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Futuristic ♕ Camelot | ellarose & Syntra

Sub Genres
Action, LGTBQ, Magical

Syntra

Baba Yaga
"Ah. Ah, I see. Can I ask you a question as well, Gwen?" Morgan tilted her head aside, her expression strangely guarded. Cold, almost, but surely, she wouldn't hide behind a wall of ice when talking to her love...? A few days ago, her response would have been a resounding no, but now was now and all the other hypotheticals seemed to be shrouded in fog. (Retreating there felt oddly pleasant, too-- like putting on old, well-worn shoes, really. It wasn't that Morgan disliked who she had become under Gwen's care, of course not, but to allow her old self to take over? There was a lot of comfort in that, akin to picking your scabs obsessively. ...yes, on some level, the sorceress knew that she would bleed from the treatment, too. The thing was, it just didn't scare her, you see? There were things worse than a little bit of blood, and Morgan was no stranger to most of them.) "The question is this: why do you ask me at all if you've made up your mind already? You wanted my opinion and so I gave it. I am not going to..." support your self-destructive tendencies "...nod and smile and pretend that everything is fine when it isn't. Or was that what you wanted from me? Because I'm not going to provide it."

...a cruel answer, perhaps, but also an entirely justified one. Truly, why had she asked? To receive an official pardon of sorts? Well, too bad, because Morgan was neither a judge nor a priest! (Forgiveness wasn’t something the sorceress dealt in, to be honest. Nursing her grudges had gotten her further in life than just grinning and bearing it, you know? Had she chosen that path, Arthur still would have been a king, and Guinevere his queen. Turning the other cheek, she thought, was a philosophy devised by those who benefited from the status quo-- duh, of course that they would find it terribly convenient! Glorifying inaction could work on the feeble-minded, mainly because it didn’t actually require anything but swallowing one’s pride, but that wouldn’t work on her, thank you very much. No, Morgan valued things that were entirely different in nature!) …but, yes, they were tired. They had been tired for months, in fact, and she didn’t actually think that a night of restful sleep would help them solve this dilemma, but if nothing else, it wouldn’t actually worsen the situation. Very well, then. “I do agree with that assessment,” the sorceress sighed. “We’ll talk more tomorrow. Goodnight, Gwen.”

And talk she did want, mind you, but sometimes, there things just didn’t work out. “Lady Morgan!” a maid barged in when they were enjoying their breakfast, and also before she could have brought her love’s attention to how stupid her plan really was. “Lady Morgan, please, it is urgent. Come with me, as soon as you can!”

”Urgent? What is urgent?” Being told what the problem actually was would have helped, but no, of course the girl had to dance around the issue instead. What was it, some silly guessing game they’d devised to keep themselves entertained in the safety of Camelot? (And, yes, Morgan may or may not have felt grumpy. The shadow of the yesterday’s almost-argument was still hanging over their heads like a dark, dark cloud, and her intuition told her that it was only a matter of time before the storm broke out. Just, how could Guinevere expect her to be okay with a random ex-cultist sleeping under their roof? He hadn’t snuck inside, that much was true, but sometimes, honesty obscured more than it revealed-- the best lies, after all, dwelled close to the truth! In its light, you see, they could hide comfortably, free of their victims’ doubts. …she, too, understood that very well. Right under Arthur’s nose, Morgan had organized an entire rebellion, and at no point had she tried to hide her existence. No, working so close to him had been a part of why it had even worked in the first place!)

“It… it is lady Christina,” the girl finally managed to say, clearly distraught. “She was just fine yesterday, but when I came to help her with her dress this morning, she was burning. Well, not literally, but her fever was very high. Her health has always been fragile, as I’m sure you know, and--”

“Fine, fine,” Morgan stood up, and straightened the fabric of her own dress. Lady Christina, huh? An old woman, around eighty, if the sorceress had to guess-- age had reduced her to a shell of her former self, but in Camelot, many still respected her. To an extent, you could say that she was everyone’s mother, so even Morgan couldn’t really resent her. “I will see her right away. My queen,” she curtsied, “we shall discuss all that needs to be discussed later.”

That ‘later’, however, turned out to be further on the timeline than expected, and Guinevere ended up having to pay attention to someone else entirely-- to Maleagant, who asked for an audience shortly afterwards. “My queen,” the knight fell on his knees, “once again, I thank you for this opportunity. Not many would have found it in their hearts, I’m sure. I was thinking about how I could prove myself to you, too, but nothing really comes to mind. I mean, I am sure you will appreciate my guidance once we deal with the king’s spirit, but I can’t very well expect you to just accompany me there, can I?” he chuckled, his voice full of dry sarcasm. “I suppose you will have to help me here, just a little bit. Is there anything you’d like to know? I will be happy to answer all of your questions. If there is anything I can do for you, then I will do that as well, and…” Those green eyes of his? Suddenly, they seemed entirely focused on her face, and it was obvious that something he saw there must have startled him. “My queen? Are you alright?”
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere needs to walk... maybe run a few laps around the grounds. She needs to strike a few training dummies with her sword. And if not for the fact that she'll be stuck in this chair for the foreseeable future, she may have considered asking Lancelot if they could make a new routine of sparring at sunrise before her queenly duties began. Or perhaps she'd even push it further and insist she go with Adrianne? She'll be rusty on a cringe-worthy level in comparison, but... if anything, that'd put her on the path to regaining her strength. To reclaiming a small semblance of her long lost self-confidence. Hah. Wouldn't it be great to have that back? Plus, the exercise and morning air would help her clear her mind. Hell, it can certainly use a good cleaning! Dust away all the cobwebs and dirt that accumulated there as she laid sick in bed or performed her useless roles. Useless, useless, useless. As it is now, her head's packed too full with shame and doubt-- a positive outlet will be necessary before she can bend under its weight and do something rash. Warring emotions move about restlessly under her skin, she feels them building, knows she ought to expel them healthily before they can manifest. Especially knowing her kind could dole out curses when scorned. One magical accident and these people may gladly lead her to her pyre... it'd be a fitting end to this disastrous cycle, wouldn't it?

Guinevere believes she had a valid point, when she tried to explain her reasoning. Keeping up the charade might keep them safe for now... but what happens if it slowly contributes to something neither of them will be able to control? The true nature of the fae is still largely unknown to both of them. And being one herself, the only one left? It's... lonely, okay? Lonely and scary. Now it feels lonelier yet, after catching the cold in her love's eyes yesterday like the sharp end of a knife. Of course Morgan doesn't have to lie through her teeth to appease her, she doesn't have to agree with everything she says... but it'd have been nice if they could've handled that better yesterday. Why did she ask? Because she genuinely cares about what Morgan thinks, obviously! Because she sees her as a partner, as an equal. She'd hoped to take her thoughts into consideration, to include her and compromise for future meetings to come. Nothing is set in stone, she's always taken Morgan's opinions seriously up to this point. Couldn't she have empathized, even just a little, with her desire to know more about herself? About the risks she might pose to her kingdom? Morgan herself sparked her interest in learning about magic by telling her how destructive it could be to remain ignorant about these things!

Morgan doesn't want to leave her comfort zone, apparently, and Guinevere can't help but feel... a little bitter. Just a little. Because she obliterated her own comfort zone in every possible way as she worked tirelessly to fit in with the people of Camelot, when she'd taken all those leaps of faith trusting Morgan every step of the way while learning about magic. If Morgan doesn't want to reciprocate, then that's fine. Really! It's fine. Maybe there's a good reason for that. Maybe she's right about all of this, the same way she's been right about everything else.

Lacking the appetite, Guinevere pushes food about listlessly with her fork, feeling as if all she's ever been good for has been hitting things. And now she's been reduced to the pretty face, the symbol on the throne who rarely makes any decisions purely of her own accord. And as those thoughts spin around her mind, she loathes herself for thinking them in the first place. Because where has moping ever got anyone? Absolutely nowhere! She built up these unproductive habits in captivity, inside of Camelot's walls and she needs to shake them fast. Lost in thought, she regards Morgan's exit with a slight nod, never lifting her eyes from her plate.

Guinevere carries these distractions with her into her meeting with Maleagant. And she did have questions, plenty of questions in fact... but they all seem to evaporate in favor of the conflict overtaking her mind.

"Oh... oh, yes. I'm fine. A little tired is all." Guinevere blinks up at him, newly alert and slightly jarred now that she's truly seeing the alarm in his face. "A walk out in the gardens may do me good, but..." Except the worry in his expression is worrying her, now. It just isn't normal to react to someone's mild disconcertment with that kind of panic! What is he seeing when he looks at her? Did something happen to her face just now? Jen had reassured her that the cultists used a glamour on her when she underwent that dramatic change before, to frighten her into submission with her own reflection or something. That being half-human, her true fae-like features wouldn't have been nearly as dramatic. Still. Her heart pounds and she finds herself strangely disarmed. "...Why do you ask? What is it?"
 
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Syntra

Baba Yaga
“Ah, yes. Tired, of course. I imagine that keeping this place running is exhausting, isn’t it?” Maleagant asked, sorrow in his green eyes. “I know that the priests at our village struggled, too. Getting anything done with so many people, each of them absolutely convinced that their way was the right one, was a challenge for sure. I can only imagine the weight of the responsibility a queen must bear, truly. Isn’t it a bit lonely?” he asked, carefully, as if some part of him was convinced the question might trigger the fight or flight response in her. “Having to do all of that on your own, I mean. I for sure couldn’t do it. Then again,” he smiled gently, “I was never meant to be a king, was I? There’s probably a reason why the gods didn’t let me be born into a royal lineage.” For a while, he examined Guinevere’s face-- her expression, the way worried wrinkles appeared around her eyes, everything about it, really. “I wouldn’t say there’s anything suspicious about you, my queen. Why would you expect something like that, even? You just looked… sad. Sad and lonely, I suppose. I wondered whether some tragedy didn’t strike in my absence.” Ah, yes, a tragedy-- with some use of the creative license, her entire life could be described like that, most likely. Still, such an answer would hardly satisfy the man.

“Well, I cannot say that I understand the nature of your plight, my queen, but I do understand one thing-- namely, that this castle isn’t helping. How is one supposed to recover when surrounded by stone, shadows, and false smiles? Being isolated like this isn’t good for you, I’m sure. Even our healers, who had… hmm, a limited perspective, let’s say… understood well enough that you need to show your face to the sun from time to time. You spoke of a garden, didn’t you? Allow me to take you there, so that we may talk in peace. Frankly, I don’t think that what I am about to share should be heard by all the ears here-- surely, you know very well just how easily words can be twisted into something they aren’t.” The ladies sitting around the table? They may have looked innocent enough, but anyone who had spent some time within the walls of Camelot knew that they were anything but. (In their mouths, a whisper could serve as a weapon, a shout as a rallying cry. Not everyone had to use swords in order to be dangerous, you know? That was one of the first lessons this castle had to offer.)

Gently, Maleagant grabbed the bars on Guinevere’s wheelchair, and off they went. The guards followed them, of course, as they always did, but aside from these guys? They were completely alone-- just them, the flowers growing in the flower beds, and the birds chirping in the branches of the trees. An idyllic scenery, one might say. “My goodness,” the man looked around, attempting to imprint the image into his memory. “I didn’t know such places existed outside of our village. I have heard of Camelot, of course, but the priests told us that it was a false paradise. A rumor, to keep other people’s hopes alive. I suppose it isn’t surprising that it was just another lie, but seeing it with my own eyes… ah, that certainly is something. How come that this miracle exists? Have you fed the garden with your essence as well, my queen? Although, ah, I apologize,” he smiled. “You are not here to answer questions, of course. I merely let myself get carried away. Still, what a beautiful patch of earth you’ve got there! Thriving, and so full of life. Witnessing its beauty does fill my heart with new hope, if I am to be honest.”

“Well, my queen, we’ve come here for a reason. Do you have questions you’d like to ask, then? Misunderstandings you’d wish to clear up?”
 

ellarose

wanderer
Then why the hell did you look at me like that!? Guinevere bites her tongue before she can blurt it out in an unladylike fashion, squinting ever so slightly. Is he actively trying to make her doubt herself, to keep her on her toes? (...Or is she just paranoid? Has Camelot finally shaped her into someone she no longer recognizes?) As he continues in that same vein, she's uncertain whether to feel vindicated or deeply unsettled by the accuracy of Maleagant's observation. Lonely. He pinned it down so fast, as if his eyes had cut straight through her. Fuck. There's an obvious danger in him realizing that, so she holds her tongue and withholds any further comment on the subject. As healing as it might be to confide in someone who could provide a much-needed dose of understanding and compassion amidst this utter shitstorm-- and maybe a hug, too-- fact remains that she doesn't trust Maleagant or those striking green eyes of his nearly enough. And she's especially guarded, recalling the cold in Morgan's expression yesterday. Guinevere vows to tread carefully so she doesn't spill the beans. No way is she going to fuck this up. No way! She has a point to prove! She considers her lessons and allows him to continue talking... and it serves as a helpful reminder of exactly of where he comes from. Ex-cultist. Who knows what kind of shit he's done to her without her knowledge? Plus, at this exact moment in time, her sickly complexion isn't entirely Camelot's fault. “…Even your healers. And yet even they were determined to deprive me of sunlight in your village.” Guinevere ripostes. Thanks to exhaustion, her tone is just a few a shades shy of sardonic. It might not have been the most considerate thing to say, taking his own circumstances into consideration. Doesn't she have the right, though, to be angry? To be at least a little blunt about her own suffering? "Yes, let's go."

Guinevere watches the scenery roll on by. Oh, if only she'd had a productive conversation with Morgan! She'd have liked to ask her more about her time with the cult... seeing as she'd had the opportunity to get a glimpse into their inner-workings and could give her some much-needed insight. The truth is that Guinevere is in the dark about a vast majority of it. Most of her experiences in the village are blanketed in darkness, drugged and tied down in that hellish, window-less cell they had the audacity to call a 'goddess's chambers'. Plus, the kinds of questions she asked could tell Maleagant something about her in turn. Allowing him to be privy to the subjects she's unsure about could pose a danger of its own.

Asking Morgan what she ought to ask is all well and good... but, hm. What does she want to know?

Guinevere reaches to cup a sagging, withering rose on one of the bushes in the palm of her hand. Honing in on it, the petals replenish beneath her touch and turn skyward. Subtle enough magic not to rouse the guards, to give Maleagant a glimpse. “I want to ask why.”

Even if the answer is as glaringly obvious as it seems... Guinevere wants to hear it for herself. She narrows her eyes, retracting her hand from the delicate flower before she can risk crushing it with righteous anger. “Why did they keep me in those conditions? Did they have a reason outside of their own human greed?” She clutches fistfuls of her dress. “Because left to my own devices, I wouldn't let my potential waste away. I know what it means to starve, you see. My moral obligation is to use my 'essence' to help willingly... to help as many people as I possibly can." Emotions skyrocketing, Guinevere continues on. "My kind belongs... no, thrives in nature. The cult's methods are counterproductive. Damaging. So, what? Are they all fu--" Fucking idiots? Uh oh. She's losing her cool. "Fools?" ...Nice save. Hopefully? "Or should I take it all at face value and assume that they did it to horde the resources for themselves?" For power, in other words. Look at Arthur's proposal and her reasons for accepting it, despite knowing what a complete douche of a husband he'd make, and tell her she doesn't understand the way the world works. Just try it.

There are so many other questions branching out beneath that topic, too. For instance, what's the deal with those hoity toity sermons? Where the fuck does the audacity come from, that they would chose to lecture her about greed and morals when they're clearly the ones who could benefit from a heaping dollop of self-reflection? Even so. Asking about that wouldn't be productive as much as it'd be cathartic to let go of. For so long, she's kept these thoughts and frustrations pent up... and she just wants to release them already. No. That's enough. Onto other things!

"Also--" Guinevere draws in a deep breath to calm herself, reassuming a regal air. "Arthur's spirit. How do you know that it was Arthur's spirit? Can you hear his voice...? Is the cult in the practice of teaching their guards magic?" She splays her hands flat and clutches her skirt again. In captivity, in this chair, opening and closing her fists has quickly become her habit of choice while she's unable roam around the way she wants to. "What is he doing, exactly? And how do you propose we stop him?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
"Just another proof that they didn't even mean to treat you well," Maleagant retorted. "I am not defending their actions, my queen. Not at all. It's just that... well, it's the only thing I've ever known. For that reason, I suppose, I can only try to relate to you through them. If it bothers you, however, I can just not do it. Say a word, and I will not bother you with my observations anymore." ...but, ah, would it be wise to silence him like that? Maleagant's worth, if he had any, relied on his words-- on the nuggets of wisdom he was willing to share, in order to further her understanding of the cult. Was that truly the optimal choice? Did optimal choices even exist in her reality, with Camelot looming on the horizon? Maleagant wasn't a terrifying man, not with those kind green eyes of his, at least, but it was overwhelmingly obvious that Guinevere walked a thin, thin line here.

"Why..." he repeated, apparently deep in thought. In that moment, something about him resembled an owl-- large and majestic, yes, but also somewhat eerie. Out of place, in the searing sunlight. "I'd love to answer you truthfully, my queen, but I do not know. I was but a pawn, and thus not allowed into the inner circle. I can only guess what their motivations might have been. If you want my personal opinion, though?" Maleagant took a deep breath, as if saying those words aloud cost him a great deal of energy. "From what I've gathered, I believe they... thought they knew better than you, really. That you couldn't be trusted with them, in other words. As a child, you ran away, and that was probably seen as you dodging your responsibilities. I know, I know, a twisted thing, but that appears to be the logic here. Moreover..." he added, a bit more reluctant, "I think that they got used to your absence. Without you there, they could say 'the goddess wants this, the goddess wants that' and nobody would question them. I wouldn't, either. I mean, why would they lie to us? Surely, they had our best interests at heart," Maleagant laughed, oh so bitterly. "So, my theory is that they wanted to have their cake and eat it, too-- they wanted you to be there, without actually being there. That would fall under greed, probably. I... I also know that they wished to raise your child," the man said, visibly uncomfortable now. "Children are easier to control, after all, and if they had access to them from the very beginning... surely, you can imagine how that would be beneficial to them."

"You might summarize it as being just greed, though I don't think it translates to pure materialism. They are greedy for resources, yes, but more than that, they yearn for recognition. For respect. For always being right, no matter what." ...and, funnily enough, didn't that remind her of a certain someone? Of a sorceress who clung too tightly to her precious viewpoint, perhaps? "It's like a drug, I think. I'm not sure at this point whether it's an ideology or a visceral need to be heard, in all instances."

When Guinevere asked him about Arthur, however? The man's lips formed a thin line, and his green eyes darkened. "Yes, I can hear him. I wasn't taught magic or anything like that, so... I'm thinking it might be an inborn ability. He... he wants you, my queen. He keeps wailing and wailing and wailing, till my ears ring. The king says that you are his wife, and thus you are meant to join him in his grave. It's an old custom around here, you see? For wives to be burned alongside their husbands, if they don't have the good sense to die earlier. I know not how to defeat him, but what I do know is that his presence is poisoning the air. Perhaps some kind of fire is needed? Cleansing fire, I mean. I'm but an ignorant guard, though on some level, it makes sense to me-- give him what he wants, except that with a twist. What do you think, my queen? You are far wiser than me, after all."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere stiffens, her blood running cold. The concept of having children to raise at all makes her stomach turn cartwheels. The first time they'd taken her before she got married. She recalls that balding priest caressing her arm, promising that they would love her. Knowing on top of that at some point they were going to— they really intended to— ugh, gross. Despicable bastards! They deserved it when she flattened every building in that damned village to the ground. They deserved it when the beasts ran rampant through their streets. She needs to stop thinking about it, stop or she'll feel physically ill. By proxy, of course, that introduces the question she doesn't dare to ask... of whether or not it's truly necessary that she have children at all. Or is this another strategy the cult conjured up to keep her vulnerable? No... on some level, she understands their desire to experiment. To find out if they could mass produce their precious blood bags. And if that didn't happen? Well, who knows... maybe they'd kill them straightaway for being worthless to them, hold their safety over her head as blackmail like they'd done with Jen, or perhaps raise up little monsters to walk in their footsteps. Is it dire that she has children? Does she doom the earth if she leaves it behind without... sigh. She doesn't even want to ask. More than that, she understands admitting to anyone other than Morgan or her gang that she never wants to have children is a risk on a colossal level. Camelot wants heirs from her as well, after all. Knowing her inclinations towards responsibility, too, well... if she's told from a reliable source that it's a necessary step to save their dying planet, what choice will she have? None. As always. But at the very least, she'd like to select the father...? To go into it with her eyes open rather than being dead to the world all the while and... her expression twists vaguely with revulsion.

The most sickening part? She'd been so doped up that she doesn't even know if they've tried. According to Arthur, they ran those tests, too. The ones that told them Morgan had been giving her those potions to prevent such a thing. Arthur also intended to... while she was... well, maybe she could thank his love for symbolism and pompous ceremony for something. He'd made it clear during the festival that it would lead to that, what with his nonsense about becoming the father of gods... so the probability that anything happened before that is slim. Otherwise, he might've tried taunting her with it. Any opportunity he had to dangle his power and all-knowing-ness over her head he took unhesitatingly.

"...Then I suppose we'll have to find a way to prove them wrong." Guinevere wisps, partially distracted by the sheer terror of her position, tugging restlessly at her hair. It's gotten long, hasn't it? I can't let them catch me again. She pulled harder and bit her lip. Can't, can't, can't. She and Morgan had to get their shit together! They needed to be on the same page about their next course of action. From personal experience, whenever there was a sense of disharmony in her gang, that was often when tragedy struck. And considering this magical cycle they're trapped in tends to spin magnetically towards tragedy, well... she feels a tangible restlessness zinging in the air, the voices of the spirits humming in her ears create an undecipherable cacophony. Just because Arthur's 'dead' doesn't automatically make everything all right. Besides, have they ever been allowed to be just Guinevere and Morgan without him? Will they discover without that part of their story holding them together, that they just... fall apart? No. What we have goes beyond Arthur... we're stronger than that. We've got to be.

Bolstering herself with a deep breath, Guinevere attempts to shake the horror enough to focus on what’s being said. So… this guy has mysterious abilities that allowed him to hear Arthur acting like a whiny bitch, in other words. Great! Morgan would really be better suited to seeing through bullshit on the magical scale. Morgan's not here, though. She needs to try and ask the right questions so she at least has valuable information to go back to her with. Some proof that she's not silly or naive.

“That’s interesting.” Guinevere observes, speaking rather slowly to keep him on his toes. What she's going for is a neutral-- neither convinced or unconvinced. No way in hell is she going to reveal that she’s quite frankly, uh, confused as hell. “I’ll think about it. I won’t be going anywhere in this state, after all." She gestures vaguely to her feet. "If anything, it should give us ample time to think of a strategy." And time to figure out whether or not he's a goddamned liar! Because, what... does he think she's going to go waltzing with him into the village just like that? It's the equivalent of saying 'Hey, Gwen. Let's walk into a den of bloodthirsty vampires, where the ghost of your scorned dead husband also resides, and also set yourself on fire to appease him for good measure!' In the meantime… "I don’t suppose you have some way to prove of these inborn abilities of yours?" Ah ha! That's it. Proof. Morgan's always asking for proof. That shows she's been listening, right? "How long have you had them? Can you only hear Arthur's voice or are there others?”

Guinevere tilts her head to the side. And wouldn’t the cult have… done something more with someone who has these kinds of abilities rather than just make them a guard? Unless this skill is indeed new... which is valid, especially when she looks at her own case. If so, if it's only Arthur's voice... is there something that connects Maleagant and Arthur? Perhaps the same thread that connects herself and Morgan to him? Is that why he has such a familiar aura about him? And if so... what part does he typically play in their story? He never turned up in Excalibur's visions of the past. Maybe because he hadn't been there to touch it? The visions focused on herself, Morgan and Arthur-- but maybe that's because they were the only ones present to get sucked into that magical dimension? Ugh. Her brain is starting to hurt.

Excalibur... can you tell me anything? Guinevere wonders, her brow furrowing. Ah, shit. No good. Her thoughts are muddying together, meaning the spirits would refuse to ferry any coherent information to her. There's too much going on in her head right now. Clearing the air with Morgan ought to help. She dislikes leaving things the way they'd left them yesterday... and sleeping on the argument did little to console her.

“Arthur was in the village. Did everyone know that he was there, or did the priests try to keep it under wraps?” Guinevere asks. Now she's determined to grill him on Arthur, see if there's some kind of connection. “I imagine as a guard you at least must’ve been privy to news of his arrival. Did they strike some kind of a deal?” Probably... right? Otherwise they wouldn't have sent Jen in to distract him the first time around! “I understand that he wasn't in the picture since the very beginning. There must've been some other plan set in place before he showed up." She tenses, recalling the fleeting theory she’d had. Because it seemed like he had, uh, rather nefarious, cult-inspired plans for her once he got Morgan out of the way by marrying her off to Eugene. Merlin also mentioned that they had spies of their own, that they caught onto her and Morgan's coup. Had falling back on the cult been their plan b for quite a while, then? "And did Arthur reach out to you all before he arrived? For drugs, maybe?”
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
"No, of course not," Maleagant agreed, his voice a waterfall of gentleness. (Pleasant to listen to, wasn't it? Unlike Morgan's tone from yesterday, which had been biting and colder than ice.) "Your health is the priority here. We... you, I mean... will need to be prepared. I wouldn't dream of sending you there like this, blind and ignorant. I mean," he shrugged, a boyish smile spreading across his face, "I don't know as much as I'd like, either. The priests, despicable as they are, do know how to guard their precious information. Still, I do not intend to give up." ...what? The sentiment was cute, yeah, but how exactly would it manifest? Was he planning to return to the hellhole and, uhh, play the double agent? Because that sort of thing was dangerous! ...doubly so if you weren't sure whose side you were on, anyway. "I am planning to learn more via letting my own spirit listen," he explained, probably to alleviate those exact worries. "Even now, I can hear the king wail, and... and I think they're trying to communicate with him, too. I'm sure I will extract some information from those attempts."

When Guinevere asked for proof, though? Predictably, Maleagant shook his head. "I don't... I have no idea, my queen. I am not a scholar, and I do not know how to begin to approach this. Perhaps you could ask lady Morgan? She could run some tests, though I am not sure how easy that will be. The nature of my gift is... hmm, fickle. It doesn't always work when I want it to, nor does it go away when I no longer wish for it to bother me. It's a bit like fire, I suppose? In that it isn't easy to start, but when those flame burn, it is hard to extinguish them. Of course," he smiled, "I will cooperate, to the best of my ability. Even if you don't find out anything conclusive, I am certain that my results will speak for themselves. Soon enough, you shall know for sure that you weren't a fool when you allowed me to serve you, my queen. Either way... I hear that lady Morgan is powerful, right? I have no doubt that she will be able to find out how, exactly, my powers work." The man spoke calmly, each word a perfect fit in a mosaic-- some of it felt rehearsed, almost. Could it be...? Well, he probably had rehearsed it, to be frank. Guinevere was the queen of Camelot, after all, so would it be that strange if he wanted to make a good impression? Surely, Maleagant had stayed up all night, wondering what kind of questions he would be asked and polishing the potential answers.

"Everyone," Maleagant confirmed. "Well, not everyone knew him as king Arthur, but each man, woman and child was aware of his presence. He was supposed to be the father of your children, remember?" Maleagant chuckled. "The man was sent by the gods, as a reward for our loyalty-- that was the official theory, anyway. The lovely mask you saw him in? He wasn't allowed to put it away, as far as I know. Everything around him was meant to be shrouded in mystery, I think. Of course, the explanation was that we weren't worthy enough to even glimpse his face, but we both know just how they love their appearances, don't they? I bet they just didn't want anyone to recognize him. I mean, that would have been a long shot, as I doubt anyone in there was able to identify him, but yeah. And..." Maleagant hesitated, "I'm afraid I don't know. Not for sure, anyway. We did trade with masked men from time to time, however. The timeline would be..." he narrowed his eyes, reaching deep into his memories, "...sometime after your second escape, I suppose. The one in which you demolished the statue. Regardless, I cannot tell what they bought or what they sold. If I had to wager, then maybe information? I stood guard to some of those meetings, but they only whispered secrets to one another. They could have been about you, I won't deny that, but they didn't have to be. I apologize, my queen-- I shall not make up information just for you to hear what you want to hear."

"Although," the man looked up, his green eyes meeting hers, "we have increased the production of drugs recently, yes. What do you ask?"
 

ellarose

wanderer
"She is powerful, yes." Guinevere concedes, carefully quiet when the subject of Morgan comes up. Is this widespread information? Where is he obtaining it from? Had he picked this up from his fellow cultists from their brief stay in the village or had somebody in Camelot slipped him a tip? It's reminiscent of when he brought up all that talk about 'Guinevere the Just' and whatnot. Normally she wouldn't pass up one of the rarely presented opportunities she to boast about how wonderful and brilliant her love is, but in this case... Morgan didn't appreciate her allowing Maleagant to stay in the first place. Running her big mouth any more than necessary seems an awful lot like a betrayal. No, any information has on Camelot's sorceress will be kept very, very close to her chest out of respect. They may not agree on how to go about this, but that doesn't mean that she's going to ignore her love's boundaries and feelings about these developments. Maleagant has a rather disarming smile, it's true, but that won't sway her! Anyways. If Guinevere is going to risk anyone's life here, it's hers and hers alone. "Lady Morgan has other responsibilities to attend to today," That and she's still recovering, but she decides to keep that to herself. "I will confide in her and let you know whether or not she would like to meet at a later time."

It does strike her as a little strange, how sure he seems of this fact. Because Guinevere remembers stumbling ungracefully every step of the way when she first became aware of the dormant magic stirring inside of herself. Morgan may be smart, but even she didn't have the ability to 'diagnose' her magical abilities the way a doctor could diagnose an illness. If Maleagant's abilities are so rare and strange, then how is it that he doesn't appear even slightly afraid? Well. Maybe that isn't fair. Guinevere herself hid most of her terror through those uncertain moments under the guise of a dauntless smile. Who's to say that Maleagant isn't doing the same thing now?

"Make no mistake. The last thing I want is for you to lie to me. What might I want to hear, anyway? Maybe that they intend on disinfecting their needles properly the next time around?" Guinevere's eyes flash as she snaps back, perhaps a touch harsher than intended. Okay, woah there. Chill. She's might be... on edge. Especially now with her supposed 'wants' coming into question. Really, though? What do people take her for? She's not a child who needs to be appeased with sweet nothings-- not like Arthur-- she's a warrior looking for her sword, damn it! She'll need one to take control of her own destiny, rather than being dragged behind it, bound by unbreakable chains. "I need information. Real information that will benefit me and my kingdom in the future." And he's been answering her questions, yes, but he has yet to give her anything specific. "I was his wife. But Arthur excluded me from most of his affairs." There is a delicious sort of power in using the word 'was'. Was, meaning that Arthur is gone if only in body. Never again will he touch her with those disgusting hands of his. Never, never, never. Even beyond the grave, though, he continues to astound her with his cruelty. He dealt transactionally with the cult? Hah. And back when she brought it up at dinner with Eugene and Morgan, he'd been so determined to pretend that it never happened at all! Ugh. What a fucking asshole. Come to think of it, it was directly after that that he began drugging her food, too. Keeping her conveniently out of his way while he finalized his plans to send Morgan away forever. "As queen, shouldn't I be entitled to know the business of my kingdom? Especially if it was transactional." Especially, you know, if it involves her. Bastard probably wanted help with taming Excalibur. Maybe he went to them for advice on fudging the narrative so that it could look like he was restoring the earth while she suffered silently behind the scenes.

"I would like more specifics, if you don't mind. How many men were present, approximately? If anything, were there more than two?" Guinevere asks. Arthur and Merlin were the obvious candidates... but if there were more, then there was a high probability that a handful of other men living within Camelot's walls were privy to the whereabouts of these hidden drugs. Men who potentially understood her position as well. This is-- this is exactly what she'd been afraid of! But if she knew about their actions while they didn't know that she knew, then... there's an angle she can play at with that, isn't there? "I understand they were masked, but did any of them have distinguishing features?"

Guinevere slowly cools from that burst of righteous fury, sinking back into her chair and loosening her fists.

"I won't apologize for getting angry." Guinevere admits. Because it's justified. "But I am sorry for taking that tone with you. I sincerely want to believe that you intend to help me. So if you have anything important to share, anything you believe I should know that I haven't asked about yet... then please tell me." She sighs, tilting her head back to look at the sky. Hopefully she doesn't appear as lost as she feels. "I guess I'm curious, too. What made you want to turn your back on them? If the priests are as secretive and manipulative as you say... how is it that you managed to see through it? Did you witness something?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Despite being so charmed by the garden earlier, Maleagant only seemed to focus on her now-- his gaze was attentive, yes, but also piercing, somehow. (Like the edge of a knife pressed against your skin, but not enough to draw blood. And yet, yet it didn't seem... cold? Strangely enough, something about his demeanor branded him as a friend, to be trusted and confided in. A positive presence in her life.) "I see. Yes, I imagine that lady Morgan does get busy often. Someone like her must work relentlessly at all times, right? Again, I may not have carried the burden of leadership, but I do recognize how heavy it is. Worry not, then. I shall not bother her until she's ready." ...and, oh, was that the tiniest hint of satisfaction in his voice? Did he maybe not wish to let Morgan inspect him, for reasons of his own? Well, to be frank, the sorceress did come off about as friendly as a saw-tooth tiger might have, to the outsiders at least. There was nothing particularly strange about him not being eager to spend more time with her, really. Whether it marked him as suspect... that was for Guinevere to decide, wasn't it? Along with everything else.

Guinevere's anger exploded then, white hot and destructive, but despite that? Maleagant didn't cower, nor did he flinch. Calmly, like a statue, he continued to stand there, his expression blank. (Was he maybe used to outbursts? Considering he'd been a guard, that wouldn't have been so strange-- undoubtedly, the priests had subjected him to theatrics so dramatic that Guinevere couldn't even imagine their full extent. ...smokes and mirrors, that was all they were. In order to keep their precious illusions alive, they had to play their games.) "Of course. Information. That is entirely reasonable, and I will try to provide it. The thing is, I don't... I am not sure, my queen," he admitted. "I wasn't allowed to go inside when they talked-- it wasn't for my ears, I've been told. I cannot speak about any distinguishing features, either, for the ones that accompanied your former husband... well, they were dressed in armor. With helmets and everything. But, yes, usually, they came in a group of five. King Arthur, the old wizard, and people I can only imagine were their bodyguards? Traveling in the wastes is dangerous, as I'm sure you know. The men were heavily armed, too, so there's little doubt in my mind regarding what their roles were."

Something important, something important... the cogs were turning in Maleagant's head almost visibly, really, as he searched for an answer that might please Guinevere. "Now that I think of it," he began, "I have witnessed a few... interesting events. Not in their entirety, of course, as I wasn't to talk to our guests, but it's hard not to make your own conclusions when the evidence is so clear. From time to time, the king would come with people who weren't wearing any masks, alright. Men, women and children, too. And, the funny thing about it? They never returned with him. They never joined us, either. I would have noticed, I'm sure, since our community was pretty tight-knit-- we knew each other by names, really. That, and it wasn't hard to spot an outsider there. Each time someone came from the wastes, it took them weeks to get used to our daily routine. And yet, yet nobody new ever turned up after these meetings! I... I think they did something to them. Hurt them. I don't know what it was, but it sure as hell wasn't pleasant. Do you know about these missing people, my queen? And..." the man hesitated for the first time, averting his gaze. (Had she touched a sensitive spot? What was it that rattled him so? All of a sudden, color seemed to drain from his face, and his lips were bloodless.)

"I suppose you might say I witnessed something, yes. I'm sorry, my queen, but I don't think this information will help. It's... personal. I guess I saw through their lies about love and mercy when they murdered my sister." Ah, yes, that would probably convince just about anyone that these guys were up to no good. "She failed to follow their instructions," he continued, oh so matter-of-factly. Had it not been for the contents of his words, one would have guessed he spoke about the weather, or maybe about what he planned to get for dinner today, but wasn't distancing yourself from your emotions the best way of handling them? At least it ensured they wouldn't spill over. "She was to prepare some kind of ritual from you, and deviated from the instructions. Why, that I cannot tell. I wasn't in her head. I only know that she didn't even get the chance to right her wrongs, and... I started thinking about things differently, then. It was as if someone smashed my rose-tinted glasses. You could say that me realizing all of that was a side effect, rather than the result of some epic spiritual journey, but it is what it is."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere visibly eases into her chair, relieved as Maleagant complies and discloses a few of the finer details. It’s not a lot to go off of, yes, but it’s decent start. Armor would indicate that these men were knights— although that’s not a surefire thing. They could be anyone, so long as they were capable of defending themselves in the wastes she supposed. In a place like Camelot, that narrows things down considerably. Especially when she recalls the way the people behaved like chickens with their heads cut off during the coup. She decides silently to ask Lancelot about this later. The timeline makes his innocence unquestionable. He wouldn’t have been present for any such visits, considering he’d been out in the wastelands looking for her and subsequently captured by those ruffians. At that time, she had been cooped up in her room, unless Arthur busied her with wedding preparations, the ladies or their guests. Her perspective is limited to the knights, nobles and guards she crossed pathes with while Arthur was off on his ‘quests’ during that timeframe between the two kidnappings. Anyway. Of her small handful of allies to trust, Lancelot knows these men better than anyone else. He can offer her helpful insight on which knights and guards were closest to Arthur. If the men who are supposed to be defending the kingdom are secretly conspiring against her, then... well, who knows what could happen? Nothing good, that’s for certain. The prospect is enraging, honestly, but if she knows in advance at least she can brace herself for the potential onslaught. What’s even more enraging, though, is the news of Arthur supposedly shepherding people into the village to... to what? Have them slaughtered? She hasn’t heard any such rumors in Camelot. That doesn’t render the whole story invalid in an instant, but... if it is the truth, then where could he have been finding these people? The wastelands? She’ll have to see if her gang has heard anything.

“I haven’t. If that’s true, then...” Guinevere chokes on the knot in her throat, pressing down on her sorrow and outrage to keep ahold of her queenly image. How many people have suffered now because of their greed? And it wouldn’t stop unless she did something to stop it. “I cannot believe...” Incredulously, she shakes her head. Actually, she can. If it’s Arthur? Oh, she doesn’t doubt his reach or his influence for even a second. He could surely take some tasty bait out into the wastelands to lure and sink his hooks into any number of people. Kind of like he’d done with her. Either way, she’s not in the right frame of mind to speak calmly about this right now. Too many outbursts in one sitting and she may mess everything up. “I’ll have to look into the matter further, I suppose. Thank you for telling me.” Ah. She has a busy evening ahead of her, doesn’t she? It may take a while before she has that much-needed talk with Morgan after all.

When Maleagant shares his tragic story, Guinevere’s rage is like the wind— just as fierce, though it changes direction. Moving away from him and directly towards the cultists responsible. His sister...? And they killed her because she refused to do something that was no doubt fucked up to her. Christ. Fuck. Goddamn it! How many people had seen what the cultists were doing to her and tried to help to no avail? How many lost, compassionate souls are she indebted to without even knowing it? Wracked with guilt and anger and sorrow, she gives herself a moment to steady her breathing before gently reaching back for Maleagant’s hand on the handlebars of her chair. The touch of their hands is familiar and warm... sort of comforting, actually. Like a missing puzzle piece of her mysterious story snapping into place.

“I’m sorry.” Guinevere responds, her voice tight with sincere grief. It’s meaningless to apologize, she knows, because it won’t help anything. It’s not going to change the past or bring his sister back. It’s not going to change the fact that his sister died on her behalf. What she can offer, though, is help. Help to prevent anyone else from suffering the same fate. Determination blazes in her eyes. “I swear. Once I recover, I will do whatever I can to help you bring them to justice. They’ve hurt far too many people now. Allowing them to continue on like this would be...” Selfish. This isn’t just about making sure they no longer have the power to lock her away in chains forever. It’s about freeing a whole civilization of people. Maleagant’s story isn’t so implausible, is it? When she remembers the way they’d threaten to hurt Jen if she didn’t behave as a little girl... oh no, they were certainly capable of hurting even children to see that their goals were attained. Ruthless, heartless bastards. “I can’t allow them to carry on like this.”

Meanwhile, Adrianne converses quietly with a maid standing outside of lady Christina’s room, respectfully getting permission before she steps quietly inside to address Morgan. After ensuring that she isn’t interrupting anything critical, she makes her presence known with a soft knock on the doorframe.

“Hey, Morgan.” Adrianne casts a weary side-eye to the old woman’s bed, taking note that they weren’t going to scandalize her by ignoring Camelot’s flowery titles and formalities. Nope. She’s fast asleep— and even if she wasn’t, she’d probably have been too feverish to think anything was amiss. “The maid outside said it’d be okay if I poked in for a second. I won’t pull you away for long, I just...”

She releases a deep sigh, the one that Guinevere thinks makes her sound like a stressed mother, as if this isn’t the first time she’s had to do this and likely wouldn’t be the last.

“Did Gwen happen to tell you if she was planning on going anywhere specific today?” Adrianne frowns, huffing in a way that makes a loose tuft of hair from her ponytail flutter. “I took my post at the ladies table earlier and they’re all strangely giddy. Supposedly she disappeared from the throne room to be alone with her ‘handsome new suitor’.” She rolls her eyes, but it hardly disguises the underlying concern. Naturally, the behavior of the ladies still perplexes her to no end— they’re always gossiping about the dumbest shit—but isn’t this especially strange? Why would they be so excited about their queen’s romantic pursuits so soon after hearing the news of Arthur’s demise? They’re chasing the notion of fabricated narrative uncannily fast, going on and on about how well the pair suited each other. Except Guinevere and Maleagant are total strangers. So what are they seeing through their rose-tinted glasses? Are they that eager to have a new king at the helm of their kingdom? Or...? Except anyone who knows Guinevere would know that she has no such intentions with the stranger. “She’s in no condition to be alone with that guy. I figured I’d check to see if you knew anything before I search the whole damned castle for her.”
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
A smile graced Maleagant’s lips-- it was short-lived, yes, like the last sparks of summer in that strange period before autumn truly began, but it was there, unmistakably. “You don’t need to be. It is not your fault, after all. I know not why my sister died, but I can only presume they pressured her into doing something horrible. Tragic as it is, I am… well, happy that she didn’t cave in. Is it cruel of me? Yes, when viewed from a certain standpoint, and I would have preferred her to be here with me now, but in a way, it makes me proud that she managed to follow her inner compass. She… she was a strong woman, you know,” he looked up, his gaze impenetrable. What was he thinking? Was he perhaps comparing her to the young woman, or did something about her remind him of her already? It was hard to tell, really. “She taught me many things I know. That, too, was a rebellion in itself, now I realize-- her standing with the cult was much better than mine, and she was taught different skills. Skills that I wasn’t really supposed to attain, as I was only a guard. May I… may I perhaps ask for a favor, my queen?” he asked, hesitant all of a sudden. (An observer with a sense of humor might liken him to a blushing maiden, really-- something in his mannerisms did support that interpretation, even if physically, he was as far from that archetype as possible.)

“When we storm the village,” we? a curious use of pronouns, “I would like to build a tomb for her there. Well, it wouldn’t even have to be a tomb, in truth. A grave would suffice, small and not too ornate. I doubt I’ll actually have anything to put in there, as the priests are… hmm, rather diligent when it comes to getting rid of bodies, but I’d like… a reminder, of course. A reminder that she used to be here, and that she was good.” A nervous laughter bubbled past his lips, only to die as quickly as it was born-- swiftly, the man placed a hand over his mouth, as if he was ashamed of reacting like that in the first place. “No, I am sorry. If it is too much, then I won’t ask it of you. Don’t get me wrong, my queen-- I understand that resources are precious, and that you may not want to spend them on the memorial of a woman you that you never even knew. If you must refuse, then I will not hold it against you.”

Gently, he pushed her wheelchair forward, admiring what the garden had to offer as he did so. “I had never seen such bright flowers before,” he confessed. “Does that happen because of your presence, my queen?” The roses seemed to interest him most of all, for some reason that he didn’t feel the need to disclose-- the sight of them stopped him in his tracks, and he had to shake his head in order to snap out of that curious reverie. “I have to admit, my queen, that I do have a few questions as well. You need not answer, of course, but… well, it is hard to explain, but I feel like knowing these details might help me understand what is going on with the king. Namely,” he pursed his lips, “did you perhaps have some strange dreams while you were held in captivity? Visions? And, if so, what was it that you saw?”

***

When Adrianne barged into lady Christina’s room, she found Morgan in a rather sour mood. And, no, it wasn’t most people’s sour, which was actually Morgan’s normal-- it was her sour, which on its own was usually enough to convince most people to cross over to the other side. Fortunately (or unfortunately), however? Adrianne wasn’t like most people. “What? Ah, yes, hello,” the sorceress greeted her, barely looking up from her patient. (What could have happened? Lady Christina was hardly a young woman, yes, and thus suffered from her fair share of ailments, but this… this was a drastic dip, in a way that felt totally unpredictable. Something must have caused her state to worsen, Morgan knew, and the answer was eluding her!) “No, Gwen hasn’t really told me anything,” the sorceress replied, her tone just a little bit colder than usual. It doesn’t seem like she’s interested in telling me a lot of things these days, either. But hey, what did she know, right? Guinevere was not only a grown woman, but also her queen, and could do whatever she wanted.

“I only know that she doesn’t feel unsafe with our dashing visitor.” For some reason. Now, she didn’t exactly think that the reason was good, or even remotely grounded in reality, though again, nobody had asked her! (Asking her and then exploding when her opinion didn’t match hers didn’t count, thank you very much. Not in her book, anyway. Also, a ‘a handsome new suitor?’ …maybe they should summon a monster or two again, to remind those morons what real problems were. Pfft, suitor. Ridiculous. Ridiculous, and not at all worthy of emotions like, say, jealousy.) “Apparently, the protection of the Camelot knights is enough for her these days.” No, Morgan hadn’t forgotten the awkwardness of their breakfast, nor did she want to exacerbate it by inserting herself where she wasn’t wanted. Just, no. Dignity may have been a rare resource in Camelot, yes, but that didn’t mean she had to act like someone’s doormat. “I am not sure that she would appreciate us showing up out of nowhere. She’s a queen, and needs to handle these things on her own.”
 

ellarose

wanderer
"I won't promise resources until I know if we can spare them." Guinevere says, lashing herself with a fierce internal scolding when she realizes that her tone is already laden with traces of remorse. Such tragic stories have a way of yanking on her heartstrings, of tangling them up into knots. Resting with all that mess under her skin has never been an option for her-- she simply has to work, to do whatever she can to sort things out. In the back of her mind, however, she hears a voice (one that's been sounding quite a lot like Morgan as of late) that doesn't allow her to forget there's still a chance Maleagant could be lying. Could be, could be, could be. Could such genuine eyes belong to a liar, though? It may still be a while yet before she can make an accurate assessment. Her love provides the incentive she needs to pause and think these matters through, to recognize that no matter how much she wants a new ally on her side, it doesn't necessarily mean that she has one. She recognizes that, all right? Either way, she decides to empathize with his struggles as if they are true. In case if they are. (Because if they are-- if they are-- that means his sister died for her. There's no way that she can ignore such a thing as if it's nothing!) Sparing a little bit of human decency wouldn't hurt anyone but her, in the end. And now that her heart's in it, there'll be a special type of hell to pay if he is lying to her. "But I've honored fallen friends with less in the past. If need be, we can find another way to honor your sister, too."

While a grave shouldn't require much, they have had to rebuild quite a lot recently. Amidst all the recent chaos, it's been a while since Guinevere last took proper account of Camelot's resources. Couldn't hurt to check in after she speaks with Lancelot...

"Camelot was beautiful well before I got here." Guinevere supplies with the slightest shrug of her shoulders. Not that she knows personally, considering she understandably doesn't know the Camelot before she got there. Arthur boasted plenty, however, and her first walk through these beautiful gardens-- so unlike anything she'd ever seen before in her life-- wowed her to such an extent that she can't really tell whether her presence makes a difference. "Or so I was told. I try and tend to them whenever I get the chance." As if to exemplify this, she cups another low-hanging rose and reinvigorates it to a full and flourishing physique that matches the rest. She pauses, then, her own attention affixed to the flowers after observing the way his gaze lingers. Roses. She takes the mental note, files it away for later. Talking isn't and never will be her strongest suit-- but she's got instincts. Kind of needed them to survive out in the wastelands. Whether she needed to read her prey or her monstrous adversaries, the ability to pick up on these things is necessary.

Guinevere grows quiet when Maleagant asks about visions. Because, as a matter of fact, she is quite sure she got a few glimpses into her past lives. The one she remembers most vividly is one including the polished version of herself, the one with the stunning blue eyes, playing an elegant silver harp at an outdoor gathering. She wore a polite smile that didn't quite reach her striking eyes and her people crowded around her with adoring gazes that juxtaposed those aimed at her in her first life and this one massively. (What surprises Guinevere the most, however, is that she played the freaking harp in a past life. The idea that her fingers ever produced such angelic music is sort of mind-blowing, okay?) The rest breaks up in fragments when masked men with swords invade the peaceful event, the people scattering and screaming. The other Guinevere, though, remained still and graceful through it all. Although it was clear that version of herself had never held a sword, she didn't flinch once. She negotiated calmly with the bandits, that she would go with them peacefully if they didn't dare to harm a single one of her knights or subjects. A tall man stepped forward, then, and... and his face always blurs before she can see his eyes. That's where the rest fizzles out. Now, should she tell Maleagant all of this? No, probably not. She'll give a piece, perhaps, and see what he has to say. "...I dreamed about a silver harp. There were other things, I suppose, but most of it is a blur. A side effect of the drugs, probably." She tilts her head slightly, playing it naive. "Forgive me. That's not going to help very much, is it? Should I be looking for anything particular in my visions, Maleagant?" And hmm. Why is he wondering about visions in the first place? That's a sort of curious thing for him to ask about, isn't it?

---

“No, that’s not it." Adrianne shuts the knights down fast, waving a hand dismissively. "Gwen’s always been reckless. It’s aggravating as hell.” She continues on in a manner that implies she has years of experience to back up her claims. Has she 'always', though? (Except this may be attributed to the fact that Adrianne has never met the vigilant and perhaps somewhat cagey person Guinevere had to become after stepping through Camelot's gates. That version of her might as well not even exist in the minds of all her friends, who only knew her fearless, unchained and free in the wastelands. Camelot may as well be a different planet altogether in comparison to the outside. And Guinevere's life, the lives of her friends, depended on her ability to blend in when she stuck out like a wine stain on a white dress.) “When she's got some dumb, heroic mission in her head, she can be real stubborn about seeing it through. It was the same when she tried to save Emily. To this day, I’m thankful that she never gave up on her... but still. If I hadn’t bothered to go after her back then—” Adrianne shakes her head, attempting and failing to understand Morgan’s steely demeanor right away. “Well, you must’ve seen the scars by now. I'm sure she likes that you trust her so much, but I’d rather have her angry with me than dead.”

Adrianne pauses, like she wants to add something more, but ultimately decides against it. She might be a little heartbroken, a little bitter, but she's not losing another friend to negligence.

"I won't interrupt or make a scene. I just want to make sure she's still... y'know. Here. Safe." She tries gently, noticing the cold in Morgan's demeanor like one might notice the cold in the middle of December. She and the others got the briefing on how to behave in Camelot, after all, and wouldn't it make a decent amount of sense if the sorceress is weary of that? Historically, they weren't yet on the friendliest of terms either. Is it her? Or could it be something else? Whatever it is, it can wait she supposes. The memories of shadows snapping up from the earth and dragging them away are still fresh in her mind and she's still worried. "I'm going to look for her, then. Sorry for bothering you."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
"A silver harp," Maleagant whispered, his focus laser sharp. "No, no, that will help. You see, according to what my sister told me, visions are often... symbolic in nature, really. They represent your brain making connections on a level so very abstract that you wouldn't be aware of it consciously, but that doesn't mean that there aren't nuggets of wisdom in it. Quite the contrary, in fact." Quietly, the man fell on his knees and caressed the flowers blooming there-- the reverence with which he did so seemed almost religious, in truth, which would be oh so fitting. To a survivor from the wastes, life on its own was sacred, wasn't it? True life, unburdened by steel and wire. "I know not what that means," he admitted, "but something tells me that you do, my queen." Her? What? How, though?

"It was your head that conjured up these images, in order to answer some questions you've been asking yourself. I suppose I may help you interpret the symbol, if you'd like. Of course, I'm not claiming to know that what I think about it is entirely accurate-- nobody can claim such a thing. That being said, perhaps it will nudge you towards a conclusion. Sometimes, my queen, you need ideas to bounce off of." Wow, that was new, wasn't it? A man who genuinely respected her thoughts and opinions-- who wasn't treating her like a pretty doll, stuffed into a frilly dress for everyone's viewing pleasure. (Maybe having a sister had shaped him in that way? You know, a sister who he had actually respected and loved? Seeing her humanity must have been an easy thing for him, considering how he acted now.)

"A silver harp. A harp, I think, is connected with creation. Creation and harmony. What is music, if not a combination of both? I would guess that channeling your creative power in some way will ultimately allow you to bury the king's spirit for good," Maleagant said, nodding decisively. "It won't be destruction that shall send him away, but something greater than he can comprehend. Again, I do not know whether this is correct, but that's what the imagery says to me. It being silver is most likely significant, too. The devil is in the details, as they say. So, what do we know about silver? What are its properties?" For a moment, it seemed that Maleagant was hesitating-- that he meant to say something, but couldn't bring himself to, for some reason. This inner battle he fought with himself, though? Eventually, the need to speak overshadowed whatever reservations he might have had. "What does silver mean to you, my queen? Is it associated with anything specific in Camelot, perhaps? Because... well, in my old village, it did have a very special meaning. I don't... I am not sure whether I should speak of it. It doesn't feel appropriate, though... perhaps this is merely symbolism as well?" he shrugged and smiled, in this apologetic way.

"For us, silver has always been associated with sacrifice. Sacrifice and marriage. Does that mean anything to you, my queen? Are there perhaps some associations this brings to mind?"

***

It didn't take her long to realize, of course, that Adrianne was way out of her depth here. Not only did she know nothing of the gathering storm, but she also viewed the problem from a completely different perspective-- from the perspective of a survivor, that was, rather than a politician. (Morgan would be lying if she said this didn't please her, at least a little bit. If nothing else, you see, this meant that Gwen... well, that Gwen hadn't talked about their conflict behind her back, really. Not that she had expected her to, though some part of her had been wondering about it. It wouldn't have been that weird, would it? To discuss these things with your friends.) "No. No, I understand that," the sorceress shook her head. "I apologize if I've been too curt with you." This, after all, was hardly Adrianne's fault-- despite her lack of love for the woman, Morgan could see that, and she wasn't about to punish her for something outside of her control. "Everything has been so stressful lately, and it feels like my fuse is even shorter than it usually is."

...not that it excused her lashing out due to what was genuine care for her friend, though it did provide some justification, if nothing else. (Genuine care, aka something that should be guiding her behavior even now. So what if she and her love had clashed yesterday? That hardly meant things were over-- they still shared that precious bond, and everything that came with it.) "Wait, Adrianne. Let me... let me go with you. I still think that we need to give her some space, but if we both go there... well, we may be able to pretend that I'm merely showing you the gardens. That way, we won't undermine her authority in front of the visitor." Because, really, what was a queen who could only act with her nannies in tow? A fraud, surely, and that wasn't a label Morgan would wish on Gwen. No, never!
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere’s brow furrows into a telltale expression of deep thought. Silver, silver, silver. In Camelot, silver exists in the silver spoons, silver tongues and silver linings. Yeah... That’s probably not it. Definitely not it. In fact, it’d be embarrassing to mention it aloud. Hm. Silver also calls to mind the flash of steel, polished blades, and the sharp teeth of the beasts that roamed the wastelands. Uh huh, uh huh. There’s the silver of Iphigenia’s favorite earrings, of lady Christina’s hair, and on the hemming of that one dress hanging in her closet that she’s never touched. That, she supposes, is taking the suggestion a trifle too literally. At this point, she’s listing silver things! She just has to face it. Thinking of the world in a symbolic way is strictly Morgan’s area of expertise, which is precisely why Guinevere knows she couldn’t have gotten where she is today without her. She knows she’ll need her love’s help if she’s going to succeed. Too bad that they aren’t exactly seeing eye to eye at the moment. With a little effort, though, they’ll see this through to the end. Right. Right...?

Come to think of it, the moon and stars lent their silver light to many vulnerable and precious moments she shared with Morgan. Silver also calls to mind the color of her love’s magic threads, which sparkled very much like the strings on the harp. (Could the harp have been magical in some way? She’s not sure what use a magic harp might have, really, but it’s a possibility she shouldn’t rule out! Or is that silly?) Guinevere’s on the verge of groaning at herself in frustration. Why is she second-guessing herself so goddamned much? She wasn’t always this way!

It checks out, doesn’t it, that the silver harp is a symbol? Because of this, her brain is performing an act of mental gymnastics as it works to come up with other explanations. Because if a silver harp is meant to answer her recent questions— namely what does she do next— and the answers are truly marriage, sacrifice, and then creation... well, it feels like everything Maleagant suggests treads on the lines of all those subjects she dreaded bringing up in the first place. Creating like... creating a baby? Ugh, good grief. There’s a good reason why Guinevere always disliked those stories where a woman is slighted by her husband and has to sit idly by on the sidelines of the narrative as her son grows big and strong enough to exact revenge on him for her. Is the universe suggesting she have a son and let him take care of Arthur in a couple of years? Ridiculous.

“Yes.” Guinevere says softly, a hint of exasperation cutting through. Marriage and sacrifice— that’s been the story of her life ever since she got here. Why is she surprised? This is the pattern and it’s going to repeat. She’ll never fly with the gravitational pull of her cursed existence dragging her down. Feeling rather faint, she stares at her lap. “I’ll consider everything you’ve told me. For now, though, I, um, believe I may need to rest after all.” Heat pricks at her face. She’s not sure whether she’s feeling sick or if she’s embarrassed for needing to steal away like a coward when faced with her destiny written out for her in big, flashing letters for the umpteenth time. Sometimes it feels like the whole world’s calling her an idiot for not getting it through her thick skull yet. “Shall we head back and continue our talk next time?”

——-

When they’re all sorted and in agreement on what to do next, Adrianne slows her pace to stay behind Morgan as they head for the gardens. Of course, it couldn’t go as smoothly as that, because they reach an obstacle before they can begin their search. Adrianne doesn’t like the guards. Never has. That’s what she thinks when she and Morgan come upon two of them standing obnoxiously alert at the garden gates.

“Would you let us pass?” Adrianne crosses her arms over her chest. For her, this is the most patience she has to offer these people... until she decides that it wouldn’t kill her to try a little harder, especially with Morgan there to witness it, and adds a little something extra for good measure. “Please?” She coughs awkwardly. “Would you please let us pass?”

“Lady Ariel.” The taller of the two guards begins pompously.

Adrianne.” She scowls.

“Lady Morgan,” He continues with his nose in the air, as if unfazed. “The queen is entertaining a guest at this time. You may enter when she is finished.”

“Is she?” Adrianne tries to feign ignorance, but it comes out sounding rather wolfish and unimpressed. “Well, we won’t bother her. M— Lady Morgan was just going to show me around the gardens. Right?” The guards are unmoved by this confession, moving neither their stances or expressions in response. “...Did she ask you two to stand here?” It takes all of her self control not to call them boneheads.

The guards exchange a glance, as if they’re unsure how to answer her question. Boneheads.

“We cannot let you pass.” The shorter one nods decisively. Huh. That’s not an answer, is it?
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
“Ah, yes, certainly,” Maleagant nodded, before shooting a curious glance at her. (Could he maybe understand what she was talking about, somehow? Was she this transparent? A person’s eyes were their soul’s mirror, it was said, and with sufficient know-how, one could read in them, oh so easily! As if they were an open book, in truth. Still, wouldn’t it be strange if he could derive conclusions this specific just by looking at her? No, most likely, he didn’t know-- at most, he could tell that something was weighing on her mind, which wasn’t at all a weird deduction to jump to.) “Often, symbols only reveal their secrets to you after you’ve given yourself some time to ponder over them. That’s the main reward of patience, I suppose. My sister, at least, used to claim so. She taught me many things, you see? I just… ah, I cannot help myself, my queen, but I wish she was here,” the man admitted. “She would have known what to do. Unlike myself, she would have offered you an actual solution-- an interpretation closer to the truth, perhaps.” As he spoke, Maleagant began pushing her wheelchair once again, slow but steady. “Still, maybe this is for the best. Among all the things she told me, you know, a few of them stand out. In particular, I shall never forget the bits about… well, the power of the self. About how important it is to be able to determine your reality, and define it on your own terms. That silver harp? It was you who has seen the symbol, not myself, and thus my impressions don’t really matter here. The message encoded there was meant for your eyes only, so… yes, I could be entirely in the wrong here. I only meant to provide a starting point, so to speak. Something to analyze in your free time, so that you can perhaps come to your own conclusions.”

A smile graced his lips, as tiny as it was shy. “I will agree that rest is important, though. A tired mind cannot perform miracles, regardless of how hard it tries. And, truly, why would you abuse it like that? It is better to sleep on these things, I believe. Afterwards, I’m sure that everything will clear up.” Ah, optimism! A rare sight not only in the wastes, but in Camelot in general-- usually, it could only be seen in children, yet innocent and unscarred. To see it in a grown man was… well, what was it like, aside from the general sense of strangeness? Aside from that weird feeling of watching something so thoroughly disconnected from her world? Guinevere had to decide that one for herself, most definitely.

Meanwhile, however, a very different drama was unfolding near the gates.

“What do you mean by that?” Morgan demanded to know. (Not allowed to pass? Not allowed to pass?! She was Morgan le Fey, the late king’s sister and the sorceress from everyone’s nightmares-- to even consider that lowly guards like that could attempt to restrict her from going literally anywhere would have been absurd. Hell, usually they wouldn’t even dream of calling her by her name! …and yet, yet there they were, claiming that she couldn’t enter. Proudly, almost. What had happened? What had changed? And, perhaps more importantly, what was the mechanism that had guided that change? Because, spoiler alert-- Morgan did not like it! Not one bit. …it turned out that she liked it even less, actually, when Adrianne asked her question. Silence could be unbelievably pregnant with meaning at times, could it not? Especially when it came instead of a proper response.)

“Ah, so the queen is having someone over?” the sorceress raised her eyebrow. “Good for her, I suppose. It is important to take care of one’s guests.“ Even if they happen to be murderous cultists, apparently. Just, what had gotten into Guinevere? Was this really the right time to be embracing the role of a gracious hostess? Morgan couldn’t believe that she of all people was about to say this, but there indeed were times when manners could be an inconvenience! “Still, I must ask-- are you aware of who I am, exactly? My role in the court, I mean.” It was no secret that she was the queen’s closest adviser, so surely, surely they would take their words back once they reali--

“I am, of course,” the man nodded. “Regardless, nobody is to enter the gardens. Stand aside, lady Morgan, or…”

“Or what?” she asked, her voice cracking like a whip. “I would very much like to hear that. In great detail, if at all possible-- I do appreciate a good heads up, so that I may prepare myself in advance. Are you perhaps going to flay me? Or do you prefer more traditional punishments, such as burning the witch alive? Can’t go wrong with an old classic, after all.” (…oh, gods. Was this some kind of bad dream, or did she really find herself in a situation where something like this needed to be said? Her tone was jokey, almost, but the reality was that Morgan felt the opposite of light-- her head was unbearably heavy, as if someone had filled it with rocks when she hadn’t been looking. What could all of this mean? Did it mean anything, even? It had to, because everything was a reaction to something, and… and the atmosphere had shifted, in a way that Morgan couldn’t help but find suspicious.)

“Oh, there you are, my queen,” she smiled when Guinevere and her tall companion appeared at the gates, seemingly out of nowhere. (Was her smile a little insincere? Well, maybe, but let’s just say that Morgan wasn’t too happy to find out that she wasn’t entirely free in her own home now. Hmm, hmm, now what could this possibly remind her of? Ah, yes, the entirety of her pre-Guinevere life! How nostalgic, indeed.) “Shall you introduce me to your guest, or should I perhaps retreat to my chambers? I wouldn’t want to intrude where I am not wanted.”
 

ellarose

wanderer
"I hope so." Guinevere says halfheartedly in response to Maleagant's show of optimism. Well. It is nice that someone can supply it these days, she supposes. Once upon a time, she unhesitatingly took that task upon her own shoulders. Beam through the pain and act like sunlight personified in a world where finding a single ray of it felt like an impossibility. As it is now, though? She's confused, overtired and confined to this chair. Her head feels impossibly heavy. Heavy with symbolism, silver harps, drugs, knights, death and Arthur's spirit. (Coming to her own conclusions in her current headspace? Haha, the universe seems to laugh at her, good luck with that! There's nothing worthwhile to find when she's like this, sort of hollowed out, like a shadow of the person she was before. Empty. Yeah. She hates to admit it, but that's what it's like. Makes sense, she supposes, seeing as her soul was forcibly carved out of her body a few days ago and all.) Then lastly, and probably most notably, there's Morgan. Sleeping on their disagreement didn't clear things up. There's still that tension lingering in the air, the sense that something's off between them. With a little more rest, though, and perhaps a good, constructive talk... ah. Right now, the idea of summoning up the energy and patience needed to defend herself is really wearing her down. A little optimism, even coming from an ex-cultist, may be exactly what she needs right now. If she can't find it within herself, it's comforting to have some company where she can derive it from... she finds herself appreciating Maleagant's attempts a little more when-- oh. Is that Morgan? And Adrianne? What--?

“Lady Morgan, Lady Adrianne. You were searching for me?” Guinevere tilts her head, blinking confusedly as a burst of panic flutters through her. Did something happen for them to seek her out together like this? Maybe a dispute involving one of her girls— did someone get hurt? Or has there been a magical disturbance of some sort, perhaps something related to Arthur’s hostile spirit? Then Morgan continues to speak with that… smile. That smile that, for all extents and purposes, isn’t a real smile. Instead, it’s the sort of smile that makes her feel lonely, because it reminds her of standing on square one again. Way back when the lengths of their differences separated them, separating them by what felt like oceans. "What's happening here?" Not wanted? What did she…

Oh. Damn pleasantries. If not for Camelot's oh-so fragile boundaries, Guinevere would have smashed right through them to inform Morgan that she’s making unfair assumptions here. Because has she ever once stated something as preposterous as that? Has she ever once implied that she didn't want her around? Hell no! In fact, she began their talk in the gardens thinking how she wished Morgan was around to help her through it. A flush of betrayal rose to her cheeks and she fought to ignore her trampled feelings. Because who cares how she feels, right? She’s sacrificed her life for this position where she acts as a symbol instead of a human being, so of course they don’t matter anymore. Time and time again she's trusted Morgan so wholeheartedly, so unhesitatingly... only to have her integrity doubted at a time like this? One disagreement and now, suddenly, she assumes she wants nothing more to do with her? That's so backwards, so far from the truth that it makes her dizzy with frustration.

"My queen, you look quite flushed. Might I--" Guinevere has to push down very hard on the urge to tell the guard to shut his trap. She's frustrated with her friends, isn't sure if she can trust the man standing directly behind her, and as for the guards and knights... well, can she trust them fully after everything she's just learned? Right now, weirdly enough, the only person she wants to see is Lancelot. At least he cares enough to listen to her-- the same way he cared enough to go risking his life in the wastelands when he realized she was missing all those months ago. Surely he can give her an informed and (hopefully) unbiased opinion about all of these developments.

"No, that won’t be necessary. This is Maleagant. Maleagant, this is lady Morgan and lady Adrianne.” Guinevere makes a vaguely bored gesture with her hand to indicate the man standing behind her chair, and then a similarly lackluster gesture towards Morgan and Adrianne. Admittedly, she’s too annoyed to bother making her formalities sound all flowery and quaint. In other circumstances, she may have gone a little further and proudly introduced them as two of her closest friends. Right now, though? Well, it appears to her that they were tracking her down for some reason or another. A reason that Guinevere’s confident she won’t like to hear. How am I supposed to trust my own judgement if nobody else trusts it? “How convenient that you’ve finished your business so quickly, lady Morgan. We were just discussing holding an important meeting with you, too. By all means, take all the time you need to acquaint yourselves now.”

Guinevere, however, decides she’s not doing this. She’s not going to smile and bear the coded accusations. If Morgan has something to say, she can say it to her face when they’re alone. (And the thing is, she doesn’t have to bear it. Because at the very least, her sacrifice to become the queen did give her some privileges. Excusing herself when she wishes in casual encounters such as these is one of them.) Ugh. If only she wasn't in this stupid chair! With a tiny grunt, she efforts to push her wheels forward on her own, indicating her intentions before she states them. "...I must leave, however. I have business to attend to elsewhere."

"Gwe--" Adrianne starts to speak at the same time as one of the guards. "My queen, allow me to--"

"No. I will manage on my own, thank you." Guinevere holds a hand up, keeping her eyes defiantly closed to avoid maintaining eye contact with anyone. "One of you guards fetch sir Lancelot and bring him to the throne room, please. I need to speak with him."
 
Last edited:

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Ah. Ah, so that was how it was! Good to know, Morgan supposed-- not pleasant to know, mind you, but those often tended to be two very different things. Ignorance was bliss, you know? Rose-tinted glasses did not serve you well, but they sure painted the world in more attractive colors. I see, the sorceress thought, I see. (What did she see, though? That... was a question that Morgan wasn't comfortable answering, honestly. Not yet, anyway. Power often made you see things in a different light, she was aware of that-- a mouse and a lion viewed the world from different angles, indeed, and so it only made sense that they'd receive different messages from it as well. Was that not only proper? A mouse cowered in fear, knowing that giving its position away could very well be a death sentence, but a lion... oh, a lion cared not for these things. Why should it? There was no bigger threat than the animal itself! And, figuratively, Guinevere was a lion now-- even the pretty, pretty crown on her head suggested so, the metaphorical mane that it was. With it, didn't she look more... hmm, more self-assured than before? More independent? That had been Morgan's goal, of course, but let's just say that the sorceress hadn't quite expected that this newfound confidence would translate into this. Into... into icing her out, basically. Oh well! Whose fault is that, if not mine? she thought, her polite smile never wavering. Things changing is only natural. No water can remain stagnant and not rot.

Still, maybe, maybe Morgan had hoped that it would not be like that-- that she wouldn't live to see the day when Guinevere turned the weapons she had given her against her, naive as that apparently had been. Trust was a dangerous game, you see? And she was destined to lose, over and over and over, because some traitorous, stupid part of her insisted on seeking that one mythical person that wouldn't stab her in the back. Tragic, indeed. Not that this was stabbing her in the back, not yet, but ah, didn't it always begin like this? With these tiny proofs of disrespect, disguised as common thoughtlessness. 'Oh, Morgan, don't make mountains out of molehills. Can't you sit with the servants for once? Solely to avoid ~besmirching our family's reputation,~ of course.' Yes, and before she realized what was happening, full-fledged witch hunts were taking place! Like a cancer, these things never really remained what they initially were-- they grew, uncontrollably, and, in the end, choked the life out of you. ...what a lovely, lovely prospect. "Maleagant," Morgan repeated quietly, curtsying in the process. "It is a tremendous honor to finally meet you. I've been thinking about you a lot-- a man who has managed to win our queen's love so easily must be an impressive one, indeed."

"Oh, I don't think it's quite like that," Maleagant chuckled. "I have heard a lot about you as well, lady Morgan. If even a half of it is true, then you are much more accomplished than I could ever hope to be."

"Hmm, truly?" Morgan raised her eyebrow a little. Of course, the truth of that was self-evident-- it didn't take a genius to have better qualifications than the average ex-cultist, at least as far as she knew. Guinevere, though? Why, queen Guinevere seemed to think otherwise! ...and a queen's word was their law, in the absence of a king. "I suppose that we shall see. After all, it would be foolish to believe every story that might fall from peasants' lips. Surely, I'm not as scary as they paint me? Unless you wrong me, I suppose," the sorceress beamed, oh so effortlessly. "I am certain that that will never happen, however. Everyone who has found shelter within the walls of Camelot is one hundred percent trustworthy, as I have learned." See? See how well she was doing? Despite fuming on the inside, Morgan had managed not to insult anyone! ...technically, anyway. Haha. Hahaha. Oh, gods, when had wrath become her master? That she knew how to dance this dance didn't mean that she needed to do it, and...

"Um," Malegant scratched his head, clearly not knowing what to say. "You are lucky in that regard, my lady. It doesn't happen often that you get to enjoy such unbridled loyalty." A dimwit, the sorceress judged immediately, which actually wasn't terrible news. Unless... Unless he's just pretending. Which, ugh! Pretending this well was a dangerous talent on its own, wasn't it? Clearly, the sorceress would have to keep an eye out for him-- for him, and all those funny, funny coincidences that had allowed him to bask in Guinevere's favor.

Guinevere then asserted that she was going alone, thank you very much, and the sinking feeling in Morgan's stomach? Well, that was something she'd have to get used to, most likely. All the signs pointed to that conclusion, so who was she to disregard it? Only fools put wool over their eyes when they couldn't deal with reality, which... ah, a fool she may have been, but not of that magnitude. No, her instincts hadn't corroded to such an extent! "Good luck, then," Morgan heard herself say, in a voice that sounded like it belonged to someone else. "I shan't bother you, if that is your wish."

As always, Lancelot was both punctual and almost laughably deferential. "My queen," he bowed, so deeply that his nose almost touched the floor, "how may I be of service?"
 

ellarose

wanderer
Alone in the throne room, Guinevere waits in a cold sweat. Wheeling her way there singlehandedly had warmed her with exertion where Morgan's parting words left her freezing. When was the last time her love's tone had been that distant? Hmm. Their reunion after the banquet, probably, when she was under Arthur's orders to avoid her. The memory of Morgan's empty expression, the bruises, it wrenches her heart especially tight. Maybe I shouldn't have stormed off. She considers guiltily. Then again, she has the right to her own grievances, doesn't she? Because when Morgan said she trusted her, Guinevere was overjoyed. She wants with all of her heart to believe that she was telling her the truth. Yet... her actions lately haven't really shown it, have they? Shutting down one of the few decisions she's made on her own is one thing-- but going as far as to keep tabs on her? Does she have any faith in her at all? Or was it a lie when she told her she thought she'd make a good queen? Maybe that's just code for 'anyone but Arthur will do.' Even, you know, a simpleminded gangster from the wastelands like her. Is... is that why she was content to let Arthur marry Jen? Agh. No, no, no. Continuing this line of thought isn't going to help anyone, least of all her. She needs to push it from her mind. They'll clear the air, another day will begin... and everything will be okay. For now, there are more pressing matters to attend to. Pressing matters that still have trouble taking precedence over Morgan as luck would have it, but thankfully Lancelot arrives before she can spiral much further.

“...You may rise.” Guinevere offers quickly, remembering the expected formalities this time around. She’s the queen, she supposes, so it’s proper or whatever… but that doesn't change the fact that watching people kneel before her is discomfiting. Lancelot in particular bows with such borderline theatric chivalry that she can't help but feel her cheeks heat, burning with embarrassment. Get up, man. She hurries him along in her mind. No need to kiss the goddamn floor. And then... What am I even doing here? She's been wondering this a lot, lately. All of these rules and niceties are so trivial compared to what's going on in the outside world. Such a waste of time, really. The pomp and circumstance makes her nearly as uncomfortable as the damn titles do. Like, she used to scowl and slay monsters and pick insects off the bottom of rocks for dinner. Queen. Goddess. What if she wants to be, you know, a person? Apparently, that’s not so simple to achieve. Not when your name is Guinevere Leodegrance, anyways. Still. It'd be an even bigger waste of time to express her dislike for what is and isn't proper in Camelot. Manners automatically take a back seat to the dangerous possibilities of sabotage and betrayal.

“I didn’t address this at the time, seeing as the kingdom was overrun with beasts and everything was, uh, hectic." To put it lightly. "But lady Morgan was telling the truth at the altar when she said that Arthur was drugging me. The days before he fled, he told the maid I was sick when I wasn't. They laced all of my meals.” Guinevere clutches her hands together in her lap, pinching so hard that it irritates the bruised skin where her wrists were bound. Shame creeps in amongst everything else. Some queen she is, hm? Always ill or in distress or even better yet, getting herself captured. Camelot may as well have reduced her to your stereotypical damsel, really. Frustration burns hot in the pit of her stomach. Not anymore. All right? She’s had enough. She’s arming herself so that she can fight back, damn it! Although she's stuck in this chair, she’s going to do something rather than sit idly by while those around her do all the work. No one’s getting their filthy hands on her again. Not Arthur and not that disgusting, blood-coveting cult. “Those drugs must be hidden away somewhere secret. Somewhere in the castle. I only bring this up because I was just informed that Arthur and some of the knights may have been in contact with the cult. And that may be how he had access to those drugs in the first place. Do you know anything about this?”

Guinevere squares her jaw, bolstering herself up to act stronger than she feels.

“Ever since I arrived, you’ve been loyal and good to me, and… the timeline I was given suggests that you were away when these meetings began. Of all the knights in Camelot, you're the last I'd suspect of being a part of this scheme.” Yeah. Because Lancelot was in the wastelands, looking for her. He was the only one who had bothered attempting to rescue her, when for a time it seemed like no one else would. Sparring with her from the beginning when no one else would give her the time of day, showing up when her girls first arrived, stepping up into a role of leadership when she left (and not to mention respectfully stepping down again when she returned) -- Lancelot's an ally in this battle that she doesn't intend to overlook. Guinevere’s gaze is unwavering and genuine. “I trust you.” That's no exaggeration, either-- she does.

The same can't yet be said for her source, Maleagant, however. So…

“I'm not going to accuse anyone of aligning themselves with the cult until I have proof. And I'd prefer to keep this information between us for now. Camelot has dealt with so much change as is. I don’t want to cause any unnecessary panic.” She continues, taking Morgan’s advice from the other day into consideration. Sure, they may not have been agreeing on every little thing lately, but Guinevere can admit that she had her points. Launching a full-scale investigation and backing her potential enemies into a corner— that could provoke them into action. The fact also remains that she’s weak right now. She'd be a damned fool to pick a fight with anyone until she regains her footing. (Besides, the cult doesn't know the queen she became under Morgan's tutelage. They'll expect impulsiveness from her. An explosion of profanity, ruled by fury. By riling everyone up with her fear and mistrust, there's a possibility that she'd be playing right into their hands.) For now, she has to keep her cool and focus on obtaining the information she’ll need to fight her enemies with. Baselessly accusing the innocent is precisely how Arthur ruled. And she’s not Arthur. “All I ask is that… well, will you keep an eye out for me? If you see or hear anything about what I've just told you, please tell me right away.”
 

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