and a loud crack exploded behind Guinevere. She spun around, face pale, tearful eyes wide, to see the throne she’d been sitting on when I entered split in two on the stone floor.
I struggled to contain my errant power, too fueled by my emotions. I may not have completely understood my brother’s marriage and the arrangement he had with his wife, but I never considered it my business, and even as upset and grieved as I was, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Not even the woman who wasn’t adequately reacting to the news of her husband’s—my brother’s—death.
I ignored her fearful and questioning gaze. “Your lover is well and safe. As Arthur’s first knight, he was delayed in returning to your side by his duties.”
“Morgana,” she whispered brokenly.
“Gwaine, Owain and Erek fell,” I continued, reporting the Circle and the loyal knights who had bound themselves to us. “Percival was wounded but is on his feet and aiding Lancelot. Galahad is well but won’t return to Camelot for some time. He is caring for Merlin.”
“Merlin?” she interrupted. “H-how badly is he injured?”
“He’s not injured. Not physically.” I met her eyes. “Anna is dead…by Merlin’s magic.”
“What?” She shook her head. “That’s not possible. He would never harm Anna.”
“I never said it was intentional. He was consumed by Arthur’s death,” I said pointedly. “He had no control of his power and would have destroyed everyone on that field—friend and foe alike. If not for Anna. She took the magical blow.”
Guinevere gaped, tears streaming down her face. “But I don’t understand.”
“You don’t understand what, Your Majesty?”
“Why wouldn’t Merlin—and Galahad—return to Camelot?”
“When he realized what had happened, that his Anna was gone—at his hand, no less—he went mad. It took everything I had magically to bind him, to prevent him from doing the very thing Anna had given her life to prevent.”
“I still don’t understand, Morgana,” she bit out, shaking her head. “Why would you not bring him home? Where he belongs, where he is needed?”
“Is that your worry? That Camelot’s Magical isn’t here to aid you in your rule?” My magic swelled, crackled on the air. My cloak rippled around my body and my hair lifted off my shoulders.
“That isn’t what I meant!” she protested. “I won’t lie and say I’m not concerned about the vulnerability of the kingdom without its king and without the protection of its most powerful Magical, but my concern for Merlin and his wellbeing is greater.”
I believed her, and that fact alone calmed my magic.
“You didn’t see him, Guinevere,” I said, dropping titles and formality. “He lost his king and his love—he lost two parts of his soul. Losing one would have been enough to break him. Losing both… It may be too much for him to bear. I had to bind his magic and put him into a deep sleep. Galahad and I will watch over him and help him through this. Lancelot and Percival know where we are, if you’ve a need to contact us. I prefer not to tell anyone else our whereabouts. Not with Merlin so vulnerable.”
“Not even me?” she asked quietly.
“You’ll be informed if it’s necessary. At this moment, it isn’t.”
She straightened her spine and pulled her shoulders back. “I could order you to tell me. I am still your queen.”
I smiled humorlessly and looked past her, waited until her gaze followed mine to rest on the ruined throne.
She turned back to me and stared at me silently for a moment, then she dropped her eyes. “Are we enemies now, Morgana?”
“No. You are my queen,” I said. “I will follow you as loyally as I did my brother. But you would do well to rule as he did. He never tried to force my hand simply because he sat upon the throne.”
She nodded but kept her gaze on the floor. “I…I shall try to do well, for Arthur, for Camelot.” She cleared her throat and lifted her hand to swipe at the tears skittering down her cheeks. “I’m afraid, Morgana. I never thought I’d be alone in this.
I forced myself to step forward, to see past my own riotous feelings and sympathize with her. The woman who had been given to a king to strengthen alliances, her desire ignored in the arrangement. The woman who had become a strong friend and companion for my brother, even if there wasn’t great romantic love between them. The woman who now bore the full weight and responsibility of the crown.
“You aren’t alone,” I said quietly, placing a hand on her shoulder. I could be for Guinevere what Arthur would want me to be. A source of support, an ally she could rely on. I could…I would do this, in his memory. “You are never alone…sister.”
She brought her hand up to cover mine. “Thank you, Morgana. When I asked about Lancelot…” She swallowed audibly. “I meant no disrespect toward Arthur. I did love him; he was my greatest friend, and I feel his loss keenly.”
“I know. He really was the best of all of us, wasn’t he?” I inhaled deeply and squeezed her shoulder before stepping back and letting my hand drop to my side. “And you needn’t fear for Camelot and Albion. It is protected. You’ve powerful Magicals here with more returning soon.”
The corner of her mouth quirked up. “But they aren’t you, Merlin, and Anna. They’re not the ones I prefer to have at my side. Just as Arthur did.”
“No, they’re not, but they were trained by us and will serve you well.”
She nodded with marked reluctance. “Will you keep me apprised of Merlin’s condition?”
“Of course. I will send word as often as I can. And I should be on my way, now.” I dropped into a curtsy, ready to take my leave. “Be well, Your Majesty.”
“Will you return when we…” Her lips trembled, and she pressed them together a moment before continuing. “Will you return when we lay Arthur to rest?”
“If Merlin is well enough,” I said. “I’ve already said my goodbyes to my brother, but if I’m able, I will be here.”
“I’ll pray for Merlin, for all of you, as you heal,” she said quietly. “And I will hope for the quick arrival of the day comes that Camelot can welcome all of you home.”
I bowed my head slightly before turning and exiting the room, the chilling hollowness I felt earlier returning with a vengeance. I welcomed it, this time. Anything was preferable to the consuming ache of loss and overwhelming helplessness I’ve felt since throwing my magic at Merlin as we stood over the bodies of the two most important people in our lives. As I walked past the columns, I pulled the cloak’s hood over my head and pulled the fabric more tightly around my body, even though I knew it would warm me. How could it when the coldness was coming from inside me?