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Futuristic ♕ Camelot | ellarose & Syntra

Sub Genres
Action, LGTBQ, Magical

ellarose

wanderer
Morgan's theory is proven unabashedly correct when the wizard's skin sweats and blisters and his robes catch a bright, bright flame. With an anguished shout, he lunges out of the hollowed tree and upward, flailing in a futile endeavor to put the fire out as it eagerly spreads over him. The roots, all ablaze around him, continue to snap angrily at his feet like vipers until finally he trips and hits the grassy earth. (As he falls, something silvery glimmers in the moonlight, sailing through the air and into a nearby flowerbed. The locket!) The old man is reduced to pitiful cries as he rolls about on the ground. He screams and curses Morgan's name all the while-- but for once, perhaps, his petty words and slander and insults wouldn't do anything at all to serve him. In fact, the cultists watching the spectacle seem to be debating amongst themselves whether or not it was worth it to use the precious water they preserved to put the flames out. It isn't long before Merlin falls rather silent in concentration, no doubt busy wracking his brain for a spell-- any spell-- to stop the flames from eating at his flesh. He couldn't have released Guinevere's strings fast enough after that. The sword hit the grass with a soft 'clang' before she follows suit, noiselessly collapsing onto the ground like a discarded rag doll in her emptied state.

The cultists watching are wide-eyed and uncertain of which move to make next. Most are hesitant to cross Morgan after this display and also grapple with the desire to take their fallen goddess someplace safe from all the chaos. Maybe, just maybe, they're finally beginning to realize that forcing Guinevere to walk on spikes all evening hadn't been the brightest of ideas in retrospect? Because lying there in an unmoving heap, she resembles a corpse enough to unsettle a great many of them. Not to mention all of that collapsing she's done-- if she does survive the night, it's clear she's going to wake the next morning with all sorts of terrible bruises. Losing their prospective future because they'd been too greedy-- why, it'd make for a perfectly grim fairytale, surely, but when this concept overlaps with their very real lives? It isn't quite so amusing to watch it unfold. No one wants to think any more of a hopeless future in a barren wasteland. Especially not after they've all seen for themselves would could be.

Arthur, though. As always, he lives in a world of his very own where this sort of self-reflection is completely unnecessary! After watching Merlin burn with horror in his eyes and then seeing his sister's bloodied state, his first instinct is to rush to Guinevere's side. He gathers her in his arms like he fancies himself some great romantic hero. (Although in truth, it's quite likely that he's clinging to the one person he believes his sister won't set fire to-- perhaps to keep himself from meeting the same fate as the old wizard. His time in the wastelands taught him a few things, yes, and he at least seems to process that without Camelot's walls and his court, he will have to work harder to get his own way.) "Guinevere, my love, open your eyes!" Ah. Theatrical as always. While beneath rests resentment for her wild ways, for the way she bit him earlier, you can just nearly see the hurt in his eyes, the care. When they snap to Morgan, however, they're full of hate. That's far, far less rehearsed. "How could you!? You've gone too far this time, witch. You nearly killed her! Just like you killed our unborn sons!"

Ah. When in doubt, hurl accusations around, right? Some are bound to stick! Because at least some of the cultists, sheep that they are, will feel inclined to believe his nonsense.

"My queen is such a delicate rose. She grew thorns to survive the wastelands, indeed. But I too have seen her gentle heart with my own eyes. You mistake her kindness for love, sister! Don't you see? You'll destroy her as well as yourself, clinging to this silly notion of love that you've invented..." Arthur shakes his head sadly. Oh wow, how very... poetic of him. (Yes and just ignore the fact that he literally cut out her heart in one of their previous lives, right? That he truly has seen it for himself, bleeding in the palms of his hands.) He draws Guinevere closer, seeming so protective and sickeningly possessive. The gesture says less about how he feels about her as a person than it does about how he values her as a concept. Instead of a living, breathing woman, he may as well have been clinging to his own deluded notions of having a grand destiny at all. "Moreover, we all depend on a future only my love can provide. I will step into my role as the father of the gods," Uh huh. Just like he stepped on Guinevere's foot, right? His expression steels, so grave and meaningful and practiced. "As it is my destiny. My fate."

Ah. It seemed just the perfect moment of his speech for the Excalibur itself to come magically floating into view from the heavens, right? To his untrained eyes, Guinevere's spirit wasn't in sight, ferrying the sword back. She watched as his eyes lit up like a child's on Christmas morning, overjoyed at the concept of the pieces falling so conveniently into place for him... "You see!?" He sounds manic and feverish with anticipation, negligently allowing Guinevere's body to slip and dangle in his arms. He was truly salivating at the concept of reigning his great power over Morgan as punishment, like the first time he got a taste of the Excalibur's power for himself. "The great sword itself understands--"

But Guinevere understands perfectly. Seeing her body's current state for herself, she acknowledges that she may not be able to do much-- not even with Excalibur in her possession. Merlin and the cultists did something to her and she can't be certain it hasn't been reversed yet. Not to mention that she doesn't want Arthur to take advantage of the sword's proximity and steal it for himself. There's just too much at stake to chance it. No. Morgan may be exhausted, but the sword will undoubtedly supply any extra power she'll need to see this through to the end. Because she's brilliant, she's honed her craft for years, and it's fine time everyone sees it firsthand! Yes. This will be her love's moment. Silently, she transfers her intentions to Excalibur and carries the sword to Morgan with a mischievous smile. Go get 'em, my love. I know you can. Hah. To Arthur and to all the cultists present, it looks as if the sword itself is choosing the sorceress instead of her arrogant brother with his pompous, self-proclaimed 'destiny'. And oh, if only Guinevere had a camera to capture the way this twist slapped Arthur right across the face! It's priceless!

...Oh. What's far less funny, perhaps, is the way he outright drops her in his shock. Her body smacks the ground with a cringe-inducing 'thump'. Ugh, yikes! Guinevere is not looking forward to returning to her own body. Probably... better that she stays in this form until things are under control, huh. Surely she'll find more ways to help Morgan in her spirit form, right? It'll be a learning experience! She sweeps to her side, unsure if the sorceress can even see her like this, hoping to communicate that she's still there fighting beside her. And not, you know, against her. Never, never against her, like they tried to force her to!
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
The way the old wizard screamed, screamed and screamed? Oh, that was music to Morgan's ears! The sweetest symphony she'd heard, truly, since Guinevere's confession. Admittedly, this was a far, far darker iteration, but what did it matter when the sorceress' soul had yearned for it nonetheless? Just like both summer and winter had a place in the yearly cycle, so did light need darkness! (Vengeance, huh. All the adages claimed that, yes, it was a wicked path to pursue-- one that would lead to your own destruction should you walk it, and blah, blah, blah. Something, something, an eye for an eye made the whole world blind? Yes, indeed, that was what the saying claimed! Morgan, however? Oh, Morgan wouldn't fall for the hippie propaganda. No, no, no. Only one whose eye hadn't been plucked for no reason other than casual cruelty could believe that the perpetrator didn't deserve to suffer from the safe fate, and spout nonsense about 'peace' or 'forgiveness' instead. Which, you know? Morgan would have been happy to coexist with had they not tried their hardest to smash her very self to pieces! ...they hadn't succeeded. They hadn't, and wouldn't. Should Arthur burn her, you see, she'd rise from her own goddamn ashes.)

Arthur's antics might have been funny, really, had Morgan watched it as an unconcerned observer-- as someone who felt nothing for the woman he clutched so tightly, in other words. As it was, though? Why, only the fact her used her as his meat shield protected him from her wrath! (A pathetic worm, that was what he was. A jester wearing a crown. Always, always he hid behind others, as if authority meant they were his to take, his to use, his to do whatever he wanted with. That ended tonight, though. Months ago, they'd blown their chance in Camelot, but Morgan... well, Morgan wasn't too keen on repeating her old mistakes. Making new ones was sort of inevitable, yes, but the same did not go for following in her old self's footsteps!) "What, not going to comment upon his fate?" Morgan's lips curled up in a cruel smile. "And such a faithful servant he was! Good to know, dearest brother, that even to you, he mattered less than the shit that you accidentally stepped in. Enlightening, Merlin, is it not? Ah, my bad," she raised her hand to her mouth, as if fighting off great shock, "you probably don't have the, hmm, cognitive abilities to come to any sort of conclusion right now. Actually, I'm thinking that might always have been the case. Why else serve Arthur otherwise, right? Unless you enjoy being discarded like a filthy rag, of course," Morgan wiped the blood off her nose. "In that case, carry on."

Now, did Morgan need more evidence that Arthur had gone off the deep end? The answer was a resounding no, but for some reason, the gods just kept providing them.(Her delusions? His love? Morgan knew not what kinds of hallucinogens he had ingested to piece that narrative together, but she almost wished to sample them. Truly, they seemed like the gateway to the mythical land of unicorns, rainbows, and childhood dreams!) "I've grown tired of you, brother," the sorceress said, truthfully. "Blah, blah, blah. Do you even listen to yourself? You yap like a dog, Arthur, and one of those small ones, too. Your grand destiny? Don't make me laugh. You're nobody, you idiot. Nobody lucky enough to be born with a silver spoon in his mouth, to be precise, and yet, yet you managed to lose that advantage as well. Are you trying to beat the world record for incompetence? I'd say you're frighteningly close to that."

Ever mindful of the timing, Guinevere chose that moment to strike, and gods, was it beautiful. "Yes," Morgan nodded before wrapping her fingers around the hilt, "your precious sword does seem to understand. It knows that I am Morgan le Fey, the great sorceress, and you? Just a leech, trying to drink Gwen's blood. Good luck with that, though." Merlin still screamed, screamed enough for his words to turn into incoherent growling, but when she approached him? It almost, almost seemed that he had recognized her, and knew exactly what would transpire.

"No," his eyes widened. "No, please--" Except that, you see, it was too late for pleading. The stag was there, Morgan knew-- there and willing to carry them, for as long as they needed. No, hesitation would win them exactly nothing at this stage! Knowing this, the sorceress walked over to the soon-to-be-corpse, and glimpsed the locket somewhere on his chest. Ah, perfect! Two birds, one stone and everything. Please, gods, let it work. Let it work, let it work, let it work!

And, with that? With that, Morgan shattered the locket with the Excalibur, and watched as the white-hot energy consumed the world.
 

ellarose

wanderer
The blast pushes Guinevere and the spirits around her back with the force of a tidal wave. The light blankets over her and a reel of silent memories play in her mind. A younger version of one of her past selves watching, impressionable and wide-eyed as an old woman presses a locket affectionately into the palm of her hand. The woman's lips move to say something, something important perhaps, but she can't hear what it is. Guided from one memory to the next by the white stag, she watches as the locket is traded over years and years, between two women... one with wild hair and one with the most beautiful, familiar green eyes. Women she recognizes as her and Morgan's past selves, renewing their bond over and over again through their new meetings. Making their love for each other valid in the secrecy of precious, stolen nights in the shadows. Viewing all these different points of time is like tracing brand new constellations in the night sky. She's pulled and stretched out in so many directions like an elastic band until she finally hits her limit and snaps. The force propels her like a slingshot back into her own body. Her own body, or so she hopes. Groggily, she blinks her eyes open as the dust settles. All at once she's aware of the devastating pain she's in, as well as the fact that the subtle twitches and movements of her fingers are her own. She draws a small figure eight against the earth with the tip of her finger, eight times over to confirm it for herself that she's really in control. Hm. Did that solve it? Does she belong to herself again? Thank you, Morgan. Brilliant as always.

"No. No, no, no!" Arthur is shrieking, stomping his obnoxious boots and throwing what can only be defined as a tantrum nearby. Had his nursemaid been present, maybe he would've burst into tears and tattled on about how his big sister stole his favorite toy. How it just isn't fair! Boo fucking hoo. "You will not rob me of my destiny! You won't! Do you hear me!?" He rants on with his typical nonsense, about how the gods themselves decided his fate and… yeah. Blah, blah, blah. Morgan made an excellent point about his yapping! Guinevere in particular is inclined to tune him out completely in favor of summoning the strength to hoist herself up to her elbows so she can at least make the effort to clamber towards Morgan... until he notices and snatches a fistful of her curls, using her hair to yank her to his side like its a leash. She cries out and finds, with mild astonishment, that her voice has also come back to her. (Yeah, well, it may have come as more of a relief to her if escaping from Arthur's touch wasn't such a Sisyphean task!) He hauls her up again, ignoring her discomfort while he forcibly shoves her back into his preferred narrative. Great! Now she gets to play the role of his meat shield yet again, his precious bargaining chip. Surely many would scold her for complaining in this situation, tut-tutting that she's living every girl's dream here. Girls would kill to fill her steely, spiked shoes! Wouldn't they? Wouldn't they? What with her bleeding feet, bruised skin, and a self-proclaimed king's embrace... what more could she possibly ask for? Asking for more, as Arthur would say, would be very very selfish of her. He, on the other hand, is apparently allowed to dish out as many commands as his fragile little heart desires. "Don’t come any closer."

Desperate, Arthur presses his sword against her throat in a clear threat and he moves around in a slow circle to make sure that everyone can see. Backed into a corner now that he's seen Merlin's grim fate with his own eyes. Karma in the form of his sister wielding a legendary sword-- a legendary sword he thought to be his no less-- may very well come gunning for him next! And the concept of dying on his own sword by his sister's hand... his fear of such an end wrings tightly like a noose around his neck. This must be his last resort. By threatening Guinevere's life, he clearly means to say ‘if I fall here, you’re all going to have to fall with me’. The cultists cry out in horror and outrage at the sight, but none of them dare to step forward for fear of what could happen in such a delicate situation.

“I order you all to stand down and listen! I shall take my wife back to my kingdom.” Beneath his mask, Arthur's face turns bright red. He’s positively raving. With his glaring, hateful eyes locked on Morgan, it’s clear he wants nothing more than to act violently on his wrath… but also knows better than to challenge her with the Excalibur in her possession. Instead, he tightens his grip in anger and Guinevere feels his nails digging into her flesh. If anything, she's thankful that she's bearing it, for the fact that he can't hurt her love the way he wants to. The way he undoubtably has thousands of times before. “You… You’ve been exiled to the wastelands, sister. If I should ever see your face in Camelot again, you will face the execution you unquestionably deserve! No mercy!”

Liability. Adrianne's stinging words echo in Guinevere's head. Ever since she stepped foot outside of Camelot, she hasn't had any control of the path she took going forward. First swept away in a whirlpool of time and then spat out directly into the clutches of this bloodthirsty cult. Now Arthur was going to use her as his shield, so he can escape the consequences for his actions unscathed yet again. Even with her will reunited with her body, she can't hope get away on her own two feet in the state they're in.

“As for the rest of you… if you want your goddess’s blood so badly…” Arthur presses the blade a trifle harder against Guinevere’s throat, drawing a thin red line. Small beads of red appear and roll down. He catches one on his thumb and her skin crawls. The grass grows out further, a fragrant meadow spreading outward from their feet. Oh. Right. Excalibur responds to her pain, hm. Whether that pain is emotional or physical, evidently... “You will deliver the Excalibur to me in three days time.”

Again, Guinevere considers Morgan and the acceptance that appeared to wash over her as flames consumed both herself and Arthur. She remembers waking up after her first self had knowingly eaten those poisonous berries. Although she doesn't like to consider the implications, she understands the reason why. Perhaps on some level because that had also been her, perhaps because she's lived this life over and over again. Driven into a corner by her controlling husband, knowing that escaping through death was the only plausible way for her to take control of her own story. She wished to let the forest reclaim her in the only way it could. Had... had she been shown that part of her history for a reason? She understands it all so vividly now. Either she lets him drag her back to Camelot and die a slow death in the darkness of her chambers, or...

“I am the fated savior of this world! I alone shall restore it to its former glory!”

Guinevere sees the answer clearly for herself. If her blood, her pain specifically is what brings the earth back. Sacrifice may be the answer. This lingering gut feeling exists for a reason, doesn't it? Maybe she knew the answer all along and didn't want to admit it. (Ever since the disturbance zone, with those clawed hands dragging her underground. Begging her for help. She promised she'd come back for them one day. She promised she'd come back to help once she knew how.) Morgan introduced her to a happiness she never thought she'd get to experience in her lifetime. Some tiny, selfish part of her wanted-- still wants--that to continue on forever. Maybe part of restoring the earth means experiencing the pain of severing the happiness she'd found for the sake of everyone else. The locket is a symbol of their bond and now it's broken. Maybe it's time...

Guinevere wonders if Arthur remembers their wedding night, when he told her he liked her because she was so dutiful. Since the very beginning he used her profound sense of responsibility like a weapon against her. Whether it was centuries ago with the fae or in this most recent lifetime with her gang. She accepted that she was throwing her life away the moment she agreed to marry him. Knowing-- knowing damn well it'd eventually be the death of her. Messed up as it was, it had been her choice. It had been her choice to give up her freedom to provide a better life for everyone she cared about. This is more or less the same thing, isn't it? And even better yet, because... she'll be taking this selfish bastard down with her. Down into hell where he belongs.

"No." Guinevere sees Morgan with Excalibur in her hands, knowing she'll look after it in her stead. Her love's got the brains and the magical prowess to handle whatever might come her way next. Still... The earth begins to shake beneath their feet as her curse reignites and locks a clear target on the source of her misery. Her heart pounds with anticipation, her whole body zinging with a fear she fights to ignore. I almost thought we could find another way. I'm sorry, my love. "I'd... I'd rather die on my own terms." She smiles her big, stupid smile. That one she always wears when she laughs death right in the face. Fuck. She hopes that quoting the sorceress's brilliant words will tell her what she thought of them-- that from the very bottom of her heart, she admires her for fighting the way she has up to this point.

"...What? Your own terms? Don't make me laugh, Guinevere!" Arthur's breath warms her ear and again he gazes at her like she's the punchline of a joke. He tightens his grip. Little does he know that his pigheadedness is only adding kindling to the raging firestorm that's coming for him. "Whether you like it or not, we're going back to Camelot. Say goodbye, because you will never lay eyes on my wicked sister again. In fact, you--"

"Nah. You're not getting away this time, you bastard." Guinevere grins ruefully, flashing her sharp teeth. At least she's beating him at his own game, right? The earth shakes even harder now, destroying whatever remains of the tattered decorations in the square. That thing underground, big and hungry and ancient, is coming. It's eager. The sight of battered mecha-beasts and human corpses strewn about, an earth overflowing with flowers and natural life in contrast, the lightning crackling wildly in the sky... it aligns quite perfectly with the Lady of the Lake's vision, doesn't it?

'Are you watching, Viviane?' Guinevere wonders. Morgan slayed Merlin, she'll slay Arthur and... 'Sorry it took so long. We've finally taken vengeance for you.'

A chasm splits the ground directly beneath Arthur's feet. He can barely let out a scream of terror before gravity drags the two of them down, down, down inside of it. Guinevere grits her teeth and closes her eyes as she feels herself slipping free of his arms. Hopefully, hopefully free for good this time. With a deep breath, she finds solace in the fact that the endless fall into darkness below feels a whole lot like flying.
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Oh, gods. He’d lost it, completely and utterly! Not that he’d been the picture of mental health before, mind you, but it had never been quite as bad. (Usually, you see, Arthur at least had had the decency to hide his madness behind a regal mask. How not, after all? Coming off as a little boy who had never learned the meaning of the word ‘no’ would have been a PR disaster, even if that was exactly who he was, and for all his faults, her brother understood the importance of symbols. Power dwelled where people believed it dwelled, right? Yes, yes, certainly, and not even the staunchest of loyalists would find it easy to kiss the shoes of someone who lost his cool so... hmm, so dramatically. A crown, a throne, a scepter-- have you ever wondered why all the items associated with kingship had to be so flashy? A magpie’s fever dream? It was because they were props, plain and simple. Props in a theatre larger than life, where the quality of the actor’s performance determined everything. If he couldn’t deliver his lines convincingly, for example? The knights would abandon him, his knights would flee from him. ‘Why should I serve such a fool?’ they’d ask one another. ‘Clearly, he doesn’t know where he is walking. No, I shall not follow him into the abyss blindly!’ That wisdom, at least, Arthur had grasped, and acted accordingly.)

had acted accordingly, once. The meagre attempts to control his temper? Those had burnt, burnt in the flames of his rage, and Morgan… gods, Morgan couldn’t figure out why in the seven hells she had ever been afraid of him. (Blah blah blah, destiny, blah blah blah, I am the most special man to ever man. Truly, did he not own a pair of ears? Could he not hear how ridiculous it all was? ‘I’ wasn’t the only pronoun there was, dammit! Asking him to understand would have been terribly naïve, perhaps, but in some hidden corner of her soul, the sorceress had hoped that maybe, maybe Arthur actually knew-- that he didn’t seriously believe in the hogwash he spouted, and only did so in order to feed his own mythos. And, no, don’t get any wrong ideas here. From the moral standpoint, that would have been equally reprehensible. Still, it would at least have been relatable, you know? As cruel as his intentions might have been, as terribly misguided, Morgan would have been able to examine them and perhaps think: Yes, I could see myself doing that as well. If gods switched our fates, I’d opt for the same strategy. But, no, no, no! Arthur, as it turned out now, was his own most passionate follower. On the altar of his so-called glory, he’d sacrificed the pitiful remainders of his common sense-- with others’ blood he watered it, too, and that was his greatest offence. Namely, that he tried to take Guinevere with him as well!

“Have you learned nothing at all, you piece of filth?” Morgan raised her voice. “Newsflash, my dearest brother-- our universe is, in fact, heliocentric, and thus doesn’t revolve around you. Your destiny? Your wife? Your kingdom? Don't make me laugh, Arthur. None of that belongs to you. Hell, you don't even own yourself! That's why you're like this, aren't you? You keep chasing this idea of what you're supposed to be because, deep inside, you're nothing. You're nothing, Arthur, and you know it.”

Taking Guinevere hostage was the lowest of lows, truly, and... wait, wait, wait. What? Die on her own terms? (An echo of what Morgan herself had been saying earlier, but twisted beyond recognition-- mostly because, unlike her, Gwen appeared to have no sort of plan. Aw, shit. To hell with everything!) "Gwen. Gwen, no. You can't. I won't allow it, do you hear me? No matter where you go, I will drag you right back." Had three lifetimes not been enough? How much blood they had to spill before the gods were satisfied, huh? And Guinevere, with her stupid, self-sacrificial tendencies, was making it far too easy for those bastards! (Why was that always her first response? Why, why, why? A survivor's guilt masquerading as humility? The trait may have seemed noble from distance, but Morgan had had enough-- enough of being left behind, and enough of supping on her own tears. Oh no, no, no. Heroic deaths were only ever heroic in legends, you see? Because, once the curtain fell, or once you closed the book, the story was over. Nobody had to deal with rebuilding, ruling, and existing, in all the senses of that word, which sure was awfully convenient. While narratively unsatisfying, that was where the real challenge was, you know? And Gwen expected her to handle it alone, somehow. The audacity!)

Magical energies swirled around her hands, much like wisps of smoke-- they were faint, but they were also there, and that meant she could do something, right? Such as, you know, chain Gwen to herself!

...except that, no, everything happened way too fast. The ground opened underneath their feet, opened and swallowed Arthur, along with Gwen, her Gwen, and-- and--

The time itself stopped, Morgan could have sworn that. The taste of helplessness was bitter on her tongue, familiar but still too overwhelming to handle, and in the shocked silence that enveloped them all, a single sound dominated-- a quiet drip, drip, drip, as the droplets of her blood fell on the sword. On the Excalibur, whose thirst could never be fully quenched. And, when that happened? The weapon screamed in her mind, along with Morgan herself, the spirits, and the soil from which all life had been born.

No, she thought.

No, the Excalibur agreed.

No, no, no, the spirits sang, their voices growing louder by the second. Not yet! Not ever!

Pure magic exploded in her veins, wild and so, so powerful, and... wow. This was what gods must have felt like, wasn't it? With the concentrated potential at her fingertips, Morgan could move mountains! Whole kingdoms would be born and die at her behest, and everyone would bow to her, the mistress of all creation-- no, she shook her head. Gwen. Think of Gwen.

Her back burst then, with bloody stains blooming all over it, but that mattered not. The wings the Excalibur had given her, though? Oh, that was a different story! Not hesitating for a single second, Morgan threw herself into the abyss. (There she was, falling, falling, falling, and soon enough, the sorceress would be able to reach her. Just a few more inches! ...which kept eluding her, however. Was this the maximum speed she could squeeze out of those wings?) "Gwen!" the sorceress shouted through her tears. "My hand. Reach for it! Don't you dare to even think about giving up, okay? I won't... I won't forgive you if you do. You promised."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere empties her mind, allowing the free fall to overtake her senses. The air buffeting her ears, skirt billowing and cloud-like around her legs, her heart pounding like a feral lioness pounding at the bars of her cage. Rushing winds, rushing adrenaline, everything's a rush. It's fun, really! Like flying! One last, um, hurrah before... before... okay. Arthur's terrified screams jostle her out of her reverie, forcing her to confront reality for what it is. This is the end, huh. Just how deep does this chasm go? This darkness gives her no concept of time. How many seconds does she have left before she collides with whatever awaits her down below? Well, it doesn't matter. At least she has the dignity to face it with grace! So fucking what if her professed 'destiny' isn't everything everyone hyped it up to be? She'll happily spit on her destiny and subvert everyone's expectations in the process. Die the way she lived, damn it! Never again will she play the part of the captive, the damsel, the bride, the blood bag, the puppet, or the hostage. She'll never be forced to bear any heirs or bow to the will of those pompous assholes who claim they know what's best for her. She'll finally be free.

Optimism, right? Gotta love it. Guinevere keeps a sound mind by making the active effort to choose it when despair threatens to strangle her. Except that after considering all of those awful things she would never do again, a deluge of all sorts of other things she'll never do again rains down on her. Better things. She catches brief snapshots of those things behind her eyes-- people, mostly-- that she is going to miss so, so terribly. Stop it. She's going to psyche herself out, otherwise. Thinking of-- thinking of everything she's just given up, everyone she's leaving behind... it'll shatter her heart into a thousand pieces before she ever hits the ground.

I'm scared. She finally acknowledges, sobering. It happened so quickly. That's how it's always been in the wastes, though. Quick. Horrifyingly so. In the blink of an eye, she's seen countless friends snatched away and torn apart in the jaws of those mechanical beasts. They could move faster than she could sprint. So she trained herself to run faster, to work harder, fueled by regret and righteous anger while she fought on an empty stomach. Even then... even then, a warrior with a sword can only do so much in a wasteland like this. There were so many nights she laid wide awake in her tent, beaten down and thinking the next day would probably be her last. Sometimes she tried to visualize the beast that might fell her. Sometimes she wondered whether the cold and starvation would take their toll on her first. So despite the fear, she's prepared to face it. For as long as she can remember, she could see death. The way it killed the earth, hung over her friends, and even lingered in her own reflection. When Arthur found her, she was well acquainted with it, to the point she was willing to sign her life away in exchange for something better. Anything. Even if it came in the form of scraps from his table, it was still better than nothing!

So... so, you know, at least Guinevere managed to do something worthwhile in spite of all those promises he never delivered on. Now her girls are in Camelot, safe and warm and fed. Better yet, Arthur-- the son of a bitch-- and Merlin aren't going to be a problem anymore. And Morgan... Morgan. Her love is going to find a way to scold her for this stunt in the afterlife, no question. Every time she pulls a stupid stunt like this, that's always... always her... Oh, fuck. Morgan. I'm sorry. Guilt is a sharp stab in her gut.

Morgan has Excalibur now. Has Avalon as well as her gang-- who will surely back her up in Camelot! On top of that, she possesses the wit to clear any obstacle in her path moving forward. Months ago Guinevere confessed that she could see her love being an excellent ruler. Morgan might have laughed at her for that-- but she'd been telling the truth. No way would she ever have been able to get as far as she had without her there by her side. The sorceress was her teacher all this time, the voice of wisdom, the one who's always had her shit together. If anyone's going to make it out there, it's her. She'll keep living on, she'll prevail and do so, so many great things... things she didn't get to do before, because of Arthur's suffocating rules in Camelot and that vicious cycle of tragedy they'd been locked in.

Only after meeting Morgan did Guinevere begin thinking of the future beyond just a day-- maybe a week tops-- on from where she stood in the present. Fantasizing about it was really fun while it lasted. There's something hopeful about a dream, the process of fighting for it, of reaching out for it and just nearly believing in it. That day when Morgan introduced her to Toastington and they opened Camelot's gates to her friends? She'd said herself that it felt too good to be true. Deep down, the tragic patterns in her own life are engraved in her just like the scars on her back. Those patterns say that it's just too faraway a concept to reach, that the grim reality always sets in eventually. And now she's crashing down from the clouds of that fantasy. Don't get her wrong. When Guinevere said she trusted Morgan, she meant it with her whole heart. It's just... life in general that she doesn't trust.

'Gwen!' Ugh. Now Guinevere isn't sure she can trust her own ears! Because she swears she's hearing Morgan's voice. So clearly too, like she's right there with her. When she opens her eyes, they widen with the dawning horror that Morgan dove into the chasm after her. "Morgan!? Why would you--" Now they're both going to-- and it's all her fault-- and--! But no, wait. Are those wings? Ooooh. Duh. She's hallucinating! Probably has something to do with the altitude or, uh, the shock? Or she passed out and now she's dreaming? Despite this initial assumption, when Morgan asks for her hand, it sounds so real that Guinevere's eyes crinkle and tear up with understanding. "...I promised." She agrees. Because she did. From there, she makes an honest effort to outstretch her arm, desperately flexing her fingers towards her. Their hands only manage to brush a few times until she puts all her remaining strength into reaching out and... and ah hah! Got her! Gripping tightly to her love's hand, there's a jerk and suddenly she finds herself suspended in the air, watching as Arthur plummets further down below them both, cursing both their names as he goes. Oh. Oh, wow. So this is the real deal, huh. She can feel the warmth from her hand and everything. Meaning...

"Holy... holy shit." Guinevere swallows hard and then directs her bright, starry eyes up to Morgan, hovering above her like a freaking angel. The most beautiful angel she's ever laid eyes on. Like, she truly puts all those revered, classical paintings to shame. There's no contest! "I-- hah-- I'm not dreaming, am I? How on earth did you..."

Death was gaining on her, leaning in so close that she could feel it breathing down her neck. But Morgan le Fey is faster. Fucking legendary.

"Morgan le Fey. Did you grow wings for me?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Absurd, that was what it was. Completely and utterly, too! The world around her was spinning, spinning, spinning, much like a wheel rolling from a wheel, and Morgan... Morgan had to admit it felt strangely good, for some mysterious reason. (The wound on her back? Oh, it was still burning, alright. Millions of tiny needles were being stuck into her skin, one by one, and her lungs must have resembled a Swiss cheese by that point-- a development which she wagered couldn't, uh, be good. Mildly speaking. Despite being aware of all of that, though? The pain she felt with every beat of her heart, with every breath she took, wasn't necessarily... well, unpleasant. It was the kind of pain that seized you after a proper workout, you know? A sign that said that, yes, you'd done well, and now you could enjoy your well-deserved rest. ...not that she necessarily thought that, mind you. More than anything, her blood had been payment-- a sacrifice, laid at Guinevere's ancestor’s feet. Why had the Excalibur accepted it, even? Wasn't the sword geared uniquely towards drinking her love's blood, and towards rejecting anything else? Arthur's blood hadn't sufficed, certainly, which...)

Oh, Arthur. In a way, it was bizarre, truly, to acknowledge that it was over-- that he wouldn't crawl out of some shadow when they thought themselves to be safe, and stab them right in the back. (For so, so many years, that had been her fear! That walls had eyes, and ears as well, and that, somehow, even the most innocent of gestures could somehow betray her true intentions. Perhaps she only thought them to be innocent, while they screamed 'traitor, traitor, traitor' to the world...? Either way, someone would tell on her, surely, surely, for the quest for Arthur's approval never ended, and then... then he'd burn her, just as he'd promised. 'Give me a good reason, sweet sister, and I will show you what our ancestors did to filth like you. They had rather effective methods, you see?' Some part of her, she'd discovered, had believed that such an ending was inevitable-- that it came with the same cold certainty with which snow buried the land each winter, uncaring for the plants that died beneath. Now, though? Now, as he plummeted into the bottomless abyss? This would never happen, never, never, never, and the force of that realization almost squeezed the oxygen out of her lungs. Finally, she was free! ...as free as someone like her got to be, anyway.)

"Ah," Morgan gasped, struggling against the additional weight. (Sheesh, the wings certainly could have been sturdier! Not to complain, of course, as they were fine for carrying a single person, but the sorceress had a reason to think that the Excalibur had granted them to her specifically so that she could save Gwen. So, again, what was the point of this? Such help was about as valuable as a dull knife, or a songbird which had lost its voice, or… or a whole number of useless things that she couldn’t be bothered to think of at the moment, really. Not now, when her eyelids were so heavy and the temptation to sink into the sweet, sweet oblivion so strong.) “I, ah, may have. I’m not sure how, but this is my life now, I suppose. Incomprehensible.” All that effort that had gone into understanding the rhythms of the earth, and the way it breathed? Divining its intents from how the grass swayed? It hadn’t been wasted, not exactly, but in that moment, Morgan fully understood that they were but specks of dust-- specks of dust carried by the wind, only ever capable of grasping fragments of the larger truth. (Somehow, that didn’t fill her with despair. The idea of contributing a little, at least, so that others might build on that legacy long after she was gone, was a surprisingly pleasing prospect. There was this particular flavor of belonging in that, you see? The very belonging they’d denied to her, back when Camelot had still been a dark, insidious prison, with no light at the end of the tunnel.)

“Hold on tight,” the sorceress recommended to Guinevere. “I, ah, still need to get us out of here.” Easier said than done, really, because the weight was pulling her down, down, down--had she not known any better, Morgan would have thought that some wicked monster was pulling at her feet, at her legs, at her everything. But, no! No, they couldn’t have her or Gwen, no matter how much they pleaded. (A sacrifice, huh. Like a silver thread, that concept ran through all the lives they’d ever lived, and tied them together thematically. Such an ugly stitch it was, too! Messy beyond measure, more suited for the Frankenstein’s monster than for a lady’s embroidered handkerchief. Always, it seemed, at least one of them had to get the short end of the stick! …well, not anymore. Not if Morgan had anything to say about it, anyway.)

Just a little higher, she thought, trying to ignore the way her wings moaned under their shared weight. (It, uh, didn’t exactly instill a sense of confidence in her, but maybe she was just imagining it? Yes, yes, surely. Wings couldn’t even produce such sounds, for gods’ sake!) The chasm around them was closing, like a wound eager to heal, which-- damn. Damn, damn, damn! The death trap Guinevere had devised was a little too good, apparently. Soon enough, you see, they’d be caught in it! She pushed, relentlessly, despite it feeling as if her bones were breaking, but they wouldn’t make it, not with everything happening as fast as it did, and… wow. Where had that burst of energy come from? Morgan didn’t know, and likely never would. The only thing that she was aware of, at the moment? That it saved her lives, for the ground shut its maws the second they collapsed on the sweet-smelling grass. (Gods, gods, gods. How many times had they escaped death narrowly by now? Even the idea of counting all the instances made her weary.) “See? Safe and sound, just like I promised,” Morgan managed to say… before a river of blood spilled from her mouth, that was.
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere blinks dazedly after she lands on solid ground. When she notices the soft grass tickling the palms of her hands as well as the fresh fragrance of the night air, she gazes up at the scenery around her, seeing it as if for the very first time. In that moment, the entire world holds its breath and everything stands still. I did this. Some part of her knows this in the simplest sense, considering it'd been jackhammered into her head that "restoring the earth" was what she was born for... and yet she still can't wrap her mind around it. Perhaps it's because in truth, they did this. They used her to do this. Those detestable cowards, hiding under their masks, wielding their thirsty syringes. Now they're approaching, circling around them like vultures preparing to pick their corpses clean.

"...Morgan," Guinevere rasps brokenly, her chest tight with agony at the sight of the blood. "No. No, no, no." She reaches a shaking hand to touch her cheek. Why? Noticing the cultists inching closer in her peripheral frustrates her so much that she could scream at the top of her lungs. Some part of her wants to demand why she went so damned far, when she knew it could have killed her. That it... that it might kill her, gods forbid! Except seeing her love in this state instantly tells her all of the reasons why she shouldn't do that. Breathe, Gwen. She's just so... so frightened. And she's positively fuming for being so scared, so helpless. The point is that Morgan wouldn't-- would never in a million years-- be the target of her fury. First of all, it'd be completely misplaced. The cult deserves to burn in the fires of her anger, not her love! That's a no brainer. Secondly, Arthur is gone now-- good riddance-- and she is not looking to step in as his replacement. Hasn't her love experienced enough of that toxicity in her lifetime? She deserves someone who's going to love her properly, not someone who's going to lash out in all the worst possible ways when things go to shit.

After all, hadn't Morgan done precisely what Guinevere herself would have done if their roles were reversed? (Hell, she's so reckless she probably would have jumped before growing the damned wings first.) It hits her right in the heart that the sorceress reciprocates the muchness of her love, to a much greater extent than she's ever realized. This makes it worse, though, when considering her gut feeling that sacrifice may be the... the solution. That ancient, hungry thing waiting below the earth is tethered to her and she knows it won't let her go until it's satiated. Her vision blurs with tears. "You should've let me go." She laments gently as they flow and drop down onto the grass. "I think I might... I might have to..."

Guinevere can't bring herself to finish her sentence, not that she even has time to. Now what? Well, obviously the cultists are going to take advantage of their exhaustion yet again, lock her up, and do god knows what to Morgan... No. Excalibur's voice cuts through the thick fog of her panic like a beam from a lighthouse. "...Excalibur?" Blearily, she blinks through her tears and unhesitatingly brings her hand to the golden hilt. Their connection is magnetic, to the point where she isn't certain she could release the sword even if she wanted to. In a way, it feels like it's the one clinging onto her rather than her onto it, as if it means to reinforce that it was just as afraid of losing her as Morgan was.

Rise past your limits, child. There's a sharp snap as the spiked shoes are magically unlatched from her feet. They're oh so bloodied and covered in wounds. Guinevere winces at the sea of red that pools into the grass. Rise past her limits? This is the same spiel that the priest spewed earlier. Hm. Although they certainly had the right idea if the grass and wildflowers are any indication. But this time... no one's forcing her. It's her choice. Rise and fight.

Excalibur and the spirits, buoyed by nature's unfurling spring, orbit around her the way the earth orbits the sun. Their voices brush Guinevere's ears in compassionate whispers that they share in her rage, they urge her to feel it entirely. To use it. These bloodthirsty bastards let it fester when they kept her prisoner, for weeks, for months-- for years of her childhood in total darkness. When they made her feel so pitiful and ashamed that she wanted to die. Her nails press into the soul. With a breathy laugh, she jaggedly sways onto her injured feet. They ache and scream as she stands and yet the pain lends to the raw energy coursing through her veins.

All at once, Guinevere's senses are heightened and overflowing. She gets that familiar feeling that she's carrying more than one heartbeat in her chest. Closing her eyes, she realizes she can sense every living presence for miles and miles out... while also bearing the knowledge that she could inhabit any one of them if she wanted, that she could simply peer into their minds and read their thoughts as if they were a vast array of books waiting on the shelves of a library. Instead, she specifically hones in on which of the cultists hide syringes and vials of her blood in their pockets. At her will, these objects float into the air, disarming all of them in one fell swoop. By clenching the fist of her unoccupied hand, she smashes every single one of the vials-- her blood bursting free from them and floating in midair. With an elegant flourish, it flows towards them. Excalibur glows as it absorbs every last drop. When Guinevere opens her eyes, they mirror the sword, luminous as stars.

"Look around. Haven't you done enough?" Guinevere sighs, sounding ominously calm for just how furious she is. They don't yet realize that she's saving the rage she'd typically expel in an outburst for her finishing blow. But they will. Soon. She holds herself like a queen, graceful and vaguely bored. Some of the cultists dare to amble closer, some try talking to her... but she isn't listening. Hm. If they don't back off, she would have to make them back off. Her lips quirk into a dangerous smile. "...I'm going to destroy you now."

The intense pulse of her magic spreads like a ripple of water on an otherwise still lake, leaving herself and Morgan untouched in a little circle of protection while the cultists, as well as all of their remaining statues and buildings, are blown completely flat. Their once impressive village is left in ruins. Heh. They'll be so busy rebuilding that concerning themselves with her again ought to take quite some time. By the time the dust settles, only Guinevere remains standing. Until she collapses, that is. The nights events take their toll on her in full force and she can barely hang onto her consciousness as a dull ringing assaults her ears. Morgan. She needs a doctor. Ah-- yikes. So does Guinevere, for that matter. What the hell are they going to do now?

Moments pass before, alongside the ringing, she can hear a faint scraping. The distinct footsteps of a monster. Ugh. Seriously? Is a simple mecha-beast going to finish them off now, after everything they've just gone through? Except that, no, it seems a person is riding the beast as if it's a casual form of transportation. A familiar person who looks a hell of a lot like... like her. Wait a second. Jennifer!?

"...Hello ladies." Jennifer has a lot on her mind-- and several questions no doubt-- judging by the way she glances perplexedly at the scene around them. But rather than make a sly comment, she realizes the urgency of their situation and gets right to the point. "Need a lift?"
 
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Syntra

Baba Yaga
"Should have what?" Morgan managed to say, in between the spurts of blood. (Damn. How was there still anything left to spill, even? The human body contained, what, 1.5 gallons of it? That was what all those old books claimed, anyway, and the sorceress... well, the sorceress must have lost that ten times over at least during the course of this night. How am I still alive? she thought, with this idle detachment. I shouldn't be. Not that that was a cause for complaint, mind you, but tired as she was, Morgan still tried to wrap her mind around it. Hmm, hmm. Perhaps it was the Excalibur that was keeping her alive? The Excalibur, connected to life itself and new beginnings-- to restoring that which had never been supposed to be lost in the first place, too. Could it be? Could it be, truly? The spirits dancing around them, she presumed, might have played a role in this as well. As long as there was but a thin thread binding her to her body, you see, that bond could be strengthened! Strengthened via magic, via the spirits' own life essence, and all the things that Morgan didn't quite understand yet.) "Don't... don't even dare to say that, Guinevere. I have a feeling I know what you're about to spout, and I don't wish to hear it. Are you trying to imply that my efforts have been wasted on you?" A cold way to say this, perhaps, but it was also a statement that was bound to reach her ears. (How did you get to someone this drenched in guilt, after all? You had to speak their language, even if the words were nails and knives and all things sharp. ...there was a gentler approach as well, probably. The thing about that, though? Morgan's thoughts felt sluggish, like worms trying to crawl through a sea of honey, and even opening her mouth cost her much more energy than it should have. Thinking may have been her favorite pastime, yes, but not in situations like that! And yet, yet she had to say something, for such words could not go unaddressed. Oh no, no, no. Like an open wound, it would fester, fester and succumb to rot, and... well, obviously, letting such a thing happen wasn't an option.)

"Don't be like that, Gwen. You... you do know I will fling myself into that abyss, again and again and again, no matter how many times it will take, right? Because I can promise that to you. No, my love, there must be another way. Either we both live or we both die," more blood spilled from her mouth, "and... and I don't know about you, but the endings where we suffer seem pretty... hmm, monothematic, to me. Overdone. Narratively, they stopped making sense." But, ah, as if some abstract concept of narrative cared about them! Narrative couldn't save them from being stuck in a village full of crazed cultists, nor could it heal her wounds. It didn't even exist outside of her own head, and the perceptions governed by her own thoughts! (Morgan knew that, of course. She knew and knew and knew, to the point the knowledge felt like a tip of a sword pressed against her neck, yet sometimes, nothing but delusions offered any relief.)

...the world around was growing more brittle, somehow. Was she losing consciousness? Yes, yes, that must have been it-- with every drop of lost blood, Morgan was getting closer to that threshold, you see, and... ah. What was that? Jen's voice? One of the sounds she had never wanted to hear again, really, but oh, how easily one could change one's stance on that! (Life had a funny way of making you eat your own words, Morgan guessed. That was her last thought before the exhaustion closed her eyes, and she sank into the darkness.)

How long the sorceress slept, that much she couldn't say, but when she opened her eyes? Two things became apparent immediately-- the first of them being that this was her bedroom, their bedroom, in truth, and so they must have made it to Camelot. And the other? That every inch of her skin hurt, as if it had been set on fire. Groaning in irritation, Morgan tried to tuck herself deeper under the blanket, but then... Gwen. Gwen was there, lying next to her! "My love," she caressed her hair softly, admiring the way it gleamed in the sunlight. (Like spun gold, truly.) "I'm glad that you are... well, not alright, probably, but alive, at least. That was quite something, wasn't it? I wasn't aware that that many things could go wrong at once. Even for our standards, that must have been some sort of record."
 

ellarose

wanderer
"...Yeah." Guinevere exhales, offering a huff that sounds like a rather sad attempt to resemble a laugh. When she tries to muster one of her easy smiles instead, it quickly falters and collapses as if for once the weight it takes to hold is too massive for her to sustain. Shit. At least she took an honest crack at it? Morgan deserves the effort at least, for trying to lighten the mood so soon after opening her eyes. If anything, though, the fact that she's actually awake is enough reason to release a big sigh of relief. Until Guinevere knew for certain that Morgan was going to be okay, her chest was strung so tightly with worry that she couldn't breathe. It was about a thousand times worse than wearing one of those corsets that Arthur liked. (One might have thought she'd have slept easier that night, knowing the bastard was gone for good. No such luck. The version of him in her nightmares was especially disgusting, as if he knew she just killed him and wanted to spite her for it.) She slept in small spells before she startled awake in some feverish fit, either from her own wounds or flashbacks or sudden, irrational bursts of fear that Morgan's condition must've worsened when she closed her eyes. It's a wonder that the sorceress never stirred from all her fuss, honestly. Probably for the best, too. She needed the rest. "That's us. Always breaking records and shit."

On top of all that, Guinevere is reluctant to revisit the conversation they never got to finish that night.

"How are you feeling?" Guinevere asks, aligning her priorities as she gently reaches for Morgan's hand in her hair. Her wellbeing is the most important thing right now, isn't it? Before she can supply any details in regards to what happened after she lost consciousness that night, there's a light knock and the door to her chambers swings open. Emily breezes inside, pushing a wooden wheelchair.

"I checked with the maids and they had a few set aside after all. It's the fanciest wheelchair I've ever seen, Gwen. At least you'll be riding in style--" Emily pauses mid-sentence when she notices Morgan's eyes are open, flushing with surprise. "Oh. Morgan, you're awake! Thank goodness. We were all so worried."

A little winded, perhaps from her quest to procure a chair, Emily scurries across the room to fiddle with a tray on the little bedside table. She pours a cup of... some kind of concoction. Herbal tea, maybe? With a timid little smile, she carefully hands the cup to Morgan. "Here, drink this. It should help your throat." She clasps her hands together, taking a moment to catch her breath. "...I hope I wasn't interrupting anything?"

"No, it's okay. Thanks, Emily." Guinevere says, her tone soft with gratitude. As much as she'd have liked a moment with her love after everything they'd been through, she can easily forgive the person who's been hard at work doing everything in her power to help them heal. They'll have plenty of time later, seeing as they'll both be out of commission for a bit.

Emily nods and returns to the chair, wheeling it over to Guinevere's side of the bed.

"Hm. It might be kind of uncomfortable to sit on-- but that's an easy fix. See?" Emily retrieves a small, circular accent pillow from the bed and rests it on the chair. "There. All set. Now, are you sure you want to go down today? I can tell them you need more time."

"I'm sure. I think I'll go mad if I stay cooped up in here." Guinevere admits, wincing as she forces herself to sit up. Emily peels the blanket back and lifts her up and eases her down into the chair. Guinevere stares down at her bandaged feet and deflates with a sigh. Apparently it'll take weeks, perhaps a month, before she can walk on them again. Squelching her feelings, she steels herself to appear at least somewhat assured when she glances at Morgan. "I'm just going down for an hour to explain what happened. And to address some concerns."

Emily's gaze flickers between the two of them. With a decisive air, she wheels Guinevere over to her wardrobe.

"Here. Why don't you find something to wear? I'll come back soon to help you get ready. Gwen, maybe you should, ah, take a minute to consult with Morgan?" Emily suggests. "It's a delicate situation, you know, and a second opinion is sure to help!" She leaves Guinevere no room to object before she escapes the room. No changing the subject now, huh? Not after that. Now, she wasn't about to make a choice like this without telling Morgan about it first. Had the sorceress slept up until the minute of the meeting, she'd have saved this for later. But as it is now? Her heart pounds. Because her intentions are rather... bold... and she's not quite certain how her love is going to take it.

"I want--" Guinevere picks reluctantly at one of the ribbons on her nightdress. "I want to tell everyone the truth. About what I am and why I'm here and... all of it." Distractedly, she runs her fingers over the skirts displayed in front of her. The idea of wearing black, of pretending to be a grieving widow over Arthur's death-- just the concept-- makes her sick to her stomach. More than that, she doesn't know if she can physically keep this up... the lies, the hiding. "What do you think?"
 
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Syntra

Baba Yaga
‘How are you feeling?’ Gwen asked, and the answer to that… well, Morgan wasn’t sure, honestly. Were you familiar with that feeling where your eyelids were so heavy that just keeping them open somehow consumed most of your brainpower? If so, then yes, that was the state the sorceress found herself in! (Hmm, hmm. Did it really matter all that much? The pillow was soft, the bed so, so comfortable, and Guinevere obviously wasn’t going anywhere. Why should she resist the temptation of falling asleep, then? Sleep, as all the healers worth their salt agreed, was the best doctor-- for no price at all, it poured energy into your veins. When viewed from this angle, was that not the responsible thing to do? Camelot was still a vipers’ nest, even with the asshole in chief gone, and gods, just the idea of wrestling with the lords and ladies again made her weary. Did they never need to rest? Arguing over pointless nonsense, over and over and over, must have been exhausting for them as well! …except that, you know, Gwen wasn’t like those people. Nothing about her was even remotely annoying, and answering a few questions couldn’t possibly make her more tired. No, no! For her, Morgan would endure it.) “I’m alive, I guess. That’s still better than what I expected when I grew those wings,” since the amount of energy it had drained from her had been nothing short of insane, “so I am not complaining. What about you, though? Those shoes couldn’t have…” Couldn’t have what? Not hurt? Not left lasting damage? All true statements, certainly, but also incredibly unnecessary ones-- Guinevere must have been acutely aware of that, after all. “How long have I been unconscious? I mean, I want to know whether there’s any point to asking if the wounds have started to close yet.”

“Oh, hello, Emily,” she found the strength to smile, “thank you.” The concoction, of course, was utterly gross-- the grosser the healthier, that seemed to be the principle here, and never in her life had Morgan experienced the reverse being true. Just another curse of the human existence! …still, this wasn’t the time to be a child. She would have loved to, partially because it felt like she had never had the opportunity to be one, but this was about her health, and only a fool would argue here. “Very regal,” the sorceress offered Gwen a small smile. “We can decorate it a bit, too-- I am sure the lords and ladies will take you more seriously if you arrive in style.” And, no, that wasn’t even a joke. If you hoped to rule a bunch of fools, you had to look equally foolish, you see? All those desperate, lost people wanted to look at their queen and be able to say: ‘yes, in her I see my own reflection.’ (Leading by example? Pfft! The reality was that they’d decided to jump into the abyss long ago, and now only wished for someone in position of power to approve that idea for them. What was being said didn’t matter as much as who said it, right? …pathetic. Exactly the reason Morgan herself didn’t want to be a ruler, really.)

…Emily seemed to be a bit on edge, though, wasn’t she? As if she knew something Morgan didn’t-- something that wouldn’t make her happy, judging by the way she glanced at Gwen from time to time. Hmm, hmm. What could it be, though? Both of them were alive, the same could probably be said about the rest of their group, and Arthur was dead. Merlin had kicked the bucket, too, unless he’d somehow found a way to survive without skin. Given this context, how could anything even spoil her mood? Just, how? A dangerous question to ask, as it turned out, because Guinevere chose to answer it for her immediately.

“What,” Morgan said, flatly. “Guinevere, are you…” …feeling well? Feverish, perhaps? Sleep-deprived? All valid options, but also ones that were dripping with contempt, and so the sorceress swallowed them. No, surely there were other ways to phrase it-- ways that wouldn’t hint at lowered cognitive capabilities. “Forget it. Gwen, are you sure? What do you hope to gain by doing that, even? I am sorry, but this is a risk, and in order for me to see this course of action as reasonable, I need to weigh it against the advantages we might win for ourselves. So, let me ask again: why? And before you answer that question, know that one more will follow. Namely, how will you do it?” The sorceress was sitting upright now, obviously on high alert. “You know the importance of that particular dance, Gwen. Phrasing it in a manner that would make them accept it, that is. I assume you have prepared a speech in advance, right? I wish to hear it. What, exactly, will you say in order to sway their hearts?”
 

ellarose

wanderer
"Why? Because I'm tired of dancing." Guinevere confesses. Sorely, perhaps, because the analogy mirrors the torture she'd suffered through that night so vividly. She glances at Morgan as if to say 'I know you are, too'-- but those words might as well go unspoken. She's been keeping up this charade her whole life! It makes perfect sense why the concept of rocking the foundations it rested upon would be so scary, so baffling, but... "I'm tired of pretending to be a dancer when I never was one in the first place. I don't dance!" Okay-- not exactly the point, Guinevere. She takes a deep, calming breath to iron herself flat. Hysterics will not convince her love of anything. "And sometimes I wonder why we bother dancing for these people when we're obviously stronger. My gang is being forced to downplay their strengths and... for what? So they don't offend the fragile egos of some weak-ass men who wouldn't actually last a day out in the wastes?" Her ears singe pink. "You were out for nearly two days, Morgan. Yesterday I heard all kinds of stories. They've been trying to hold it together while we were away. I know this isn't exactly a shocker, but they've been treated like garbage."

Guinevere's outrage goes deeper than that, honestly, but driving into that territory while her wounds are still so fresh is...

"And then it occurred to me, I guess... why do we walk on eggshells while they live comfortably in their bubble? Why do we have to live in fear when they're the ones with everything to be afraid of?" Guinevere breathes out audibly, wishing she could run laps until her stress dissolved. Activity always kept her sane, you know. And now, having just been a prisoner in every sense of the word... and currently being confined to this chair? It makes sense that she's been walking frantic circles in her mind instead, as if to make up for it. "I... I just took an entire village off the map." She blinks, still rather overwhelmed by the scale of it all. "Don't get me wrong. Arthur's gone now and I don't intend to take his place. I'm not going to threaten them or start acting like a fucking tyrant, but..." She shakes her head.

"Anyway. There's no speech. I'm going to tell the truth, plain and simple. Actions speak louder than words, right? So I'll show them what I can do." Guinevere resolves with a nod. Then, a bit reluctantly, she chances a glance at Morgan to see how she's taking it. "Not the, uh, the scary parts, of course! I'll just grow a few flowers. If one good thing came out of the other night, it's that... I think I get it now. More or less." She swallows. "Then I'll propose we compromise like civilized people. We don't necessarily have to agree on everything, but we can at least try to coexist without wasting all our time fighting over the most trivial shit."

"And wouldn't that be better? We could finally speak our minds without constantly worrying that somebody's gonna overhear us and destroy everything we've fought for. Then we could hold hands in public, we could... we could finally breathe." Guinevere presses a hand to her chest. "The cult ran all kinds of tests on me, but that weird illness was real. Jen grabbed some files and--" She winces, "That's besides the point. I'm not supposed to live like this, Morgan. Keeping so much pent up inside, it... it caused all of that chaos. I think it's better that tell them now than let it hit a point where they really will be afraid of me." She softens. "Nobody's supposed to live like this, really. I want to... to change things, or at least try to change things so that you can rest easier, too."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Oh, so Guinevere was tired. Good, good! Nice to know, really-- all this time, it had obviously been as simple as just telling them, and Morgan had only kept the charade up because it amused her. Just, hahaha! Could you imagine how fun it was, living your life wrapped in lies? Nine out of ten sorceresses would agree that it was simply spectacular, and the one who didn’t… well, she was no fun, anyway, so let’s collectively ignore her. No need to listen to the notorious party pooper, right? Right? (It wasn’t that Morgan didn’t understand, of course. Pretense was poison to one’s soul, poison that seeped into your system every time you denied your true self, and indeed, how could she demand something like that from her love? How could she ask her to kill herself, along with everything that made her her? In an ideal world, that would have been unnecessary! …except that, in case that you needed a reminder, they did not live in an ideal world. The wastes were probably the most convincing proof of that, yes, but Camelot… Camelot was but another facet of it, painted in a different color. The shade might have been slightly more pleasant to look at, yes, though in the end, how much did that matter? The death of the soul was the death of the body, after all, and nowhere on this planet did the soul die faster! Nowhere, nowhere, nowhere.) “Stronger,” Morgan repeated, her tone sharp. “Now that you mention it, we are stronger. Naturally. All those glorious knights in their shiny armor, playing at a holy war? I could kill them with a thought, Gwen. I could snap my fingers, and flames would consume them from inside out. Their own poor mothers wouldn’t recognize them, I’m sure of that. I don’t doubt that you could send them to hell whenever you wished, too. The thing is, do you really want that? Think about it, Guinevere. Think about it long and hard.”

Did she realize it, even? What it was that she was saying, really saying, when you took away all the pretty parts? (And, oh, pretty they were! Would it not be nice, to be able to live without fear? Freely, much like birds soaring the skies? The only problem with that was that they weren’t birds, and Camelot was no sky. Oh no, no, no. Every action, no matter how insignificant, would generate a reaction, and what Guinevere was proposing was the equivalent of dropping a nuclear bomb on their heads! Did she expect there would be no cloud of radiation, huh? That, somehow, the earth wouldn’t get contaminated, and they could have their happily ever after for no price at all? Not how it worked, sadly! Not how any of it worked.) “Say a word, my love, and I will do it. I will need to gather my strength first, but afterwards? Afterwards, I will show them what Morgan le Fey is truly capable of. None of our enemies will be spared, I assure you. That’s what you had in mind, didn’t you? Since you were speaking of strength,” the sorceress said, with her eyebrow raised high. (Had the implication reached her ears? Guinevere was a smart woman, doubtlessly, and her words had been anything but subtle, but maybe, maybe she didn’t want to hear it-- the lies you told yourself were always the most convincing ones, after all. So, no, Morgan couldn’t afford to hide behind riddles and metaphors! Not when so much was at stake, anyway.)

“This may not make sense to you, Gwen, but I know these people. I’ve known them for longer than I’ve known myself, in a way, and I can guarantee that if you speak carelessly in this matter, you will turn them into your enemies. Right now, that’s not what they are. Had they truly hated you, Gwen, they would have taken advantage of you being hurt, and installed another ruler already. Hell, they would have kept Lancelot! Is he not everything they’ve ever wanted in a king? Young, handsome, valiant.” Not too smart, Morgan wanted to add, but then she decided against it in the last moment. Why spit venom in his direction, huh? Despite her personal grievances, the knight had been nothing short of helpful-- unlike many others, it had been naivety that had driven him into Arthur’s arms, too, and he had had enough dignity to cut his losses when he had realized his king was a fraud. No, turning him into her personal punchbag would have been neither nice nor called for. “And yet, yet they waited for you! That must mean they are appraising you. They are willing to give you a chance, and it is up to you what you do with it. As I see it, there are two paths before you-- the path of recklessness, and the path of patience. Choose well, for you won't be able to change that choice later.” Morgan looked up to her love then, and clutched the blanket in her hands. (For support, maybe? What she was about to share with Guinevere could, uh... go awry, to put it mildly. Very, very awry.)

"Don't misunderstand-- I will support you, no matter what path you end up picking. I love you, so that sort of thing goes without question. The thing is, I won't allow this place to become my prison. Not again, Guinevere. I refuse to live in fear, and I won't inspect every shadow for potential assassins. We may be stronger, yes, but are you immune to a vial of poison? To a blade stuck in your abdomen? I am not, that is for certain. So, if you barge in there without a plan and alienate them, I will... hmm, eliminate the threats before they can eliminate us. Does that sound fair enough?"
 

ellarose

wanderer
"No. I'm not asking you to hurt anybody! That's not what I was saying at all. And if it was, then why the hell would I choose to act now?" Guinevere frowns and gestures to her chair. "I get that I didn't grow up in Camelot, but I'm-- I'm not that stupid." She brings her hands into her lap and clenches fistfuls of fabric, mirroring Morgan's stance from across the room. Holding on tight, perhaps also for support. Guinevere averts her eyes, rose-tinted shame coloring the apples of her cheeks. It's bad enough that Morgan's seen her at her lowest. Now for her to immediately assume her plan is to thoughtlessly swing a wrecking ball through everything she's built, it's... "I know it's a risk. I haven't forgotten my lessons. I'm not going to beat them up like I'm some kind of reckless punk from the gutter. The strength I was referring to means more than all the creative ways you can kill a man." She sucks in a ragged breath, funnily winded despite the fact that she's sitting still. "Do you remember our first conversation about magic? When you told me it had potential? Sure it didn't change my entire worldview in an instant, but... it was a start." She tenses, feeling more than a little self-conscious. "That's all I'm suggesting here. A start. If we don't do something, we're going to end up babying them forever. Or something outside of our control will happen and we'll be wishing we made a move when we had the opportunity. The time you take hesitating can be a careless move too." And lethally so! Hesitating in the wastes can cost your life. She doesn't need to say that life is messy, that life doesn't always go according to plan. That goes without saying! And...

"...What happens when one of the nobles learns what the cult was doing to me? What happens when rumors start circulating, if they haven't started already?" Guinevere clutches her fists so tightly that her nails bite into her skin through layers of fabric. "What happens if they find out on their own and decide I'd be of more use to them drugged and tied down, like Arthur did?" She glares into her lap, her temper silently rising to a boil. "I need them to trust me. My judgement, my choices. Trust can't be built on lies. Say they hear what happened from someone on the outside and realize I was keeping the truth from them out of fear...? That gives them a perfect reason to rise up against me, doesn't it? Then maybe they'll decide to put my life in some man's 'capable hands', because they'll assume I'm a damsel who's too damned scared and helpless to put her own strengths to good use."

"The world is so big, Morgan, and every second that passes I feel like I'm running out of time to fix it. I need to start sooner rather than later. The method you're suggesting... it could take years. Maybe even an entire lifetime. I don't think I can forgive myself if I wait patiently for Camelot to catch up when there're so many people out there depending on me. People who probably-- definitely-- need me right now." Guinevere feels a thousand stones fall on her shoulders with the admission and quickly changes the subject before she's crushed by their weight.

"I love you, too. The last thing I'd want is to ruin everything you've worked for, Morgan. Or endanger you. You know that, right? I'm not asking you to go down there and put yourself at risk. In fact, I'd prefer it if you stay here for as long as you need and rest until you feel better." Something in Guinevere's gaze breaks, then, and she releases her skirt to reach for one of the black dresses in her wardrobe. Geez. Stuck in this chair, she can't escape the way she wants to. More than that, she wishes she could melt into the floor. "This is my responsibility and I want to face it head on. But if it helps you sleep better, I'll wait. Guess I won't stand a chance if even you don't trust me to do it right."
 
Last edited:

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Ugh. Was that what their conversations were going to be like now? Seasoned with passive-aggressiveness, and full of assumptions? There hadn't been much room for disagreement before, not since they'd gotten together, and that... well, that had given a false sense of security, apparently. (Morgan had hoped, you see, that someone in her life would be open to a reasonable discussion. Instead of insults, they'd bury one another in arguments, and, like that, they'd reach the truth together! Presuming that she had called her love stupid was apparently easier, though, so that was what they were going with. Oh well. It wasn't like that was insulting at all, right? Latching onto the worst possible interpretations of what she'd said sure was a testament to, hmm, their relationship's longevity. Truly, one did not need a crystal ball to see where exactly such a communication style led! Are you shocked, Morgan? Why? some traitorous voice from within asked. She got what she wanted already, so it shouldn't be too surprising that... no, no, that made no sense. Absurd, that was what it was. Suspecting Guinevere of something so callous, after everything they'd gone through just to be together? Ah, the sorceress must have been more tired than she'd admitted to herself! Well, that, and all the things that had happened in the past didn't exactly help. More than anything, Morgan was sure, she was hearing the echoes of words uttered years ago-- they were but shadows on the wall, with that which had cast them long gone, but... well, it was hard to explain. Ungraspable, much like water. Sometimes, it just felt as if she was a character in a movie, you see? One destined to play the same role over and over, and fall for the same tricks. An irredeemable fool.)

"I'm not calling you stupid," the sorceress finally said, her tone just slightly colder than usual. "Trust me, had I been aiming for that, you would have known. That being said, not knowing something, or not understanding it better than someone who has spent her entire life researching that very thing, is not an example of stupidity. That's normal, Gwen. Not wanting to live in lies is as well, I can see that, but..." 'but the whole damn place had been built on them,' she wanted to scream. Couldn't Guinevere see? Couldn't she? Why oh why choose to play a game of chess, only to throw away the chessboard at the first opportunity and bust out a set of cards? Maybe because Gwen didn't choose this, Morgan reminded herself. Didn't, didn't, didn't. Technically, she had said yes to Arthur, but how could that ever be interpreted as a choice? That would have been like insisting that people could choose between eating and starving, or sleeping and fainting from exhaustion. Similarly, defying him had been a matter of life and death, so holding that against her would have been pointless. Pointless, and also something that Morgan just didn't want to do! No, no, no-- if she could help it, their relationship would not be built on weird blame games. Besides, did Guinevere also not have a point? To dismiss her argument entirely... no, only Arthur and his ilk would have called that sort of thing fair.

"I don't know. I would have handled it. Rumors come and go, and you can spin them however you like. And, yes, my method is long-term-- that's the appeal behind it. You know, boiling frogs and everything. But maybe..." ...maybe that was just her being afraid, in a way. Morgan knew Camelot better than Gwen did, but was that truly an argument that supported her claims? Because it was also true, you see, that she didn't really know anything else-- that, to her, shadows were home and truth far too dazzling. Could it be that she was simply afraid? Afraid of leaving her comfort zone, and turning her dreams into reality? Reality could be harsh and cruel, oh yes, and what if nothing was as she'd imagined it, what if, what if, what if--

"...maybe you're right," the sorceress admitted. "It may take too long. On the other hand, I think that I'm also right. It's not about me trusting you, Gwen. I do trust you, with my whole life! I just think that we need to come up with a way to make it all... well, slightly less outlandish to them. That, or we can capitalize on the tangible benefits. Do you think you could increase the production of our greenhouses? I imagine that having access to more fresh food could convince them that you're the best queen they've ever had, actually. Yes, that could work," Morgan nodded.

"But, Gwen," once again, there was a thoughtful pucker on her forehead, "when you said you're going to tell them everything, what exactly did you mean by that? Everything everything? As in, about us as well?" Because, gods, that would be a can of worms that she wasn't sure they were ready to open!
 

ellarose

wanderer
"Well, maybe we're both right." Guinevere admits thoughtfully. They just need to meet halfway. "That's more or less what I meant, when I said I want to show them the good. So... we can start with the greenhouse if you think restoring a few patches of dead earth is too much for them to handle." No, she isn't slowing down because she's oddly attuned to the subtlest drops in temperature of her love's voice. And no, she isn't giving up. While tiredness and the avalanche of trauma she just endured may have played a role in her swerving and botching quite a few of her words just now, she's not so far gone that she's incapable of compromising. Morgan's suggestion is reasonable enough-- and a start. Better than nothing! "My intentions are nothing but peaceful, so when you started talking about tearing people apart, I just..." Her cheeks warm as she recalls the mess in the village. The mess she caused. With her outlandish magic. "I don't want them to see me like that. Like a monster. I shouldn't have jumped the gun and said that, though. I'm sorry."

"Maybe... maybe I do need a little more time. I just..." Guinevere tugs restlessly at her hair and ultimately steadies herself with a breath.

"I have to explain what happened out there eventually. If not today, then soon. I'm vulnerable right now. Completely non-threatening." Guinevere gestures to her chair, to her bandaged feet. "Again, I get that it's a risk. But I have to take a chance that they'll see me putting my trust in them. From there on out, I can be forthright about what we're doing when we go out into the wastes. If we're open, it leaves no room for the people to create their own narrative while we're away. That was part of what ruined Arthur, wasn't it? Always taking off on his useless quests and keeping everyone in the dark. It goes without saying that I don't want to rule like he did." She shrugs. "I'm a symbol. And if I represent Camelot, I can spin my ambitions like..." Clearing her throat, she puts on a proper-- somewhat comic-- tone of voice. "Eventually, Camelot is going to bring prosperity to the entire world! I can make it about them-- us, rather-- instead of just me." She's already had plenty practice with that in particular. Making it all about Arthur had been her saving grace. Who's to say that same logic won't work on the people who used to follow him like sheep?

...Everything? Oh. Well, in some capacity she did imply that she was going to tell them everything, didn't she? 'All of it' does make it sound rather-- geez. Really foozled her delivery there. Duh. Of course Morgan is worried! Guinevere scratches her cheek awkwardly. "I-- I did say all of it, didn't I?" Is it showing, just how desperate she is to regain her balance? To harness some control over what happens to her next? Considering the trouble she's having reigning in her own impulses and words, however... as much as she hates to admit it, blazing forward right this instant may not be the answer. While she doesn't want to wait forever out of fear, acting too fast could have consequences that there's no coming back from-- like Morgan said. Then nobody will be saved.

"No. When it comes to that, I know the timing is all wrong." She assures firmly, hoping to set her love's mind at ease. Hearing news of Arthur's demise out in the wastes and in the same breath learning she's been head over heels for his sister, the castle's designated 'witch'? Their boneheaded views infuriate her, but ignoring their opinions on her love won't make them disappear. They're all so full of shit-- give them those two pieces of information and they'll start connecting those two dots and slapping all sorts of blasphemous stories together. "Besides, it's not my news to share. It's ours. I'd... I'd like to work our way towards that eventually, though. When you're comfortable. If you want to...?"

"...When I said that I was referring to my own side of the story. Arthur's offer, why I accepted, and the reason why he chose me of all people." Guinevere stares into the palms of her hands, curling her fingers in and out to remind herself she's still in control. "Pretending to grieve that fucked up bastard... after everything he did, I don't think I can do that."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Ah, if only it was so simple! Guinevere’s mind, tired of all the lies and half-truths, had jumped right to the conclusion-- to the moment when the finish line was in sight, and they finally got to tear it. And, no, Morgan didn’t criticize this tendency of hers! Come to think of it, this ability to focus on the future, on some nebulous point in time when everything would be better than it was, was probably what had enabled her to survive the wastes. With the present all grey and gloomy, what else was there to do? What else was there to worship, if not the next day? If the gods were kind, it would be better than the last one, oh, it would, it would! (…except that, usually, gods weren’t kind. Every victory they’d ever earned for themselves had been paid for, paid for with tears and blood, and no, there was no fast forward button. Ah, if only. Bitter was the cup from which they had to drink, indeed, and Morgan… well, Morgan had a creeping suspicion that the concoction Gwen was preparing would taste even worse! Still, she reasoned, it may be the better outcome. What is kinder: a clean cut, or drawn-out agony? Most people would go with the former, presumable, and they wouldn’t be wrong. …a storm would come, the sorceress was sure. A storm strong enough to shake the very foundations of their lives, but if they withstood it? If they proved they were strong enough, regardless of the obstacles that the gods threw in their way? This could be the last crisis they’d have to survive! Well, alright, probably not the last one per se, if only because fate loved to brew trouble for them on a weekly basis at least, but it wasn’t that far-fetched to assume that it could be the last major crisis. Afterwards, they could… they could… gods, Morgan didn’t even know what they could do, really. It just felt as if her brain had been on survival mode for years, you see? As if it had never learned any other setting, and now, with something else within their reach, all the cogs inside were whirling in vain. Maybe it really is me who doesn’t understand, not her. By what right am I presuming to advise her? Arthur had made her her mentor, yes, but Arthur was gone, and Guinevere was the queen now. Of course that things wouldn’t stay the same-- they shouldn’t, if she were to be honest. The further away they got from the toxicity which they’d crawled from, the better for everyone involved!)

“I see,” Morgan said, quietly. “Fine, then. Let us try your way. But, Gwen, if things go to hell, we won’t be able to afford to show the potential traitors mercy-- I know that that is not what you want in your hearts of hearts, but ruling isn’t about what you want. It is about what needs to be done, regardless of how you feel about it. For my own peace, I wish to ask something of you. Could I perhaps be tasked with dealing with the bad apples? I know that I can, hmmm… motivate the others not to follow in their footsteps.” Morgan had the reputation of the dark, evil witch to fall back on, you see? Gwen’s hands were pristine, sacred, even, with their ability to wake the earth from its years long slumber, and staining it with blood would only disrupt that image. Why do it, really, when they had a sacrificial lamb already? Willingly, the sorceress had made a villain of herself, and she didn’t mind keeping that tradition alive.

“One day, yes,” she nodded, relief spreading from her core right to her fingertips. Good, good! Much like revenge, sweetness needed time to ripen as well, and Morgan didn’t wish to rush anything. Not when the price of that could be so staggering, anyway. “There’s nothing I’d enjoy more than not having to hide anymore, Gwen. Nothing! The thing is, I don’t think they can take so many changes at once. I mean, there probably are rumors circulating about us already,” most certainly, actually, “but it is one thing to have them confirmed from your own mouth. Truthfully, I don’t think those people believe half the stories their spreading. For them, it’s mindless fun, you know? Mildly diverting, and to be forgotten about the moment something slightly more entertaining turns up. Nevertheless, thank you for the time you’ve given me,” the sorceress smiled, somewhat carefree for the first time in… gods, for the first time in weeks. The rush of Arthur’s departure from Camelot had worn off quickly, hadn’t it? They’d laughed like children that night, celebrated and held their hands, but they had to rule the kingdom as adults, and so easily, the joy had disintegrated.

“I believe I’ll have to think of a long-term strategy. I mean,” Morgan propped herself up on the bed, “this won’t exactly get better with time. We will need to… hmm, do something in order to make them accept the possibility. I am not sure what exactly should be done here, but once I’m less tired, we can--”

“Queen Guinevere,” a maid barged in then, her eyes downcast. (One of their loyalists, as Morgan recognized, yet she immediately dove under the blankets. How could she have done anything else, after all? The queen’s sorceress or not, there was no explanation in this universe that would justify her resting in Gwen’s damn bed.) “I’m sorry to intrude upon you like this, but you have a visitor. He says that it’s urgent,” the young woman gulped, “a-and he looks important. A noble lord, I can tell. I couldn’t find it in myself to deny him. He… he says he rode the entire night to reach you, and that he has information about king Arthur!”
 

ellarose

wanderer
The knots of tension wound up tight in Guinevere's shoulders loosen and unravel at the sight of Morgan's smile, redolent of happier times to come. She's overjoyed to see it again after all this time. It's so beautiful that it has the power to melt her stresses away. (Or at least a decent handful of them.) When her soul brushes against that mote of contentment, she manages to reciprocate sunnily with one of her own. No matter what, she reminds herself, there is some good to be found in this. They just survived a full-blown catastrophe, impromptu time traveling and a cult for christ's sake! After so many lifetimes of failed attempts, Arthur and Merlin are out of their hair forever. They learned so many new things, too, and haven't had a chance to consult with each other on them yet. Realistically, it will take time to discuss what they both discovered, to piece everything together. Perhaps it's also about time she suggest Morgan conduct some experiments on her and... ah. Her mind must have short-circuited at this point, because the imagery that sentence drew to mind was not remotely what it should have been. Namely that it involved her lips and her hands in her hair and--

Morgan, of course, phrases it perfectly. Long-term strategies. Guinevere nods sagely, swiftly reeling herself back into a no-nonsense frame of mind.

"Right. We can discuss a plan. Because I want to help, obviously." Guinevere retraces her steps. Right. There is one other detail she needs to address. Ruling isn't about what she wants... Arthur would often say that, too. (That's probably why it hits all wrong, why it leaves a tiny wound. Morgan surely didn't mean anything by it, but... it doesn't change the fact that it presses down on old bruises left from when Arthur hurled the word 'selfish' at her. Huh. Is this something she needs to reflect on? Does she sound like a naive child with her head in the clouds when she talks openly about her ideas? Or is this something fundamentally different about their ideals, from living in completely different worlds? Camelot, where the way of things never changed... compared to the wastelands, where her living conditions changed drastically and constantly. The seasons, the weather, the beasts. Nature decided her fate constantly and she never had a say in what happened next. Conquering every challenge thrown in her path is the reason why she's still here. Of course Guinevere doesn't think so hard about change because it's all she's ever known! Comfort can be derived from familiarity, from getting too cozy in one place. Suggesting that they warp the strict boundaries they lived their lives inside beyond recognition... perhaps that would sound selfish to them, on some level.) "On the matter of those potential bad apples, too... it depends on how messy it gets. I mean, I grew up in the wastes. Whatever I owned was scrapped together with brute force. I know that things won't always pan out the way I expect them to and tough choices will have to be made. But if I have the power to do something, I'm sure as hell going to try and use it right." Ruling by fear is what's selfish, in her opinion. It's the easy way out. It's the route Arthur took. Exile for gossiping about their obviously toxic relationship, execution for-- well, Jen's execution may have been warranted in all honesty, but he'd still decided on that without investigating the matter fully! A woman's life is worth at least that. "At some point down the line, I think we ought to develop a decent justice system."

Fully expecting Emily to walk through the door, Guinevere decides that she'll ask for more time before she addresses the people after all. She'll curl up in bed next to Morgan and they can have a long, much-needed talk about what they're going to-- oh. What? Needless to say, she hadn't anticipated the maid stepping in... nor the news she had to share. News of Arthur? What news is there to share? Staggered, the color washes from her face in an instant, leaving her pale as a ghost. A ghost, a meagre phantom that holds absolutely no power to hurt her anymore-- which is all that ought to have been left of Arthur! Hell, her legs may have collapsed out from under her if she weren't sitting down. What is this? Arthur is dead. And I killed him. She thinks back to the chasm, the endless fall... no matter how bizarre, she refuses to believe that she hallucinated the whole thing! Dead, he's dead, and I killed him. He can't touch me anymore. He can't, he can't...

Guinevere is trembling. The world whirls around her as she sits still, she's catapulted into a free fall of hysterics to the point where she's almost-- almost-- inclined to laugh. You fool. Fate seems to say, Who were you kidding? You'll never be free--

"Queen Guinevere?" The maid tilts her head, clearly concerned.

“All right. I— ah— I must get ready first.” Guinevere snaps back to a slipshod version of her composed self, regarding her nightdress with the subtle dip of her chin. For once, she's almost thankful for Camelot’s picayune decorum. Flurried and probably not thinking this through entirely, she holds onto the short-lived hope that this suggestion might buy her a minute or two to confer with Morgan—

“Of course. Allow me to help you, my queen.”

“I will…” Guinevere realizes the maid is staring down at her wheelchair and deflates upon realizing just how silly she’ll look. Like a little girl proclaiming that she can drive when in all actuality, she couldn’t even reach the steering wheel! (Dressing herself might've been doable, if she were tugging on a shirt and trousers. The Camelot-approved dresses, however, would take some time.) Damn it all! Caving in, she gives an insouciant wave of her hand, as if to say 'get on with it, then'. “I will allow you to help, yes.”

And the maid proceeds to do exactly that, helping her into a dress and combing through her bedraggled hair. Months ago, Guinevere learned that in Camelot ‘urgent’ for a queen still required at least fifteen minutes of prettying up beforehand. The whole time, she has to press down hard on the desire to scream. The bastard's dead. Deader than dead! She tries to reassure herself. If so, then, what urgent news could this stranger possibly bring to her? Oh. Is he going to blackmail her? Are all those fears she outlined earlier manifesting in reality? Like... 'I know exactly who you are, and I'll tell everyone in Camelot unless--'

Desperate for a semblance of stability before she descends into the vultures nest, Guinevere tries once more to snag a moment with Morgan when she's all ready to go.

“First, might you fetch lord Toastington for me?” Guinevere asks just as the maid reaches for the handlebars on her chair, a hint of desperation coming through. Believe her, she's trying her damnedest not to sound like a woman whose sanity hangs by a single thread. (And yes, lord Toastington. During grave times such as this, fun had to be found in the smallest of places— and insisting that her castle staff use the usual ridiculous titles on her dog is one of them.) "I would like to hold him on my lap. No need to push me about in this chair... just bring him here and we can all go meet this esteemed gentleman together."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Morgan, too, had a lot of things to say to that. Justice, for example? Ah, she could write whole essays on how the Camelot version of justice had cost her everything-- how easily cruelty could be wrapped in pretty words, designed to make you lower your guard. (Rules, pfft! Rules only ever made sense if people were willing to follow them, and when it came to the lords and ladies? The sorceress had her doubts, to put it mildly. What mattered more here, huh? Some fictional principle, pure as freshly fallen snow, or the reality? Always, always had she preferred the latter, and that wouldn't change just because Guinevere was sitting upon the throne now! ...at the same time, though, it had been her idealism that had charmed her. Wouldn't uprooting it, then, be a self-destructive act? An act of unimaginable cruelty? Arthur had tried to change her in his own image as well, after all, and it hadn't exactly worked out for him. I'm no Arthur, though, she reminded herself. I just don't want her to be torn apart by the wolves, is all. Was it, however? Was it, was it, was it?)

Sadly, there was no time to decipher that particular message, because the maid brought some, um, disturbing news. Arthur? she thought, parallel to Guinevere. What?! (Gwen had killed him, doubtlessly! The bastard may have been favored by the gods themselves, yes, but nobody, nobody could have survived that fall. The earth had crushed his body, swallowed him, really, and that was the point of no return! Nothing short of miracle could have prevented him from... Ah, a miracle. Could it be? In his previous lives, he'd always come out on the top-- regardless of what they'd done, he'd drowned them in their own blood. What if he was riding that victorious momentum, huh? Good luck seemed to be stuck to him, in the same way misfortune followed them, and Morgan... gods, Morgan didn't know what to believe. Not anymore, anyway. Stupid patterns, she said to herself, as her throat grew tighter. Why does it always have to be like this? Can we not enjoy a few seconds of peace? No, apparently, for the maid showed no regard to her queen's condition. With or without her approval, it seemed, her love would have to see this mysterious visitor-- this man who knew more than he should have, by all accounts. Was it a trap? Or rather, what kind of trap was it? Morgan would love to go with her, to go and protect her from whatever may have been waiting for her there, but the exhaustion, oh, the exhaustion! Already, it was closing her eyelids, and the idea of doing anything but staying in her bed felt utterly impossible. No, tagging along would have resulted in her fainting on the spot, probably. Besides, how would it look like? Her constantly acting like Guinevere's shadow, to be precise? Doubtlessly, others had noticed the tendency, and not disrupting the pattern from time to time would be all the more damning.)

"Gwen," she whispered, once the maid disappeared to get Toastington. "I don't know who the guy is, but you have nothing to be afraid of. You're the queen. I have no doubt that you'll handle it, no matter what. More than likely, he's a fraud. Corpses attract vultures, you know? If he believes you've been mourning your husband, then it's likely he'll invent whatever he thinks you'd like to hear in exchange for some food. And if not... if not, it's his word against yours. Don't hesitate to have him chased away, if need be. I'd go with you, but," she fell back on the pillow, her expression apologetic, "I don't believe I'd be of use to you now. Too tired. Still, I trust you. Don't worry, alright? We can discuss everything later, once you return."

The maid returned then, and accompanied Guinevere to her throne room-- the guy was already waiting there, kneeling just like the etiquette demanded of him. "Queen Guinevere," he gasped, as if seeing her brought him great relief. (Did she know him, actually? His sharp features seemed unfamiliar, but oh, those green, green eyes! Something about them struck her as... well, a snapshot of reality that she'd experienced before. A half-forgotten memory, perhaps.) "Maleagant, at your service. Truly, I am overjoyed that you managed to get away from that dreadful place. I meant to help you, but you and your... friend, I suppose... escaped faster than I managed to act. That is my great shame. At the same time, though? I bring you relevant news. You may have slaughtered the villain, yes, but his spirit remains! It's filled with malevolence and rage, and who knows what he shall do? It is necessary to put him to rest, my queen. That way, the earth will finally be able to breathe."
 

ellarose

wanderer
En route to the throne room, Guinevere endeavors not to lose her mind as she imagines dozens of worst-case scenarios playing out in her mind. But it could be a man like Morgan suggested. A bandit like the ones they encountered in the wastes a while back, someone who seeks luxury and intends to sell some saccharine tale to a ‘mourning queen’ for a hefty reward. Easy to spot, easy enough to dispose of. But maybe it’s one of those cultist bastards, hoping to destroy her reputation in Camelot and leave her defenseless, giving him and his bloodthirsty pack a clear and easy shot to pounce on her? (Either way, she'll have to act her heart out if she wants to stay afloat, won't she? The thought alone drains her.) Alas, none of the possibilities she considered could have prepared her for what truly awaited her in the throne room, let alone the news this Maleagant guy has to share with her. Huh. This is strange. Her instincts fall into an uncanny state of dysphoria when she tries to tell him friend from foe... and her heart feels oddly persuaded to go as far as to call him a friend when she stares into his eyes. It's--um-- the shade of green, maybe? They're familiar and safe. Having some semblance of safety to reach out for sounds nice and comforting right now, after everything that's happened. Like sitting by the warm campfire after standing guard all night long in the winter months.

Wait a sec. Pay more attention, Gwen! All this just from the color of his eyes? That's kinda weird, isn't it? Well, maybe not. Perhaps it's because they remind her of...

Maleagant is dressed like a noble, talking like he actually gives a shit about her and… looks far more familiar than he has any right to look! Placing him in her mind can be likened to recalling the details of a vivd dream before they fade and drift away. And something inside of her insists that he’s significant. Sadly, that internal voice doesn’t supply her with any helpful specifics as to why. The fact that she feels inclined to trust him because she likes the green of his eyes doesn't rest on any remotely logical grounds-- and she can only imagine the exasperated expression Morgan would throw her way if she were to confess the feeling that swept over her just then.

“Maleagant.” Guinevere says slowly and carefully, testing his name on her tongue as if that might jog something and help her navigate. Didn’t work. Stroking Toastington thoughtfully behind the ears, she considers the man's 'information' and what information that gives her about him in turn. Hmm, is that so? He must’ve taken his sweet time if he actually intended to help them! She and Morgan both were in terrible shape by the end of the night-- gods, they nearly died. And surely he had to have witnessed at least a portion of the night’s events to possess knowledge that she had felled Arthur. So what was he waiting for? An invitation? Well. Unless he'd been traveling and came upon the village after the chaos was wrought? It's not fair to make any snap judgements when she still has so little to go on here. Reassembling her thoughts to behave as a proper queen should, she summons forth all the composure and grace she's capable of. "Forgive me. I fully intend to listen to what you have to say about Arthur's spirit... but first, I must ask you a few questions."

Questions, of course! Guinevere's role may sit heavily on her shoulders, but it does give her the perks of changing the subject according to her interests. As queen, she can ask nearly anything she pleases. The more information she has, the easier it should be to sort through. Because as much as the notion of Arthur's vile spirit haunting the earth concerns her (Which-- what? Is that even possible? If only Morgan were here to tell her! Except... maybe this is another one of those things that neither of them would have much experience with. Maybe their spirits are different-- what with the way they keep reincarnating over and over.) the information still means nothing until she confirms that it's coming from a trustworthy source.

“You've given me your name, but who are you?" Guinevere's voice never rises, but the suspicious way her eyes narrow and makes her delivery rather sharp enough. Let this man know she's not some soft, fearful woman who's going to be swayed by self-proclaimed valiance and the fewest possible scraps of information! She's learned from the best, after all, and silently hopes that her queenly demeanor now would make her love proud. "Where do you come from? And how, pray tell, did you know I needed rescue— let alone where I was?”
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
“Questions, yes,” the man said, his voice barely louder than whisper. “I expected those. You deserve your answers, too, so I shall strive to provide them to the best of my ability. What is it that you wanted to know, my queen?” Maleagant didn’t stand up, most likely because Guinevere hadn’t actually allowed him to do it-- the monarch’s will was absolute, and guessing what they might or might not have meant by silence was like playing the Russian roulette with a bazooka. No, rather than risk like that, it was wiser not to move at all! He did dare to meet her eyes, however, and… ah. Those really were pretty interesting eyes, weren’t they? Big and honest, even if their owner seemed to carry some great, unspecified burden as well. (The eyes of a romantic hero, really. You ever read one of those stories celebrating courtly love? This Maleagant, as he’d introduced himself, looked like the poster boy for the archetype of a knight in shining armor-- one that was gallant and handsome, too, but for some reason nonetheless unable to win the affection of his lady love. Probably due to some dastardly, dastardly curse? Something like that, yes, because obviously, no woman would say ‘no’ to one such as him! …not in the eyes of those who wrote nonsense like that, anyway.)


“Those are very good questions,” the knight conceded after a while. “I assume that not all what I have to say will please you, my queen, but even so, I will remain honest. I hope, at least, that you will be able to understand my motivations, if not forgive me outright. I’d be eternally grateful for that, of course, but I know that I cannot ask it of you. So, as I said… My name is Maleagant. I knew about you and your situation because…” he trailed off, as if it was hard for him to find the proper words, “…because I used to work with them. With the cult, that is. I am not going to make excuses, my queen-- I did what I did because I believed that there was no other way. They raised me, you see? Me, and many others. In the village, everyone had a role to play, and I… I was strong enough to serve as one of its defenders. A knight, you could say. I never truly questioned whether what we were doing was right, in part because we didn't do much in the first place. Until you were captured, it was about faith, you see? About believing in a kinder tomorrow, and making it real. Of course," he continued, and his voice gained this tinge of bitterness, "that was what we thought was true. Such fools we were, am I right? I should have questioned them, demanded to know more about their methods, but... ah, it doesn't matter. When you grow up there, they beat questions out of you real fast-- something about the goddess not appreciating our disturbing lack of faith, I believe. Still, there's no point in exploring the paths I was too cowardly to take! That's not the point here." Maleagant shook his head, calm but resolute.

"The point is that it was different. When they captured you, my queen, they tried to keep the lie alive, but it got too much. I saw with my own eyes what they considered to be holy," he gulped, "and decided that I wanted no part of it. That is how I knew everything about you, really. I planned to rescue you during the night of the celebration, as chaos was bound to reign, but it seemed that multiple people had the same idea. Indeed, I failed in that department," Maleagant admitted, his gaze downcast. In that moment, he almost looked like a boy-- thin, fragile, and carrying a weight too heavy for his shoulders. "Even so, I decided to seek you out. I wasn't able to help when you needed me, my queen, but I still believe that you may benefit from my knowledge. I, ah, can answer a lot of questions that would otherwise go unanswered, I suspect. That, and as someone who knows how the cult operates, I may help you find a way to stamp it out forever."

Finally, Maleagant once again met her eyes, and when he did? Oh, his resolve matched fire itself in its intensity. "What do you say? Should you not be happy with my presence, I shall leave without a single complaint. I only wanted a chance to atone for my sins, but... but if I cannot have it, then that's fine, too. I understand."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere busies her anxious hands in Toastington's fur. Fidgeting is highly unladylike, after all, and petting her beloved dog serves as a better cover than tugging at her curls or biting her nails. There's an unbearable stiffness required of these sorts of proceedings in Camelot, especially as someone who has genuine trouble with sitting still. Snapshots of those days when she'd guided her gang into a battle, pacing and gesticulating without second-guessing herself were long gone. (Blonde hair braided and wild, blood and dirt on her cheeks and caked under her fingernails-- she could scowl like a pirate or howl with laughter and nobody would complain or turn their nose up at her for it!) Times were tough back then. The cold, those days of starvation when all she could find to eat were a few measly insects she'd scraped off the bottom of a rock... gods. Nursing the ache in her stomach while seeing how it could turn even her strongest friends into hollow creatures of skin and bone... she'd sold her life off to Arthur for a reason and a damn good one at that. Good enough that she'd do it again in a fucking heartbeat, no matter how the bastard decided to tear her apart. Even so. It's often in moments such as these that she finds herself sorely missing it. Parts of it, anyway. In Camelot, the part of her that sparkled with confidence dimmed on the path to becoming queen. She and Morgan came out on top in the end, yes, but there was a cost to that victory. Riddled with unsureness in unfamiliar territory, unsureness with magic, unsureness with a whole-ass cult out for her blood... of course all of it would it's their toll on her eventually. The unashamed confidence that makes her who she is has been smothered underneath it all. Now there's a hole in her, a void like the one she opened up in the earth...

When Guinevere needed to kill another human being, usually as a last resort out in the wastes, she preferred not to dwell on it. In Arthur's case, however? Ah, she actively hopes he suffered! She hopes he felt miserable and afraid and vulnerable for once, having to stare the truth of his own morality in the face after believing himself the equivalent of a god. And even then, she knows he couldn't have suffered nearly as much as she has. In this lifetime and in all the others as well. If what Maleagant is saying is true, though, Arthur may not have been dealt with properly. He can still ruin her and Morgan's lives, just like he has all the others.

Frustratingly, Guinevere acknowledges that all she amounts to is a symbol, playing it safe on the throne as she keeps her own opinions a well-guarded secret. The unfairness of it doesn't escape her. The world stunned her with relentless cruelty when she was tossed into it as a kid. It didn't stop to care about her values or how she felt about it. She had to toughen up, lift her chin and endure it! What she's doing now is essentially spoiling Camelot by holding her tongue, keeping the hard truths from their ears. It's more complicated than that, a bitter voice reminds her. Although she may not agree with everything Morgan said, she has perfectly valid points as well. The worst case scenario of having the entire kingdom rally against her over a mistake after they've come so far... no. She can't throw it all away on a whim, on the fragile foundation of some innocent hopes and dreams for a kinder future. A version of Camelot from another time once gathered a mob that jeered and laughed as she burned to ashes for their entertainment.

Regardless, Guinevere listens to Maleagant's story all the way through without interrupting even once. Her wounds from the other night are fresh enough that they still sing out with pain whenever she so much as points her toes. Knowing this man has-- or had-- ties with the cult startles her with a similarly painful sensation. There's no hiding the subtle way her eyes flinch with this reveal, although she's deft about picking herself back up afterwards. She lifts her chin and narrows her eyes thoughtfully. Hm... with him bowing before her, staring up at her with those eyes? Her heart softens, just a bit. In him she sees a kindred spirit, perhaps. After all, what he's doing now can be likened to what she proposed to Morgan earlier, putting herself in a vulnerable place to earn the trust of her people. To singlehandedly bring himself into her territory and also dare to tell her the gruesome truth? It's brave. And it is difficult to listen to, don't get her wrong-- but who is she to condemn him for a background he had absolutely no say in? There's no mistaking the fire in his eyes, either. This man may have left his entire life behind, severed ties with family or friends to fight for his beliefs. He might've sacrificed a lot to get here today. Can she bring herself to spit at these potential sacrifices, all while knowing what it feels like to have her own sacrifices belittled...?

And if Maleagant is telling the truth? If, if, if! If he intends to answer her questions, intends to atone-- if he intends to help eliminate Arthur and the cult once and for all--

The potential benefits of gaining this man as an ally are far too great to pass up. If their latest adventure in the wastes is any indication, they do need all the help they can get! So for now, Guinevere decides she'll be cautiously optimistic. Emphasis on cautiously. There's no proof that he's telling the truth yet-- but alternatively no proof that he's lying, either. All she can give him right now is a chance. Sort of like Morgan did, when she gave her a chance all those months ago. There's no denying that it could work out, right? Speaking of which, it'd probably be helpful to get Morgan's opinion on the man before she sends him off as well. Plus, she'll be better equipped to handle any talk of spirits as well. If he's bullshitting them about Arthur, she should be able to see through it in an instant!

"...Anna? Will you prepare one of the spare rooms for our guest?" Guinevere addresses the maid instead of Maleagant. Only after that does she glance back at him. Her expression is neither soft or hard. It's a guarded neutral, if anything. "You traveled a long way to get here, didn't you?" She exhales slowly. "I'm sure you understand why I cannot give you my trust. Not yet. But I can give you a chance. If you intend to earn it, I will give you the opportunity to prove yourself with your actions." Then, maybe slightly flustered after forgetting an obvious bit of throne room etiquette in all the chaos, she gives her hand a frantic little wave. Oops. She didn't really intend to make him bow through all of that! She's not Arthur, she doesn't get a weird power trip from watching her subjects grovel on the ground. "You may, ah, rise."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Maleagant knelt still, much like a statue. (What kind of verdict would he get to hear from Guinevere? Would she condemn him, or reach out in understanding? Had he traveled for naught? Regardless of her decision, it seemed that the man was willing to accept it-- nothing about his posture suggested defiance, or anything even close to it. …a true knight, huh. Was that what he was? All the stories of knightly valor depicted these men as fully devoted to their cause, personal cost notwithstanding, and while this man likely hadn’t been knighted by any officially recognized authority, he very much did exemplify those values. Then again, it wasn’t like the façade mattered much, was it? Arthur’s lackeys had been knights, every single one of them, and yet, yet it had made them run no slower when Camelot had been under siege! Their swords had ended up on the floor back then, along with the pitiful remains of their once precious dignity, and others had had to pick up the slack, just as always. Others, such as Gwen and Morgan. Knightly vows, as it turned out, weren’t as legally binding as people had once thought! Why would they be, even? Rules were in place because people didn’t behave in such ways naturally, instead following the holy principle of self-preservation. In a time of peril, who would force them to act against it? The knights themselves? What a, hmmm, convenient system. One reliant on honor, integrity, honesty, and all the other fairytale hero characteristics that the bunch of good for nothings didn’t actually have! …maybe, had Arthur not given titles out like candy, they would have meant something. Hey, maybe they had in the past-- ages ago, long before he had ascended on the throne, they genuinely could have been a sign of merit. ‘Look at this man,’ they could have said, ‘and know that he is exceptional.’ As it was, though? Chances were he was only exceptional at nodding his head, more faithfully than Arthur’s own shadow!)

No, one’s merit could not be judged by the presence or the absence of a title-- that much, at least, was clear. And, when Guinevere finally spoke? The man looked up, the faintest shadow of a smile gracing his lips. “Worry not, my queen,” he said. “I understand. In fact, I am eternally grateful for this chance that you decided to bestow upon me. I went into this knowing that I could be imprisoned, you see? I would have accepted that punishment, too, for my crimes were greater than what most people can imagine. Nothing about it would have been unfair. Still, I have heard the stories of Guinevere the Just,” were such rumors circulating about her, too? “and so I wasn’t too afraid to risk it all. I have to say, I am not disappointed.” Finally, Maleagant rose, but not before bowing so deeply that his head almost touched the ground. “Thank you for this opportunity, my queen. I swear, on my own name and the names of my future children, that I shall be useful to you. There is much for me to share with you, indeed. And, if I may? I believe that many of the people I left behind can be rehabilitated. A lot of them are just children, my queen-- children who don’t know any better. The priests deserve to suffer, I will always be the first to say that, but I do think that many are blameless in their situation. Once Arthur’s spirit is put to rest, will you consider their plight?” he asked, putting his hand over his heart. “But yes, my travels have not been easy. For now, I shall accept your offer and retreat to the bedroom. Once again, I thank you. Please, come whenever you are ready. I will be happy to explain all that I know, and hopefully help you deal with the crisis.”

…for a fighter, Maleagant sure had a way with words, didn’t he? Hmm, hmm. Maybe his education had been more comprehensive than his backstory suggested-- it was entirely possible that, in the cult, being able to swing one’s sword simply didn’t suffice. Either way, when Guinevere returned to her bedroom, Morgan was still wide awake. (The circles under her eyes? Those were more pronounced than usual, almost bordering on the territory of intentional make-up, but apparently, that couldn’t stop the sorceress. Oh no, no, no.) “Well?” she raised her eyebrow. “Did you learn anything interesting from our guest, Gwen?”
 

ellarose

wanderer
Oh geez, where does she begin? Guinevere closes her eyes when she settles back into bed, sinking her head back against the pillows until her chin points up at the ceiling. In a way, she mirrors Morgan in her own exhaustion. The bad parts were worse than bad— they were nauseating and loathsome— and she had trouble stomaching them herself. Except she has the unique perspective of an outsider in this situation, the sort of perspective that brought her to empathize with a man she should have scorned. Having to relay this to Morgan and subsequently try to smooth things over with her reasoning? If she phrases it the wrong way, like before, the sorceress is going to think she’s lost her marbles for sure…

Next to that, Guinevere doesn't know how to take that whole... 'Guinevere the Just' business. Why in the world would rumors like that be spreading in the first place? She's hardly galavanted across the wastes like some sort of badass these past few months. That might've been true once upon a time-- but then she was trapped in her marriage, trapped by the cult, and now trapped in her role as queen. Compliments are never just compliments anymore. Not after she's had her eyes opened wide by Morgan's lessons and the lovely ladies of Camelot themselves. And gnarling itself around that dilemma is also the tidbit about the innocent kids the cult's been brainwashing. Rescuing them and stamping those ideals out should help tremendously in at least making sure those values don't get passed on and encouraged for generations to come. That and it strikes a chord. She and Jennifer may not have been kept in Maleagant's village as kids... but even some of those horrible researchers in the abandoned hospital had kids. They'd even met and befriended a few of them. Lost some of them along the way.

Guinevere pushes it all to the back of her mind. All of this breaches on territory she thought she made peace with. But maybe she'd just... forgotten. Left it behind as survival became her priority. Because it's easier to get by without all that heavy baggage weighing you down. Jen didn't forget, of course, it shaped her irrevocably, and...

“Good news— Arthur really is gone. He didn’t come back as like… a mecha-zombie or something. I had a nightmare about that once and everything. And I know it sounds silly, but when I heard this dude had news about Arthur, I almost thought that—” Guinevere speaks, gravely serious up until the moment she trails off and falters. She scratches her cheek. It was one of her stranger dreams, that's for sure. Hell, Sam used to make up all kinds of horror stories about mecha-zombies, based on the concept of the whole ’what if human corpses became hosts for mechanical parasites?’ idea. Thankfully they’d never come upon such a harrowing creature out in the wastelands… but in times like these? Apparently, you can’t rule anything out! Hmm. But wait. What was it that Sam said again? "Oh yeah. They said you got a sample? When my other self was me or... or whatever the 'proper term' is for what happened back then, I heard that she um... demechafied a wolf? If so, that's nuts! Did you happen to ask how she did that, because..." However, Morgan seems too stressed for her to be rambling on an unrelated subject. It'll be important to revisit this detail eventually, of course, but right now... well, maybe she's prattling on about another subject to prolong the part she's dreading. No, not maybe. She definitely is. But still. Now's not the time!

“Um. That’s irrelevant right this minute, I guess. Bad news is apparently his spirit decided to stick around and wreak havoc? And the earth won’t be able to rest until I do something about it. Sounds super relatable to me, but... still. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. After you die, wouldn't you need at least little more time to learn how to be a competent force of nature before you can start causing trouble for everyone? Because I think a fuckton of people definitely would’ve come back to haunt me if they had the ability to do that right away, and…” Guinevere winces, “Getting off track again, sorry. But the more I thought about it, the more plausible it seemed? For Arthur in particular. I mean… our spirits have been reincarnated over and over again. Which I still don’t really get, if I’m being completely honest with you, but… I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with that. When Maleagant said all of that, I wasn’t— I wasn’t sure if I could believe him or not. I wanted to check with you first. Because you’re the expert!”

Guinevere manages a flimsy little smile and leans forward, pressing a short kiss to Morgan’s nose. They never did get to take a moment for themselves, did they? Not once since they returned. Ah, it’d be refreshing to just snuggle in close and fall fast asleep in her love’s arms! Except there's far more to discuss before she can indulge her own desires, as per usual.

“This next part is… I don’t know how to say it. So I'm just going to say it.” Guinevere bites her lip, cautiously watching Morgan’s expression as she continues. Probably better to stop dragging this on and rip the bandage off, so to speak. “Our guest, uh, Maleagant… he said he’s an ex-cultist. And I may have decided let him stay?”

“M-Mainly because I wanted a second opinion on all this. Yours.” Guinevere ventures in quickly, hoping to smooth over any rising panic with her reasoning before she can be told she’s lost it. “He said he was raised by the cult and didn’t know any better. When he realized what they were really doing, he was disgusted. He wants to atone for it, I think. If he is telling the truth, then that means he probably sacrificed everything to get here. I just… couldn’t turn him away after hearing that. Plus, he probably has tons of inside info! He says he wants to help us eliminate Arthur and the cult. And I figured we could use someone like that on our side.” She reaches for Morgan’s hand. “So I’ve decided to give him a chance. That's all. Not my trust.”
 
Last edited:

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Wait, what? Had she fallen asleep already? That wouldn't have been too strange, Morgan supposed-- the human body had its limits, and even with magic to help her exceed them, she wasn't completely immune to its weaknesses. The call to sleep was particularly a strong one, too. Energy conservation was just important, okay? The difference between life and death in more situations than most would acknowledge, really. So maybe, maybe she had given in already, and everything that was happening here was just her brain's desperate attempt to deal with the past trauma...? Because that would have explained a lot. Unfortunately, the world didn't work according to what would be convenient for Morgan specifically, and as Gwen continued to talk, talk and talk, the sorceress had to entertain the possibility that this was, in fact, real. Oh, gods.

"I don't..." Morgan began, unsure of where to start. "I am sorry, Gwen, but that strikes me as nonsense. I don't think that Arthur is still there, in any capacity." Didn't think, or didn't want to think? A crucial difference that many were incapable of seeing-- the lords and ladies of Camelot were chronically incapable of accepting reality for what it was, and to think she may be like them... Well, it wouldn't be too strange, would it? Your environment shaped you, much like water was shaped by its container, and it was also true that mass delusion was a thing. One of the forbidden books she'd read contained descriptions of exactly that, so honestly, why should she be exempt? Self-awareness was a mighty shield, but it couldn't save you from everything! Oh no, not how this worked. Abuse it enough and it would break, atomize into splinters, and, more easily than you would assume? Those splinters would end up in your eyes, blinding you to the truth. "Maybe it isn't, though," she admitted, under the weight of arguments. "I mean, traces of Viviane remained as well, so it's possible that he did manage to hold onto something, instead of going where he was supposed to go." Typical Arthur, really. Always, always, always, her little brother just couldn't pass up the opportunity to ruin her day, and not even death seemed to be able to stop him. Ugh. Couldn't he find a more constructive hobby? You know, like contemplating about the relationship between the cause and the consequence in whatever afterlife he was allowed to have? That might have offered him some precious insights, but nooo, of course that Arthur wasn't interested.

"Either way, if it is true, then he's a shadow of his former self. Less than a ghost. He cannot return, Gwen, and will not do so. Getting rid of him shouldn't be harder than taking out trash. I'll look into it when... when my head doesn't feel like it's going to snap in half." That was right! Arthur's pseudo-return was mostly formidable from the psychological standpoint-- the shadows that were looming over them were getting stronger, seemingly, but more than anything else, it was just smokes and mirrors. Her brother was dead, you see? Dead, dead, dead, along with his treacherous adviser, and nothing could bring him back.

Too bad that the same couldn't be said about their visitor, though. "What?" Morgan sat up, immediately on high alert. "Guinevere, you..." ...you let an enemy in? A self-admitted enemy? Gods, this couldn't be happening! Camelot was supposed to be an oasis, a haven safe from everything that might hurt them, but it was hard to think of it like that when Gwen apparently allowed the presence of anyone who asked nicely. And, the fact that one of them happened to be a former tormentor of hers? No problem, no problem! Surely he'd seen the light within the, what, 48 hours of her escape? How convenient for everyone involved, indeed. Redemption, as everyone knew, grew on the trees! "...alright. You wish to hear a second opinion, you say? I will give it to you, Gwen, and I will be honest, because I believe that you can handle it. Personally, I think that's just asking for trouble." Stupid, in fact, though the sorceress didn't want to go that far. She didn't at all think that Guinevere herself was stupid, as an occasional lapse in judgment didn't define her, but from her love's perspective, separating the two could be somewhat difficult. No, better not to say anything they might regret later.

"I mean, do you truly believe in epiphanies this sudden?" Morgan raised her eyebrow. "Because I don't. Everything in his story is far too convenient for it to add up, I think. But okay, I do agree that he might have the access to information we could find valuable. You said that you're giving him a chance, too. What does that mean? Are you monitoring him, or did you just... leave him to his devices? What precautions did you take?" Morgan had a creeping suspicion that the answer was 'none at all,' but she didn't feel like kicking the hornets' nest just yet.
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere listens to Morgan's response in full, refraining from interjecting. At this point, she's been somewhat steeled by her own expectations. Especially based on how their conversation went earlier. Even still, her heart clenches up in her chest, seeing the sorceress snap upright. This is exactly why she stalled on the path to bringing it up. But yeah, okay. Fair. It makes perfect sense that her decision would cause alarm and this skepticism. And she loathes to do this to Morgan when she's still so tired, but... at this point, refusing to tell her anything at all about these developments would likely only make it harder for her to get some much-needed rest.

"That's just an assumption, though. Who are we to say if his..." Guinevere hesitates, nervous to butcher her attempt to say 'epiphany' and destroy her own credibility in the process, "If his change of heart was sudden? He said they beat the questions out of them growing up. That he only realized what they were doing was wrong when he saw with his own eyes how they were treating me. It's not fair to define anyone based solely on where they come from. Shouldn't we be defined by our actions instead? That's why I told him I'd give him a chance to prove himself with them." If anything, Morgan herself is a living example of this! When she first arrived, practically everyone in Camelot scared the living daylights out of her with their astounding ignorance, their selfishness and overindulgence in a world that needed so much help. Even then, she still makes an effort to look for the good in them. It is traceable, believe it or not, even if she has to squint to see it sometimes. Like Lancelot ignoring the other knights jeering, agreeing to spar with her and also acknowledge her merit. Like Aurelia ignoring all the gossip and warning her back when Iphigenia was trying to make her life a living hell. And Morgan, of course, who surprised her in every possible way. Morgan who she'd even fallen in love with along the way. The cult has hurt her immeasurably, yes, but she can't judge every single person living in that village for the misdeeds of those at the top. Seeing the brilliant field of flowers, a colorful oasis in a desert of gray... well, it's not hard to see how one could be lured into that way of life without understanding the bloody truth of it all.

"It's not like he snuck in through a window. He followed all the formal measures to have an audience with me in the throne room. The knights are well aware that he's here. I asked two of them to stand guard at his room and even went as far as to ask Lancelot to keep watch on mine." Guinevere continues. And sure, the knights weren't exactly on par with her gang when it comes to fighting monsters. (Cough, cough. Not at all.) However, to human beings who were none the wiser, one glance at the knights enviably healthy complexions, their shiny armor and sharpened weapons is all it takes to fall in line before them. They work as a symbol within these walls, just like everything else. Might've made them soft against the monsters-- but against their fellow man? Well, it's safe to say those benefits gave them an advantage. Hell, when she'd first stepped into a castle full of them, their presence alone caused her to rethink a handful of spontaneous outbursts. (Especially at the beginning. There was something strangely intimidating about these polished people who visibly benefitted from balanced diets, warm shelter and restful nights. The culture shock was so staggering, it'd turned Guinevere herself-- a warrior from the freaking wastes-- into someone unsure and fearful, being the only outsider to stand among them all.) Maleagant is outnumbered in Camelot, plain and simple. One mistake and it wouldn't be terribly difficult to send him on his way.

And maybe Guinevere's slightly offended, maybe even hurt that Morgan implied she might've just let the man stay without exercising any caution whatsoever. Leave him to his own devices? No way! Of course not. She may be a thrill-seeker, she may be rather impulsive sometimes... but this is a matter of common sense. If she were that careless, she wouldn't have lasted a day out in the wastes. "I understand this is a risk, Morgan, but I'm not asking for trouble. Do you... Do you think I want to end up where I was the other night? Tied down like that?" Drawing attention to it is, hah, hellish. She hates it. She hates the fact that Morgan saw her like that at all, so much that it makes her skin crawl. She grips the blanket without realizing it, clawing her nails in. "There's so much about all of this that I don't know. I need more information before the world eats me alive." That might've sounded like a stretch if not for the fact that it directly parallels what'd happened the night of the festival. "I'm not assuming that he's telling me the truth... and I'm not assuming that he's lying, either. I'm reserving my judgement until I hear more of what he has to say. Point is, when an opportunity like this comes your way... sometimes you need to take what you can get. Make the most of it."

"We're both exhausted. They could've easily sent someone in through my window to make off with me again. It worked well enough for them the first time... I nearly disappeared without a trace." Guinevere releases the blankets, sinking with a deep exhale. "If they're testing a new method by sending someone inside the gates first, then their intentions are to play nice for a while, right? If he slips up, if we find an inconsistency... I trust that we'll see through it in time. I trust that we can handle it, like we've handled everything else up to this point." She shrugs. Softly, she glances up at her love. "Morgan, why don't we try to get some rest for now? If the cult wanted to hit us when we were vulnerable, they could've done it by now. Maleagant's outnumbered while he's inside Camelot's walls... the knights and my gang are on high alert now that he's here. Even if he's lying, he doesn't have any power to strike us right now. We have time to take a breath and see this through. Lets try to regain our strength so we can be our best, okay?" She tries smiling to offer some reassurance, but it falls a little flat. "And look on the bright side. If he's telling the truth? Then we'll gain information and a valuable new ally. I can't pass up an opportunity to turn the tables like that, you know?" And, you know, then she wouldn't be condemning a potentially good man to death out in the wastes after leaving his whole life behind for her. (Seriously. How many people have suffered because of her? It's not intentional on her part, of course, but... those cultists have been using her existence as an excuse to hurt others. It's tough not to feel at least a little responsible for that by association.) Besides, something about Maleagant... something about him told her that he's important. Sending him away probably would've caused her to think 'what if, what if, what if' forever. She's not going to admit this outright, at least not now, knowing Morgan likely won't accept it as a good reason. There's enough to worry about as it is without getting into the specifics of her weird gut feelings. And, yeah. They really, really need to sleep at this point. Both of them.
 

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