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Futuristic ♕ Camelot | ellarose & Syntra

Sub Genres
Action, LGTBQ, Magical

ellarose

wanderer
"Morgan! Oh, thank god." Guinevere's eyes brighten like stars when her Morgan speaks again, her voice sounding much, much clearer now than before. Relief sweeps so much weight from her shoulders that it feels like she could float on air. Together they can figure this out. (The sorrow in this timeline would be too much for her to bear. To be shut out by her fae family and separated from her own time, the people she knows and loves? As lovely and sweet as the Morgan sitting across from her is, she still isn't her Morgan. And to experience that all while being trapped under a new Arthur's ego for the rest of her days... oh, it sounds like torture.) "Yes! Yes, I can hear you now. I missed you, too. So, er, I guess you can see us, then?" If she could see the dagger, anyway, then she must see her as well. With a small smile, she waves... and subsequently feels very goofy for waving at an empty room. "That's what I thought, too. I used a dagger to get here, so using one to leave seemed..." When she inches closer to the dagger and dares to reach for it, the proximity stings her skin, it evokes such a strong reaction from her that she retches on it. Red flashes behind her eyes like a warning flare and they burn they way they might after staring directly at the sun for too long. Bringing a hand to her lips, wrapping an arm around her protesting stomach with the other, she shrinks slightly. "It's... I don't know if I should use this one, though."

"Don't you trust me, Guinevere?" 'Morgan' asks. "If you do, you will follow my instructions now. Hurry!"

"...What? Of course I--" Guinevere looks up so quickly that it gives her whiplash. Something is... slightly off, isn't it? Because in all the time she's known Morgan, she never once used her trust as a bargaining chip. That and now that she thinks about it, that comment about 'slitting her wrists and showering the locket in blood' was a bit extreme, wasn't it? It certainly brought incredibly gruesome imagery to mind. But, unmistakably, this is the sound of her Morgan's voice. Unless she also has an estranged identical twin named, say, Megan that she never met. (And even with every twist and turn that magic has thrown her way thus far, that concept seems incredibly far fetched. Jen was enough to deal with, thank you very much.) So maybe the, uh, urgency of this situation is getting to her? "But I saw red just now. And-- and what about this Guinevere? Will she be okay?"

"Oh, please. What does the color red have to do with anything? It won't hurt you. That's all in your head, my love." 'Morgan' says impatiently. (Oookay. Weird. Wasn't it Morgan herself who told her to avoid the color red when it comes to magic?) And, uh, that last line kind of reminded her of words Arthur said to her millions of times before. (Like, 'oh, do you think I'm an arrogant piece of shit? That's all in your head, my love!' Classic gaslighting. Except that Morgan isn't that kind of person. No, she's Arthur's opposite in every conceivable way!) "Guinevere, you are running out of time. The switch will be permanent if you don't act soo-- ah!"

There's a scream. And then silence.

"Morgan?" Guinevere drops her every doubt in an instant when concern takes its place. Oh no. What if her hesitation just now-- what if it cost them everything? What if her love needed her there-- what if everyone was in danger? "Are you okay--?" No answer. "Morgan?"

"I-- I do trust you. Please, please be okay!" Fear for her love and her future pushes Guinevere to act before she's ready. She takes the dagger into her hand and the world around her floods with red. The red of rubies, red of blood.

---

The other Guinevere writhes in the tendrils hold as the spirit uses Morgan's voice. Eventually, she frees one of her hands. Although this is clearly not the most pleasant turn of events, it distracts the spirit long enough to give her an opportunity to act. Glaring hard at the locket dangling in the air, she bites into her thumb like its an apple and summons the Excalibur to her side. (Desperate times, yes? As reluctant as she is, now isn't the time to avoid the riskier solutions.) Reaching for the spirits within the great sword's grasp, she uses her intuition to sense which of her selves would help her the most. The soft blue of a healer, the green of a flourishing forest, and the effervescent near-white of the winds. Her own spirit, in other words. Clearly, she trusts herself more than anyone. So she clears her mind to make space for it and, with a confident smile, she becomes one with the wind. Unable to shackle her now, the tendrils grasp at nothing as she swirls higher and higher, and high enough to whisk the locket from the tallest tendril's grasp.

"The switch will be permanent if you don't act soo-- ah!" The voice curses as the locket sails through the air and lands next to Morgan on the ground below. "No! No, I nearly had her!"

Guinevere sweeps down like a bird to Morgan's side, protectively taking the locket back into her hands. And yet despite this success, the wicked cackling of the spirit distracts her from taking any further action.

"Foolish fae. You have only secured her demise. Look." And sure enough, her other self is taking the dagger into her hands. Clearly locked up in a trance, she mechanically lowers the tip to her wrist. Blood begins to bead where it touches. No, no, no. At this rate--

"Morgan!" Guinevere clutches the locket tighter, trying to reach out to her Morgan in the past. She may be human, but she is clever. Smarter than anyone in Camelot. And certainly not useless or pathetic, like this foul spirit says. "Morgan, dear, it is a trap! Trust in your own judgement, for you are very wise. Always measure twice before severing something, yes? You must snap her out of it."

Once that is said, Guinevere urgently presses the locket into the present Morgan's palm. Once she's sure it's secure in her hands, she reaches within a second time. When she opens her eyes again, they emit the soft glow of the healer's blue. A transparent orb stretches around them, keeping the tendrils at bay. "Do not be afraid. Fair warning-- this may tickle a bit." Gently, she wraps her hands around the sorceress's throat. Only she doesn't press, doesn't seek to harm her or crush her windpipe. A soft light emits from them as she concentrates on restoring her voice. Then, at last, they flicker a little before dimming to their usual shade. "T-there."

"You may be a better teacher than I, Morgan. Humans must use magic quite differently, do they not?" She winces, completely spent. It certainly puts their suffering into perspective for her. Never before has she experienced such exhaustion from casting magic. It is supposed to be as effortless as breathing, and yet... If anything, however, it only solidifies her belief that they are stronger for their struggles. That they can fight and persist in spite of them. "I believe you can help them in a way I cannot." The protective orb erected around them shudders as a tendril slams into it. She furrows her brow as she focuses on restoring it. "Worry not. I will-- I will hold the spirit off for as long as I can."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Morgan had, of course, lost her voice before. Who hadn't? An illness had claimed it many times, and oh, had it been frustrating! Especially when words were the only weapon a lady could wield-- at least if she hoped to be able to find shelter within the walls of Camelot, really. Just, how was she supposed to fight her battles with empty hands? Tragic, utterly so! ...except that those worries, you see, had been nothing in comparison with the way she felt now. 'No!' the sorceress screamed in her mind. 'Gwen! Gwen, don't listen. You aren't this naive. Come on, come on, come on! Do you truly think I'd sound like this?' Because while this was her voice, indeed, the entity didn't wield it with the same finesse! No, it used it as a bludgeon, as a tool to beat Guinevere into submissiveness. This wasn't a conversation at all. A conversation required two participants, standing on equal footing-- two participants who were willing to not just talk, but also listen. Shouldn't Guinevere know the difference? The blueprint had been given to her, over and over and over, so, surely, the deviation from the pattern would not go unnoticed!

...or perhaps it would. (Back in the darker days, when Arthur's rule had been unshakable, Morgan had wondered what going to the gallows would feel like. To her, it had been an obvious conclusion, you know? A fitting full stop behind her life, so hastily written-- not a full book or even a chapter, indeed, but just a verde unfinished. A lonely, lonely stanza. After thinking of it, the sorceress had decided that she'd accept her fate with pride. Crying out? No, that was unworthy of one who commanded magic. Life and Death were one, after all, and the other side of the coin didn't scare her. No, of course not! The spirits had often brought her to the brink of the abyss, really, and Morgan-- Morgan knew what to expect, thanks to that. So, obviously, she wouldn't grant her brother the joy of watching her squirm! Her own demise wouldn't become a spectacle for him to enjoy, nor would she give the unwashed masses a reason to rejoice. Morgan le Fey would die as she had lived-- with dignity, which was honestly a concept most of these idiots probably had to look up in a thesaurus.)

In a way, these fantasies had prepared her for her death in advance. You know what they hadn't prepared her for, though? For watching the love of her life bleed out in real time! Morgan had never even thought she'd have a person like that, and so she hadn't bothered with strategies, and-- and--

"Lady Guinevere," the other Morgan said, her eyes wide. "What are you doing? Did we not agree that the dagger is dangerous?" Confused, she touched the other woman's shoulder, but... nope, she may as well have been a ghost. That was how easily Guinevere managed to ignore her! Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods. This wasn't normal, was it? Morgan wouldn't dare to presume what was considered mundane in the world of magic, of course, but this struck her as seriously wrong! "Lady Guinevere," she grabbed her by her sleeve, "talk to me!"

...and she did, though not in a way she would have expected. Ah, that sweet, sweet voice! This was queen Guinevere-- her Guinevere, in truth, if she ever dared to claim her aloud like the future Morgan apparently did. Even across the centuries, she recognized it easily, and... oh. This probably wasn't the time to admire the way it caressed her ears, was it? "Ah," Morgan sighed, "ah, please, queen Guinevere, tell me how to do it! I am still ignorant in the ways of magic. How do I break the trance? No matter what I do, my words won't reach her soul!"

Ah, damn, the other Morgan thought, why isn't anyone suggesting the obvious? The sorceress wanted to scream it, so loudly it would tear her own throat apart, but her voice just wasn't there! ...til Guinevere wrapped her hands around her throat, at least. The feeling of deja vu gripped her, possibly tighter than the woman herself, and then-- then--

"Oh, gods," Morgan inhaled as she rubbed her neck, feeling as if a whole stone had been pulled out of it. "I can't believe that... thank you, Guinevere." More heartfelt thanks had to wait, however, because there was a crisis to solve. "Morgan! My other self! Do you hear me?" And, weird as it was, the response came immediately.

"Yes. Yes! What do I do? I can't cast magic yet, and I'm human, and--"

"Right," Morgan interrupted, "so use those human hands of yours. Take it away from her, dammit!" True, she may have been the better teacher, but that didn't mean she could explain the concept of cooperation with the spirits to the other Morgan within five seconds. Just, not how it worked! Insisting on magical solutions when there were entirely mundane ways of dealing with this, however? Oh, that would have been stupid.

The Morgan from the past seemed to realize this, too, for her mouth opened in a small, surprised 'o'-- a classic 'how could I have been this stupid' expression. Swiftly, she confiscated Guinevere's dagger, and... hmmm. Use these human hands, right? Without thinking of the consequences, she turned to Gwen and slapped her across the face, with all her might. "Wake up. Wake up, or... or you won't be able to return to your Morgan!"
 

ellarose

wanderer
The dagger burns like fire, searing Guinevere's fingertips when they brush the hilt and the sensation spreads until it consumes her. She opens her eyes to find herself in a red-infused world. After that? Well, she wasn't a particularly eloquent speaker before Morgan taught her how to wield her words as well as her sword-- and even after all the practice and refining, she may never find the right words to describe what happened next. Every conceivable sound blares at the same time, creating a confusing cacophony that grates on her eardrums. The world whooshing to life around her is made up of semi-transparent layers of different scenes from different times and places overlapping and unraveling all at once. People, animals, seasons all pass and phase through each other in a way she would probably describe as an absolute clusterfuck if her own sense of self didn't feel so very small and insignificant amidst it all. Her heartbeat thumps as if she has two of them, then five, then ten-- and the sensations thrumming behind each one surmount her. Drowning in an ocean much larger than herself, she doesn't even have time to fear that she might lose herself before she realizes that she can't quite remember her own name. Life and death, it cycles over and over, and there's nothing she can touch or control. And then... nothing.

A wheel of flames spins against a dark sky, a white stag stands in the distance... by a statue. A statue of a girl, a goddess maybe, that stands tall while wild grass grows at her feet. This is your purpose. What you were born for. Her... purpose? The words scrape something familiar, touches on a memory. Your blood must flow to perpetuate the cycle. Suddenly she's surrounded by figures in white hoods, chanting so quietly she can't quite make out what they're saying. Cultists. Fear grips at her heart as one of them turn to look at her. This is... oh. How did she escape from them before? She recalls flickering candles in her room and the warmth of Morgan's hands wrapped around hers as she explained how magic--

Morgan. That's right. That's fucking right. She's Guinevere, damn it! A person, in spite of everything, who has love and a future and happens to be more than the 'purpose' they tried to shove down her throat. Well. And now she's cutting into her wrist with a dagger. Shit. And she can't pry her the blade away. Oh, god. She only took the dagger to return to Morgan and now she may be in danger too. She can't lose her. She just can't. They spent so much time working and rebuilding after Camelot's fall that they had little to no time yet to focus on themselves outside of Arthur's reign. And Morgan, god, she's free of him for the first time in her life. There's still so much for them to explore together and-- and-- Guinevere is jolted entirely back into herself as the dagger disappears. The fire, the stag, and the cultists are spirited away like smoke. And then-- ouch. (Uninvited, Arthur flashes in her mind. The wrath behind his slap when she mouthed him off, trying to speak up on Morgan's behalf. And she was his wife. Had he always treated those who came to her love's defense like that, just scared them away with threats? Or... had anyone ever even tried? She feels she knows the answer to this question, but doesn't want to consider it. It's too... ugh. No. If they live through this, she won't be alone like that ever again. But she, ah, actually has to make it back to do that--)

"Wake up, or... or you won't be able to return to your Morgan!"

"...Shit! What was that for?" Guinevere flinches and brings a hand to her cheek. Her vision is blurry and it takes a few blinks to bring the Morgan of the past back into focus. She holds the dagger away from her... the dagger, which still has very bad vibes radiating off of it. Oh. "Oh." Yeah. Okay, that's fair. And it's not like she hit her hard enough to leave a bruise or anything. Not like...

"R-right. Bad idea. Just... put it away. Please." Swallowing hard, Guinevere tries to shake it off her shoulders the same way Toastington shakes off water after a bath. Everything she experienced just now. Strong as she tries to be, though, she gives the faint impression of having seen a ghost. (It's those asshole cultists. The gave her those endless sermons night after night, pounded the concept of a 'purpose' into her. She tries, you know, to pretend that she didn't absorb any of it. But she spent a month existing as an empty husk so that others could live. If a mote of truth existed in their teachings... is it really fair to Morgan? To love her and then have to leave her to-- ugh-- serve her purpose? Because the frightening truth is that... so far, those cultists know more than anyone about who-- no, what she is. And how her blood is supposed to work.) Still, there are more pressing matters to attend to now. Guinevere wraps a hand around her wrist to stem the bleeding. "But Morgan, I... I heard her scream. And she told me to. I..." Her strong front crumbles a little, then. A liability. That's what she feels like. "I can't do anything to help her here. I can't lose her, I-- I--"

"Do not fret. She is here with me, little warrior." Guinevere tilts her head, panic waning when she hears her own voice speaking. Well, it's hers and it isn't at the same time. That 'little warrior', though, is familiar enough. The same title used by the spirit who helped her find Morgan when Camelot fell. Just in time, too, because Arthur was going to-- "I am not going to let anything happen to her. But, ah, we n-need to..."

Slam, slam, slam
. In the present, the barrier shudders and a spiderweb of cracks appears where the tendrils smash repeatedly into it. The other Guinevere coughs and blood sprays over both the Excalibur and the mirrored floor.

"We must hurry." Guinevere bows her head and grits her teeth. (They're bloody and aching. It reminds her of the unpleasant sensation she gets from reapplying her glamour each month.) Even so, fortunately for them, the sword absorbs most of her blood. As it does, their connection strengthens-- her eyes and the Excalibur's steel glowing with the same snowy hue. She takes it in her hands and raises it above her head before slamming it down into the ground with all her might. A wave of energy pulses outward and the spirit shrieks as it's blown back. They aren't free of it yet, not necessarily, but it should give them a little more time. "Morgan, explain again to your Gwen what she must do. Watch the spirit. I will focus on passing through the doorway." She smiles, then, if a bit sadly and presses a light kiss to her cheek. "Truthfully, I... would have liked to be free for just a little while longer. To learn more about you and about the exciting future you hope to create here. But it is time for me to return. This life is not mine to live." Then, resolved to her fate, she stares blankly at her lap before letting her eyes flit shut. "...I would not wish mine on anyone. Especially not your Gwen." And if she is to live on, she may as well cherish the moments she still has with her own Morgan. Ah, she misses her. She does, she does... and she collects that feeling in her chest, pushes her energy towards the prospect of retuning to her side.
 
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Syntra

Baba Yaga
Just, ugh. How could someone this smart also be so staggeringly stupid? And the other Morgan had to be smart, the sorceress was sure. As her other self, she couldn't be anything but! (Them being carbon copies seemed implausible, for several reasons, but there had to be some similarities-- significant similarities, in fact, for them to be considered the same person. It couldn't be history, obviously, so what was there left? The few traits that couldn't be influenced by your environment, such as your willingness to learn.) Yet, despite her intellectual prowess, the proto!Morgan hadn't thought of something as simple as, you know, taking the dagger away from the person who was trying to hurt herself. Maddening! If her inability to act sentenced Guinevere to death... gods, Morgan would show her past self no mercy. No, not a hint of it. She'd find a way to return there, you see, and locate the other Morgan, and... and break her nose, dammit! Tearing the very fabric of reality? A reasonable price for getting her revenge, she thought. (...well, that, and without Guinevere, none of it mattered, anyway. Morgan didn't have the emotional capacity to deal with time travel paradoxes right now, so she refused to do it! When their dimension began collapsing on itself, the sorceress would spare it some thought. Then, and not a second sooner.)

But, after a few heartbeats, the light returned to Guinevere's eyes. Ah, thank you. Thank you, gods! Morgan's knees almost buckled with relief, but... no. Not yet. They could rest once Gwen managed to cross the boundaries before the worlds, for anything else would have been pure foolishness. Just tempting fate, in truth! (No, she wouldn't celebrate the victory before they held it in their hands-- triumph blinded you to dangers, and right now? Right now, the sorceress needed to see.)

The other Morgan, meanwhile, seized the dagger, with the same kind of caution one might use for neutralizing venomous snakes. "O-oh. Thank goodness. Lady Guinevere, I am so happy you are safe! That person that spoke to you... it wasn't your Morgan. I am not sure who it was, but someone - or something - spoke to you, using her voice. That's how this happened. I... I think, at least. I apologize, my lady," the woman bowed her head, "for not being able to protect you. I didn't know how. It all happened so fast, and there was so much blood, and--" she let out a desperate, choked sound, and then fell silent, as if her vocal cords gave out. (Oh, how easily Guinevere could have died! A single moment of idleness, indeed, and she might have paid the highest of prices. Was this what the world of magic was like? Did toying with such forces mean having to learn how to stop blinking, then? Because, so far, it seemed that the blink of an eye was all it took for everything to go to hell! ...perhaps, perhaps she understood now why her other self was like that, just a little bit. Vigilance could be draining, you know? And when you had to keep it up for days on end, you got tired. Exhaustion was the gate to cruelty, or at least one of them, and... yes, yes, this did make some sort of sense.)

"Guinevere," the present!Morgan whispered, wincing when blood stained her mouth. (Did they have to hurry? Yes, clearly! Every idle second lowered their chances of success, by whole percentages, probably, and the demon did not need that kind of assistance. Oh no, no, no. It could beat them even without, and easily at that! ...still, though. What kind of person would she be if she didn't offer her any reassurance at all? This woman may not have been her Guinevere, but without her, Gwen wouldn't even have been born, and... well. In some respect, Morgan supposed, she felt indebted to the fae.) "Guinevere, I... I promise it will all be worth it, one day. Not immediately, perhaps, and definitely not in the way you deserve, but it isn't all just darkness and despair. At the end of the day, you have each other. That will never change. I feel honored that I was able to get to know you. Never in my life shall I forget you, that I can promise. On my honor."

As far as speeches went, it was a decent one, the sorceress thought, but there was no time to dwell on it. The tendrils only seemed to grow more enraged by the minute, and oh, gods! Was it just her, or could she hear something shattering in the background? (A wall of glass, perhaps, but there wasn't any, which could only mean that... oh no.) Swiftly, Morgan reached for her own dagger, and buried it in her palm. Blood could act as a key, right? That meant it could be a seal, too, and perhaps, perhaps she'd manage to keep this creature at bay for just a few seconds longer. (Every one of them was worth the entire world to her, in that moment. So what if pain bloomed in her hand? Anything of worth had to be paid for, and some things couldn't be purchased with gold.)

"Gwen!" she shouted. "Gwen, can you hear me? Focus on home. On me. So many memories bind us, so use them! Return where you belong, before the door closes. I don't know how long we can keep it open. I trust in you, Guinevere. If it's you, you'll find the way. If not, I will... I will chase you down, I promise! Wherever you are. Not even the time itself can keep us apart."
 

ellarose

wanderer
"...Hey, hey. I'm still here, right? Don't beat yourself up." How many times has she heard the choked sound the other Morgan made just now? Introducing kids and sometimes even people her own age to weapons, teaching them to fight in the wastes when they had no place else to go... and the wastes being the wastes, oftentimes things went horribly wrong. Not everyone is used to the grit and gore of battle, of relying on a few snap decisions for survival. Maybe it is true that a moment of hesitation just now could have cost her life. The same could be said of her decision to take the dagger... her decision to act on what the false 'Morgan' told her, even when her gut told her otherwise. The point is, things could have been bad, but they weren't. (Well, they're still pretty bad, but-- well, clearly they could be worse. She could be dead!) Dwelling on it all would do nothing to improve the situation. They just have to dust themselves off, roll with the punches and move on. With an easygoing smile, Guinevere rests a hand on the other Morgan's shoulder to reassure her. "Mistakes are good as long as they don't kill you, right? You learn from 'em and shit." She nods sagely. "...And technically you just saved my life. So, thanks." Then her brow furrows and her smile fades. "I'm the one who really fucked up... falling for that trap."

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Guinevere's so cross with herself she doesn't realize she's swearing up a storm. (How did she of all people become queen of an entire kingdom again--?) Now would be a real good time to swallow a dose of her own advise not to dwell, though, as her Morgan's voice greeted her again. "Morgan? Is that..." Lovely as ever, of course, but is this the real Morgan? Her Morgan? Guinevere's chest tightens at the sound and she brings a metaphorical gauntlet down on her hopes before they can soar too high. Listen, child. Excalibur's voice whispers from within. (Hm. Strange how she doesn't seem to hear it this way in the future. Maybe it's because this version of the sword is new... while the one she has is very, very old? Do, uh, the voices of magic swords weaken over the years? The myriad of unanswered questions swirling around in her head is downright disorienting.) Your heart will know the answer.

Hah. There's something about that... something that makes her eyes sting. Because how often does that happen, hm? How often is she told to trust in herself? It's always Guinevere who has to put her trust in others. Always expected to obey when they say that they know what's best for her. When they tell her who she should be and how she's supposed to live her life. (Those cultists, Jen, Arthur. And now Camelot, too... almost all of Camelot except for--) She may never have learned how to trust herself without the support of those who genuinely trusted in her. Then suddenly her gang arrived in Camelot and the people who always trusted in her-- like Adrianne-- began to question whether she knew what was best. The same as everyone else. Her 'too much' personality gets in the way of her usefulness as a resource, or she's a decoration, a fragile doll, a mere supporting character in Arthur's story-- or she needs to be protected and kept out of sight because otherwise she's a liability.

I trust in you, Guinevere. Somehow, those words manage to hit harder than they did the first time. Not only does Morgan's trust mean the world to her-- but it's damn important because of everything they'd gone through up to that point for her to earn it. This is Morgan, the woman who practically broke her heart when she broke down saying she felt she was incapable of trusting anyone. If she has the sorceress's trust, then...

Ah. If this is another trick, it's a very cruel one. If the voice is just using her love to say exactly what she wants to hear...

Guinevere finds that she's tired. On some deeper level than body-swapping, time travel and ingesting poisoned berries. She wonders if she has it in her to make it back. This time Morgan speaks with the softness she knows so well, the softness that was absent the first time around. She sounds like the real Morgan... and, well, her request to think about everything they've been through wouldn't do nearly as much harm as showering the locket in her blood would. All she wants now is to burrow her face in the crook of her neck, to wrap her arms around her. To give some affection and receive some in return. Simple, simple needs that could see fruition if she only-- ah. Then Morgan promises to come for her if she can't and the reassurance bolsters her. As long as they're together, everything will be okay. Right?

"That's... that's pretty romantic." Guinevere observes. Then she nearly slaps herself for it because it sounds like they're running out of time! Blushing, she gives her head a furious little shake to snap herself out of it.

"--Okay. I'm going home now. Or I'm going to, um, try anyway." Guinevere resolves and looks to the Morgan beside her. "Thanks for taking care of me. It was nice meeting you." Well, as nice as it could be considering the circumstances, anyway. (And yeah, it's kind of a mundane way of saying goodbye to someone she met in the freaking past, but etiquette classes never prepared her for this.) Plus, she doesn't have anything against this Morgan or anything, but she wants to get the hell out of here and never come back. She closes her hand around the locket and closes her eyes at the same time.

The other Guinevere does the same, holding tightly to the locket while the ghost of a smile touches her lips with Morgan's profound parting words.

It doesn't take very long for Guinevere to immerse herself in memories they've shared. Having just relived their first meeting, it isn't very difficult to commit to it. (That and, honestly? Thinking about Morgan has never been hard. She always relied on those memories to cope in Camelot, whenever she felt trapped or small or alone. Their skirts whooshing around their legs as Morgan taught her to dance, the triumph of taking down the first monster they fought together as a team, the first night they spent in the tent at camp together... hah, that cute little kiss on the nose Morgan had given her in the pantry, and then the sweet taste of bananas on her lips during their first actual kiss. The hardships they endured afterwards... leading up to the vows they exchanged. The night she received the very locked that she's holding in her hands now.) Morgan was so different when they met. It took time, but she slowly opened up to her. She softened and revealed a compassionate side that no one ever would have guessed existed behind those walls she held up around herself.

There's the sensation of dislodging, of falling forever. Both lockets emit a soft, silver glow and both of the Guineveres go limp at the same time. Snapshots of numerous moments flashed, then, moments spent with women with distinct green eyes. The Morgans of the past and the future. Naturally drawn to the memories dearest and most familiar to them, they crossed paths and--

"--Shit. Fuck." Guinevere sputters on blood when she comes to. Blinking her eyes open tentatively, she doesn't immediately take in their ominous surroundings, her aching teeth or the fact that she isn't wearing shoes-- oh no, no, no. She's too preoccupied with Morgan. There's no mistaking it. This is her Morgan. Which means she made it. "Morgan!" Without thinking, the first thing she does upon realizing this is pull her in for what must be the tightest hug she's ever given anyone in her entire life. She hugs her like she never wants to let her go. Like she loves her, which, you know, she does. Staggered by relief, she incoherently whispers those words against her neck, over and over.
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Just breathe. It will be fine, okay? Because it had to be! Nevermind that she was talking to herself, just like when she'd been a scared little girl. Nevermind that that couldn't be a good sign, in any universe imaginable. Nevermind that they were still stuck in this dark pit, alone and unarmed and at the demon's mercy. None of that mattered, you see, because Morgan had promised. ('Pffft, just words', she would have said a few months ago. 'Mere words, and words are wind. Build your life around them if you wish to, but don't get too surprised when the foundations collapse on themselves.' ...that cynicism, though? Somewhere along the line, it had turned into a memory-- a snapshot of a previous life, captured as a cautionary tale. Words, you see, meant everything! A confession of love, so sweetly whispered, or a willingness to speak a promise into existence and mean it, or maybe a metaphorical helping hand extended towards one who was drowning-- all acts of immense importance, indeed. Anyone with a working pair of eyes could see that, Morgan didn't doubt. No, only people like Arthur spoke flippantly, as if the words falling from his lips were rain drops! Not precious pearls to be remembered, but common rocks, with no other power than to hurt you. ...the weight of a good promise could be crushing, both to the one who said it and to the one it was said to, except that not with him. Oh no, never with him! Slowly, Arthur had ground the faith others had had for him into fine dust, and that in turn had stolen all the power away from his words. ...they were empty, just like him. A cracked shell of an egg, acting like a tomb to itself.)

So, the point? Morgan wouldn't allow that to happen to her promises! Once the torch went out, it was difficult to light it once again, and... no. No, she wouldn't allow it. Even if it cost her her life, she would find a way to find Guinevere again. It mattered very little which dimension she was stuck in-- death itself hadn't managed to separate them, so this wouldn't, either. Just like the sky and the sun, they belonged together, and like them, they'd always be reunited! ...the night would end, one day. If nothing else, Morgan at least liked to believe that. (Cycles, right? Once, they'd ruled their planet, in a much more meaningful way-- there had been spring and summer and fall and winter, all with their own distinct flavor. The greyness of the wastes was a parody of that, with its stubborn refusal to change! Except that this wasn't the natural state of things-- always, nature hated stagnation, and so it moved forward. The way the day and night ruled in tandem proved it, as well as the phases of their own lives, and this, if nothing else, gave Morgan hope. It may take a while, yes, but this period without Gwen would end, too!)

...sooner than she had thought, apparently. "Gwen," the sorceress shrieked, utterly free of dignity, but for once, she didn't care. Oh gods, gods, gods! Guinevere was back, just like that. (That Morgan could still feel the demon's gaze on her, dark and twisted? That bothered her about as much as an earthquake on the other side of the planet would.) "I knew why I trusted you. I didn't doubt your skills, not even for a second!" Burying her face in her hair, she hugged her tighter, as if only that embrace could prevent her from disappearing in the stream of time again, and--

"How very, very moving!" the entity in the shadows smirked."A human sorceress and her precious half-breed, hanging onto each other for dear life. Have you forgotten I'm still here, huh? Because I certainly haven't. Now that I can speak to both of you, actually, I will ask you something. I've been wondering-- what is it that you see in one another? The sense of shared failure, perhaps? Knowing that neither of you is enough? ...healing the eath, pfft. As if you two could do it!"

...yes, that actually reminded Morgan that holding Gwen in her arms wasn't actually the solution to all of their problems. Sigh. (How to get out of there, though? An immense amount of energy was needed, clearly, and she alone couldn't generate it, but... but the demon could. Hmm. Now, if they found a way to direct that energy where it needed to go--)

"Gwen," Morgan whispered to her, "can you provoke it into attacking? Ridiculous, I know, but I believe I can harvest that energy and use it to free us. It's, um, complicated. I don't know who this creature is, but it's the one who stole my voice. I suspect the ritual may have gone awry because of it, too. Anyway, we, uh, have to get out of here." Had to, yes, otherwise the darkness would creep into their hearts! The guy who had complained about the abyss staring back into him knew what he had been talking about. "Will you do it for me?"

"Oooh, sharing secrets? Without me?" the entity laughed. "Not very polite of you, little ones. Perhaps I should teach you a lesson."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere finds solace, feeling the rhythm of Morgan's heartbeat so close to her own. She's only a breath away from letting herself be vulnerable in the sorceress's arms, from allowing herself to cry some of the tears she refused to shed when she was trapped in the vise-grip of the past. Reliving a snippet of Arthur's mistreatment, coping with helplessness and loneliness and nausea and poison, illusionary voices and that mysterious dagger-- so much has been hurled at her that she can't even begin to process it all. For now, she's just relieved to be herself in her love's embrace, trusted and welcomed and loved exactly as she is, and-- and all her softness habitually hardens to steel when a voice bulldozes through their short-lived moment. Always, always short lived. And right now she resents it more than ever, a feeling that's punctuated by the scowl on her face. Kind of unfortunate that she's too responsible to pull an Arthur and demand they get, say, a vacation when they return to Camelot. (Hah. Right. In both of their lives, neither of them have ever afforded a vacation. They let their guards down for even a second and it may well cost them everything.) Welp. She didn't get this far by drowning in self-pity, did she? Neither of them did. And, of course, her brilliant Morgan has a plan.

"...Anything for you. I'll be insufferable, my love." Guinevere quotes Morgan's past observations about her own behavior with a mischievous smirk. That's when she notices then that the other woman's hand is bleeding. (Shit. She wants to ask if she's okay, but she knows that answer will have to come later. They'll be in even worse trouble if they don't focus now!) Against her will, her playfulness softens just a fraction to reveal a smidgen of concern hiding beneath her surface as she leans forward and gives her a peck on the cheek. Then she turns to face her opponent. Hidden in the shadows, and yet... she squints, finding now that she's getting a good look at this place that it's familiar. Wasn't she dragged here shortly before she forged her contract with Excalibur? That's right. After she witnessed the death of her third self by Arthur's hand, those shadows crept around her and dragged her under to a dark place just like this. When she broke free of it's trance, it grew and turned into that-- that monster. Hoo boy.

"Pfft, what the hell am I gonna learn from you? I learned all I need to know about manners from Morgan, thank you very much." Guinevere bluffs, resting her hands on her hips. Geez, what did her other self do with her body while she was away? She's exhausted and aching all over. Even so, she pushes down on that with all her might and pulls together a disposition exuding raw strength and confidence. "If stealing voices and trying to kill people is your idea of polite, then... I dunno. I think you're a lost cause." A shadow snaps at her ankle, but she sidesteps just in time. It lights a spark in her and she smiles broadly. Ah! How long has it been since she last danced with danger like this? There's a confidence that comes with knowing her own steps, her own body. (A sentiment that takes a whole new meaning after what she's been through.) It's a rhythm she knows by heart, one that she hasn't found with magic quite yet. "Too slow. Gonna have to try harder than that, buddy!"

This back and forth continues in the same vein-- tendrils snapping towards her and Guinevere evading them. Her comments are mostly innocuous, teasing pokes and jabs. That is until she finds herself losing steam. There's only so long she can keep this up before this thing catches her. So she glares and aims for the heart. "You're... you're the real failure, aren't you? Hiding in the shadows 'cause you're too ashamed to show your face?"

"...That's rich coming from you. Your mother threw you away the moment she realized what an abomination you were. Your so-called father sold you off to a cult for a reward when times got hard and your sister abandoned you. She blames you for everything and rightfully so." The voice hisses. Taking Guinevere off guard at last, a shadow snares around her waist and yanks her down onto the ground. Her jaw aches worse than ever. "I have answers that your dear sorceress could never know, half-breed. Either you get them from me, or... I don't know. You can always go back to your devoted cult? They're ready for you, you know. They've sharpened their knives. Now they're waiting for the right moment to strike. But even if I warn you now, you're still not going to see it coming... because you're so very gullible and naive. You always have been."

"You're lying. Just to get under my skin." Guinevere grits out, too stubborn to let any of it sink in deep enough to hurt. Okay, sure. Jen left her. But her old man loved her. He did everything he could to hide her from people that might hurt her! And genuinely, she trusts him more than she trusts this voice in the shadows. "Making things up to hurt me... it's not going to work. You're playing games. Tricked me once by taking Morgan's voice, I'm not-- not gonna fall for it." She's about to insist that she's not as naive as the demon thinks, really, but she can't say that as it squeezes her tighter. Her teeth sting. She coughs up more blood. And then, along with it... flower petals? What the fuck.

"Don't you see? Your glamour is breaking. And without forests to tend to, your true nature gets bottled up inside of you." The voice says in a coaxing voice. Guinevere coughs and coughs and... a red flower spills from her lips. "A clueless half-breed like you doesn't stand a chance. Surrender the Excalibur to me. Your responsibilities will disappear. You'll finally be free. Isn't that what you want?"

Guinevere closes her eyes. With something else stuck in her throat, she doesn't have any witty comebacks. Despite the confusion and pain of what she's going through, she knows that this, too, could be illusionary. And even if it isn't? Like hell is she going to give up now. Not a chance! After everything they've been through, she's not going to go down surrendering like this. Shakily, she raises her middle finger in the air.

"Do you truly expect your human lover to know all of the answers? She doesn't know what you are any more than you do!" The voice is enraged, but Guinevere doesn't pay it any mind. Mainly because she can feel the zing of electricity in the air as the energy shifts. There... it's preparing to strike now. She can only trust that Morgan knows what to do next.
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Yes, Morgan did have a plan, thank you very much. A daring one, too-- one that wouldn't look out of place in one of those cheesy adventure novels she'd always secretly laughed at, really. Now, the catch? Why, the sorceress had no idea whether it would actually work! (...oh, if only she could glimpse into the future. A second, or even a fraction of it, would have been enough-- a single yes/no question answered, and Morgan happily would have returned to her usual, clairvoyance-free self. How beautiful that would have been! ...except that, you know, you couldn't sacrifice that which you didn't have. Giving up the things that belonged to you was the entire point, and no, dreams didn't count. As denizens of the intangible world, the gods preferred something solid to hold onto! ...that was probably the reason they didn't like to bargain, either. That, and also the simple truth of mortals rarely having something interesting to offer.)

No. Stop. Focus, the sorceress reprimanded herself. She'd asked Gwen to serve as her meat shield, hadn't she? Well, not in those exact words, and not with that exact intent in mind, but in practice, that was what she had signed up for. The demon's wrath would be directed towards her now, yes, and Morgan... Morgan wasted her time with self-doubts, instead of actually doing something with the advantage Gwen had bought her! ...potentially with her own blood, too. With more than that, perhaps, if this thing feasted on one's essence instead of flesh. Spirits, the sorceress thought, are energy, aren't they? An oversimplification to be sure, though not a lie per se. They were more than just energy, yes, for they also contained imprints of various organisms, but the energetic component... well, it was significant. The level of self-awareness of the average spirit? Just a shadow of its former self! If you wanted exact numbers, or something close to them, the sorceress would say that the personality took up like ten percent of each spirit. The rest of it, of course, was energy-- the mysterious life force that allowed them to exist, and interact with the world. So, what did all of that mean? That Morgan had a lot of experience manipulating such energies, actually! ...in a totally different context, but let's ignore that for now. Sometimes, you just couldn't afford to run all the tests before taking the plunge, and this was one of those moments. The moment of truth, as Morgan liked to say. (A name like 'the moment of ridiculous recklessness' would have been a far more apt label, but also a more discouraging one. In magic, one's mindset was largely responsible for the outcome, so the sorceress pushed the thought back into the depths of her mind.)

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Let your own energies flow. (Back before the Catastrophe had struck, her ancestors had studied numerous phenomena-- and, among those, electricity had always fascinated Morgan. It jus seemed like a different brand of magic, you know? And, similarly to electricity, magic hated open circuits. That was why, with all her might, Morgan tried to close the channel of her thoughts. Nothing new could appear, and nothing that was old could perish! Freezing herself in time, if the gods were kind enough, would make her into a fine conductor. And if not... if not... No, no ifs. We haven't come this far only to be stopped by a mere demon at the end!)

...ah. Ah, there it went. The attack she had wished for, and also been dreading at the same time-- pure, concentrated force, flung in Guinevere's general direction. So, her response? Automatically, without thinking, Morgan stepped in front of Gwen. (She could feel it expanding, further and further and further. Faster than bamboo, her aura grew, and assumed the shape of a net, and, ahhh! It hurt, the impact along with its echo. A weaker woman would have keeled over, perhaps, but Morgan grabbed it, grabbed it with her bleeding hands, and--)

Whoosh. Gravity slammed her face into the ground, and her head was spinning, and... wait, this was soil. Soil, with its grass and earthy smells! Above them, in the sky, the sun was flickering weakly, too. (A pathetic shadow of the sun her ancestors had worshiped, but the real thing nonetheless. Oh, gods. Gods, that meant that--) "Gwen," Morgan managed to say, half a chuckle and half a sob. "I can't... I can't believe we've escaped! I mean, I can, otherwise I wouldn't have proposed the plan, but still. I was just... just shocked, I suppose. I'd never seen a creature like that. One more thing to research, once I complete other tasks of mine, at least, which..." Finally, Morgan bothered to look around, and the sight? Well, let's just say it took her breath away-- because, yeah, a white village on the horizon usually did that to you, in a world so submerged in filth. (The fact that this village was drowning in flowers, then, was just a mere bonus.) "Gwen," Morgan tugged on her sleeve, oh so urgently. "Are my eyes lying to me, or can you see that settlement as well?"
 

ellarose

wanderer
"R-right. Lots of firsts today, huh." Guinevere presses the heel of her palm against her brow, as if that might help stop the world around her from spinning. Like traveling in time, for instance. Talking to that awful spirit, coughing up-- flowers? Damn. Damn. Needless to say, it takes a moment or two for her to reacquaint herself with where she's at in the universe. Mainly, she's just grateful that Morgan's lively enough to talk to her after taking the brunt of that attack. (That she hasn't fainted with the strain of it all, that she seems to be-- well, Morgan. Her Morgan, her love. Sure, she trusts her wholeheartedly but... but seeing her in harm's way still scared her half to death, okay?) Who knows how long she's been away from her own body at this point? Her own timeline. She was thrown into the fray of that confrontation without explanation and now she's a touch disoriented. Last she remembers, they were in the wastes, trying to help that poor stag. So-- "So... we're out? Where're Sam and Adrianne and..." Then she looks down at herself, coming to terms with a certain detail that seemed too trivial to worry about while their lives were at stake. Awkwardly, she blushes and curls her toes. "And my shoes?"

Well, she can almost figure that out for herself. The first Guinevere hated shoes, didn't she? And her first self took her body for a spin for... however long it was that they switched places. (And pushed her to her limits with magic in the process, if the metallic taste of blood her mouth told her anything at all.) Ugh. She could use a good, long nap. Hah. Yeah, right. When did she ever have time to nap? She barely had the time to catch her breath these days. And the last time she pushed body over this particular threshold was right before--

Huh. The sun almost feels as warm against her skin as it did in that forest of the past. Not only that, but pretty flowers sway peacefully with the wind. To anyone raised within the endless gray of the wastes, this splash of color must stand out like a symbol of hope to those who come across it. And maybe it really is... maybe it would be to anyone but Guinevere. Stomach dropping, she takes a sharp breath when her gaze pans up to the village waiting from afar. Hah, oh god. She might be seeing it from another angle, sure, but listen-- she knows hell when she sees it! As the so-called goddess who is 'only required to exist', tied to a bed, drugged and stabbed repeatedly with a number of unsanitary syringes to make any of this possible-- and as the queen of a place like Camelot-- she knows better than anyone that appearances aren't everything. Morgan's tugging on her sleeve, but she can barely feel it through whatever metaphorical shield she's using to protect herself.

"...Yeah. I see it." Guinevere replies thickly. "They've been real busy since I've been gone." So this... this is how they were using all that blood they'd taken from her? Making their entrance look oh-so pretty and inviting? Oh, anyone who saw it would probably follow the trail and eventually come to agree with their teachings, you know, that they needed to-- to feast on fae blood to keep their precious planet turning the way it's supposed to! Anger warms her more than the sun and fear competes with an ice-cold chill down her spine. She doesn't notice at first that her nails are clawing into the soil. With two fistfuls of the stuff and a belly full of knots, the plants around them grow and twist. "Why..." Anguished and breathless, she chokes on her questions. If she lets her guard fall for even a second on their turf-- "No. Never mind why. We need to go."

The cult knows some important stuff, sure. Obviously, if they were able to make this field of flowers grow with vials of her blood. Guinevere even admitted it herself, when she gave the matter some thought in the past! But surrendering herself to them for the better of everyone is absolutely a last resort. No-- no-- nope! Fuck this, she's out. She wants to actually try before resulting to anything remotely like that, okay!? Ah. Her jaw aches worse than ever, she tastes blood and winces. Her teeth. Something's wrong with them. But like her shoes, it's yet another matter she ought to concern herself with later. When she's someplace safe and not flailing on the cusp of a pit of-- of venomous snakes.

"Quickly." Guinevere reaches for her hood to yank it over her head. It takes her a few tries to pull it on properly with her shaky hands. Please, please tell her no one saw them! With a rush of adrenaline, she manages to shove down on vertigo when she stands up too fast. Without wasting another moment, she reaches urgently for Morgan's hand to help her to her feet as well. "You heard me, right? W-we need to go. Before someone sees us. Can you stand?"
 
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Syntra

Baba Yaga
Honestly? Had they not been so close to their enemies' headquarters, Morgan would have screamed. (Just, ugh! Did every plan of hers simply have to go up in flames? Was it the vicious karma following them, figuring that, if fire couldn't claim their lives in the literal manner, it could, at the very least, seize them figuratively? Because, to the sorceress, it certainly felt like that.) "I don't know where they are," Morgan admitted, all dizzy. (How much blood had she lost? And, more importantly, would she be able to cast another spell or two in case everything went south? The very bones in her body were begging her not to, warning her that they would shatter under the weight, but... well. It wasn't like she had a choice here, was it? Unless you considered letting yourself be murdered a choice, of course, in which case the sorceress would applaud you for thinking outside of the box. ...she, however, preferred the traditionalist approach. Oh yes, yes! Rare as it was, Morgan could appreciate certain aspects of the old way from time to time-- such as, you know, the idea it was superior to die with a weapon in your hand instead of being slaughtered like a pig. A mere matter of principle, perhaps, though frankly? When you'd lost everything, ideals were a good shroud to wrap yourself in.) "I, uh, tried to redirect the energy where I wanted it to go, but the momentum was too much," she continued, trying her best to ignore the grim thoughts. Those, after all, wouldn't help anyone! Least of all Gwen.

"I think that, in some way, the demon was tethered to this place," the sorceress theorized. "Perhaps it was born here, or it died here, or... well, it matters not. The point is, it seems clear to me that either those people serve that thing, or alternatively, that thing serves them. There is some kind of symbiosis, undoubtedly." And as for how did she know? Oh, that wasn't a difficult equation to solve! Equal in difficulty to 1 + 1 being 2, indeed. Had the demon been unfriendly, you see, the village wouldn't have been allowed to thrive-- hell, it wouldn't have been allowed to exist. With those shadowy tendrils, the entity would have choked the life out of that patch of earth, not bothering to spare a single blade of grass. It would have feasted on the inhabitants' blood, too! Greedily, the thing would have gulped it down, and used their bones in place of a toothpick. None of that had happened, that much was clear. Why, though? Did they have a pact? Had the villagers summoned the thing, or did it just... let them live, for reasons of its own? Ah, if only she had more time to explore the dynamics! Despite the danger, it was fascinating, actually, and Morgan's head was spinning with all those possibilities. (Alright, alright, possibilities and blood loss. Guinevere is right, she tried to convince herself. We are in no shape to linger here. Now, if I commit the location to memory, I could perhaps...)

...wait. 'Since I've been gone?' Immediately, Morgan's eyes darkened. "Does the wretched cult dwell here?" That, at least, would lend some credence to her summoning theory, but... gods. Gods, gods, gods! How terrible it must have been for Gwen, to have to return to the place where they'd tormented her so-- to have to return there so unexpectedly, too, and practically defenseless. A waking nightmare, seemingly designed according to her worst fears! "Yes, of course I can walk," Morgan nodded, with newfound resolve shining through her voice. (Just... no. There was no way she could draw attention to her own injuries when Gwen was this distracted, and probably choking on her own horror.) "Don't worry about me. If we... if we don't run, I'll manage. Come, quickly." They wouldn't be able to get far, Morgan knew, but they didn't have to. As long as the cultists didn't know about them, they could remain relatively close-- out of sight, of course, and definitely out of mind as well, but within comfortable walking distance. Didn't they say that, under the lamp, there was always the greatest darkness? Oh yes, yes! Surely, they wouldn't think to look for them near their own home, where nobody sane would dare to venture. Some cavern could give them shelter where she'd recover, too, and afterwards--

"Ah ha!" someone laughed in the background, triumphant. (Uh oh. It was her own fault, the sorceress supposed, for thinking literally anything in their lives could go smoothly. The gods had probably heard those thoughts, in fact, and decided to spice things up!) "Our goddess returns to us, just as the prophecy claimed. Welcome, welcome back, our dear Guinevere. We've prepared your chamber once again, and have been awaiting your glorious arrival. Guards! Guards!"
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere has difficulty truly absorbing what Morgan has to say about that spirit being connected to this place when panic takes precedence over all else. In spite of the sun beaming down on her skin, she's wracked with shivering spells as her brain reaches for all of the worst-case scenarios that could come of her being caught unawares in this hellhole. Her path in life has never been without a mountain of obstacles and traps to overcome. She's hit some of her lowest lows out in the wastes. The starvation, the cold, the people she lost along the way... and yet she's never been as low as she was when she was trapped in this place. Having the life and personality sucked out of her day by day along with her blood, lying still and complacent as other people took care of all her basic needs as if she were to helpless to do anything on her own... all the while fearing that she was going to disappear without a trace. If she hadn't broken out using the magic Morgan taught her, death really would have been her only means of escape. And then she really would have disappeared. Worst of all, Morgan would have gone the rest of her life believing she abandoned her when-- when all she could think about in that wretched bed (you know, whenever she was actually capable of thinking) was how she wanted to return to her side and tell her how she felt.

All Guinevere can do is supply a weak nod when Morgan asks about the cult. All she can do is help Morgan to her feet and support her, to provide some stability as if she has any left to give as they turn to try and find a place to hide-- when a voice dashes whatever semblance of composure she managed to scrape up for herself. No! No, no, no... her heart and stomach and all her hopes of escaping this horrible place unscathed plunge with dread.

Shit. Fuck. Goddammit. Guinevere would rather swallow Excalibur whole than be dragged back to that chamber again. She's a mess of emotions on the inside and, according to Morgan, calling on the spirits for magic required that she shut down her emotions to wield it properly. If the spirits sense her fear, which is virtually unstoppable at this point, then... wait. The Morgan of the past also said something about fae magic relying on emotions, didn't she? Hm. Was that a core difference between human magic and fae magic? And-- and what if she's something in between? Oh, for fuck's sake! There's no time to be snapping puzzle piece together! He calls for guards and, without thinking, Guinevere--

"--No!" Guinevere isn't really sure what she did. But vines snap out of the soil and snatch the man up where he stands and dangle him high in the air. "Stay back. D-don't come any closer." She points Excalibur at him, but her aim grows unsteady as she hacks up more blood. Ah. Her chest clamps up, she struggles to breathe. And, infuriatingly, the man shakes his head pityingly at her.

"My lady, we will take good care of you here. We will. You must know by now that only we can help you serve your rightful purpose." He smiles, showing his teeth. "Don't you realize that running will only prolong the pain of those who suffer as you once did? We know you have a good heart, my lady. Make the right decision. You were born for this. We can help you."

"Decision?" Guinevere spits some excess blood along with the word and rubs her mouth clean with the back of her hand. She laughs, a touch hysteric, eyes squinting with the strain of keeping the man away from them. "Fuck off. You never gave me a choice."

"No one chooses who they are when they are born into this world. No, my lady," The man speaks to her like he would a child. Like they all did when they spoon-fed her and tortured her with those sermons, patted her head and-- the vines angrily squeeze the man tighter and he coughs. "But it is your decision whether or not to come peacefully. Because you will be coming with us either way."

Then as if on cue, the guards he had called appeared. And oh, there were so many of them. Too many of them. Some had weapons, of course, but more carried syringes. Guinevere can only stare as they're surrounded. The vines wither with her shock and release the asshole cultist. They've lost. She and Morgan are in bad enough shape as is, they can't possibly...

"W-wait. I'll come peacefully." Guinevere tries desperately, knowing they've been backed into a corner. If she's drugged, it's all over. Camelot-- Morgan-- taught her that some battles can be fought with words. "Please. Don't--"

"Come forward. Your chamber awaits, my lady." A guard smiles. They all have the same smile... one she'd love more than anything to punch. Guinevere probably blows her cover when she glances meaningfully at Morgan... because the guards then proceed to press forward to subdue them both by force. (Because of course they're going to take the 'choice' that was offered to her away as well. Classic cult!) What makes this even worse, perhaps, is that she isn't alone. Morgan's at their hands, too, and-- and who even knows what they're going to do with her? As the goddess or sacred blood bag or whatever, her life is guaranteed to be preserved at least. So what are the hell are they going to do with--

"No! You can take me, but don't touch her, you bas--" Guinevere shrieks. Though she kicks and struggles with her remaining strength to twist herself free, she feels the familiar stab of a needle in her arm and... her limbs drop like lead as Morgan and the world around her fizzle to darkness.

"She's become quite... difficult, our goddess. More so than before. Perhaps we have you to thank for that?" The cultist directs his attention to Morgan then, fixing her with an interested stare. The guards move like a well-oiled machine around them. Despite the fact that she's unconscious, four of them take to the task of carrying Guinevere to their village. One uses a cloth with complicated runes inscribed on it to take Excalibur into his hands. "Morgan le Fey. Do not fret. Friends of our goddess are friends of ours as well! Would you, perhaps, like to come inside?" He reassembles that horrible smile they all wear, as if he's inviting her to tea instead of into the lion's den.
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Oh, gods. Please, please, please, let this be a bad dream. Let me wake up by Gwen's side, and discover we haven't embarked on the journey yet. Which, undoubtedly, would have been the best outcome. Given how much energy she'd burned, you see, Morgan wouldn't be able to fight-- hell, she'd barely be able to lift a teaspoon with her magic right now. Maybe not even that, actually! (Would the spirits come if she called upon them, or was the fire within her dead? As much as they loved her, they still needed an incentive, and to them, that warmth was what air was to humans. Needless to say, ashes weren't enough. Not even remotely.) Guinevere seemed similarly drained, if not more, and... and it just wasn't fair. How were they supposed to deal with being this outnumbered while also being this weakened?! All her life, Morgan had been convinced that gods played favorites, and this only solidified her already poor opinion of their heavenly rulers. (Why the hell couldn't they find someone else to pick on? Hadn't they suffered enough?!)

Apparently, the answer to that question was a resounding 'no', for the guards proceeded to capture Guinevere-- as easily as if she was a rag doll, in truth. And Morgan? Morgan wanted to scream! From exhaustion, from anger, and also from how callously the gods had given them the gift of hope only to snatch it away, but, most of all, from the way those bastards dared to treat her Gwen, thank you very much. (When Arthur had fled, wrapped in his shame, the sorceress had promised herself that Guinevere would never experience such humiliation again. 'She'll be free,' she had thought, 'and a queen. Finally, we'll have our happily ever after.' ...it only went to show, truly, how meaningless it was to craft any plans. Arthur might have been gone, yes, but others had happily taken his place! Was treating her love like a thing a popular sport, or something? Because to Morgan, it certainly looked like that.)

Defiantly, she raised her chin, and... hmmm. This man, monster though he was, apparently wasn't above talking. (A pleasant surprise, actually. His words were laced with poison, that Morgan didn't doubt, but so what? The sorceress could play this game just as well, and perhaps even on a level greater than her new companion could dream of. And... well. As much as she wanted to wipe that smirk off his stupid face, she couldn't afford to do that, now could she? Oh no, no, no! Perhaps, with some luck, Morgan would manage to break his nose, but that would be her last act of heroism-- if they didn't kill her, which was a big if, they'd imprison her for sure, and rats would eat her alive. Never again would she see sunlight, and who would benefit from that? Not her, and certainly not Gwen. Such behavior would only satisfy her own bruised ego, which, no. Forward! As always, she had to look forward, towards a better future. Even if... even if it didn't seem to exist. Eh. If I have to, I'll just build it again. From deception, if need be.)

"Yes," Morgan nodded, figuring that this was the only path to victory they had left. The cultists wouldn't kill Guinevere, right? Their precious goddess was far too valuable for such a stunt, for they needed more of her blood. As such, she had the most valuable resource of all-- she had time. Time, and her wits as well. "That would be me. I presume you know who I am, then, if you are familiar with my name? Morgan le Fey, queen Guinevere's closest adviser. The one who she trusts with everything, in other words." That, at least, should give her some semblance of safety. In order for this to work, she had to make herself important in their eyes as well, you know? And being close to Gwen would take care of that, probably. "It is an honor to accept your invitation, my friend," she gave him her best smile, "for I believe we have much to discuss. Both of us can gain a lot from this interaction, I believe." ...just how convincing was she being, covered in her own blood and so, so exhausted? Morgan had her doubts, but she couldn't let that stop her-- gaining the upper hand here was essential, even if it would be illusory. Especially then, actually! Impressions were a fragile thing, and once hers shattered, it was a game over both for her and Gwen.

"I've heard a lot about you from your goddess," the sorceress said, matter-of-factly, as if the man hadn't practically kidnapped her. (Judging from her tone? Most would have guessed she was merely visiting!) "And, frankly, I believe she may have acted a bit... hasty... when she decided to escape. I mean, what you've accomplished here is undeniable! Now that I've seen it with my own two eyes, I believe that your cause is just." Thoughtfully, Morgan nodded. "Yes, yes, most definitely. Now, being who I am, I am also sure I'd be able to convince Guinevere herself of this truth. Your attempts to make her see the light didn't work out the last time, did they? It would be different with me, I'd wager. I know her heart, you see, and its deepest desires as well. As such, I know exactly how to frame this. The question is, will you provide me with the right incentive? Something that would prove to me that we indeed are friends." Was it a dangerous game she was playing? Yes, as he could easily threaten her, but Morgan wanted to see just how much this man could be pushed. Would he want to win her for an ally, or would he rather crush her from his position of strength? Both approaches required a different strategy, and this was a relatively safe way of finding out where he stood. No, really. Because, even if he didn't like her demands? After that introduction, he likely wouldn't risk harming her-- not when Guinevere could be controlled through her so conveniently, anyway.
 

ellarose

wanderer
"Oh yes. Yes, your two fates are entwined! We know this as fact." The cultist nods, probably fancying himself as all-knowing, as he interlocks his fingers to gesticulate the concept. He watches carefully, still gauging her intent as Morgan gauges his. "However, your history is shrouded in much mystery. There were many of us who speculated you and lady Guinevere were once rivals, believe it or not! But it now appears that your connection is much, much stronger than that." His eyes catch the ring on the cord around Morgan's neck and he smiles. Pleasant as a front he tries to give off, he seems to simultaneously give the impression that he wants to rip it away. But even he can't act so rashly in such a delicate situation, can he? "...Then I suppose you know that we served our dear goddess since she was a child? She truly cherished that ring you have there. It was a shame we had to take it away from her, but... it was a necessary evil. Did you know it has a rather complex enchantment cast upon it? A goddess's glamour is only meant to last for months at a time, you see. Not years upon years. The ring helped her to keep it intact. But unfortunately, suppressing her true nature has adverse effects on her health. Those days she spent without it may have been difficult for the poor child, but our intentions were pure. We had to... to ease her back into her natural state."

Deciding without any added preamble that they venture into the village, he man pivoted and addressed the guards at Morgan's sides with the wave of his hand to walk behind him. It appeared he timed it succinctly in his head, until Guinevere and Excalibur were out of sight. So their whereabouts were a mystery.

"Ah. But as I was saying. If the ring wasn't proof enough that she trusts you, lady le Fey, I saw it in her eyes just now. It was same expression she gave us when she thought we were going to take her sister away. Quite ridiculous, the conclusions that children will jump to! We would never do something so cruel to our goddess. No, we raised her twin sister as if she were one of our own. And rest assured, we will treat you with the same hospitality." Isn't that reassuring? Because Jennifer had definitely turned into a stable and well-adjusted individual under their care! And yet he speaks about the sisters with a sort of nostalgia, as if he had done a noble task. "It is curious, though. The young Jennifer offered her help rather similarly, insisting she could be of use to us. She performed admirably for a time... until she aided in her sister's escape."

"Since then, we have deemed attachments unnecessary. That the goddess has desires at all, well... they will muddy her conscience and make her task all the more difficult. You see, we must break her down in order to rebuild her in the proper way." Crush her spirit until she's an empty husk, in other words. The cultist nearly glares at Morgan before he catches himself and shakes his head somberly instead. "That she has learned to cast magic... is a complication. Fortunately, she is still a novice and we have found a new means of securing her." He doesn't elaborate on this. They walk through the square, then, past the centerpiece... which still consists of amputated body parts made of marble tangled in vines with dangerously sharp thorns. Sharp as the anger of whoever created them, no doubt. The square is practically a ghost town right now... mainly because everyone is ordered at sword-point to stay inside when Guinevere is escorted to her chambers, to keep her whereabouts a secret. And knowing? Knowing is a symbol of status in a place like this. So he doesn't address this, either. (Hm. Perhaps because this woman's appearance, this woman who is so close to the 'goddess', is a threat to his own role?) "Please do not take offense. No one is allowed to speak to the goddess. Well, that is... with the exception of our highest ranking members. Only those who have proven themselves to know the holy word are permitted to see and serve her."

The way he sets his hand on his chest and lifts his nose says pretty clearly that he's one of these members. That he's proud of it, too. He's very similar to men in Camelot this way-- prattling on and on as if he loves explaining everything. As if he loves the sound of his own voice, really. Another total douche, basically. Great.

"Many compete just for the chance to take on such an important role! However, the position would certainly not be unattainable for one such as you. No, you can certainly still play a vital role in restoring our dear earth to fruition. Even so, my superiors will require time in deciding your fate." They come to a stop in front of a building, then. "Perhaps you noticed that lady Guinevere felt ill when she awoke this morning?" The cultist smiles conspiratorially. "I am not psychic. I know this because her glamour is to break in three days time. Our prophets quelled our fears, telling us she would be guided here, back to the place where she would be taken care of in the proper way. It has gone unchecked for the entirety of her life, I'm afraid. As such, she will be in a very delicate state these next few days. Worry not, for we have long been preparing for this day." He opens the door, then. "Take that time to rest yourself, lady le Fey. It certainly seems that you could use it."

"I will have someone come by with food and..." He looks at the bloody state of her and her dress as if noticing them for the first time. "A proper change of clothes, of course. Is there--"

A masked woman walks up, then, and hands the man a clipboard. Her eyes flicker briefly to Morgan before she discreetly passes something small over to the man. A sharp eye might've caught the gleam of something silver. Like... a locket, perhaps? He pockets it quickly and the woman dismisses herself even quicker. Yep. That's not suspicious at all! He coughs. "...Once you are inside, the door will be locked. For your own safety, of course. This is not Camelot. The outside world is such a dangerous place, as you are well aware." He shakes his head sadly again. "We truly have done well here, have we not? That the goddess is back, well... that brings us one step closer to making our earth safer for everyone." He presses his hands together. "Before I take my leave, is there anything else you will require to make your stay more comfortable?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Rivals? For what reason? Had these people thought they had been competing for Arthur's affection, or something? Normally, Morgan would have ruled that interpretation out considering they were, you know, siblings, but she didn't dare to underestimate the level of brain damage the cultists must have been suffering from. (Rivals, pffft. Oh, if only they knew the truth! ...which they wouldn't get to, of course. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, yes, but without slipping them vital info! In fact, the sorceress figured she ought to muddy the waters a little bit.) "Ah, truly? That is... rather funny to me, considering our relationship is the opposite of that. I'm her mentor, friend. That means I wish for her to thrive. There is no need for me to compete with her, for we both play different games altogether. I'm sure you understand, don't you? Thinking yourself to be more important than a goddess would be the definition of foolishness." ...was that a jab? Steel hidden in silk, perhaps? Why yes, Morgan hadn't missed the man's thirst for attention, nor had she missed his desire for glory. (A sniveling little worm, that was what he was, and soon, she was going to crush him with her boot. Soon. Just had to figure out a plan!)

"Thanks to that," she continued, matter-of-factly, "I believe that our interests align well. I mean, you wish for Guinevere to thrive, too, don't you? You merely understand, just like I do, that thriving doesn't necessarily equal to doing whatever you want. No, you have to... hmm... follow your purpose. Yes, yes! That is why I, despite her protests, taught her how to behave like a lady. Camelot demanded it of her, you see, and so I ensured she wouldn't fail in that task. Isn't that what thriving is? Now, however, I see that I was mistaken-- not in my methods, but in determining what her fate is. Camelot, my friend, is a mere joke in comparison to what you have! A selfish, childish dream. If Guinevere is to assist with restoring the earth... oh, I will be more than happy to contribute in my own way. Handling her stubborn nature was a little difficult for you, wasn't it? My experiences regarding that are vast. It isn't about any genuine attachment, as you seem to believe-- more than that, I've developed a set of strategies that will allow me to... nudge my queen in the right direction, so to speak." Poison dripped from her lips with each word, and it burned her, oh, it did, but Morgan ignored it. For Gwen's sake, she could pretend she was manipulating her! All her life, she had deceived, deceived and deceived, so no, the sorceress wouldn't falter now. Not when so much was at stake, anyway.

(...hmm. Could he be speaking the truth, though? Regarding her glamour, and perhaps also different things. The Jen thing seemed in character, if nothing else. It was... certainly something to keep in mind, Morgan supposed, as she learned more of this place. The cultists were deplorable, sure, but what if they truly had access to information she hadn't unearthed yet? Considering the amount of experiments they must have run on Guinevere, it wasn't unlikely. Hell, it was the opposite of that, given their undeniable results! Hmm, hmm. Now, escaping from this hellhole still was her priority, though if she also managed to learn something that could help them later, the sorceress certainly wouldn't complain.)

Either way, she had to rest first. The man, despite his dim intellect, seemed to understand that, too-- which was why he lead her to her fancy prison cell. "Thank you," Morgan beamed at him, despite being very aware of what this arrangement meant. "Indeed, I feel much safer here. Your dedication to protecting your guests from monsters is admirable." Too bad, then, that it didn't also include protecting them from themselves. And the locket thing? Oh, okay. That didn't give her goosebumps at all! "I will be happy to speak with you later, then. Now, if you'd be so gracious as to let me rest...?"

Which they were, at least. Regardless of her worries, Morgan forced herself to go to sleep-- an exhausted sorceress was a useless sorceress, after all, and sometimes, inaction was the best action. No, not inaction, she decided. Merely gathering my strength. That's the opposite of inaction, no matter what it may look like. Predictably, contacting Gwen turned out to be a fruitless endeavor. Had they taken her locket? Well, either that, or she was unconscious-- obviously, you couldn't talk to someone who wasn't mentally present. Oh gods, gods, gods! What now? Even with her magic at her disposal, the sorceress couldn't risk fighting the entire village on her own. Not without knowing where Gwen was, at least, which... Fine. Fine, if they want me to play nice with them, I will.

For that reason, Morgan waited patiently. (It took some time for a seed to awaken the life inside of it, didn't it? So, just like that seed, she bid her time. Surely, the cultists wouldn't let her potential go to waste-- breaking Guinevere's will was no easy task, after all, and she had hinted at being proficient in it. Only fools wouldn't want to see whether her claims were true, especially when she'd offered her help so eagerly! I cannot have them think I'm only doing this out of self-interest, though. That would be rational, but they don't value rationality.)

Religious fervor would make her seem more trustworthy, doubtlessly, but she couldn't become a true believer too fast, either-- that, Morgan supposed, would seem unrealistic. No, people's hearts didn't change over the course of one night! So, when one of the cultists brought her her breakfast? The sorceress gave her her warmest smile. "Once again, thank you for the meal. I feel much better already. Speaking of which, may I request a tour? I have to say, the results of your research have left a deep impression on me. To think that the Earth could bloom once more! Impossible, seemingly, and yet that is what is happening before my very eyes. That's why I'd... I'd like to learn more about your teachings, and the wisdom they have to offer. Could you do that for me?" she batted her eyelashes. Personally, Morgan couldn't see why not-- the man from earlier had blabbed some nonsense about her possibly earning a position of importance within the cult, after all. Now, how could she do that without learning more of their ways? The answer was that she couldn't! Still, humbleness hid one's true intentions fairly well, and so the sorceress wrapped herself in it.
 

ellarose

wanderer
"It is an honor to serve you, my lady. I am so relieved to hear that you are feeling better. And... excuse me? My research?" The cultist beneath the hood giggles bashfully. The voice reveals a girl who couldn't be older than sixteen. "Oh, forgive me my lady. I am not used to being mistaken for someone so very important! You see, I am responsible for many humble chores in the village. Tending to the needs of our guests, scrubbing the statues and floors, the laundry and the bedding--" There's a note in her voice that sounds rather disdainful of her list and she quickly amends it. Almost as if she's being held at gunpoint to say them, even when no one else is present. "All tasks I am grateful to have. I am always grateful." She lingers in the doorway, though, and gives the matter a little more thought. "I do have a short break before my next task. And I do know my way around quite well. I would so very much love to show you around. Um... allow me to consult my superiors. I will return right away, my lady! May the goddess smile upon you."

Apparently 'right away' translated to two hours. Either the girl had forgotten or her superiors made her wait a very long time for an answer. The girl did manage to return, though, with one of the village guards at her side. His sword is sheathed, meaning he doesn't serve an immediate threat. He stands as tall and as still as a brick wall. Hm. Kind of curious that this servant girl didn't require any protection going about her daily chores... and now, suddenly, now that Morgan's coming along she does. Were they going to venture into a more dangerous part of the village, perhaps, or were they still gauging whether or not Morgan was a threat?

"The superiors have graciously approved the request. Are you ready?" The girl sounds a bit winded, then, and outstretches an arm to invite Morgan outside.

"So, ah, this is my first time acting as a guide. But I promise I will do my best." The girl sounds eager to please. She was probably dying to take a break from the monotony of her chores. "...Guest lodgings are just outside the square. You, ah, used to be able to see the goddess's grand statue at any angle from here. It was a lovely work of art, but... the goddess struck it down and left us when we displeased her." The girl swallows hard, sounding genuinely afraid. "The superiors declared to leave it there as a reminder. We all must do our best or... or we will suffer grave consequences." So, naturally, these 'superiors' used their own shortcomings as an excuse to tighten the iron fist they clamped around the more helpless members they snared into their cult. "They grew a patch of flowers at her feet. It was one of my favorite places to go when..."

The guard coughs, then, and the girl straightens up immediately. "R-right. Lets move along, shall we?"

They walk and it's primarily rows of these uninteresting buildings-- all of them stand at the exact same height, are the exact same shade of white. The only differences are that some have windows and some don't. "So you truly know the goddess? A friend of mine glimpsed her when she escaped, but..." The girl began to talk, sensing there wasn't anything incredibly interesting to discuss now. "I did have the honor of serving her sister as a guest once. I've heard they look exactly the same. Still..."

"--Perhaps lady Morgan should ask the questions. Don't forget your place." The guard finally spoke up and the girl's spine straightened up again. Again, she glimpsed the broken statue behind them and regathered her thoughts.

"O-of course. Forgive me, I shouldn't have, ah..." The girl pressed her hands together and took a deep breath. "Do you have any questions regarding the square or our customs, lady Morgan?" She nods further ahead. Larger and more elaborate buildings stand in the distance. "It will be another minute before we near our superior's homes and, of course, our places of worship." Then a note of excitement appears in her voice. "...I was also given permission to show you the greenhouse. It is truly, truly remarkable!"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Oh, dear. This could have been some sort of trap, Morgan supposed-- wickedness hiding under the veneer of innocence, much like snakes hid in grass so tall you could barely see them. Here, much like in Camelot, treachery was the bread feasted on! ...still, though. The girl that had come to bring her food? She was a child, very obviously so, and thus watched the world with a child's eyes. (That didn't mean she was also innocent, mind you. Age couldn't excuse certain deeds, after all, and who knew what the cult had made her do in order for her to prove her loyalty? Oh, Morgan could imagine! So, not necessarily an innocent, but definitely someone who grasped less. To her, the world must have been delightfully simple-- good versus evil, or rather, the cult versus the rest of the world respectively. One didn't have to ask questions, for all the answers were written in their holy books! ...had the girl been born in here, or had she sought the cult out for fear of starving? Both are non-choices, Morgan realized, just reeking of different flavors.) "And you are right to be grateful," the sorceress smiled, despite herself. Pity was tearing her heart apart, but what did it matter? More than likely, this child was lost, and she couldn't help her find her way. Using her to learn more about the cult ans get closer to Gwen, then, was all that Morgan could do. And, to that end? To that end, she would tickle her ego a bit.

"You may call your tasks humble, my friend, but without them, the village would fall apart. Washing laundry is tedious, yes, but doesn't that mean that, thanks to you, your superiors don't need to do it? In that respect," Morgan smiled, "you are giving them the gift of Time. "Your efforts, and efforts of those like you, allow them to focus on more important matters. In a way, shouldn't you be praised for their accomplishments as well? For you made it possible for their focus to remain unbroken." More than likely, she had made it possible for them to laze around, though Morgan didn't feel like pointing that out-- the truth, you see, you could be a harsh mistress. Still, perhaps the girl could pick up on the true meaning of her statement...? In time, of course. (Conditioning was a dangerous thing, and instead of outright shattering it, it was better to try and lead the person to the right conclusion-- that way, they'd accept reality when they were ready, and not a moment sooner. If you proceeded too quickly, though? Oh, you could break them as well.)

So, patiently, Morgan waited. The hours may have been an excessive amount of time to some, but to her? Pffft, don't make her life! The sorceress had waited for several lifetimes, apparently, so this couldn't sour her mood. If anything, this only let her sharpen her strategy in peace! "Ah," she rose from her bed when the girl returned, "that is wonderful news! Truly, I've been shaking with anticipation. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for giving me this opportunity."

Of course, Morgan didn't actually expect to see anything too interesting this soon-- cults operated on fear and mystery, and you couldn't maintain either if you weren't greedy with your information. Still, despite knowing that? The sorceress couldn't fully suppress her impatience. A square, some houses... yes, yes, very nice. Now, could we please get to something of substance? Not that she'd be able to ask questions freely with the guard watching her every move, but anything would have been better than this nonsense.

"You're doing wonderfully," the sorceress assured her, despite her grievances. "And yes, I do know her. In fact, I believe I may know your goddess better than anyone else-- when it comes to Camelot, at the very least. Would you like to hear some stories featuring her? I can..." she glanced at the guard, "tell some later, after you show me the miracles your village is so rich in. Ah, never before have I thought I'd manage to see a place like this! An oasis in the middle of the wastes, built by your very own hands. Fascinating, truly. You see, in Camelot, we grow certain plants as well," Morgan admitted, "but we didn't have to earn that privilege. Thanks to the kindness of providence, we simply inherited a patch of blessed land-- one free of corruption, where life still thrives. That wasn't the case for you, though, was it?" she batted her eyelashes. "That is all the proof I need! Whatever you're doing, it works." Now, asking what it was exactly? That would have been suspicious, and besides, this girl likely didn't even know. (Generally, footsoldiers didn't have the access to wealth of information! Knowledge could be used as a weapon, after all, and those were never given freely. ...even so, Morgan could ask her something else-- something that would help her in a different way.)

"I'm sure that it was your faith that led you to your triumph," Morgan nodded sagely. "Will you tell me what you believe in? I may know your goddess, but I'm afraid I remain ignorant when it comes to the nature of your worship, and I... I'd like to rectify that." 'Know your enemy', after all, was an important adage. "I have to admit, I've grown unsatisfied with my old gods. Not once have they done anything for us! Your faith seems... much more fruitful. And yes, yes! Show me the greenhouse, please. I'd be delighted to see a site so holy."
 

ellarose

wanderer
"Stories? I would be hono..." The girl sounds eager at first and then, no doubt feeling the heat emanating off of the glaring guard's eyes behind them, falters. "Perhaps, lady Morgan. Perhaps if there is time." An unspoken threat lingers in the air and all she can do is listen and nod as Morgan tells her of Camelot. She seems interested but also incredibly dissuaded from asking more questions with the guard around. (It seems the cult thinks such curiosity is a very, very bad thing! Who knew where such wandering could lead, after all? There were some things about the outside world and the one beneath their own feet that were better left unknown.) Still, she's fast to brighten again at the chance to answer some questions of her own.

"Well... our practices and worship are quite normal." Uh, right. Normal. Anyone raised in an environment like this would think it was normal, anyway. Thankfully, she decides to elaborate on that. "We pray at home, leave our weekly offerings to the goddess, and pay frequent visits to the temple. By the end of each week, if we all perform our roles well and live free of sin, the goddess decides whether or not to bless us with more nature." The 'goddess decides', huh? Did she know the truth or did she genuinely believe these lies? They enter an area now with larger buildings-- the houses of their elite, for sure. It still isn't Camelot, that's for certain, but there's a sort of luxury to this way of life that would tempt anyone starving out in the wastelands. "You see, humans were responsible for taking her sisters and her innocence away. The state of the world now is our punishment. We must repent and give back if we are meant to receive. Even if it means cutting off our own fingers at the superior's command or... or sacrificing our lives. The earth demands life and blood in order to grow anew."

"The goddess is our last hope. Our superiors are very strict for this reason. They say she has been tainted by the outside world and are... very particular about who is allowed to see her. The fate of the world is at stake, after all. Only those who are knowledgable and gifted enough, those who can hear the voices of the holy spirit can see her." She nods to the buildings they're walking past. Some of the finest ones even have their own small gardens. No doubt gifts willingly given to them by their precious goddess because they're so awesome and special, right? "These are their homes. Grand, aren't they?"

"Many of us strive for these positions, you see, but it is a most delicate job to serve the goddess. It cannot be done by just anyone. Only by those chosen. Recently, a woman convinced our superiors that she could hear the holy spirit. She gave the goddess nightly sermons and... well, she said something that upset the goddess so much that she abandoned us. The woman lied and nearly doomed us all. So she was executed in the square." The girl shakes her head somberly. She's quick to perk up after this, however, when she changes the subject. "Ah! But since the goddess has returned to us safely, we will be holding a festival in her honor tomorrow night. Are you going to attend, lady Morgan?"

They pass carts on the side of the road, all overflowing with leaves, vines, flowers in a joyful array of colors. The further they walk, the more they could see them being used to decorate the buildings. They sort of resemble the flowers that were overflowing at Jen's lovely wedding ceremony. One with a sharp eye might notice mud (or, perhaps, darkened blood?) speckled on the sides and wheels of these carts. It's probably mud. No need to think too hard about it, right?

"I would explain more, but perhaps you will soon experience the splendor of the festival yourself." She presses her hands together, then, as if in prayer as they approach the largest building in the village. "After all, we've arrived at the temple. Isn't it beautiful?" Despite what it symbolizes, it was pretty on the surface level. Kind of like Camelot. Pillars adorned with flowers tower high over their heads. The structure at the top displays three different sculptures. One depicts flames, the next a human heart, and the third a sword. Strangely enough, though, voices of spirits echo within the place, softly saying Morgan's name. They're drawn to her, like moths to a flame. If her two companions could hear them, they certainly didn't seem to show it. From there, they venture down a walkway scattered with petals, lined with benches. A simple stone altar rests at the very end of the path. On top of the altar rests one heavy book... opened to a page filled with strange, unknown symbols. "We are not allowed to touch the sacred book ourselves. Only our wisest historian knows how to read it, so we must consult him for prayer and guidance. These unique characters are long forgotten relics of the past, used by the goddess's kind."

Hm. The first Guinevere didn't know how to read, did she? Because 'her kind' didn't need books when they had the forests and the spirits to guide them and tell their stories. Unless that changed at some point along the way? Maybe with the first Morgan's influence? But... probably not. Especially since many of the spirits voices are hissing a word that sounds very much like 'lies'. It seems most likely that these people received all their teachings from a book filled with gibberish, read to them by some man who was undoubtably full of shit.

Beyond the alter is an archway leading into a small room in the back. In the center of this space is a crisp, artificial pool surrounded by lush greenery. In fact, the surface of this water appears to glow... there's a magical quality to it, no doubt. (The voices of the spirits, too, become much louder here. Only it's difficult to know exactly what they're saying when they're all trying to speak at once. Some seem to say to turn back while others say to come closer.) And in the very back, almost hidden in the shade of foliage on the walls, there's a stone with an elaborate symbol carved on it.

"The goddess bathed here last night... and the next morning, the temple was flooded with flowers. It was a miracle. It's been so very long since she last blessed us." The girl sighs. "We cannot go inside, as this is one of the goddess's sacred spaces. But, as I said, we have been given permission to see the greenhouse. We will go there shortly, but-- please forgive me for the delay. I will take just a moment to pray while we are here." That seems to be what the guard is busy doing, too, with his head bowed before the altar.

And then, as if sensing that Morgan's companions were distracted in prayer, one spirit's voice rises above the others. Morgan le Fey. Why have you come here?
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
That Morgan managed not to roll her eyes as lies spilled from the girl's lips? Oh, that was a testament to her self-control! Although... no, those weren't lies. With all her heart, this child believed in the nonsense they'd pushed down her throat-- she'd swallowed the poison, eagerly, and let it color her perception of everything. Such was the power of ideology, indeed. (The sorceress wasn't familiar with this particular cult, of course, but what did it matter? Once you'd seen how one of those organizations operated, you'd seen them all, and...and Camelot wasn't all that different, all things considered. No, really. The similarities were there, if only you knew where to look for them! Its inhabitants, too, lived their lives shackled by rules, and yet suspended in this dreadful uncertainty-- since Arthur, you know, had been more than just their king. Much, much more. He'd been a god of his own little universe, a child holding a powerful weapon, and oh, had they had to fall all over themselves to appease him. ('Do this, don't do that. Don't you dare to mention one of the Forbidden Words, or recall The Events That Did Not Transpire. Above all, obey!' Terrible, right? Except that, hey, if you performed all those meaningless rituals accurately enough, you, too, could earn your place in the sun! ...that had been the theory, anyway. In practice, the possibility of success had been but smoke and mirrors-- the rules had shifted constantly, you see, akin to the water in a river, and whenever you tried to grasp them for real? Just like that water, they escaped from your closed fist. That was the entire point. For a leader to be infallible, after all, nobody else could understand how he arrived to his conclusions!)

So, yes, the sorceress was aware of the depths of the girl's delusion, as well as of how hopeless this entire situation was. (Perhaps she could recover, if given enough time. Who knew? The brain was a plastic organ, and all those pathways it had created to preserve itself could just as easily be rewritten. No, what had happened to her wasn't a death sentence. For any rewriting to happen, though, she had to experience something else than this-- even more crucially, she had to want it. She's not my responsibility, Morgan reminded herself. I can barely save myself, let alone her. Gwen was her priority here, dammit, not a random woman who had been doomed since her very birth. ...and as for the pangs of regret in her stomach? Those she didn't have to acknowledge.)

"I see," Morgan nodded, the very picture of a perfect apprentice. "You are blessed, indeed, to have such wise leaders. Where I'm from, that wasn't the case-- often, they led us right into a trap. Not having to worry about such things must be so, so soothing! I imagine it allows you to focus on your role fully, then. Never take it for granted, child, for it is a great privilege." Ah yes, yes, Morgan knew this dance intimately! Technically speaking, none of her words had violated any official dogma-- when you only looked on the surface, they supported it, even. As such, nobody could possibly accuse her of treachery. ...and yet, yet! Yet the sorceress had brought attention to the concept of leaders possibly failing, and planted that seed of doubt into her mind. There, it would rest in the soil, and if Morgan watered it... spring would come for it, maybe. Her soul would be reborn.)

...still, that wasn't her main concern here. Call it her side project, maybe, but Morgan had come to learn! What a curious settlement, she thought, taking in all the colors and smells and life that pulsated through the ground, in a way she'd never witnessed before. (What was it like, living in the wastes and then finding such a place? The glory of it all must have blinded those poor people, Morgan was certain. It wasn't that they were too stupid to look beyond the facade-- they merely didn't want to, for the alternative was too painful. Just, imagine finding a paradise and then having it crumble beneath your hands! No, the illusion had to be nourished, otherwise all was lost.) "Oh? You bring your offerings to the goddess?" the sorceress asked, with fake surprise coloring her voice. "How do you do it? I mean, how do you ensure it reaches her? She is there now, but she wasn't always, and... some powerful magic has to be involved, I'm sure." More like some really cheeky lies, but again, Morgan couldn't leave the realm of implications. No, the girl had to break her conditioning on hd own-- the sorceress could extend her hand, though she couldn't make her accept it. That would defeat the entire point.

Tainted, huh. Why yes, of course! Everything that exists outside of this oasis has to be tainted, after all. Vaguely, Morgan wondered whether they'd consider what they had to be tainted as well-- whether her own touches had made their goddess filthy, and whether her teachings had corrupted her mind. (The answer, of course, was a resounding 'yes'. Truly, the village was Camelot's uglier twin! Genuine connections between people were reviled, for they drew one's attention away from all that abstract nonsense. Isolation made them easier to accept, you know? When you owned nothing of value, it was easier to fall for lofty promises. But... not the point.) "Being discerning is exceedingly important, yes. I imagine that the woman who fooled your leaders must have been exceptionally wicked! It is a good thing, indeed, that she lost her wretched head." There, just like that! See how simple it was, to point out that the leaders were fallible? Terribly, painfully human? As long as she still agreed with the general doctrine, though, Morgan figured the girl wouldn't notice the contradiction immediately. Consensus, you see, was like morphine, and she was used to this particular brand of it! ...except that the words would hover in her mind, waiting for their time to come. More seeds that would awaken later, in other words.

"I would love to participate, if your leaders are gracious enough to allow it. Tell me, my lady-- what can I do to honor your practices? I'm afraid that I remain ignorant of your customs, and I wouldn't wish to disrupt such a holy event. What would be required of me?" It seemed, however, that her questions had to wait, for there were more items to be introduced, and more actions to be pursued. The presence of the spirits, oh so insistent against her mind? For now, Morgan ignored it-- mostly because speaking to them was something her companions would notice, and she couldn't get away with that. Blood, nonsensical ramblings, mysterious statues... Ah, yes, fills me with a great sense of safety. Why not surrender all logic, after all?

Luckily, both the guard and the girl decided to pray, and that meant the sorceress was granted some amount of privacy. Before she could contact the spirits, though? They reached out themselves! 'I...' she began, considering her answer, 'I have come to help, in whatever way I can.' Yes, honesty seemed like a good policy. 'Who are you? What do you need, and why is it that you know my name?'
 

ellarose

wanderer
'Good. Then it is just as we thought.' This voice is distinctly warmer than that of the spirit that brought them here, that was for certain. Fonder. The spirits with weaker voices began to mirror the sentiments of the clearest one, swarming Morgan like an old friend they wanted to embrace. A gentle, rueful laugh rings out then. 'We may know who you are better than we know ourselves, young sorceress. In every life a dear friend to the children of the forest, even at the risk of casting yourself in an unfavorable light to those humans who lived among you. Even at the cost of your life.'

'As flowers bloom anew here, so do we. We have been slumbering underground for so long that we have forgotten our names... but not our purpose. The earth here awakens, but it is not upon the call of our youngest child. By birthright, it was hers to take and hers to give back.'
The water in the pool ripples, then. 'The great Excalibur responds to the child's blood as well as her pain. Long ago these people tampered with the broken sword... and now they are using her as a tool to activate it. Last night these fools nearly drowned her here to test their theories. And we... we were helpless to do nothing but watch.' The voice carries the ominous anger of a thunderstorm, then, and the other spirits seem to swim around the temple restlessly. There's a subsequent stillness, a pause as they collectively try to calm themselves. This place, covered from floor to ceiling in greenery, was not 'blessed'. It was only proof that the cult's cruel experiments were working.

And this seems to trigger great unease in the spirits here. Perhaps brushing with memories of death they had long since buried. The blood of Guinevere's sisters, which was wrung out of them by force and spilled until none remained.

'Listen closely. We do not have much time, nor do we hold all of the answers in our hands. We have tried many times to reach Guinevere, but there rests a magic seal upon her chamber door that keeps us out. A seal that you alone may be able to break.'

The water in the pool shimmers and then flashes a few images over the surface. A bright full moon, the locket, the Excalibur lodged in a stone, a white stag held down by men wearing cloaks-- writhing to get away as a dagger is brought down. Perhaps whoever this voice belonged to, they were clairvoyant in a past life? 'Break the seal. Find the locket, the Excalibur, and the stag. Those four keys will aid in your escape.' The voice sounds a bit mischievous then. 'As for the timing? Well, you two are rather notorious for ruining parties, are you not?'

Then as if to hide, the image on the surface of the water is quickly swept away.

"Ah, lady Morgan? Are you ready to proceed now?" The girl tugs on Morgan's sleeve, then. "You seem rather deep in thought. Could it be that you have decided to pray as well?" She blushes, then, as if worrying that she just overstepped. "Oh. If you were, I-- surely I just interrupted. Forgive me."

The hush that falls over the temple is a jarring contrast to the noise from before. The spirits have either all fled or they're hiding from something. Or someone.

The click of footsteps sounds from behind them and the girl whirls around. She and the guard both bow down before this man, indicating someone deserving of their respect. One of their superiors, for certain. The cloaked man that approached went the extra mile at hiding his identity, wearing a mask over his face as well as his hood. "...When I heard that our invaluable guest was exploring the village, I knew I had to come and greet her myself. Welcome, lady Morgan." He speaks with charisma, a friendliness that undoubtably hides daggers (...or bloodsucking needles, to be more accurate) and he goes as far as to give a slight bow in front of her. This gesture earns her the immediate respect of the girl and guard. "The goddess's beloved... advisor, was it? Did you know that she has been tirelessly mumbling your name in her sleep? Oh she worries for you so, she does. Refuses to rest or cooperate, even when we tell her you are quite all right!" He shakes his head and laughs as if this is funny, as if Guinevere is a silly and delusional little girl for fearing for their lives in a village full of bloodthirsty vampires. "...Perhaps you have a message I could relay to her this evening? To set her mind at ease. I have been tasked with her sermons, you see. She may be more inclined to listen if she has that reassurance."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
The voices rippled through her mind, and the waves they created? Oh, they triggered millions of implications, each of them delightful to chase. (Knowing her better than she herself did, huh? A dear friend to the children of the forest? Words that were true more than they were false, probably, and yet, yet sorceress felt a tinge of agitation. If they knew so much, then why did they speak in riddles? Did they not want her to save Gwen? Which, surprise, surprise, she couldn't do if they they played games with her! No, she reminded herself, they aren't doing this to spite me. Spirits just communicate in ways much different from those that are characteristic for humans. And, really, what kind of fool would punish a songbird for singing, or a dog for barking? A great one, no doubt, and while Morgan le Fey may have been many things, she wasn't stupid. It was that fact alone, too, that prevented her from straight up murdering those bastards-- those bastards who had apparently drowned Gwen, solely to test some idiotic hypotheses of theirs. Just!!! Even putting her own feelings aside, these methods were deplorable. If you only had a single invaluable subject, you treated her with care, dammit! Not like-- not like a common rat that could be replaced easily, with the same about of effort that blinking took. Hang in there, Gwen, she thought, as if the message could somehow reach her ears. I'm coming for you.)

...if she deciphered those riddles, of course. Those terribly, terribly opaque things! The words themselves didn't have a lot of alternative meanings, and Morgan understood to which they referred, but what kind of picture did they form together? Something crucial was missing, the sorceress knew, and... and it was her job to figure it out. Well, no surprise there! Thinking had always been her domain, in one way or another. 'Thank you,' she said, regardless of her feelings. None of this was their fault, now was it? Therefore, making them absorb her frustrations would have been like stepping on a snail because you had lost money in a bad trade! Needless to say, stabbing her only allies in the back would not have been a good idea. 'I shall treasure every hint, and act accordingly.' (The party, the locket, the Excalibur... ah, yes, all of those made sense, somewhat. How did the stag factor into their grand escape, though? Were they supposed to ride it? That interpretation may have been too literal, but it seemed plausible enough, at the very least, and...)

"Ah. Ah, yes, I decided to recite a prayer of my own," Morgan said quickly, deciding to run with the narrative. "The place filled me with..." ...with great contempt... "...with joy. I can't explain it, my friend, but perhaps the spirit of this sanctuary touched me. I just felt compelled to do so! Hopefully I haven't offended you? I mean, I am yet ignorant of your rites, and still I prayed before the statue of your goddess. Tell me, have I not disgraced your place of worship?"

The answer, whatever it was, did not reach her ears-- mostly because someone way more interesting turned up. Ah, I see. So that's how it is! Shockingly enough, Gwen didn't appreciate her capture, and thus didn't treat her prisoner with the utmost respect. How dared she, huh? Everyone knew that you were supposed to kiss the shoes of those who habitually hurt you! And now, now the man also wanted her to be complicit. 'Help me tame her,' he asked. 'Make her behave herself!' The parallels with Arthur were rather obvious, weren't they? Men seemed to think she held her leash, apparently-- in their eyes, you see, a woman unleashed was not only an abomination, but also an impossibility! That Gwen came to her not only willingly, but with joy, was something their sad little brains couldn't conceptualize. Now, if the man thought she was going to give him a helping hand? He was sorely mistaken. No, if anything else, he provided a convenient opening!

"No, I did not know. But, I have to say, this message brings me no solace. Poor goddess!" Goddess, not Guinevere. A small detail, perhaps, but one that could make a world of difference in their perception of her loyalties. Morgan, her advisor, could be dangerous-- a woman with opinions, and those opinions didn't necessarily need to align with theirs. Morgan, the true believer, though? Not nearly as lethal, the sorceress imagined. "I imagine she must be suffering a lot, indeed. Truly, the outside world must have tainted her. How can she see the wonders around her, and doubt the purity of your intentions? I'd be happy to calm her down, but..." she shrugged, "I know the goddess, and I know her well. People have always treated her cruelly, which means that cruelty is all she expects. Even if I did relay my words to you, she wouldn't believe you! I suspect that she's ready to consider everything you tell her to be a lie. Please, don't judge her. She's only doing it to protect her heart, even if that desire is misguided in your case. If I were to see her, though..." Morgan paused, as if she was hesitating. "I could convince her. I could make her understand. You could be present, too, to ensure that I... won't tell her anything that might carry unfortunate implications. What do you think?"
 

ellarose

wanderer
Either those expertly timed seeds Morgan had sown over the past few days had finally taken root... or the cult was simply at their wit’s end trying to tame an uncooperative Guinevere. (Or maybe it was an amalgam of the two of their efforts— their souls reaching towards each other, transcending the distance between them now in order to realign their fates.) Because although this request was initially met with a small amount of deliberation and reluctance, the man eventually agreed to let her come along to deliver the nightly sermon. After this arrangement was made, the tour continued rather uneventfully into the greenhouse-- which, unfortunately, didn't deliver too much in terms of valuable information. The plants, fruits, and vegetables growing inside were truly enough to bring tears to the eyes of those who were accustomed to the endless gray of the wastelands. But the most eye-catching part of this place? There was what had to be a large machine sitting in the middle of it all, whirring loudly beneath the large tarp that had been draped over it. In fact, any evidence as to what it was or how it worked was conveniently covered up before they got there. And the girl who acted as her guide barely provided any useful information, as all she could seem to do was gush about the splendor of what her precious superiors and 'goddess' were doing.

After this, Morgan was escorted back to her room and made to wait for hours before the cultist from the temple finally arrived at her door to escort her. In the village, the night sky was clear enough to make out the sight of various stars in the sky and the light of the moon gave the white buildings and streets an ethereal, silvery glow. In a way, it makes sense how those who stumble upon such a place might be drawn inside. The people here believed in what they were taught here-- and they believed it so wholeheartedly that they created such a beautiful place in the middle of a wasteland with their own hands. The people who lived here may not have been given the full story, but what did it matter when they had shelter, food to eat, and even a field of flowers to bask and play in?

"I am sure you understand." The man says with a smile as he hands Morgan... a blindfold. Great. "The goddess's whereabouts must be kept secret. You must forgive us for being reluctant to trust. We, too, have been hurt before and must exert the utmost amount of caution." And when that is said and done, she's led in a winding path through the village streets she walked earlier that day. Considering the square itself wasn't quite so large to entail this much walking, it becomes discernible that he is taking her in a roundabout way specifically designed to confuse her.

At last, the sorceress is led inside an inconspicuous, dark little room. It's only when the door closes behind her that her blindfold is untied. The spirits, wandering aimlessly through a village where the earth grows anew, are completely silenced in this particular chamber. They're unreachable here, just as the voice said before. However, it isn't entirely quiet as a woman approaches them and speaks.

"She still refuses to eat! I cannot get close enough without..." The masked woman frets, pressing a can of food over to the man. In the torchlight, it becomes evident that her hands are covered in blood. Guinevere's blood...? No-- closer inspection would draw the conclusion that the woman had been bitten. Then, noticing Morgan, she hesitates to say anything more.

"This is our main problem, lady Morgan. If she does not eat, the goddess will not be strong enough to provide for us." The man explains, shaking his head solemnly. "We were able to make her comply on this matter in the past. But, ah, since her glamour is... well, you can see for yourself." Then he turns briefly to the woman. "We will take care of this. You are dismissed."

The woman nods and quickly disappears through the door. It allows for a brief snapshot view of the square-- it isn't a lot of information by any means, but any information could be considered valuable information at this point. A glowing symbol flashes over the door for the briefest of moments when it closes again. The seal, no doubt. Could it be that the cult has a sorcerer of Merlin's caliber among them? Or maybe they enlisted some outside help, since their troublesome 'goddess' was now dabbling in magic herself?

The man leads her deeper inside the chamber to Guinevere's bed. She's tied down to it, just like before, as trapped as a butterfly pinned to a board. The setup looks like it was meant to set the stage for a pretty painting, considering the white dress she wore along with the sea of flowers dotting the headboard and growing in a winding, wild fashion down the iron bedposts. The plants continually writhe around as if mirroring the emotions of their creator, constantly changing in shape and color as she fights her restraints. However, while the darkness conceals a lot, far more sinister hints can be garnered from a glance that her mouth is reddened with the woman's blood and her ears are bent at unnatural angles-- skin purpling at the tips. A blindfold is tied around her head as well-- an extra measure taken to subdue her, no doubt.

When the man reaches over her to untie the blindfold, Guinevere's unnaturally sharp teeth flash as she lunges up as high as she can to bite him.

"Lady Guinevere." The man says sternly as he draws his hand back to his side. "I should not be rewarding your deplorable behavior. Just look at the mess you've made!" Yeah, uh, maybe she would if she could actually see? "However, the festival is tomorrow night and you will need to be your very best. And so I brought someone special with me today."

Guinevere has no immediate response. She scoffs... and then tenses. "Morgan?" She rasps, sounding more skeptical than hopeful.

"You ought to be on your best behavior in front of your precious advisor. In fact, I will have her take care of your nightly routine. How about that?" He nods at Morgan, handing her a cloth-- presumably to clean her bloody mouth with-- and the can of food both. "...You wouldn't want to bite her, now would you? So please, stay still. Go ahead, lady Morgan. Perhaps you can also tell her how well we've treated you as our guest thus far?" His smile widens. "As well as how you've come to side with us on the very important matter of restoring our precious earth?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
What an unholy amalgam, Morgan thought, her expression carefully guarded, as she observed the machine buzzing in the background quietly. (Something about it seemed... hmm, unnerving? Yes, yes, that was the right word. Admittedly, pretty much everything would seem unnerving here, in the context of the cultists, you know, almost drowning Guinevere just to perform some silly experiment of theirs, but still! Two worlds had intersected here, the sorceress knew, and that wasn't always a good thing--not when the very existence of one of those endangered the other, anyway.) Regardless of her unease, though? Morgan watched and observed and studied her environment, vowing to commit even the tiniest of details to memory. Unimportant as some of those may have been, it was also possible that, using them, she could draw a map of their escape! Oh no, it just wasn't like her to throw away a good learning opportunity. Blood again, huh, the sorceress thought. Everything always circles back to this theme, it seems, but is that all it truly comes down to? The liquid in our veins? Somehow, that seemed wrong-- insanely reductive, if nothing else. Her experiences had proved it. She and Arthur shared the same blood, after all, even the same mother, and while that had not always been true, it wasn't like this relation had somehow overwritten who Morgan was, fundamentally. 'Blood is thicker than water,' yes, but only because of its literal chemical properties! The legacy of her family was a filthy one, tainted with betrayal and small-mindedness, and even if it was different with Gwen... gods, her blood still wasn't all she was. Definitely not. The cultists had gotten that wrong, wrong, wrong, the sorceress knew, just as she knew that it would be their undoing. Their commitment to their own pre-conceived notions, to not seeing things with their own eyes, was the very anti-thesis to the """research""" they claimed to be doing! Gods, just hearing that word fall from their lips made the sorceress sick.

They really love to make me wait, too, Morgan thought bitterly as she sat in her fancy prison, where watching spiders spin their webs was the greatest form of entertainment. Nevermind, though. I've waited for most of my life, so surely, I can wait for a few hours as well. This tactic? The sorceress saw it for what it was, really-- essentially, they were trying to break her with boredom. Banal, perhaps, but surprisingly effective. When left alone for longer periods of time, you see the human mind had the tendency to self-destruct! It began to pick at itself, in the same way you might pick your own scabs, and in doing so, it opened new wounds. How convenient for your enemies, right? They just had to target those new vulnerabilities, and sooner rather than later, you'd succumb, begging for the mercy of a quick death. ...not Morgan, though. Unlike those weak people, Morgan wasn't afraid to spend some time with her own thoughts! In fact, she welcomed it, for her isolation gave her the opportunity to categorize them-- to find new meanings in seemingly nonsensical details.

So, when they came for her, the sorceress didn't feel demoralized. "Ah, of course! A blindfold, I imagine, would be of essence here. I don't mind. Allowing me to see the goddess despite me being an outsider... I imagine that must have been a great leap of faith for you." A faith that is, might I add, completely misplaced. "To accept this handicap is the least I can do to express my gratitude." Especially since I don't actually need to know where they keep her. Guinevere's ancestors had advised her to take advantage of the party, right? In that case, not learning where her prison was was a small price for getting to see her, and relaying all those important messages. Technically, the sorceress could try to see the route if she asked the spirits to be her eyes, but... well. The risk just seemed too great, with the pay off being too small. What if they could sense her trying to cast spells, for example? The cultists weren't completely ignorant in the ways of magic, and pretending that they were could cost her all.

So, obediently, Morgan walked by that disgusting man's side. And, when they allowed her to look around once again? Oh, the anger was hot in her belly, and she had to employ all of her self-control not to lay waste to this accursed place right then and there. No, no, no. You can't. Do you see that seal? Act rashly, and it will punish you. No, she couldn't act like some action hero from the old stories! Morgan had to be a snake, and snakes always hid in tall grass before they were ready to strike. Who could have created this, though? Doesn't really look like handiwork of a village idiot.

Needless to say, however, that all of the thoughts evaporated from her head when she saw Gwen, tied as if she was... gods, as if she was a wild animal. Once again, the fury threatened to cloud her vision, but, no! Too much was at stake here, and she couldn't herself to succumb to her own emotions. "Yes, goddess," Morgan exhaled, not daring to use Gwen's actual name, "it's me. Indeed, the good man here speaks the truth! Living in this blessed place has been pleasant, much like my Camelot experience. Even better, perhaps." The translation of that, of course, went roughly like this: 'it's an insufferable shithole, and I'm evoking Camelot specifically to draw your attention to that.' ...what? The fact they couldn't speak to each other alone did not mean they had to stick to pointless chatter. Gwen knew her, so surely, she'd understand the meanings hidden beyond her words!

"It is also true that I've seen the light. I understand, goddess, that this situation might be... uncomfortable to you, but frankly? You are doing it to yourself. If you just cooperated, everything would be that much easier for everyone involved! Please, don't be so difficult. I merely wish to help you, in the same way I helped you back in Camelot." Yet another coded message, this time for 'I'm gonna pretend to be on these assholes' side, so play along.' "I'm sure that, deep down, you understand as well. Didn't you wish for the restoration of the earth, anyway? Now you get to do exactly that, while surrounded by faithful disciples. Ah, what I wouldn't give for such a fate! So, goddess, would you be so kind and eat? I, for one, think that the celebration is going to be just grand. It would be a terrible shame if you had to miss it, if only because we have such a great track record with parties."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Hope swells inside Guinevere's heart when she realizes that her love is still alive, that she's here. Morgan's... here. Here, in this tiny, miserably dark prison. Seeing her like this. And, uninvited, shame threatens to puncture any sense of relief she may have found. The pillars that valiantly hold up what remains of her pride are trembling, threatening to fall and shatter into a thousand pieces. It's safe to be vulnerable around Morgan. She knows that, of course she does. Hell, she's probably been more vulnerable with Morgan than she's been with anyone else on this dying planet! But it'd certainly be nice to be seen as sure and strong again. To be seen the way she is on the battlefield, wearing a smile on her face as she wields her sword with confidence. Causing harmless trouble, telling silly stories, being herself and-- not confusedly bumbling her way forward with magic she doesn't yet understand, and especially not like this. Not tied down and consoled just to be spoon-fed like a helpless child. (It occurred to her the moment she realized what had happened that Adrianne had a point before. She'd been right about Jen and maybe... maybe she'd been right about this, too. She really has become a liability, hasn't she?) It seems like ages since she's last been sure of anything, really, besides the fact that she loves and trusts Morgan.

The man takes advantage of her shock to remove the blindfold. Guinevere's eyes are glassy and gold when it comes away. (They told her that her eyes would need time to heal after her glamour broke. She doesn't know if there's credibility to this or if they're just using it as a convenient excuse to blind her. They told her that they'll start to illuminate from within at night and create the effect people long called will-o'-the-wisps-- that her ancestors used this ability to play tricks on humans or lead them to their deaths. And, of course, with her being their pure goddess... she has to learn how to be a good fae instead of a bad, mischievous one. And she only thinks this information may be slightly credible because her eyes aren't the only massive change she's undergone in the last few days. Her teeth have sharpened to the extent where it feels like she has fangs when she runs her tongue over them. And if she hasn't been hallucinating from the drugs and the pain, the scars on her arms and back were sprouting flowers. The cultists routinely clipped them away from her. If that weren't bad enough, she also coughed them up by the dozens. It was as if an entire garden was growing inside of her and yearned to escape.) It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust in the torchlight and bring Morgan into focus. Seeing her naturally takes her breath away. Morgan. She peers up at her carefully for injuries. From what she can see, it doesn't look like they've hurt her. Not physically, anyway. Which is good, but-- her expression flinches when she notices the cultist watching. She's afraid to reveal too much of what she's feeling in front of that bastard.

Guinevere shivers and instinctively turns her head away when she hears the word 'goddess' from Morgan's lips, as if that might make her disappear the way she wants to. This is all bad enough without having to hear all of this from her. It makes her skin crawl with self-loathing. What is she talking abou-- no, no, no. Wait a second. Morgan's voice was used against her as a trick before, wasn't it? Could this be--? And yet before she has the chance to explore that theory any further... 'much like my Camelot experience', eh? Either the person using Morgan's voice to get to her knows her very, very poorly, or... this really is Morgan and she's speaking to her in a code they both know all too well. To confirm this as fact, she decides to listen closely to the rest, to really hear what else she has to say. Lie still and wait for the hidden clues to surface.

Geez. Morgan's lies are so frighteningly smooth that if Guinevere didn't know any better, she may have let them completely obliterate her fighting spirit. Except Guinevere knows Morgan well by now and trusts her, damn it! If she's sure of one thing, it's that. So unless they freaking brainwashed her, there's no way she would surrender everything they've worked for to the cult like this. And insufferable as she may have acted in their earliest lessons, she became a star student by the time they upgraded to topics that actually mattered when it came to surviving a place like Camelot. 'The same way I helped you back in Camelot.' It's unmistakable, right? This is all an illusion, created to smartly fool their captors.

Play along. The more she plays along, the more information Morgan will be able to give her. If only it were that simple! Guinevere swallows. Her throat is dry and heat sweeps like a wildfire over her cheeks. This is hard. Not only is it embarrassing to have to let herself be fed like this, she'll have to put her new teeth on display. Her undoubtably scary, unsettling teeth. What's Morgan going to think of her after all of this? The sorceress isn't shallow, of course she isn't, but it's-- it's a lot, isn't it? (Maybe this problem is rooted deeper within herself, though. And, regardless of how difficult it is, she'll just have to suck it up won't she? All she has so far is a vague hint about this party. Which, yeah. Camelot itself shook on the night of the banquet, she crashed her own wedding the last time the cult got their hands on her, and Morgan's 'wedding'-- well-- that was undoubtedly the wildest one yet.)

"Oh yes, it's going to be such a lovely occasion! Did you know that tomorrow is your birthday, lady Guinevere? It would be such a shame to force you to spend it in here on account of your bad behavior." The cultist nods eagerly. Ugh. Who asked him for his opinion, again? "Now go on. You must eat. All those years ago, we were ever so worried about you when you ran off into the wastelands! Knowing that our goddess was out there starving... well. We know it must have been a humbling experience as well. It is just like lady Morgan says. If you perform your duties well, less people will know what it means to starve. Yes, yes. The good you're doing here outweighs the difficulties of your position."

Pft. As if he could even comprehend the 'difficulties of her position'. Something purely instinctual in Guinevere causes her to hiss at him and he finally shuts up. Finally. Lately when her emotions spike like this, it becomes nigh impossible to bottle them up. In a way, it feels as if that shadow self with those angry, sharp teeth has taken complete control of her. (And these moments often accompany a droning purring in her ears. It's linked to Excalibur somehow, she knows that much. The sword can still reach her, even when the spirits voices are quiet. But it's also being contained someplace against its will.) Still. Something he said registers with her. It would be a shame to force her to spend it here? Does this mean she'll get to go outside-- if only for a little while? There has to be a catch, but still. It's an opening. She struggles to school her expression and reluctantly nods her head. She's got to play along, damn it!

"...Fine." Guinevere averts her eyes, squeezes them shut, and opens her mouth to comply. Just get it over with.

"Very, very good." The cultist says, perhaps in the most patronizing way possible. It doesn't seem to register in his tiny brain that he's not helping. "Our humble village may not be as lavish as Camelot, but we can assure you that the party tomorrow will indeed be grand. We have a ritual and many offerings prepared. We have even acquired a brilliant white stag! Oh and that's not all. The very best of our guards will perform in a tournament! Perhaps you may find a worthy suitor among them. Your life here will not always be this lonely, my goddess, I assure you." Completely oblivious to the way Guinevere stiffens with discomfort at this information, he presses his hands together and nods. "Ah, I must admit. My curiosity has gotten the better of me! I must inquire what you mean, lady Morgan, in regards to your track record with parties? Are there any events in particular that we should consider adding to the roster?"
 
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Syntra

Baba Yaga
Ah, if only it hadn't been for that seal! Without that threat looming over their heads, Morgan would have reached for her powers already-- asked the spirits to aid her, really, and drowned the bastard in his own blood. Wouldn't that, after all, only be proper? Blood was what he desired, so such an end seemed, hmm, fitting, for a man like him. Karma-flavored justice, in other words. ...still, as pleasant as the prospect was, the sorceress recognized it for a self-indulgent fantasy. Even now, she could sense the seal, you know? It was pulsing, sending tiny shock waves through the air, and if Morgan were to activate that particular circuit... well, putting her hand into an alligator's maw would have been wiser, indeed. Patience, she reminded herself. It is no coincidence that it is considered to be one of the most important virtues. It had carried her so far, and succumbing to her impulses now would be such a terrible, terrible mistake-- akin to climbing a tree, and then cutting off the branch she was standing on. No, the sorceress still had much to learn!

...such as, you know, that everything the cultists said wasn't just delusional nonsense. The way Gwen looked now, with her teeth sharper and her features more pointed? More than anything else, she resembled the first Guinevere-- a flower wild and covered in thorns, unsuited for flower pots. (She was... different, Morgan wouldn't lie to herself. The one who practiced magic had to see the world for what it was, for if you couldn't describe reality, you could never hope to bend it! Not in a way that would matter, anyway. ...still, different wasn't necessarily bad. Gwen's new look did kind make her do a double take, but it wasn't like she had deceived her, now was it? She hadn't even changed, strictly speaking. No, Morgan now merely saw beyond the facade they had wrapped her in, which... which meant she was getting to know her on a deeper level, in a sense. This is her. The real her. What would it say about me if I couldn't accept her? And, the longer Morgan looked at her love, the easier it got to embrace the truth. Again, not that much had changed! Only tiny details, unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Once she got over the new features, the old ones became prominent once again-- two pictures transposed over one another, really, and oh, were they a perfect fit!

Thankfully, Guinevere grasped her message. Not that Morgan had doubted her, but going from 90 percent sure to 100 percent sure still was a welcome change, you see? Exactly the sort of confidence booster she needed. "Wonderful," the sorceress said. "I knew in my heart that you were reasonable, goddess. Your subjects, I'm sure, will be overjoyed to hear this news. In these trying times, they need to draw their strength from your presence." ...yes, like the parasites they were! Too bad she had to play along-- somehow, Morgan didn't think the man would appreciate her honest analysis. "So, please, goddess, eat. It is crucial for you to be at your most powerful," for our escape, "so that you might inspire your followers to do what they have to do. Oh, if only you saw how hard they work for your sake!" Blah blah blah, more nonsense. Honestly? It was a mystery how she managed to say all of that and not puke all over her shoes, but years of feeding on poison had apparently caused her to possess a stomach of steel. You're going to pay, she thought, nonetheless. Each of you standing here will curse your mothers for bothering to give birth to you.

Then, of course, the situation grew more and more absurd. A husband? Why was every scumbag under the sun trying to wed them against their will? If Morgan didn't know any better, she would have guessed the gods themselves had promised a handsome reward to the one who would pull it off! (In reality, it probably had more to do with those men not really seeing them as people, but rather as bargaining chips-- apparently, being a goddess didn't save you from such a status, either. How depressing. How come that mortal men were worthy of touching a deity, again? Ah yes, yes, the prospect of heirs! The same old song, really, though that didn't make it any less infuriating. ...still, Morgan decided to re-direct her attention elsewhere. The husband bit didn't matter, you know, because it was never going to happen! Delusional daydreams of those who had lost their grip on reality did not concern her, thank you very much.)

"A stag?" the sorceress asked. "Might I be so bold and inquire what you would like to do with a stag? Where I come from, those don't tend to be... hmm, very common. Perhaps my imagination is stunted, but I cannot picture how a party might benefit from a stag's presence, too. It there something that is escaping me? I wouldn't want to embarrass myself." But then, of course, the man simply had to stick his nose where it didn't belong.

Damn you! Can't you let me speak to Gwen without your pointless additions, you sniveling little worm? Although... hmm. Come to think of it, this could be an opportunity to learn more, too! If she played her cards right, that was. "Ah, of course! I will be happy to provide all the answers that your heart desires. The goddess, as you have probably guessed, simply adores my magic. A lot of it is just boring research," Morgan waved her hand, "but I can also spin illusions, you know? Play with shadows, write in the air, and draw pictures out of starlight-- that sort of thing. Nothing too complicated, but visually impressive During our parties, I always used to invent a new performance, and charm the entire court! Perhaps," she began carefully, "I might do something similar for you as well? If I'm not terribly mistaken, my friend, you have a powerful mage at your disposal. They could, hmmm... inspect my spells, to ensure I am not attempting anything untoward. I do understand that newcomers have to earn their trust first, after all!" ...well, more than that, Morgan wanted to find out who the wizard was and how to neutralize them, but he didn't have to know that, now did he? No, no, no! In his eyes, the sorceress would appear as innocent as freshly fallen snow. "I presume my performance would make you feel more at home, right? My goddess," she added quickly, hoping that Gwen knew how to utilize emotional blackmail.
 

ellarose

wanderer
"Ah, well, you see... it wouldn't be a festival without a proper ritual. And it couldn't have been mere coincidence that lady Guinevere blessed us with her presence on the same night we procured the white stag." The man explains with the sage nod of his head and Guinevere, chewing on her canned fruit, resists the temptation to roll her eyes. She legitimately doesn't want to bless these people with anything except for a swift kick to the ass, maybe. Or the flames of her fury, which sparked impatiently beneath her skin, practically begging to be released. They wanted to devour this place whole, erase it from existence, reduce it to fucking ashes. Where did they come up with all of this bullshit, anyway? Some of it was true, she would give them that, but a vast majority of this shit sounded like total bull that they came up with out of boredom."It is in honor of the lives she lived and their tragic, tragic ends. First we shall begin with a bonfire, then we will cut out the stag's heart to cleanse the temple with it's blood, and thirdly... well, that ought to be a surprise."

"You're going to kill it." Guinevere says plainly. The amber color of her eyes causes them to resemble embers in the dark, rivaling the torchlight and quietly seething. She shouldn't be surprised, but... after everything she and Morgan just went through to save the stag in their world? Honor her past lives? By rubbing them in her face by making a mockery of their gruesome deaths for entertainment? Morgan taught her all about looking for patterns and Guinevere was beginning to see one unraveling in her own history. Arthur burned her alive in front of his subjects, Arthur sent her heart in a box to the rebels outside of the castle to make a spectacle of her, and the third-- well, that one's still unclear to her. Like the object they all assume she is, they expect her to be a convenient source of entertainment as well. The queen may be the most powerful piece on the chess board, but to all of them she's never been a player with her own ambitions and decisions to make. No, clearly she's meant to be used merely as a device to move things forward. She can't afford to have feelings, apparently! And if she dares to act on them? Well, that makes her a convenient scapegoat when everything goes south. The goddess who abandoned her people. That's what the mindless followers here will call her.

And now she must seem like a queen who abandoned her people, too. They left Lancelot in control back in Camelot! He's a good man, sure, but... She can't even begin to predict what could be happening in the castle. Especially with her girls there, still adjusting themselves to the lifestyle. God, she hopes that they're okay. Although, knowing her subjects, once they hear this story they may listen to her with sympathetic ears. She is a woman, after all. (Which honestly shouldn't mean anything at all-- but that's just how things are there.) The worst that could happen is they take pity on her for being kidnapped. Yet again. Which is frustrating, sure, but something she can overcome. What she fears most is that it may push those nobles who flock around her to urge her to find a husband to help her wear a heavy crown she may seem unfit to carry alone. The concept that her pride will probably never be done taking critical hits is... ugh.

"Now, now. Don't be so temperamental, goddess. It is essential for you to pass this test, to accept death without allowing your grief to consume you."

Guinevere bites her tongue to keep her snide reply to herself. She wants to fight! She wants to. If not for these ropes, her fists would be up! She'd have knocked his fucking teeth out by now. Fuming, she takes one look at Morgan and reminds herself to take a deep, calming breath. Because what she needs is to keep her cool. Silence definitely isn't the wrong call here, but biting her tongue certainly is. Still unused to her teeth, she cuts her tongue with them. When blood fills her mouth, she presses her lips firmly shut to keep any of it from spilling. She knows a way she can use it.

Morgan, in the meantime, is quick as a whip to create a story. It's impressive, just how convincing she makes it sound when that's no doubt the furthest thing from what parties were like in Camelot-- what with all the feasting and dancing. Guinevere can picture it so vividly in her head, Morgan weaving beautiful illusions in one of her prettiest dresses in front of the court, waving her arms like a graceful conductor. It's simple enough for her to enchant herself with the made-up scene by the time their gazes expectantly turn to her. Uh oh. Her mouth is full of blood and opening her mouth to speak is... out. So she gives the most enthusiastic nod she can before putting her own plan into action. She fakes a violent cough, letting the blood sprinkle the front of her dress for dramatic effect.

"Sorry, I..." Guinevere flexes her theatrics as she sends herself into another fabricated coughing fit. She looks meaningfully at the cultist. "I think it's happening again."

"Oh, my goddess. You are in such a delicate state. I must... I must find help at once." The cultist seems very reluctant to leave the two of them alone, hesitating at the door. Guinevere decides to up the ante with the worst cough yet.

"It hurts..." She screws her eyes shut and tries to shrink in bed to make herself seem even more pitiful than she already is.

"I will only be gone for a moment. Keep watch over her and alert the guard outside if her condition worsens, lady Morgan." The cultist nods decisively then and rushes out of the room. And, miraculously, they're left alone.

Guinevere wears a sly little smile once the door closes behind him. "Saw the opportunity to get rid of him, and... I'll back up your story later, promise." Her brow crinkles, then. This is a gamble, in a way. When he returns with 'help', they'll put her under with drugs and change her bindings so she's laid on her side. Wouldn't want her choking on flower buds in her sleep, now would they? Still. The opportunity to talk to Morgan alone is worth the risk. "We need to be quick. We have around three minutes at most. I've been counting the seconds." She sighs, "So... we can't leave right now? It has to be tomorrow?"
 

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