- My first Merlin fanfic, first posted over a year ago on FF.net and is two chapters away from being finished. Take your time to read it. :)
Essetir, kingdom to the east of Camelot has a new ruler after months of anarchy in the form of a queen. The only problem is that the queen is also a witch. What happens next? [story starts two weeks after His Father's Son]
Chapter 1: New ruler of EssetirEdit
Still rather sleepy, Arthur made his toward Council chambers to which he was called from warm breakfast and early round of banter with Merlin who stayed behind to pick up the laundry as he was not allowed in the high level meetings. Arthur was still a bit sore from the duel with Queen Annis' champion, or should he say giant, Derian two weeks ago. Man really had a punch.
"What is the meaning of this urgency?" Arthur asked as he entered to be greeted by some of his council members, Sir Leon and his uncle Agravaine looking quite grave, holding a parchment.
"Sire, a scout has arrived from our eastern borders. It would seem that Essetir is no longer without ruler." Agravaine responded as Arthur got closer.
"It was about time someone took over, though I wonder why you have summoned me for that. It cannot be that important to relinquish me of perfectly good, warm breakfast." Arthur said as he took the parchment.
"It is very important, sire." Agravaine said and looked at other councillors before continuing. "Essetir has a new ruler in the form of queen."
"Surely that is not a problem; queen Annis is leading Odin quite capably." Arthur interjected.
"Indeed sir. Though it is not the fact that a woman is ruling Essetir that concerns us." Agravaine replied.
"Then what is?" Arthur asked slightly annoyed.
"Queen Aurora, sire... She's a witch, sire. I even spoke to Gaius not but a moment ago and he has confirmed that he has heard of a prominent and powerful witch named Aurora." Agravaine responded and Arthur paled slightly at the very statement.
First, for many years Essetir was ruled by ruthless king now a witch on the throne. He wouldn't mind if a witch was a queen in some land far away from Camelot's borders.
"Did she forcefully take the throne?" Arthur asked, studying the report.
"No, sire. The scout reported she was chosen which could be true but then again she could have enchanted the people to choose her." Agravaine replied.
"That seems unlikely, to enchant so many people." Arthur shook his head.
"She doesn't have to enchant many. Just those who matter." Agravaine pointed out, internally enjoying to see the anger that appeared in his nephew's eyes the moment he said the young queen was a witch, Morgana's idea to encourage Arthur in yet another war was working perfectly, especially since the report suggested that the young queen was stubborn as a mule.
"And if I might add..." Agravaine spoke and looked at Arthur who nodded for his uncle to continue. "Report also suggests, as you read it yourself, that she is gathering other sorcerers to her side. We should act now before leaving Camelot wide open for an attack."
"I do not think declaring a war straight away is the solution uncle. I want to send a message first, demanding that any massing of sorcerers will be viewed as hostile intentions against Camelot. The kingdom is pretty much in ruins so they cannot afford themselves a war." Arthur stated.
"Very good, sire. Though one thing, my lord. Where do I find a messenger willing to deliver a message to the court most likely full of sorcerers?" Agravaine asked with worry and Arthur looked pensive for a moment.
"I will go my lord." Leon suddenly stepped forward and Agravaine secretly smiled at his luck, it could not be more perfect; all he had to do now was to wait until nightfall and notify Morgana about the outcome.
"Are you sure?" Arthur asked his knight seriously, this was quite a risk to take; there was no way of knowing what would happen there.
"I'm sure of it sire. I believe I learnt a thing or two about sorcerers by now." Leon offered a small smile; it was a known in the entire city by now that Leon was like a cat with nine lives.
"You are sending Leon alone to Essetir's court? Are you insane?" Merlin rambled as usual the moment Arthur told him about the situation.
"I will not open war on Essetir without giving them a chance to back away." Arthur said as he seated himself at his desk and dove in the wonders of paperwork.
Monaea was the capitol of Essetir and currently home to the queen Aurora. Though it did not rival Camelot in size, Aurora was determined to bring back the former glory the city and the kingdom had before Cenred killed the heiress king and made himself a ruler. Hands dirty, splinter in one; Aurora worked with her father and other villagers on the new house since most of the present ones were nothing but old, tottering shacks in desperate need of being replaced with something more secure and solid.
"How are things coming along?" Aurora looked up from where she was helping build the final wall to see her mother Eleanor approaching them with a tray of water goblets.
"Good, by nightfall should be finished. The last one." Aurora dusted off her hands, pushed the stray lock of her dark brown hair behind her ear and gratefully took the water goblet.
While they were building with the help of magic, it still required physical and mental strength to do it. Dressed in most common white tunic and brown trousers that looked at least size too big on her slender form, to any outsider, Aurora looked just like every other builder present in the lower town. Her oval face was adorned by stray locks of her wavy, dark brown hair and two sky blue eyes shone brightly. Her mother on the other hand, had a square shaped face, long but straight brown hair and blue eyes speckled with green on inner irises. She was dressed in a sapphire blue gown with silver embroidery and open neckline, silver chain with quatrefoil pendant splayed on her neck.
"Brilliant. When will you start building the school?" Eleanor asked as she placed aside now the empty tray and helped Aurora with another stone block, her eyes flashing gold for a brief moment before the block slid in perfectly on top of another.
"I was thinking to give everyone a day or two off before starting. We did manage to finish houses in all city sections in three months and I received word of the first traders coming to our newly opened market tomorrow. People could really use a break before continuing." Aurora replied.
"Sounds wisest course of action." Eleanor responded and felt someone grabbing her around the waist.
"What are my favourite women doing here? I called for a break half an hour ago." deep, playful voice asked and both Eleanor and Aurora chuckled.
"Release me sir at this instance or suffer the consequences!" Eleanor mock ordered the dark haired man who was slightly taller than them.
"Or what, my lady?" man teased further as he pulled her closer to his well built chest.
"You will be going to bed without a kiss." she mock threatened and he played along by gasping in shock.
"You would not dare!" he exclaimed in mock disbelief.
"Oh, yes I would." Eleanor murmured as she managed to wriggle her way out of his arms and turned to face him.
He was a man only three years her senior and were both considered still quite young and they looked youthful despite having a daughter twenty six years of age. His face was square shaped, just like Eleanor's but his eyes were green-grey and his hair was short and black.
"Quit it you two, you act like children." Aurora admonished her parents playfully.
"Do you hear this Eleanor, our daughter is admonishing us." Thomas asked playfully his wife.
Eleanor opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted by the hasty arrival of Edward, Aurora' best friend and commander of her knights. He was flushed from the running and had to take in a few deep breaths before looking at Aurora. He was quite tall knight and his face was marred on the right side with small battle scar, his brown eyes slightly misty from fatigue.
"What is it Edward?" Aurora asked as she handed him a goblet of water.
"Sorry for being abrupt but I felt to notify you that we have a visitor. Knight of Camelot." Edward said and though her parents looked just slightly surprised, Aurora was not.
"Finally, we have been here for over four months now." Aurora muttered.
"He will probably want to talk to you." Eleanor cut in and suggested to her dirty outfit.
"I'm staying in this. Chances are they already know I'm a witch and probably presume that I waste my days standing over the cauldron, mixing all sorts of potions and other things. If he wants to talk to me, he can do it right here. Castle is still in shambles anyway." Aurora replied and both Thomas and Eleanor knew better than trying to change their daughter's mind.
Few minutes later, few guards arrived, and the knight of Camelot followed behind them. He had sandy brown hair and looked like a fairly seasoned warrior, tall and of broad musculature. Stopping a few feet away from the builders and Aurora among them, the knight dismounted and looked around.
"I am looking for Queen Aurora of Essetir." he announced formally.
Aurorawiped her hand in the rag Edward handed her and stepped forward, pushing back her messy hair.
"I am Aurora from the house of Selwynn." she announced and smirked as the knight stared at her dumbfounded for a moment, as if he could not believe what the queen was wearing. "And these are my parents, Thomas and Eleanor Selwynn and sir Edward Rawlyn, commander of my knights."
"Do not look so shocked, sir. Have you seen the state of this city and kingdom in general? This is no time to wear silk. This is the time of work." she pointed out and he nodded respectfully.
"I am Sir Leon. I come here with a message from my lord, King Arthur Pendragon." Leon said as he offered her the parchment with the said message.
"Thank you sir Leon." Aurora took the scroll and looked at her maidservant and friend, a woman that was slightly shorter than her with curly, ash blonde hair.
"Katherine, could you please bring some refreshments for Sir Leon. I am pretty sure he is famished." she said and the young woman scurried off with a smile before turning back to Leon.
"Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with the stay in the castle as it is pretty much in ruins from the inside as of yet." she said calmly.
"That is no problem for me, my lady." Leon replied courteously and smiled with thanks as Katherine returned with some fresh water and hearty meal.
He was offered a seat at one of the brought out tables and he took his free time to observe his surroundings as he ate whilst Aurora walked but off toward two men and a woman with the message. He personally hasn't heard any noble address their servants with such politeness, little less heard the word' please' though he has heard Arthur saying 'please' to Merlin couple of times. Suddenly he looked up as he heard Aurora laugh, bringing her hand to her mouth as she tried to control herself. She exchanged a few more words with her parents and Edward before walking over to him.
"What have you found so entertaining, my lady?" he asked politely and saw her smile again.
"The very arrogance of your lord demanding that any sort of sorcerers' meetings to be stopped. He has no right to demand anything since we are not allies nor enemies as of yet and I rule this kingdom." she raised her hand to stop him from taking before she finished.
"Furthermore, I have no interest in a land that persecutes those who have the misfortune of being born with the gift of magic. And whilst I condemn any sorcerer or sorceress for trying to exact vengeance on Camelot, I certainly do not blame them. Your late king, may his soul rest in peace, has all but soaked the land of Camelot with blood of innocent, primarily when I say innocent I refer to children, women and druids and now his son is paying for it. Besides, you have seen the state of this kingdom with your own eyes. People barely have food and a roof above their heads, and your king worries himself that couple of witches and wizards pass this way or stay and help? My advice to your king is this, Sir Leon. Instead of paying attention to my little Sabbaths that occur maybe once a month, he should pay attention to his kingdom and northern borders where Odin's men roam around the forests and pillage. And I strongly suggest to keep his eyes to those close to him. Word is around some magical communities that his half-sister Morgana has a spy in Camelot. If I were Arthur, that would probably worry me more than events all the way here in Essetir." Aurora finished; and found that Leon had nothing to say and was staring at her with mouth slightly agape.
"And you are more than free to quote me." she added and went back to work, leaving the knight to ponder his thoughts alone whilst he watched the people around him move with haste, eager to finish the house before sunset.
Chapter 2: You can't be seriousEdit
Day after his arrival, Sir Leon awoke to the sound of horse hooves, cacophony of human voices trying to outmatch one another and children's laughter. Looking up from where he sat on the bed, he saw most likely still warm breakfast, goblet and water pitcher on the table and there was basin with water for him to freshen up before leaving. Walking over to the window, he opened it to let the bright sunshine in and before him unravelled a scene of children running around the merchant caravan that seemed to have arrived only few moments ago.
And there was Aurora, dressed in her working attire, greeting the lead merchant with wide smile. There was no showing off, just simply Aurora. Her father was not far behind; it seemed he was already making a business deal with local quarry owner whilst her mother was most likely discussing price of the wool and with another merchant. After Leon finished his breakfast and refreshed, he left the house to bid Aurora farewell and return to Camelot where Arthur will not be pleased with the response at all.
"My lady." he called out and Aurora promptly turned around to pay attention to him.
"Leaving so soon, brave knight?" she asked friendly.
"Yes, my lady. I bid you farewell and good wishes." he slightly bowed before taking the reins of his horse from the stable boy.
"Farewell, Sir Leon of Camelot. May your journey be swift and safe." she inclined her head in respect and stepped away from the horse which then Leon urged into fast canter.
"Something the matter?" Edward asked as he appeared behind her.
"Send word to Alys. I want her and her men to watch Leon from distance as he leaves our borders. I do not trust the surrounding forests are yet safe, we still get reports of bandits roaming around. Last thing we need is him get injured or killed whilst he is within our borders. With right words the councillors could persuade Arthur, who is quite ignorant and naive might I add when magic is involved, to start a war with us. I would like to avoid that at every cost." Aurora said with slightly dark undertone as cheerfulness left her voice.
"I will send the message immediately." Edward nodded in agreement and scurried off to scribble a quick note to Alys, Aurora's peers and commander of the woodland rangers.
Aurora just stood there, in the middle of busy street for a moment before she took in a deep, calming breath and walked off to see if her father has made a deal with local quarry owner as they were in shortage of stone for building and the storm that flooded the quarry two days ago did not help them at all.
"This arrived for you just this moment." Young, ginger haired woman looked up from her meal she ate whilst sat at a log near campfire, and saw Daryn, her second in command, holding small note in his hands.
"What is it?" she asked.
"We are ordered to shadow an knight of Camelot that will be passing the woods in roughly few hours time. The queen is worried that bandits might attack him whilst passing our borders." Daryn replied.
"Alright. See if others are done with their meals and tell them to get ready. We leave in half an hour." she replied and turned her attention to her bowl again.
"Yes, Alys." Daryn nodded and walked off further in the forest where other rangers were eating and resting a bit.
"You brought me perfect news, Agravaine." Morgana smiled upon being told that Leon has gone to Essetir's court and that he will be returning in a day or two.
"I thought they might be, my lady." Agravaine smiled in a sick way, warming his hands by small fire.
"Let the men know where and when our good knight Leon will be passing the bordering forest. Have him injured or better yet killed and Arthur will have no choice but to start a war." Morgana spoke in that dark tone as always and with just tint of sadistic pleasure as her mind already planned how to take the throne whilst Arthur is off fighting a witch.
"And what of people of Essetir? And their queen?" Agravaine asked and Morgana confidently smirked.
"Do not worry, Agravaine, this is one war I am completely sure Arthur will lose. I have heard much about Aurora Selwyn. But her actions speak for her better than any person. If angered enough and pushed just slightly too far, she walks over bodies until she is certain she won. I am sure you heard what happened to the late lord Verran of Cantia, the small kingdom south of here?" Morgana asked and Agravaine nodded albeit surprised.
"That was her?" Agravaine asked and Morgana nodded.
"Man was a firm believer that anything magical is not natural and as such should be killed without question. He literally took the conviction that all magic is evil and unnatural; and unlike Uther he had everyone who even remotely had a feeling of magic around them killed. He slaughtered entire villages and druid camps. Aurora was then merely passing with her friends, sorcerers and warriors alike through Cantia. When she learnt what caused the fate of completely burnt down village, she reacted swiftly and did not show any mercy to Verran or his supporters. Though she did spare his young wife and daughter. Mercy is a foolish thing if you ask me." Morgana shortly retold what Morgause told her few weeks before she died.
"So she could very do the same with Arthur?" Agravaine asked, if he felt slight concern he hid it well for his face was completely blank.
"She might not be 'that' harsh with him, after all Arthur holds himself as a righteous ruler and would not slaughter people like that but she will most definitely show him what happens when someone angers her to a point." Morgana replied with slight disdain at the possibility that Arthur and his knights could be spared in a major fight with Aurora if Arthur yielded.
She knew Arthur was a proud warrior and would fight to the end but he also cared for his knights and his people. So if he realizes that he is in a war he cannot win, he would yield even though his senses would probably scream against it. Should that happen, Morgana would be ready and finish him off herself. The throne after all belonged to her and not that bastard.
Leonwas surprised how quiet his journey home is. As he was returning by the same road, he saw some druids visiting the still pretty derelict villages, helping the peasants to rebuild the half collapsed houses and barns whilst some helped to weed the fields that were completely dry on some places, despite the rain from two nights ago. As he approached the border, his mind was still trying to figure out how to tell Arthur that Queen Aurora practically bespoke him to 'shove it and mind his own business'. In fact he was so in thought that he did not notice that surrounding forest became way too quiet.
His head snapped up to attention as suddenly a battle cry was heard from one of the bushes and out of hiding places came out dozen bandits as he managed to count in hurry.
"You can't be serious." he muttered, cursing how it was just his luck not to hold the entire trip back.
He drew out his sword and charged toward the not too experienced thugs, cutting down two as he rammed into them. He had to dismount as one arrow flew too close to his face for comfort. He was too caught up fighting two men in front of him that he did not notice a man coming behind him with almost sadistic smile as he raised his hand with dagger in it, ready to stab the knight in the neck, it was the best way to ensure instant death and no possibility of saving. It was a painful yelp and sound of a body meeting the ground with loud thud, for the man was big, Leon turned and looked down, shocked to see the assailant's dagger on the ground and another, quite elegant one lodged in the man's left side of the neck.
The knight looked up to see that small number of bandits fleeing in terror as at least thirty cloaked and armed figures appeared on their horses aside from their leader who was a woman to Leon's surprise. She looked quite young but her rigid figure spoke of a seasoned fighter. Her skin was pale as moonlight which made more of an accent on her silky, straight ginger hair that barely touched her shoulders and her face was slightly round from which shone two dark emeralds. She stopped her horse and quickly dismounted with couple of her men whilst others continued to pursue the fleeting bandits into the forest. As he got a closer look at them all, Leon noticed all of them were clad in dark brown, hard but quite flexible leather armours. Their cloaks were of deep shade of forest green colour and on their left shoulders was a silver emblem of dragon beneath a rose which was the crest of Essetir now.
"Thank you for your help, my lady." Leon politely thanked as the woman approached him and she gave him a small nod with a smile.
"You are welcome, Sir Leon." she replied respectfully and his eyebrows shot at her addressing him by his name.
"I'm afraid I do not have the advantage of knowing your name, my lady." he said and she stuck out her hand for handshake.
"My name is Alys Wylde, I am commander of woodland rangers here in Essetir under queen Aurora." she replied and he nodded.
"I see. Have you been patrolling the area?" Leon asked as he cleaned his sword before sheathing it.
"Not really. The queen does not trust the safety of the bordering forests completely so she asked us to shadow you from a far and make sure no harm comes to you. I believe you understand why she did it." Alys replied as she yanked the dagger out of the dead thug, cleaned it and placed it back in the sheath behind her back.
"Your queen is very cautious and I thank both of you for it." Leon replied and mounted his horse again.
"If you would like, we can accompany you these four miles to the border. After that you are on your own as we are not allowed to cross into Camelot's territory without queen's approval." Alys offered as she and her men mounted their horses.
"I accept your offer." Leon replied with slight bow of head and looked sidewise to see the rest of the rangers returning.
"Daryn, we will accompany Sir Leon to the border. Go check if there are any other bandits south of here. We will meet back at the camp hour after sunset." Alys commanded a dark haired man who simply nodded at her command, bade Leon farewell and took his men south in the forest.
That short time Leon spent riding with Alys and rangers; she indulged his wish to tell him how she ended up being a ranger in Aurora's service. Apparently Aurora have saved her life back when they were children and Alys has remained a faithful friend and warrior to Aurora ever since.
"Here we say goodbye, Sir Leon as we are not allowed to go any further." Alys spoke as they reached the edge of the forest that opened into a large, open field leading to Camelot.
"Indeed. I thank you once again for your help and I hope we might meet once again, lady Wylde." Leon bowed his head shortly toward Alys and other rangers before urging his horse into fast gallop toward Camelot, aware that the fight made him late.
"Hopefully we won't be pointing swords at each other." Alys murmured as she watched the knight disappear before turning her horse around and urge her horse back toward camp where she was certain that Daryn and others were already waiting.
Chapter 3: I would like to find EmrysEdit
Arthur was more than pleased to see one of his best knights return in one peace, though he had few scraps on his face from combat. He found it bit disturbing that the knight had a neutral face expression and could not tell what news he was bringing. Before giving a report, Gaius checked him for possible enchantments and after Leon was deemed free of any magical influence, Arthur asked the knight to appear before the council to give them a report.
"What news do you bring us from Essetir, Sir Leon?" Arthur asked as he was sitting at the head of the table, his eyes and eyes of his councillors glued on the knight.
"The queen has read your letter and I was given permission to quote her on the matter of response. She sends word that you have no right demanding anything of her as we are not allies nor enemies as of yet and that she is the one who rules Essetir and not you. She also stated that she has no interest in Camelot whatsoever since we persecute all that had the misfortune to be born with gift of magic in this kingdom. And that it would be better for you to pay attention to northern borders where Odin's men pillage and roam around the forests instead of paying attention to her little Sabbaths that occur maybe once a month. My lord." Leon respectfully finished his report and heavy silence fell in the room, no one spoke.
Some did not speak because they thought it would be best for king to speak first, others were quite shocked to such audacious response from the young queen, witch or not. Merlin felt nothing but respect for the woman that dared to quite literally dismiss Arthur's demand as mere show off and tell him to shove it. As a small smile began to form on his smile, it fell off in an instance when he saw warning glare Gaius sent him before settling his gaze on quite befuddled and angry young king. Arthur for one did not know how to even begin to reply on such dismissal of his demands. He could tell Leon wanted to say something else in private.
"Council is dismissed, I must think before further action is undertaken." he said in his best commanding tone at which everyone bowed and swiftly but murmuring left the room, including Agravaine who was most pleased with the message Leon brought though he would have preferred that Leon did not come back at all and his body would have served as perfectly good excuse to start a war, this way Agravaine will have to put more effort to push Arthur into war.
"Leon, stay." Arthur ordered quietly as knight had turned to leave the room.
"Sire?" Leon asked slightly confused.
"You look like you want to say much more than what you already did." Arthur pointed out and with a hand motioned for Gaius to sit down and Merlin walked over to close the door of the room.
"May I speak freely, sire?" Leon asked and Arthur nodded for him to proceed.
"I did not wish to speak in front of other lords but the queen Aurora also said that you should keep a close eye on those close to you because there is a word around some magical communities that Morgana has a spy in Camelot." Leon spoke and saw Arthur raise his eyebrows in shock before he continued. "She seemed very serious and adamant about it. And...um... given some of the recent events involving Morgana, I am inclined to believe her." Leon finished and Arthur remained quite for few moments.
"Gaius?" Arthur looked at the old physician who immediately understood the unspoken question in the king's eyes.
"I cannot say that the information is completely true sire but given the fact that Morgana has managed to sneak into city twice now and tried to stir general commotion and panic, the suggestion of a traitor in high place is possible. I must point out that she is a skilled manipulator as well as a witch. Queen Aurora is a prominent and powerful witch respected by many therefore has much more ties to magical communities than I ever could." Gaius replied.
"I would not mind if she was a witch in some kingdom far from here. But she is just over the border and represents danger. I cannot battle her and Morgana at the same time." Arthur said and it was quite clear to three men in the room with the king that his mind is considering war.
"If I can say something else, sire?" Leon asked and Arthur merely blinked.
"These few days I spent travelling and that one day I spent in Monaea, I made sure to observe as much as I can. People do not have much; their houses are in half derelict states, some at the edge of collapsing. Fields are overgrown in weeds on most parts and there is little legal trade if any. The queen is doing her best to return life to these people. I spent most of the day watching all of them work, the queen included. She was dressed in the most basic working clothes and worked with other builders on houses. The only magic I saw her use was to lift some heavy stone blocks on walls and no one paid slightest bit of attention to me. The castle is in ruins on the inside so knights and she sleep in some of the rebuilt empty houses. Next morning the first trading caravan arrived in a very long time. I really did believe her when she said she has no interest in Camelot. Further more, when I was returning to Camelot, I was close to the border when I was ambushed by some bandits but I was rescued by woodland rangers. Their commander explained me that the queen had me followed to make sure no harm comes to me within Essetir's borders as she does not trust the bordering forests to be safe. I was accompanied to the border and then they returned to their posts as they cannot cross into Camelot's territory without queen's explicit permission." Leon stated, making Arthur stare at him shortly in surprise before schooling back his neutral, firm royal mask whilst Gaius and Merlin looked pleasantly surprised.
"Fact still remains that she disobeyed at demands for ceasing the gatherings. I cannot allow that possible threat hang above my head." Arthur said and Merlin rolled his eyes at him annoyed.
"Sire, just because the kingdom is in such derelict state it does not mean that the queen and her small army are not. I strongly suggest for you to avoid the war because you cannot win it, no matter how great army you have." Gaius was really serious now and even Leon was intrigued at what court physician had to say.
"What makes you think that Gaius?" Arthur asked concerned.
"I believe you are more than aware what happened to lord Verran, king of Cantia few months past?" Gaius asked and both Leon and Arthur's eyes went wide, Merlin's as well from his spot where he was standing on Arthur's right side.
"That was her?" Leon asked surprised.
"Indeed." Gaius said and leaned back in the chair. "Your father persecuted those practising magic without reservation but he was not a fool, therefore he knew quite well that he cannot just order slaughter of entire villages. But lord Verran was convinced that everything magical was unnatural and evil, and did not restrain himself from killing anyone who had even smallest flicker of magic around them. In less than a month, Aurora conducted swift and merciless campaign against Verran and his supporters. She managed to defeat him with around eighty knights and dozen spellcasters. Out of entire court and family, she only sparred Verran's young wife and daughter. She is not to be challenged, sire, not whilst we still have problems with Morgana and incursions on northern borders. Besides... If anything, Aurora is a witch with high sense of honour and respect. She respects and recognizes you as rightful ruler of Camelot and will not be swayed by Morgana under any conditions, even if Morgana offered her alliance in exchange of help of taking Camelot." the physician finished and saw small appreciative smile from his ward.
"The council will demand a swift response." Arthur sighed.
"The council, my lord, is here to give you advices and offer suggestions in making new laws or decisions regarding warfare. The final word is however yours sire and as such must be obeyed. Never forget that." Gaius offered assuring but respectful smile to Arthur who returned it gratefully, for a moment taken back to younger days when Gaius often served to him as source of different insights.
"Thank you Gaius. You can go; I apologize from detaining you from your lunch." Arthur said and Gaius simply shook his head before slowly leaving the room.
"You are dismissed as well Sir Leon. And welcome back." Arthur smiled and Sir Leon left after bowing slightly.
"What are you thinking?" Merlin asked the moment he closed the doors of Arthur's chambers.
"That I am hungry and it would be very useful of you to bring me my lunch." Arthur replied in his usual prattish tone before dropping quite unceremoniously down in the chair.
"You're worried." Merlin pointed out.
"Can you seriously blame me?" Arthur snapped before frowning, mute apology going out to Merlin who merely shrugged at Arthur's outburst.
"No but I think in this occasion Gaius is right." Merlin replied.
"It does not change the fact that I am in for hell of a council session tomorrow." Arthur sighed tiredly.
"I'll bring your lunch now." Merlin said and scurried off to the kitchens, leaving the king alone with his thoughts.
"What is going around that complicated mind of yours?" Aurora looked down from where she was sitting on the tree to see her father looking up at her.
"Lots of things." Aurora replied wistfully.
Thomas smiled a bit before climbing up the tree as well, making Aurora scoot away a bit to make room for him.
"Go on them. I'm all ears, my little lady." Thomas said as he placed his hand on hers, stating clearly she has his full attention.
"This whole thing with Arthur Pendragon is making me uneasy. His demands sounded so forced, so rigid like they were not his at all. I have no desire to go to war." she said, her undertone sounded slightly like a small child.
"There will be no war." Thomas said confidently.
"You sound so certain of it." Aurora pointed out.
"I am. I trust that Arthur will see sense in the message Sir Leon is going to give him and make the right decision. He may be Uther's son but he is Ygraine's son as well. And she was beautiful, wise and compassionate. I am more than inclined to believe that Arthur got a good portion of it." Thomas said with slightly sad smile and reminiscent look in his eyes.
"How stupid of me, I forget you and mom knew lady Ygraine." Aurora covered her face with her hand briefly before letting her head fall on her father's shoulder.
"You said you have lot of things on your mind." Thomas stated and looked down at her. "So what else is bothering you?" he asked.
"I would like to find Emrys." Aurora replied quietly and Thomas said nothing at that, merely letting out a small sigh and allowed his gaze to stretch to distant forest outside the city walls.
Chapter 4: Another plan gone wrongEdit
"So what is on our daughter's mind?" Eleanor asked as Thomas returned to the house they were currently inhabiting.
"She wants to know who Emrys is." Thomas replied, going over to the basin with water for washing hands.
"I thought she would forget about that, being busy with renewal and all." Eleanor said, placing two bowls of soup on the table and sat down.
"I thought that as well but she feels that as a High Priestess and keeper of the Crystal, it is her duty to know who Emrys is, should it ever occur that he needs help or if his life is in imminent danger." Thomas stated as he sat down at the table and picked up his spoon.
"I understand that, I too follow the old ways and heard the prophecy many times over as did you but I feel she should devote her attention to Monaea and Essetir; and only then Emrys. People that live here chose her for a reason, Goddess only knows why, we never raised her to be a queen or of any noble stature. I just fear that her need for peace and restoring magic might detach her from what her people need now. And that is solid roof above their heads and food. I still cannot understand how people survived under Cenred all this time. He destroyed everything." Eleanor spoke worryingly as she stirred the hot soup.
"Love, you worry too much. Our daughter may be somewhat of a dreamer beneath that mask of a warrior and priestess but she does not have her head in clouds. She is more than aware what her people need right now and she will give them. It may take some time, months or even year or two before fields begin to be green and gold as they once were but she will do everything she can to make sure that people she rules are well cared for." Thomas assured his wife with small smile before taking a spoonful of soup.
"I know you are right. But I cannot help but to worry from time to time, it is what mothers do." Eleanor replied.
"I know that. And so does Aurora and if you will feel better, tell her what you told me. We did raise her to listen to anyone and be reasonable." Thomas stated and the couple continued to eat their lunch in companionable silence.
The council was in deep silence as Arthur announced that he will not be going to war with Essetir.
"But, my lord..." one of the lords started and Arthur silenced him with his hand.
"I have thought over this matter very carefully and have come to a conclusion that war with Essetir is not the wise cause of action at this time, considering we still have troubles with Odin's men on the north and almost regular problems caused by Morgana and no matter how weak Essetir appears to be. I also took into account Sir Leon's opinion of the matter as he did spend few days travelling to and back through Essetir and has spent one day in Monaea. He is of impression that Queen Aurora has no interest in Camelot and the queen herself has stated the same in the message." Arthur explained to the shocked councillors though he saw that Sir Geoffrey did not seem too shocked with his decision and was in fact approving his decision.
"But, my lord, she is a witch." Agravaine persisted seriously.
"I am more than aware of that uncle, it is the fact that stays with me every day from now on but practice of magic is forbidden in this kingdom. And she is the queen of Essetir. Though magic there is allowed, Sir Leon also reported that no one can pass the border of Essetir and Camelot without the queen's explicit permission and the border is well guarded." Arthur replied.
"But..." Agravaine tried to protest further and Arthur cut him off.
"My decision is final. Council is dismissed." Arthur used his best commanding tone and councillors retreated, disgruntled murmurs more than audible and one very rage teeming noble left the council chambers.
"That went pretty well." Gaius pointed out as he was the last one to remain save Arthur and Geoffrey.
"Yes, it did though I cannot understand why Agravaine is so persistent in attacking Essetir." Arthur stated.
"I think he is bit over eager, sire that is all." Gaius said though he knew that it was a blatant lie, he knew exactly why Agravaine was so persistent but it is not something he could say so openly to the young king, not without solid evidence anyway.
"You did not seem too shocked about my decision, Sir Geoffrey." Arthur looked at the librarian.
"If I may speak freely?" Geoffrey asked and Arthur nodded.
"I believe this is the best decision you have brought to the date concerning foreign politics, my lord, considering the fact that we almost started a war with Odin that could have cost us greatly. If I may be so bold to say, it was rather foolish reason you chose for killing the king. You should have made him return home and think twice before venturing in our territory rather than trying to force him into a bargain he would have never signed." Geoffrey said, surprising both Arthur and Gaius who almost could not believe what he was hearing.
"Why did you not say something before?" Arthur asked.
"By the time you have returned to Camelot, queen Annis passed the border with her army and you were drawing strategy to fight her. It would have been foolish of me to protest your decision when the rest of the council already gave its support. Though I believe not shortly after that you realized your mistake and made a note not to make hasty decisions." Geoffrey explained.
"So you are fine with a witch on a throne of a neighbouring kingdom?" Arthur asked and Geoffrey sighed a bit, shifting the weight to his other leg.
"Sire, I am a man that believes in quite simple philosophy that states that everything and everyone has an opposition. Therefore I am more than inclined to believe that for all the evil magic practitioners there must be some people who practice magic for good. From what I hear, Queen Aurora Selwyn is known as a powerful and very prominent witch that is also kind and just. That in itself I believe is saying something. I suggest we leave to see what will her next actions will be and see if we were wrong." Geoffrey replied, slightly bowed and slowly left the council chambers.
"What about you Gaius?" Arthur asked, the pain of losing his father to magic few weeks ago still had a good grip on his heart though it was lessening slowly.
"As someone who has practiced healing magic when it was legal, I used my skills for good. Therefore I can more than believe that there are people out there who do the same." Gaius replied.
'Not to mention those who live here.' the physician thought as Arthur was silent for a moment.
"Thank you, Gaius. You may go." Arthur said after which Gaius bowed and turned to leave the council chambers.
"And tell that twat to try and bring my dinner on time along with Guinevere's." Arthur threw after the physician that only smirked before disappearing behind the corner.
An angered and very frustrated screech, followed by hands swiping everything from the table down to the floor which resulted in two smashed pots and glass vial, making Agravaine flinch for a second before getting his wits together.
"How can he not go to war?" she cried out in frustration as she paced around her hovel.
"It is that meddlesome boy of a servant and his mentor, Gaius. He told Arthur to ignore Aurora as they really believe that she has no interest in Camelot." Agravaine stated.
"Gaius... Will that old crone never die?" Morgana spat angrily as she finally settled in a chair.
"Seeing he interferes with most of our plans, I think it would be wise to think of a way to get rid off him." Agravaine replied.
"I'll get rid off him soon enough. It is Arthur I want to deal with now. You were saying something about him taking a patrol with handful of knights?" Morgana smirked evilly, making Agravaine smirk in return as he began to explain how Arthur will be passing through the Valley of the Fallen Kings in three weeks time.
"What set you off on this fine day?" Aurora asked as she looked up from the plans for the school she was discussing with architects when Katherine came running.
"We just received word that prince Yvaine and knights of Escavalon have arrived at the main gate." Katherine replied, making the young queen grin widely before setting down one of the blue prints.
"Shall we take a break?" she offered to which the architects smiled and watched as the queen scurried off to greet the prince of Escavalon.
When she arrived, Yvaine was already dismounting his horse as were five of his knights he brought along. He took off his gloves and looked around in admiration before he noticed Aurora.
"I told you we are far from finished in my last letter." she said with her sing-song voice as she walked over and they shared a friendly embrace.
"Ah, but I just could not resist. I had to come and see. And I am most impressed. But then again I have seen you work before so I really shouldn't be." Yvaine replied.
He was a man few inches taller than her and his lean but well muscled frame was adorned by grey armour covered by dark purple cloak with golden emblem of an eagle on his left shoulder. His hair was ash blonde and so was his beard he did not want to get rid of, despite his parents' protests.
"You know you'll have to sleep in the house instead of the castle though we have begun working on it. My primary concern was to build houses for the people first." Aurora said as she moved aside to greet Yvaine's knights.
"What sort of finicky prince do you take me for, Aurora?" Yvaine joked in mock hurt voice. "Joke aside, I spent three weeks in the wilderness with you hunting slave traders and slept on the forest floor. Makes no difference to me where I will sleep here." he added.
"I know." Aurora replied.
"It is nice to see you again, lady Aurora." an elderly, tall knight greeted her first and kissed her hand.
"It is always a pleasure at seeing you, sir Berian." Aurora greeted back.
"Will you show us the city or not?" Yvaine teased as he offered his hand and together they began the tour of once ruined city.
Chapter 5: Disturbing dreamsEdit
"Why do you still stare at that thing? It will not show you more than you need to know for now." Aurora abruptly turned around to see Edward standing on the vault's doorway, clad in his armour that was speckled with blood and his left arm bore a deep cut on the forearm.
"My mind is troubled." Aurora replied as she turned to look at the Crystal once again.
"With Emrys, I know." Edward stated with just a tint of annoyance as his footsteps echoed in the empty vault.
"No, old friend, it is not Emrys that troubles me." Aurora replied mysteriously as her eyes glued to the Crystal once again.
"Really?" Edward asked as he remembered that month ago before he departed with Yvaine to northern border to deal will bandits that Aurora was pretty adamant on putting a face along with the name Emrys.
"What caused sudden change?" Edward asked and hissed as he absent minded touched his wound, making Aurora look up again from the Crystal that was resting on small, red velvet pillow on a marble pedestal.
"Let's get that wound of yours sorted." Aurora, quite unwillingly Edward remarked, removed her gaze from the Crystal and at light step accompanied Edward to castle's healing wing.
Aurorasmartly divided her small group of spellcasters to aid both the building of the school and renewal of castle interior; and she insisted that the first part of the castle that needed renewal immediately was the healing wing and the surrounding chambers and hallways for easy access.
"Did you find out who Emrys is?" Edward asked and looked sideways to see Aurora frown slightly before letting out a small sigh.
"No. I know he is in Camelot and he must be close to Arthur but more than that I do not know. I went to see the druids that live in the forest west of here, near Camelot's border. Their chieftain, Iseldir, told me he met Emrys few times but considering the importance of his cover to remain intact he did not wish to tell me who Emrys in Camelot really is. I asked them to be alert at all times." Aurora replied and her eyes flashed open to open beautifully carved rosewood doors that granted access to healing wing.
Upon entering the healing wing, the scent of various healing herbs and all sorts of poultices and tonics would wash one's senses. In fact, Edward suddenly felt slightly dizzy, making Aurora grasp him by the shoulders to steady him.
"Just long have you left this cut unattended?" she asked and guided him to sit down on the nearest empty bed.
"Few hours." he replied and got immediate response in form of a slap at the back of the head.
"Are you trying to knock me out?" he asked jokingly but his smirk disappeared when he saw her scolding look.
"You do remember what happened three years ago? It took me whole week to get rid off your fever." she muttered as she helped him out of his armour.
"Just because I have magic it does not mean you can go around and get yourself chopped as you please." she added and walked over to the large cabinet packed with all sorts of herbs and tincture vials.
"It is not as if I go looking for trouble, trouble seems to wait me around every corner. Anyway, you will be pleased to know that bandits on or northern borders will not be a problem anymore." Edward stated as Aurora quickly but expertly prepared a poultice and fresh bandage for Edward's forearm.
"I will give you yarrow poultice for this, it became little infected." she said as she pressed the said poultice to the cut, making Edward hiss in pain once again.
"Do not remove it until tomorrow, this will make sure to fight off the infection and then I will seal the wound magically." Aurora said, making sure the bandage was placed well.
"Whatever my lady commands." Edward teased and she playfully smacked him in his good arm.
"So what troubles you?" Edward became serious once again, slowly getting up.
"I have been having strange dreams of late." Aurora replied, putting her arm around his waist to make sure he doesn't suddenly keel over as they walked toward the castle entrance.
"Define strange dreams." Edward spoke, quite intrigued by Aurora's latest mind puzzle.
"I have been dreaming this man..." she was cut off by Edward's heartily chuckle.
"It is not funny Edward, it disturbs me greatly." she shot back seriously, making him stop snickering.
"Yes, you are right of course. You caught me off guard, that is all. I mean, you have not really shown interest in men for a... well, since I have known you. And that is a long time." Edward replied and nodded toward the guards that opened the door, fresh air and afternoon warmth of the sun hitting his skin. "What does he look like?" the knight asked as they slowly made their way down the stone staircase.
"I do not know. It is why it bothers me so. All I can ever see in the dreams is his figure in the dark, no face, no voice for that matter and it is always followed by figure of golden dragon on red background." she spoke and changed way toward Edward's house.
"Well, at least you can assume he is a knight of Camelot." Edward pointed out and she raised an eyebrow quizzically.
"Yes, I think that much is obvious even to me, Sir Intelligent." she replied teasingly.
"Have you asked your mother for help?" Edward asked and Aurora nodded.
"She tried but she cannot explain it either. Father simply said to be patient." Aurora rolled her eyes at that and Edward smiled.
"Well you are known to be a patient and wise woman. I am certain you will have your answer soon enough." he said and thanked Aurora for opening the door of his house and helped him to bed.
"The best thing for you right now is to rest. I will send Katherine to check on you and bring you dinner." Aurora said, tucking a runaway lock of hair behind her ear and made her way for the door.
"Aurora..." Edward called from the bed and the young queen turned to look at him.
"Just... Stop staring at that thing and enjoy the sunlight. Before you became a queen, you used to spend your free time in the woods and plains, chasing wild horses. I think it would please not just my heart to see you enjoying yourself again. Let others care and think about everything else for a day." Edward spoke to her dead serious, he missed that wide smile on her face when she would ride after herd of wild horses.
"I think I will." she replied with gentle smiled and left the house.
"My lord!" Thomas looked up from table where he was studying the current progress on school building and saw one of Aurora's advisors coming toward him.
"Yes, sir Tylan, how can I help you?" Thomas asked politely.
"Where is Lady Aurora going?" Tylan asked, obviously not liking the sight of Aurora in the stables, preparing her horse.
"I believe she said she is going for a ride." Thomas replied with a smile.
"But she cannot. The envoy from Branlant will be here soon." Tylan protested.
"The envoy yes, not the king himself. I believe you can handle the arrival by yourself." Thomas replied.
"It is a custom for the queen to greet foreign envoys." Tylan insisted.
"I seriously believe that lord Hardain will not mind if Aurora took the afternoon off." Thomas pointed out.
"But..." Thomas raised his hand to silence further protests.
"My daughter has been working long and hard for over six months now and barely has any time to breathe little less to do something relaxing. So I suggest that you leave her be this one afternoon. I will greet the envoy." Thomas said with finality, making clear to sir Tylan that further discussion was not possible.
The man sighed dramatically before turning around and leaving to think how to greet the envoy, and missed low chuckle escaping Thomas' lips.
"What are you chuckling at?" few moments later, Eleanor's voice reached his ears.
He turned around and saw his wife holding a basket with fresh fruit and vegetables safely in her hands.
"Tylan is making a fuss of Aurora taking afternoon off." Thomas responded.
"Oh? What is she going to do?" Eleanor was pleasantly surprised at hearing this.
"She is going for a ride. She missed that the most I believe." Thomas said and snatched an apple out of the basket, making Eleanor playfully smack his hand.
"At least she is not staring at that bloody Crystal anymore." Eleanor murmured.
"You know she was hoping it would give her some answers regarding her dreams." Thomas stated.
"For someone who has virtue of patience, she is not showing it much." Eleanor said.
"She has lot on her mind, running a kingdom is not easy, especially one that is trying to start from scratch again. On top of that she has to be constantly cautious of Camelot's actions on our borders and now she has disturbing dreams. I too would want that Crystal to give me some sort of answer." Thomas replied.
"Why do you always side with her and not with me?" Eleanor protested over dramatically, making Thomas smile.
"It is what fathers do, side with their daughters, especially if they are the only child." Thomas said and kissed his wife before she left to attend her own work.
Chapter 6: Trouble beginsEdit
Sun beams bled through the cracks in the window shutters, brining light in the newly restored queen's chambers. Though everything was peaceful and quiet, the queen was not. Aurora tossed and turned in bed most violently, her magic inside her was bouncing as if trying to warn Aurora of some sort of danger. Although it was mid morning, the dream still had tight grip on her. Unaware of Aurora's current state, Thomas entered his daughter's chambers with intention of waking her up but that idea slipped off his mind the moment his gaze fell on the bed where Aurora was tossing around.
"Aurora!" Thomas called as he quickly strode over to the bed, he knew he shouldn't shake here awake since the last time he did that he ended up smacking the wall on the opposite side of the room.
"Aurora! Dohtor, þú mot weccan!" Thomas spoke to her in Old Tongue, hoping it would reach her better than normal speech.
The request had immediate response as Aurora shot up in bed and a vase on the table exploded at her very gaze. Thomas placed his hands on Aurora's shoulders and steadied her as she tried to get her breathing under control.
"Bad dream?" he asked as Aurora slowly came back to her senses.
"No. Not really anyway. Something has happened." she replied and looked at her father with worried gaze in her eyes.
"What?" Thomas asked, he has not seen Aurora this upset for months now.
"I do not know. My magic... it is still turning inside me. I must go." Aurora replied and jumped out of bed.
"Where?" Thomas asked, completely taken by surprise of her actions.
"The Pool of Nemhain." Aurora replied as she practically yanked the wardrobe open, searching for clothes.
"That is not in Essetir's territory." Thomas stated.
"I know that is why I am choosing the plainest set of clothes, so I do not attract attention." Aurora said.
"I will tell Alys to get ready." Thomas made his way to the door, knowing the ranger will not like at leaving the city again so soon but he did not want Aurora to wander around Camelot's territory by herself.
"She will not like it." Aurora spoke in sing-song voice.
"I do not like it either but you are not going alone." Thomas replied and closed the door behind him.
"Yes, Sire." Aurora murmured jokingly and sat before her vanity mirror to do her hair.
"Explain me again why are you going there?" Edward asked as both Alys and Aurora mounted their horses.
"Something happened, I need to know what." Aurora replied, taking the reins.
"Can't you ask druids to go and check for you?" Edward did not like Aurora's current idea at all.
"No." Aurora replied in finality and before Edward could make further protest she urged her horse into gallop.
Alys rolled her eyes with a sigh and then followed after her queen and friend.
"Make sure she does not do anything stupid to get herself killed!" Edward shouted after the ranger, shook his head and made his way back toward training grounds.
Two women rode hard and fast, only making short stops to rest and water the horses before continuing.
"How come I never heard about the Pool of Nemhain?" Alys asked as they mounted horses again and made their way through the thick forest swiftly.
"Pool of Nemhain is one of five remaining gateways between the world of the living and spirit world." Aurora replied, making Alys frown again with worry edging her face now.
"Do not tell me someone has torn the Veil again." Alys said annoyed but shiver ran down her spine when she remembered what happened last year.
"No, but I did feel some sort of shift. Something entered this world but it does not belong here." Aurora responded, a small branch scraping her cheek as she rode.
"You mean necromancy?" Alys asked with disgust.
"Possibly. I cannot be certain, I must see it for myself." Aurora replied.
After day and a half of hard ride, they arrived to the said place. The very appearance of it made Alys shiver as if her senses were trying to make her go away. Aurora gracefully dismounted her horse and rummaged the saddle bag, taking out a small, black crystal in shape of a tear. The crystal hummed on her hand and after making few steps toward the water and threw on the soft soil.
"Wisian me hwa drefa þéos halig asettan." Aurora murmured, flash of gold in her eyes followed and the crystal flashed bright white for a moment before becoming black again.
Then to Alys' great surprise a woman appeared beside them, walking into the lake whilst holding a silver coin for a while before she tossed it in the water.
"Who is that and why can't she see us?" Alys asked and saw anger in Aurora's eyes that were glued to the woman in black.
"Morgana Pendragon. She can't see us as this is merely an echo of what has happened here two days ago." Aurora replied.
The water was still for a few moments but then air bubbles started to surge to the surface and were quickly followed by emerging figure of well muscled, dark haired man. The blank look in his eyes made both Alys and Aurora look at Morgana with disgust for even daring to perform this sort of magic. He walked to Morgana and bowed.
"My name is Lancelot, my lady. I'm yours to command." And spoke no more.
The crystal hummed again and the image disappeared.
"Is this what you can do through necromancy? Control innocent people?" Alys asked angrily whilst Aurora walked over and picked up the crystal.
"He is not even real." Aurora replied and walked past her ranger commander, stuffing the crystal back in the saddle bag.
"What do you mean he is not real? I saw him walking out of the lake and speak." Alys pointed out albeit confused as she mounted her horse.
"I know that. He is a Shade." Aurora said and mounted her horse, urging it into a gallop. "A Shade is a soul ripped from the spirit world and as such is a tormented one. The coin Morgana used was price of a soul, I am guessing Morgause gave her that as it is required to maintain the balance of the world."
"So you toss a coin and you get yourself a person you can manipulate?" Alys asked.
"Better question is what the hell is she going to do?" Aurora countered as two women found themselves rushing back home.
Translations: Dohtor, þú mot weccan - Daughter you must wake
Wisian me hwa drefa þéos halig asettan - Show me who disturbed this holy place.
Chapter 7: Morgana's first triumphEdit
"So what have you discovered?" Eleanor asked as two horses came to a stop barely few inches from her, two quite upset riders dismounting.
"Morgana has raised a man from the dead. A Shade. Someone called Lancelot. I could swear I heard that name before." Aurora replied as she hurried inside the castle.
"Any problems while you were travelling?" Eleanor asked Alys as two of them hurried after Aurora.
"No but I feel I will not like whatever Aurora decides next." Alys responded.
Hurrying down the winding hallways, Aurora's entire figure was tense as she neared the intended destination. On the far northern part of the castle was large library and Hall of Magic, where small group of spellcasters studied and practiced under Aurora. The heavy, oak door swung open and quite agitated queen strode inside which was not usual sight for her friends.
"Whatever is the matter, Aurora?" middle aged wizard asked, looking up from his current potion.
"Lancelot, why is the name so familiar to me?" she countered with the question of her own and everyone exchanged slightly worried looks.
"He was the knight of Camelot, Aurora." came the reply of a young enchantress that was seated at grand table, her chin propped on her hand.
She was the youngest in the group, considering that most of the present spellcasters were above thirty years old. Like Aurora, Anwen was a naturally gifted witch but her forte were illusion and defensive spells, hence why most called her enchantress rather than a witch. Her skin was pale as moonlight and it was even more accented in midnight blue dress with long bell sleeves; her face was heart shaped and her eyes were of cornflower blue colour that stood out even more when her dark wheat blond hair was gathered in high pony tail.
"He was the one that closed the Veil." Anwen added as she closed the old tome in front of her and looked at Aurora again.
"But why would Morgana raise him from the dead?" Aurora asked and the young enchantress shrugged.
"I do not like hat look on your face, Aurora Selwyn. What are you up to?" Eleanor slightly scolded her daughter when she noticed the thoughtful look on Aurora's face.
"Is Irgern still in Camelot?" Aurora asked her oldest member, Terian the Hunter for he was known to many in magical community as skilled hunter of dangerous magical creatures.
"He is, my lady, he sent his report not two days ago." Terian replied, eyeing his queen and former student with curiosity.
"Let him know Anwen and I will be arriving to Camelot very soon." Aurora said, Terian bowed and left the Hall in quick stride.
"You cannot be serious, Aurora." Eleanor said in quite surprised and admonishing whisper.
"I will be careful, why do you think I am bringing Anwen along. And, there is a tournament to be held in Camelot in a day as far as I know. In the honour of the future queen of Camelot." Aurora explained.
"Could that be the reason for bringing Lancelot back? To kill Arthur in the tournament?" Alys asked and Aurora shrugged.
"I do not know but we must pack quickly, it takes two days of hard ride to reach Camelot." Aurora replied, nodded respectfully to her friends and swiftly left the hall, Anwen following her example.
"Is this wise Eleanor?" Alys asked as she watched her friend go.
"No, it is downright foolish. But we must hope she knows what she is doing." Eleanor sighed and left to tell Thomas what new life-threatening adventure their daughter has chosen to go on.
"I want you to guard the borders with Camelot more extensively in the following days and be watchful for Morgana; druids reported she has been seen sneaking around." Aurora was issuing last set of orders, bag slung over her shoulder and she mounted her horse next morning.
"Mabon is in two weeks time." Thomas pointed out.
"I have no intention of staying in Camelot for two weeks, father. I am going there to find out what Morgana has planned this time, stop it if I can and return." Aurora spoke.
"Yvaine has asked for help. It seems they have problems with some rouge druids on the south-western borders. They suspect it might be Alvarr. And you know Yvaine; he was raised not to touch one hair on the druids. Rouge or not." Edward spoke and released the reins of Aurora's horse.
"Take Valan and Eriane with you, they seem eager to show their newly learnt skills. Kill them only if they show the same intention, if not then capture them and bring them here and await my return." Aurora advised.
"Catch!" Anwen said and tossed silver, leaf shaped pendant on a cord to Aurora.
"You put that on and even your own mother would not recognise you." Anwen smiled as she put her own around her neck.
Two women immediately got new set of looks and Thomas appreciatively nodded with respect.
"Impressive." he said and Anwen grinned childishly.
"Impressive yes but try not to get attention to yourselves, even with city open for visitors." Eleanor pointed out.
"We will be careful, Lady Eleanor." Anwen solemnly promised and pulled on the hood of her cloak.
"Ya!" Aurora prodded the horse with her boots and rode away, Anwen close behind her.
"I do not have a good feeling about this." Eleanor said.
"Me neither. And Isilla saw nothing which is most concerning." Thomas shook his head.
City of Camelot was in state of uproar and joy ever since the engagements were announced three days ago and everyone was running around making sure everything is in its place by the time of the wedding, taking small breaks to watch the tournament. Or as Merlin said, two days of sweaty men knocking the sense out of each other.
"My father had a tournament before his wedding, it's tradition." Arthur said as he took the water goblet from the table.
"Oh, so it's not even an original gesture then." Merlin remarked.
"I think my future wife understands." Arthur grinned like an idiot, not that Merlin would point that out in public, and looked at Gwen who was currently smiling and thanking Percival.
The trumpets sounded arrival of another knight and Arthur looked at him.
"Who on earth is that?" he asked as Merlin got closer behind him.
"I have no idea." Merlin replied and just as curiously watched as the knight flawlessly hit the centre of the ring.
The knight made his way to the audience box where Gwen and Agravaine were seated, his lance offering the decorated ring to the future queen. Gwen stood up and took the ring, thanking the knight and waited for him to take of the helmet. The said man moved the lance into his left hand and removed his helmet with his right, revealing himself as Lancelot much to the shock of everyone present. Including a young man that was seated not far from the royal seats, his eyes fixed on the knight, his guts twisting inside. He could tell that the man was a Shade and he was warned by Terian before the tournament. The question that bothered him was if Emrys could tell what Lancelot was as well. Irgern stood up and left the tournament field, rushing to his home in lower town, after all he had to be ready for Aurora's arrival tomorrow afternoon. He just hopped she won't be late.
"The guards are awful. A dragon could sneak into the city and no one would notice." Anwen commented as two ladies rode into the lower part of the city without much trouble.
"Keep your voice down Anwen. A peasant criticising the guard gets a quick march to the stocks." Aurora warned as she dismounted her horse and led the way toward Irgern's house.
"Well they are." Anwen pointedly replied in a whisper, making Aurora smile.
Making sure that they did not get much attention, Aurora softly knocked on the wooden door and waited, pushing down her hood to reveal her currently ash blonde hair. The door swung open and revealed Irgern who was much surprised to see how well the enchanted pendant worked, if he didn't know that Aurora was travelling under illusion spell, he would not have let her and her companion in.
"How are things here in Camelot?" Aurora asked the moment Anwen shut the gate.
"Lancelot made an appearance yesterday. In front of everyone." Irgern replied and offered two ladies water.
"Has he done anything with ill intent?" Aurora asked after taking a sip of water.
"No, quite the opposite. He fought the king today in the final and yielded after the king was injured. I cannot tell what his purpose here is." Irgern said.
"And Emrys?" Anwen asked curiously.
"He has been suspicious of Lancelot ever since he arrived. He knows something is not right." Irgern responded.
"What does he do here? We must know so we do not expose him by accident." Aurora stated.
"He is the king's manservant." Irgern replied.
"And my mother tells me about being insane." Aurora huffed with an eye roll, making both Anwen and Irgern snicker.
"We have to find our way into the castle." Aurora said as she looked out the window, noticing guards change at their posts.
"It will be easier for you to do in the night. Guards tend to sleep on their posts." Irgern explained.
"I told you they are awful." Anwen repeated her previous comment, making Aurora smile just a bit.
When the night fell, two witches made their way up to the citadel which proved to be an easy task.
"I think Arthur should really improve his security. This is ridiculous." Aurora whispered after she toppled a barrel to the guards' right side and three of them went straight after it to investigate.
"Come on." Anwen called out quietly as she opened one of the servants' citadel entrances and two of them snuck inside.
"Where is Lancelot staying?" Anwen asked as two of them lurked in the shadows, occasionally stepping in the alcoves to avoid the guards.
"Irgern said he is staying with court physician and his ward who just happens to be Arthur's manservant as well. Emrys has a close eye on hopefully." Aurora replied and stuck her head out of the alcove to see if the guards are gone.
They were about to proceed toward physician's chambers when an angry cry of pain echoed the hallways, probably waking half of the staff and was followed by clash of steel. Anwen cast a strong illusion around the two of them and they hurried to the source of the battle. In few moments time, they were staring from the shadowed corner of the throne room at the king and his knight fight each other, sobbing and quite confused Gwen on the floor. Anwen noticed a glint of silver shining in the moonlight and saw the bracelet on Gwen's wrist. Aurora though was more focused on the figure standing in the doorway behind Arthur, obviously enjoying himself. Soon guards stormed in when Gwen broke off the fight and both her and Lancelot were dragged to the cells whilst still fuming Arthur stormed back to his chambers. Anwen was about to go after him when Aurora grabbed her arm and stopped her.
"We have to tell him the truth. She was obviously enchanted and he is a Shade." Anwen whispered angrily.
"And how do we do that? How can we even begin to explain to him what were two witches doing here, sneaking around the castle in the wake of night?" Aurora countered in same toned whisper.
"Have you seen his uncle? The way he was enjoying the sight?" Anwen asked.
"Yes I have. But the way things stand right now, with no physical proof but the bracelet for which Agravaine can calmly claim someone else gave to Lancelot, Arthur would think we planned this whole thing. Don't you see it? A month ago he was ready to declare war on us simply because his uncle said so and most likely he decided not to because others advised him against it, probably Gaius and Sir Leon." Aurora said and pulled Anwen toward the small side exist.
"Where are we going?" Anwen whispered.
"To see Emrys." Aurora replied and all but dragged the young enchantress along to court physician's chambers.
Upon arriving there, Aurora murmured a spell to see if there was anyone but court physician and his ward present and came inside without knocking.
"That is what she has been planning all..." Merlin stopped talking as two hooded figures came in his mentor's chambers and shut the door behind them.
"Who are you?" Gaius demanded and two women looked up, throwing their hoods down.
"We wish you now harm." one of them said and took of some sort of leaf shaped pendant off her neck, revealing her real appearance.
Both women were tall, almost the same height though the young blonde was paler than the dark brunette. Both of them were very beautiful Merlin concluded though for some reason he found himself eyeing the blonde longer then he probably should. But both of them were also witches which brought enough amount of worry to be ready to attack if necessary.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" Gaius asked again, his stern look made Aurora remember when Terian used the same look to scold her after some prank.
"Ic eom Aurora, cwen þæs Essetir ge Heah Sácerda þæs Eald Æfæstness." Aurora introduced herself quickly, taking two men by surprise at hearing the Old Tongue.
"Ic eom Anwen, þegen þæm geard þæ Essetir ge ever lim þæs Seofon." Anwen introduced herself as well, waiting for two men to say something.
"Pardon for my question, my lady but are you two completely insane? What were you thinking, sneaking around the castle like this?" Gaius crossed his arms.
"We were trying to find out why Morgana has raised Lancelot from the dead, I felt her do it few days back. But we arrived too late." Aurora replied seriously.
"You felt it?" Merlin asked surprised.
"Yes. You did not, Emrys? Or do you prefer to be called Merlin?" Aurora asked completely shocked Merlin who became white as a sheet when he heard his druid name.
"Merlin would be lovely. And I would rather if you keep the secret to yourselves." he replied.
"As if we were to do anything else but keep it. What will Arthur do now?" Anwen asked.
"Such kind of betrayal is punishable by death. Arthur of course will not do that but he will have Gwen banished. And Lancelot as well." Gaius replied.
"I cannot believe Morgana. She is willing to do anything to destroy Arthur and have the throne. How did I miss this?" Merlin was pacing around the chambers now.
"You mustn't be hard on yourself; we too presumed Lancelot is here to kill Arthur. It did not even cross our minds that Morgana would do something like this." Aurora assured him.
"What about Lancelot, what happens with him now that he did what Morgana sent him to do?" Anwen asked.
"My guess, kill himself?" Gaius replied unsure.
"Can you save him?" Merlin looked at both Anwen and Aurora pleadingly.
"That has never been done. His mind is actually blank and his soul is suppressed. That is why necromancy was always viewed with doubt and disgust. Many tried to revive their dead lovers that way and ended up losing their minds trying to restore the personality. It is a half-finished process; no one knows how to finish it." Anwen explained sadly.
"We could try. But this would require massive amount of study and more over, it would require creating new spells. Rare are those who venture that path for it is fraught with danger and good amount of time doomed from the begging." Aurora spoke so quietly they barely heard her.
"Your mother will most definitely not like this. In fact I do not like this either." Anwen replied nervously.
"What is life without a little risk?" Aurora smiled faintly.
"Little? You just risk, I do not know, your own mind, perhaps?" Anwen countered.
"Look, if you can help him, I will go down to the cells to make sure he does not kill himself. And you two get ready to take him once Arthur banishes him." Merlin cut off the heated debate annoyed and stormed out of the chambers.
"He is so cute when he gets angry." Anwen commented with playful smirk as her eyes followed him out.
"Anwen, focus." Aurora admonished her, bade Gaius goodbye and dragged her companion out.
"One day that boy will be the death of me." Gaius muttered as he shook his head and sat down, letting everything that just now happened replay in his mind once again.
On his way to the cells, Merlin hid in an alcove and watched as Agravaine passed him with smug smile on his face which made him hurry to Lancelot. He arrived just in time to see Lancelot aiming a dagger at his heart which was most likely given to him by Agravaine. Without any thought, Merlin placed his own illusion spell on the guard and snuck in the cell, successfully disarming Lancelot in last second. He knocked the knight out with simple sleeping spell and returned to Gaius' chambers.
"You were right, I just disarmed him. Agravaine brought him a dagger to his cell." Merlin said as he tiredly sunk down on the bench.
"Where are our two visitors?" Merlin asked as he noticed that two witches were no longer present.
"They left, presumably to prepare to take Lancelot." Gaius replied.
Though Merlin tried to reason with Arthur, the young king was dead set on banishing both Lancelot and Gwen as he could not bring himself to have them executed for betrayal. This was one of those moments that Merlin wished to kill the idiot for using his brain in completely wrong end and the fact that he remained so blind to Agravaine's schemes even after that incident with Gaius few weeks back. And Agravaine was practically gloating. Not that he was showing it in public though the most strangest of looks passed his face when he saw Lancelot in front of Arthur, very much alive and now banished. Aurora and Anwen left the city earlier in the morning, to await Lancelot in the forest, far from eyes of the guards. Loud snap of a branch on the ground made two women look sidewise to see Lancelot approaching them with completely dull look in his eyes.
"You are not lady Morgana." he stated when he saw Aurora's face.
"How very insightful of you. Where is Guinevere?" Aurora asked, noting the young woman was nowhere around.
"She left the city little after dawn." Lancelot replied.
"Damn it!" Aurora cursed.
"Um... Aurora..." the witch looked at her friend who motioned with her hand to look behind her only to see Lancelot walking away.
"Where do you think you are going?" Aurora asked, jumping down from her horse and running after him.
"I must find my lady Morgana and complete the task she gave me." he spoke evenly.
"I do not think so." Aurora muttered and held out her hand toward him. "Swefe nu." she murmured and the knight promptly stopped, falling face down on the forest floor.
"I really want to see how you are going to explain this one to your parents and the Council of Seven." Anwen smiled slightly and watched Aurora levitate unconscious Lancelot on her horse and mount it afterwards.
"Oh, do be quiet." Aurora muttered annoyed and rode off, forcing Anwen to catch up with her.
"What is the meaning of this?" Thomas asked the moment two horses in front of him stopped, revealing an extra rider, unconscious on Aurora's horse.
"I will try to save him." Aurora replied, motioning to two guards to carry unconscious knight to one of the guest chambers.
"You cannot save him, he is a Shade, you silly girl." Thomas admonished Aurora quite angrily, something he rarely done if ever.
"I promised to try. Besides, I will not be working alone." Aurora replied stubbornly and looked around.
"Go to Terian and tell him what has happened. I want them all start working on it straight away." she told Anwen seriously who nervously glanced at Thomas then back Aurora before she strode off inside the castle.
"You are not a miracle worker." Thomas stated.
"I promised." Aurora repeated.
"To whom? To Emrys? You have responsibilities, Aurora." Thomas said.
"I said I will try. I did not say I can do it. There is a big difference. As for my responsibilities, I never asked for them." Aurora shot back, her fatigue and anger for Morgana taking the best of her and Thomas immediately surrendered the argument.
"You need rest. We will talk after you can think straight again." he said.
"Where is Edward?" she asked but before Thomas answered, Edward appeared at the castle gates.
"Is it true? You are going to try to restore Lancelot's mind and soul?" he asked curiously.
"Yes. Morgana really succeeded in harming Arthur this time. I want you to gather some men, take those enchanted cloaks and find Guinevere. Bring her here. And do not return without her." Aurora replied in her best commanding tone and then walked in the castle, leaving quite baffled knight behind her and slightly annoyed father.
"I trust you bring me good news." Morgana smirked evilly when Agravaine appeared in her hut with smug smile on his face.
"Indeed. Our young king is heartbroken, alas; he did not take very well the sight of his first knight kissing his ex-future wife." Agravaine grinned, coming closer to the small fire.
"Excellent. I trust the Lancelot did what I have asked of him?" Morgana asked and saw Agravaine frown.
"No, my lady. For some reason, even though I gave him the dagger, he did not kill himself. Arthur banished him along with Guinevere." Agravaine replied; still puzzled himself as to why that happened.
"It does not matter. I gave him a command and he has no choice but to obey. I think knights of Camelot will soon find the body of their former friend. It is only matter of time. I am going to see Helios in few days. And you must find a way to get the plans of the siege tunnels." Morgana smiled yet again, taking a sip of wine whilst staring at the flame.
"It will be done, my lady." Agravaine nodded and after few more minutes left the hut.
Translations – Ic eom Aurora, cwen þæs Essetir ge Heah Sácerda þæs Eald Æfæstness. – I am Aurora, queen of Essetir and High Priestess of the Old Religion.
Ic eom Anwen, þegen þæm geard þæ Essetir ge ever lim þæs Seofon. – I am Anwen, servant to the court of Essetir ad member of the Seven.
Chapter 8: Fulfilling a promiseEdit
"My lady!" Aurora looked up from her desk stacked with numberless papers to see one of the messenger boys standing in the doorway, completely flushed from the running.
"What is it, George?" she asked, boredom quite obvious in her voice.
"Sir Edward has returned with the knights. And Lady Guinevere. I have already alerted some of the castle staff to prepare proper accommodations for her." George replied and Aurora smiled widely for the first time in three months since her visit to Camelot.
"Finally." she shot up from her seat and stopped briefly at the door. "Well done, George." she praised the young man and raced off down the hallway.
The castle staff watched in amusement as their young queen hurried toward the castle entrance to greet her friend. The guards opened the main entrance door and Aurora's smile widened when she saw Edward and the knights coming to a stop in the main courtyard. Even though it was cold and there was heavy layer of snow on some places, the whole city was in state of uproar as the final preparations for Yule celebration. There were mistletoes and wreaths hung in the house doorways, children playing in the snow whilst their parents worked around. The small group of knights greeted their queen as she came downstairs and her gaze immediately connected with Edward's.
"You took your time." she said whilst he dismounted.
"Yes, well searching for one woman in magic banned kingdom is hard, especially when you have to avoid the patrols." Edward replied.
"So where is she?" Aurora asked, noting that Guinevere was nowhere in sight.
"In the lower town. She saw the entire square bustle with activity so she wanted to look around. Katherine is with her and I believe I saw Anwen coming their way as we rode off." Edward smiled, handing the reins to the stable boy and walked inside the castle with Aurora.
"Was it hard?" Aurora asked, linking her arm with his, not caring the chainmail was quite cold.
"It took me good two days to explain to her in details what actually happened and why you think it would be best for her to stay here in Monaea rather than some village in Camelot. Then we waited another two days for her to decide." Edward responded.
"With all that happened to her lately, I cannot blame her. I just wish I was quicker." Aurora shook her head.
"I think you are taking this too close to your heart. If it really is Arthur's destiny to marry her, than he will. Here, she can try and start to mend the broken heart and learn. Which brings me to another question. Did you have any progress concerning Lancelot?" Edward asked, door of the small private dining hall opening to reveal food and drink on the table freshly served and warmth coming from the hearth.
"After almost three months of trials, failures, broken vials and staves, we have managed to come up with incredibly long, complicated spell aided by blood ritual that managed to restore Lancelot's true memories and break the dam that was holding back his soul from re-emerging. Up until then, every time he would wake, he would start babbling about obeying the will of his lady Morgana. I do not remember the last time I felt so spent and tired." Aurora replied and poured some wine for him and then sat down to his right.
"That is good news indeed. But this best be the last time you decide to do something as foolish as this. There was not a day that I did not fear that I will come home and find you insane or worse, dead. You can't change the fate of every living being that crosses paths with you." Edward admonished the younger woman he long time ago came to cherish as younger sister.
"I know. I promise I won't." she said half solemnly and nibbled on some fruit.
"Good. Where are your parents? I have not seen them upon our return." Edward relaxed in the chair.
"Enjoying some time alone. They are grown adults, I am not their supervisor." Aurora smirked and Edward chuckled.
"On some light note, I got a letter from king Bralian. He sends his greetings as always, thanks for the help with the renegade druids and that Yvaine will be visiting us for Ostara and will stay here for a month." she looked at him with slight mischief in her eyes.
"Excellent, we can enjoy a hunt just the three of us like we used to before all this happened." Edward spoke.
Auroraopened her mouth to say something when guard interrupted them.
"My queen, lady Guinevere wishes to see you." he said.
"By all means, Lamasin, let her in." Aurora replied cheerfully and stood up.
The door opened and in came dark skinned woman dressed in simple but beautiful red gown. The woman looked still quite heart broken but Aurora hoped her stay here would mend if only a fraction of that. Gwen thanked Lamasin who then closed the door and she immediately curtsied her greeting.
"Oh please, none of that with me." Aurora said kindly and offered her handshake.
"It is pleasure to meet you lady Guinevere. I am Aurora Selwyn. Edward you have already met." Aurora said and Edward bowed his head slightly.
"Thank you but I am no lady." Gwen said softly.
"For now." Aurora replied quite mystically and waved toward the table. "Come and join us for a meal." the young queen offered.
"I couldn't possibly intrude on you." Gwen replied.
"It is a rare occasion that I can enjoy the company of two beautiful women alone. Come, sit with us." Edward insisted and pulled out a chair to his left side and motioned for Gwen to sit down.
She smiled and sat down, still looking quite shy.
"If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask or something to complain about. Neither Edward nor I are of some noble stature." Aurora said after she poured some wine into Gwen's goblet.
"For someone who said that has no interest in Camelot and its affairs, you are very vigil about what is going on there and keen on keeping me safe even though until this day we have not met at all. Why?" Gwen asked honestly.
"Because I believe in what Camelot and Arthur will become one day. Hence I am vigil of any threat against Camelot. For the same peril could knock on our doorstep, seeing how we share border with Camelot. And considering you, I fear that Arthur Pendragon has successfully walked into his sister's trap without even knowing. Morgana is a natural Seer and since her powers have grown, she must have seen the future of Camelot with you on its throne beside Arthur. Something she cannot and will not stand for. Hence brining Lancelot back from the dead." Aurora explained and took few bites of her meal.
"Yes, sir Edward has already told me about Lancelot. How is he?" Gwen asked.
"He still has quite long way to go before achieving full recovery but everything looks promising. Soon the old Lancelot you knew before he stepped in the Veil will be with us." Aurora assured her.
"Miracle it worked." Edward cut in.
"Miracle? No, my friend. Merely hours and hours of hard work, trial and error. And lots of frustration for repeated failures." Aurora replied.
"Which reminds me to ask you something Guinevere. Are you comfortable staying here? This is after all land of magic." Aurora said seriously.
"I suppose this is far safer place than any outer village in Camelot. Though it will take some time to get used to see magic used and displayed openly." Gwen replied truthfully.
"Then I will bear in mind and try not to shock you with my sudden use of magic." Aurora promised.
"I have seen people preparing for Yule festival." Gwen commented.
"Indeed my lady. In two days time you will see for the first time in your life how it is celebrated with magic woven into every single moment of it." Edward winked charmingly at her, making both ladies laugh at his 'audacious' behaviour.
"I do not know if my maidservant Katherine told you but there are chambers arranged and waiting for you here in the castle. You may take any work you like or not work at all, that is completely your decision." Aurora said.
"I would like to do something." Gwen admitted.
"You can read and write yes?" Edward asked and Gwen nodded.
"I am also familiar with arithmetic and basic economy. My father was a blacksmith and I would help him sometimes." Gwen explained.
"If so, then I might have a job for you. If you say yes, of course." Aurora smiled to her, taking a sip of wine.
"You probably saw the newly built school on your way to the castle?" Aurora asked and Gwen nodded.
"Well, it has been finished roughly two weeks ago and is still in need of furniture. I am offering you place as one of the teachers." Aurora said much to Gwen's surprise.
"You would want me to teach children?" she asked befuddled.
"Well, it was merely a suggestion. I would understand if you do not wish it." Aurora replied.
"No, I would like that but would people actually allow someone like me to teach their children?" Gwen asked.
"Of course they would. This is not Camelot and we do not hold to the differences in social classes. There are servants yes but we pay them well and nobility around here you will find is quite unlike the one you know." Edward cut in.
"Then yes, I would be delighted." Gwen smiled.
"That's the spirit." Edward praised.
"Then it is settled. I will let the other three teachers know." Aurora nodded.
"One more question. Is magic taught in school as well?" Gwen asked.
"No. We are still pretty much occupied with renewal and trying to restore a fraction of what Essetir once was. Fields were in complete ruin when we came here and food was very low. So all my spellcasters were working with druids trying to revive the barren land and surrounding nature. Studying the art of magic for those who have no natural gift of magic is very hard and requires a lot of time. Hence I decided that when the time comes, I will first search for those who are naturally gifted as they are much easier to teach." Aurora explained.
"I understand." Gwen replied and three of them enjoyed the rest of the afternoon sitting at the table and Gwen was slowly taking in all the information Edward and Aurora had to offer.
Chapter 09: Approaching of the stormEdit
"Will you be joining us for the training today?" Edward asked over early breakfast he was sharing with Aurora, Thomas and Eleanor.
"I think I will. I sorted out all my paperwork and I believe I only have an audience with Mercia's envoy." Aurora replied, setting down her water goblet.
"How are the preparations for the Ostara going?" Aurora asked her mother who always took a particular joy when it came to organising festivities in the city.
"Well, I spoke with druid tribe leaders that reside within out territory. They said they would be very happy to share their celebration with us so I had extra accommodations prepared for them. They are very interested in aiding on seeding the magical gardens." Eleanor replied with smile.
"I take it you will be going on a hunt with Edward and Yvaine?" Thomas asked, taking a bite of bread.
"Of course I will, we have been doing this hunt together for the last eleven years, it would be a shame to break the tradition." Aurora replied and smiled as the door opened, letting Gwen inside.
"Morning, Gwen. You are just in time for breakfast." Eleanor smiled kindly and Thomas was promptly up, pulling out the chair for Gwen.
"Thank you." Gwen smiled and sat down, reaching out for the water pitcher.
"We were just discussing festival of Ostara. It is in week's time." Aurora stated.
"Yes, I know. I noticed extra accommodations are being made throughout the city, are we expecting many guests?" Gwen asked.
"Well, yes. Yvaine will be coming from Escavalon with couple of his knights and many druid tribes will be joining us to celebrate the new life that is to begin." Aurora replied.
"How are children progressing in school?" Thomas asked curiously.
"Outstanding. It is amazing how eager they are to learn." Gwen said enthusiastically.
"Yes, children do tend to amaze us when we lest expect it." Eleanor nodded knowingly.
"Are you talking from experience?" Aurora asked jokingly.
"You on the other hand, were always little devil. Never still. Not that you improved now that you've grown." Eleanor replied and everyone laughed.
"I do not know what you mean by that." Aurora replied with her chin raised up proudly.
"I have to go; I am receiving an envoy from Listinoise about the trade route that would pass through Mercia." Thomas announced and left the hall.
Clad in light armour, Aurora made her way down the road to the training grounds. The light laughter got her attention and she made her way to pass by the school. The doors were wide open and she took a quick glance inside, seeing Gwen telling some sort of story that was making all the children laugh. When Gwen realized Aurora was watching them, the young queen merely nodded her head in greeting and respect before continuing to training grounds. When she got there, the knights were already in full training mode. Swords clashed wherever you looked, several maces were swirling in the air as well. All in all, the sound of metal clashing was audible all around the training grounds.
"Well, look who decided to show its face on the training?" Aurora smirked as one of the young knights, Nivirian noticed her arrival.
"Careful Nivirian or you will be her first victim." another night threw jokingly as Aurora set aside her helmet and drew out her sword.
"Who will be the first of you great warriors to face me?" she challenged the knights, stepping on the field.
There was a silence for a while before some rustle made Aurora look to her left and saw an older knight make his way toward her, making her smile. The man was big, over 6 feet tall and had good set of muscles on himself. And he just happened to be her father's friend and her former teacher.
"If you do not mind, I wish to see if all I have taught you is still inside that pretty head of yours." the man's hoarse, deep but friendly voice reached her ears.
"Not at all, Dagonet." she smiled and assumed her stand, standing only on her forward part of feet on the ground and her heels in the air.
It did not take long for Dagonet to swing his sword toward her and she expertly blocked the strong hit after which she shifted aside. As the fight progressed, others stopped fighting and devoted their attention to the couple that was sparing in the middle of the field, dust picking up as their feet grazed the ground. Whilst it looked for a moment that Dagonet would win, Aurora would pull some small trick that included dropping on the ground and roll to left or right, depending where the sword would strike the ground. After what seemed like hours even though it was just half an hour of intense fight, Aurora won by crossing her sword with Dagonet's and swiftly swirled it around until she knocked it out of his hands and kicked him to the ground.
"Good!" Dagonet praised and accepted the hand she offered him and pulled him up.
"I aim to please." she smiled, her hair in complete disarray.
"Ready for round two?" she turned around and saw Nivirian swinging his sword casually around the air, obviously ready to fight her.
"I am so going to teach you a lesson." she grinned wickedly and charged at him.
"Where is Guinevere?" Aurora asked her mother as she strolled in her parents' chambers, ready for the hunt.
"She went to visit her mother's grave." Eleanor replied and studied her daughter's outfit.
Hair reined in a thick braid; it hung loosely over her left shoulder. The gown she was currently in was made of sandy brown and silver-grey taffeta; it had elbow-length sleeves and swirling, knee-long skirt, sandy brown, hooded cape over the entire outfit and brown boots.
"Now? With forest around Camelot probably full of hunters?" Aurora asked in disbelief.
"Anwen went with her." Eleanor said.
"Somehow that does not make me feel any better; you know how Anwen can space out of time and place." Aurora frowned.
"Isn't your clothing bit too light?" Eleanor switched the subject.
"Mother, we are going to hunt animals not people. You know how I feel about hunting clad in armour." Aurora replied.
"Indeed. Be sure you are home by late afternoon." Eleanor stated, her long fingers working swiftly on the gown she was going to wear.
"Of course we will be back before the feast, what would you eat otherwise?" Aurora smiled and rushed out of the chambers to join her friends in the courtyard.
"Ready?" Edward asked him and Yvaine already on the horses.
"I supposed I am." Aurora replied and mounted her horse.
"What's wrong?" Yvaine asked, shifting the quiver on his back slightly.
"Guinevere went to visit her mother's grave. And Anwen went with her." Aurora replied and urged the horse into slow canter.
"Why does that not assure me?" Edward murmured, following Aurora out of the city along with Yvaine and two other knights.
"That one is a beauty." Yvaine whispered as three friends quietly moved through the forest and noticed a stag on small clearing not far from them.
"And way too young to be killed yet, there isn't much meat on those bones. We are not hunting for trophies, Yvaine." Aurora murmured and moved to a direction completely opposite from where the stag was.
"She is jumpy." Yvaine remarked as two knights fell bit behind her in step.
"Would you not be?" Edward asked, his eyes scouring forest for possible game.
"I suppose I would." Yvaine replied and looked up at Aurora's low whistle.
She pointed to another small clearing, two does and a stag grazing the grass.
"One each?" Edward asked as three of them all notched their bows and Aurora nodded.
Silence fell on three friends as their eyes focused on their targets, aiming to kill the animal straight away with the first arrow. Aurora held her breath for few second and after she was certain her aim was good, she exhaled along with releasing her arrow, two more followed swiftly after hers. Her arrow hit the stag but unfortunately, the arrow imbedded itself bit higher than she thought and the wounded animal fell to the floor and started writhing in pain. In swift movement, she pulled out her dagger and ran over to the animal, killing it swiftly. Edward merely sighed at her frowned face and walked over to their kills with Yvaine.
"Will that be enough?" Edward asked.
"We won't know until we meet with Berian and Nivirian." Yvaine replied and with simple flash of eyes, the game was levitated to the cart they brought along.
An hour later, they were joined by Berian and Nivirian. Two knights were carrying two deer and several large hares and loaded them on the cart.
"I think that is more than enough." Aurora pointed out and the small group started to make their way back to the castle.
They just reached the city walls when Aurora's gaze went blurry for a second, she could feel the Crystal resonating from the vault beneath the castle inside her head. She opened her eyes and found herself in a forest, it all felt like a dream to her. The sound of horns and people shouting made her look around and she saw good number of people bearing the capes with Camelot's crest walking through the forest, they must be on a hunt because she noticed Arthur and Merlin amongst them in the company of a beautiful young woman she recognised from before as the princess of Nemeth.
Suddenly one of the knights shouted 'deer' and Aurora looked to her right. However, there was something familiar about this animal and looking back at Merlin she saw his shocked expression. Looking at the small puddle not few feet from her, the doe passed it and she saw Gwen's reflection in it, making Aurora shiver in fear. That is when she felt someone grabbing her arm and she blinked, finding a worried face of Edward looking at her.
"Are you alright? You just stood here and stared at the distance, your eyes were completely glazed." he said as she shook her head, trying to make the haziness go away.
"Gwen is in danger, I have to go." Aurora said hurriedly, turning her horse around.
"We will come with you." Yvaine said.
"No! I do not know if what I saw already happened or is about to happen so I must hurry. I am opening a portal." Aurora raised her hand to stop them from advancing and then looked forward to the woods.
"Dúru tó þæs Camelot wealda, ætýne! " she shouted and the knights had to shield their eyes as white flash appeared for a second before disappearing again along with Aurora.
Translations - Dúru tó þæs Camelot wealda, ætýne! - Doors to the forest of Camelot, open!
Chapter 10: Meeting the pratEdit
Portal shutting behind her, Aurora looked around frantically for her two friends. She was about to cast a spell when she noticed figure clad in sky blue robes down on the forest floor, the horse grazing the grass not few feet from it. Aurora jumped down and hurried over to unconscious Anwen. Kneeling down, she gently shook the enchantress by the shoulder to wake her. There was a soft groan before Anwen's eyes opened, Aurora's face quiet blurry in her gaze.
"Easy now." Aurora said as she helped Anwen to sit up, the young enchantress putting a hand on the back of her head.
"That bitch, she snuck up on me whilst I was trying to find some flowers for the grave." Anwen spat angrily.
"Where is Gwen?" Aurora asked and Anwen shook her head, not having a clue.
Noticing some fresh hoof prints, Aurora waited for a moment for Anwen to gather her wits and both of them mounted their horses, riding off deeper in the forest in search of their friend. Not few minutes later sound of dog bark and people shouting reached their ears.
"That would be Arthur's hunting party." Aurora muttered and noticed a deer running from the hunters.
"Is that...?" Anwen held her breath; the enchantment was more than obvious to her when her gaze fell on the deer.
Before Aurora could react, arrow flew directly into deer's hind leg. Looking up, they saw princess Mithian smiling.
"Go find Gwen and heal her, I'll deal with them." Aurora said and urged her horse forward, getting the attention of everyone present, good part of crossbows aimed at her.
"Who the hell are you?" Arthur demanded as he stepped forward to shield princess from possible attack.
"My lady, what are you doing here?" It was Leon who cut in straight away, earning questioning looks from everyone though Aurora noted Merlin decided to be quiet and he looked worried, she could assumed that he too saw the deer for what it really was.
"Do you know this lady, Sir Leon?" Arthur asked.
"Yes, my lord. This is Lady Aurora Selwyn, queen of Essetir." Leon said quite formally and everyone aside from princess Mithian and Merlin gasped slightly and stared in surprise.
"What are you doing in these woods? Magic is forbidden here." Arthur stated and her eyebrow rose up on that, her face one of complete indifference at what he said.
"Chasing Morgana, what do you think I am doing here, having joy ride? Do I look as if I have gone mad? I would sooner jump down the waterfall then enter this kingdom on my personal volition." She replied with sarcasm.
"Morgana is not here." Arthur said, inwardly anger rising at her utter disrespect of him and in front of his men and guest princess nonetheless.
"Of course she is not here anymore, she managed to slip past you. If you have paid more attention to your surroundings than that poor animal you were hunting for sport you would have noticed." Merlin could swear he heard her mutter 'idiot' under her breath.
"Why are you after her anyway?" princess Mithian piped in.
"She attacked one of my spellcasters that were patrolling the border, I just happened to be hunting in the forest not far away." Aurora lied expertly, without bating an eyelash.
"Well, perhaps it would be best if you return to Essetir now, my knights will continue the search for Morgana." Arthur suggested politely though his patience was wearing out due to her audacity.
"Ic soþlice tweogan fea ielde plagiende hæles þanc fornydan hire in anforlæteende." she muttered and Merlin had to try very hard not to burst out laughing at Arthur's bewildered expression at hearing Aurora mutter in Old Tongue.
"Excuse me?" he asked and she merely shrugged.
"Best if I do not translate, I do not wish your egos to be squashed like bugs." Aurora smirked and turned the horse around, looking at Arthur over her shoulder.
"Until we meet again Arthur Pendragon, and that we most certainly will." she spoke quite mystically and urged her horse into swift canter.
Arthur called off the hunt for the day few moments later after he found Gwen's ring on the ground and even though Merlin knew Aurora was good distance away, he could still clearly hear her in his head as he turned to follow his king back to the city.
'Be wary Merlin, Morgana has been seen meeting warlord Helios not far from our borders and Agravaine has paid the witch several visits in course of this week. He carried some sort of parchment with him, I fear it could be the city's plans. Be on alert for I fear something will happen soon enough.' her gentle voice echoed in his head.
'What of Gwen? I know princess Mithian shot her.' he asked fearfully.
'Do not worry, young warlock. Anwen and I will look after her; we have been for quite some time now.' Aurora replied and retreated from his mind.
"Come on Merlin, you are the one who claimed we should call it a day!" Arthur shouted at his manservant with irritation, before joining his knights and the princess.
"Anwen!" Aurora called as she made her slow way through the woods; she could feel the young enchantress was nearby.
"Aurora? Over here!" Anwen cried and Aurora caught a glimpse of her near one of the old oaks.
Aurorahurried over and jumped down from her horse upon seeing Gwen's bloodied gown.
"I just found her." Anwen explained, showing she already pulled the arrow out.
Auroraset her hand on Gwen's thighs and closed her eyes.
"Ic hæle þina þrowunga." she murmured and felt some strength leaving her, seeing the muscles and skin mend under her palm and Gwen whimpered a bit but did not wake.
"Help me get her on the horse." Aurora stated.
She mounted and waited for Anwen to push the unconscious woman up, shielding her with her cape and waited for Anwen to mount her horse before they rode off in direction of Essetir, worry etched on their faces for Camelot and its people because it was more than obvious that Morgana was this time planning something big and possibly for quite some time now. Either way, Aurora concluded, she will have her army at ready should need arise to come to Arthur's aid whether he would want it or not.
Chapter 11: Sword in the stone Part 1Edit
Aurora was sitting in the armchair that was settled next to the big window in Gwen’s chambers. The said woman was still in bed, sleeping soundly and regaining the energy from the blood loss she suffered two days ago. She thought it would be a good idea to go near Camelot’s border to get some rare flower that grows on the ridge of Essetir but was ambushed by bandits. It was only her luck that Alys was patrolling the border nearby and spotted the bandits before they were able to do more harm.
The entire kingdom of Essetir was in festive mood of Beltane, a hard year of work has passed before their eyes and now the kingdom was slowly but surely starting to flourish again after so many years of darkness and ruin Cenred brought along.
Although Gwen has been nothing but kind and gracious guest, Aurora was still angry with her because she expressly told her not to go to Camelot, even if it was to visit her father’s grave. She knew that Arthur would never kill her but his younger knights that would be eager to prove themselves would not let her go easily. And you never know when bandits might appear.
Aurora sighed a bit and her head snapped toward the bed when she heard Gwen groan a bit as her eyes opened slowly, adjusting to the light candles in the chandelier above the bed was providing. She blinked few times and saw disappointed looking Aurora sitting in the armchair beside the window.
“When I told you not to leave to Camelot, it was not because I arrogantly presumed I can order you around Gwen. You are future queen of Camelot and I would not dare to impose myself of such opinion. I told you not to go because I care for you as my friend and because you could have easily gotten killed out there in the forests. Or have you forgotten what happened last time when you went out there on your own?” Aurora did not restrain herself from admonishing the young woman, she had it coming and she had to know that.
“I am really sorry. I did not wish to cause you trouble or distress.” Gwen apologized, her hand trailing the smooth skin of her thigh where the arrow pierced her skin yesterday.
“You are not a trouble Gwen but I do occasionally give sound advices. If you really must venture beyond our borders into Camelot, you tell me so and I will send Alys and her rangers as your escort. Forests are second home to them and they see and hear far better then most us in there; and can see trouble coming mile away. So please…Next time you have a wish wandering around forests of Camelot, do inform me before you actually go through with it.”
“I promise I will.”
“Good…Now…” Aurora was cut off when Katherine ran in without knocking which was very strange, she never did that.
“Terian just received message from Irgern. Camelot has been attacked by Morgana and warlord Helios.”
“And what about Arthur?” Gwen promptly asked.
“All we know is that Morgana managed to take the city and most of the city’s inhabitants escaped and that king has escaped as well with his manservant.”
“Oh, thank God.”
“Yes, but what about those who could not escape? I tell you that woman really is a piece of work. And so is Agravaine.”
“I can’t believe we trusted him.”
“I’m afraid my dear Gwen, that snake learned to be a good actor long before he returned to Camelot. My only regret is that I didn’t kill him when I had the chance.” Aurora shook her head and looked to see her parents and Edward standing in the doorway, obviously waiting for her further decisions.
"Perhaps this is time to show young king that magic is a force for good too. Edward, gather the knights and every soldier that leaves between here and Camelot’s border. It is time for them to pick their swords up again. You have until morning.” Edward nodded and hurried off straight away.
“Katherine, go to the Hall of Magic and inform the others to get their bags and staves ready.”
“What about us?” Eleanor asked.
“I know there is no chance of me getting you to stay here in Monaea so I suggest you get your armours and swords ready. And your healing bag mother. We also need to take some camp equipment and small supplies of food. I imagine if we find the people that escaped, they will be in need of food and some maybe even medical treatment.”
“I’ll see to the equipment and supplies.” Thomas piped in and promptly disappeared.
“And I will send short message to the druids. I am certain they would be willing to help people and as I recall, many common people of Camelot do trust their healing skills even though they will not admit that in public.”
“Thank you mother.” Aurora smiled and looked at Gwen. “Do not worry, Gwen. I heard lot of stories about Arthur and Merlin. They tend to get out of the most impossible situations.” She squeezed her shoulder assuring.
“I know but that cannot stop me from worrying.”
“Then get dressed because we are riding out in few minutes. We are going straight for the border to look for the survivors with the rangers. Maybe luck should grant us to find Arthur and Merlin; and perhaps some knights if there were any lucky enough to escape.” Aurora told her, offered small smile and left the room to get dressed in her armour.
“Gwen and I will leave now to meet up with Alys at the border so we can start the search. You follow after us when you are done with supplies. And send word to Edward so he knows where to find us.” Aurora told her parents and motioned for seven other witches and wizards to follow after her.
“Be careful!” Eleanor could not help but to call after her and put a small smile on Aurora’s face.
“Don’t worry mother, I will.” Aurora solemnly promised as nine of them rode off in the dead of night, hoping to find king of Camelot before Morgana’s men did.