As soon as Gaius finished reciting the old creed, Morgana knew.
“They’re coming,” she breathed, swaying slightly as her eyes unfocused with the images swirling in her mind.
Arthur’s sharp gaze swung to her from where he was arguing with Uther about checking out the herdsman’s claims. Her eyes cleared, and she met his gaze squarely, nodding slowly.
“Very well. We’ll ride out immediately.” He abruptly yielded to the King’s insistence, striding away without waiting for a formal dismissal. He caught Morgana by the arm, steadying her under the guise of escorting her out. Merlin and Gwen were hard on their heels.
“My chambers. Now.” Morgana managed. She didn’t remember the journey there, only that when she opened her eyes, it wasn’t to the soothing blues and creams, but to the bold crimson and gold Pendragon colors.
“Arthur’s room is shielded.” Merlin said before she could speak, shooting the prince a warning glare. They had prepared for the eventuality that they would have to reveal Merlin’s magic, and after much argument and discussion, had come up with a cover story that would protect all involved.
“Please just listen to me first. What I’m about to tell you could put my life—and those of all I love—in mortal danger, were Uther to ever find out.” He said urgently.
Morgana closed her mouth on her instinctive imperious demand to know all, and Gwen joined them at Arthur’s table. Servant and Prince exchanged a long look, before Merlin took a deep breath.
“I have a twin brother. His name is Emrys, and he is a Druid.” He said slowly. Both women clapped a hand over their mouths in shock, and he shook his head. “Please listen. He has magic, as do I to a lesser extent. My mother sent him away to the Druids as a babe, for his own protection, when he began showing signs of his gift. I did not show the same signs until I was an adolescent, and they have only grown stronger as I matured.”
“So then, at Ealdor…” Gwen breathed, her quick mind putting together the missing pieces of a puzzle that had confused her until now.
Merlin inclined his head. “That was me, not Will that conjured the windstorm. However, it was safer to let everyone believe that the magic had died with my best friend.”
Gwen rubbed the back of his neck soothingly, causing him to smile wanly at her.
“So when you sent me to the druid camp. You meant for me to meet your twin.” Morgana stated quietly, regaining his attention.
Merlin breathed a silent sigh of relief; she was following the trail he had laid for her, as planned. “Yes.” He answered, turning to her. “If all had gone as planned, he would have taught you to control your powers, my lady. As it was, he was travelling at the time and I was unable to reach him before Uther sent the knights after you.” He met her gaze squarely. “I could not tell you of your gifts without revealing my own, Princess.” He said, deliberately using her title. “You were the king’s ward; I was a mere servant. I couldn’t take the chance.”
She stared at him, hard, those crystal green eyes assessing. After a moment, she released him, and he breathed easier. “I know, Merlin. I understand. We are all at the mercy of the king’s hatred and fear and obsession.”
Not wanting her to get wound up on that topic, Arthur broke in. “What did you see, Morgana?” He asked, returning to the subject that had brought them to where they were.
She paled. Morgause had warned her that the bracelet had limitations, and that if the dream was strong enough, it would push past even her magical defenses, so she knew her vision to be true.“They’re coming,” she whispered. “The Knights. And—“ she faltered. “At least one of us will die before this is done.”
“Not if I have anything to do with it.” Arthur declared grimly. “Stay here, you and Gwen. Get as many supplies packed as you can, and be ready to run immediately. If you have to escape before we return, we’ll meet you in the Valley of the Fallen Kings by nightfall. Understand?”
The women nodded shakily. Morgana stood and Gwen followed suit. The princess suddenly embraced her adopted brother, hugging him hard. Arthur froze for a second, before he slowly returned the embrace.
“Be careful, Arthur. We will await your return.”
He managed a semblance of his usual cocky grin as Merlin grabbed their packs. “Aren’t I always?” He said with a wink, disappearing out the door before either woman could retort.
“Morgana?” Gwen questioned softly once they were back in her chambers. “Are you all right?”
The princess managed a wan smile, her eyes distant. “Guinevere, take the supplies and Gaius and go to the Valley. Now!”
“But I can’t leave you—“
“You must! I saw my death this morning, Gwen! One of us must escape and warn Arthur and Merlin!” She cried. “Go. Now!”
The maiden reluctantly did as she was bid, leaving Morgana alone to wait. Dressed in breeches and a shirt, as she often did for her lessons with Gaius, she strode towards the physician’s chambers, even though she knew they were empty. Her lessons had progressed favorably enough that he now trusted her to stay alone in his rooms to make potions and tinctures while he and Gwen made the rounds in town or ventured into the forest to collect herbs.
Needing to keep her hands busy, she threw herself into the familiar routine, trying to keep her mind at bay. She wasn’t sure how this was to play out, for the only vision she had seen was of her, lying cold and lifeless in Merlin’s arms—before everything went black.
“I knew we shouldn’t have come! This was just a distraction to get us away from Camelot!” Arthur snarled, urging his horse to a faster pace. Merlin was hot on his heels, livid with frustration of his own.
They had gone to the ruins where the fires were supposedly lit—only to find that if they had been, the embers had long since burned out. Whomever had lit the fires had planned well though, and only warlock and prince had escaped the ambush of the undead knights, the prince unharmed and Merlin with a shallow cut—‘his first battle wound!’, as Arthur had declared it.
They slowed abruptly in the town square. Arthur swung off of his horse, going over to check a guard lying motionless nearby.
“Is he dead?” Merlin frowned. “I can’t sense anything.”
“No. Just sleeping.” The prince answered grimly. “Come on.”
They advanced cautiously on foot, weapons at the ready. They moved stealthily into the receiving courtyard, checking bodies on the way. The only sign of life was when a horse pulling a cart came clattering into the yard. Arthur caught it by the reins and gave a murmured command to stand, to which the horse dropped his head and snorted, relaxing into its stance.
“Find my father first; then Gaius and the girls.” He murmured, sensing Merlin’s nod before following his wake inside the castle.
The throne room was empty, as was the council chambers. They finally found the King in his room, slumped over a pile of parchment.
“We can’t just leave him here!” Arthur snapped, forestalling Merlin’s suggestion.
“Fine. But let’s at least move him to the bed, and then go check on the others first, without having to lug—I mean carry—the king too.” Merlin reasoned.
“He’s the KING!”
“And he’s safer here than with us until we figure out who and what exactly we’re up against!” Merlin retorted impatiently.
Arthur glared at the warlock, who remained unmoved.
“We’re wasting time here, Arthur. We found him. He’s safe. I’ll lock the door so that no one can get in. Let’s go find the girls and Gaius. We don’t have much time.”
The prince reluctantly allowed himself to be pulled away, and the warlock sealed the door with a murmured word. He had the foresight to set it to open at Uther’s touch, so that the king would be able to get out on his own, none the wiser.
Next stop was Gaius’ chambers. The physician was sleeping peacefully, and would not awaken, despite Merlin’s various spells.
“I don’t like this at all, Arthur.” He said grimly. “This is very strong magic, but it’s being sustained from some kind of external source. I can’t sever the link; it’s too tightly woven.”
Glancing around the room, he grabbed some books and a few vials at random. His eye caught one more of murky white liquid, and he eyed it for a moment before reluctantly adding it as well.
“There’s one being that might have the answers we seek.” Arthur stated grimly. “The dragon.”
Merlin winced; he had come to the same conclusion. “Let’s go.”
Unlike previous encounters, Kilgarrah was waiting for them when they emerged onto the ledge.
“None of your riddles this time.” Merlin warned, his temper and patience fraying quickly under his fear and worry. “What is this spell, and how do we break it?”
Kilgarrah’s eyes gleamed with triumph. “I have told you before, you and the young Pendragon both. Now you shall see. It is one thing to cast a spell to put everyone to sleep. The power to maintain it, however, is an entirely different matter. You will need more than just words to break this enchantment.”
“What do you mean?” Merlin breathed, although there was a growing coldness in his chest.
“You must eradicate the source, Merlin.” The dragon’s tone grew fervent with hunger.
“Great. What is it?” Arthur demanded impatiently.
“Not what, young Pendragon, but who. Such spells need a vessel, a constant living source to give them strength. The source of this pestilence is the witch. The Lady Morgana.”
“No,” Merlin breathed, but the prince again stepped up.
“How do we stop her?”
“That is easy, young prince. You must kill her.”
“The spell is so woven with magic of such power that even you two are not immune, “ Kilgarrah continued, ignoring Merlin’s outburst. “You must act now, before it’s too late. Kill the source, or convince the caster to undo it.”
Arthur pulled Merlin away, the dragon’s maniacal laughter drifting up behind them.