It was only all too easy to wonder at times whether there was anything good left in the world at all. More than thirty years and yet nothing had changed. Magic was still outlawed, the Old Religion all but forgotten, the creatures of old magic long hunted and killed to extinction, and even magical people afraid to stand up against the dark stain Camelot had become. Camelot was inflicting pain on the world and sometimes, it felt like the responsibility to stop that lay on the shoulders of a single person.
It was terrifying, mostly. Lonely, certainly.
It was the loneliness that was the worst. Gone were the days of friends who understood. Just a dragon, who was usually away. Just the legends. Just the dreams. Nothing.
Yes. It was certainly lonesome.
Morgana sometimes wished it were someone else’s responsibility. Someone else who could take the throne and finally bring magic back to its rightful place at Camelot. Someone else, who could navigate the beauty of the Old Religion and keep its flame alive, nestled within the folds of the New Religion. Someone else who could put an end to the ruthless killing of innocent people. People who did nothing wrong but have the misfortune of being born with magic.
She had hoped for a moment, when Arthur had become King. She had given in to the tiniest possibility that he would change things. She’d been wrong. How could the people of Camelot not understand that? Did they too live under constant fear of persecution? How many of their loved ones had been murdered by the Royal House Pendragon for them to submit so meekly?
She had to carry the world. Whatever dark storms had descended upon the realm from the haunted corners of Uther Pendragon’s mind were killing her home. Her Camelot. It was barely recognizable. She hardly remembered the stories her mother had told her before she passed. Barely, but just remembered the nursemaid she’d had. Lynette used to make her toys dance for her.
The day Morgana had first been taken to meet Arthur was the last time she had seen Lynette. Her mother had died a year later, and Morgana couldn’t help but wonder if raven-haired Morrigan hadn’t had some magic herself. Gorlois certainly hadn’t. He would have avoided being killed in battle the way he was. Morgana had long believed that her mother had died of grief when her father died, but that dream, too, fell away. Felled by Uther’s hand. Or his sword.
Being alone had given her cause to think. She’d been pushed from her place in the castle, a princess pushed from her tower to grovel amongst the bramble below. She wore black to mourn. She mourned everything. She mourned Morgause, she mourned Guinevere and she mourned Arthur and she mourned Merlin, she mourned her mother and she mourned Gorlois. Half of them were dead and the other half had forgotten who they used to be. Guinevere and Arthur, both so compassionate and caring in their youth. Kind, innocent Merlin, who had poisoned her.
There was no love left in her world. Everyone she’d ever loved was long dead now. No, that wasn’t quite true. She had the white dragon. The white dragon was the sun’s light in the pitch that was Morgana’s universe. Still, she missed people. The comfort of hugging her sister, the faith Agravaine had had in her, however strange, the sound of Arthur’s voice when he’d fought for her, the feel of Mordred’s bright, trusting gaze capturing her heart. She craved it. She knew it’d never come.
After she’d been thrown from Camelot a second time, she’d never had another vision of herself on the throne, surrounded by the people she’d grown up loving. Her visions were far more like nightmares these days. She didn’t like them.
The worst ones felt so real to her that when she woke, she found herself screaming, clutching at thin air, reaching out for someone – anyone – as she had reached out for Gwen in the past. Someone warm and solid to bring her back to reality. The dragon was there at times, but was unpredictable, sometimes flying off for days on end.
It was Emrys. Always Emrys. The one they call Emrys will walk in your shadow. He is your destiny. And he is your doom. The old man’s face haunted her. She could not understand how a warlock as powerful as he would want to protect the Pendragons, the royals who bathed the land in magic’s blood. More terrifying was that he would kill her to achieve that aim.
She’d seen that, too. She’d seen it from his eyes.
Morgana watched herself stride towards him in a forest, her brother laying, gravely injured, on the ground. She looked triumphant.
But Emrys was not happy. Emrys was shaking from anger so deep and pain so overwhelming that Morgana could almost feel herself sobbing. But the next was always the same, no matter what she did. Emrys had a sword, forged in dragon’s breath. She watched herself through his eyes, seeing the anger and the surprise when it entered her belly. Emrys held her, surprisingly gentle, and she fell to her knees. He reached out with a strong hand and smoothed her brow before finally turning away. His attention was fully on Arthur. He never looked back at Morgana.
If Morgana targeted old men that bore a resemblance to the Emrys when she needed supplies, then so be it.
He is your destiny. And he is your doom.
She needed to know how to stop him. She had to find the Diamair.