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A Dream of Fire

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She meets King Uther for the first time in the halls of Camelot.

“My daughter, Morgan,” her father says, and Morgan curtsies. Her new formal dress is hot and uncomfortable, but she is trying not to show it.

“I'm charmed,” the king says, but when she looks up at him, she sees his eyes are looking past her. His gaze is fixed on her mother, and he smiles. His eyes are dark and cold.


Her father shakes her awake in the middle of the night.

“Morgan, we need to go,” he says. The only light comes from the lantern he holds; it casts strange shadows on his face that make him look grim and somber. Her mother stands behind him, Morgause and Elaine with her.

“Go where?” Morgan asks sleepily.

“We’re going back home to Tintagel,” her father says. He sounds stern, though he never sounds stern with him. “Come on, Morgan.”

She doesn’t understand — but she can see that her parents and her older sisters are frightened, and that frightens her too, shaking her out of her sleepiness.

“Why?” she asks, and it’s Mother who replies, “Because of the king.” She lays a hand on Morgan’s head. “Please, Morgan, be good.”


Her father leads them down a hallway she hasn't been down before. This is not the way they entered King Uther's castle. They move fast but quietly; Mother says that the king mustn't find them.

They sail away on a ship with black sails. The night is so dark that Morgan can see neither what lies behind them or what lies ahead.

In Tintagel, her father calls for war council after war council; his knights and allies attend him in long meetings. There are soldiers everywhere, in the halls, in the courtyards.

She overhears her father and a knight talking one day.

“It’s not too late to turn back,” the knight says. “To negotiate.”

Her father laughs, a bitter, dry sound. “Uther doesn’t want to negotiate.”

"Do you love her that much?" the knight asks.

"Even if I didn't love her," her father says. "I would still have sworn to protect her."


The night before her father leaves for battle, she dreams of a thief in the night, her father’s sword in the dust, and a dragon that spreads its great, red wings over all of Britain.

She dreams the dragon flies to Tintagel and swallows them whole.

When her father comes to bid her goodbye, she grabs at his sleeve. “Don’t go,” she says. “You’ll die.”

“I won’t die,” he says. “Your mother will never let me live it down if I do.” He smiles at her, and with his sword at his side, he looks like a knight out of a fairy tale. In that moment, she believes he'll win.

“Be good while I’m gone, Morgan, for your mother’s sake,” he says.

She promises she will.


 

Uther's soldiers cut her father’s head off of his corpse. They mount his head on a stick so people will know what happens to traitors to the king.

In Tintagel, her mother wears black. But she takes more care with her face-paint than Morgan has ever seen, and then she opens the gates to King Uther’s army. He takes her hand and kisses it, and she smiles and leads him inside.

Morgan watches from the shadows as King Uther walks down their halls like he owns them.

Being good, she thinks, hadn't saved them all from the dragon.