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Futuristic ♕ Camelot | ellarose & Syntra

Sub Genres
Action, LGTBQ, Magical

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Oh, gods. Gods, gods, gods! This... this couldn't be good, that much Morgan knew. Now, she didn't understand the significance of the white stag fully, but that didn't matter, you see? Because, clearly, it was connected to Guinevere somehow, and symbols like that were sacred. (Sometimes, they carried a glimpse of future within, too. What if-- what if this was a prophecy, sent to them by the gods themselves? A warning? ...or perhaps just a reflection of her fate, as inevitable as the changing of seasons. What if Gwen had been right? About having to soothe the earth's rage with blood spilled, and the blood needing to belong to her. About having to sacrifice herself, in other words. Could the gods be this cruel? To let her taste happiness, for a few brief moments, and then yank it away from her? To twist the knife in her wounds? Morgan would love to believe that, no, they wouldn't do such a thing, but... well. Faith had never stopped her brother's henchmen, nor had it allowed her prayers to reach the deities' ears. Always, they had remained unanswered-- just whispers in the wind, really. A foolish girl's dreams. No. No, I cannot rely on such a fickle thing. If I want something, I'll have to take it, with my own two hands. It had always been that way, hadn't it? So, no point in crying over a fate she had accepted to be hers, long before she had even known Guinevere's name.)

Meanwhile, the knight offered to defeat the vulture. Just, ugh! This was the entire microcosm of Camelot, captured in one perfect moment-- everyone, literally everyone had better chances of defeating the beast, yet the man sprang to action! (A revolutionary though: what if he, uhh, asked them? Or Gwen, at least? Who was, by the way, technically the one this pitiful little worm answered to. The transition between viewing the queen as a pretty jewel in the king's crown and a ruler in her own right must have been a hard one, especially if you were blessed with a brain that couldn't even compete with a peanut size-wise, but still! This was disrespectful, and stupid, and downright foolish. ...what was this guy's name? Morgan would see to it that the, ehm, quality of his would be reflected in his earnings. Gotta motivate the idiots somehow!)

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, it was Sam's arrow that struck the beast-- and, from then on, its fate was sealed. (Joy should have replaced her fears then, but it didn't. Oh, no, no, no. Because, that imagery? The vulture swooping from the sky out of nowhere and almost snapping the stag apart, with a single blow of its mighty claws? It still hung in the air like a shadow, coloring everything in this dark tinge. What did it mean? ...maybe Morgan was overthinking this. Maybe this was a different stag, from a species native to the wastes. The local fauna must have adapted to this kind of life to an extent, right? Always, always had it persevered, even when a stray shard of a star had wiped dinosaurs out, so the sorceress was certain that it wasn't going to give up now. Coincidences existed! There was no need to see a knife hidden in every shadow, and-- oh. Oh, okay, maybe there was.)

Morgan just stared at Gwen, really, as she echoed her worries-- echoed and strengthened them, for now they were supported by a tangible proof. (Linked by pain, huh. ...usually, the sorceress loved her experiments, but she wasn't particularly interested in seeing what exactly would happen if the stag died. Experiments had to be performed more times in order for the results to be valid, dammit, and there would be no next time with Guinevere dead, and-- and-- Next time. Next time would be good, perhaps. Or the last time, if nothing else.)

"Let me take a look," Morgan said, quietly, before kneeling next to the stag. Hmmm... Yes, the wounds ran deep, deeper than what magic could salvage, even. The poor thing breathed still, though in short, uneven bursts-- it wasn't even trying to run away, which was honestly a signal more worrying than the ugly red stain growing larger by the second. (Death was approaching, Morgan knew. Death, with its cold touch and a penchant for ruining new beginnings. There was no escape, no bribe it would accept, and... well. What about facing it head on, then?)

"You need to be the one to kill it," Morgan said to Gwen, matter-of-factly. (Had she gone mad? Perhaps, though as always, there was a method to her specific brand of madness-- a method she'd explain, if Gwen was willing to listen.) "You two are connected, aren't you? Always have been, in all our lives. That means that there are other versions of this stag, too, now stuck in different realities, and... it's hard to explain, really. I'll try, though. If you spill its blood, I can use that bond to sort of call upon one of its spiritual siblings. I can have them exchange places. It's, uh, risky at best, I'll admit, but Sam is right, Gwen. This is beyond my healing abilities."
 

ellarose

wanderer
"Wait, wait, wait. Hold on." With a furrowed brow, Adrianne glances warily between them. Considering both Morgan's plan, which mystifies her, and Guinevere's sickly pallor. (Connected? In all their lives? Different realities? These mere fragments rapidly approach a realm beyond her scope.) Rather than ask questions or waste time, one hand finds purchase on Guinevere's shoulder to offer reassurance while the other reaches for the sword sheathed at her side. "You don't look so good. I can take care of--"

"No." Guinevere doesn't mean to snap, but she's in enough pain now that she struggles to cushion the edge in her voice with softness and understanding. Brushing Adrianne's hand off, she braces herself and steps forward. Her stomach turns somersaults, seeing the poor stag up close. Dying a slow death, a death she by extension feels. Does she want to do this? No, not really. The idea of sinking a blade into a creature connected so intrinsically to her-- well, certainly seems as if it might tear her apart mentally and physically. Like she may die along with it, in the most gruesome scenario. But she trusts that won't happen because she trusts Morgan. (After all, she didn't want to strangle Morgan either, back when they were trapped inside her mind. And yet when she did, it helped them escape... got them out of that mess and into another one, of course, but she digresses. What's life if not an endless series of messes to sort out? What matters is that they survived and lived on to see the next one.) "I'll do it."

Adrianne opens her mouth to protest, but swallows her words when Sam puts a hand on her arm. She agreed to comply when it came to the magical aspects of their journey, after all. (Didn't agree to smile or pretend to like it whenever it happened, though.) So while she's reluctant, she sourly concedes with a shrug of her shoulders.

"Can't say I know exactly what's going on anymore--" Sam squints, glancing at everyone before settling her attention on the stag with a doleful sigh. "But I hate to see it suffer like this. Go ahead, Gwen. Make it quick."

Guinevere nods. Sweat beads at her brow as she upon her knees next to the stag, on the side opposite Morgan. She touches Excalibur's hilt briefly and then, thinking better of it, selects the ornate dagger from her belt instead. They may be connected now, but the Excalibur is so powerful and still something of a mystery to her. She hasn't had the chance to use it yet, save for the day Arthur's reign ended. Who's to say it won't wreak unpredictable results? Destructive results? Until she has more information, Excalibur will have to wait.

"Hey. I know, I know." Guinevere soothes, stroking the stag gently between the antlers. (She can tell her efforts are useless-- mainly because they don't make her feel any better, either.) "It's going to be okay." She lines up her blade subtly as not to alarm it, clenching and unclenching her fingers around the handle to help calm her nerves. Considering how vividly she felt the vulture's claws, this could be the equivalent of cutting her own throat. And yet somehow, it's not all too difficult to get past that. Hell, just a few weeks ago she had stabbed herself with a broken Excalibur to unlock her fire. That was done in an alternate dimension for the sake of symbolism, right? And the white stag, for all extents and purposes, counted as a symbol too. This is a pattern, as Morgan might say. Guinevere glances up at her, giving a little nod of understanding. A non-verbal sign that she's ready. If Morgan considered this the best course of action, she would take it.

The stag is dying either way. There's nothing either of them can do to change that. Either she prolongs both of their suffering by hesitating, or--

When both the stag and her hand are still enough to deliver a swift, killing blow, Guinevere grits her teeth and slits the creature's throat. Red flashes behind the blade and behind her eyes as the sensation simultaneously rips through her. Shit, shit, shit. It hurts, but the fact that she feels anything at all is proof that she's not dead, right? The dagger falls to the ground as she coughs on blood that doesn't exist, slowly bringing her hands to her throat only to drop them a moment later. The sensory overload wraps her up until she becomes still and irresponsive. Not present and certainly not dead... just stuck someplace in between.

"What--" Adrianne scrambles towards them in a panic. Throwing all her efforts to keep quiet out the metaphorical window, she can't help but make an outburst. "What the fuck was that?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
That Adrianne felt the need to ask? Morgan had expected that, really, though it didn't make her any less happier about it. Like, how would she feel if someone interrogated her about the basics of swordmanship, over and over and over? Someone who had never held a sword in their hand? Because that was the closest equivalent here! ...still, despite her thoughts, the sorceress swallowed her criticism. Adrianne wasn't doing this to be annoying, after all-- no, she was afraid for her friend's well-being, and doing whatever she could to ensure it. "It's a ritual," Morgan explained, rather unhelpfully. (Context, context, context! Without its knowledge, Adrianne would hardly understand everything about this-- for all intents and purposes, she might as well have been talking in another language entirely. Now, if Morgan wanted to be insufferable? Oh, how easy that would be! She could drown the woman in terminology that described everything in exact words, and yet told the uninitiated absolutely nothing. Perhaps it would learn her not to ask questions in the future, but... well. Morgan had promised, hadn't she? That she would try to be as transparent as possible, within the confines of Gwen's friends' scope of knowledge. Ugh, fine! As much as it annoyed her, they deserved some sort of explanation.)

"The stag is important, so I'll... try to save it via replacing it with a different animal. Well, with itself, in truth, but it'll be its reflection from another reality. Are you familiar with the dimension theory?" the sorceress looked at the women's faces, wondering whether she'd see confusion or a spark of understanding. "Basically, it claims that many worlds exist at the same time, and similar events are taking place in them over and over. The actors are the same, mostly, but different things happen because all the options are explored. If you decided to go right on a crossroads? In some of those dimensions, your other self would go left. That sort of thing. Anyway," Morgan coughed, "I know for sure that in at least one of those dimensions, the stag died. I'll replace its living version with the corpse, shortly before it dies, so this won't disrupt the flow of the events. Everything will be fine." ...theoretically, at least! Emphasizing how risky this venture was to the people who already seemed to think that magic was responsible for at least 80% of the world's evils seemed somewhat redundant, though, so she decided to remain silent. (Besides, there was a ritual to prepare for, and she couldn't risk eroding her focus via pointless arguments. They could lead philosophical debates after the stag was safe and sound, thank you very much!)

So, just like so many times before, Morgan emptied her head. All of her thoughts she put away, into that box where they wouldn't take up so much space, and opened her mind-- invited the spirits to join her, really. The one advantage of the wastes? They were vast and cold, so, so cold, and Morgan was warm and enticing, the sole friend-shaped thing in the 3000 miles radius. It was no wonder that spirits flocked to her! 'Ah, how lonely you must have been,' she smiled when their presence pressed against her consciousness, 'welcome, welcome. Now, I need you to help me. The stag. Tie it to its other self, so that it doesn't get lost. Tie it to the woman, too.' And, yes, in that moment, Morgan could see it-- the thin thread of light connected to the stag, wavering like a candle's flame in the wind. The spirits took it, grabbed it with their translucent hands, and then... then there was an explosion, entire galaxies catching fire behind her eyelids. (Ah, so much energy! Who knew a single life could contain that much of it? Electricity could be produced by this, or maybe some other kind of fuel, and-- no. No, focus. Guide the spirits where they need to be.)

Blood was streaming down her nose now, right on her clothes, but Morgan cared not-- instead, she directed all of the energy forward, right where Gwen stood. (An anchor needed to be provided, and a sturdy one. If not... if not...) Admittedly, the sound startled her, though no more than Adrianne did. "What!" the sorceress flinched, somewhat uncharacteristically. (The spirits left her all at once, too, and gods, did that make her feel dizzy! It was like-- like being dropped from a great height, with no warning at all.) "No... no need to worry," she pinched the bridge of her nose, "some rituals are just noisy." ...or so Morgan hoped. With some spells, you could never know whether something hadn't grown horribly, horribly wrong, you know? And so, with a healthy dose of apprehension, she approached Guinevere and touched her shoulder. "Gwen. Gwen, are you alright?" Meanwhile, the stag's wounds had closed-- or rather, it was like as if they'd never been inflicted in the first place, with its fur white and untainted. (That part, at least, had worked out. What about the other aspects, though?)
 

ellarose

wanderer
"No." 'Guinevere' snaps, brushing the hand off her shoulder in a fit of distress. Almost reminiscent of Jennifer's attempts to impersonate her sister in that she still looks precisely like her and yet something about her mood and personality as a whole is distinctly off. Clawing her hands into her hair, she expresses herself without considering the feelings of the people gathered around her. Doesn't condense her pain into a tiny little box and attempt smile bravely through it. Instead, there's an honest innocence to this display of sorrow. She cries genuine, simple tears and holds the cadence of a woman who never knew the cold of the wastelands. "No, no, no."

"...Everything will be fine?" Adrianne asks Morgan, fueled more by panic than sarcasm. "Gwen, what's--" At a loss, she tries to touch Guinevere's other shoulder, as if that might help after it failed the first time. Predictably, she shakes her off the same exact way.

"No." She repeats, fiercer than before. "Why must I keep my promises when he cannot keep his? He killed--"

Guinevere's eyes snap open and the differences solidify themselves in their striking shade. Light, tinged violet, and near enough to the color white that they barely even look human anymore. The short, airy gasp she gives in response to her new scenery has a sort of dramatic flair. Despite the theatrics, this clearly isn't Jennifer. And it's not Guinevere, either. Or at least not the one Morgan and the others are familiar with.

"Oh, my old friend. I cannot tell you how happy I am to see you." 'Guinevere' whispers. For the moment, she only has eyes for the newly healed stag in front of her. Smiling fondly, she helps steady the animal as it makes a wobbly attempt to rise again. She nuzzles her forehead familiarly against its soft snout. The gesture is similar to the way the stag had approached the present Guinevere in the Lady of the Lake's vision, right before she absorbed it. "It seems fate has allowed for us to meet again in another life. Go on. Live well."

Somehow, she appears rather unfazed by this turn of events. (Especially compared to Adrianne and Sam, who can't even find words to describe what they're feeling.) That is, until she watches the stag dash off into the mysterious, foggy gray of the wastelands. "Another life. And yet this one is... different." Wrinkling her nose, she gazes judgmentally at the outfit she's wearing. Then she gathers a lock of hair into her hand, examines the messy waves, and frowns. "Very different, indeed."

With a defiant little huff, she yanks her boots off and tosses them aside.

"She's... completely lost it." Adrianne says quietly, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. "What's wrong with her?"

"Morgan, my dear! You have blood all over your face." This Guinevere completely disregards Adrianne in favor of turning to the sorceress herself. Ignoring the concept of personal space, she quickly uses the hem of her cloak to help clean her off. Energy seems to radiate off of her in fond, playful sparks. "You know, you always look rather different. But your eyes are always the same. Green. Like the forests I love so much." Her own eyes flicker with a deep sadness, then, as she acknowledges the grayness surrounding them. "Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say loved? The earth is..."
 
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Syntra

Baba Yaga
...uh. Yes, uh! Even if Morgan was usually rather eloquent, this tiny sound now encapsulated pretty much all of her feelings revolving around this... this disaster. And, oh, what a disaster this was! (What had happened? Had it been the currents? The magical currents were famously fickle, much like their literal equivalents, and the energies that formed them may have mistaken one Guinevere for the other-- like with the stag, really, except that this wasn't her freaking plan. It was so divorced from her plan, in fact, that the sorceress felt like cursing. Damn, damn, damn! What about Gwen? As in, her Gwen? Was she alright? Had she gotten lost somewhere between the dimensions, and was now wandering aimlessly? Oh, gods. Guilt gripped her chest, landed on her shoulders with all the gravity of the Earth itself, and Morgan was choking, choking, choking-- no. No, the other Guinevere is here, with me. It makes sense that my Gwen just switched places with her. Pffft, just. As if that wasn't a problem! It was, and a tremendous one, even, but hope still remained. It hadn't been dashed at all, and so it bloomed, for that was what hope did. As someone weaned on hope? Morgan understood that so, so intimately.)

"Alright," she said, banishing her fears deeper inside of herself. (There was a time and place for everything, after all, including tears. And now? Now, when Guinevere's friends were panicking and she was the only one who had the faintest idea of what was happening here? Oh no, no, no. Instead of sinking into her own despair, Morgan had to be their rock-- something solid they could lean on, or even try to shatter in their fury. Anger she could absorb! Anger spurned you to move forward, too, so she wouldn't even resent them for it. Anything was better than inaction, than giving up because the odds seemed too unfavorable, and the sorceress... well, she wouldn't mind becoming the target of their ire. Not when this was her fault, anyway.) "Alright, this is a... complication... but not a death sentence. The issue here, Adrianne, is that this isn't Gwen. Not our Gwen, at least." Oh, gods. How insane her words sounded! Even Morgan thought them to be ridiculous, and she knew they were true. Still, she had promised not to hide things from the woman, hadn't she? To the extent it didn't breach Guinevere's right to privacy, which... yes, Adrianne deserved to know what was going on here. "It seems that the spell pulled some other version of her into our dimension. Still, that means there's a link between them, and I'll... I'll get her back," she gulped. "Even if it's the last thing I do."

Now, as for how to pull off such a feat? Without an anchor, at that? Because, during that last exchange, Guinevere herself had been the anchor-- the point of reference for the stags to follow, as she technically belonged to both timelines. Obviously, that role couldn't be pushed on her anymore! Not when she was the person being swapped. (And Morgan? Morgan couldn't serve in that way, either. She was the one casting the spell, and couldn't split her attention that many times-- that would be like trying to go in two different directions at once, dammit. So, how? How was she supposed to do that?! A Place of Power. Maybe... maybe if I harness its energy, then that in itself can act like an anchor. 'Maybe,' of course, was a word that didn't exactly fill her with confidence, but it was still better than 'no,' and so she accepted it, wholeheartedly, in the same way a starving man would accept a slice of stale bread. ...with the same brand of desperation, too.)

"Ah!" the sorceress flinched when this new Guinevere approached her, so shamelessly. (Was that how it had been in the past? Morgan had seen the spontaneity, of course, in one of those visions, but being on the receiving end of it was much, much stranger than witnessing her antics. Especially since this was her Gwen! Was and wasn't, really, and that alone made her head spin.) "Ah, yes, I suppose. Magic, you know. I cannot... cannot use the same type of it you use, so I pay." Ugh! Why was she even explaining it to Guinevere, anyway? Her Gwen might have demanded an explanation, but this was the woman who had taught her everything-- surely, she understood how magic worked. "I... welcome, I suppose. I never expected I'd meet you," definitely not like this, "but, yes. This is the world of future." The world in which you don't belong, she thought, though that comment ended up unsaid. (It wasn't as if she had usurped Gwen's rightful place, after all! No, this Guinevere was a wanderer, blameless in the entire fiasco.) "There was an accident. A magical accident, as I'm sure you understand by now. Will you come with us? I am sure I can find a way to send you home, back to the Morgan who must be awaiting you. If I know her at all, I know she misses you dearly." Now, hopefully, Gwen wouldn't latch on to the Morgan standing in front of her, because that, uh, could be problematic.

Meanwhile, Guinevere found herself in an entirely different world-- both figuratively and literally, really. The greyness of the wastes? Gone, gone like a bad dream, for instead, she was surrounded by trees. So, so many of them! Forest giants, each much taller than any man could ever be, and they seemed to be embracing her, too. ('Welcome home, child,' they whispered in her ear. 'Welcome, welcome, welcome, the one they call Guinevere. We know who you truly are, though!') It was overwhelming, entirely so, but when the voices reached her? The voices of men, laughing and chatting with one another? Oh, that felt jarring, too. Jarring and terrifying, with the scent of blood they brought.

"Guinevere," said a figure that emerged from beyond the trees, dressed in a shiny armor, "what are you doing here, my love?Didn't I forbid you to leave the castle on your own? You know how dangerous this place is, especially to one such as you." Gently, he cupped her face and smiled, smiled in a way that was so Arthur-like it was almost stomach-churning, and then he grabbed her hand. "You didn't think you could escape, did you? That would make me very, very sad."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Everything has a voice. Every element and creature. Birdsong echoes from the treetops, where the green leaves rustle on the breeze. There are whispers, too, words she can understand. Rising from every wildflower, branch, or blade of grass. Using tones so gentle and welcoming that she feels safe enough to simply curl up and take a nap in their presence, right on the soft, mossy stump she's using for a perch. The earth will take care of her and cradle her close the way her mother never did. The wastes were not only colorless in comparison-- but quiet. Quiet and dead, dead, dead. The sights, the sounds, the smells (Is it pine? It stirs memories of the little green candle her dad used to light when it got cold outside. Whatever it is, it's fresh and nostalgic.) taking it all in at once is so overwhelming that Guinevere finds it difficult acknowledge her own existence amidst it all. Like she could melt into the ground and exist contently among it all. It felt like I was dying. Am I dead? Looking down, she notices her pale, dirty feet. The thin, white nightdress she wore, all torn at the hem and stained with something that resembles... ah. That explains it. A pile of freshly picked wild berries sits next to her. Laughter rings fondly on the wind. No, child. You haven't died.

Oh. If I'm not dead, then...
Beautiful as all of this is, fear begins to careen through her. Where are her friends? Where's Morgan? Because Guinevere's pretty sure she didn't restore the world she knew by accident. This is some kind of vision, perhaps, or... the dress, the absence of shoes. The voice that echoed in her mind shortly before she'd been taken here. No. No way. That'd be ridiculous. It was just a ritual to save the stag-- right! This could be another test. Hah, exactly. There's no way she could actually be in the past. But... she should probably check with the voices to, right? where am--

An ominous hush rolls over the forest when the armored man tromps through the clearing with his knights in toe. Guinevere stares blankly when his hand touches her cheek and then clamps down on her hand. An unfamiliar pair of eyes may be staring back at her, but his words and the cold sensation of shackles that imprison her with his touch-- this has to be Arthur. Not the one from her reality, of course, but from another. The one who sentenced her to burn...What the fuck is this? She may have opened her mouth to express that exact sentiment, but the forest tells her to rethink. To tread carefully.

"...If I tried to escape, it's only because you've made me very, very sad." Guinevere speaks theoretically (Morgan will be proud of her for remembering that one!) because, honestly? She has no idea what she's doing out here. The only hint she has are those words she heard before-- the context of her surroundings and the stench of blood. Besides, her first self certainly seemed the type to run into the woods and stuff her face with fruit when she was upset. "And I miss my home."

Guinevere says that bit on her other self's behalf, really. But oddly enough, some part of her means it, too. It took only a few moments for her to realize a piece of her soul was tethered to this living forest, it's a truth that runs in her blood. This is where she belongs, where she's meant to be. And the idea of having to leave so soon -- it could tear her heart in two. The only other place ever she felt such a deep sense of belonging was by Morgan's side.

...Morgan. How am I going to make it back to you? Panic escalates alongside her heartbeat. Because Morgan's not there to answer. What if she's actually stuck in the past? What if she has to live out the rest of her life here, without any hope of usurping Arthur's throne and-- and knowing all the while that it ends in flames?

Or is this how she's meant to restore the earth? Going back in time, making different choices? Changing the course of events that led to everything they-- Before Guinevere can think about it in any depth, the knights circle around her. Closing in like hunters surrounding a fox.

"You hear that? She misses her home. A bit confused, is she not?" One of the knights mocks, roughly grasping one of her willowy arms. She doesn't have the strength to twist away from him. Not in this body. "Unless, perhaps, you lived in this stump?"

"Not hissing at us, though. Maybe she learned something from that bookish woman after all." Another chuckles. Guinevere bares her teeth in response, threatening to do so out of spite, and he inches away. Coward. Bookish woman... could he mean--?

"We traveled all this way to take you home, Queen Guinevere." Another knight steps in to take her other arm. What is she, anyway? Their queen or their prisoner? Whether she pulls left or right makes very little difference. She can't move, can't fight her way out of this. "It will be easier for all of us if you come peacefully."

Guinevere's shoulders sink. The knight nods to Arthur and then to their horses. "Do you wish to ride with her or shall we?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
And so, whether Guinevere liked it or not, they headed back to the castle. (To Camelot, where it had all begun. Was it the same place she had come to know so well, or something else entirely? Just a spiritual predecessor, maybe? Because it was hard to imagine that a single castle could last throughout the ages, entirely unchanged-- only the sky could do that, or perhaps mountains. Not even their souls had survived the transition intact!) The journey was quiet, with only the rhythmical clapping of hooves disturbing the silence. Well, that, and Arthur's voice because, duh. The guy just couldn't stay quiet for five seconds, now could he? ...some things, it seemed, never changed. Oh, what a joy!

"My queen," he smiled at her, ever charming. (It was the smile of a wolf, though-- that smile that said 'you're mine and you know it, don't you?' He certainly did, and his body language exuded that.) "I am... not sure whether you understand the gravity of this situation," the man began, and his voice? Oh, it was dripping with saccharine sweetness-- the artificial kind of it, too, that you'd use to cover something foul. (Did he think it sounded natural, or was he not even trying? Because, technically, he didn't have to. A king had to do exactly nothing to preserve his authority! ...at least in his fantasy land, where consequences didn't exist and 'rebellion' was just a meaningless buzzword.) "I mean, I would have thought it obvious, but it is true that you spent most of your life in a forest! Therefore, I shall go easy on you and explain." (Wow, what a nice guy. Guinevere truly was the luckiest of women, to be married to such a dreamboat! ...for the third time in a row, it would seem.)

"Your... trips," Arthur began, somehow managing to fill the word with so much disgust as if he was talking about, say, the contents of his chamber pot, "are troublesome. Among civilized people, promises mean something, my dear, and you promised to stay." So, was every line designed to be a zinger? Because Arthur of all people, lecturing literally anyone about promises, certainly was one. And yet, yet he didn't even have the decency to blush! (Maybe his own lies seemed like truths to him, actually-- because, truly, such an illusion was easy to cast, if you had never cared about using your eyes in the first place.)

"You are my wife, too. And what does that mean?" he continued, wearing this insufferable 'I-am-talking-to-a-child-right-now' expression. "That, my love, means that your actions reflect on me as well. We are joined before gods and men, after all, and it is disgraceful for a king to have to chase his own queen every other day. Do you think people haven't noticed? Even now, I can hear them whispering behind my back. Nonsense about you supposedly being 'too much to handle'. Would you like such rumors circulating, Guinevere?" Arthur asked before giving her a long, hard look. "No, surely not. Not performing your role adequately, at least, would bring you great dishonor." ...dishonor as great as forcing someone to marry you against your will, maybe? No? Probably not! Definitely not in Camelot, where honor was measured by your willingness to bend your back, ideally so much it would crack.

"Therefore, I will have to punish you," he announced, with what he probably thought to be great sorrow. "I tried to be patient, again and again and again, and where has it led? To this... this utter nonsense. To you breaking my trust repeatedly. I am not happy to be doing this, mind you," Arthur sighed, "but sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind. One day, you shall understand that obedience is the greatest of gifts!" ...yes, unless you were him, of course. The glorious king didn't have to obey anyone, for even the gods themselves paled when confronted with his glory.

"Still, I am not without mercy. So, my queen, I have a question for you: how would you like to be punished?" he smiled, and gods, that smile alone seemed to be a trap-- a bottomless pit, haphazardly covered with leaves. (A danger barely concealed, that was.) "Don't be shy. Tell me what you think you deserve for your transgressions. Should you express maturity in your judgment, I may take that into consideration when deciding what to to do with you. If not, though... Well, let's say that will impact my decisions as well. Not in the way you will like, though."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere is silent for a majority of the ride, her head hung and bobbing in time with the clip-clop of the horse's hooves. There's an onslaught of thoughts and emotions building in her mind and heart. The forest calls her name, its soothing voice becoming softer and softer as the trees become smaller and smaller in the distance. All her life she never knew how it felt to be surrounded by such nature -- all it took was a minute for her to recognize it as the home she never knew. Now, they drag her away and it feels like yet another intrinsic piece of her is missing. (Jen had taken one with her and never gave it back. Morgan, of course, had another. And now, that living forest, all the spirits and creatures in it--) Nothing about this is right. Her kind belongs in the forest. The same way wolves, tigers, and primates should never be domesticated. There's a reason beyond innocence and selfishness that draws her past self back into the wild, over and over again. A reason that wouldn't make sense to somebody like... Arthur. Empathy never was the chap's strong suit. Asking him to consider, just for a second, that just because the fae can pass for human (with the right adjustments instilled for their comfort, that is) doesn't mean they function the same way? Oh no, that would be far too high a demand. Her energy saps away the closer they get to Camelot. (Guinevere, though, lived her entire life without exposure to such nature. Did it not bother her as much because she's half-human, whereas this version of herself is fully fae? Or, perhaps, she became acclimated to her surroundings and never noticed anything was wrong, because she had nothing else to compare it to. Oh, if only she had more time! If she could have met another fae out there, there were so many questions--)

Although Guinevere's being subjected to the most typical Arthur bullshit in the book, terror digs its claws into her as deeply and possessively as the vulture had that poor, poor stag. Especially when he begins leading into consequences for her actions. (Consequences for actions that weren't even hers! It's hard not to feel a little bitter about that-- but a prick of guilt follows shortly after. This version of herself will never be free again. Oh gods. She won't ever be free again, if she can't get the hell out of here!) I really thought it was over. I thought I wouldn't ever have to feel this way again. Heat pricks behind her eyes. As satisfying as it would be to tell him to take his punishments and shove them where the sun don't shine, she summons up all the self control she possesses and remembers Morgan's lessons. This is the same monster she learned to fight before, right? Scary as this is, she can handle it. Besides... better that she doesn't forge a premature path to her pyre, right?

Ah. Arthur's going to let her decide? How generous of him! Weird, though, that the only time she gets a choice, it's deciding which manner of suffering to inflict upon herself or her love. Morgan. There's a way out of this, right? If Guinevere knows Morgan at all, she knows she's devising some way to bring her back at this very moment. For now, she relies on her memories. That's all she has and it would have to be enough. The only thing she can do is try to stay alive until she can go home. Now, what words would be sweet, sweet music to this bastard's ears?

"You're..." Flames roar in her ears at the thought and she breaks out into a cold sweat. Guinevere feels lightheaded and weak as the sensation of choking arises again, her breaths coming out in shallow huffs. Why now--? She notices it, then, as they near Camelot's gates. The white stag, dead and tied in ropes, surrounded by men speaking in low voices. Disgust builds in the pit of her stomach. Something tells her they don't intend to eat it. Arthur had called it a present, didn't he? No, they're going to preserve and mount it somewhere that her first self will have to look at it and remember, over and over again. Cruel, cruel sons of bitches. "You're my husband. You should... you should decide."

Different Arthur, same game. He should love being told that he knows best, considering he spent a majority of the trip explaining the way the world worked to her! That, at least, goes according to plan. "My king. The berries the queen ate--" A knight, sounding panicked, rushes from the back of the party before he can answer. What Guinevere doesn't account for is nausea building in her to the point that she faints the moment they pass through the gates. Before she can hear that those berries were poisonous.

---

In the present, the other Guinevere skips gracefully around the group in the wastes. Even if it's challenging to be merry when the earth is slumbering away beneath her feet, she hasn't felt this-- well, this free in so long. She flits from person to person like an eager little bird who only just learned how to leave her nest. She shoves her boots thoughtlessly into a knight's arms and flippantly demands that he carry them, touches the muscles on Sam's arms with a look of pure astonishment on her face and pets Adrianne's dark hair. She gapes at their weapons and asks prying questions about their lives. (The women blush at her attention and touches, not knowing how to to take the fact that this is Guinevere and, at the same time, it isn't. And she's just so-- so different from the Gwen they know.) And, of course, Morgan receives the very most of this attention. Showered in compliments about her beautiful dress, the softness of her skin, her way of carrying herself, her voice-- these words flow endlessly and effortlessly from her, like a stream. Infatuation is completely undisguised, stars shine in her eyes whenever she so much as looks in her direction.

"So. This was a magical accident. Fascinating." Guinevere gives a dreamy, wistful little sigh. To think of her Morgan using magic at this level! So accomplished and ambitious. She believed she had potential from the moment she first set eyes on her and this? This simply confirms that. Truth be told, initially she believed that this was not a magic accident. That, perhaps, this was simply where death decided to take her. (Though she should have understood earlier on that something was amiss. She hadn't eaten nearly enough of those berries before she was torn away--) She looks down at her outfit again, as if contemplating what her future life must be like. "And there is another Guinevere who must return."

An uneasy tone betrays rather... conflicting feelings. Having to return so soon would indeed be a shame. And yet, yet-- she does feel sympathy for the poor woman, having to take her place at such a complicated time. Arthur betrayed her so blatantly and had the nerve to tell her it was a gift! She broke a vase and three mirrors in a fit of grief, he hit her and she, well, she...

"And what of Arthur? He allows you to travel this dangerous wasteland together? He must be... quite different from mine." Guinevere scrunches her nose with distaste, a trait that seems to have gone with her through every life she's ever lived. Eyeing the knights cautiously, she leans in closer to the woman and lowers her voice so they can't hear. "Where I come from, he is a vile, vile man."

"He's still a vile, vile man." Sam huffs out. Adrianne can only nod in agreement. "But he's not in the picture right now. It's a, uh, a long story. Don't need his permission for nothin'. Gwen gets to call the shots, more or less."

"...Call the shots?" Her nose scrunches again.

"Gwen's the queen and, for now, she's the only leader Camelot has. Meaning she can decide where she wants to go and when." Sam clarifies with a nod. Seeing the other Guinevere's awestruck expression, she decides to be a little firmer. "Doesn't mean she can do whatever she wants on a whim, though. She's carrying a shit ton of responsibility on her shoulders."

"My. What an absolute dream the future is. Despite..." Guinevere blinks with wonder and then acknowledges the dead earth. Pros and cons, yes? "Our kind's connection to the earth is sacred. Necessary. However does she manage to--" She shakes her head, brushing off the thought. There is something slightly off about this future she's found herself in. The earth's memories were faded and gray, the voices she knew so well buried so deeply beneath the surface. Excalibur's voice, even, sounded quite different. (Though, reassuringly, it's still as fond of her as ever. Wrapping her in an embrace as if to say it missed her.) Noticing the confused stares around her, she decides to wrap up her thought with a nice little bow. "Well. It seems she has managed somehow."

"Morgan, you are brilliant as always. I know we must make haste, but I would like it so, so very much to hear of your pursuits in magic." Guinevere clasps her hands and sidles over to her again, not unlike a lovesick schoolgirl. That's the same moment, though, that a deep, mechanic growl rumbles menacingly towards them. It's a frightening sound, unlike any creature she's ever heard in her life. Jumping with a start, she grips tightly onto the sorceress's arm, pressing her nose into the crook of her shoulder. (Not probably isn't the best time to acknowledge that she smells so very pretty, like a field of flowers-- as much as she wants to-- eek, no! Not when the growling gradually becomes louder and louder!) "W-what was that?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Arthur looked at her, shock reflected in his eyes-- oh yes, it was safe to say he had not expected this answer. (His Guinevere, being this demure? Was this still the same woman who had hissed at him, and complained of having to wear shoes? Some transformation must have taken place here, surely, but he wasn't about to complain. Oh no, no, no. This was like putting your hands in your pockets just to warm them, and discovering they were full of pearls! Lady Morgan's efforts finally paid off, it seemed.) "That is a good answer. Yes, I am your husband, and so that right belongs to me. Even so, I was hoping for your input. You see, I wish to ascertain whether you understand the gravity of what you've done-- as that is always, always reflected in the punishment. I will decide in the end," because, duh, Arthur had never been good at letting other people exist in peace, "but I wish to see what you think of your transgressions. Well?" ...was it too much to expect he'd notice Gwen's state? Apparently! The king just continued to stare at her, really, blissfully unaware of any difficulties his wife might be experiencing-- or rather, perhaps he thought she was incapable of feeling such things. Wasn't it ridiculous, after all, for decorations to be sick? They were there to elevate his own glory, not to get in the way with 'emotions' and 'needs'.

"Berries? What berries?" Arthur furrowed his brow, wondering why one of his own knights would annoy him with such nonsense. Berries, pffft. Guinevere herself had often brought these things to his attention, thought that was to be expected-- savages from the forest loved their roots, mushrooms, twigs, to the point his queen would probably wear them in her hair if she could. (An unfortunate thing, truly. Gods had blessed him with a beautiful wife, but had they also had to make her this unruly? Women should be seen, not heard, yes, but they also had to be perceived in a particular way and, just, ugh. Guinevere followed none of those guidelines! ...perhaps that was one of the trials the gods had prepared for him, though. Wasn't it common knowledge, after all, that hardship made the man? That, when stuck between a rock and a hard place, you only grew stronger? Weaklings died, yes, but true heroes-- oh, those embraced their role! Except that then, then his daydreams were shattered when Guinevere straight up fainted.)

"What?" Arthur blinked. "What happened?"

"The berries," the knight repeated, like a madman. "They were poisonous!"

"Poisonous?! Why did she-- nevermind. Quick, fetch that woman!"

When Guinevere opened her eyes, she was... well, it wasn't immediately obvious where she was, but she was staring at a ceiling. The air seemed strangely heavy, too-- heavy with too many scents that were bleeding into one another, and making her head spin. (Most of them were flowery, that much Gwen could tell. Flowery and maybe even pleasant on their own, but as a part of such an overwhelming cocktail? Oh, it was enough to make a knight fall off his horse. There was also a lot of smoke, which was something the inhabitant of the room had attempted to rectify via opening all the windows. It had been a valiant attempt, though one that had only been met with partial success-- you couldn't really neutralize the odor you were still actively creating. Because, yes! That person was still standing by the stove, their figure shrouded in smoke.)

"Fiddlesticks!" the woman cursed, leaning over her pot. "The color's all wrong again. What was it this time, hmmm? Should I add more wormwood? Less wormwood? But that might make her...oh," she turned around, finally noticing that Guinevere was, indeed, awake. "Queen Guinevere. Oh, gods, I'm so happy you're still here with us!" With a great sense of urgency, the woman rushed to her bed. (The woman who, as Gwen could tell from this distance, had strikingly green eyes. Morgan's eyes, in other words. Could this be...?) "I was afraid, you see. The berries you ate contain a powerful drug. If they had carried you here a little later than they had, you may have ended up paralyzed, or-- or-- ah. But you knew this, didn't you?" The relief in her eyes morphed into something more accusatory then, and her lips formed a thin line. "It's hard to imagine you didn't. Did you try to kill yourself, my queen?"

---

Entirely overwhelming, that was what this was-- kind of like having a bird locked in her chest, and sensing it flap its wings against her lungs. Oh, how unsettling it was! (Morgan hadn't felt like this in Guinevere's presence for ages, though it made sense, didn't it? Because this was her Gwen and wasn't, in the most staggering of ways. Here and there, she could recognize a familiar mannerism or two-- kind of like catching a glimpse of a face of someone you used to know in a crowd, only for that person to disappear immediately. ...was this how the spirits felt, when she kept poofing off their radar? Did they miss her, just like she missed her Guinevere now? No, not in the same way! Not even remotely.)

"Yes, a magical accident," Morgan confirmed. (An accident during which she had stolen her stag, who was still alive, and replaced it with a corpse from her own timeline. Reprehensible, wasn't it? The animal would have died by Arthur's sword, the sorceress knew that, but still! Wasn't it a betrayal of the highest order nonetheless? A sacrilege? Gwen's hands were stained with the stag's blood now, oh, they were, they were, and it was her fault, and-- gods, did Morgan hope this Guinevere wouldn't ask what, exactly, they had been trying to pull off. Explaining that ritual would have been neither pleasant, nor easy.)

Thankfully, though? Guinevere of the past seemed way more fascinated with the present-- both with the sad, grey ruins of the world she had used to know, and with the sweet promises the future held. "Ah. Thank you," Morgan blushed, the guilt dragging her gaze downwards. "From what I've been able to understand, you taught me a different brand of magic, right? Different to yours, I mean. Well, I've learned to communicate with the spirits, to the extent they can be communicated with. Learning their language was the biggest obstacle, I think. It's the simplicity, you know? You have to be very, very specific in what you say, for anything that can be misinterpreted will be misinterpreted. Your mind needs to fall into a different pattern entirely. That, and--"

Oh, gods. Gods, gods, gods! Of course the nightmares had to appear now-- now when they were weakened and scattered, with Guinevere missing. (Could they perhaps sense weakness, in the same way sharks could sense a drop of blood in the sea? Perhaps! Not that any of that mattered, of course.) "Beasts," Morgan whispered. "Mechanic beasts, born of human greed. They roam the Earth here now. Can you-- can you fight, Guinevere? Using your own magic? Because another combatant would come in handy." And when the creature emerged? Her words became even more true, for it wasn't a single animal-- oh no. Suddenly, they were surrounded by a pack! A pack of wolves, with their fleshy parts rotting, but the metallic ones shining so, so brightly. (The teeth especially. So sharp they were, and so striking, too-- like diamonds embedded in those ugly, mutated maws. As Guinevere would say: 'oh, shit.')
 

ellarose

wanderer
Ah. Guinevere grapples to find a steady rhythm to her each and every breath in this room, billowing and pluming with fumes and smoke. It's difficult to ascertain what she should be blaming her queasiness on. The distance from the forest she glimpsed, the berries she ate, the concoction brewing in the nearby pot, or maybe-- maybe, you know-- the fact that she's stuck in the freaking past, inhabiting a body so different from her own. There's not an ounce of human in her now and-- and something about it is different. Something she can't place in the state she's in now. Fuck. Panic clocks her particularly hard now that mother nature's soothing voice wasn't around to console her like the lost child she might as well have been. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck--

The rising horror in her abates, at least a little, when she peers up into a pair of green eyes. So striking and intelligent that they sent chills down to the very marrow of her bones. Oh. Oh, wow... the resemblance. They rob her of her ability to breathe for an instant. Unmistakable, isn't it? These are Morgan's eyes. Maybe not her Morgan's, not exactly, but... oh shit, now she's looking at her to explain her actions, much like Arthur had. Her first self had really been a troublemaker, huh? Is this what people felt like when they had to deal with her? Like, was this the universe's twisted way of having her get back at herself for being such an impulsive pain in the--

"Oh. Oh fu--" Guinevere closes her lips around the word 'fuck' before it can tumble out of her mouth. Something about using vulgar language in front of a woman who just used the word 'fiddlesticks' makes her feel, uh, icky. Fiddlesticks. What a funny word, too. Hysterical enough that she could laugh. Laugh until her lungs burned. Not at the word itself, but at the total dumpster fire that was her life. "Fu-- fiddlesticks?" So smooth. Fuck. Morgan's going to think she hit her head when she fell, or maybe that the berries had some sort of irreversible effect on her brain! What isn't funny, though? The fact that this version of herself seems to have tried to...

What was her past self's goal, here? It'd be nice to ask her, but, that's kind of impossible. Where did she go, anyway, while Guinevere took her place? Hm...

"Morgan? To be honest, I can't answer that for her." Guinevere says hesitantly, scratching her cheek. "I, uh, I don't want you to think I'm delirious or anything! But I'm not her. Not Guinevere." Um. That feels weird, coming out of her mouth. A lie, but not a lie? "Well, technically I'm still Guinevere, but..." She squints, trying to find the right words to explain. (You know who's actually good at explaining things? Not Arthur, no, no, no-- but Morgan. Her Morgan, who she's missing tremendously right now. Like not to be dramatic or anything, although it is pretty dramatic, it's like she has a hole in her.) "Not your Guinevere? You can call me Gwen, if that makes it easier!" Attempting to gather energy she simply doesn't have, she gives a halfhearted wiggle of her fingers. "I'm from the future."

Cue an anxious laugh. This is going wonderfully. Gold star for her.

---

"Me -- mechan... Mechanical?" The other Guinevere struggles to shape her lips around this word she's never heard before. Glimpsing the monsters from behind Morgan's shoulder, she blinks rapidly with astonishment. "--Fight?" It's as though the idea of using magic in such a way never occurred to her before. Sucking in a breath, she huddles in closer to the sorceress when one snarls nastily at them. Hm. Almost resembles Arthur, doesn't he? At that thought, she pokes out and hisses at the horrid thing. One of the knights forgets his fear long enough to look at her like she grew a second head.

"Can you or can't you?" Adrianne, on the other hand, doesn't waste a minute. She sweeps in front of them with her sword in hand and makes quick work of one of the many beasts that surrounded them. Her skill with the blade is undeniable, mirroring their Guinevere's so well that it's apparent they fought together often. Then she lunges again, busying herself with another that pounces towards them in retaliation. She struggles a little more this time around, the beast's jaws nearly closing around her shoulder-- but one of Sam's well-timed arrows helps her speed the process in taking it down. Wordlessly, she expresses her thanks with a respectful nod before pivoting to face yet another. "We don't have time to waste answering questions!"

"It's fine..." Sam grits out, swiftly preparing another arrow while simultaneously dodging another beast's claws. "Just stay put, got it? Don't do anything reckless. We'll keep you safe."

The knights stare dumbfounded, coming to the realization that they're being shown up by two women. They recall the way the queen made these silly "jokes" shortly after she first arrived, about how she and her friends could fight fearsome monsters. They laughed heartily at her until she went pink in the face, teased her until she fled the training grounds... Lancelot left them with stern words they didn't comprehend, followed her and, for some blasphemous reason, actually agreed to spar with her. A woman! These were women. Women! Wome--

Seriously. Has it really taken them this long to realize that a survivor from the wastelands wasn't telling jokes about her life experiences after all? Not wanting to be shown up, they shakily rush forward to face the beasts as well. "In--indeed! We shall keep you safe!" One of them can only find it in him to parrot Sam's promise in the heat of the moment.

In a matter of moments, they're surrounded by harsh clashes of metal, steel and sparks. Guinevere can only stare wide-eyed, clutching onto Morgan's arm.

"These were living creatures once. The earth's creatures." Guinevere presses a hand over her heart, which was surely breaking. "If something else has claimed them, we must take them back. Perhaps I can..." She busies herself with chewing into the pad of her thumb to get a decent flow of blood. And, unfortunately, she's so preoccupied with that that she doesn't notice a beast slipping its way past everyone on the battlefield, lunging right for them--!
 
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Syntra

Baba Yaga
...for her? What? Had those berries also been hallucinogenic, too? Many poisonous plants had these properties, Morgan knew, because the line between death and madness was thin-- only the existence of heartbeat, in truth, for when you succumbed to your delusions, it was the death of self. Had this happened to Guinevere? Oh, gods. (Not that she wouldn't understand, mind you. The king, as powerful as he was... wasn't an ideal spouse, to put it mildly. Morgan, of course, wasn't a silly girl with her head full of romantic dreams-- in the court, love rarely mattered. A husband and a wife could have fond feelings for one another, though usually, that was a byproduct of their union. Something they'd built over the years instead of being swept up in this whirlwind romance, you know? For dynastic concerns mattered the most, along with the stability of their kingdom. ...stability, however, could only ever grow from trust. Now, how was Guinevere to trust someone who had stolen her from her home? Someone who had turned her into a glorified hostage, and forced her to wear her bridal dress? No, no love could bloom among them, she was certain. ...maybe, maybe the queen found it easier to retreat into herself, then. To let go of the reality that burdened her so, and build her own happy place.)

Yes, that seemed like the most feasible explanation! ...still, the queen didn't really sound delusional, did she? The contents of her words did, most certainly, but the way she spoke wasn't plagued by the lack of coherence Morgan had seen in patients who had lost their minds. No, Guinevere spoke quite clearly. Her eyes, now that she thought of it, were bright, too-- none of the usual signs of madness were present, aside from what she said. Hmmm, hmmm. Could this be true? Nonsense! her rational part shouted. It is impossible to travel against the stream of time. Everyone knew that, after all. The laws of nature were more powerful than the ones made by men, for nobody escaped from their reach. Man or woman, old or young, rich or poor-- everyone, no matter how powerful, had to bend the knee! What about magic, though? a different part of her asked. You also thought you knew everything there was to know about it, didn't you? That it was just a fairytale, fed to children to scare them into obedience. And magic, oh, magic! Magic was the one way to cheat the laws of nature-- or to bypass them, perhaps, via mechanisms Morgan didn't truly understand.

So, instead of dismissing her outright? Morgan studied Guinevere's face, her eyes attentive. "Is that so?" she asked quietly. "I suspect you may just be unwell, my queen. You should try to rest, I believe. If you'd like to convince me that your story is true, though, feel free to present some sort of evidence. I assume there would be such a thing, right?" There better be, because gods, what an insane claim that was! Guinevere from the future? How come she occupied the queen's present body, then? The woman lying on the bed didn't seem to be any older, and... no. No, it was ridiculous. The fact that she even entertained the thought made Morgan ridiculous, too, but she just had to ask. Curiosity was an insatiable beast!)

---

Ah, how well Morgan knew these sounds! The vaguely metallic cling clang, kind of like the ringing of the bell that announced funerals. ...how very, very proper. "Yes, mechanical," the sorceress nodded, before realizing that the Guinevere of the past likely knew not what such a word meant. "Artificially constructed. Man-made. Before our times, humans learned how to breathe life into non-living constructs. That made them too proud, and we were all punished for that. The state of the Earth? Their doing."

With the edge of her consciousness, the sorceress was aware of what was happening around her-- of Gwen's girls taking up arms, and of the knights panicking around them. (Ugh. At least they'd make for good meat shields? Stuffed into that shiny armor, it couldn't be that easy for the beasts to get to the delicious, delicious flesh inside.) "We shall protect you, Guinevere. Don't worry." Yes, 'we', because Morgan wasn't about to do nothing. Relying on one layer of protection only was foolish, so she swept her mind clean-- made it cozy, warm, comfortable. (A new home for those who wandered endlessly, really. And, as usual, the spirits didn't disappoint! Like moths to a flame, they followed the path. ...millions of tiny lights, like an entire universe in her head. In these moments, it was hard to feel alone, you know? For you were a part of something greater than yourself, greater than most things known to man. Her eyes began to shine with magic, too, and oh, it was good that they did! Because, the beast that jumped at them? It collapsed mid-flight, with its life thread severed. The line between a threat and a pile of junk could be very thin, it seemed.)

'Living creatures,' Morgan heard Guinevere's voice, distantly, as if filtered through water. 'Perhaps I can...' What? What, exactly? Dividing her attention like that was hard, though-- much like reading and writing at the same time, in fact. So, so many questions were crawling inside of her mind! And yet she knew that the answers would elude her in this state, so voicing them now would have been pointless.

"Do it," the sorceress managed to say instead, with her eyes fixed on the rest of the pack. "I'll defend you. Try whatever... whatever you think might work."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere deflates when Morgan recommends that she get some rest. Shit, shit, shit. Nice going, Gwen. She thinks you've totally lost it! For the first time since her Morgan agreed to teach her to survive in her tent all those months ago, it occurs to her this challenge may be one she has to face singlehandedly. The realization falls over her like a blanket of snow in the winter, freezing the fire in her blood to ice. Never would she have ever thought before that she would have to walk the cold halls of Camelot alone again-- and especially not like this. The concept is more terrifying than any beast out in the wastes. She trusts her sword on the battlefield more than she does her feet on a dance floor. And in an older (...or technically newer?) Camelot, it certainly seems as though she'll have to learn a ton of new steps so she doesn't fall flat on her face.

Still, it's not like she can blame the other woman for the stance she's taken. Morgan is a smart, reasonable woman and everything she just said sounds completely bonkers! Hell, if their roles had been reversed, she would immediately scrunch up her nose and think it was some kind of elaborate joke to test how gullible she was. (Jen used to love that game. Telling her bizarre, made-up facts to see if she was stupid enough to believe them. Unfortunately, she absorbed most of it like a sponge, too. Her sister rarely corrected her, just letting her go on about her life believing it. She's said extraordinarily dumb shit that made her gang burst out in laughter, and then they'd have to sit her down and explain-- ugh. Embarrassing! No point dwelling on that now! That's part of what she loved about Morgan, though. She could get something completely wrong and the other woman would explain, without belittling her, without... ah. Has she mentioned that she misses her yet? Because she really, really does.) Anyway. The circumstances don't help her at all, either, considering she just downed a handful of dangerous berries--

Then? Then Morgan asks for evidence. Which is such a Morgan thing to do that Guinevere manages a wobbly smile in spite of herself. Then she tugs at her hair (And wow is her hair soft in this lifetime. Soft and so light it's like running her fingers over a fluffy cloud.) and hums anxiously because, uh, it's not like she traveled here in a time machine. "I couldn't bring anything with me." It's building, everything that's happened, and she feels like she could cry. "All I have is my word, and-- and to be honest, I've never been particularly great with those. I've only gotten better recently because Morgan," She blinks hard, "Ah, my Morgan helps me practice and..." Her fingers curl into the sheets, as if wishing to tear through the fabric of time to hold her love's hand. "We never practiced for this. I come from a really, really distant future. If I told you what it was like, you might just think I'm making it all up. Like some kind of story."

This version of Guinevere loved stories, too, didn't she? That's what she asked for in return for wearing shoes. There isn't any evidence for her to show. Except--

"The forest..." Welcome, the one they call Guinevere. We know who you truly are, though! Guinevere sits up too quickly with the realization, stars dance before her eyes, and in her weakened state she crumbles back down against the pillows. Even so, she persists. "The voices. They knew who I was." Maybe there's some kind of way she can show this Morgan what she's talking about. Some kind of... magical way? Excalibur's presence is warm in her chest, closer than she's ever felt it before. Pulsing like a second heart, as if to confirm that there is indeed a way.

"...Arthur's not going to show up anytime soon, is he?" She narrows her eyes, then, all business. The last thing she wants is to experiment with magic and have that blow up in their faces with an ill-timed visit from her 'beloved'. "Can you make sure? He's already determined to punish me as is. I might be able to try something... but I don't want to put us at risk."

---

Guinevere watches in awe as Morgan's beautiful green eyes light up like stars with magic. When she uses it to strike down that beast who reminded her of Arthur, it strikes her with full force that it is possible. Humans and spirits, working hand in hand, wielding magic as effectively as a sword. To some extent she knew that to be the case, from traveling the currents of time and asking her questions. Hearing about it and seeing it happen before her very eyes are two very different things. Ah. So this is what she meant by using magic to fight. Stunning does not even begin to encapsulate it. Breathtaking. (To think she and her own sweet, curious Morgan opened this door of possibility together so very long ago! Perhaps in the past she did not cast magic with this finesse, struggling to communicate with those tricky spirits at all-- but the fact that she dared to be the first, to try, that was what truly fascinated Guinevere. After all, she was born surrounded with fae, with beings like her who lived and breathed magic because it ran in their blood. The magic itself wasn't so extraordinary as Morgan, who was human, who was told she could not-- and yet tried anyway. The strength of her mind and soul drew her like a moth to a flame.)

Guilt accompanies thoughts of her dear Morgan. While in some ways they are similar, humans have a different relationship with death than the fae. How might she perceive her attempt to give herself back to the earth? That vile, vile man held her life in his hands like a possession. Absorbed in her sorrows, all she wanted was to take it back from him. But...

Now isn't the time for reflection, though, as the mechanical creatures continue to howl and screech gratingly around them. Man-made, hm? Like books, perhaps, where humans decided to invent solutions using means other than magic. Only this shiny substance eating through these poor creatures seemed far more harmful than bound paper and ink. 'Mechanical' was different on a level she could not comprehend in a matter of seconds.

"Do it," Morgan's voice snaps her out of her reverie. Guinevere springs to her tip-toes and blinks with alertness, realizing that blood was beginning to dribble down her thumb. Giving her just enough to work with. "I'll defend you. Try whatever... whatever you think might work."

Ah, yes. No way of knowing unless she tries, yes? That is a valuable lesson she learned from her Morgan. Without wasting another moment, she brought herself onto her knees before the creature closest to them. The one that just collapsed.

Gently, Guinevere uses her thumb to trace a symbol over the organic flesh peeking out. Then she presses down with both of her palms, her own eyes taking on an intense glow of their own as time slows to a crawl and the battlefield fades away completely. The other creatures, the women, the knights, Morgan-- everything fades, until a sea of endless gray is all that remains. Alone, she is shimmering and translucent like an otherworldly phantom. A ray of light, a sole wanderer against the bleak landscape. (Typically she is solid in this form, but this body is... hm. Interesting.) Severed threads lie at her feet like a broken spider's web, covered in what looked like beads of morning dew-- traces of the magic that just tore through them. Morgan's magic, she thinks with a fond smile.

"You are frightened, I know. But it is safe to come out now." She calls sweetly as she steps ever forward, towards a harrowing forest full of trees as black as night. "My dear friend has taken care of the monsters." It is concerning, is it not? But she cannot truly understand the presence, identity or source of these 'monsters' unless she travels into the realm of a living beast. And that would be very dangerous, much like bothering a venomous spirit who did not wish to be bothered. Who is to say how the humans foul inventions would react to that? Her soul, especially laking a tangible form, may not be able to survive it. If the 'monsters' latched onto her, they could very well take over her body, much like it had the wolf's. Hm. Has this possession ever happened to a human before? Or a fae? She decides she must ask, when she returns.

"I know you are not the monster. That would be very silly." Peeking around some trees, she frowns. Why won't the poor thing come out of hiding? For it to return to the earth in the proper way, it must... "You are a wolf, are you not?" She sighs. "They put your wild, wild spirit in a cage. I understand how that feels. Perhaps better than anyone. But I can set you free. Please, little wolf, where are you?"

A whimper sounds out at long last and Guinevere bolts for it without a second thought. She quickly discovers the wolf, bound to a tree by a rope made up of several strands of magic thread, much like the ones she noticed before. Aha. Glaring at it, she outstretches her hand, summoning Excalibur into it. And then, with a clean strike, she severs through it.

In this very moment back on the battlefield, Guinevere and the creature both take on a vague glow. Then, with a shriek, the metal collapses in upon itself and detaches from the creature. The wolf's corpse takes on not a new life, for that is impossible, but a normal shape. It resembles the simple wolf it was before and its true spirit finds a way back to the earth from which it came. And the metal? It continues to scream and writhe without a host, folding in upon itself, before attempting to slink away like an injured, clumsy worm.

Guinevere is thrown back into her own body with tremendous force, then, and she brings her hand to her lips. They're warm. Sticky with... she brings her fingers back to find blood. What? This... is not what usually happens. It should not take this much out of her. It is similar to Morgan's nosebleed before-- but Morgan is human, not fae, and... and Guinevere is not human. Unless...
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Incredible, that was what it was! In both senses of the word, truly-- incredible as in amazing, and also incredible as in totally, completely unbelievable. Time travel? Just, seriously? Why was Morgan even listening to her? Queen Guinevere had just ingested poisoned berries, and so her mind was still shrouded in a haze. The responsible thing to do here, as she knew, would be to agree with her-- patients were not to be disturbed, after all. And then, after accepting her insane theory? Morgan should give her a sleeping potion, so that the other woman might recover in peace. (Cowardly? Perhaps, but sometimes, sleep was more potent than ten healers. Rest would allow her mind to rearrange itself-- to fall back into the old patterns, where something as blatantly silly as time travel hadn't existed yet. Yes, yes, that was the correct solution. Guinevere herself, had she been in her right mind, would have agreed with that method!)

So, yes. Morgan knew all of this, and she knew it with the same kind of certainty with which she knew the sun would rise again tomorrow, or that drought would lead to forest fires. It was simple, wasn't it? Except that no, it wasn't, for something in the queen's expression made her falter-- and honestly, it wasn't just that. Morgan couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something felt off here, you see? Just like you could taste the coming storm in the air if you were paying attention, she could sense this... this unfamiliar flavor with her interactions with lady Guinevere now, permeating every gesture. Hmmm, hmmm. What was it? Morgan thought and thought, and then it hit her-- Guinevere wasn't behaving like Guinevere at all! She still looked the same, yes, but the aura she radiated... oh, it seemed much more refined. (A gem already polished, many times over. A who had received countless lessons and taken them to heart, unlike their queen. Queen Guinevere, you see, clung to her ways-- perhaps because they were the only link to her home, to her very identity. To her loved ones who had adored her unconditionally, without attaching all these 'ifs' and 'buts' to it. Could this be that this truly was someone else? Some other version of queen Guinevere, who had advanced far beyond their queen's current level? That would certainly explain while she hadn't hugged her yet, Morgan supposed. ...which, good. Queens weren't meant to hug their subjects, no matter how much she miss-- uh. Yes, that line of thought didn't deserve to be finished! For the good of everyone involved, really.)

"Your Morgan," she repeated, quietly. "So, is this... Morgan... teaching you as well?" How curious! It was like watching their reflection in some warped sort of mirror-- in a mirror that showed what could be, and simultaneously, what was forever denied to them. No need to dwell in these thoughts, right? Not when they'd never bring them anything but pain. "I... well, I told the king you needed at least a week to recover," she admitted, with a blush covering her cheeks. "I figured you'd appreciate some time for yourself. And, um, you know what the king is like. He couldn't be bothered to wait for such a long time, so he embarked on a diplomatic journey instead. So, if you've got something to show me, you may do so now. Nobody will barge in here, I'm sure. But, my queen," Morgan continued, despite her better judgment, "if you're from the future, just how distant is it? I don't meant to be impertinent, but now that I think of it... you do seem like a different person. Quite drastically." Which, of course, could have been caused by the poisoned berries-- a different state of mind made for different reactions, after all. Still, with Guinevere's time travel story? It was a theory that had to be considered, if only so that she could reject it definitively. "Do you know our fates, then? What will happen to us?"

---

They were like ants, truly-- thousands of tiny legs marching through the folds of her brain, with their footsteps echoing so, so loudly! Morgan could barely hear her own thoughts, though that mattered not. Who needed ideas, after all, when your concentration was as sharp as a knife's edge? And with that, Morgan cut and cut and cut! (Gwen's girls worked on the pack as well, of course. Distantly, the sorceress heard both the swishing of the arrows and the sound of steel clashing over steel, but... well. That was the entire point of a pack, wasn't it? That more of them came, for every fallen comrade of theirs. No dam could hold this kind of flood forever, and so wolves slipped through the cracks-- except that what awaited them was Morgan, so, game over. Game over, indeed!)

Blood was rushing down her nose at that point, though she didn't feel it. No, not at all. The red stained her dress, but it just didn't seem relevant, you know? Not when her mind seemed only vaguely connected to her body-- a wild association, in truth, rather than something essential. (And truly, wasn't flesh just prison? Ah, if only she could shed it, in the same way snakes shedded their old skin! Her spirit could roam free, then, and there'd be no blood for anyone to spill, and finally, finally nobody could hurt her, no matter how powerful they were. No, her own voice whispered, through the mist of confusion. You cannot. You must not. Don't you recognize temptation when you see it? Get a hold of yourself! Then, only then did Morgan realize that she was drenched in cold sweat-- drowning in it, really, and that all warmth had left her limbs. Too much! She knew it was, knew and knew and knew, except there was no way but to push forward.)

...that was what she thought, at least, before Guinevere began bleeding. "Gwen," she exhaled, though not before casting a net woven out of pure magic at the metallic creature. (Which, wow. To think Morgan would even see the parasite in its pure, unaltered form! The sorceress had had her theories, of course, but she sure as hell wasn't about to let such a valuable specimen escape. Studying it could lift the veil of secrecy covering the conception of mecha beasts, and-- later. Later, for Guinevere was hurt!) "Gwen," she shook her head, as if trying to get rid of the fog in her brain, "are you alright? You probably... shouldn't be casting anything this advanced..."

A notion that was confirmed immediately, for the Earth itself roared. The grey mass of nothingness turned into waves beneath their feet-- into quicksand, as Morgan realized, as dark tendrils were being wrapped around her legs. So, the good news? The wolves were being dragged down, to meet their unceremonious deaths. The bad news? The exact same thing seemed to be happening to them, too! (The shock travelled through her mind like a heat wave, and the spirits-- the spirits fed, leaving her utterly, utterly alone. Oh, how fast her heart was beating! What now? What was going on, even? Gwen had just... Gwen. Gwen, the child of forest. Gwen, who was connected with the Earth so intimately.)

"Gwen," Morgan shouted, "I-- I think it's angry on your behalf. Say something!"
 

ellarose

wanderer
"Mhm. Seems like your brilliance transcends time itself." Guinevere, realizing the way that sounds, blushes as well. Oh, damn! That was actually kind of smooth, wasn't it? Too bad she couldn't write that down someplace and save it for later. That'd work in a poem, wouldn't it? Now, she never tried her hand at writing poetry before, but having learned that her Morgan is a romantic at heart made her want to put in the effort to do something special and heartfelt for her. Then again, it's not that different from songwriting, is it? (Then again, most of the songs Guinevere made up in the wastes were about weapons, killing monsters and oftentimes contained, uh, colorful profanity. With titles like 'You're Fuckin' Dead, Monster Face' under her belt, it's fair to say that love isn't her area of expertise.) But the poetry has to wait until-- or, uh, if-- she gets back. The room sways and before familiar daggers of panic can sink into her again, she pinches herself to keep herself alert. "I was wild in my own way, I guess." That's putting it lightly. She gives a sheepish laugh, remembering how Morgan put it that night in her tent. "Heh. I was insufferable, as she would say. But she also said she thought I make bad manners look dashing and cool, so--" Okay, now she might not have used the word 'dashing', but there was no harm in pumping herself up a little, right? If the universe could tie their fates together over and over again, she would have faith she would make it back to her Morgan, damn it!

"Okay. Okay, good." Guinevere nods. Now it's just a matter of figuring out exactly how to show this version of Morgan a snapshot of the future without scarring her. Except then Morgan goes on to ask her about their fates and... Lead me into the fire and reunite me with everyone you stole away! The scorching words echo, echo, echo and pelt down on her like an acid rain. It takes everything she has to school her expression into something dead neutral, to keep from tipping her off in any way or form. She may not know the ins and outs of time travel and the complications it could bring, but something tells her that the tragedy of their past selves lives wouldn't do them any good. Not only is it painful to talk about, she realizes it may invite more problems than they bargained for. "Morgan. You can ask me anything else, but don't ask me that." She breathes out slowly, trying to clear her mind. It hurts. It hurts, knowing all of this. It hurts just being here, having to look her in the eyes while knowing that everything will end in devastation and fire. "You like reading, right? Do you feel particularly excited to read a book after the ending's been spoiled for you?"

From there, Guinevere reaches inside herself for Excalibur as if it's the most natural thing in the world. It's the ease of finding a sword in a crystal clear lake... compared to the future, where the surface of that same lake is glazed with so much toxic algae that it resembles man-made turf. Stunningly, they communicate their intentions within a span of seconds in real time. It's so... easy. Like lifting a fallen column and expecting it to be heavy, but surprise, it turns out it's hollow on the inside-- or made of styrofoam. But now isn't the time to dwell on that. She needs to convince Morgan, but she can't reveal too much. The Excalibur living in her heart cooperates readily and understands. Then it helpfully flashes a symbol into her mind, engraves it, and suddenly Guinevere moves without thinking. She tears her teeth into her thumb and traces that same symbol into the palm of her hand.

Take her hand, child, and invite her in. You must not let go. Are you ready?

"Brace yourself. I'm going to take your hand, okay?" Guinevere does so and suddenly there's a familiar darkness, the sensation of dropping, and suddenly-- suddenly they stand like phantoms in her old chambers. The room that was her own, before she married Arthur. And the self she knew as herself, the Guinevere of the present was there, struggling so much to get into a complicated dress that it looked like she was getting into a physical fight with it. Oh. This is kind of like... well, she watched the past Guinevere and Morgan's first meeting. Perhaps it's only right that she get to see the way they met, too.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck." Her past-- present-- self says pitifully. God, this is getting confusing on so many levels. And, shit! She just said fuck in front of Morgan! So much for that. A knock sounds at the door and she quickly scrubs her hands over her face to erase the tear-tracks on her cheeks. Guinevere remembers the way her stomach dropped in that moment, because it drops the same way now as Arthur invites himself into the room. Ugh. There he is, the bastard. The tool. And, Morgan, her Morgan, is in toe behind him. Lovely as ever but so guarded, all of her walls standing tall and strong. Of course he recoils at the sight he barges in on, scandalized to find her halfway into her dress, revealing far too much of the chemise she wore beneath it.

"My love. I did not realize you were--" He puts a hand over his face and turns away, as if the sight burned his eyeballs. As if the gods would strike him down where he stood for witnessing her in such a state before their wedding night. Yeah, if only! That would've been an awesome way to orchestrate his downfall. Turn the gods he invoked so much against him.

"What? It's a fucking fashion statement. I'm wearing it like this on purpose." Guinevere honestly can't believe how well she hides the fact that she was an absolute wreck just minutes before they walked in. She looks positively rebellious, with the quirk of her smile and the spark in her eyes. "Don't you like it?"

"Lady Guinevere. This is not how--" Arthur gives Morgan a hard look, then, as if communicating something unspoken between them. Like a threat, almost, now that she thought about it. Now that she knew him better than she did back then. A fire burns in her chest at the thought. He composes himself quickly, but still refuses to look at her. Squirming and so eager to get out, to leave Morgan to 'fix' everything that was wrong with her. "As promised, my love, I have brought someone here to... help you. My sister. Morgan."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
B-brilliant? Her? Morgan blinked a few times, teetering somewhere between panic and feeling flattered-- just, it didn't seem to her that she was worthy of that kind of praise. (Her thoughts did lead her to interesting places at times, but so what? Till she actually accomplished something of note, they meant about as much as last year's snow. Research that bore no fruit was meaningless! ...much like pity that wouldn't translate into any meaningful action, really. The pity she felt for queen Guinevere was one such example. A woman married to a monster did not need her suffering acknowledged-- she needed help, and the only way Morgan could do that for her was to teach her how to bend the knee before they broke it. Before they broke her, in fact. But, wasn't bending worse than that? What else was it, after all, if not you breaking your will so that other people wouldn't break your body? And Morgan... gods, Morgan had to instruct her in that endeavor, step by step. Guinevere would have to swallow her pride, along with everything that made her Guinevere! For a civilized people, they sure could be brutal.) "I... I wouldn't go that far," Morgan stammered, and put a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "Not yet, at least. There are no big successes to my name, my queen, so you should save those accolades for when I actually earn them."

The queen's next words, though? Oh, Morgan was fascinated so! "Insufferable?" she asked, raising her eyebrow in a way that was so distinctly Morgan it almost hurt. "Why would the other Morgan say that? Speaking like that to one's queen is so terribly rude." ...no, she couldn't see her alleged other self behave in such a shameful way. Couldn't, couldn't, couldn't! Perhaps this was some elaborate fantasy her queen's mind her constructed when reality had been out of its grasp, after all. That would explain why she refused to share more-- simply because there wasn't anything to share, duh. I will find out soon, I suppose, she promised herself. Without evidence, I shall dismiss her claims as baseless. "I understand, my queen," Morgan said instead. "Indeed, this might be the wisest solution. I mean, I haven't studied the topic in-depth, but if I were to know my own fate, it could get... messy, I imagine. Would I still be heading towards the same conclusion if I knew it? And, if turned elsewhere, how would that impact you?"

Taking her hand, huh? Well, that was... improper, and terribly so, for one of such low birth, but judging by queen Guinevere's usual standards, you could say that the request was tame. Alright, Morgan would do that! It wasn't like she expected anything drastic to happen, anyway, and-- oof. A foreign force grabbed her wrist along with the queen, she could sense it, oh, she could, she could, and then the world shattered. (...or was it Morgan who had done that? The shards were everywhere-- whether they were pieces of memories or dreams, that she couldn't tell, but they were so, so sharp! Sharp enough to cut your hand, so she dared not touch it. Had this been a mistake? A fatal one, perhaps? Magic was treacherous, after all, and letting herself get dragged into this... oh, that was akin to playing with fire.)

Except that then, then the world coalesced before her eyes once again-- the same, yes, but also different. (That green-eyed woman? She looked different, with her copper hair and black dress, but for some reason, looking at her felt like staring into a mirror. Oh, goodness gracious! Could this be...? But the king introduced her as his sister. Sister, which was a position so high on the social ladder she could only dream of it!)

The other Morgan's gaze traveled between Arthur and Guinevere, as unimpressed as if the servants announced to her that she was to be wearing a potato sack from now on. "Yes, that would be me. Lady Morgan. Now, brother dearest, I understand that you are... hmmm, eager, but do you see it necessary to remain here? You are not setting the best example for your bride-to-be etiquette-wise."

Amazingly, Arthur had the decency to blush. "Ah! Of course. Right. I trust you will teach her how to behave, then. Well. Goodbye, my love. Farewell, my sister. I shall see both of you soon." 'Regrettably,' Morgan's eyes said, though she said nothing. Instead, the woman merely bowed, and waited till the door closed behind the king.

"So," she smirked in Guinevere's direction, "a fucking fashion statement. I see, I see. I assume you aren't as wild as to not understand that such a word should never leave a lady's mouth, are you? Especially in front of her husband? No, of course not. I assume, then, that this is another case of mistaking magic for literal miracles. Just one question, lady Guinevere Leodegrance: do you enjoy the prospect of losing your head? Because, if you keep this nonsense up, that's exactly what will happen. Mark my words. And, by the gods, fix your dress! It's thoroughly embarrassing."

...wow. Wasn't that-- wasn't that a bit uncalled for? With her eyes wide like saucers, Morgan looked at the Guinevere who had plunged her into this world. "And you like this woman, my queen? Why?"
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere holds a bit tighter to the other Morgan's hand when the Morgan in her memory speaks. Missing her feels all too poignant when she's standing right there in front of her, when she can hear the sound of her voice. As it is now, the self inhabiting her memories is the only one capable of talking to her now. And, uh, what she has to say in reply won't be particularly pretty, either. Knowing this, she gives a nervous chuckle when the Morgan standing next to her questions her about it. "Oh, we started out a bit rough is all. I swear it's not like this between us now! She's actually one of the most considerate people I've ever met. Just got me a puppy and everything!" There's so much more to it than that-- but it'd take a long, long while to explain how they got from this moment to where they were now, wouldn't it? "And you know, you can call me--"

"It's Guinevere. Just Guinevere." The Guinevere of the past scrunches her freckled nose, looking the woman standing before her up and down like she might an opponent on the battlefield. So this is how it's gonna be, huh? Well. At least she's leaps and bounds more interesting than everyone else she's encountered so far in this dreary, backwards place. Rather beautiful, too. (Working out the implications of that observation would come later. And after that, lots and lots of internal screaming, struggling and debate.) Either way, this could be fun. That in mind, she counters Morgan's smirk with a bold, dauntless grin. "That's cute. You trying to scare me or somethin'? 'Cause I can tell you right now that won't work. If Arthur was gonna bring me all this way just to have me killed for swearing, he prolly wouldn't have gone to the trouble of bringing me here in the first place."

Back then that was the biggest mystery of all, wasn't it? Like, why the hell did the mighty king of Camelot want her of all people? All along, she knew that's the main question that lingered on the people's minds when they stared at her in the halls. What they didn't know is that she was plagued with those very same questions. God knows she tossed and turned all night for weeks with them. Jen could train men to jump through hoops for her by batting her lashes and all-- but being pretty wasn't all it took. There was effort involved, she had to work for it. Guinevere, though? She wasn't even trying. Even if this place seemed like it was stuck in the pages of some dusty old history book and public execution may have been the preferred method of keeping their people in line-- fact still remained that the bastard was exceedingly pushy about asking for her hand in marriage. Even after she swore a storm at him. And threatened to break his legs. So of course she wasn't scared. Who would've guessed it was her secret connection to a magic sword that put her on his radar? Certainly not her.

And, uh, yeah. Guinevere remembers the absolute horror that filled her at the mention of the dress, which was lopsided and loose around the waist. The way she panicked at the very thought of having to admit she honestly had no clue how to tie herself up in it. It frazzled her worse than the comment about losing her head. Arthur and his knights already wanted to treat her like she was an incompetent damsel-- so wouldn't failing to dress herself properly only reaffirm their belief in her incompetence? In the moment, though, she manages to look nonchalant about it.

"Pfft. It don't bother me." Far too stubborn to admit she needed help with the damned thing, Guinevere yanks down on the dress instead. It pools at her feet, leaving her standing in her chemise. Then as an extra fuck you to the overcomplicated garment, she kicks it aside, kind of like a dog kicks at the ground after relieving itself. "I'm not embarrassed. Are you embarrassed, Morgan?"

Oh geez. The Guinevere watching this back sure is embarrassed. Especially in front of the other Morgan! Noticing the scars on her arms and legs she just unveiled by dropping her dress, she realizes that she should probably try to offer some context to keep her from worrying. "I grew up outside of Camelot. Like your Guinevere." Except not really-- not at all-- without any marvelous forests to hide away in. Explaining the future is a lot more complicated than it sounds. "But in the future, the world's... well, it's..." Awkwardly, she bites her lip. "Everything's dead or dying. A wasteland. I had to fight to survive out there. Hence all the scars." Which is true for most of them. Proof of those years she fought monsters and other gangs. You know... excluding the few that were permanent reminders of some particularly stupid stunts. Stupid stunts that bear no repeating now.

"And y'know, calling my fashion statement embarrassing is pretty rude coming from somebody who's supposed to be teaching me manners." The memory Guinevere mimes air quotes when she says the word 'manners'. With a shrug, she turns on her heel and peers distractedly out the window. She hasn't been allowed outside since she got here, after all, and is very eager to see if these promised lessons would take them elsewhere. "I swear I heard horses earlier. Could that be our first lesson? ...That's a thing, right?" Then she makes that funny face she always makes when she has to think real hard about something. "Horseback riding for ladies?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
"A puppy," Morgan repeated, doubts reflected in her green eyes. "Are you sure about that, my queen? Because she, uh, seems like the type to drown puppies. Not that I'm calling you a liar, of course not, but... is it not possible for you to be misremembering, perhaps?" It was likely for magic this potent to have nasty side effects, after all, and identifying that as the reason behind the strangeness only seemed natural. The other Morgan just... didn't strike her as someone whose heart was all that warm, you know? (Or rather, she was willing to wager that, beneath all that fabric, there was a block of ice. As in, did she not see how just nervous her Guinevere was? Who in their right mind would choose to introduce themselves via kicking the other person down as they were trying to stand up?!) As if to support her argument, Morgan continued to watch her supposed protege with the amount of kindness one usually reserved for cockroaches.

"Me? Scare you?" she chuckled before looking Guinevere up and down. (Pretty, some unwelcome voice in her head remarked. Now, it would be better if she also wasn't this empty-headed, but I suppose Arthur's ego wouldn't be able to handle that. A bride that could tell the lowercase L from the uppercase I? Dangerously smart, according to the absolute genius who sat on the throne! ...seriously, though. What had he been thinking, aside from 'hehe, beautiful'? She would have liked to think that more complicated thought processes than that had led Arthur to choosing Guinevere of all people, but at this point, the sorceress wasn't holding her breath. Just, what a catastrophic choice! Offending all the nobles who had hoped for him to marry their daughter was one thing-- that had always been inevitable, and marrying a complete outsider wasn't actually all that stupid as it reduced the tensions among his subjects. Less infighting, you know? The correct solution would have been to marry a foreign princess, though, and not a girl from the wastes who barely knew how to... wear clothes, apparently. Ugh. Ugh, this would take years, she could tell. As if Morgan didn't have other goals to pursue!)

"I'm your teacher. As such, my purpose is to teach. Reject my advice as you see fit, though-- as the king's future wife, your status exceeds my own, lady Guinevere," Morgan informed her, ostentatiously ignoring her request. (Her naive request, mind you. What, did she seriously think her dropping her title would actually close the distance between them? Oh, please! Etiquette or not, the woman would be bound to Arthur soon-- bound before gods themselves, through vows and perhaps even blood. The two were destined to be foes, quite clearly, and Morgan... Morgan had no desire to play a supportive sister in law. Absolutely none, unless you perhaps counted the standard 'getting to know your enemy' procedure. Then again, is there truly anything I need to find out about her? The girl was an open book, you see, and gave her thoughts away so, so easily. ...Camelot would devour her, the sorceress was sure. Which, not her problem.) "And, naturally, I am not saying that my dear brother is planning to do such a thing." (Mostly because planning what to get for lunch was a strenuous mental activity for him, but hey! Technically, Morgan wasn't lying.) "I was just urging you to think about... hmm, about what happens to things that don't serve their purpose." Yes, things. Had this woman sold her freedom to enjoy the comfort of the castle? Oh, she would learn soon what that truly meant. "What? Do you think I'm being dramatic? A queen's purpose is to serve, so serve you must. Like it or not, lady Guinevere, but that is the lot you've chosen."

And another lot she had chosen? Being an embarrassment, apparently, because she proceeded to strip some more! (...gods, gods, gods. Why her? Being stuck with Arthur's future wife was bad enough, but being stuck with her in such state of undress forced her to realize certain things and... no. No, not going there! It was just completely inappropriate, alright, and that was why Morgan felt as if she was going to choke. No other reasons involved, especially not ones that would relate to any tragically bad ideas! ...you know, such as finding her brother's fiance attractive.) "Lady Morgan," she corrected, swift and precise. "And no. Why would I? My dress is perfectly fine, as you can see. No reason to be embarrassed. Moreover, me pointing out that yours isn't isn't actually rude. Do you know what would truly be rude, lady Guinevere? If I were to smile and nod, and tell you that everything is fine, only to badmouth you behind your back. Which is exactly what other people will do if you act like this, I assure you. Still, maybe you enjoy being a laughingstock? In that case, do go on. I shan't stop you."

"Oh, goodness gracious," the Morgan from the past whispered. "Dead? How did it... gods, everything is so different here. Much crueller, it seems. Tell me, queen Guinevere," because some things didn't change, apparently, "how did it happen? And how come that your Morgan is like this? I mean, she is supposed to be me in some regard, right? Yet I don't feel like I share any kinship with the woman."

"And, yes, horseback riding," Future!Morgan smirked. "Let us go, then. Unless you're perhaps ashamed, after all? Because there will be witnesses-- men, predominantly, as they usually care for the animals. Don't think I'm not honoring your choice, however! Feel free to go out as undressed as you'd like." ...gods, Morgan just prayed that reverse psychology would work. Please, please, please!
 

ellarose

wanderer
Things. Guinevere holds her smile intact, but the flinch of her eyes does a poor job of hiding her grimace. Because that… that managed to get under her skin. Serves as a reminder of the grave she’s digging for herself. The grave she’s been trying not to think about having to lie down in the day she marries Arthur. She can’t even refute it. Morgan’s telling the truth, isn’t she? This is what she chose. Even if it seems kind of twisted to imply this was ever a choice. And useless things get thrown away. Like trash. But maybe what also bothers her is the concept that— that that’s all she is to this woman. An object. Or, more accurately, dirty a toy her brother found in the garbage and asked her to polish up nice and pretty for him. A toy that, let's be real, she’s probably too disgusted with to touch. Welp. Better that she just smile, nod, and feign ignorance, right? So when she goes on to comment on whether or not she’d like being a laughingstock, she squashes the hurt, lifts her chin and takes it in stride.

“Eh. What can I say? We all need a little bit of comic relief in the cruel, cruel world we're living in.” Guinevere grins brighter and bears it. Better to laugh at her own expense before the people of Camelot get started, right? Besides, it's nothing new. She’s no stranger to getting laughed at for stupid shit. It just hits differently, coming from a friend as opposed to coming from a bunch of judgmental, prissy folks. Without... without any friends or allies in sight. Geez. Would she ever make friends in a place like this? She's super polite to all the maids that sweep in, but they all seem to have a hard time looking right at her. And those times she snuck out of her room to explore, well, the rumors she overheard about herself weren't very... uh, forgiving. The knights laughed her out of the training grounds and whatever this was, between her and Morgan? If she takes it as a sign, it’s a sign that she’s about to live a very sad and lonely life. Doesn't mean she can't put a little effort in, though. She would’ve got nowhere fast out in the wastes if she didn’t put in a little (or rather a lot of) effort. Hell, she didn’t have a middle name. But if she had one, it’d no doubt be something like resilience! “If I have to serve that purpose-- to shoulder that burden along with everything else, then so be it.” Pressing a fist over her heart, she nods sagely with a faux air of seriousness. To be honest, it's kind of a dig at Arthur and his gestures in endless speeches about Camelot's glory. He can be so... theatrical about it. Kind of like her sister.

“Ah. So honesty’s fine when you’re the one dishing it… but when I’m honest, suddenly it isn’t cool? The people here really love to overcomplicate things, don’t they? Do you have a manual somewhere? I mean, I’m shit at reading, ‘specially long words, so you’d probably have to read it to me…” Guinevere raises her eyebrows. “Oh. Or are you sparing me the nicety bullshit behind closed doors because you secretly like me? That’s so nice of you, thanks!”

Hah, yeah right. That’s probably not it— but, hey, Guinevere lives to tease.

“…Hm. You’ve got a point. They already think I’m a slut.” She rolls her eyes. Because of course rumors spread once the people realized that Arthur bringing her there wasn’t part of some kind of elaborate joke. And sure, they may not have used that slur exactly— but the people around here still had a way of making those implications with their flowery words. For being lesser than a peasant in their ranks, a complete outsider, she must’ve done something extraordinary wicked to seduce him, right? To trade his other prospects for a girl from the gutter? Rather than give up, though, she flits over to her wardrobe and starts sifting through it. “Not that it’s true or that I even care, y’know? But it’s like you said, I’ve got a role or… or whatever. Sheesh. There’s gotta to be something practical in here, right? A dress with buttons, maybe, instead of all these fucking criss-crossy laces?” Guinevere frowns, furrowing her brow. She picks one out at random… probably the tackiest one in the entire collection she was gifted. (Yeah. Pretty generous, considering she’s never owned a wardrobe of her own before. Except not a single one of these dresses were selected with her tastes in mind. Each was a testament to Arthur’s preferences— what he thought she’d look prettiest in. And that meant she couldn’t wear any garment that was too plain or simple. Because if she looked like a lady, ribbons frills and all, perhaps she’d magically become one! Like the apocalypse Cinderella.) “It’s all so… excessive. Which one of these do you recommend for horseback riding?”

“I love horses. Never even seen one up close till recently.” Distractedly, Guinevere gravitates towards the window again, as if she can’t shake herself from the very idea of leaving this room. “I hope they like me.” Yeah. She hopes they receive her more kindly than the people of Camelot have. It’d be nice to have at least one friend, you know? Even if it’s not a human friend. "Used to cling onto this old scrap of paper from this science-y magazine about horses. Just to look at the picture. Did you know they can't burp? Burping is so satisfying, I don't know how they do it." She scrunches her nose again. "Then again, they can't breathe through their mouthes either. Well. I guess ladies shouldn't burp, either? Like, you don't even have to tell me that. Guess I'll have to live like a horse from now on. That's why this should be good for me, you know! I can prolly learn a lot from 'em."

"She's putting up a front. That's all." The Guinevere watching says, not without experiencing a twinge of guilt. Because the context-- well-- it's complicated now. Everyone in Camelot… they gave her a real hard time. There were those snippets she got about Morgan’s relationship with her mother as well as the fact that she had Arthur for a brother… which, ugh. Was an explanation beyond that point even necessary? Her Morgan awakened to her magic early on and they were horrible to her for it. Kept their distance, called her a witch. Sure, she said she crafted a certain narrative on purpose. But that doesn't change the fact that she'd been scarred so badly she felt like she couldn’t trust anybody. That’s another point, isn’t it? That their roles in these timelines are completely reversed. The other Guinevere was teaching this Morgan magic, while... oh. This is kind of like revealing their fates, isn’t it? If she talks about the way magic is perceived, she might frighten this Morgan. Might change everything. As much as she wants to defend her love, there are some things she ought to withhold. Besides, it seems... weird to talk about her in depth behind her back? Even if she's technically talking to another version of Morgan herself. "Besides, she didn’t know me or my circumstances. No one did. I didn't open up about what I was really doing in Camelot until much, much later." She's being intentionally vague here. Something about telling her story and accidentally revealing that the fae essentially went extinct as a species seemed… well, yeah. More stuff about fate.

"We're the same and we're different. We were shaped by a very different world. Like... think about your Guinevere. Do we seem like the same person to you?" Guinevere loosely gestures to herself. While she still has the form of the other Guinevere, they're identical and yet completely different. Should be kind of like when people start to tell her and Jen apart. "I-- I don't think revealing too much of the future is a good idea. Do you believe me enough to go back now, or... or is there anything else I should show you to prove it? I just..." She looks at her memory self. Admitting to weakness is hard, and she couldn't do it in that moment with the dress. But now? Now she can afford to be vulnerable with Morgan without being seen as a liability. Right? "I feel the same as I did back then. I need someone on my side while I'm in the past. I'm confused and... and alone and I honestly don't know what to do."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Morgan just... stared, completely baffled, as the woman continued to talk, talk and talk. Oh, gods. Had nobody ever taught her about the benefits of, you know, remaining silent? Sure, others might suspect you of having nothing worthwhile to say, but merely rousing these suspicions was better than opening your mouth and confirming them! (...ugh. Had the sorceress not known any better, she would have said Arthur had chosen this bride solely to spite her-- to waste her time with this little project as he dedicated all his energy to his quests, safely out of sight. What exactly was he doing? It sure would be nice to find out, except that, no! With this chain wrapped around her leg, Morgan was bound to Camelot, irreversibly. Guinevere may not have looked like a guard dog, but she acted as one, you see? ...which was how she knew this wasn't his intention at all. Subtlety? Check. Refinement? Check. Viability? Check and check and check. All the components of the plan worked, like cogwheels manufactured to fall into one another, and that just wasn't Arthur's style at all. So, was it a lucky coincidence, then? ...gods must have loved that bastard, alright. Morgan understood not why, but since his childhood, he had enjoyed their protection. The divine right of the king, it seemed, left concepts such as 'justice' in the dust.)

"Very well," the sorceress nodded. "Humility will not hurt you. Practice it, and you may become a fine queen yet." (Not that it mattered, of course. Why was she even supposed to teach her manners when, after their first child was born, Guinevere would be expected to retreat from the public life? Because, according to Arthur and all these wise men, a woman's place was by her family's side. ...which, of course, meant becoming a glorified servant! Ah, a dream come true, certainly. There was nothing quite as fulfilling, Morgan was sure, leading philosophical discussions about the quality of your kid's excrement. One couldn't possibly wish for a more stimulating environment!

Once again, Morgan couldn't help but roll her eyes. Was this woman testing her, or did she act like this naturally? (...gods, the sorceress couldn't even decide which option would be worse. Seriously! It was like... like choosing between your left or right eye being gouged out.) "You may have noticed, lady Guinevere, that our positions here are... hmm, rather different. I'm sure you'd let a healer cut your stomach open if it was needed, but would you allow a seamstress to do it? Oh no, I don't think so. The same analogy works here as well. I can wield the truth, my lady, for I know how to do it. Sadly, that cannot be said about you," Morgan smirked, a faintest hint of insult in her tone. That 'you'? Such an emphasis was placed on it, truly, that you could easily substitute it for something else-- 'an idiot like you,' for example, 'or a barbarian from the wastes.' "Once you've earned it, perhaps you shall have that privilege as well. First, though? First, you'll need to learn how to wrap your intents in pretty words." ...and, yes, Morgan was starting to doubt whether Guinevere could even do it. For that, she'd need to learn how to lie, you see? And lies, ladies and gentlemen, required actual forethought! Not letting your words spill like a waterfall, wild and indifferent to where the droplets might land.

"Oh, of course," Morgan rolled her eyes. "The truth is that I secretly love you, lady Guinevere. Always have. I hope the love letters I've been sending you haven't gotten you into trouble." What? Did she think she could get Morgan le Fey to blush? Pffft. People more skilled than her had tried, and all of their efforts had been shattered. Shattered, to pitiful shards! A pretty face wouldn't faze her-- not after everything she'd seen, anyway. (Beauty, after all, was just another type of trap. Wasn't it common knowledge that roses had thorns?) "For the record," Morgan sighed, "we do not use words like that here. Ladies certainly don't, so if you know what's good for you, you will not mention it in front of anyone else. And as for the dresses," the sorceress smirked, "all of them are horrible. That is the point. Ladies are not to be comfortable as they ride-- they are to look regal. In Camelot, your appearance is one of the few weapons at your disposal. Use it well, and you may just reach your goals." ...if her goals revolved around begging from crumbs off the table, that was. Still, wasn't that what she had signed up for? As Arthur's wife couldn't dare to hope for more.

Naturally, Guinevere's horse facts left Morgan... unimpressed. "No, not a horse. A doll might be a better comparison-- look pretty, and say nothing that might insult anyone. Better yet, say nothing at all. Silence can be a haven, you know? For one such as you. Now, let us visit the stables. Our horses are well-trained, so there's no need to worry."

The other Morgan watched as the spectacle unfolded in front of her, her eyes wide. "I, umm. I suppose that does make sense. If our paths were different, then it would be foolish to expect this version of me to behave the same." (Come to think of it, though? Morgan didn't really want to know what had shaped her to act like this-- why her heart had frozen in her chest. It must have been terrible, she was sure, and nothing good would come from knowing the details. Nothing! Hadn't they established she shouldn't pry? ...still, this was all so strange. Fate and parallel lives and the spiral of destiny-- terms so grand, really, that Morgan had never thought to associate them with herself. How did one wrap one's mind around this, even?) "I shall not ask you," she nodded, so very serious, "worry not. And I... gods, my queen, I trust you. Believe me, I would like to guide you, too, but I am not your Morgan. I don't know how to contact her, either. Magic doesn't bow to my will." (They'd talked about it, her and the other queen Guinevere, but, oh, only in the realm of theory! It seemed so, so very distant.) "I'm sorry. I'm not the right person. Although... hmmm. My queen has told me she has some magical supplies hidden in her room. Perhaps we can investigate? I know not how to use them, though maybe they'll point us in the right direction."
 

ellarose

wanderer
“Oh, I dunno. If you really loved me, you’d drop the silly titles. Plus, I don’t think Arthur would’ve set us up on this little date otherwise.” Guinevere combats Morgan’s sarcasm with easygoing humor, giving a disaffected shrug of her shoulders. Well, then. If she looks stupid and naive, so be it. While she is adverse to the way things work here, and vehemently so, she'll bite her tongue until it bleeds before she can say anything outright damning. Something that might ruin their chances. There's hidden depths to her motives, sure, and it's probably for the best that those remain hidden. Innocence and joy can be shields of their own, just another way to lie. (Even if it's tough to grit her teeth sometimes, to have survived and lived her life to this point only to end up here. Dressed up in clothes she didn't even want and looked at like she's as shallow as a freaking puddle.) Because Camelot is a backwards place and everything's got to be backwards! “Fine. Teach me Camelot's old timey slang, then. Doesn't make it any better. I still get what they mean, you know.” Before she can stop it, something slightly accusatory flashes in her eyes. She caught the edge of that knife in Morgan's words earlier. The implications. She sort of hoped when Arthur told her she'd have these sessions with his sister that maybe, just maybe, she'd be a little more open minded than this. Still. She prefers this to the alternative of an outright fake nice to the point of manipulation. Better that she dislike her to her face than have to find out otherwise through gossip down the line, right? “'Cause it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know when somebody’s looking down their nose at you.”

Uh huh. Not that she's hurt enough to nurse that wound for the rest of the day. She'll live. Maybe she's bitter that things didn't work out the way she hoped, but when does that ever really happen anyway? So she shrugs it off, like everything else. "Then again, rocket scientists don't strike me as people people, you know? Hell, it might just go over their heads. Whoosh. Zero social skills." After all, her only exposure to such people had been the comic book depictions-- like, little nerds in glasses or decrepit old men in white lab coats. Then the doll comparison comes and she swallows down the lump in her throat. "Well. I'll have the rest of my life to learn to be silent, right? Better that I get my words out of my system now. Hope you like my voice, Morgan, 'cause you're probably gonna be hearing it more than anyone." Ugh. A doll is the perfect comparison. Marriage is going to be the death of her soul and all that remains will be-- she shakes it off and chooses a dress with a frown. Then she makes a dauntless attempt at putting it on. Backwards. She's putting it on backwards.

To spare herself the embarrassment of reliving this moment a second time, Guinevere nods eagerly in response to Morgan's suggestion. Magical supplies? It's interesting for sure. And even if none of it helps her make it back, maybe she'll learn something about who she is and where she comes from. It isn't lost on her, either, how quickly this Morgan agrees to trust her. Really puts it in perspective, the kind of world that shaped and hardened them in comparison to these past versions of themselves. Having lived a tragic cycle over and over... she pushes that aside for now. Giving the other Morgan's hand a squeeze, she manages a small smile. "No, no. Don't apologize. You being here is enough." She nods. "Let's check out those items. We should be... be careful, though." Her stomach flips. With that, the world sways as they're torn from Excalibur's vision and thrust back into the real world, in that smoky, pungent room. And she throws up.

---

"--Say something!" The Morgan in the present's voice competes with another, one that wraps around Guinevere's mind as easily as the tendrils dragging them into the soulless earth. So now you understand. A voice hisses like a serpent. This earth has absorbed the blood of your sisters. The ancient ones, the trees. At her side, the sheathed Excalibur flickers with red light. A warning of instability. She can feel several hearts in her chest, beating at once, breaking at once. A weaker body might have fainted from the stimulation. So she is fae. Part of her. But another is irrefutably human. Which means that her kind has...

Look at what your grief has wrought, child. The voice almost sounds comforting, like it's used to singing lullabies. But instead of coaxing someone to sleep, it guides them into their deathbeds. A tendril presses under her chin, forcing her to look up at the gray landscape. In the process, it absorbs the blood that spilled from her lips. The darkness drips away and reveals a green vine hiding underneath. Let me grant your wish. I can end your pain. I can return you to the earth.

"This is not her wish. It is... was mine." Guinevere refutes at last, even as the pain threatens to break her in half. "This one fights for a future of her own."

This one should not even exist. The tone of disgust permeates, sinks beneath her skin, confirms one of her worst fears. Escaping her life in Camelot meant protecting someone. And not just herself. That's right. You are terrified of bringing the first half-breed into this world, are you not? Going back means...

Watching her little one suffer in a world that will not accept them with open arms, despite their noble status. Yes. It is frightening, but the concept of protection flips itself around when surrendering a body that is not hers to bargain with. Sacrificing herself here and now means sacrificing one of her kind in the future. Perhaps a distant granddaughter, a descendent of her own. An alternative version of herself that is fighting for something more, even in a world that has died. One with love and friends and a kingdom of her own. Would it be right to steal that from her? No, certainly not. This thing is shrewd and clearly has a motive beyond 'granting her wish'.

"Release us. Release us now." Guinevere snaps, her eyes glowing a faint blue. The vine around her shrieks and deteriorates with her command, dropping her onto solid ground. The quicksand around everyone slows, but the other tendrils haven't released the others yet. Clambering to the edge, she watches on with concern. "This is a dangerous spirit. I... I may not be strong enough to send it away. It will travel between you all and feed on your vices. Listen carefully when it comes to you. If you confront it, it will have no choice but to let you go."

Adrianne and Sam are equal parts puzzled and panicked by this development. But despite their incredulousness, they at least look like they intend to try and follow her instructions. They're survivors for a reason, right? The knights, on the other hand. Yeah, they... might be doomed. What a shame for them. She looks on at Morgan especially with worry. Not because she doesn't believe in her, of course, but because-- well, because she's worried, obviously. This is no time to be waiting around and hoping for the best. Action would reap results faster than wishing would. So Guinevere unsheathes Excalibur, prepared to try whatever she can to help them. Except when she holds it in her hands, she examines the hilt with confusion written plainly on her face. "This... isn't..." Hm. There's something different about it. It is the Excalibur, of that she is certain, but it's been modified somehow. Which may lead to unpredictable results when she tries to use it. Oh. And technically she just used it in the other realm, too. Goodness, it may have even attracted the foul spirit here!
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Ah, yes, yes. There were magical supplies indeed-- a secret stash in the queen's chamber, hidden under one of the loose floor boards so that it wouldn't offend the king's sensibilities. (And by 'offending the king's sensibilities,' Morgan actually meant 'inspiring him to burn his wife at the stake.' Ridiculous, that was what it was! Marrying a woman whose people were so intimately connected to magic, solely for that reason, and then forbidding her to practice the art. What kind of logic had convinced him that this would be a good idea?! ...then again, Morgan supposed, there was something deeply human about this brand of foolishness. They were the species who caged birds for their own amusement, after all-- who, against what common sense claimed, took the sky away from them, and yet had the nerve to demand a new song every day. Entitled, wasn't it? And it told you so much about their modus operandi, too! Because, in the end, it mattered very little how you treated those you perceived as equal. No, the degree of kindness you showed to your inferiors determined what kind of person you were, and the thing about birds... well. Did it not serve as a blueprint for what they'd done to queen Guinevere, too? The way they'd locked her up, and proceeded to take and take and take. Take, and never give anything in return!)

"Ah," Morgan flinched. "My queen, are you... um. I... I apologize. The smell of herbs can be rather strong, but it was the only way to bring you back, and... Again, I'm sorry. Do not worry about it, though. I shall call a maid, and she will clean it up." A maid who would be overjoyed at the prospect, she was sure, but hey! One had to do their job, even if it occasionally turned out to be less than pleasant. (Such as, you know, teaching Guinevere how to destroy herself. The fire that burned so, so bright in her veins? It burned precisely because of the lack of control, and trying to bind it would be like... like throwing a bucket of water on the flames. There was no way for them to survive! ...and she, Morgan, was an accomplice in that murder. A key one, too.) "Let us go, then," she nodded, pushing those thoughts aside. "You may lean on me, I suppose. I... I mean, you've been poisoned, so it wouldn't be seen as too strange-- definitely less strange than you being unfamiliar with the layout of the castle. Then again," Morgan continued to stumble over her own words, "maybe that could be explained with the poisoning, too. Toxins affect the mind as well, so, um, I'm not forcing you to do anything, either. If-- if you think that would be too awkward." Because, regardless of her connection to this Guinevere's Morgan, she wasn't her! Wasn't, wasn't, wasn't, and the other woman must have been keenly aware of that. No, she wouldn't presume that what belonged to the other Morgan also somehow belonged to her.

One way or another, they reached Guinevere's chambers-- a few servants spotted them as they walked, but so what? As far as anyone else was concerned, lady Morgan was merely escorting their rightful queen to her bedroom. A common, even decent thing to do, really! A woman should never walk anywhere alone, lest she fall victim to... uh. To what, actually? To the villains hiding behind the columns, or perhaps under the staircase? Camelot's entire point was providing them with shelter from such suspicious characters, so Morgan had no idea. Still, the custom worked in their favor, so she wasn't going to question it. "There, my queen. Please, follow me."

And, once the door opened? Without a hint of hesitation, Morgan headed towards the bed. If she remembered correctly, then... Ah, yes, here! A plank, loose enough so that it could be lifted with relative ease, but inconspicuous if you didn't know you should look for it. "Lady Guinevere," she whispered, "look. Do you think that any of these items could be used to... I don't know. To perhaps bridge the gap between the worlds?" To her, this seemed somewhat doubtful-- mostly because the contents of the box struck her as mundane. There were herbs, some of which she recognized, and... a dagger? A ritual one, possibly, for it was covered in runes that she couldn't read. Multiple pieces of wood were scattered throughout the box, too-- dry and very old, apparently, because it seemed like a single careless touch could straight up shatter them. But... oh. What was this? "A locket," Morgan breathed out. "Do you recognize the metal, my queen? I'm not sure what it is. It isn't silver, that much I can tell, but it kind of looks like that...?"

---

The tendrils wrapped around her feet, tighter than any physical chains could have. They kept dragging her down, too-- down and down and down, closer to the dead Earth's core. (Was it dead, too? Could it be that its spark had gone out, and that was why the rest of it was dying as well? Because, oh, from the core, everything sprang! Just like you couldn't save a flower whose roots had been cut, you couldn't... couldn't fix this. A destruction of this magnitude, that was.)

'Why do you think you can save anything at all, child?' ...child? What? This wasn't a spirit, Morgan could tell, for it didn't sound like one-- at the same time, however, it did, and it only deepened her confusion. What was going on? Had a demon touched her mind, as it had been common during the golden age of magic?

'Huh?'

'You heard me right, little sorceress. I don't have to explain what I meant, right? Because, deep inside, you already know.'

'No,'
Morgan frowned, 'I certainly don't. Begone, foul creature. I haven't invited you, and thus you have no right to be here.'

'No right to be here,'
the voice mocked. 'Do you think me one of my toothless cousins? Those who come and go as you wish, and serve you because you're the only one who will give them the time of her day? Pitiful existences, truly. Almost as pitiful as you, Morgan.'

'I don't--'

'Oh, you do! You know how small and pathetic you are, playing with powers you don't understand. And now? Now your so-called love fell victim to your whims, too. Do you truly believe you will be able to get her back?'

'Yes! I, I will...'

'You will what? Tell me how you intend to do it, Morgan. Which one of your precious theories will save the day today, hmm?'


Theories, huh. Yes, that was what they were, undeniably, but hearing it like that? It drove home just how powerless she was-- a speck of dust trying to understand the vastness of the universe, and failing, failing, failing! (Morgan had, of course, been alright with the role before. That was the fate of a researcher, you know? Stumbling from one enigma to another, and never quite knowing the answers you coveted so. It had been normal-- fine, even. Except that, things being what they were, it was anything but fine now. Guinevere's very life depended on these half-formed ideas, on how well she could connect the dots, and, and, and! Gods, how afraid she was. ...afraid enough, actually, that the sorceress didn't notice she'd stopped resisting. The voice wrapped her in its embrace, and--)
 

ellarose

wanderer
As they enter the chambers of her past self, Guinevere fights to keep her nausea under control as she lowers herself onto the ground to observe Morgan tugging the loose floorboard up. The array of items uncovered there even have voices of their own, imbued with the accent of the forest she had been in. Up until Arthur showed up. She can tell-- or rather feel-- from where she's sitting that they are magical items. An energy like electricity buzzes off of them. Like people with individual personalities, each item carries a different aura, each makes her feel a different way. The dagger pulls especially hard at her, so much that she has to look away from it to avoid getting sick again. Of course, she doesn't know how to read the markings on the side. May be better to leave that one alone. What she does recognize are a few of the herbs, some of which are the ones she created for Morgan for the purpose of descending during the Lady of the Lake's test. Except trading back doesn't mean she has to descend again, does it? Besides, Morgan had taken care of those preparations. While she has a vague idea of the items she used, she wouldn't have any idea where to start. And last time she needed Morgan-- her Morgan-- there with her to make it out okay. Guinevere... she probably would have died otherwise.

"The locket..." Guinevere stares at it as if hypnotized. Oh yes, she recognizes it alright. Maybe not the material used to create it-- but the locket itself? That's the very Morgan had given her, when they forged their magical bond! Or, at the very least, it was a very convincing replica of the one Morgan holds out for her now. "I'm wearing it around my neck right now. In the future." Since dethroning Arthur, she refused to take it off. While she was under his thumb, his to play with, she couldn't wear it at all. She had to keep it hidden away to avoid drawing suspicion. Now when she wears it, it's her way of professing to Morgan she's always hers, even when they have to keep what they have away from the eyes of the people. So her first self initially had the locket? Thoughts of how it made its way back to her after so, so many years is too much to comprehend right now. "Can I see it?" When she has the locket, she quickly fastens it around her own neck. Because maybe that... would do something? Except that there's nothing. It's just a bit warm when it touches her skin. Crestfallen, she falters. "Or maybe I have to perform a ritual?"

"I'm... afraid I'm kinda useless at this." Guinevere says with a rueful smile, closing her hand around the locket. This Morgan probably expected her to know what she was doing. They're both the students, though, both the novices. It leaves them in a tight spot, doesn't it? Panic begins to rise in her, alongside nausea. "It's a real long story. But I was, uh, raised among humans. Like I was human." She frowns. "I know a little about Excalibur. But the rest of it? There's still so much I have to learn about magic, about what I am."

"My Morgan's the one who taught me everything I know about magic." Guinevere admits, holding tighter to the locket. Unbeknownst to her, the locket becomes so hot it would have burned human hands, like a stovetop. "Without her, I..."

---

Time crawls forward. Eventually, Adrianne and Sam manage to free themselves from the clutches of the hostile spirit. Morgan, though. Morgan's sinking lower and lower by the minute. As much as she wants to intervene with a spell, Guinevere resigns herself to putting the Excalibur away. What might happen if she tried to use it again, in this state? If it lured this presence here in the first place, it may only serve to agitate it further. Which is the last thing she needs, while Morgan is in its clutches. Except that waiting around and watching is not an option, either. No, no, no. She simply cannot just stand back and watch this happen! At this rate, Morgan will--

Guinevere sensed it before. The threads that wove their two hearts together. Shining bright as gold, pure and unbreakable. Not wanting to intrude, she left those threads alone. Now, though, she is desperate enough to pull at them. To yank, yank, yank. Perhaps the impact might wake Morgan from the trance? And yet despite her efforts, her soul doesn't bear a resemblance of the Guinevere from this world. As if knowing something is amiss, it repels all of her efforts. Her head pulses with the strain of it, blood streaming down her nose. What else can she do? There... isn't much. Just as she loses hope, though, she notices the locket around her neck. It's hot as coals against her collarbone. Blinking with wonder, she brings her hand to it. Ah. Of course! This must be what Morgan traded to forge their bond. Knowing they lived several lives over, that they must have traded over and over to forge their bond anew, the cycle suggests that the locket would eventually make it back into her hands. Even now, so far into the future. Incredible. Proof that what they have cannot be broken by something like-- like this.

'It isn't silver, that much I can tell, but it kind of looks like that...?' That voice. The mellifluous voice of her Morgan nearly makes her heart stop. Perhaps because a part of her believed she would never hear it again, when she made the decision to... ah. Guinevere closes her hand around the locket. Oh, she knows her future self would be so devastated to return only to hear that her Morgan had been stolen away from her. She must stop this! With their magical bond and the locket in hand, she can forge herself into a bridge of sorts. Overcome with emotion and the impulse to act, she recklessly hurls herself down into the pit of tendrils. The women behind her scream for her to come back, but she doesn't listen. Shadowy wisps wrap around her arms and legs to slow her approach, but she presses forward with every ounce of strength she has. She reaches, reaches, reaches, and then finally manages to wrap Morgan in a tight hug. The tendrils tether the both of them, then, holding them in that position, dragging them deeper yet. Between them, the two necklaces, the locket and ring, touch. 'I'm... afraid I'm kinda useless at this.'

Together they are dropped into the spirit's realm. A dark, dark place, where the only source of light emits from a mirrored floor with the faintest glow. The sort of place that forces one to confront their own twisted reflection before it swallows them whole. Except with the two of them there, it distorted that illusion. "Morgan. Are you all right...?" She holds tighter onto her. "Whatever you do, do not look down. You will not like what you see." She pauses, then, watching as the image of their past selves appear in the heart of the darkness ahead. Except they don't seem to notice them. They appear to be sitting together in the queen's chambers (chambers she always refused to acknowledge as her own) surrounded by magical items. From the scorching locket, their voices trickle out.

'My Morgan's the one who taught me everything I know about magic. Without her, I...'

"So, it appears we must do this the hard way." The spirit's voice is still disembodied, it seems to echo from every angle. "Although I suppose this works, too. Just look at them, the poor things. Without you, they haven't the slightest clue what to do!" It may not be present, but the spirit is undoubtably smiling like a cat who just cornered two mice. "How does it feel, knowing you've abandoned them?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
"Ah," Morgan sighed, disappointed. "I'm afraid we are in the same boat, then. Queen Guinevere spoke of the stash, of course, but... well. I'm afraid I didn't really understand her. I mean, I did understand the words, but not what she meant? Yes, that was the problem." To Guinevere, you see, magic was mundane-- something she dabbled in via simply existing, just like blinking or breathing. Explaining it to someone this inexperienced, however? That would take an entirely different approach! One that they hadn't devised yet, and... and maybe never would, if the queen remained stranded in the far future. (Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods. Just how scared was she? As if being torn away from the embrace of her beloved forest hadn't been enough! One would have said her suffering was too much to bear already, but no-- now fate also had to separate her from her very timeline, and everyone she had ever known. ...from her, really. A selfish thought, wasn't it? For the woman didn't belong to her, no matter how many times her mind had wandered to that forbidden territory. If anything, she was the king's, her rightful husband's, and Morgan shouldn't even think of such outlandish things. Shouldn't, shouldn't, shouldn't! Where, after all, would such ideas lead them? To more suffering, doubtlessly.)

...and yet, yet she couldn't stop herself. It was a deadly kind of compulsion, you know? Like a twig carried by the stream, incapable of controlling its own fate. (Apparently, that had remained a constant throughout the centuries, too. Knowing that, how could Morgan ever let go? As easily as the earth could stop turning, it seemed.) "But, my lady," she said and grasped her hands, "we cannot give up now! We... we may not know much, but that doesn't mean we are stupid. The king is gone, too, so that means we have all the time in the world. With experiments, we can find out what these things do! All of them probably shouldn't be touched, granted, but," Morgan looked up to Guinevere, her eyes full of newfound resolve, "we can probably guess which ones are bad news. I assume they make you feel some way, don't they, my queen? My... uh, my lady Guinevere often spoke about your brand of magic being related to emotions. Or, well, maybe not related, but there's a link. So, I propose that we take the items that don't feel too dangerous, and see what we can do with them. What you can do with them, really. Well? What do you think? Shall we try together?"

***

Deeper and deeper she was being dragged, into an abyss older than time itself. (On some level, Morgan realized that was exactly what that thing wanted. Deciphering its intents wasn't really difficult, you see? If she was right and this indeed was a spirit gone rogue, then it wanted companionship-- wanted her to join it in its misery, really, and feast on her soul. In theory, then, freeing herself should have been simple. Following the voice of logic would have been enough! ...except that, you know, there were also times when you couldn't do this. Grief had put a blindfold over her eyes, and Morgan just couldn't see it! That precious, golden thread that would lead her out of the maze, in the same way Ariadne's thread had helped Theseus. Get a hold of yourself, the sorceress thought. Come on, come on, come on!)

'Oh,' the spirit giggled, 'but how can you do that, my dear Morgan, when you don't belong to yourself anymore? Such a person is pretty difficult to hold. Now, stop resisting. It'll be better for you, you see? Much sweeter. Together, we shall rot in the darkness-- just the way it's mean to be. All things meet their end! Just look at this planet if you want an example. And, like this, you can throw away all those pesky, pesky responsibilities. Wouldn't it be nice, just being? Being, and letting the inevitable take its course?'

'No! No, that's a terrible idea. I don't want... I've never wanted...'
It was in that moment, then, that she felt arms wrap around her-- real arms, made of flesh and bone. "Guinevere? Ah, Guinevere! You shouldn't have," Morgan protested. "Everything's under my control," yes, clearly, because the two of them were just playing, "so, umm. Alright, alright, it's not! But I'll handle it. I'm good at handling things, so... hold on tight, I suppose." Because, with Guinevere there? She couldn't fail. Couldn't, and wouldn't! Somewhere inside of her, the sorceress was sure, was enough strength for her to crawl back-- to drag herself back into the sunlight, and let it kiss her skin. To let her Guinevere kiss her again, dammit! Since Arthur had left, they hadn't even had much time to take care of one another properly, so... gods, Guinevere. Her voice, at least! The sweetest sound Morgan had heard, truly, and then the spirit confirmed to her, oh so helpfully, that it was real. (Their connection? Could it be? ...if there was one thing she was good at, you see, it was grasping at straws. A foolish tendency, one might say, but straws equaled to hope, and gods, how much Morgan wanted to pour her heart into that faith!)

"Gwen," she shouted, ignoring the spirit's mocking. (The entity could speak as much as it wanted, truly. Abandoned? Pfft! The very fact that they could reach one another, even with centuries separating them, meant that nothing of the sort had happened-- that they were bound, so tightly that not even Death itself could sever it.) "Gwen, can you hear me? The locket. There's some sort of connection, I can tell. Focus on it. Focus on it, and come back to me! Use your memories as an anchor. Remember, my love? All the good things we've gone through together, and bad ones as well. All of it. You too, Guinevere," she turned to the woman who was holding her. "You can sense the link, can't you? Latch onto it, and let it guide you home. The other locket is in your reality, so it should work. It's like... like a door! There are different places on each side of it, but you must pass through that same door nonetheless."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere struggles to breathe as panic rises and holds her in a vise grip. Confronting the reality of how little she knows and just how much she relied on Morgan to understand and navigate what she was going through to this point... if she was a fish out of water in Camelot before, she may as well be a fish in the middle of the desert now. (And she's going to burn up like one if she stays here! How is she supposed to live like this? Smothered by yet another Arthur's ego, if their conversation earlier told her anything at all, and... and knowing all the while that her life will end at the stake? And worst of all, she'll be separated from her friends and her Morgan-- her love-- forever. To have fought so hard for the chance to experience an actual future, to have only just usurped Arthur and brought her gang into Camelot only to disappear into the past? If she compared their success to a dream before, this serves as her rude awakening.) Fear and nausea twist into one beast that runs rampant in her chest, tearing through every coherent thought. Morgan must be doing everything she can. But if returning asks for action on her side of this mess, then she's worried that...

The warmth of two hands wrapped around her own draws Guinevere's gaze up to Morgan's eyes. Green and resolved and so much like her own Morgan's that staring into them does help to ground her. (But it's not her, a bitter part of her observes. Now's not the time to act like a bratty child, though!) Because she's absolutely right. They can't give up here. It'd be unacceptable to go down without a fight, after everything she'd been through up to this point! "Okay. Might as well try." Magic, though, can be terrifying when you don't know what you're doing. There're all kinds of risks. She bites her lip uncertainly, looking at the dagger again. "The brain looks for patterns, right?" That's what Morgan told her, anyway. "I was, uh, using a dagger before the switch happened." Correct. Because she had to put the poor stag out of its misery. Then she got the sensation of blood rising all around her, drowning her, and then... the forest clearing. Hm. She glimpses the dagger among the queen's things. "I don't know what the markings on the side mean. I've never seen one like this before. I'm... getting a strong feeling from it. Makes me feel like I could be sick again, but-- but that might be necessary if I'm going to switch back."

"Could be really dangerous, though. Wait. The forest! There should be plenty of fae who know how to--" Guinevere pauses, remembering the horrible lecture she was forced to endure on the ride back to Camelot. "Then again, Arthur said he wants to punish me for taking so many trips." With a roll of her eyes, she goes on to mock him in tone and gesture. "It is disgraceful for a king to chase his queen every other day." Didn't that say more about him than it did about her, that she kept trying to fly away? Guinevere learned a long time ago not to question the way people thought in Camelot. It's headache inducing. Either way, it'd be worth the risk to make it home, sure, but-- if it led to a severe punishment (potentially life threatening, based on what she's seen) and she left their past selves to suffer for her actions, then that's hardly fair! "...Have you ever been into the forest, Morgan? Is it safe to sneak off when Arthur's away on his trips?"

Ocket... "Pocket?" Guinevere scrunches her nose when a faded voice sounds in her head. Familiar, but so distant and warbled. Her heart races. It has to be Morgan, right? She's about to pat her night dress to look for pockets when Morgan's voice continues to give her broken snippets. Focus... anchor... love... bad... guide you home... locket. "Locket!" Duh. Her hands snap to it in an instant. It's warm against her palm. "Morgan... that's you, right? What do I do with the locket?" Maybe it works like that stone did when she descended. Think of her home? Could it be as simple as that?

---

"Pocket. Oh, that's adorable. A bright one, is she not?" The spirit mocks, unwilling to give up so easily. Tendrils rise, then, and begin to wrap around the locket on Guinevere's neck. They pull and yank, but the chain refuses to break. With an irritated hiss, Guinevere tries to swat them away. "And the future of this planet rests on her shoulders? Ha! Do you not see this as the blessing it is? Would it not be better for a true child of the forest to nurture this despicable, dying earth?" Another tendril wraps around Guinevere's wrist to still her attempts to push them away. "Did you not see how she healed that poor wolf? Her potential is wasted in the past."

"You cannot expect her to understand right away when you are interfering with Morgan's message." Guinevere accuses hotly. "And I must return to live my own life. It is not my place to--"

"Were you truly living, though? Why did you collect those berries in the forest? Why did you eat them?" The spirit continues to taunt. "Perhaps a part of you hoped that the other Guinevere died with your body in the past. Then you would not have to go back."

"That-- that is not what I..." Guinevere is stricken with horror at the notion, has to remind herself not to look down. Or else she might sink into the spirit's trap. Besides, she already confronted this spirit. She cannot let it get into her head now! Gritting her teeth, she wriggles herself free of the tendril around her wrist. But it's too late. It unfastens the clasp at the back of her neck and takes the locket, dangling it high in the air. "No!"

"Bonded with a human. Ah, I should have expected this. You silly, whimsical fae will tie yourselves to any living creature you feel the slightest amount of fondness for. Like when you attached yourself to that helpless white stag, knowing well that your husband sought its hide. Did you not realize that feeling their pain as well as your own is precisely what destroys you in the end?" The spirit says. Like a cat playing with yarn, it claws playfully at the threads that keep her bond with Morgan intact, threatening to tear them apart. "Sometimes it destroys those around you. And, in extreme cases, it's capable of destroying an entire planet."

"A pathetic human sorceress and an equally-- if not more pathetic-- half-breed. This is truly hopeless." The spirit continues, "Guinevere, listen. If you surrender yourself and the Excalibur now, I will let Morgan go. And I will fix everything that is broken. What do you say?"

"No. I told you before. This life is not mine to give." Stubborn as ever, Guinevere lunges forward, trying to reach for the locket. More tendrils snap up to hold her in place. "Who are you?"

"That is... unimportant." The spirit hums, seeming to consider a new approach, holding the locket at different angles as if to observe it closer. "Pitiful as you are, Morgan, you are indeed correct that this locket is a doorway. And I could travel through it just as easily. If you cannot see reason, I wonder if she would? Your Gwen may be utterly clueless, but damn if she isn't dutiful. What do you think?" Tendrils start to approach Morgan, then, like snakes preparing to pounce on prey. "If I took your voice, I am sure she would do anything I say."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
The forest, huh? The forest could, indeed, hold the answers to their questions-- if the world was a simple, uncomplicated place, that was. Which it distinctly wasn't! "Theoretically, getting there should be simple, yes," Morgan nodded. "Fairly risk-free is well, if we make sure certain loose-lipped servants don't see us. But, my queen, I... I don't that will be possible. Think about it. Why were you found eating those berries? Why didn't you seek out your kin to begin?" She didn't want to say it, mostly because it really wasn't her place to bring such news to Guinevere, but if the conclusion didn't come to her on its own... well. Propriety had to be set aside, didn't it? Because this was way, way more important than not offending her by accident. "They don't want you," Morgan blurted out, with her gaze cast downwards. "My queen Guinevere said so, anyway. I... I think they want to honor their end of the deal. They gave you to Arthur, so now, you belong to him. In their eyes, you aren't a part of their family anymore. Of course, I may be mistaken, but," her shoulders slouched, "that's what I gathered from her words. It makes sense to me, too, because the queen doesn't really visit them. I don't believe they see her as less, of course," Morgan added quickly. "More than anything, it is my conviction that they wanted her to assimilate. To... to be happy with her husband," as absurd as that was, really. Just, who could possibly be happy with the king? A catatonic woman, perhaps-- someone who had no thoughts of her own, which would honestly be the ideal partner for him as well. (...why did he wish to shackle the wind, then? To bury someone like Guinevere in banality? Arrogance, Morgan assumed, for that seemed to be his driving motivation for... well, most things. 'Look at me, and bow before my greatness!')

"So, I don't think we should go there. We'll stay here and experiment. If we are careful enough, I'm sure we can avoid any catastrophes," Morgan massaged her chin thoughtfully. "The dagger seems dangerous. If I were you, I'd set it aside for now. I mean, it seems... awfully permanent, in a way? Dagger is for cutting, and it is an old wisdom that you should always measure twice before deciding to sever something. If nothing else helps, however? We'll return to it." And then, then she heard it! A voice that was and wasn't hers, resonating throughout centuries. Could it be...? Yes, yes! It had to be, really, for it matched the voice from the vision. (Her other self, or imprint, or... or whatever, in truth. Her soul's sister! A woman so, so cold, and yet also soften than cotton candy, if the other Guinevere were to be believed.) Curiosity shining in her eyes, Morgan leaned forward. "What? What is she saying? I cannot understand her well."

***

No, Morgan shook her head. No, I must not listen! All those ugly words that fell from the creature's invisible lips, and tried to burrow into her brain like flesh-eating worms? Just a proof that the demon was losing. (A cornered animal, after all, was the most likely to bite. Insulting Guinevere was such a cheap way of getting under her skin, too! Oh yes, yes, yes. Most likely, the entity thought that it could break her concentration-- that, with words that were sharp enough, it could shatter her mental shield. Well, as Gwen would say: "Tough luck, buddy!" Morgan was a daughter of Camelot, you see, and ignoring hurtful words was a skill she had acquired by the time she had been ten years old. ...back then, it had hurt more, too. A random demon bashing you was one thing, but your own family? The ones who were meant to stand by your side, no matter what? That betrayal had stung much, much more! Still, it had been a good practice for this mess, so, bizarrely enough, Morgan found herself feeling vaguely grateful. ...not to them, though. No, never to them! It was her past self that she felt indebted to now-- to the girl who had managed to forge an armor out of her own tears.)

"Don't speak to it!" she shouted at Guinevere. "It thrives on attention. Just... focus. Focus on the locket, too. If you do that, the spirit won't be able to... Ah!" Because, you know, spirits didn't threaten idly. Before the sorceress could so much as process what was being said, the tendril was wrapping around her throat already-- squeezing, squeezing and squeezing, like the hands of a cook which were trying to get the last drop of juice out of lemon. Gasping for breath, Morgan scratched at her own throat, but... oh, it was pointless. Pointless, pointless, pointless! Kind of like trying to remove your sorrow with a shovel, or perhaps trying to chase away hunger with a hammer. The tendrils that were torturing her seemed to exist on another plane entirely, you know? Somewhere far, far beyond her reach.

"Try harder, little sorceress," the demon mocked. "In the end, you are merely human. Blind as a newborn kitten, truly, and just as pathetic. Did you think you could play this game with me, huh? You stupid, stupid girl." The tendrils wrapped tighter around her throat, and darkness was beginning to eat away from her field of vision. Ah! Was she-- was she losing consciousness? "So fragile. So breakable. Do you get it now, Morgan?" Mid-sentence, its voice changed, too, and to her own horror, the sorceress realized it was her who was speaking! (Well, it wasn't, but it may as well have been, with how good the copy was. Unrecognizable, truly. Gods, gods, gods.) "That you can never, ever beat me. Now, watch as that useless halfbreed dies."

"Guinevere!" it called out with Morgan's voice, and the real Morgan shivered. "Guinevere, my love, do you hear me? The locket requires blood, just like the Excalibur did. The dagger! The dagger is a key. Take it, Guinevere, and slit your wrists. Shower the locket in blood-- it will guide you from that point. Return to me, as fast as you can! I've missed you so, so much."
 

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