The prince ignored him, quickening his pace. The warlock tried again.
“Shut up, Merlin!” The prince slammed him suddenly against the wall, his hand hard over his mouth. “I know what you’re going to say. We’re not going to kill Morgana. But I wasn’t about to tell that old lizard that. I have a plan, but I need your help. Right now, that means getting back to Gaius’ chambers unscathed. Which we can’t do if you’re yammering on. Get it?”
Baffled, the warlock followed in his wake without protest. When they were back in the physician’s chambers, the prince went directly to the shelf of vials and began inspecting them.
“Now will you tell me what—“
“Do you remember when the troll put that enchantment over my father, and we had to make him cry in order to break it?” Arthur interrupted pointedly, before returning his attention to the shelves.
“Yes, but—Oh!” Merlin’s eyes widened. Jumping up, he joined his liege at the wall and grabbed the right vials, and then hesitated. “Morgana will never go along with it.”
“Yes she will. There’s still enough of the old Morgana in her to be loyal to us. Besides, she won’t allow innocents to be harmed. She’s too much of a healer now to do anything else.” Arthur replied with certainty, pulling him away.
Armed with their knowledge, it really wasn’t a surprise to discover Morgana hiding in her chambers rather than safely away in the Valley as Arthur had ordered. The prince gave silent thought to the hope that Gwen was at least safe, even though Gaius was not with her, before he and Merlin turned to confront their companion.
“Morgana THINK!” Arthur urged. “Did anything out of the ordinary happen? Did you have another vision?”
He was trying to give her an opportunity to plead her innocence; to show evidence that she was just another pawn in Morgause’s game instead of a willing accomplice.
Her eyes widened. “Yes!” She breathed. “Morgause. I’ve been meeting Morgause in the forest, and she’s been teaching me magic, but I thought it was all a dream! And then she sent me a note somehow, and I wasn’t going to go meet her in the forest, but somehow I did anyway, and she placed a spell on me—“
“We found the spell in one of Gaius’ books.” Merlin interrupted quickly. “According to what it says, you are the source of the spell, Morgana. Kill the source, and the Knights die with it. She set you up to die, my lady. Morgause isn’t to be trusted. She only cares about herself.”
“But she told me that we were sisters!” She said imploringly. “Why would she do that to family, especially when we both have magic? I don’t understand.”
“She wants to bring back magic to the realm.” Merlin replied with a sigh. “And like too many others, she believes that the only way to do so is by getting rid of the Pendragons.” He glanced at the prince. “That used to mean just Uther and Arthur, but now you are a Pendragon too. Perhaps she wanted an out In case you didn’t go along with her plans.”
“I want magic returned to the realm, it is true.” She said bluntly, shooting Arthur a defiant glare. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean I want Uther dead, either.” Her defiance wilted slightly. “Morgause wasn’t kidding when she said that if I was with her then I was against Uther. I don’t want to die…” she whispered, looking defeated.
“You’re not going to.” Arthur said firmly, eyes hard with resolve. “Morgause just has to believe that you did.” Merlin rummaged through his sack, and handed the prince the vial. He held it out to his sister. “Here’s what we’re going to do…”
It didn’t take long for the potion to work, and mere minutes after that for Morgause herself to appear.
“Morgana!” She cried upon seeing the girl lying motionless in Merlin’s arms. “What did you do to her?” Her eyes flew to the empty vial with the skill and crossbones on the label lying on the floor nearby. “You poisoned her! Why?”
“It was the only way to get your attention.” Merlin replied evenly. “Call off the knights, or Morgana’s sacrifice will be for nothing.”
“Sacrifice! You betrayed her!”
“No more than you did by using her as the unknowing vessel for your evil magic. Call off the knights.”
“You dare to threaten me!”
“I dare may things, sorceress. Call off the knights. End the spell. Now!”
He could see the need for revenge conflicting with the need to save Morgana in her eyes.
“Tell me what you used and I can save her!” She demanded, ignoring his order. Incensed, she shot a spell at him, trying to force him to do her bidding. The blood red beam split in two a yard in front of Merlin and Morgana, dissipating harmlessly away.
“What is this foreign magic!” She gasped. “It does not come from you—you are a just a serving boy! Where did you get such a protection?”
“Call off the knights and end your spell.” Merlin repeated, ignoring her question. Morgana lay deathly still in his arms and he gritted his teeth, mentally counting the minutes. Too much time had been lost arguing with the witch, who still stalled.
“I won’t tell you again!” He snapped. “I can still save her, but only if you stop your treachery.”
“I won’t forget this, Merlin,” she seethed, but did as she bid. The foreign words rolled off of tongue, strangely beautiful and haunting despite the intent and harm they caused. Merlin listened carefully. Out in the hall, the sounds of fighting had ceased.
Pulling another vial out of his pocket, he uncorked it and gently tipped the contents into the unconscious Princess’ mouth.
Her eyes fluttered, then opened, color returning to her cheeks. He shook his head slightly and she remained silent at his signal.
“You harmed no innocents, and for that I give you this one clemency. Go.” He snarled, eyes flashing as he glared up at the sorceress. “Be gone before Uther and his men find you. But be forewarned, Morgause. Camelot and all its people are protected by the warlock Emrys. Do not think you can cross him and win.”
“Emrys is just a legend,” she scoffed. “You’re nothing but a whipping boy to the prince. What do you know of legends and warlocks?”
The castle rumbled ominously. Merlin smiled. “Do not mistake subservience for weakness. Not all is as it appears. Threaten me or my brother again, and we will not be so merciful.”
The king, prince, and guards burst in just as she screeched another spell and disappeared in a swirl of dust and wind.
Morgana stirred in his arms, and he looked down at her with a smile.
“Did it work?” She whispered.
“Yes. She’s gone.”
“For now.” Morgana breathed, exchanging a long look with the warlock before her eyes drifted shut once more.
“Morgana!” The king shoved past his son in his haste to get to the princess first. Merlin quickly yielded his place, joining Arthur over to the side away from the chaos.
“It worked, just as we planned.” He told the prince in a low voice. “Morgause now believes that Emerys is my twin brother, so she’ll probably try to use me get to him. Me. Whatever.” He shrugged lightly. “She’s probably gone off to lick her wounds, I suppose.”
“Why can’t things ever be simple with you, Merlin?” Arthur sighed, rolling his eyes. “We’ll deal with that if and when it comes. Together.”
They turned their attention to the others, specifically the king who was wildly demanding answers.
“I believe that it was an attempt to kidnap the Princess to use as leverage.” Arthur said as Morgana hid a wince but remained silent. They had discussed this conversation before putting their plan in motion. She didn’t like it, but it was better than telling Uther that he had actually been the sorceress’s main target. “We destroyed the source of her magic. She barely escaped with her life, although we will remain vigilant.” Arthur said firmly, exchanging a look with Morgana, Merlin, and Gwen behind his father’s back. They all knew this wasn’t over—not by a long shot.
The witch had indeed escaped, but she hadn’t left Camelot.