- Hello people! I am happy to introduce you to my third Merlin fanfic. Hope you enjoy it and leave a comment to let me know what you think.
She was the second ward of Uther Pendragon. For all her seemingly untameable personality, the people and the court love her; and so does the king. But he is also under the impression that her magic is permanently bound. Well...that's where he is wrong. *Prologue starts three years before Dragon's Call.
The searing pain she felt in her shoulder for the past few nights has appeared again. She could not understand why she felt it though; she sported no injury on her left shoulder blade where the pain was the hottest and strongest. Few strands of her ash brown hair got in the way as she undid the laces of her nightgown to take a better look at her shoulder blade. Still, there was nothing there but the small triquetra shaped tattoo that was the only reminder she had of her mother’s legacy.
Almost as fast as it came, the pain ebbed away. She let out a pained breath she was not even aware she was holding and fastened the laces again. It was in that split second when her eyes gazed at her reflection in the mirror that she noticed the flash of gold in her normally sea blue eyes. She drew in a sharp breath and took unconscious step back which resulted in her tripping over her shoes. Holding in the scream that would undoubtedly draw the attention of the guards, she fell hard on her back and heard a loud crack. Looking up, she saw the mirror broken in three large pieces but remained in the wooden frame.
Distressed but tired, she rubbed her temples to chase away the fast approaching headache; blew out the candle and returned to bed even though she was aware that she might not get any sleep at all after what happened. Despite all of her tossing and turning, the sleep claimed her little after midnight when the peaceful rays of moonlight brought her the magical serenity her mind screamed for.
The gentle knock on the door woke her up next morning and by the looks of things, it appeared to be little after dawn. Hair dishelved but nightgown still properly laced, she sat up in her bed and tried to rub away the sleep from her eyes.
“Come!” she called perhaps slightly louder than she intended to.
The door swung open and in came the king’s manservant Halwen. He was seven years senior and viewed by most as the most capable servant in the castle which is why he was king’s manservant in the first place.
“Good morning Halwen.” she greeted with small yawn she hid behind her hand.
“Good morning my lady. The king wishes to know if you are going to attend breakfast in his company.”
“So early? Is he going somewhere?”
“Not to my knowledge my lady. But the king did say that if you are too tired, he would understand.”
“No, no…I will attend. When is the breakfast?”
“His majesty said it can be at your earliest convenience.”
“Tell the king I will join him at breakfast in half an hour.
“Yes my lady.” Halwen bowed and left.
She had no maid and she wanted none. Ever since she arrived in Camelot as Uther’s ward three years ago it has been a subject of their constant debates. Whilst Uther time and again stated that it is a normal thing for her to have a maidservant, she would not even hear about it. She was perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
With that thought in mind, she all but jumped out of the bed and walked around her chambers in order to get ready. By now she has perfected her little system and it worked like a charm even though Arthur tried to sabotage her on many occasions. For a young man or arrogant man-child as she called him that has been knighted on his birthday, he did not behave like one when she expected him to.
She glanced one more time in the broken vanity mirror to make sure she was presentable, she made her way to the council chambers where the royal family shared meals. She nodded when she passed the guards and with the air of confidence around her, stepped in the council chambers where Uther was already waiting.
“Good morning Serena.” Uther greeted warmly, getting up.
To see him get up when another member of the family came in was rare and she was not certain what caused him to be so…well happy this morning.
“Good morning Uther.” Serena greeted back cheerfully as always.
Aside Morgana, she was the only one bold enough to address him by the name rather than a title and being able to get away with it. Although Morgana knew when not to call him by his name, Serena did not. The only times she called Uther ‘my lord’ or ‘your majesty’ was in official matters of the court and tournaments.
“You look bit pale this morning.” Uther remarked as he helped her in her seat.
“Oh I just had slight trouble falling asleep last night.”
“You should have called for Gaius.”
“Gaius needs his sleep too you know. It was just a small headache. Nothing some fresh air won’t help with. Besides, I think he should look for an apprentice. He is not as young as he once was.”
“You are right.” Uther agreed much to her surprise. “I shall discuss that with him later in the day.”
“Are you feeling alright?” Serena asked suspiciously.
“I feel just fine. Why?”
“You are…way too happy for such an early hour.”
That statement resulted in hearty chuckle from the king.
“Am I not allowed to be happy?”
“You are, you just rarely show it.”
“Nevertheless, I was wondering if you want to join me for a morning horse ride. I know you usually go with Arthur but since he is not here…”
“I have not chosen a horse yet.” Serena cut in with slightly subdued tone.
Even though he would never admit it, little less show it but it pained Uther to see his ward sad. The horse she owned up until few weeks was a gift to her from her late father and he had to admit that the animal was magnificent in every way and well trained. That is why he hoped that his gift would make her happy again.
“I know but it would a lot to me if you joined me. I would hate to go alone and I did postpone my council meeting for this.”
It was blackmail and they both knew it but she decided not to call him on this one. Truth is, after few weeks of attending to her duties of lady of Camelot, she yearned for some adventure and horse ride.
“Very well. I shall meet you in front of the royal stables in twenty minutes.”
Serena agreed and got up from her seat.
“Why don’t you just take a servant?”
“I told you why. Now since you already blackmailed me into horse ride, you might as well be slightly patient. I will join you shortly.”
Uther shook his head as he watched her go and beckoned Halwen to come closer.
“Make sure that Serena does not see her gift before she arrives to the stables.”
“Right away my lord.” Halwen scrambled out of the council chambers as another servant came in to remove the trays, goblets and platters.
The air was cold so it required of Serena to wear fur line cloak on her riding outfit that was by all means men’s clothing only custom made to fit her figure. She was well aware of the appreciative looks some of the knights sent her way but men at this point did not interest her much. And good part of that reason was Arthur and his small gang of arrogant bullies.
“Right, let me just choose a horse and we can be on our way.” Serena spoke once she met Uther in front of the royal stables.
“Actually, I was rather hoping you would like this one.”
Uther stopped her from going in and waved his hand toward the head stable boy that brought out from around the corner a beautiful stallion. The animal was black as night itself, tall and strong.
“He is beautiful.” Serena murmured, taking few steps toward the horse.
“I thought you might like him. The breeder suggested some other, tamer horses but I felt this one would be perfect for you. And I know you like to train horses.”
“Thank you, your guess was right. He is not trained?”
“Basic commands. Everything else you want him to know and obey; will have to come from your training.”
“Thank you. What’s the occasion?” Serena eyed him.
“He is your birthday present.”
“But my birthday is on Yule Day. That’s two months from now.”
“Well I couldn’t give him to you in knee deep snow. Although I have no doubts you will be riding him through knee deep snow.” Uther smirked.
“Of course I will. What is his name?”
“Thunder? Odd but strong name. It suits him.” She petted the stallion’s head and in one graceful movement jumped on his bare back. “I believe you said something about a horse ride.”
“But you have no saddle.”
“What’s wrong my lord? Afraid I could best you?” Serena teased.
“Never.” Uther declared with firm but amused tone before he mounted his horse and followed after his ward that already galloped away.
He shook his head and wondered if that girl would ever calm down. He guessed that only time would tell.
Chapter 1: Deflating's one egoEdit
“Lady Alwyn?” Serena looked up from where she was choosing herbs Gaius asked her to buy at the market so see Sir Leon standing beside her with worried expression on his face.
Although Uther disagreed at first, Serena managed to negotiate a deal with him to let her study healing under Gaius in exchange for her to finally hire a maid like every other lady of the court does. Albeit she used slight emotional blackmail to get the permission, she was not ashamed of doing it. After all, her mother was a renowned healer in their kingdom before she was brutally slaughtered before Serena’s eyes.
“Sir Leon. How can I help you this morning?”
Serena has been fond of the young knight ever since she came to Camelot and was first courteous enough to grant her wish to spar with her when she unexpectedly showed up on one of the morning trainings. This is why he was one of rare people amongst the nobility to whom she has always shown utmost respect and was extended the hand of friendship. In her opinion, whoever wanted her respect and friendship; had to earn it.
“I am sorry to interrupt you in your studies but I’m afraid we have small problem here.”
“What problem? Where?” Serena asked confused, turned the other way around to follow Leon’s line of sight to see Arthur swinging his mace dangerously close to the head of a boy he already came across with and had him thrown in the dungeons
Merlin. At least she thought that was the boy’s name. She was not certain because she returned to Camelot very late last night and only in passing heard from Morgana and Guinevere that there was a peasant boy Gaius took in as his ward that stood up to Arthur and his merry gang of self-centred noble bullies.
“Why can’t he spend his free time with the likes of you Leon? Look at him! Spoiled brat!” Serena motioned at the blonde prince.
“I really do not know how to answer that my lady.”
Leon’s natural kindness and politeness was one thing she always respected about him from the get go, even though there were times when it irritated her.
“Can you lend me your sword? I obviously did not bring mine with me.” She said, motioning to the basket and sling bag she had with her.
“What are you planning to do?” Leon asked suspiciously as he withdrew his sword.
“I am going to teach that brat a lesson. In front of everyone. Perhaps public lesson in humility will deflate his oversized ego.”
“Just do not inflict him any serious physical harm my lady. I do not have particular wish to explain the king how his son got wounded.”
“Ha! The only thing that is going to be seriously injured is his oversized ego; which by the way Arthur might take as far more serious injury than the real physical one.” Serena placed a tight grip on the sword and made her way through small crowd of people that stopped working in order to see the show their prince was performing once again in all his arrogant glory.
“Come on then Merlin! Come on!” Arthur taunted as he paraded the mace around, forcing Merlin to back away in the market stalls and trip over grain bag.
“You’re in trouble now.”
Arthur was about to take a swing at Merlin again but found his mace stuck. Looking over his shoulder, he saw furious looking Serena and his mace wrapped around the sword she held in her hand that did not move one inch.
“What do you think you are doing Serena?” Arthur asked, annoyed she interrupted his fun time.
“What am I doing?! What do you think you are doing, you spoiled brat?!” Serena spat angrily at him, disentangling the blade from the mace in one fluent movement and brought the tip of the blade beneath his chin.
“Have you been inhaling vapours of Gaius’ potions?”
“I am perfectly sane. Your intelligence on the other hand is quite questionable right now.”
“Whatever you say Serena. Would you please remove the sword? Something dangerous could happen with you holding it.”
“Fight me…or are you afraid you will be beaten by a girl.” Serena challenged, her face was dead serious and Arthur involuntarily swallowed.
“I do not wish to harm you.”
“Fight me! You coward!”
That set him off with angry growl and he lunged at her. Though his swings were still combat admirable, he was erratic in his movements because he was angry and she was well aware of that. Arthur was not very good in combat when he got angry for totally wrong reasons. She used that to her advantage though and manoeuvred around the enclosed fighting area easily. Every swing of his mace was answered with swing of the sword that passed way too close to Arthur’s skin for his comfort. After few minutes of exchanging blows, Arthur tripped over small wooden crate and fell to his knees, allowing Serena to take the opportunity and she used it to smack him with the flat part of the blade on his arse.
“That will teach you to think before you try to bully someone next time!” She timed her every other word with a smack before straightening up again.
“Thank you for your sword sir Leon.” Serena said as she handed him his sword back and looked where Arthur was still kneeling on the market floor with his eyes cast to the ground, probably feeling too ashamed to look up at his…’friends’.
“Do you not think you over did it a bit? Was the last part really necessary?” Leon whispered though he was barely restraining himself from laughing.
“He needed to be taught a lesson.”
Her eyes narrowed when she saw two guards grab Merlin to drag him down to the dungeons again.
“Wait.” She was surprised to hear Arthur speak so soon. “Let him go. He may be an idiot but he is a brave one. There’s something about you Merlin…I can’t quite put my finger on.” The prince added, gave unreadable look to Serena and walked away with his friend, bringing a satisfied smirk on her lips when she saw him rub his bottom absent minded.
Perhaps she should have invested slightly less power in the hits. Shaking her head, she told the gathered crowd to go on about their lives before picking up her things to return to the castle where no doubt Uther would be waiting for her to explain herself.
“My lady!” Serena looked over her shoulder to see Merlin running after her.
“I wanted to thank you for you help. You did not need to do that.”
“Oh yes I did. He needs to be taught a lesson. I’m Serena by the way.” She offered a handshake which he took with grin unlike she has ever seen before.
“I heard about you from Gwen in the passing. I hear you are Gaius’ ward now.”
“I am, my lady.”
“Oh please, call me Serena at any time. Except in front of the king.”
“I will keep that in mind, my…Serena.” He corrected himself.
“Good. Now can you do me a favour?”
“After what you did for me? Anything.”
“Can you take these supplies to Gaius? The guards will probably inform me that the king has demanded my presence the moment we come up in the citadel.”
“You are not going to be in trouble because of me, are you?”
“Oh don’t worry. I have my way of dealing with his whims. Now will you do what I asked you?”
“Of course.” Merlin took the basket and sling bag from her once they came to the citadel entrance stairs.
“Right. It was a pleasure meeting you Merlin but this is where we go our separate ways for now. I am certain I will see you at the feast tonight.”
Merlin gave her a small respectful bow and wandered off to Gaius’s chambers whilst she made her way towards Uther’s. She was in for an argument.
Chapter 2: The Witch's AriaEdit
As she approached the king’s chambers, she could clearly hear Arthur’s elevated tone coming from the inside. She rolled her eyes and bit her tongue from swearing as she passed the guards and came to the door. She was about to knock on the door but her fist remained frozen in midair as Arthur yanked the door open, gave her a death glare and stormed off.
“Come in.” Uther called.
Were her ears deceiving her or did he actually sound amused? Serena sighed and closed the door once she was inside. Without waiting for permission, she walked over to the cupboard behind his back and helped herself with some fresh water since she did not have any on her way over here.
“Now that I heard Arthur’s part of the story, perhaps you could enlighten me with your side of the same?” Uther suggested, waiting for her to face him.
When his son first stormed in, he wondered what could have possibly set him off on this warm and sunny day. But when Arthur told him what happened, he barely contained his laughter. Serena was in every way her mother’s daughter. After Arthur was finished with his rant, Uther promised him to deal with his wild ward.
“There is nothing to enlighten Uther. He needed a lesson. I was just around to give him one.”
“By humiliating him in front of his people?”
“He’s an arrogant bully who thinks he can do anything and get away with it.”
“That is my son you are talking about.”
“Exactly!” She snapped angrily, her eyes narrowed. “He is your son and you let him get away with.”
“How can you let him act like that? He knows no humility and his head is bigger than his body.”
“He is twenty. He will be of age next spring. Do you know what that means?”
“I am well aware of what that means, Serena.”
“Do you? He is to be made Crown Prince of Camelot yet he acts like a petulant ten year old.”
“I am certain when he gains more responsibility and duties that he will snap out of it.”
“First thing he needs to do is get away from that bullies he calls his friends. And finally start showing he actually cares for the people he is to rule one day.”
“Then perhaps you should tell him this.”
“He won’t listen to me. But he will listen to you.”
“I cannot order him to stop spending time in their company. They are nobility and my order may be interpreted as loss of favour in the court.”
“Some nobility they are…There is not a shred of noble traits in them.”
“I know you have been raised in different noble environment but…”
“I may no longer be a princess since I have no throne to ascend to but I did not for one moment forget what I was taught as one. First rule in being a good leader to your people is to show that you have humility and serious acceptance of the duties that befall you. He has none. And you let that happen.”
“Enough Serena.” Uther snapped angrily.
He knew she was right but he was the king here and king does not admit when he was at fault. At least not all the time which seemed to be the case in the recent years when Serena was in question.
“Why don’t you go to your chambers and prepare for the feast?”
“That’s it? You are just going to let it slide off?”
“What would you have me do?”
“Ugh!” She flailed her arms like Morgana did when she was in a bad mood, shot her guardian a dirty look and marched out of his chambers, leaving behind slightly perplexed but amused king.
“You may leave.” he murmured his dismissal into thin air. “Children.”
Although they were similar in personalities, Morgana and Serena always were quite competitive when it came to banquets; fashion and how many can each of the young women get attention from the men.
However, because of the tattoo she had on her shoulder blade along with few thin scars from the accursed black sword of her parents’ murderer, Serena was always forced to be innovative when it came to her dresses. The frustration she accumulated from her fight with Arthur and fruitless discussion with Uther turned into inspiration as she rummaged her wardrobe for that dress she sewed three weeks back.
“Morgana, prepare to lose tonight.” Serena murmured out loud to no one in particular as she brought out the silk dress and laid it on the bed.
“Lorsel.” She called out to the guard that was posted at the end of the hallway where her chambers were situated.
“Yes my lady?”
“Can you send for Aina and Ula? Tell them I need help with drawing my bath.”
She withdrew in her chambers once again and decided to go through her jewellery box. If there was one thing she could not deny her guardian, then that would be his taste in jewellery. He knew she liked simple things and did his best to gift her with reasonably priced, simple necklaces and earrings. However, as her eyes suddenly caught the sight of her crown, sorrow and anger bubbled up inside her and brought tears to her eyes.
“My lady?” She was brought out of her tear stricken reverie by shy voice of Aina, one of the castle maids.
She was barely into adulthood, eighteen years old but was eager to prove herself and dependable.
“Yes?” Serena wiped away the tears that spilled from her eyes.
“We prepared your bath, just the way you like it and will come back later to clean up after you leave for the feast. Are you alright, my lady?”
“Yes, Aina, I’m alright. Just some sad memories. Thank you both for your service.” Serena flashed two young girls small smile and handed them 5 silver coins each like she always did when she needed their services.
Both girls were new to the castle and had large families to care for so Serena always made sure she gave them some extra money to go with their usual pay.
“Thank you milady. If there is anything else you require, call us.” Aina and Ula curtsied before leaving Serena’s chambers, well aware the young ward liked to be alone during her baths and was perfectly capable of getting out of the tub by herself.
Although water was warm, Serena preferred it bit hotter and when her body was finally submerged in the water, her eyes flashed gold for a second and the water started to simmer slightly. It felt great on the skin and she always had the impression that she could scrub her skin better if the water was hot.
When she was finished with her bath, she dried up quickly and proceeded with her preparations for the feast. Although she did not feel like execution was a cause for celebration, especially when she knew that could easily be here, she got ready anyway.
“Well, what do you think Lorsel?” Serena asked with a chuckle at seeing the guard’s cheeks flush red when he saw her.
“You look…audaciously beautiful my lady.” If anything, Lorsel was honest.
“Thank you Lorsel. I hope your evening will be more peaceful than mine.”
With that, she trailed off to the banquet hall. Needless to say, all the guards she passed on her way stared at her with mouth agape. Oh, yes…Morgana was definitely loser this week.
“Gwen?” Merlin called out the maid’s name when he spotted Serena appearing in the banquet hall’s entrance.
“What is it Merlin?”
“I know you said some women like Morgana are just born to be queen but I think I will have to contradict you on that statement.”
Merlin nodded towards the entrance and Gwen followed his gaze. When she spotted Serena, she let out a small gasp but allowed small smile to appear on her face.
“Two of them consider feasts like fashion battle ground. I must admit that Serena looks beautiful tonight.”
Uther was talking to lord Arundel, one of the councillors, when he noticed Serena appear in the corner of his eyes. He had to admit that whilst he loved both of his wards equally, tonight Serena seemed to be in her element. Because he knew her since she was a child, he knew she was different from other girls and though they often clashed, he found out couple of years back that he was unable to deny her many things.
And right now, seeing her in the provocative dress he was certain she made herself, he had a flashback of her mother in equally provocative dress as she stood beside her husband. Shaking his head to chase the memory away, he snuck a glance at his son, who was for the lack of the better word, staring at Serena with mouth opening and closing like a fish.
For his part, Arthur was awestruck by Serena’s appearance. He was well aware that as she was no longer princess, she could not wear her crown. But she did like to remind everyone at court from time to time that she was in fact of royal blood despite being Uther’s ward now. The proof of that was elaborate silver circlet she called moonlight circlet because of the moonstone that rested at the very middle of her forehead; and it constrained her elegant bun perfectly. The more shocking impact had her dress of midnight blue silk with rather deep cleavage and open sleeves.
He already thought Morgana beautiful but Serena just topped her tonight. He rarely saw her in dresses because she preferred men’s clothing for better comfort and easier use so to see her dressed like that made Arthur’s head swim. He almost immediately chased away those thoughts. What was wrong with him? Just this afternoon he was humiliated in front of everyone by this woman.
But fate had other things in mind as she walked passed him with her chin up and barely sparing him a glance; and left subtle floral scent of her perfume behind her. In Arthur’s opinion, today fate was just cruel to him to tease him like this.
Serena nodded to Uther as she approached the table and took her seat next to Morgana who had a playful frown on her face.
“I take it this is purely to further agitate Arthur.” Morgana murmured with a chuckle.
“Wherever did you get that idea?” Serena replied with smug smirk on her lips before looking up to pay attention to Uther’s speech.
“We have enjoyed twenty years of peace and prosperity. It has brought the kingdom and myself many pleasures but few can compare with the honour of introducing Lady Helen of Mora.”
Applause filled the hall as everyone took their seats and music filled the air. The moment Lady Helen opened her mouth; Serena felt the tug on her magic inside. As everyone started to fall asleep and cobwebs started to appear, Serena clamped her hands over her ears and in the corner of her eye saw Merlin, Gaius’ ward, do the same.
Lady Helen’s voice reached its peak as she withdrew a dagger and aimed it straight at Arthur. Before Serena could murmur the stunning spell, the chandelier above the singer crashed, pinning her to the ground and ending the spell.
“Morgana?” Serena gently shook her friend to conscious state.
Everyone started to wake and Uther, still hazed from what has transpired, stood up to glance down and see that lady Helen was not lady Helen at all. In fact, the old woman that lay on the floor was Mary Collins, a witch whose son Uther had executed yesterday. In her last burst of strength, the woman picked up the dagger and in one last effort threw it at the prince. Everything happened so fast. Serena’s instincts screamed to move but she was unable to do so as she saw Merlin’s eyes flash gold and the time slowed down, allowing Merlin to pull Arthur out of the way.
“You saved my boy’s life. A debt must be repaid.” Uther sounded very grateful and relived whilst Merlin looked like he wanted to disappear in the comforts of the shadows he was hiding in few moments before.
“Don’t be so modest. You shall be rewarded.”
“No, honestly, you don’t have to your Highness.”
“No absolutely…This merits something quite special.”
“You shall be rewarded a position in the royal household. You shall be Prince Arthur’s manservant.”
As the crowd erupted into thunderous applause, the weak but audible Arthur’s protest caused both Morgana and Serena to burst out laughing and the sight of obvious displeasure from both men made Serena certain that life was about to get more interesting so she decided to wait with her questions.
After all, she did see Merlin’s act of heroism in full edition and the desire to get to know him better lit up. Perhaps they could be friends through common gift they had to keep secret.
Chapter 3: The Village of MaestynEdit
The village of Mæstyn was a small one, situated to the west of Camelot and it stared at the White Mountains. Many traders and adventurers that made their way around or through the rarely used passes have said that the mountains are evil; being home to menacing spirits and most likely Kobolds though not a soul saw one for over three centuries.
Serena was of the impression that most of the traders were cowards, seeing as the relatively large village existed quite peacefully and rarely reported any trouble. The small escort she had with her at Uther’s insistence was consisted of Sir Leon and two young knights that have been knighted only three days ago but she had no doubt in their skills.
Initially Uther suggested for Arthur to accompany her on this small adventure but she rejected the idea immediately. She was still angry with him for the way he treated Merlin even though she vouched for him that he was telling the truth about Valiant a week ago. Even now she could remember the boy’s face when she told him that she knew his secret.
It was the morning after what Uther called smudge in the celebration and Serena was eager to meet a fellow magic user. Despite what Uther yapped on about evils of magic, you took one look at the boy and you knew he did not have one evil bone in him. He was probably a type that would not harm an ant. Although tempted to just storm in Gaius’ chambers, she resolved that to a knock and after she heard Gaius giving her permission to enter, she pushed the door open.
“Oh, I am sorry. It was not my intention to interrupt your breakfast.” Serena apologized the moment she saw the guardian and the ward eating at the table.
“Nonsense my dear, you are never intrusion.” Gaius smiled kindly.
“I wanted to speak with Merlin if that’s alright with you?”
“Of course. He should get going anyway, seeing as he is Prince Arthur’s manservant now.”
The scowl on Merlin’s face made her chuckle and he grinned in response.
“I will see you later Gaius.” Merlin said, making his way to the door.
“And I will return for my daily studies as soon as I am done talking to Merlin.” Serena added before walking out after Merlin.
“So what is it that you wanted to talk to me about Serena?”
He was confused when she suddenly pulled him in one of the dark alcoves, utterly serious.
“I know about your gift.”
Merlin’s skin paled to unbelievable shade of white the moment her words left her lips, and his mouth opened and closed several times but no sound came out; prompting her to continue speaking.
“I won’t tell anyone though. I have it too.” Soft smile graced her lips as her eyes shined for the briefest of moments but long enough to convince him that she was telling the truth.
“But...what about the king? How…?”
“Uther is under the impression that my magic is permanently bound.”
“That can be done?”
“Yes but that is off the point now. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone and that I am always here to listen. I may have couple of years of advantage but trust me…I am far from expert wielder.”
“Does Gaius know about this?”
“Yes…It is him I went to when my magic appeared again.”
“That’s why you asked the king to allow you to study healing.”
“Yes but also…”
“MERLIN! Prince Arthur demands your presence in his chambers now!” One of the guards hollered down the hall.
“We will talk more later. Better see what the idiot wants.”
That elicited a chuckle.
“You really are not afraid to speak your mind.”
“I was raised that way. Now go.” She watched him walk away with slight stumble in his step which amused her before she went back to Gaius’ chambers.
“Why are we travelling to Mæstyn my lady?” Sir Leon asked when he came to ride by her side.
“Because they have some rare herbs Gaius needs for his medicines. Herbs only the villagers in Mæstyn gather because apparently very few dare to venture in the passes of the White Mountains.” She gave the knight a smug smirk. “And because I wanted adventure.”
“I thought that might be the case. We should arrive by late afternoon.”
“We are in no rush.”
“But the king is. He was not overly excited with your idea.”
“Yet here we are.”
“True…it is almost as you have magic influence over him.” Leon joked and she decided to play along rather than freeze in the saddle so she gave Leon few rapid, cute blinks with her eyes. “You mean to tell me are immune to my magical eyes Sir Leon?”
That made him laugh.
“Perhaps my lady.”
“Damn…Oh, well I can’t get everything right.”
Although the villagers welcomed them warmly and were happy to hear why the ward of the king was visiting their village, she could see and more importantly sense that there were at least three magic users living in the village. She was not really worried though because she soon realized all three magic users were small children, with the oldest being ten.
The only real challenge she seemed to have now was to get through the night and early morning without the knights noticing the children’s gifts. Unlike many other villages she has been through, this seemed most prosperous as of yet. They had great variety of food and their houses were slightly more elaborate than what one could usually see.
Serena was tending a young boy with small wound on his knee in one of the houses the villagers vacated for her and the knights to use when she heard a man call for someone named Alys. Although she knew of the name and its meaning, this was the first time in years since she heard it because it was not very common.
Curiosity getting the best of her, she exited the house after she finished tending to the boy’s wound and looked around for this Alys. Soon, her eyes narrowed on a young woman of about her age, with red hair and chartreuse green eyes; arguing with obese old man. Though the rest of the villagers paid attention to the argument, it looked like no one dared to stand up to the man. Serena’s anger started to bubble as the seemingly harmless argument during which Alys showed great deal of defiance, escalated and resulted in the man slapping Alys hard, making her fall down on the ground.
“Hey!” Serena shouted, sword drawn as she ran over to the scene, attracting the attention of everyone, including the knights that quickly appeared at her side.
“Why did you hit her?” Serena demanded, motioning for Leon to help Alys up.
“She refused to do the tasks I gave her.” the man spat.
“I cannot possibly do everything he wants. I may be strong but I can’t lift logs by myself.” Alys shot out with equal amount of despise.
“You have her lift logs? What’s your name?”
“Nyle, my lady.” He kept his tone clipped and barely respectful.
“Some champion you are, forcing a woman to do something it takes at least two strong men for. What is she to you anyway? I see no familial resemblance?”
Her question was met with eerily silence, eyes cast down on the ground.
“I asked you a question Nyle. What is she to you?”
“I’m practically a slave to him.” Alys dared to speak and Nyle immediately raised his hand for another slap that never came because Serena grabbed his hand in painfully tight grip.
“Is it true? Have you bought her from the slave traders you pig?”
“IS IT TRUE?”
“It’s true my lady.” Someone from the crowd spoke.
“Then why have you not stopped him?”
“He has influence and money my lady.”
“Well, he does not anymore.”
“What?” Nyle finally found his tongue again, glaring daggers at Serena.
“You heard me. I am taking all your money, your house and you are banished from Camelot.”
“You cannot do that!”
“I am the king’s ward. You’ll find out that there are many things I can do. Now go, pack what you can carry and leave because I do not wish to see you when I wake up in the morning. Consider yourself lucky that you got to keep that bald head of yours on your neck.”
“You will regret this!” Nyle made a step forward and found three sword tips underneath his chin.
“I believe my lady has commanded you to leave. I suggest you do it whilst you still can.” Leon commanded.
Nyle let out an angry shout with a string of curses before stomping off to his house to pack.
“Thank you my lady.” Alys bowed deeply.
“It was nothing. Come, let me see that wound…” Serena pointed to Alys’ bleeding lip. “And you can tell me more about yourself Alys.”
“There is not much to tell my lady.”
“Oh, you may surprise me yet. And do call me Serena.” The king’s ward motioned to the three knights. “And these are Sirs Leon, Bryant and Tierney.”
“We will stay outside to make sure the man, Nyle, leaves the village and does not return.” Leon informed Serena and after she nodded her approval, left with two young knights to their horses.
“So tell me…” Serena dabbed small cloth with alcohol and pressed it softly to Alys’ bleeding lip, getting a hiss in return. “Where are you really from?”
“Erm…I am from Escavalon my lady.” Alys replied, completely unaware of the inner turmoil that name stirred in Serena. “Not that it matters…Escavalon has ceased to exist…”
“Seven years ago.” Two women said in unison and stared at each other in shock. “Alys? Alys Nysell?”
Chapter 4: Return to CamelotEdit
They stared at each other for few minutes in shocked silence when Alys decided to speak first.
“Princess Serena?” She asked in quite small voice, almost child like.
“I knew there was something familiar about you…How could I ever forget? You look so much like your mother Kyla.”
“But...How did you survive? Vortigern made a public declaration that he killed you. And your parents.”
“In a way he did…Knights of Camelot found me half dead in the woods near their border. What happened to you?”
“After most of the court was killed, Vortigern decided to break us all to submission through torture. When that did not work, he had most of us sold as slaves. Women that is…He kept the men as labour force in the mines.” Alys murmured on the brink of tears as she remembered how she was separated from her dying father.
“There is not a day that does not go by that I wish I could have done something.”
“You were barely fifteen my lady. Hardly age at which you can fend off bloodthirsty warlord.”
“It still feels like a failure most of the time.”
“But are alive. And that gives me hope that perhaps one day Vortigern gets what he deserves.”
“I could not agree more Alys.” Serena flashed a small smile to the young woman. “And since you obviously do not belong here, how would you like to return to Camelot with me?”
“I would be very grateful my lady but I am not certain where I would live. I have nothing.”
“You have me. Your mother has been my mother’s lady in waiting. I am no longer a princess but I do need a maidservant. There are small chambers next to mine that can easily be cleaned and furnished for you to live in.”
“Will the king not mind me staying in the castle?”
“No…not when I explain the situation to him. And we did make a deal about me hiring a maidservant in exchange for my healing studies. Seeing as I have had no maidservant up until now.”
“Thank you my lady.”
“Call me Serena. Use my title only in the presence of the king. But the rest of the time, I am simply Serena.”
“Yes m…Serena.” Alys chuckled a bit as she corrected herself.
“I think you and I are going to be good friends. And I know Morgana and Gwen will like you as well.”
“Who are they?”
“Morgana is also Uther’s ward. And Gwen is her maidservant.”
“Oh…they sound interesting.”
“They are. But Morgana and I do have a friendly competition going around. Who gets more attention at the banquets, whose dress is more elaborate and so on. You will like it one the court. Just one thing.” Serena became serious.
“Do not ever bring up magic in the conversation with anyone but me in my chambers.”
“But you do have it, don’t you Serena? Your mother was after all skilled spellcaster.”
“Yes I do but Uther is under impression that my magic is bound. This is why it must remain a secret.”
“I swear, your secret is safe with me.” Alys solemnly promised with utterly serious expression on her face.
“Good…How about we get some sleep then? We do have two days ride to Camelot.”
“What about the knights?”
“They will come in once they are done with the patrol. Do not worry, they are grown men and are perfectly capable of going to bed by themselves without any assistance.” Serena laughed softly before blowing out the candle next to her bed and allowed sleep to claim her mere minutes after, feeling nothing but happiness for the first time ever since she was brought to Camelot seven years ago.
Uther Pendragon was respected and feared by many. His enemies, his allies and his people. He always believed that kingdom should be run with a firm hand but that did not mean he did not care about his people. He just believed that feelings should be set aside in order to be a better leader. But ever since Arthur was just a boy, there was this niggling feeling inside him that Arthur will never be like him. Every time he looked at those blue eyes, he could clearly see his beloved Ygraine in them.
True…Arthur has on many occasions demonstrated that explosive nature that seemed to be heritable trait in the Pendragon line but he has also seen Arthur displaying that gentler side that came unmistakably from Ygraine. And Uther Pendragon was not as blind as some people might believe. He too noticed shift in his son’s behaviour ever since that boy, Gaius’ nephew, arrived in Camelot few weeks ago. When Serena came in, demanding him to talk some sense into his son, he could have scarcely predicted that this peasant boy would have the guts to stand up to his son and call him on his behaviour. But then again, Gaius was known to challenge him as well although not as frequently as his ward did with his son.
He was walking through the upper corridor of the citadel that overlooked the courtyard and saw Serena returning with her escort and extra traveller it seemed. But what drew most of the attention was Serena’s smile. It was an honest, wide smile that graced her lips far too rarely. He remembered it like it was yesterday when Sir Ulwin and his patrol returned with half dead princess to Camelot.
The poor girl was unconscious for whole month from the injuries that were infected and almost immediately after Gaius tended to her wound; he warned Uther that she might not survive the night. But Serena was a fighter much like his Morgana, if not even stronger. He was well aware who Serena’s mother was.
Queen Imogen of Escavalon was renowned as wise queen and powerful witch. But long before he started his war on magic, he called the royal couple of Escavalon his friends and swore that if anything should ever happen to them that he would look after Serena. And he was a man of his word, no matter how hypocritical it sounded to people.
He felt relieved when Gaius informed him that Serena’s magic was bound permanently so she would not succumb to its evil nature. When Uther asked him how he knew for sure, Gaius flat out explained to him in great length how it is done and that the triquetra tattoo on her left shoulder blade was used as anchor.
Even when Arthur was in his teens, Uther already begun to consider possible matches for his son that would benefit the kingdom but after Serena appeared in their lives, he came to conclusion that Serena would make an excellent queen and companion to Arthur. And the engagements would be done lot easier if only they would look over their childish behaviours and antics. Well, Uther was not in a hurry to make the match official but that did not stop him from planning.
He snapped out of his musings at the sound of Serena’s laughter and looked down to see Serena taking the supply bags that were meant for Gaius off her mount and tugged the red haired woman with her in the citadel. Two young women were laughing as they walked but abruptly stopped when they came face to face with the king.
“Uther.” Serena greeted respectfully.
“My lord.” the red haired woman curtsied.
“I see you enjoyed your little adventure. I trust you have acquired the supplies Gaius asked you for?”
“Indeed I have Uther. And more.” Serena’s eyes flitted to the red haired woman beside her. “Uther, this is Alys Nysell. My new maidservant.”
This announcement along with the name piqued his interest.
“Oh?” Uther looked at the young woman again.
She seemed to be of Serena’s height and age but was obviously abused for some number of years if the fresh looking busted lip was anything to go by. Yet she seemed oddly familiar to him.
“Nysell? The name does sound familiar.”
“Her mother, Lorna Nysell was my mother’s lady in waiting.”
“Yes, now I do remember. Welcome to Camelot Alys. I trust you will like it here.”
“Thank you my lord.”
“Though I must ask how you ended up in such remote village.”
The silence and the glances two women exchanged did not sit well with him.
“Vortigern sold her into slavery.” Serena spat out the man’s name with such venom Uther never heard before; but then again this is the first time she actually said the man’s name out loud.
“I see…I will not question you further for I have a council meeting to attend to but I do hope you will join me for dinner Serena. Then you could tell the whole story of your adventure.”
“Of course.” Serena nodded and Uther started to walk away. “One question!” she shouted after him, causing him to stop and turn around.
“I was wondering if Alys is allowed to live in the small chambers next to mine.”
“Yes of course.” Uther replied without much thought, there were plenty of small chambers around the castle; and hurried off to the Council Chambers.
“See? Told you it would be easy.” Serena grinned at her new found friend and maidservant before dragging her towards Gaius’ chambers.
They had so much to do and Alys had so much to learn about Camelot and its people. Though Serena’s thought briefly wandered off to Vortigern once again, she quickly cast them aside, determined to enjoy the days that were yet to come.
Chapter 5: The Beginning of the End Part 1Edit
“So what does this one do?”
“Erm…that one causes people to bray.”
“Can you use it on Arthur?”
“One day I will. Probably.”
It was little after noon and found two young magic users in the seemingly unused chambers in one of the two north towers. Arthur was still recuperating from the ‘blow to the head’ he received from Merlin after the whole debacle with Sophia Tír-Mòr.
Although Merlin knew she would never admit it out loud, Serena showed well covered signs of jealousy and her shocked expression when Arthur asked Uther’s permission to marry Sophia was proof enough to Merlin that despite their more than often childish antagonism, two of them did have some affection for each other that could with time become something much more than that.
At least that is what the riddle babbling lizard from downstairs has told him few months ago. When they first started studying magic together, they would do it in his little bedroom but they soon realized they could easily get caught because Gaius’ chambers were like trading post, with people coming and going as it suited them.
So they set out to find new space for studying and Serena, having more time to sneak around the castle than Merlin, found series of small, unused chambers in the north tower that was practically abandoned. Lower level chambers were used as storage rooms but three chambers on the very top were not used in a long time, if the thick dust was anything to go by.
As far as Uther and others were concerned, she was happy because she managed to find a survivor from the Escavalon Massacre. And partially she was. Alys was really easy going person who seemed to be able to make friendships as easily as Merlin. Granted she was still shy and did not use that cheeky tone Serena heard her use in Mæstyn but she was getting there. But what Uther did not know and Serena hoped it to stay that way was the fact that she had someone to share her thoughts and feelings about magic with.
She was certain Morgana would probably try to understand but it was not the same. After showing the room to Merlin, they cleaned it up and stocked it with items and books that, if discovered, could easily get them killed. Therefore, they placed a strong illusion charm on the entire upper level of the tower and tested it on Gaius. After he confirmed that even he was not able to see through the illusion, they added some additional protection spells and continued to use the chambers as their study room.
Serena was well aware that her magic, whilst it was strong, could never compare to the raw strength Merlin had. But they were both quick learners and were enjoying learning new spells every day albeit Serena also divided her studies between spells and potions because she was eager to learn as much as she could from Gaius.
In their study room was everything that a person who practiced magic in the days before the purge had according to Gaius. Upon entering, the two walls that were to the person’s left and right were covered by bookshelves that were littered with books and scrolls.
There were dried herbs hanging on a pole on the ceiling, cauldron for the potions in the corner and desk next to it. Beneath the window however, on an oak carved high end table stood stone scrying bowl. Or alert bowl as both Merlin and Serena called it because as of yet, none of them were successful in scrying. But Merlin did place an enchantment on it that would alert them to trouble in Camelot by having the three transparent crystals in the water spin and change colour.
This is exactly what happened now when they were in the middle of practicing shield spell. Serena was about to send her small ball of fire at Merlin when the crystals in the bowl started to squatter in the water and changed colours between green and gold.
“Druids? What are they doing in Camelot in broad daylight?” Serena asked no one in particular.
“Come on! We must see if we can help.” Merlin tugged on her sleeve to follow him.
Seeing as knowing all the shortcuts was necessary for the two, they found themselves on the entrance staircase to the citadel in no time to see guards going through every inch of the courtyard. Merlin walked away from Serena a bit, not wishing to draw unnecessary attention and questions to them.
Serena’s eyes tightly shut for a second from the raw pain and despair she felt through the sudden psychic link.
She followed Merlin’s line of sight and zeroed in on a boy in forest green cloak, hiding behind the stone ledge whilst the guards were asking around about a boy.
‘Please, you have to help me. They are searching for me.’
‘Why are they after you?’
‘Merlin, you can ask the boy that later!’ she admonished the warlock through their link.
‘They are going to kill me!’ the boy’s despair became even more painful to tolerate.
Merlin inconspicuously looked around and ran to the side door.
'Serena, I need some help.’
‘Right.’ Serena straightened up and marched up to the guards.
“You there!” she shouted firmly, gaining all the attention she needed. “What is this commotion about?”
“We are looking for a druid boy, milady.”
“Druid boy? Absolute nonsense, there are no druids in Camelot.” Serena did her best to sound shocked.
“Hey! There he is. Alert the rest of the guards!” One of the guards shouted but by that time, Merlin already disappeared in the citadel with the boy.
Serena just hoped she has given him enough time to hide the boy somewhere safe.
‘Where are you?’ she asked as she made her way back inside.
She froze in her steps for a brief moment but continued on to the Council Chambers.
‘Are you insane?!’
‘They were the closest hiding place from where we came from. Morgana made the guards go away so we are safe. For now.’
‘You sound worried.’
‘The boy is hurt badly. He needs his wound tended to.’
‘I am going to the Council Chambers and see if I can get Uther call off his blood hounds though that is highly unlikely; and then I will come to Morgana’s chambers with medical supplies.’
‘Alright. But hurry.’
“The druids are peaceful people.” She heard Arthur say as she walked in the Council Chambers.
“Given the chance, they would return magic to this kingdom. They preach peace but conspire against me. We cannot appear weak.” Uther yapped on like a parrot that has been taught same three sentences to repeat over and over again, taking a sip from his goblet.
“Showing mercy can be sign of strength.”
“Our enemies will not see it that way. We have a responsibility to protect this kingdom. Executing the druid will send out a clear message. F-” Uther turned on his heel to leave when he came face to face with livid looking Serena and actually took a step back, surprising Arthur.
“Are you saying my mother was evil too?” Her voice was controlled but reverberated with anger.
“If Gaius did not tell you that my magic was bound the night Sir Ulwin brought me here half-dead, would you have ordered him to let me die?”
Two Pendragon men were looking at her shocked, the older because of how close she was to the truth and the younger because this was the first time he heard that Serena had magic and that his father was willing to keep her. Or had, if he heard right she just said her magic was bound, meaning she could not use it.
“No.” Uther stated calmly.
“You will watch your mouth Serena or I will…”
“You will what?! I know you are lying to me. You always briefly look down to your left before you lie. He is just a boy. How can you live with yourself? Knowing you condemned a child to death!”
“Silence! I will not be talked to like that!” Uther was now shouting as well, his short temper getting the best of him.
“I will not be silenced! Your hatred for Nimueh is what fuels your persecution of everyone else. Why couldn’t you just stop with her banishment?!” Serena shouted back through angry tears and promptly marched out, leaving stunned Arthur and livid Uther behind.
She was going to get that boy out of this place as soon as possible.
Chapter 6: The Beginning of the End Part 2Edit
“What happened dear?” Gaius asked concerned when Serena stormed in his chambers with red face and tears in her eyes.
“That impossible, stupid, arrogant, lying…! Ugh!”
“I assume that this has something to do with the druid that was captured and his apprentice that is still on the run.” Gaius stated, he should have known this would stir up bottled up emotions and memories.
He watched her as she rummaged through the shelves with the remedies, taking those she needed for her morning rounds she did as part of her studies.
“Where does he get the courage to look me in the eyes and lie to me like that?” Serena angrily demanded, putting more force than necessary into shoving the vials and bottles in her medicine bag.
“I am certain he did not intend to…”
“Do not defend him Gaius! I am not a small child that interprets what has been said wrongly. I know exactly what he meant when he said that druids are evil and that there is no place for mercy in this kingdom for people like me.”
“Calm yourself down girl!” Gaius snapped at her loudly, shocking the young woman into silence. “Do you want the whole castle to know that your magic is once again at your disposal?”
“Now…knowing you and that sometimes naïvely foolish ward of mine, you probably found the boy.”
She said nothing but the physician took it as confirmation.
“Since you are smart enough to know how dangerous that is, I suggest you get him out of Camelot as soon as possible because I assumed you heard the king announcing that anyone harbouring the boy will be executed as well.”
“Do not worry Gaius. I know this place like the back of my hand. The boy will be out of Camelot before dawn.”
“Hmm…You two are playing very dangerous game.”
“What’s a life without a little risk?” Serena finally allowed small smile to crawl on her lips as she hung the medicine bag over her shoulder and made her way out.
“And make sure that Sir Olwin does not drink the entire bottle this time!” Gaius shouted after her, seeing as last time Sir Olwin drank his medicine all at once, he was knocked out for a whole week.
After making sure she delivered all the remedies and potions for the various courtiers, Serena made her last stop at Morgana’s chambers. Morgana of course held air of extreme caution around her; not that the likes of Uther would notice but still, Serena had to congratulate the ward for being outstanding actress.
“I brought your sleeping potion.”
“Thank you.” Morgana smiled kindly and was surprised when Serena just slipped past her in the room, raking off her medicine bag.
“Where is the boy?”
“Morgana…Who do you think distracted the guards?” Serena shot her slightly patronizing look before Morgana pointed to the curtain covered alcove where Serena found Merlin and passed out druid boy.
“When did he pass out?” she asked as she went through her medicine bag.
“He has been in and out of consciousness but he passed out just few moments ago after the other druid was executed.” Merlin replied.
Serena’s eyes narrowed on the cut the boy was inflicted with by the guards and placed her hand on his forehead.
“He is feverish. I’ll clean the wound; bandage it with some comfrey and yarrow poultice for both the cut and the fever.” Serena noticed that Morgana was just staring at the boy with a look that was quite disturbing in her opinion. “Morgana!”
The king’s ward jumped at Serena’s sharp tone.
“I am explaining what I am doing because you will have to change his bandage in six hours so pay attention please.”
“Now…as I said, the comfrey and yarrow poultice is for his cut and fever. I will leave a spare here with you, if you must, hide it amongst your jewellery or something. If his fever gets worse, send Gwen to me. If not, I will come for the boy in the late evening to get him out of the city.”
“Are you sure you can smuggle him out of Camelot?” Gwen asked concerned, she did not wish for any of them to get in trouble no matter how sorry she felt for the boy.
“I may have not lived in Camelot since I was born but I had been here for six years. I know the castle like the back of my hand. We will be fine. Your only task tonight is to keep Uther occupied during supper. Got it?” Serena looked at both lady and her maidservant, both nodding fervently.
“Good. Now…for the sake of normal appearance, go about your daily duties like I am about to and all will be well.”
Serena offered kind smile to boy that was obviously still in shock, exchanged cryptic look with Merlin and left to continue her rounds.
No matter how hard he tried, Uther found nothing suspicious about Serena’s actions during the day. He had her watched immediately after their little…altercation but the servant he sent to watch her from distance reported nothing out of the usual. She spent her whole days running errands for Gaius as part of her healer training with her maidservant that almost never left her side and spent some time at the market, buying supplies and clothing material. This confused him because the way she exploded in the Council Chambers, he could have sworn she would be the first to sneak around and try to help the boy escape.
“Do you want a bath now?” Alys asked when two women returned to Serena’s chambers.
“No. But you have just given most brilliant idea, Alys. You are a genius.” Serena beamed at her friend with a wide smile.
“I am?” Alys asked, slightly confused at sudden burst of happiness, considering that about few moments ago Serena was still angry with Uther and has been through the entirety of her rounds.
“It gives me a perfect alibi for tonight. You know Forridel, the woman I delivered arnica tincture this morning?”
“She seemed like a druid to me.”
“That’s because she is. She just lives here under cover so she maintains the communication between people like me who are interested in the services druids provide and the druids. And told her to contact the druid tribe that moves around in Camelot’s forests often to meet me tonight so I can give them the boy.”
“And how does a bath come in?”
“Well I did have a strenuous day, didn’t I?” Serena smirked smugly.
“Oh, I see. It would be such a shock for anyone to barge in whilst searching for the boy to find you bathing.” Alys joined her friend and mistress in soft, mischievous laughter.
“Shock indeed. Now, this is what I want you to do…”
“The dragon told me not to save the boy.” Merlin spoke quickly as Serena was getting ready for her nightly adventure.
“And why is that?”
“Because according to him that boy is destined to kill Arthur one day.” Serena stopped in fastening the laces of her cloak.
“Merlin…let me tell you something about prophecies that my mother told me. Yes, prophecies do tend to come true more than they don’t and yes…from everything we have seen so far, you truly are the most powerful magic user that has walked this earth since Cornelius Sigan, although he is rather questionable character. But just because the dragon says so, doesn’t mean it’s true. He might have informed you of the prophecy and destiny but you cannot allow him to decide your way to that destiny. He is allowed to make few pointers. Your destiny is to become greatest warlock the world has ever known. How you get there is entirely up to you. No one can do that for you, no matter how right the dragon thinks he is. Remember that.” Serena squeezed her friend’s shoulder with assuring smile before leaving her chambers to start her mission.
Morgana shot a small, covert look in the shadows of the alcove near her chambers as she made her way to the Council chambers to have dinner with Uther. She was well aware who was hiding in the shadows and the soft sound of fabric sailing through the air let her know that Serena was on the move and that it’s time to play her part.
“Come on, we have to go.” Serena informed still mute and fearful boy as she grabbed his hand and started to weave around the dark castle, using all the shortcuts available to get out undetected.
Honestly, Uther should really get guards that are not so easily distracted because slipping through the main gates out in the woods seemed like a child’s play. It was that easy to slip away. Well…almost. In one fraction of a second as Serena looked over her shoulder to make sure no one has seen them, she saw Arthur standing near the stone well with some of the guards and he was looking right at her with the look she could not decipher. Without blinking, she allowed her gaze to slip away and focused on reaching the woods.
“You’re safe now.” She whispered to the boy once they were met in the forest by three hooded figures and Serena offered a smile to druid chieftain Iseldir.
“Thank you for returning the boy to us, my lady.” Iseldir thanked her, putting his hands on the boy’s shoulders.
“You are welcome. I am only sorry I could not help his mentor.”
“Do not trouble yourself my lady; you already have enough to worry about. Thank Emrys for his help as well.”
“I will.” Serena nodded, watching them go. “Wait!”
“I would like to know your name young one.”
The boy looked up at his chieftain that gave him small nod and then he looked back at Serena.
“My name is Mordred.”
Even though she was expecting him to speak, to actually hear his voice still surprised her.
“Be safe Mordred.” Serena told him and made haste to return to the castle, dropping small piece of the boy’s bloodied sleeve on the ground near the gates so the guards could easily conclude that the boy has escaped Camelot.
Morgana was in the middle of telling a joke to Uther when the warning bell started tolling. Uther’s smile vanished and was replaced look of pure anger as one of the guards came in.
“My lord, we just received word from the lower town guards that they have found the evidence that the druid boy has escaped the city.”
“That’s impossible; the entire city was in lockdown.”
Flash of realization flitted over Uther’s face and he became livid as he stood up and marched past shocked looking Morgana.
“Where are you going?!” She shouted after him although she had pretty good idea and she prayed that Serena was already in the safe comforts of her chambers.
Arthur was rushing down the citadel corridor, hand ready on the sword, ready to report to his father when his father came rushing towards him, livid expression on his face.
“Serena’s chambers! Now!” Uther barked.
Arthur sighed a bit and prayed to all possible gods that Serena was in the chambers with perfectly good alibi for her whereabouts this evening. He knew it was her he saw an hour ago sneaking out of the castle with the boy but he was not about to tell that to his father. Although his father always drilled in his head that magic was evil and so was everyone that practised magic, ever since Serena and later Merlin sauntered in his life, he began to question that more than he would admit it. Besides…every time he tried to imagine little boy being decapitated, his insides would churn and he had sudden urge to vomit.
If he ever doubted Serena’s ability to lie and act, tonight was definitely a moment that proved him wrong. His father, couple of guards and himself barged into Serena’s chambers only to quickly avert their eyes when they saw Serena covering her exposed body in the tub, her eyes flashing with outrage.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?!” She screeched the way Morgana would when she would feel completely offended.
“I apologize Serena.” Arthur was the first to speak, still staring at the suddenly very interesting tapestry on the wall of her chambers. “I believe father was under the impression that you helped the druid boy escape.”
“He escaped?” Serena genuinely sounded surprised.
“Yes. If I find out you had anything to do with it…” Uther trailed off.
“And when exactly would I have done anything like that? I was busy whole day; surely you must know that, seeing as you had a servant following me around whole day like a lost puppy.” Serena hissed, surprising both men.
“What? You think I didn’t notice? I know when Arthur is sneaking behind my back, what made you think I would not notice a servant following me around?”
“Do not worry Uther, I am not expecting apology from you. I learnt quickly not to expect too much from you. Now if you could please remove yourself from my chambers, I would be grateful.” Serena finished her little ranting with sickly sweet smile but Arthur did not miss her wicked look she shared with her maidservant as the men left.
He will have to talk to her soon enough.
Chapter 7: Being jealousEdit
The repeated sighs of boredom that Arthur was releasing were gnawing on Serena’s nerves. Obviously his royal pratness, word invented by Merlin, soon to be crown prince of Camelot did not appreciate being assigned by his father to escort both of the king’s wards to small village of Treca that was situated to the north-east of Camelot, just four miles away from Mercia’s border.
Yesterday in the early morning a messenger arrived to the court, informing the court that two small villages near the border Camelot shares with Mercia were attacked; one was totally destroyed and the other one was barely standing. Of course after lengthy shouting match between Uther and Serena half of the citadel heard, Arthur was informed that he is to take some knights and escort Serena and Morgana to Treca along with necessary supplies, where two women would offer their aid concerning healing and mending.
Which is why now, when they had maybe two more hours to go, Serena was on the verge of smacking Arthur with the sword again. It was unnerving to know that the young man that was riding beside her will be made Crown Prince of Camelot in two weeks time.
“Arthur, if you sigh one more time, I am going to smack you. You are acting like a petulant child.” Serena finally snapped at him, resulting in several snickers from Morgana and Merlin behind them.
“I just don’t understand why I am the one escorting you. Sir Leon can do equally good job.”
“One will start to think you are not fond of my company.”
At this Arthur snorted.
“You are not exactly making it easy for me to want to spend more time with you. You criticize everything I do and nothing pleases you.”
“Because half the time you act like an immature brat. And I do not criticize everything you do. As a matter of fact, I recall praising you for saving Merlin’s life two months ago and standing up for Lancelot. I am not blind to your deeds Arthur; I just wish you behave like that more often.” Serena stated, not really aware what kind of impact her words had on the prince.
“Is he actually blushing?” Alys whispered to the grinning manservant riding beside her.
“He’s blushing.” Merlin said, covering his chuckles in a cough.
“You are not going to be sick, are you Merlin?” Arthur drawled his question with an eye roll.
“No. Are you actually worried about me?” Merlin couldn’t help but to ask.
“Don’t be stupid Merlin. I just don’t want Serena having extra work with you.”
“Ah, so you are worried about Serena then? How sweet.” Morgana chirped sweetly and burst laughing when Arthur suddenly rode off to the front of their small caravan.
“You just love to do that, don’t you?” Serena asked Morgana over her shoulder.
“Yes…and so do you.” Morgana replied in her usual teasing manner.
“I can’t help it; he’s such an easy target.” Serena stated with slight shrug.
The smell of scorched and blood drenched soil was sharp attack on the group’s senses that would make any man want to leave at once but one look at the pained, desperate face of a young child covered in small cuts and bruises evaporated all such thoughts. It was exactly as the messenger said it looked like, if not slightly better.
Several houses were demolished but most of them were still standing and had minor damage. The crops were burnt and as far as Serena could see, most of the livestock was taken. The attackers were most definitely precise and brutal. Of course, Bayard would deny any involvement in the attacks if he was asked and maybe he truly wasn’t but he didn’t stop the attackers either so in her eyes, this was on Bayard’s conscience. If the man had any.
The small caravan stopped at what could be called village centre and villagers were surprised to hear the king’s ward barking out orders instead of the prince. The moment she dismounted, Serena started giving instructions to the knights as to what to do with supplies and such, whilst Morgana took it upon herself to find a decently stable house four women could use as temporary infirmary.
“She looks like she is in her element.” Merlin remarked as he approached Arthur who was staring at Serena quite appreciatively as she ordered the knights around.
“Yes she does.” Arthur looked sidewise to see Merlin giving him a teasing grin. “Let’s go idiot, those houses and supplies won’t arrange themselves. And we still have patrol for later.”
Serena has just entered the house the villagers told her served as temporary infirmary and almost dropped her medicine bag when she saw one of the wounded men on the cot.
‘What is he doing here?’ she thought to herself as she knelt beside him.
“Serena, Alys wants to know…” Morgana stopped with a gasp and eyes wide in shock. “What? How?”
“I don’t know Morgana but he is injured badly. Go fetch me more bandages and tell Alys to bring fresh water. His wounds need another round of cleaning and he has a fever.”
“Morgana told me you need fresh water and Alys was busy so I decided…” Gwen almost dropped the bucket when she saw who Serena was treating.
“Gwen; I know you like him but I need you to unfreeze for me. It won’t help him.”
“Yes, of course.” Gwen brought the bucket over and immediately dipped the clean cloth for Serena to use.
“How did he end up here?”
“I don’t know. But judging by his injuries, I’d say he was the only to fight the attackers.” Serena shook her head worryingly.
“Serena, Arthur wants to know if…Is that Lancelot?” Merlin’s eyes immediately focused on the unconscious man.
“Yes. What did Arthur want?” Serena asked rather snappily, not really enjoying being interrupted time and again.
“Sorry. Arthur wanted to know if you need anything else before we go on a patrol.” Merlin said apologetically, he was accustomed to snappy physicians by now, Gaius was no better.
“No, we’re fine. Just make sure we do not get a surprise attack.” Serena replied with meaningful look before turning back to her patient.
‘So how is he really?’ Merlin spoke in her mind good half an hour later.
‘He will recover though it will take time. He took heavy beating.’
‘How is Gwen?’
The king’s ward looked up from the patient she was currently treating to see Morgana’s friend and maidservant constantly glancing between the patient she was tending to and Lancelot.
‘She is worried. As any woman should be when man she has feelings for is gravely injured.’
'Maybe I should mention that to Arthur.’
This perked her interest.
‘I think he is jealous.’
‘Of Lancelot? Whatever for?’
‘Boy, you too can be quite oblivious.’ Merlin snorted through their link. ‘He is not overly fond of the idea of you fawning over Lancelot.’
‘I do not fawn over Lancelot. He is my patient. I admit he is handsome and of character any woman could wish for. But he has eyes for Gwen alone. Tell Arthur to simmer off. And why is he jealous anyway? He made it clear this morning that he is not exactly fond of my company.’
‘Now you are the one being childish. You two need to kiss already.’
Chapter 8: Excalibur Part 1Edit
Though the day was a joyous one and the castle was in the state of uproar for the feast that was about to begin any moment after the ceremony at which Serena was present, she could not help but to feel stab of pain in her heart when she saw Arthur kneeling in front of Uther, ready to take yet another step towards the throne.
It pained and saddened her to be acutely aware that she will never be able to do that. To look up to her father with small smile as the ceremony would proceed would probably be feeling of a lifetime although looking at Arthur’s dead serious face, she wondered if he was feeling anything else but dread and deepest honour she could easily detect in his gaze.
Although Arthur appreciated the small, honest smile she sent his way when he rose up after his father pronounced him the crown prince of Camelot; Arthur knew that this night was not easy going on Serena, especially because the ceremony reminded her off something she will never have.
And as it was for some time now, the celebration did not go smoothly. It was abruptly interrupted by a black knight riding through the hall’s window and issuing a challenge by throwing a gauntlet at Arthur’s feet but before Arthur could pick it up, young Owain beat him to it.
“I’ve seen that crest before.”
It was the first thing Serena said when she returned to her chambers with Alys. She had a really bad feeling about this; and Uther’s fear that he masked pretty well wasn’t assuring either.
“You have? I can’t remember seeing him around before. Why would he challenge Arthur anyway?” Alys asked, folding out Serena’s night clothes.
“I do not believe his intention was to challenge Arthur. I think he was here for Uther.” Serena replied with absent-minded tone which to Alys meant she was thinking about the tonight’s incident in details.
“Who was the knight?”
“I think it was Tristan de Bois. He certainly bore the crest of the House of de Bois. But that should be impossible.”
“Because Tristan de Bois was killed by Uther in a duel not even a week after Arthur was born.”
“Sooo who is the knight? Dead do not return.” Alys was starting to feel creeps on her skin, she did not like where Serena’s deduction skills were leading to.
“Unless a very powerful sorcerer or sorceress has paid a visit to Tristan’s crypt down below. Necromancy may have been frowned upon even during the days of the Old Religion but it has been practiced and still is.”
The ward looked at the displayed night clothes.
“You can retire for the night. I have an errand to run.”
“Sneaking off to the library again?” Alys asked with knowing smile as Serena changed her shoes so she wouldn’t make a noise during her sneaking.
“Indeed. I have to know if my suspicions are correct.”
“Very well. Good night, Serena.” Alys said with small curtsey and retreated to her small chambers next door.
Although Serena’s original intention was to sneak in the library and check the records, she was not really surprised to hear quiet voices of Gaius and Geoffrey emanating from the Cornwall genealogy section.
“So…” Although her voice was quiet, it still managed to frighten two old men. “Judging by your worried faces, I dare think my assumption is correct. The knight that challenged Arthur tonight…He is Tristan de Bois, isn’t he?”
Gaius inwardly cursed for the girl being so observant and for the lack of the better words, knowledge absorbing sponge.
“How do you know that name?” Geoffrey asked, his bushy eyebrows knitting together.
“Unlike Arthur, I did not slack off during my history and genealogy lessons. I am surprised he failed to recognise the crest of his mother’s house. But then again, knowing Uther, he probably made sure Arthur doesn’t know anything but most essential information about his mother’s side of the family.” Serena stated flatly.
“Serena, perhaps it would be best if you retire for the night.” Gaius said, giving her that mentor look he would often grace Merlin with, making her narrow her eyes in irritation.
“He is not here for Arthur. Is he?”
“Serena. Go to bed.” Gaius practically ordered her.
“I will get to the bottom of this, sooner or later Gaius. There aren’t many things you and Uther can hide from me.” Serena declared before marching out of the library whilst Gaius sighed tiredly.
That girl was far too curious for her own good. He was not looking forward to keep both Merlin and her in the line.
“Did you see the way he fought? That is brutal strength.” Alys commented, still shocked how easy the black knight killed Owain.
“I was talking about the knight.”
“I heard you. I am not surprised about the knight’s strength though, he is a wraith after all. As far as my father told me, Tristan was man to behold whilst he was still alive and now his skills and strength have been amplified. It’s Uther that worries me.”
“Did you not see how quick he was to stop Arthur from picking up the gauntlet? He knows the identity of the knight and if he doesn’t do something about it soon, we are going to run out of knights.”
“Surely there must be a man that can defeat him.”
“Alys, we are talking about someone who has been raised from the dead. There is no weapon made by man that can kill it.”
“I don’t recall mother ever telling me about magic being effective against the dead. I would have remembered such a lesson.”
“Then what do we do?”
“You Alys can go about your daily duties so it wouldn’t raise suspicions whilst I go to have a little chat with Merlin.” Serena announced, the perception amulet already hanging around her neck.
“Right…and if someone asks, you are somewhere in the lower town.”
“See, we are well played team Alys.”
“Just go already.” Alys shooed her mistress out with small smile before leaning down to pick up currently empty bucket for the task she was not overly fond off but knew it had to be done.
“So what do you think?” Merlin asked the moment Serena entered their study.
“That knight out there is a wraith. I suspected it since last night but I was not certain until the combat was over.”
“Dead person brought out of his resting place by powerful magic that focuses on harnessing the grief and torment of the said dead. This knight is such a case and I would bet my life on it that Nimueh summoned it.” Serena elaborated whilst shuffling through the shelf.
“So how do we get rid off it?”
“I am not sure Merlin. Wraith cannot be killed by any weapon made by man.”
“Then we can use magic.”
“We can’t Merlin. That knight out there is already dead. The dead are not affected by magic. Believe me, I would have memorized it carefully if mother ever told me about it.”
“So what does that mean for Sir Pellinore?”
“I’m afraid it means death for the brave knight. Unless we can come up with a way to get rid off the wraith.”
“But who is the wraith? I can tell that you and Gaius recognised it; and Uther is down right terrified of him even though he disguises it well.” Merlin stated firmly, not leaving any room for Serena to evade the question.
“His name is Tristan de Bois. I recognised the crest last night. That is why I came up with assumption he was a wraith to begin with; seeing as Tristan died twenty years ago.”
“I never heard of the name before.”
“There are only few that remember that name and of those, I do not think anyone would be willing to give you an answer. Tristan was older brother of Ygraine de Bois, Arthur’s mother. From what my father told me few years back, Ygraine died in childbirth and Tristan blamed Uther for it so he challenged him. Obviously Uther won but Tristan promised he would return from the dead to exact his vengeance. Nimueh obviously took Tristan’s words to the letter.”
“But why would Tristan blame Uther for his sister’s death? Those are just kind of things that cannot be controlled.”
“I have no idea but I do know there is more to the story then Gaius is willing to say. Uther rarely shows fear of something. And he is dead set on letting the other knights have a go at the wraith because obviously he knows no one can beat him and he wants to prevent Arthur from being slain.”
“Well Arthur won’t stand by idly and watch his knights getting killed one by one.”
“I know which is why we must try to find a way to destroy it before Arthur does something foolish. Go attend to Arthur and come back here when he allows you to leave. I will stay here and do the research.”
“Right.” Merlin turned to leave and looked over his shoulder at the door. “He is here for Uther, isn’t he? If he faced Uther and kill him, he would disappear, right?”
“Yes but Uther will not be facing him any time soon. Not whilst Arthur is safe.” Serena confirmed with weary sigh before focusing on parchment in front of her; this was going to be a long day.
Chapter 9: Excalibur Part 2Edit
“This is infuriating. I went through all the scrolls and tomes we have here. There are tons of information about wraiths and necromancy in general but I could not find one thing that would help us get rid of that thing. We need to pay visit to the library.” Serena stated with irritated yawn, it was well past midnight and they came up with nothing.
“Serena, we’ve been here for hours. I do not like the prospect of Sir Pellinore getting killed but if we are both over-tired, someone will suspect.” Merlin said with a yawn as well.
“I hate myself for such thoughts but I would like wraith to just claim what it came for and be gone.”
“You want the wraith to kill Uther?” Merlin made the infamous Gaius eyebrow lift he mastered quite quickly.
“It’s who the wraith is here for, isn’t it?”
“And what about Arthur? I don’t think it will put magic in the best light to him.”
“Uther already made sure of that. I just wish I could know the bottom of the story. This whole ‘magic killed Ygraine’ does not sound very believable to me.”
“What do you think it is?”
“I don’t know but I’ll see what I can find tomorrow in the archives. Try asking Gaius about Ygraine.” Serena said, two friends nodded to each other and split ways after descending down the north tower to retreat to their respective beds.
The gauntlet sailed through the air and landed on the ground at the feet of the black knights faster than either Uther or Serena managed to react. Serena’s figure stiffened as Arthur issued his challenge from where he was standing next to her seat. Of course this meant immediate trip to the library. She gave short curtsey to both Pendragon men and hurried off towards the citadel after informing Merlin where she will be.
“What are you doing in here?” Serena did not even flinch when Geoffrey suddenly appeared next to her in the library few hours later, she sensed him approaching whilst he was still at the door.
“What does it look like lord Geoffrey? I am trying to find a solution as to how we get rid off that wraith out there.” Serena replied nonplussed.
“Did his majesty send you here?”
“No, Gaius did. And I would have come here without either of their permissions.” Serena stated quite defiantly, picking out a large book from the shelf that was covered in dust and cobwebs.
“Perhaps I can help you? What exactly are you searching for?” Geoffrey asked once he realized the girl would not budge.
“Anything that could slay the dead.” Serena replied more kindly this time.
“Well…there are several fables that speak of ancient swords.”
‘The swords…’ Serena inwardly smacked herself for not remembering this sooner, her father drilled on about dragon forged swords for hours when she was a child.
“Of course! My father drilled on about those swords when I was child for hours! Thank you lord Geoffrey!” Serena was up on her feet and out of the library before the court genealogist could say another word.
“Youth these days.” Geoffrey muttered with shake of his head and went to put back the books the young lady left behind.
“We need a plain sword.” Serena announced to Merlin as she barged into their study where Merlin met her after she shouted in his mind to come.
“Plain sword?” Merlin looked at her as if she has grown second head.
“Yes. It was when Geoffrey spoke about fabled sword, I remembered my father drilling on about dragon forged swords for hours when I was a child. I can’t believe I haven’t remembered that before.”
“Dragon forged sword? As in forged by our riddle babbling lizard downstairs?” Merlin looked at the floor.
“Yes. We need a plain sword and then take it down in the caves for the Great Dragon to burnish it.”
“Gwen’s father. He’s a blacksmith.” Merlin suddenly stated.
“Then go. I need to speak with Uther anyway.”
“I will let you know when I am done. Oh and uh…you might want to steer clear from Arthur. He’s in a bad mood.” Merlin threw in before leaving the study.
“Pendragons…” Serena mumbled under her breath and made her way to the Council Chambers where she knew she would find the Pendragon senior; it seemed to be his favourite hide out when trouble arose.
She opted to enter through more subtle route, namely the servants’ entry at the back of the chambers but stopped in her step when she heard the voice that made her blood boil. Nimueh. She had nothing against the Priestess. Until she tried to kill Merlin. After that, gloves were off. Nevertheless, she was intrigued by Nimueh’s gloating that soon faded away as the conversation steered toward Ygraine.
“I did as you asked! I used magic you so despise to give your barren wife the son you craved for.” Nimueh said bitterly.
Surely she was not saying what Serena was thinking she was saying.
“Don’t…ever speak of her in that way.” Uther replied with pained tone. “She was my heart, my soul and you took her from me.”
“She died giving birth to your son. It was not my choice. That is the law of magic. To create a life, there has to be a death; the balance of the world had to be repaid.”
“You knew it would kill her.”
“No, you’re wrong. If I had foreseen her death and the terrible retribution you would seek…I would have never granted your wish.” Nimueh stated angrily.
“I wish you hadn’t.” Uther said so quietly that it was barely audible but it drew out a smirk on the priestess’ face.
“You wish you didn’t have a son?” Her tone assumed that gloating undertone again. “Well your wish will come true tomorrow.”
“You will not take him from me.”
“I have watched so many people I loved die at your hand Uther Pendragon.” Nimueh growled angrily.
“Now it’s your turn.”
There was a gush of wind and Serena assumed it was safe for her to come out of her hiding place.
“I always knew there was something more to the story that caused you to soak this land in the blood of innocents but this…” Serena’s voice was controlled but it trembled nevertheless as she walked in the chambers much to Uther’s utter shock.
“What are you doing here?” Uther managed to rasp out, still staring at her like she was a ghost.
“I actually wanted to speak to you about Tristan de Bois but it hardly seems irrelevant now.” Serena’s face morphed into one of pure outrage and got into his face.
Serena displayed her anger in his presence before but the look of pure disgust in her eyes made him shiver.
“How dare you punish others for your sins? How many families did you destroy? Leaving children without their parents or on occasions killing them as well because you could not bear to take responsibilities for your actions. You are the greatest hypocrite and liar I have ever met. What lie did you serve your beloved wife when you gave her the water from the Cup of Life?”
It was done in a second but Uther snapped and backhanded her, forcing her to step back and regain her balance.
“If you speak a word of this to Arthur…”
“You will what? Kill me? What excuse would you serve Arthur and the rest of the court to make it believable?” Serena hissed, hand soothing her cheek. “I will not tell him anything because the idea of seeing him run you through right now in my state of mind seems far more attractive. And mark my words, Uther Pendragon. He will find out sooner or later.”
“Do not be surprised if I do not speak to you in coming month or two.” Serena added angrily before leaving the same way she came from.
‘We have a problem.’
‘What is it?’
Serena has just settled herself in the chair next to the king’s as the people started to gather to witness the duel.
‘Arthur is not fighting.’
‘What do you mean, he is not fighting? Who is duelling the wraith then?’
‘Uther.’ Merlin’s simple statement made her blood freeze.
She knew the Pendragons had foolishness as a trait but she never thought utterly crazy would be one as well. Plus, Merlin promised the dragon that only Arthur would use the sword.
‘There is nothing I can do; he caught me by surprise in the armoury.’
‘Damn! The dragon won’t be pleased.’
‘Neither will Arthur, wherever he is right now.’
‘It is out of our hands now.’
Serena pinched the bridge of her nose. She was tired and stressed and barely got any sleep during the night. The absence of the silver bracelet on her left wrist reminded her of the late night visit she made to Arthur’s chambers.
The door of his chambers were open ajar, something she found strange but she heard clicking of the heels down the corridor so she assumed Morgana paid him a visit as well. Without knocking, she stepped inside and closed the door with light thud, making him jump around from where he stood next to the window.
“Don’t you ever knock Serena?”
“That would entire ruin the purpose of surprise, wouldn’t you say?” Serena retorted in light joking manner.
“Came to persuade me to withdraw from the duel like everyone else?” Arthur asked dejectedly.
This answer surprised him.
“They are concerned for you.”
“And you are not?”
“I am but what’s done is done. I have no doubt in your skills Arthur; you fight very much like my father.”
This perked his interest because Serena rarely spoke of her parents.
“It’s your opponent that worries me.”
“Every man can be beaten. I just have to find his weak spot.” Arthur stated as he waved with his hand towards the black knight that stood down there, still as statue.
“But that is just it Arthur. That’s not a man.”
His brow furrowed.
“What? You spend too much time in Merlin’s company.”
“I am dead serious Arthur. I come from magical kingdom remember. That thing out there is a wraith. Do you understand? He is already dead.”
“If my f…”
“Uther knows about it, why do you think he was so keen on stopping you from picking up the challenge yesterday?”
“Now is not the time for you to question him. I think there are other things you need to concern yourself with right now.” Serena looked down and removed simple looking silver bracelet from her wrist.
“Here. My mother enchanted it long ago.” she spoke as she placed it in Arthur open palm and he shot her suspicious look the moment ‘enchanted’ left her lips.
“Don’t worry it won’t bite.” Serena chuckled. “It’s enchanted to bring out focus in the person along with clear perception of things. It will help you.”
“No, and you best keep it that way Arthur. I do not wish to be parted from it.”
“It will help?” Arthur stared right in her eyes.
“It’s nothing. Get some sleep for tomorrow.” Serena smiled and turned to leave only for Arthur to grab her hand and squeeze it lightly.
“Save it for the feast.” She cut him off with kind smile and left his chambers.
The clash of swords brought her back from her memories and she had to admit that for an aging man, Uther fought really well. Although his footwork was little sluggish, he was completely matching the wraith in ferocity and speed of attacks.
The slightly dramatic gasps from the crowd when Uther knocked off wraith’s helmet made Serena roll her eyes in annoyance but she remained composed throughout the fight and of course applauded with everyone else when Uther won and removed his helmet. Just because he defeated the wraith does not mean she was going to talk to him any time soon.
She shot him an icy glare after she which promptly left the battle arena. She was not envious of Uther tolerating Arthur’s temper tantrum when he appeared wherever he was hiding throughout the duel. Serena entered her chambers and promptly walked over to the cabinet where she had few things she managed to escape Escavalon with.
Her eyes narrowed on the sword resting in beautifully ornamented sheath and she took it out. It wasn’t until she saw the sword Merlin brought last night to their study, that her suspicions about her father’s sword arose. She always believed that the sound she would hear every time her father would draw it out was because of the sheath and the way her father did it.
Now as she stared at the blue markings imbedded in the flat part of the blade, she was beginning to think otherwise. She wondered.
Chapter 10: To Kill the KingEdit
“She does have a point you know.” Serena’s calm voice pierced through the tense silence Morgana left in her wake after she confronted Uther about Gwen’s father.
Both Pendragons looked at her surprised.
“I was not expecting your return until nightfall tomorrow.” Uther stated flatly, observing her riding outfit.
“Eh, well, the illness was not as dangerous as the village healer thought at first. I left instructions on how to make the remedy. So what’s this I hear about Gwen’s father and sorcery?”
“Nothing, he was found guilty conspiring with a sorcerer.”
“I find that hard to believe, Tom would never do that. What exactly happened?”
“He was found making weapons for the sorcerer.” Uther grumbled angrily.
“And who exactly reported this crime?”
“Some peasant that was passing by the blacksmith and saw Tauren do magic. Some kind of stone that made gold.” Arthur added.
“Aaah, the Mage Stone.” Serena nodded knowingly.
“You know about it?” Arthur asked surprised though he knew he really shouldn’t be.
“Of course. I was educated in far more things than you. Though I am surprised you never heard about it Uther, the Stone is quite fabled. Jewel of the ancient times.”
“It’s magic therefore I am not required to know it.” Uther muttered and Serena instantly snorted.
“Of course you don’t. Has Tom perhaps said that Tauren told him it would be science experiment?”
“He did. Why?”
“In that case he wasn’t lying. The Mage Stone is product of alchemy, and alchemy is a combination of science and magic. I am guessing Tauren opted to tell Tom just the part about science but not the fact it requires magic to wield it.”
“The law is the law. He will be given trial and he will be found guilty.” Uther stated despite the fact Serena just half-proved that the man was innocent.
“Find Tauren and his accomplices.”
Arthur gave his father disbelieving look and left the Council Chambers although by the look he gave Serena, it was obvious he entirely disagreed with his father’s decision.
“Are you testing me?” Serena’s cheerful voice dropped to icy dangerous tone.
“Do you want me to stop talking to you again? You did not like it the last time.”
And indeed he did not like it. Her cold demeanour every time he was around her, made the court wonder what exactly happened that the cheerful lady would turn into cold hearted mute that would shut her mouth every time Uther would try to talk to her.
“Serena, the law…”
“Again with your precious law. Fine then! You want to play by the law? I will play by your precious law and I will defend Tom on the trial.”
“You will do no such thing!”
“Yes, I will and you can’t stop me. I am well educated and trust me; Lord Geoffrey will tell you there is no law that forbids me to do so. Good night, my lord.” She said the last part with blatant disrespect and stormed off to her chambers.
“I assume that your grand entrance means you did not have a nice conversation with Uther.” Alys flatly remarked as Serena changed her clothing behind the dressing screen.
“That man is so blind that if I performed magic in front of everyone, he would probably accuse some servant standing in the back of the hall.” Serena muttered.
“But you have found a way to get Tom cleared?” Alys asked.
“Morgana threatened Uther that she would never forgive him if he didn’t give Tom a trial. I will defend him.”
“When is the trial?”
“Tomorrow at noon.”
“I assume you want to be woken early in the morning to prepare then?”
“That would be great.”
“Alright. If there is nothing else, I will retire.”
“That would be all. Good night Alys.” Serena said absent minded as she made her way to her bed.
“Good night Serena.” Alys smiled a bit and left her friend’s chambers.
Though she was not overly tired, Serena fell asleep the moment her head touched the pillow. Her dreams however were abruptly interrupted about an hour later when the warning bells started to toll, slicing through the night’s silence like a sharp blade through skin. Serena sat up in her bed and hurried over to the balcony just to see couple of guards hauling Tom’s body on the cart.
“Serena…” Alys trailed off when she came to stand next to Serena on the balcony.
“Go tell Morgana I want to see her in my chambers right away.” Serena demanded angrily.
“Right away.” Alys decided not to question why Serena would want to see Morgana at this hour.
Serena always thought Morgana to be somewhat of a hothead when it came to situations that involved Uther convicting innocent people to death but this…She just knew Morgana was behind this failed attempt of escape.
“I don’t think you’ll be able to speak with Morgana any time soon.” Alys appeared few minutes after she left.
“And why is that?”
“She insulted Uther and he had her sent to the dungeons.”
“I swear, they are like father and daughter. The temper is all but the same.” Serena stated with small sigh.
“What are you going to do?”
“What can I do? I might be able to do lot of things but bringing back the dead is not one of them. I will talk to Morgana when she simmers off and Uther has just earned himself a silence treatment.”
“Will it ever stop Serena?”
The king’s ward was well aware of what Alys meant by her question.
“I have no idea Alys. I hope it will stop when Arthur is king because I have long stopped believing Uther would ever change his view of magic. But Arthur is different in that respect. Patience is out best option.”
“I hate waiting.”
“No arguments from me Alys.” Serena offered her a small smile. “Go to sleep Alys, there is nothing that can be done now.”
“I will see you in the morning then.” Alys nodded and left, leaving the king’s ward alone with her loud thoughts.
“Where have you been?”
Morgana jumped at the sharp tone of Serena’s voice, finding the said young woman seated in the armchair in the dark corner of Morgana’s chambers. Serena of course knew where Morgana was because Merlin informed her ten minutes before Morgana returned that she met Tauren in the forest and arranged for Tauren to kill Uther during her annual pilgrimage to her father’s grave.
“I needed some fresh air.”
“Is that all?” Serena’s eyes narrowed at Morgana as she traipsed around her chambers.
“Yes. What are you doing here anyway?” Morgana asked snappily.
“How could you be so stupid? If you wanted to help Tom escape, you should have come to me last night.” Serena hissed.
“Morgana I know you. And whilst your intentions were good, your timing was all wrong as well as organisation. I was prepared to defend the man in trial today.”
“You were?” Morgana asked surprised.
“Yes. But what’s done is done. Now…what were you really doing in the forest?”
“How do you know where I’ve been?”
“Your boots, sweetie. I am more outgoing then you.” Serena pointed to the muddy boots Morgana was wearing with a leaf stuck on the bottom of one.
“I told you, I went to get some fresh air.” Morgana replied again tersely.
“Fine, if you want to lie to me, then go ahead.” Serena sighed and made her way toward the door to leave. “Just think about what you are about to do to Arthur. He is not ready to rule. And if Uther gets killed by a sorcerer, it would just prove Uther right, no matter how he is killed. Whether by cold blade or magic, it would make no difference to Arthur.”
She gave Morgana a knowing look and retreated from her chambers, leaving puzzled and slightly frightened Morgana behind. She would follow Morgana and Uther with Merlin and intervene if necessary, which was very likely. She could only hope that Morgana would come to her senses before it will be too late.
“So what changed your mind?” Serena asked as two wards walked down the busy streets of Camelot with their maids walking slightly behind them.
The whole of Camelot was praising Morgana’s heroic deed of protecting her king against the assassin. No one but Gaius, Merlin, Alys and Serena knew what really happened and two young magic users were just fine with that.
“I still think he should pay for what he has done. But what you said about Arthur made me realize you are right.” Morgana replied.
“What comes around, goes back around. Uther will pay for his blind hatred sooner or later. I do not know how, when or by whom but trust me, he will get his just desserts.” Serena assured her.
“But how long will we have to wait?”
“I don’t know. I do not think it will be a long wait though.” Serena stated with dash of mystery that made Morgana frown for few seconds but decided not to press the question further.
She was still angry at Uther but she cared for Arthur too much to cause him such pain. Perhaps Serena was right. Morgana just wondered how many innocents will pay in the mean time.
Chapter 11: Le Morte d'Arthur Part 1Edit
Serena could feel Merlin’s fear rolling off of him in waves the moment he came into the city with Arthur and his hunting party. She was used to him broadcasting his emotional distress from time to time even though he usually kept tight walls around his mind but this was different. And Serena did not like it. It was sheer fear mixed with panic.
Abandoning the book she was currently reading, she made sure she was decently dressed and followed Merlin’s telepathic trail to the Council Chambers. When she got there, Merlin was standing behind Uther and Arthur and everyone in the chambers looked worried.
“What happened?” Serena asked in her usual curious tone of voice.
Gaius glanced at her wearily before looking at Uther and Arthur again.
“The creature you describe has all the characteristics of the Questing Best.” he announced with grave voice.
“Surely that’s a myth.” Arthur flippantly dismissed it as always and if she weren’t so terrified of the news, Serena would have smacked him on the head.
“The Questing Beast is very real. Where did you see it?” Serena cut in with sharp tone of voice.
“In the forest.” Arthur supplied tersely.
“According to the old books, the appearance of the Questing Beast foreshadows a time of great upheaval.”
“It’s an old wives’ tale.” Uther stated firmly, giving both Gaius and Serena a cryptic look but Serena snorted in return albeit opting not to say anything.
“Look, whatever it is, it’s spreading panic. The people fear it will enter the city.”
“Then we must kill it. Arthur, gather the guard. You ride at dawn.” Uther ordered, Arthur nodded and left with Merlin hot on his heels; everyone following the example except Gaius and Serena.
“Serena…leave.” Uther ordered but she did not move.
“I beg you, Sire, do not dismiss it. The beast is an omen. I’ve seen it come before, the night your wife Ygraine passed away.” Gaius pointed out, he was well aware that Serena knew the secret of Arthur’s birth, Uther told him so few days after the incident with the wraith.
“I told you not to speak of that night again. I have conquered the Old Religion. It’s warnings mean nothing to me now. Arthur will slay the beast and we will no longer suffer at its hand.”
Bitter laughter echoed the walls of the Council Chambers as Serena’s face turned into impassive one again and her eyes mirrored the anger and annoyance Uther was sending her way.
“You? Conquered the Old Religion? You arrogant fool. You cannot conquer something as great as Old Religion. You managed to instil fear in the hearts of your citizens; nothing more. We are talking about the magic of the Earth itself that has been here long before we, as humanity, existed and it will continue to exist long after we are gone from this world. Hate it all you want for all I care, but do not be so disrespectful and dismiss our warnings so flippantly. Nimueh warned you and you failed to take heed. Have you learnt nothing?” Serena angrily admonished him.
“You will hold your tongue or I will send you to the dungeons!” Uther warned her.
“Do that. Let’s see what rest of the council will think about that.” Serena challenged and he gave her a confused look.
“What are you talking about?”
“You think I am not aware of the things part of the court speaks off me? I know very well that at least once a month my heritage is brought up in discussion when some magical threat occurs in this kingdom. Do not look at Gaius…” She snapped when Uther sent Gaius suspicious look “He did not tell me anything. It’s not hard to guess, considering the way some of the nobles look at me. And let us be honest, most of them cannot hold their liquor so I hear them talk in their sneaky little groups at feasts. Some of them are even under the impression I enchanted you into allowing me to stay in Camelot.”
“Who are they? I shall have a word with them.” Uther stated determinately.
“I will not tell you, I am capable of defending myself against such accusations. Besides, your way of dealing with people will just enforce that opinion with the rest of the court.” Serena stated. “Now if you excuse me…I wish to speak with Arthur before he leaves in the morning.”
“Came to wish me good hunting?” Arthur asked with his trademark smile that vanished the moment he saw her deadly serious face. “What’s wrong?”
He set aside his sword and crossed the room in three paces to stand right in front of her.
“Is it this Questing Beast?”
“Yes, Arthur, of course it’s the Questing Beast. I need you to wear this again.” Serena spoke as she removed her magical bracelet again.
“Please just wear it!” she snapped angrily but her fear was very obvious.
“Alright.” Arthur acquiesced and put the bracelet on his wrist. “Tell me more about the Questing Beast.”
“The Questing Beats carries the most basic and strongest powers of the Old Religion, which is magic of life and death itself. You must be very, very careful tomorrow when you hunt for it Arthur. One bite means certain death and there is no cure for it. None at all.”
“That’s all you know?”
“What did you expect? Fairy tale? Magic is not a fairy tale, Arthur.” Serena bit back angrily and he raised his hands in surrendering manner.
“There is no need for you to bite my head off, I just asked.”
“Sorry. Your father winded me up as always.”
“You two are impossible.”
“How can he be so disrespectful of the Old Religion? I understand that he hates it but as a decently reasonable king, he should show more respect to it. His flippant dismissal of danger makes me want to slap him. Hard.”
“So I noticed. You should get some sleep.” Arthur caressed her cheek affectionately.
“I will. I just wanted to make sure you are aware of danger you face tomorrow.” Serena offered him kind smile and went for the door. “Good luck.”
Arthur smiled his thanks and stared at the door she closed for few minutes before he went to bed himself. Tomorrow was, after all, a big day.
Chapter 12: Le Morte d'Arthur Part 2Edit
Arthur had to admit that whilst the thrill of hunt made him always extra alert, the bracelet Serena gave him was not bad either. The moment he put it on his wrist for the first time, he was surprised to find out how far he could see in far greater detail and his hearing got really sharp. This is why he could hear the damn beast growling from the belly of the cavern even though they were still far from it, scouting its entrances from the cover forest provided.
Merlin also seemed extra careful and twitchy; and though usually Arthur would tease him for it mercilessly but he could not bring himself to do it. Especially because both Gaius and Serena were really worried about the bloody beast. Sure, Serena showed her worry before but this was different. Plus, there was the whole thing with Morgana this morning. What was that about anyway?
The cave was dark and the air was rather foul, the humidity mixed with scent of decomposition of corpses. Judging by the bone littered cave floor, Arthur guessed the beast has been here for a long time. This of course prompted a question. If the beast has been living here for a long time, what happened that made the beast leave its cover and start wandering the forest so close to the city?
His musings were interrupted by louder growl that echoed the cave, making him more alert and Merlin more skittish as usual.
“What is it?”
What happened next was so fast he barely got the time to register it properly in his mind. The beast hissed behind them, forcing Arthur to push Merlin away in one fluid movement and stab at the beast, something that infuriated it and second later, Arthur felt sharp pain in his left shoulder after which he was flung aside by the enraged beast. Darkness claimed him quickly and he found himself floating between life and death.
He was vaguely of Merlin shaking him and shouting for help, pain being the more pressing thing to trouble him. Despite being of absolutely disgusting taste and the fact he was unconscious, therefore he shouldn’t be aware of the pain much, Arthur wouldn’t mind if Gaius gave him one of his potions for getting rid of pain.
Serena knew what happened without even having to look trough her window. But when she saw Uther carrying bloodied, dying Arthur across the courtyard to his chambers, she felt something snap inside of her. The sight was heartbreaking to her but she could not help but to give the devastated king an angry glare because this was after all his fault. If he listened to Gaius and her, this would not have happened.
“I tried.” Merlin said the moment Serena appeared in Arthur’s chambers with basin of fresh water and cloth.
“I know you did. I would never presume otherwise.” Serena replied in slightly subdued voice as she crossed the distance between the door and the bed.
“Can you heal him?”
“Merlin…” Serena sighed, dipped the cloth in the cold water and put it on Arthur’s alarmingly hot forehead “I dare to think of myself as very good healer. As far as healing magic is concerned. But from the time I was old enough to understand what was said to me; my mother, father, uncle, tutors, Weylin…they all said the same thing. Bite of a Questing Beast is a death sentence. I know no healing spell that can fix this.”
“I’m going to find a way.” Merlin stated determinedly.
“Don’t do something utterly foolish that will require me getting you out of trouble.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t. I hope.” He smirked a bit when she sent him a scolding glare. “You just make sure he lives long enough for me to come up with something.”
With that, the warlock retreated from prince’s chambers, leaving Serena alone with dying Arthur. The way his face contorted in pain told her he was mirroring probably only a fraction of what was wracking his body.
After all, she read few reports Weylin showed her during her tutelage and they all described victims of the Questing Beast dying in horrendous pain in time span from minutes to days. Serena only prayed that if it was indeed Arthur’s time to leave this world, that it would be quick.
“How is he?”
Serena’s figure stiffened from where she was tending to Arthur at the sound of Uther’s voice. She was angry at him and at Merlin for choosing to take dragon’s advice and travel to the Isle of the Blessed. The moment he let that name slip from his lips, she knew what dragon had in mind. A trade. Bargain. Same kind of bargain Uther made twenty years ago and which resulted in endless cycle of bloodshed.
“How do you think he is? He’s dying.” Serena hissed venomously, barely containing her tears that were caused by Arthur’s condition and the fact that when her friend returns, she would have only one night with him before he perished.
“I should have listened to you…”
“It’s a bit late for that!” Her head whipped around to face him and he actually took a step back.
“You love him.”
It was a simple statement. He may not be able to read her most of the time but right now she was an open book.
“I guess we will never know.”
Two royals looked sidewise to see Gwen standing at the door with timid expression; obviously she was aware that she interrupted something.
“Gaius needs you in his chambers now.”
“Alright.” Serena got up from the armchair she was sitting in and handed refreshed cloth to Uther. “I trust the task of keeping this on your son’s forehead is not too demeaning for you until I get back.”
Without another word, she motioned for Gwen to follow her and left Uther alone to tend to his gravely injured son. Perhaps spending some time to see his son’s suffery will make Uther think twice next time he is warned about grave danger the Old Religion is threatening with.
Chapter 13: Le Morte d'Arthur Part 3Edit
He was pretty sure his body was on fire. Or at least that is what his muddled mind believed right now. Arthur was vaguely aware that he was no longer in the cave but in the comforts of his chambers, with Serena tending to him whole day and night, barely leaving his side.
There was something about Merlin’s voice, as if he failed his greatest duty of protecting him. Merlin protecting him! He was a prince and he was the one that was bound by duty to protect his manservant and his people. Not the other way around.
“I know you did. I would never presume otherwise.” Serena replied as if Merlin saving Arthur’s life was daily occurrence to her.
“Can you heal him?”
“Merlin…” Arthur heard her sigh and few seconds later he felt cool feeling spreading through his fiery skin. “I dare to think of myself as very good healer. As far as healing magic is concerned. But from the time I was old enough to understand what was said to me; my mother, father, uncle, tutors, Weylin…they all said the same thing. Bite of a Questing Beast is a death sentence. I know no healing spell that can fix this.”
Did she just say she does not know healing spell to use on him? Did that mean she practised magic? He completely dismissed the idea after he heard her say that her magic was bound. But obviously she found a way to break those binds. If he ever woke up from this poison induced, deadly dream state, he would have a long talk with her.
“I’m going to find a way.” Merlin stated determinedly.
“Don’t do something utterly foolish that will require me getting you out of trouble.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t. I hope. You just make sure he lives long enough for me to come up with something.”
“I do hope you get through this. If you die, I will go to the spirit world and kill you there myself.” Serena threatened as she replaced the cloth on his forehead.
Well that sounded like Serena. Here he was, dying, and she was threatening to kill him. But his soul was pressed with more important matters. Matters of love. Were his feelings for Serena natural or result of some sort of spell on her part? No! He mustn’t think that way. Serena argued with his father about magic all the time yes but that did not make her evil. It did not fit into same sentence.
Although she was just as mysterious as that half-wit of his manservant, her eyes always showed her sincerity regarding things she said. Speaking of his half-wit manservant, Arthur wondered what he was doing. Merlin was good influence on him. Not that he would ever admit it. He would never hear the end of it.
She sounded surprised and at the same time worried when they appeared.
“Here. We must give this to Arthur.” Merlin stated urgently.
“What is it?”
“Water drawn from the Cup of Life.”
There was dead silence in the room for few seconds.
“You’ve really done it.”
Although she whispered, it was so silent that the whisper echoed the stone walls of Arthur’s chambers.
“Now isn’t the time Serena.” Merlin sounded older, authoritative. “Please, just give him the water.”
He felt his head being lifted into, Arthur presumed, Serena’s lap and he felt water trickle down his mouth and throat. Almost immediately he felt the fire poison caused in his veins die down, being replaced by cool sensation the obviously enchanted water provided him with and his pain muddled mind was beginning to clear.
“What are you doing physician?”
If Arthur was awake, he would have rolled his eyes at his father’s question. Only he would question Gaius’ work whilst his son was on his deathbed.
“It’s uh…tincture made from the lobelia plant. An ancient remedy for poisonous bites.”
‘Yeah right.’ Arthur thought. ‘And I am the court jester.’
“Do you really think it will have some effect?”
“It’s our last resort sire.” Gaius replied and poured the remaining few drops in Arthur’s mouth.
“Perhaps you should allow him to rest.”
“I will not leave him.” Uther’s tone made it clear that they were all, including Serena, to leave.
Serena set Arthur’s head in the pillows again and looked at the prince over her shoulder before walking out after Gaius and Merlin.
“Do you realize what you have done?” Serena exploded the moment they were within the safe confinements of their study.
“I had to! If Arthur dies, I have no destiny!”
“And if you die, neither does he!”
“He will have you.”
“I am not you!” Serena shouted half-angry, half-desperate.
“You will be his wife!”
That temporarily shut her up.
“W-What?” She asked with small voice, almost as if she was five year old girl.
“I am destined to protect Arthur but you are destined to be his wife. He will be fine with you at his side.” Merlin visibly deflated.
“It is not the same. Why did you not tell me of this?”
“Would you have even considered the idea? Back when I revealed that the prophecy about Emrys and Once and Future King refers to me and Arthur. I don’t think so.”
Suddenly, she lunged forward and embraced him tightly; and he felt his shirt around his shoulder getting wet.
“Merlin you idiot.” Serena sadly mumbled into his shirt.
“You know, our horses won’t be grateful after this!” Serena remarked as two friends hurried to the Isle of the Blessed.
“A nice long rest and month of treats; and they’ll forgive us.” Neither the warlock not the witch could believe at first what was happening. Serena spent all her night keeping Merlin company as she believed no one should die alone. And then…he woke up in the morning to their greatest surprise only to discover that Merlin’s mother Hunith was deathly ill. Serena felt anger bubble up inside her when Merlin told her he encountered Nimueh at the Isle. Figures that the old witch would trick him.
She felt chills going through her as they walked toward the inner part of the Isle. It saddened her to see the ruined, deteriorated state once a jewel of Old Religion was in. However, her sadness was replaced by anger when Nimueh and slumped form of Gaius came into view.
“Back again so soon warlock?” Nimueh asked with certain glee in her tone as she finished the chant and set the Cup of Life on the altar.
“What have you done?”
“Your mother is safe. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Have you killed him?”
“It was his wish.”
“I traded my life for Arthur’s! Not my mother’s, not Gaius’!”
“The Old Religion does not care who lives and who dies! Only that the balance of the world is restored! To save a life, a life must be taken. Gaius knew this.” Nimueh barked out angrily.
“The Old Religion does care. The Mother Goddess does care and she judges wisely when she is asked to perform this kind of trade. You have been granted such power yet you trifle with it and bend it to your gain.” Serena finally spoke, drawing Nimueh’s attention.
“Ah, the Once and Future Queen. You are bit too young to lecture me about my powers and duties.” Nimueh admonished.
“What duties? You haven’t performed one single duty as High Priestess in a very long time. All you care for is to bring about Uther’s downfall. Look at this place! It is in utter ruin! Instead of spending your time rebuilding, giving some sort of hope to people with magic, you spent twenty years plotting and seeking vengeance.” Serena snapped.
“Enough! I will not be scolded by a throneless brat!” Nimueh bit back venomously but Serena did not as much as twitch. “With my help, Arthur will become king!”
“I will make Arthur king, But you will never see that day. Ástríce!”
Though the attack was passionate and powerful, Nimueh absorbed it.
“Your childish tricks are useless against me Merlin. I am a Priestess of the Old Religion. Forbærne!”
The golden shield Serena raised up at the same time deflected Nimueh’s attack just as easily.
“You are both powerful creatures of the Old Religion. We should join forces.” Nimueh remarked.
“As if I would ever consider siding myself with you.”
“You think I would ever join forces with such selfish and cruel magic. Never.”
Two friends replied simultaneously.
“So be it. Ácwele!” Nimueh hurled a massive fireball that broke Serena’s shield and knocked them of their feet.
“Pity…Such power and yet such foolish choice.”
The look on Merlin’s face as he stood up was unlike Serena ever saw before and actually made her step away from him as his icy glare settled on Nimueh’s gleeful figure.
“You should not have killed my friend.” His voice was deep and final.
Serena’s entire being vibrated as Merlin reached into the very essence of the magic that was at its strongest in this place and with simple flick of his wrist brought down the killer lightning from the thunderous clouds onto the treacherous Priestess, blowing her up into oblivion. Merlin exhaled deeply and looked sidewise to see Serena’s astonished gaze looking back at him.
“That was amazing Merlin. Terrifying…but amazing nevertheless. You do realize what you have just done?”
“I killed someone.”
“Yes. But you also mastered the power over life and death. You truly are taking footsteps to the future where magic will be free once again. Emrys…” She added the last word with small smile.
Two youths ran over to the old physician and Serena used some of her power to stir the unconscious man awake.
“You’re alive!” Merlin shouted over the rain joyously.
“You amaze me. You mastered the power of life and death. We’ll make a great warlock out of you yet.”
That elicited chuckles from both the warlock and the witch.
“So you believe in me now?”
“Well I would do if…if you stopped this blasted rain.” Gaius complained and sent them all into round of laughter as the rain continued to pelt their clothing and skin, soaking the earth beneath their feet.
Today they made a small but significant step towards their future.
Chapter 14: Winter revelations Part 1Edit
Serena loved winter. The air was crisp and fresh, and everything was covered in pure white snow. She didn’t mind the coldness like most people did. This is why she was in the middle of dressing for a nice late morning ride. She just finished securing her belt when knock on the door sounded.
“Serena?” Arthur called out inquisitively.
“What is it Arthur?” Serena came from behind the screen fully clothed, reaching for the forest green riding coat.
“I was wondering if I could join you for your ride. I asked Alys, she said you were going alone.”
“Well, yes, because not many people are actually fond of winter. And you can’t come with me in these light clothes.” She waved to his current outfit.
“Right…I will meet you down at the stables in ten minutes.”
“Are you certain you can ride?”
He would be lying if he did not admit that his shoulder still hurt even though it has been three months since the Questing Beast incident. Three long, painfully boring months for him during which he carefully deliberate how to approach Serena about her magic. Thing is, he still did not know how.
“Yes I already spoke to Gaius. As long as I don’t strain myself it will be fine.”
“Then go and get dressed.” Serena shooed him out of her chambers.
She noticed that Arthur was behaving rather strange around her during his recovery but she dismissed it as his inexperience at serious attempt to flirt with a woman he really liked. And he was quite surprised when she kissed him upon her return from the Isle of the Blessed. She was still soaking wet when she barged in his chambers that day.
“I hear Arthur is joining you for your ride.” Her head whipped around as she stopped at the top of the Griffin staircase at the sound of Merlin’s voice.
“Yes. Quite surprising…seeing as he stated on many occasions that he is not overly fond of winter.” Serena remarked.
“Just don’t be out long. I’d hate to see him catch a cold.”
“Are you worried about Arthur?” Serena teased.
“Goodness no. He makes the most irritable prat when he gets cold.” Merlin rolled his eyes in mock annoyance for extra flare.
“Then I will make sure he does not get a cold out there. Enjoy your time off.”
“Oh, trust me, I will.” Merlin grinned enthusiastically before rushing off towards their study if Serena knew Merlin as well as she thought she did.
“Do you have any specific wish on where to go Arthur?” Serena asked as they mounted their horses five minutes later.
“No. I just wanted some time alone with you.”
This reply earned him a Gaius eyebrow lift but he kept his neutral look on the face, not wishing to reveal anything. Serena seemed to have accepted this explanation and drove her stallion into slow canter, making him do the same. The guards, that were the only souls in the streets during most of the day as everyone else sought warm shelter of their homes, gave the prince and the king’s ward puzzled looks but nodded their heads in respect anyway as the duo passed them on their way out of the city.
“So…” Serena began as they made their way over the snow covered clearing and she moved Tairneach closer to Arthur’s mount. “What do you wish to discuss with me that cannot be done within the warm comfort of your or my chambers?”
Instead of a spoken answer, she got a passionate kiss that seemed to express his longing and something else Serena was not able to decipher. He broke it off only when he realized that they both ran out off air. He felt certain amount of heat rise in his cheeks as Serena licked her lips and traced them with her gloved thumb.
“Not that I did not appreciate your kiss but what brought it on?”
“What brought up your kiss?” Arthur retorted.
“That was three months ago and you nearly died.”
“So you are saying you kissed me just because I nearly died?”
“Then what is it?”
“Ugh…why do men think that women are obligated to speak of their emotions first? Where is that fabled chivalry you so fondly speak off?” Serena muttered flustered.
“Because you are better at it.” Arthur reasoned.
“Wimp.” Serena bit out teasingly. “I care for you. More than I probably should. There are times when you drive me completely insane with that arrogant, prattish attitude of yours and there are times when I see in you everything I would wish for in a man. You are a puzzle Arthur.”
“Merlin is a puzzle. I am quite simple.”
“No, Artur, you are not.” Serena smiled kindly. “And you?”
“I’m in love with you.”
His frank statement was stunning for her. Pendragons were not known for being able to express their emotions.
“I don’t know what it is that draws me to you. You puzzle me with your behaviour as much as I puzzle you. And then there is the whole dash of mystery that surrounds you.” Arthur remarked and saw her eyes narrow at the last part of his statement.
“I know Serena.” Arthur said seriously, staring straight into her blue eyes that shone with caution and surprise. “I know you can use your magic again.”
Chapter 15: Winter revelations Part 2Edit
“You seem quite calm considering you are face to face with a witch.” Serena remarked, her eyes never leaving his.
“I do not believe you are going to do any harm to me.” Arthur stated confidently, small smirk on his lips.
“I could if I wanted to.” She warned seriously.
“But you won’t.”
“You shouldn’t have this kind of absolute trust in people. You never know what they really want from you.”
“And what do you want from me?” Arthur challenged.
“Nothing. And everything.”
“That doesn’t make much sense.”
“One day you will figure it out.” Serena smiled.
“How long have you had your magic back?” Arthur was not going to let her change the subject so easily.
“For three years now. Ever since I came of age.”
“You come of age at twenty one.”
“You did. In Escavalon, you come of age when you enter your adulthood Arthur. That’s eighteen years old. And apparently, my parents bound my magic to my coming of age.”
“Why do you use it?”
“Why do you breathe?”
Arthur frowned at her snappy retort.
“Why are you making magic and breathing equally important?”
“Because it is for me! Damn it Arthur, you should know that. Every sensibly educated noble in Escavalon knew the difference between sorcerers and warlocks.”
“Yes. Sorcerer and sorceress are different things from warlocks and witches. I’m a witch, not a sorceress.” Serena stated quite proudly.
“Then pray tell the difference.” Arthur demanded.
“Sorcerer is a person that has to study magic, for years before being able to wield its very basics. True you have to have a small inkling for magic or you study for nothing but that’s all they have. Inkling of magic. Whereas warlock or a witch, has natural gift for magic since childhood. Back in Neyli, when a child would perform magic for the first time, it was cause for celebration. Here, one flash of gold and you end up in the pyre or if it’s a child, then it ends up in a well.” Serena explained, spitting out the last sentence angrily.
Although Arthur has known nothing but the statement that magic is evil and that every sorcerer and sorceress he met so far was evil, he never agreed with his father’s punishments, especially when children were involved. The very idea of killing a child repulsed him.
“Every encounter I had with magic so far was bad one.”
“Is it surprising Arthur? Your father has spent twenty years killing thousands of innocents. Those who do come for vengeance are usually those who lost someone because of him. Have you noticed that whilst not all, most of the sorcerers are around your age or slightly older? They were all children who lost their parents. Don’t you ever wonder how many families your father destroyed for no good reason? Just because someone said magic.”
Arthur had to admit she had a good point but he also knew there was nothing he could do now to fix that.
“I cannot go against my father all the time when magic is involved.”
“No…but I do hope when you are king that you change things. Nothing good will come out of you picking up where he left off.”
“I know. That does not mean you and I are done talking about this yet. I want to know exactly what you have been doing since you got your magic back.” Arthur pointed out.
“Whatever you say.” Serena shrugged her shoulders with teasing smile.
“Wait…does Merlin know about your magic? Is that why you two sneak around the castle?”
Arthur already knew the answer to that question but he wanted to see if she would cover for Merlin or not.
“Yes but you mustn’t punish him. He was just being a good friend.” Her eyes narrowed on him. “How did you find out about my magic anyway?”
“I heard you talking about healing spells when I was bitten by the Questing Beast.”
She visibly paled at that though he did not seem to notice. How much did he actually hear?
“What did you do anyway? I heard something about water…” Arthur trailed off and his smile faded when he saw her suddenly blank expression and if he wasn’t mistaken, her eyes were getting glassy.
“I do not wish to talk about it.”
“Please! I will tell you when I am ready.”
‘Not to mention that I could use Merlin to explain part of the story.’ She bitterly thought.
“Alright…I will not mention it again. But whatever you and Merlin did, I am grateful.” Arthur replied, obviously not wishing to set her off.
“Just be more cautious next time a powerful magical beast appears.” Serena let out a shaky breath.
“Your bracelet was a good asset. Unfortunately I was not quick enough.”
“What’s done is done. I just hope you learnt something from your near death experience.”
“I did.” Arthur stated smugly. “I learnt that the woman I love has and is using magic in magic banned kingdom. And that my manservant knew about it all along. Two rebels.”
‘It’s bit more than that.’ Serena dryly remarked to herself.
“But you love us both.”
“I do not love Merlin. I don’t even like him.”
“You are so cute when you lie so blatantly.”
“I am not cute. Men are not cute!” Arthur protested as Serena moved away from him, urging her stallion to faster canter.
“Whatever gets you through the night, sir knight.”
“That’s prince Arthur for you!”
“Uh-huh…Still not convinced on that part!” She stuck her tongue between her teeth in a childish manner and laughed.
“Come back here!”
“Catch me if you can!”
Just to make some things clear so you don't ask me in comments same questions all time. The double quotation marks in my story mark dialogue, single quotation marks are telepathic conversation and italics are used in flashbacks.