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Futuristic The Wastes ( ellarose & Syntra )

Sub Genres
  1. Action
  2. Adventure
  3. Dystopian
  4. LGTBQ
  5. Magical
  6. Romance

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Her name was Guinevere. A good, regal name, worthy of a queen. It was hard for Arthur to believe that a yokel from the wastelands could even string that many syllables together, but really, wasn’t that yet another sign? A sign of the gods’ favor, following his every step? Oh so conveniently, they’d marked her for him-- the one who carried the old blood in her veins, and enjoyed its various blessings. The one who, sooner rather than later, would share those boons with his sons. What better use of such talents, anyway? The woman’s potential was rotting in the wastelands, like a seed unplanted, and Arthur… oh, Arthur would see to it that that changed, alright! (In that respect, The Catastrophe had been a good teacher. It had taken everything from them, hopes and dreams and future alike, but it had also taught them how to make do with very little. In this queer way, Arthur even felt that it had been some kind of necessary. Without the setting being what it was, would his own destiny shine as brightly? Oh no, he didn’t think so! Every hero needed a challenge to overcome, for that was his narrative purpose. The larger the metaphorical dragon was, the more impressive it was to slay him, too-- the more awe-inspiring, and worthy of being celebrated. No songs had ever been composed of a king ruling over a peaceful kingdom, that was for certain! And so Arthur found himself thankful for this opportunity, to both excel and lead his people out of the darkness. To let them learn, via example, just how sinful their ways were. Lesson number one: ‘Never waste resources!’ Which, yes, the woman was little more than that, despite technically wearing human skin. She had been born to give, give, and give, and he’d make her do it, just like the gods intended. …without a skilled pair of hands to breathe life into it, soil was nothing. Everyone would do well to remember that.)

“I do hope she is at least easy to look at,” the young king sighed, casting a sideways glance at Merlin. “I mean, I was hoping for a more politically convenient match for myself. One must bring sacrifices to meet his destiny halfway, I know, but the fact remains that she will bring nothing to the table. Nothing but her blood. It is very inconvenient. Many noble families offered me their fairest daughters, and I have had to refuse them all!”

It didn’t happen very often that Merlin looked at him with eyes this critical, but apparently, this was a very special occasion. The old wizard opened his mouth and then closed it again, most likely weighing his words before daring to speak them, but in the end, speak he did. (Many wouldn’t protest like that, Arthur knew. For a good reason, too. A king whose word wasn’t taken seriously was no king at all, now was he? Except that Merlin had earned the privilege to challenge him, and so he would listen. He wasn’t… hmm, unreasonable. Merely strict, which was a trait every good ruler should strive to cultivate.) “The blood is important, my king. It’s everything. Do I have to remind you of that? Your sister, lady Morgan--”

“Remains as ineffectual as ever. I would wager that she is holed up in some dark room again, spinning lies like a spider might spin webs. What of her?”

“Well,” he gulped, “I wouldn’t put it like that. Your sister’s magical prowess does worry me, as well as her tendency to dig around where she shouldn’t. It’s like she can sense secrets. I have had to move the Excalibur to a different hiding place because she was… I’m sure she would call it ‘investigating,’ my king. In reality, it was little more than snooping around. Who knows what her plans were? I doubt they were as innocent as her just wanting to learn more about the castle that has been sheltering her.”

Arthur’s brow furrowed. “Do you think I should be firmer with her? She is family, by some cruel joke of the gods, but boundaries should be drawn. Lately, I may I have been too lenient with her.”

“I do think that some revisions of her privileges are in order, yes,” the wizard nodded. “We can’t have your subjects thinking that… that you are supporting the dark arts, my king.”

“I agree,” Arthur nodded, “but let us talk of this later. My bride is waiting for me.”

Guinevere wasn’t aware that he was coming, of course, but she must have been waiting nonetheless! Stuck in this grey, cursed land, it was only natural that she sought for her way out-- for something greater than fighting every day solely to put food in her mouth. What woman could possibly enjoy that? She would have to be an abomination, Arthur decided. A sick, twisted thing, and his wife was surely purer than freshly fallen snow.

The camp where Guinevere lived, though? It was the opposite of pure, and for a moment, Arthur regretted even coming in person. I should have sent a messenger, he thought. My royal seal would have been more than enough. Then again, first impressions were important, and the king knew how he looked-- dressed in his best armor, he shone like a lighthouse in the darkness, like the sole hope of humankind that he was. Could Guinevere not fall in love with him at first sight? The chances of that were abysmally low, indeed!

“I come in peace,” he announced, trying his hardest not to stare at the tattered women too much. Did people seriously live like that? Disgusting. (His knights were a little less successful than he was, which meant they gawked quite openly. Ah, well! Not everyone could be as well-mannered as the royal son.) “In fact, I am peace itself. With me, prosperity will come, and all of you will be able to reach heights greater than you have ever imagined. My name is Arthur. Arthur, the king of Camelot. To you, I offer an alliance and Camelot’s resources-- in exchange, I only wish to claim Guinevere’s hand in marriage.”
 
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ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere Leodegrance was busy massaging the sprains from her fingers when some hoity-toity asshat and his entourage strolled into her camp.

The eleven women present didn't goggle like idiots with wide eyes and open jaws the way "King Prosperity's" knights did. Nah. If they were surprised they didn't show it on their faces. Didn't budge a single inch. Her girls didn't let their guards down that easy, oh no. Couldn't afford to out in the wastelands. They might've been tired, cold down to their bones and hungry as hell. But they weren't easy pickings. Nor were they birdbrained fools who were going to chase after the first shiny object that caught their eye. And that armor of theirs was plenty shiny. That's exactly why it couldn't be trusted. Nothing was supposed to glitter like that in a world this fucking gray and bleak. Camelot? A glorified myth. A big joke. As far as she was concerned, the entitled monsters who lived in their fantasy castle were worse than any mechanical abominations they might face in the darkest depths of the dead, thorny forests. They were human beings who ignored their humanity. The worst sort. The cowards saw the grim world through their pretty arched windows... but did they do anything about it? Nope! Until now, apparently. In the sleaziest possible way.

"Prosperity." Fi growled the word very slowly, like she was trying to understand it as she said it. Tamara's helpful attempt to whisper the definition into the burly woman's ear was halted with a timely elbow jabbed to her arm. "Oh, fuck off! I know what posterity means." Yeah, no. She really didn't. Did that even matter, though? What use were flowery words in a world full of beasts that were eager to rip the skin from your bones and then use your bones as toothpicks? Less than spit on dirt, that's what.

"Finally decided to descend from your ivory tower to throw us poor girls a bone, eh?" Liv scoffed. She drew dagger over her porous rock to sharpen it. "Our leader's not for sale, asshole. You can't buy her off us with gold or bullshit. We don't want nothing to do with Camelot. Get lost."

"...How do you know Guinevere, anyway? 'Cause I can't say she's ever once mentioned knowin' the fucking king of Camelot before." Sam crossed her big, scarred arms. As if instinctively, she inched protectively to Guinevere's side. Although it really wasn't necessary, considering her trusty old sword was within reach. Always was. "Did Harland put you up to this shit? Or maybe that bastard Luther?"

"It doesn't matter. Gwen's heart is already spoken for." Adrianne folded her dusty old map and stood up to her full height, stalking towards the armor-clad men without even an ounce of fear. Her hand closed determinedly over the hilt of her blade. "You hear me? You're not welcome here. Now leave before we feed you each other's spleens." Her voice commanded most of the women to go on the defensive, reaching for their own weapons.

Guinevere kept her mouth firmly shut as the women around her chorused their agreement and came to her defense, as loyally as knights to their queen. Her dark hazel eyes stared hard ahead, flickering like a long lost forest gilded in strands of gold in the firelight. The shadowy circles beneath them had been more pronounced for the last month, having taken on an even darker shade than normal ever since the nightmares started up. Although even the term 'nightmares' seemed too fucking tame for whatever the hell she was experiencing. (The few hours of sleep she got were one of the few mercies this world still afforded her on rare occasion... and now even that was stolen from her.) She could only equate the experience to being trapped inside the bodies of other women and made to suffer the most fucked up shit. (Fucked up on a level that contended with her childhood, which was fucked up enough as it was.) Every night it was pain, helplessness, humiliation or some bastardized amalgam of all three. She'd been burned at the stake like some falsely accused witch of ancient history, had her heart cut out of her chest, had all kinds of messed up blood rituals performed on her. There were two constants in these nightmares. One was the fact that her name always stayed the same. It was always Guinevere. And the second was that her suffering most often came at the expense of some prick named Arthur. Of all the 'nightmares', the absolute worst were the ones where she was forced to share a bed with him without her explicit consent. Where she'd been completely vulnerable, pinned beneath him, made to endure. Gods, she'd never wished for a fresh bar of soap more than those mornings she'd awoken from those ones in particular, drenched in a sheen of visceral disgust and sweat.

And lo and fucking behold. Now some sleazy-ass prick named Arthur decided it was in his best interest to take a leisurely stroll on her turf as if he owned the place, spouting that he wanted to 'claim her hand in marriage'. Despite the fact that he'd never even met her once. She bet he couldn't even pick her face out of the crowd now. Wow. What a charmer, huh? Funny how that coincidence worked out, too. Funny as in terrifying on an otherworldly scale. It wasn't suspicious at all that he somehow knew her name before meeting her the same way that she somehow knew his. Almost as if some unknown, mystical fucking forces had bestowed him with the information that it was in his best interest to traumatize some unsuspecting, down on her luck woman from the wastes. Too bad for him that Guinevere wasn't quite so unsuspecting or willing to go along with whatever shady, magic-riddled plot was brewing around him and his goddamned castle. It was all a bunch of weird-ass hocus pocus as far as she was concerned and she wanted no part in it. If it was up to her (and it was) he would never touch her. Never. And if he did? She'd take pride in cutting his hands off so he never did again.

Guinevere closed her eyes and rolled her shoulders as she worked out a crick in her neck. Then she stood tall, that one gesture effectively silencing all of the voices all around her. In spite of the dark circles, the dirt and blood and bruises... her gold hair, eyes and sword sparkled. It lent her a glow that was wildly regal and full of fight. She made a show of striding boldly across the camp, dragging the tip of her sword through the dirt. Then she stopped before the so-called 'king' and aimed her blade directly at his throat.

"I don't know what the fuck you think you're doing in my camp..." Guinevere drawled threateningly, tilting her head thoughtfully as she peered into his eyes. Searching for weakness, for an inkling of fear. In fact, she craved it the way she craved a warm meal. Normally she afforded her enemies the mercy of a swift death. But in this case? Oh, she genuinely wanted to see this man squirm and suffer. Unfazed by the shiny armor, she rasped out a laugh as his scandalized knights shuffled to attention behind him. "But it sounds to me like you're full of shit. Save your breath while you've still got it and leave." She narrowed her eyes, as if to say she wouldn't say it once. "As a rule I don't make promises I can't keep. And I promise I will never marry you."
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Arthur had learned early on that kindness was similar to spices. Use it too little, and the people would rebel-- use it too much, and your authority would dissolve in the overwhelming aroma. Still, the main mistake that he’d made here? Figuring that trash from the wastes deserved any kindness at all! “You… will not?” he repeated, his eyes as wide as saucers. (He, rejected? Arthur Pendragon of Camelot? Surely, there must have been some kind of misunderstanding. He’d heard somewhere that the savages roaming the wastes spoke in strange, brusque dialects, free of the refinement that he possessed. If that was true, then maybe… maybe this was merely some bizarre language barrier. Even a vagrant girl like Guinevere must have seen the value of his offer, right? How much he was giving her versus the scraps he’d receive in return!) “You must, though. The gods intend for you to marry me, and so you have to fulfill that duty. None of us can escape our own fate, my lady. Try as you might,” he gave her his best charming smile, “but before the day ends, you shall be bound to me. That is something that I can promise you, on my authority as a king.” Of course, there was no point to wasting his time on convincing her. Arthur had given her that chance already-- the chance to accept, graciously, and be the queen that his realm deserved. The chance to lift herself from the dirt she had been born in, via grasping his oh-so-kindly extended hand. When it turned out that Guinevere didn’t want that, though? Well, too bad, because Arthur wasn’t giving up on his divine mission. A single woman’s selfishness was not going to doom the entire world, and he would see to that!

“You know,” he told Merlin when they were leaving the camp, “this might be for the best. Taking care of all those savages… I did promise that, I know, but it would have been such a burden. Such a drain on our resources. I just don’t think that Guinevere is entitled to that, considering how much she will benefit from our union.”

“True,” the wizard nodded, stroking his beard thoughtfully. “Besides, my king, have you seen her? She is much too rough around the edges, and everywhere else as well. The life in the wastes has marked her. The way she speaks…” The disapproval in his tone spoke for itself, even if he didn’t bother to finish the sentence. “I’m thinking the role of a queen might be too complicated for her, actually. Can you imagine her hosting banquets, or entertaining your noble guests?” The mere prospect must have been horrific to him, and Arthur was inclined to agree. Just, the embarrassment of it all! A wife was to be seen, not heard-- a simple axiom, yet also one that Guinevere seemed chronically unable to grasp. “Thankfully, she… doesn’t have to wear the crown. Not necessarily. The function that she is meant to perform doesn’t need to be tied to marriage, as you surely know. Might I advise you to keep her out of sight, and perhaps marry someone more suitable? A woman both beautiful and well-bred, who would know her place.” Ah. How come that he hadn’t thought of this? Such a convenient, convenient solution, falling into his lap practically on its own! If she didn’t want to be the queen, then nobody was going to force her-- Arthur merely demanded his birthright, locked away in her blood. (The control over the sacred sword, so stubbornly bound to her. Why? Why had the gods shackled the Excalibur to a woman like that, full of bitter defiance? To any woman at all? Arthur would have loved to say that he understood their plan, but no, that wasn’t true in this case.)

Night fell early on the wastes, as it usually did. Not even the moon’s sickly glow could illuminate their surroundings properly, which the king found himself thankful for-- those who murdered women in cold blood were cursed, and he would not sully his hands like that. No, his honor was worth more than this petty dispute! Fortunately enough, there was no real need for him to risk anything. Merlin had managed to leave a few of his gadgets behind, and the information they received from those was… hmm, interesting. The patrol routes in particular were enlightening, indeed! “I cannot believe that she is stupid enough to actually guard the camp on her own,” Arthur whispered. “I don’t suppose I should expect any deeper understanding of the art of strategy from a savage, though.”

“Be quiet now, my king,” the old wizard brushed him off. “I need to focus.” And, ah, there she was! A shadow wandering in the darkness, each of her steps ringing with steel. (Disgraceful, Arthur decided. Unnatural, too. When she was finally his, Guinevere would only be permitted to wear silks-- oh so soft and pleasant, much like the shape she would be molded into. Surely, if given enough time, she would learn to love those as well! A firm hand did wonders when it came to… hmm, showing the stray souls their way. To burning that which was unclean away from their minds, for fire cleansed. His foolish sister had learned that the hard way, hadn’t she?)

It was hard to tell whether the woman had noticed their presence, though ultimately, it also mattered very little. The trap had already been sprung, you see? Wild energy sizzled in the air, like lightning that could rend the skies in half, and Guinevere’s world was quickly plunged into nothingness.

Yes! Now she’s mine.

***

When Guinevere opened her eyes again, her hands were bound behind her back. The rope was thick and tightly wound, to the point that she couldn’t feel her limbs at all-- it was sure to bruise, though probably not worse than her own ego would. You know, since she was staring into that asshole’s face again! “Guinevere, my lady,” Arthur smiled at her, as if she hadn’t been fucking kidnapped. Judging by his tone alone, you might have guessed that this was some tea party they had both agreed to. “I welcome you to Camelot, your new home. I do apologize for the circumstances, but I knew you wouldn’t see reason. For that, your eyes were much too blind. I am quick to forgive, however, and if you stop avoiding your duties, I believe that we shall get along splendidly.”

The room they were in was dark, without any windows, so… some sort of cellar, maybe? The strangest cellar in the world, because in its very center, there was a sword resting in stone. (A sword that was pulsating slightly, with the kind of energy that made her hair stand on end. It was barely louder than whisper right now, but its potential? Oh, something wild was sleeping right under this bastard’s nose! ‘Guinevere,’ something called out to her, oh so warmly. Like an old friend, kind of? ‘Guinevere, Guinevere, Guinevere.’)

“You see, I have decided to explain certain aspects of your… hmm, condition,” Arthur happily prattled on, oblivious to it all. “It is important to me that you understand the gravity of my mission. Of our mission. Do you know what is it that you are looking at, my lady? That holy sword’s name?”
 

ellarose

wanderer
"...Fuck." Guinevere muttered that along with a long string of incoherent curses before she was fully with it. Urgh. Her head pounded the way the knights heavy boots pounded on the earth as they retreated from her camp like a bunch of lumbering, disillusioned toddlers who had been informed that the wastelands was not in fact filled with soft-serve ice cream and rainbows. She had seen to it that they left without her, as they should've, because she did not give one single fuck about 'the gods' or her supposed 'fate'. (The gods had not given a single fuck about her either when they'd set the world on fire and left her to burn in the heart of it the way they did. Nah. The only fucks she had left to give were first and foremost reserved for herself and her own. That's it!) Fuck, fuck, fuck. God fucking damn it! There truly weren't any more articulate words to encapsulate the complete and utter bullshit she was dealing with now. And if there were, then she didn't know 'em. Didn't care one lick about that, either. Because she would never belong in Camelot. And yet? And yet there she fucking was, apparently in Camelot. Last thing she remembered was taking her post guarding camp, and then..."Fuck! You fucking prick-- what the fuck did you do to me!?" She wanted to strangle him right then and there and struggled to free her numb arms to no avail. All that amounted to was her squirming around on the ground like a pitiful little fly in a spider's web. Quickly figuring out that her big mouth was the only means she had left to hurt him, she hurled more extremities at him, playing it tough in spite of her growing horror. This asshole didn't take no for an answer, did he? Never would, either if her nightmares were any indicator. Gross, gross, gross! "So this is Camelot? Wow. A helluva lot more disgusting than I thought it'd be, I'll be honest. But it fits you perfectly." She barked out a harsh laugh, "What the hell is this? Did you want to brag that you're the king of the dustiest, mustiest castle around? King Arnold of the fucking dust bunnies?"

Guinevere couldn't believe this guy. Apologizing and then implying that she needed to grovel on her knees for his forgiveness? Wishy washy bastard. He didn't seem to know how to make up his damned mind. All she knew was that he was, indeed, full of shit. How'd anyone trust this idiot to run a fucking kingdom? And he was not sorry for doing this to her. Not even a little. (And he sure as fuck wouldn't be sorry for whatever torture he subjected her to now because the 'gods' or 'fate' said so. That was the most terrifying thing about all of this.) Spurned on by this thought, she struggled harder against her bindings. Still to no avail. Fuck!

"You can take your apology and shove it up your stupid piggy nose for all I care! I don't care who you think you are. King or not, doesn't change the fact that you're a gross fuckin' pig who can't take no for an answer." Guinevere spat. "I'll never be your lady or your queen. You hear me? I'm not blind. You're the one who doesn't see that the gods made me gay as fuck! So by default, you're about as attractive to me as a steaming pile of doody." Heh. How's that for duty? Immature as it was, the opportunity was there for the taking! "And just like shit, I want you to stay as far away from me as fucking possible. Only difference between you and real-ass shit is the fact that shit has an actual purpose out in the real world. Hear that? I'd trust fucking compost to save the dead earth over you!"

Guinevere would have gone on and perhaps the man would been so insulted that he'd just throw her back or perhaps put her out of her misery before he fucking touched her... if not for the distracting, shiny sword flickering in her peripheral. The voice that echoed in her head was familiar. Warm and soft, like an old friend. It tugged at something she never knew she possessed in her chest, as if trying to get her to unravel completely at her seams. It picked and picked away at her and it was... fucking weird.

"Nnn... my head..." Guinevere shook her head and kicked her legs, as if that might make it go away. But it was impossible. She was slipping, the sound of her own thoughts quieting the louder the voice became. "The fuck...? What are... you doing to me?" Her eyelids were made of lead and she could hardly keep them open. "Bas... bastar..."

Now that Guinevere heard the voice, it was like she couldn't un-hear it. Had her hands been free she would've stuck her fingers in her ears in attempt to tune it out. But she had a hunch that even that wouldn't have been enough. Whatever this was, it was reaching inside of her and refusing to give or let go. Kind of like the ropes around her wrists. This was some kind of magic. It was tearing through her and she was helpless to stop it. When it found her core, it was like it severed whatever thread that allowed her control of her own body and she fell slack on the floor like a discarded puppet. Until someone else took the strings.

"Excalibur." Guinevere's lips moved automatically and she sure as hell had said the word with her own voice-- and yet she very much felt like a spectator in her own body. Excalibur? She'd never heard the word before in her life, not once, and yet something about it clicked in her mind like a missing puzzle piece. When she opened her eyes again, they shone like two stars in the night's sky in the catacombs. Excalibur gleamed just as bright as if to match her in intensity, as if they were one. With strength she hadn't possessed five minutes ago, drugged and lethargic, she rose to her feet and approached the sword with a slow elegance. Before the sword, her entire body was alit with a hazy, almost ghostly glow in the darkness of the cellar. With an impassive expression, she slid the ropes binding her arms over the brilliant blade with quick and startling accuracy.

Or perhaps it would have been startling accuracy, had she not cut her arm in the process. A stream of her blood ran down the near-white blade like a ruby-red serpent. A moment later, it absorbed into the blade and lent it an even brighter shine than before. 'It is all right now, child. You shall not suffer at his hands again. Never again, I promise.' The castle moaned and thin lines of dust rained down from the ceiling around her. Little pebbles began to shake by her feet. Bare and soft, as if the coward king did not want to risk being kicked by her boots. 'This time we shall fight, little warrior. For ourselves and for Morgan le Fey. For you are capable of so much more than being this vile man's queen.'

Guinevere took Excalibur into her hands, drawing it with ease from the stone. Her expression was still and unbothered as she lifted the great sword, the Excalibur, high above her head. She was perfectly serene, like an unfeeling angel of death descent from the skies above. And before her the almighty Camelot itself began to tremble and shake as if in fear for its very life.
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Morgan le Fey was officially done with this nonsense. She had been done with it for a couple of years, actually-- extend the definition of ‘being done’ a little, even, and you may find out that she had never not been in that state. (That made it harder to spot, come to think of it. Her tipping point, that was. When the warning sirens in your head never stopped going off, bombarding your ears with endless blaring, you just… tuned it out, sort of. Learned to live with it, as if it was a normal part of your routine and not the parasite sucking all the joy out of you. ‘Be patient,’ the sorceress had always said to herself. ‘Your time will come.’ And, really, that had seemed like an inevitable conclusion! The mechanism of ruling was a complicated one, with every pebble thrown into the metaphorical pond sending out myriads and myriads of ripples into the world. Who could possibly predict all the effects of that? Misplace a single cog, and the entire machine might halt in its tracks-- even worse, it could explode into your very face. Statistically speaking, Arthur just had to upset the balance at some point, right? Since he acted with all the grace of a buffoon in ballet shoes, dancing on the very brink of self-destruction! …and, indeed, that was probably still true. She just couldn’t see any other long-term outcome. You reaped what you sowed, after all, and the fruit of foolishness always tasted bitter on your tongue. Still, the problem with that line of thought? Unlike her hypothetical self in the scenarios that she had dreamt up, Morgan le Fey did not have an eternity to sit pretty and just wait for it to happen. The letter she had received was a very, hmm… sobering reminder of that. A slap in the face, too.)

Yes, a letter. A letter, of all things! The coward didn’t even have the courage to call her into the throne room, look her in the eye, and say the sentence with his own wretched lips. Was he this afraid of being turned into a frog? Of having to deal with the consequences of his own actions for once? With disdain written in her sharp, elegant features, the sorceress tore the paper in half. The sound it made was rather satisfying, but that was all it was-- it couldn’t make the words disappear, nor did it magically render them void. (Still, still her eyes landed on the incriminating section, as if guided by an invisible compass. ‘You have been a drain on our resources for the longest time, sweet sister. I have tolerated it out of love for you so far, but even my kindness has its limits. You’re a woman in full bloom now, and certain responsibilities come with that. I’m sure you understand what I’m referring to? I have arranged a match for you, with a man who is kind enough to overlook your little peculiarities. Rejoice, because not many would swallow a pill as bitter as that.’) Ah, indeed! A man. A man, with a man’s hands, a man’s voice, and other man parts that Morgan would rather cut off before allowing them anywhere near her. How blessed, blessed she was, right? And he would even tolerate her research, instead of locking her up in some dim little cell where she so obviously belonged!

The sorceress should have expected this, she knew. Yet, somehow, she hadn’t. She hadn’t, and now the knife in her stomach felt both a betrayal and a scathing indictment of her own stupidity.

(When had it stopped being enough? Being the monster under everyone’s bed, and the cautionary tale for every daughter to learn from? ‘Look at her,’ they whispered as she passed them by, the dark fabrics of her skirt swishing around her ankles. ‘The king’s sister. The stain on his honor. Her very name is cursed, so don’t speak it too loudly if you can help it. Never end up like that, for there is no greater dishonor to be had.’ Morgan had thought it a good enough shield, but… well, every shield broke eventually. The shock had worn off, akin to perfume after a long day of work. No material in existence could withstand endless blows, for years and years and years, every goddamn day!)

There was a tidal wave of despair, perhaps for the first time in her life, when she realized that she didn’t have a plan. Not a hint of it. All those structures she had built over the years, with the attention to detail usually associated with watchmakers? Gone, shattered, like a house of cards. That’s all it ever was, the sorceress thought, with no small amount of bitterness. I lied to myself that I had any power at all, but in the end, I’ve been a puppet all along. A puppet, yes, and now also a token of alliance. A thing, cold and unfeeling, to be exchanged as her master saw fit. With a sweet smile, Arthur would hand her over to some stranger, and what would his punishment for that crime be? Receiving more territories? Strengthening his friendship with some other nation? All the rewards in the world would be his! (…hers would be the marriage bed, along with all that came with it. The sharp, sharp sense of dread in her stomach, accompanied by the swelling of her womb. No, there was no point to denying reality-- Morgan could see her future in vivid colors now, and she did not like the picture. Not at all.

That isn’t going to happen, she promised herself. I’m taking the bastard down, even if it kills me. Better a real death than a metaphorical one, right? A real death, at least, would be a genuine release-- the key to the shackles binding her hands, even if the gods intended to stab her with it.

The opportunity for that emerged sooner than Morgan had expected it to, too. Arthur had returned from one of his asinine quests, this time with an unconscious woman in his cart. Nobody dared to think anything of it, and so they didn’t-- if the king wanted to steal random girls from the wastes, then he was apparently allowed to do exactly that. Why risk inciting his anger when you could let others absorb it, eh? A coward’s choice, most certainly, but at that point, Morgan was painfully, painfully unsurprised.

For some godforsaken reason, her beloved brother had also dragged his new bride to the cellar. The sorceress didn’t even wish to touch his motivations with a ten-foot pole, but… well, wasn’t that convenient? A small, cramped space, out of the sight of everyone who mattered. A prison shouded in darkness. Accidents had happened under more suspicious circumstances, surely! Hesitance was the mother of failure, as well as the breeding ground for doubts, so Morgan didn’t give herself more time to think about it. Adrenaline was coursing through her veins when she opened the door, when she… uh, when she noticed the castle itself shaking? Shaking and drowning in magic, like a wasp might drown in a cup of wine it had desired so. By the gods, what is this?

The answer to that question was apparently more complicated than she could hope to unravel, for the scenery took her breath away. (A woman, standing in front of her good-for-nothing brother. A woman, or perhaps a goddess walking among the lowly mortals, with long blonde hair and sparks in her eyes. The presence of the sword in her hand was rather telling, too. Was she going to…?)

“No,” Morgan whispered, absolutely mortified. This girl, this wench, would not rob her of her revenge! Not after all those years, oh no, no, no. “Stay away from him. You have no right. Can you hear me?!” The spirits came at the slightest hint of invitation, filling her mind with the softest of fogs, but the sorceress had no time for a proper greeting. No, she had to act. ‘Go. Make her sleep. Now.’ There was this thread, the thread they had to sever, and with their nimble fingers, they grasped it! …yes, except that when that happened, the world exploded. Ooof. The force of the impact threw her into the wall, and there was fire, fire, fire, everywhere, even inside of her--!
 
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ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere, who was indeed Guinevere but also not Guinevere, strode leisurely towards Arthur. The lion had become a mouse and was scrambling away from the lioness in mounting horror. The threats he shouted did not deter her in the slightest. She was unfazed by his attempts to get away as flames swept the cellar and fenced him in with her, effectively cornering him and keeping him right where she needed him to be. When it was apparent that threats were not going to save his life, the man switched tactics as he so often did. She waited calculatedly for him to play every card in his deck until he was pathetically empty-handed and begging. Breathing an impatient sigh, she dipped a fingertip in her own blood and drew an 'x' in it on the king's forehead. The mark glowed brighter than the flames encircling them before it ate away into his skin. She watched his expression with the disdain one might watch a roach as the magic did its work, as his memories in their entirety flooded his mind all at once. There were many, many lifetimes of them. This was important. He needed to know what he was dying for. He needed to know why.

Most importantly, the king needed to know that the queen had finally made good on her promise to dethrone and destroy him. Because Guinevere did not make promises she could not keep. Before she allowed him the mercy of death, she intended for him to comprehend that she was robbing him of everything he wanted. That she was taking back what he had stolen from her over and over and over and over again.

"Several millennia and here we stand at last. A fitting stage for our final encounter, is it not?" When 'Guinevere' spoke, her voice echoed softly like that of a beautiful siren perhaps. A mysterious entity and not a human being. Which she might as well have been. This was a spirit who bided her time, who waited patiently for years upon years for this very moment to transpire. "Surrounded by the very flames you claimed would purify my wicked soul." Her expression twisted like a knife, as did her tone. "Did it not occur to you as it ate through my flesh and bone that it might fuel the fires of my hatred for you instead?"

"G-g-g-guin..." Arthur's mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water as Guinevere pointed Excalibur at him, making him teeter dangerously close to the fire. He was a hair away from burning, or a hair away from being pierced through the heart. One single move and it would all be over for him. She giggled gently at the sight, as if she were watching a newborn taking their first steps and not a man performing a balancing act to hold onto his life.

"As greatly amusing as it is to watch you squirm like the worm you are, I know you well enough to understand that my words will never reach you. No matter what I say, you will always see yourself as the glorious hero of your story." Guinevere sighed, "You even massacred my sisters, the daughters of the forest. And you've felt not even a shred of guilt for it. I searched far and wide and there is no cure for your ignorance. It is truly monstrous... not even the darkest of magics could part you from the vileness which afflicts you." She smiled. "Unless you feel inclined to grovel for my forgiveness now. Perhaps you can show a little humility for once and tell me you know, deep down that you deserve this?"

"I-- I-- I--" Arthur struggled to respond to that, because of course he did. Perhaps he could not yet comprehend that he would ever have to surrender his pride in exchange for his life.

"See? That is why you must die now. But I am not cruel, Arthur. Let us play one of your favorite games. Perhaps you might like to choose how you will be punished for your crimes?" Guinevere touched the tip of the blade gently to his chest and his eyes grew wide as saucers with panic. She smirked.

"I deserve this! I deserve this!" Arthur gasped out, the sweat careening down his face now. Ah. Those words? Music to her ears. But they were not enough. He did say what she had asked for, but he did not deserve a gold star for them. The words themselves were as empty as his sad little soul and would never satisfy her. Furthermore, it was not repentant enough to serve as a worthy exchange for all the suffering he had caused. For every woman he murdered in cold blood to further his own ends. For every merciless punishment he doled out, every scheme, and every time he sullied her mind, spirit and body with his filthy, unworthy hands. It would never be enough. Never, never, never. "Guinevere, ple--"

"Yes, that's right. You do deserve this." Guinevere confirmed in the gravest of voices. She then smiled and playfully nudged the blade forward just a little bit, just enough to graze his skin. Arthur, attempting to weasel his way out of his fate, forgot his place and stepped backward into the flames. He howled in agony as they hungrily ate into his flesh and the sound caused Camelot itself to tremble even harder than before. "Farewell, Arthur. May we never meet again." To his credit, he did attempt to hobble out of the heart of the flames as he burned. But he would not escape. Glowing brighter, like an angel of death, she raised Excalibur again. With an efficient zigzagging motion, she slashed through his torso with one strike and detached his head from his body with the other.

The king's corpse then burst into a thousand black sparks that drifted towards the ceiling like fireflies. The spirits swimming around Guinevere all seemed to breathe a sigh of relief in unison.

Then Guinevere collapsed into a heap as the version who owned this body clawed back to where she rightfully belonged. It was like she had been plunged into a deep, deep sleep for the last several minutes. What the fuck. Yep. She was back all right. She was back and everything was on fire and king douchebag was long gone. And the beautiful, glowing sword was still clutched tightly in her hand. (Strange as it might have sounded, it was hard to say whether she was holding onto it or if it was holding onto her.) Either way, now the sword was covered in blood and singing her name like a cheerful little song. 'Guinevere, Guinevere, Guinevere. At long last it is done.' What? What was done? Because she was officially done with Camelot and all of this... magical bullshit. Survival was priority number one now and she had to escape before this place burst into cinders. She tried to release the cursed blade, but it never left her hand. What!?

'I know you are confused. And perhaps frightened.' Guinevere scowled. No she wasn't! 'But we cannot part now that we have reunited, child.'

"Swords aren't supposed to talk, you know! And I'm not a fucking child. What are you--" Guinevere wasn't meant to receive any answers now, however, as... the magic sword dissolved into her chest? Her entire body pulsed with a bright, white light when it did. Wide-eyed, she patted her hands over her heart as if that do anything useful. But, no. No, it didn't. Her body just ate a fucking sword the way soil might absorb blood. Okay. Fine. Fine! She would deal with that later. Right now she had to get out of this burning fucking cellar. Pushing her exhausted body to stand, she ran towards the staircase... and oddly enough? The flames all bowed out of her way as she did. It was as if none of them dared to touch her. And as they swayed, she noticed the vague shape of some woman among them.

"Hey, lady! What are you doing down here? Do you, uh... need help?" Guinevere squinted as the flames warped the scenery dizzyingly. Ugh. Well, she wasn't just going to leave her there now that she saw her. What if she was another prisoner? And even if she was in on all of this weirdness somehow, she wasn't the type of person to callously look away when she saw someone suffering. The gang leader walked through the flames, taking advantage of the fact that they all bent to make a convenient path for her as she closed the distance between them. When she came to a stop, she coughed haggardly into her hand. She suspected it was the smoke getting to her... but when she lowered her palm, she noticed blood there. Her blood. Ugh. Undeniable symptoms of magic. She recognized that much. Clamping her fist closed as if that might help her ignore it, she glared at the woman. "I don't know what the fuck just happened, but we need to get out of here. Burning alive's not the way to go out. It's hell." Okay, probably weird that she was speaking from experience on that. But her 'nightmares' weren't normal. None of this was normal. "Can you stand?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Morgan’s head hurt. The world around her was spinning, spinning, spinning, like a possessed whirligig, and she wanted nothing more than for it to stop-- than to find a single fixed point in this chaos, and bind herself to it. If the pain disappeared as well, then that would be a nice bonus. The sorceress wasn’t exactly counting on it, though. Not under these circumstances! A new arrow pierced her chest with every inhale, which, from the medical standpoint, told her that at least some of her ribs must have been fractured. And, honestly? That diagnosis did bring her some solace, despite it being buried under the layers and layers of white-hot agony. (‘Everything will be alright,’ it told her. ‘As long as I don’t burn to death here, I will recover.’ Right, and as long as she didn’t pay attention to just how unlikely fulfilling that condition was, she would also die with a smile on her lips! A privilege not too many could claim these days, here within the shadows of Camelot. Here in this cursed place that sucked the life out of you, with big, eager gulps. Always, always it demanded more of you, body and soul and everything in between! …maybe dying wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe it had been childish of her to try and avoid crossing that line in the first place, with her name so obviously written all over it. Morgan le Fey, the disgrace-- Morgan le Fey, the stain on the precious family name. The patterns spoke loud and clear, didn’t they? Those threads so intricately woven together, with the past and the present and the future so plain to see in the empty spaces within.)

So, in short, her odds weren’t looking too good. Morgan was aware of it, more or less, though she also lacked the clarity to truly form a coherent analysis-- currently, most of her thoughts could be summarized as ‘ouch, ouch, ouch.’ Most of them, perhaps aside from… Arthur, the sorceress thought, with the desperation of a drowning woman holding onto a single blade of grass. Arthur, you goddamned fool, pick the right choice for once! Say it. Say whatever it takes. Say that you deserve this, along with all the suffering under the sun. Open that big, fat mouth of yours and finally justify its wretched existence! Not even her brother could be that stupid, right?

Don’t get her wrong, Morgan could hear the straw breaking. To Arthur, his pride was worth more than water-- more than the last crumb of bread in the entire wastes, even. Without it, what was he? A clown stuffed in shiny armor, dancing to a tune nobody else could hear. An empty vessel, following the commands of the ancestors who had died long before their mother had even decided to bring them into this world. And, you know what keeping that illusion alive was worth? Everything. Everything! The soil, the skies, the corpses he had left in his wake, and, yes, probably his own as well. No, Morgan thought, too terrified to even properly process the irony of the whole situation. Her, praying that Arthur of all people would survive? Unthinkable just a few seconds ago, though very much her reality now. One might even be tempted to ponder over all those ways the gods could turn your desires on their head, except that Morgan wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind for that. She wasn’t in the right frame of mind for anything. Watching your entire existence collapse kind of had that effect, you see? Your life belongs to me, not some random girl you picked up in the wastes. Couldn’t you have restrained your vile impulses for a bit? One more day would have been enough! Typical Arthur, really. The bastard was screaming like a pig, wreathed in flames, and yet, yet he still found a way to disappoint her! Laughable, or it would be, if not for the tears burning their way down her face. If not for the way her skin cracked open upon contact, allowing all the filth to pour outside. (How long had it been since she had cried in earnest? A few years? A decade? Times passed strangely within the walls of Camelot, and so the sorceress couldn’t tell. Couldn’t, and also didn’t want to. Just, how pathetic was it that she actually shed tears for him? Had there been awards for that, the sorceress would have been collecting them left and right.)

No, no, no. Stop it! You can’t, you can’t… Morgan pulled herself back to her feet, leaning on the wall for support. Get away from him. Put those hands away. The problem with intentions, though? Rarely did they rewrite other people’s actions, and she could only watch in numb shock as the other woman took her performance to its logical conclusion. (A satisfying ending, certainly! At least if you happened to be the star of the play and not the extra who had, you know, wasted her entire fucking life on rehearsing for your role. On memorizing all of the lines, only to watch her script go up in flames. Haha. Hahaha. This was a nightmare, right? …deep in her heart, Morgan knew it wasn’t. It mirrored all of the patterns all too well, and so it only made sense that the mosaic of her life rearranged itself into that very shape. A failure would always remain a failure, wouldn’t it? For you couldn’t plant a rock and expect it to bear fruit.)

And then, then the woman had to nerve to ask her if she was alright. “What am I doing here?” Morgan hissed, all of her pain forgotten. (Automatically, her hands landed on the woman’s shoulders, and her nails dug hard into the soft flesh.) “Not toying with things far beyond my understanding, that’s for certain. Unlike yourself. Do you have any idea what you have done, or do you just destroy people’s lives at random? Tell me, for I would love to know what kind of parasite I am dealing with. Although,” her lips curled up in a cruel smile as her eyes darted towards the stream of blood, “I would wager it’s the latter. You’ve destroyed yourself quite thoroughly, I'll give you that. I hope you aren't too attached to your lungs? I mean, running away from the fire feels like a bad joke at this point. If I were you, I'd just lie down and die.”

The Exclibur within Guinevere shivered then, as if it meant to tap her on the shoulder. 'Morgan le Fey,' it whispered. 'Your hope. Your key.'
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere fixed the lady with an unimpressed glare. She held herself as sturdily as her expression and didn't budge a single inch when the woman gripped to her shoulders and raved on and on about all the shit she was supposedly 'toying' with now? (Yeeeeah. Okay. As if she hadn't been kidnapped from her camp, bound and brought into a creepy old cellar against her will in the first place! A creepy old cellar with a creepy fucking sword that decided to make a home inside of her chest instead of choosing, say, a reasonable sheath like a normal sword.) Was this what these Camelot freaks did on the regular? Capture women from the wastelands and perform weird-ass magical experiments on them? Not like anyone questions it when people go missing in a world full of people too busy drowning in their own goddamned problems to give a fuck about anyone else. Of course it'd be oh-so convenient for the lot of them. If anything, this was confirming her stance that they were, in fact, monsters.

"Fuck." Guinevere rasped the word with all the force of a heavy exhale and impatiently picked at her ear with her pinkie. "You got this so backwards I dunno where to start. Guess I should've known you Camelot dwellers wouldn't know fuck all about the real world if it hit you upside the head." She punctuated the statement with an eye-roll. Damn. It was all kinds of messed up. If their piggish king was any indicator, the people 'round these parts taught their children that 'no' actually meant 'yes' and that was a whole can of worms that she didn't even want to touch. And really? Of course they'd point their dainty, accusatory fingers at some poor woman who had no say about her shit lot in life. She was dirty and rough and that was enough evidence to pin all their crimes on her. Their souls were clearly as pure as the soft, unworked hands resting on her shoulders now. (Like... really soft. But Guinevere wasn't about to fixate on that tidbit, nope!) Ahem. Was that it?

Guinevere gritted her teeth at the woman's claim that she'd destroyed herself. With the taste of blood on her lips, she guessed there might've been a mote of truth in the woman's claim that she was in danger. If she was scared, though, she didn't let it show. No fucking way. Based on that woman's vampirish smirk, there's no doubt that she wanted to get under her skin. No way in hell was she going to give this frilly Camelot lady the satisfaction. And, again-- it wasn't her choice to take a magical sword into her body! Even so, that didn't change the fact that a magical sword was in her body. When it came to these things, though? Survival dictated that you focused on the thing that was trying to kill you in the immediate future instead of the one that was waiting for you around the bend. Think too far ahead about every little variable and you're liable to get killed for it.

Morgan le Fey? Hope? Key? What the fuck? Apparently the sword didn't care to elaborate on what it meant by that, because her question was met with silence. And the cellar was burning.

With an aggravated sigh, Guinevere wiped the earwax she'd picked up on her pinkie on the woman's sleeve out of spite.

"Uh huh. Real poetic, lady. But it'd be an even stupider joke to lie down and die like a fuckin' coward. Up you go." Guinevere huffed stubbornly. The woman really made it easier for her, with her hands already on her shoulders, for her to loop her arms around her exposed waist and heave her securely over her shoulder. Oof. Like that, she began trudging them towards the staircase. The place was engulfed with flames. If not for the ethereal bubble of protection that encircled her, keeping the flames at bay, they'd definitely have been deader than dead by now. At the very least it allowed her to concentrate on hanging onto her fringing consciousness, which she knew was going to give out the second every single one of her survival instincts weren't blazing with alarm. Geez. That magic sure took a wallop out of her. Might even be killing her, if the weird-ass lady was telling the truth. Key, huh. She needed more info.

"What was all that anyway? A fucking experiment or some shit?" Guinevere breathed out as she began scaling the stairs. Urgh. Why were there so fucking many of them!? The last thing she needed was to pass out and fall, though, so chatting it was. Might as well. "Is it normal for you fat cats to sic magic swords on women from the wastes?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Morgan le Fey liked to think that it wasn't that easy to get on her bad side. No, really. Emotional investments required effort, you see, and that wasn't something she liked to spend willy nilly. A sorceress' attention was far too precious for that-- her mind was meant to wander across the forbidden realms, unearthing secrets and solving arcane mysteries. The perceptions of the lords and ladies, watching with fear as she passed them by? Horribly skewed, for the most part. Almost laughably so. To Morgan, they had only ever been mosquitoes buzzing way too close to her ear! Minor sources of annoyance, yes, but never, never the actual fuel feeding the flames of her hatred. That role was reserved for those who mattered, and whose names she had bothered to memorize. (Arthur. Merlin. Lancelot as well, to an extent. Every night, Morgan had whispered those names to herself like a prayer, like an anthem, like a promise. One day, she had thought, your lives shall be mine. For every drop of blood I've shed, you will pay me back with interest.) So, no, the sorceress didn't usually have the desire to engage in petty squabbles. After that dreadful woman had stolen what was rightfully hers, though? After she had poisoned the sole well from which Morgan had meant to drink? Ah, destroying her favorite dress was the absolute last straw!

Morgan pursed her lips, recoiling from the demon's touch. "Should I be thankful that you haven't decided to mark me with your piss, perhaps? If this is some barbaric greeting ritual of yours, know that it isn't appreciated here, where we wear things other than potato sacks. This was my finest silk!" 'Was,' as in the past tense. With this wench's genetic material all over it, Morgan couldn't really imagine an occasion in which she'd like to wear it again. Some stains could not be washed away with water, you know? (...most of them couldn't be. What life left behind weren't stains, but scars-- scars in the shapes of opportunities missed, roads untaken. Ah, damn. Who would have guessed that one of them would bear the likeness of Arthur's name? Deep in her heart, Morgan just wanted a cup of wine. Or, you know, an entire gallon of it.) "You're lucky that you are dying already," the sorceress scoffed. "I shall sell your organs to-- oof! Let, ah, let go of me! At once!" Nobody just picked Morgan le Fey up like that, as if she was a log of wood to be transported. Nobody. With her fists, she hit the other woman's back, her shoulder, everywhere that she could reach, really, but it seemed that she might as well have been trying to move a mountain with her pinkie. Oh well. It was time to say goodbye to the concept of plans ever going her way, wasn't it? (If it had ever existed outside of her head, that was. More and more, the sorceress's conviction that that might not have been entirely true grew. What had she been doing all this time, after all? Staring into the mirror, and getting carried away by her own cleverness? Yes, yes, very nice, but, you know, not good at producing actual results! ...like brother, like sister. Utter jokes, the both of them. The only difference between the two? That her joke now lacked the punchline, for it had been claimed by someone else. A verse without a rhyme, that was what she was! A sentence unfinished, forever suspended in silence.)

"Do you know what the word 'no' means, you brute?" Morgan shrieked. (Just, how had this simpleton ever grasped the fundamentals of magic? The stink of an amateur clung to her, that was plain to see, but the spirits had come to her aid. They'd flocked to her, like a pack of dogs to their long-lost owner. What did it matter that Morgan had been feeding them? Effort was for fools. The real recipe to success, it seemed, was turning up randomly at the last second and stealing the victory from someone who cared!) "Maybe, if you understood that, nobody would be using magic swords against you. I imagine we were just trying to teach you some manners." Not that the sorceress actually knew what she was blabbing about, but she wasn't about to admit to ignorance in front of an enemy. Oh no, no, no!

Camelot itself sighed, like an old man carrying a weight too great for his aching back, and shuddered. The roof then cracked, from one corner to another-- the wrinkles born from that movement filled with blood, with the liquid dripping, dripping, dripping down on their heads. (Was the castle... dying? But how? Why? How come that the grey stone had ever been alive in the first place? Camelot was her home, her only refuge, and Morgan... well, Morgan didn't know how she felt. Not anymore.) "What did you do?" she shouted, panic leaking into her tone. "Answer me. Answer, or..." Or? Threats, as the sorceress knew, were only as good as your ability to actually execute them. The words themselves had no power-- not beyond the faith that they did or did not inspire. And, really, what could she do to a woman who had deflected her attack without so much as breaking a sweat? (Something, as it turned out. There was this... hmm, last resort thing. An inelegant solution to a problem that never should have arisen. Still, she was Morgan le Fey, and Morgan le Fey had contingency plans for her contingency plans! So, what was this about? About the dagger she had hidden in her sleeve, in case she was too tired for magic and too close to an enemy. A dagger she had never properly used, for so many reasons. A dagger that, curiously enough, also seemed to be the difference between life and death now.)

"Unhand me, I said!" And, with that, Morgan pushed the cold steel into her back. The one aspect of this she hadn't been expecting, though? For her blood to mix with that of the castle, pouring down the walls. For the substance to react--!
 
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ellarose

wanderer
"That's real rich coming from you, lady. I dunno if anyone in Camelot knows the meaning of the word 'no'. Y'know I'm only here 'cause king jackass couldn't take no for an answer, right? Unless you missed the part of all this where I was dragged down here against my will?" Guinevere scoffed with disbelief. Wasn't it also really fucking hippo... what was that word again? Hippo-critical? And the word had nothing to do with hippos, either! As fucking weird as the word was, it meant that this lady was involved in some freaky experimental magic shit and that she hadn't got her consent being a test subject! So she had no place to be lecturing her all high and mighty. "I didn't ask to get locked in this dusty old cellar, either. All I know is now it's fucking burning now."

Yeah. The cellar was burning and it was obviously burning! There was no way to miss it. The fire roared and the smoky clouds billowing around were so thick that her eyes stung as she squinted through it. While Guinevere didn't think it was necessary for her to go on and state the obvious like that, leave it to some snobby Camelot lady to clutch her pearls over her fine fucking silk over worrying that she was about to burn alive in a musty old cellar. It takes someone real out of touch to value their clothes more than prospect of third degree burns. Their own goddamned life. Sorta reminded her of... ugh. Her. "'Sides, we're already covered in soot. You do realize what's gonna happen to your precious silk if it catches fire, right? Like, c'mon! I'm just tryin' to help you get out of the fuckin'--"

Ah, okay. Now the walls were bleeding, because apparently that was a thing that they did now. Like demon possession and swords absorbing themselves into women's chests and shit. Geez. Unsurprisingly, it was the lady's first instinct was to blame that disaster on her as well. But hah, joke's on her because Guinevere had no idea what the fuck was going on either! But whatever. Whatever, okay!? She wasn't scared or anything. Pffft. Camelot deserved to die a violent death as far as she was concerned. (Except she'd prefer if it could wait for her to get the fuck out before it collapsed on their heads, though.) Getting out. That was priority number one. Everything else was designated to the list of things she could worry about later, if she lived to see later. Survive one moment so that she could go on to survive the next. That was the story of her fucking life. Nearing the top of the staircase, she exhaled with relief. Once she got up there, she could let this nagging Nancy use her own damned feet and...

Sharply attuned to any potential threat, Guinevere felt the woman move before she attacked. But even then, there was little she could do to throw her off or dodge on such a narrow staircase in time before the lady plunged her knife into her back.

"Ah, fuck!" Guinevere gave a pained involuntary cry. The sight of the top of the stairwell in her already blurred vision began to swim and swirl. So close. Struggling and failing to blink past the dizzying sensation, she wobbled on her feet and slammed them both up against the wall before collapsing onto the stairs. Fuck, shit, goddamn it! That hurt like a bitch. Hissing through her teeth, she fought the fierce desire to kick the lady down the stairs into the fire she'd genuinely tried to save her from. Yeah, real nice way to treat somebody who tried to save her! But the energy'd be better spent on herself than on petty revenge. Pull yourself together, Gwen. No way in hell are you dying like this. With a steeling breath, she scraped together what little strength she had left to crawl up the three remaining stairs so she could collapse at the top of them.

Ugh. 'Course it had to be her back. Already scarred to hell as it was, so what was one more to add to the collection? Heh. It was nothing!

No. The world was fading at the corners, slowly dimming in time with stubborn denial. No, it wasn't fucking nothing. No matter how many years Guinevere spent drenched in blood, sweat and tears, didn't offer immunity against stab wounds. She had a magic sword in her chest that might as well have been a ticking time bomb if that woman's words were true. She was bleeding and losing consciousness in what was obviously enemy territory. Which meant that there was a very high probability that she was dying here. Shit. Well, she expected death would come for her eventually. And sooner rather than later, given the wastes being the fucking wastes. But... fuck. Not like this. Not with a whimper by the hand of some sheltered, prissy Camelot lady who didn't seem to know what the fuck she was on about.

"Shit. Why me though...?" Guinevere rasped out, hacking up another mouthful of blood. Not to be dramatic or anything. Maybe she was just genuinely curious. Maybe she just wanted to know what the hell she was dying for. "He went out there lookin' for me... me specifically. Why?" Did the lady really know anything that useful, though? She still wasn't sure. "This's all... so fucked..." She slurred her words and the world oozed into a sludge around her. Yep. Like it or not, she was totally dying here.

'No, child. It is not your time. Offer your blood to me and I will take care of the rest.'

When Guinevere closed her eyes, her collapsed body took on that almost ethereal glow it had before. It was almost as if anything that touched her might phase right through. The barrier that kept the flames away took on a tangible shape as the blood spilling from her wounds spirited up and around her, shielding her when a portion of the ceiling fell and nearly crushed her. In fact, anything that hit the magical structure bounced right off, determined to prevent even a single fragment from hitting her. All of the spirits housed within the castle's walls seemed to flock around her in that moment, building up an energy built to withstand whatever great catastrophe was befalling Camelot. And it was falling. The castle was definitely falling, piece by piece, threatening to crush anyone unfortunate enough to remain within the walls.
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
The dagger wasn't meant for her. Arthur's name had been engraved into the hilt, his and nobody else's, and yet, yet the blade sank into the woman's flesh! Eagerly, too, as if it had been starved for centuries. Like a hot knife through butter. Morgan knew that she hadn't hit any vital organs, of course-- those didn't tend to be positioned near the shoulders, unless genetics had played an exceedingly cruel joke on you. And, judging by the fact that the victims of such jokes didn't tend to reach adulthood? The sorceress could only assume that she was dealing with the standard anatomy here, for better or worse. Still, none of that mattered. Not truly. Because, you know what another common feature of the standard human body was? Possessing pain receptors! Possessing pain receptors and reacting to the pain, unlike the heroes from those silly knightly epics that Arthur had worshiped when he had still been a snot-nosed boy. And, sure enough, the woman stumbled-- curses spilled from her lips like a waterfall, and Morgan could only smirk. "What? Didn't enjoy that? I thought that you were all about the real world and reality checks, my lady. Well, here's one for you: nobody crosses Morgan le Fey and lives. Nobody." It didn't seem likely that she would live through this, either, but who cared? Arthur was dead, her precious consolation prize was falling apart, and... well, with those two things gone, the sorceress didn't see much of a point in continuing. In, you know, trying to survive. (Pathetic as it was, there was no plan B for her. It had always been Camelot or nothing-- the crown or the cold emptiness of a grave, so reminiscent of a mother's embrace. Just, who would have guessed that the gods would pick for her? That the last chapter of her story would be this anticlimactic, despite it going up in flames? ...maybe she deserved it. Had she tried harder, a cheap deus ex machina like that wouldn't have been needed.)

Morgan coughed, blinking to fight away to tears. (It was the smoke, the sorceress told herself-- smoke so thick that she no longer recognized the hallways, despite never really leaving them. Yes, that was why her eyes stung so much! Why dig inside of her mind for a different reason? This one was good and sensible, and entirely acceptable as far as explanations went. Oh so convenient, too.) Half-heartedly, Morgan tried to head to the nearest exit. 'Tried,' of course, was the most important part of the sentence. Couldn't very well pass through that wall of fire that emerged in her way, right? It was hissing like an angry cat, as if daring her to come closer, but the sorceress knew better than that. My funeral pyre, she thought. That is what this is. The thought should have unnerved her, scared her witless, even, but where terror should have dwelled, Morgan le Fey only found an odd sense of peace. It still beat starving in the catacombs, you see? Having flirted with that fate for most of her adult life, this almost seemed like mercy. A better, more dignified end for a sorceress such as herself. (...maybe, many years from now on, they would tell legends about her. About Morgan le Fey, the dreadful witch who had caused Camelot's fall-- who had taken the last bastion of humanity and plunged it into the darkness, for reason no other than her own amusement. So what if it wasn't true? People's accusatory fingers always found a witch to blame, so it only seemed fitting.)

'Not yet,' she heard a voice in her head then, as vast as a sea and as loud as a thunder. It... did and didn't belong to a spirit? The energy resembled one, but everything else about it felt off-- like re-reading a book that you had read in the past, only to discover that it somehow had a different ending. What on Earth...? 'Don't you dare to give up now, Morgan le Fey. Guinevere needs you, just as you need her.' Guinevere? Guinevere who? Morgan didn't need anybody, just like the sun didn't need anyone else to shine, and-- oof. Alright, the voice apparently had a different idea, because something picked her up and dropped her right next to the intruder. The shiny aura enveloped her as well, shrouding her in warmth, which... what? Was it shielding her? But spirits didn't work like that. This nonsense, whatever it was, went against every magical law in existence! Magic was about subtle control, not about cheap parlor tricks. Gathering enough mental energy to block all that debris would surely push the caster's brain right out of their ea--

'Your turn,' the voice boomed. 'She saved you, so now you have to heal her wound.'

"Heal her wound?" Morgan raised her eyebrow. "Do I look like I carry around my laboratory in my pocket? Because I don't. Even if I wanted to, I don't know how to heal her without that."

'Don't act like this magic isn't yours, too. Let me show you, Morgan le Fey.' And, before the sorceress could realize what was happening? For some reason, she was leaning down, towards the blonde not-goddess, and her lips... her lips touched hers, in a gesture that sent electricity down her spine. (W-what? What, what, what?! Her heart forgot how to beat, it seemed, but instead of her rightfully dying on the spot, she just... watched as the woman's wounds began glowing. Glowing and closing, somehow. Alright, so was Morgan supposed to throw all those years of studying into a bonfire? Because none of this made a modicum of sense!)

Camelot's roof had all but rotted away, allowing the stars to shine down on their heads. (The light almost seemed to caress the other woman's hair, as if it wanted to make its home in her. Beautiful, the sorceress would have thought, had she cared about such things. Which, of course, she didn't! Especially not when it came to her.) "Guinevere? Is that your name?" she asked, before shaking her shoulders. "Wake up." Without a hint of hesitation, Morgan pressed the cold steel against her throat this time. "Wake up now, because you have some explaining to do. What are you? You have five seconds before I open your artery. Or should I make it three, perhaps? Just to avoid confusing you with all that complicated math."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere groaned softly as she resurfaced for the third time that night. Ugh. Again? The whiplash of being yanked in and out of consciousness was an endless, disorienting tug-of-war that made her sicker every time it happened. But the mingled exhaustion and pain roiling in her also sent her those helpful signals that yes, she was in fact still alive. So at least she had that going for her? Who knew for how much longer, though, when she felt the cold kiss of steel against her flesh. (Uh huh. Speaking of kisses, she swore she dreamt about receiving one just now? Soft lips pressed to her own, temporarily filling her body with a warmth that touched her to her cold, weather-worn core... it had felt so real, too. Unfamiliar and yet nostalgic somehow, like being reunited with something she didn't even know she'd lost. It was nearly enough to bring her to tears and-- and fuck, now wasn't the time for those kinds of thoughts! And no, it wasn't going to bring her to tears. What the fuck? What the fuck!?) Anyway. What was the lady going on about now? Arthur already knew her name, so she guessed that this woman wasn't privy to whatever his plans had been for her... unless she was playing dumb for some reason. Then again, how would she know to ask her name at all? Trying to piece together her intentions was headache inducing at best. And-- really!? Asking what she was, as if she was a different species or some shit? That was rude.

Rather than open her eyes right away, Guinevere focused on the sensation of steel against her throat. So long as her eyes were closed, she remained vulnerable in the eyes of her attacker. If she wanted to live, first thing was to avoid making any sudden movements. Then she assessed the pattern of the woman's breathing, the angle and the pressure of her blade. Mumbling a few random syllables to sound frail and incapacitated, she cracked her eyes open just a pinch to assess the lady's posture through her eyelashes. Heh. Clearly this woman doesn't hold anybody at knifepoint on the regular. For all her talk, she really just... left herself wide open like that.

The first move that Guinevere made might as well have been the last one. She snapped her eyes wide open and tightly snatched the woman's wrist in the same moment. She forcibly twisted the point of the dagger away from herself and then pried it away from the lady's hand. Once she disarmed her, she tackled the other woman over so their positions were reversed and she was now the one on top and pinning the woman's wrists at either side of her head.

"Yeah, that's me. What's it to you?" Guinevere bit back, her blowing hair and glaring eyes flashing in unison with the silver of magic and stars shining over their heads. Silver like the dagger, which she now held firmly at the lady's throat instead. "Even if I did know what the fuck was going on here, you haven't given me a single reason to explain shit to you." They could've talked it out. That was an option! But instead, the lady decided to make an official enemy of her when she stabbed her in the back! Which... where the fuck did the aches and pains go from that wound, anyway? She didn't even feel it anymore. And that realization gave her a belated chill. Swords weren't supposed to make homes inside of human bodies. Stab wounds weren't supposed to just disappear out of thin air, either. Even she knew that magic had certain limitations.

"Try answerin' some of my questions first. Like what the fuck did your shitty king want with me?" Guinevere gritted out, because she was the one asking the questions now damn it! Where did this woman get the nerve, asking information out of someone who was obviously in the dark about all of this freaky magic shit? She scrunched her nose, recalling everything she heard those voices say up to this point. Apparently the talking sword was called Excalibur. So she guessed it wasn't so far-fetched for other objects to have names in Camelot, too. She needed to figure out what it meant. "And what's Morgan le Fey supposed to be? Some kinda key with a fancy name?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Well. Well. In Morgan le Fey’s defense, let it be known that she had had a plan-- a good plan, too, if you overlooked certain details. One of those would be the strict adherence to… hmm, to certain axioms. To unchangeable truths, in other words. (Take a look at the power balance in their situation, for example. This woman, this Guinevere, as the voice had called her, was barely hanging onto her own consciousness. The thread binding her spirit to her body was hair-thin, indeed, and a single meeting with scissors would be all it took to sever it entirely. And, in this scenario? In this scenario, Morgan was the one to hold all of the trump cards. The dagger rested in her hand, along with the power it brought-- her mind was also fresh, unburdened with the weight of a recent blackout. Guinevere, the sorceress thought, must be at her weakest now. It isn’t simple to shake off that fog that comes with restarting your brain. What better time to employ some good old violence, then? Not that she had had a lot of practical experience with the concept, but Arthur and his lackeys had taught her just how effective it could be, once you applied some pressure at the right spot. Didn’t her skin bear the marks of that, like cracks on the surface of the moon? …some of it, the sorceress supposed, wasn’t that bad. When you pushed a blade into someone’s stomach and left it there, you were still arming them, in this roundabout way. As long as she could use the knowledge, there was no reason to pity herself, right? There just couldn’t be.)

“Speak,” Morgan encouraged her. “I want those answers now.” Didn’t she deserve those, at least? The gift of understanding, if the gods had decided to deprive her of everything else? With his dying breath, Arthur should have whispered her name, hers and nobody else’s, and instead… instead, the wench had taken that joy away from her. That satisfaction of paying her sweet brother back in kind, with the same blood-stained coin that he had sold her for. (It wasn’t even that she didn’t understand why Guinevere had done it, for Arthur had been very killable. With each smirk of his, with each ignorant word uttered, he had begged, begged and begged, begged to be murdered in cold blood. Still, for how long had the intruder known him? Ten minutes, presumably? Morgan had been waiting for years, and her claim obviously preceded hers! …all that effort, now turned into ash. Into the bitter aftertaste in her mouth, and a sense of futility deeper than any sea. Just, what had it all been for? What, what, what?) “Let me hear it. I ask again, what are you?”

So, remember that earlier section about the axioms? Morgan’s fault was in thinking that the power couldn’t leave her hands, as easily as a bird taking flight. Everything happened too fast for her to even begin to comprehend it. In one moment, she was pressing the weapon against Guinevere’s throat-- in another, she was lying beneath her, the cold steel about to kiss her skin. “Ah,” Morgan’s green eyes widened. (For some reason, she was suddenly very aware of her thin the fabric of her dress was, and just how poor of a barrier it made. Through it, the sorceress could feel everything, you see? The other woman’s heat, and the firmness of her muscles as well. The intensity of her heartbeat drumming against her chest, oddly synchronized with her own. It was, um, interesting. Interesting as in scary, because fear was the proper response to being threatened with a weapon. Hyperfocusing on seemingly unimportant details like that wasn’t weird at all, alright? The brain liked to record information with staggering clarity when faced with its potential demise! For, uh, the convenience of the future generations. Right. And that they currently didn’t possess the technology that would allow them to play the memories from the skulls of corpses? Morgan was going to ignore that, and you should, too.) “Ah,” she repeated, drowning in Guinevere’s eyes. (Close, her brain supplied. Way too close for comfort, or even for, you know, holding a thought. They seemed to disperse the second she reached for them, like a school of fish fleeing from a shark.)

Get a hold of yourself, Morgan le Fey. What is this, a stroke? If so, it had decided to strike at the most inconvenient time! “I-if you think I will just tell you like that, then you are sorely mistaken,” Morgan said, deciding not to reveal that she knew about as much as Guinevere herself did. Which was to say, nothing at all! Knowing Arthur, it could have been anything ranging from planning to make a tapestry out of her skin to wanting to marry her, but she wasn’t going to flip that coin. What for? To sate this savage’s curiosity? Pfft! No, Morgan wasn’t going to play by those rules that she had never, ever agreed to. Before giving her the conclusion that she had never gotten to enjoy, the sorceress would rather… “Kill me,” she blurted out. “Do it. You won’t learn anything from me, I assure you. Best save yourself the disappointment, Guinevere.” And, really, wasn’t that the natural outcome? With nothing left to live for, the obvious solution was death. Morgan wouldn’t necessarily say that she wanted it, but in the absence of other options… well, it did beat wandering the wastes. (It beat being haunted by the ghosts of her regrets for the remainder of her miserable life, too. Ah, what a wonderful array of choices! Die now or die slowly, over the course of years, as a shadow of her former self.)

“And I am Morgan le Fey, you absolute buffoon,” the sorceress frowned. “Do I look like a key to you? I was aware that you wastelands dwellers knew next to nothing about actual civilization, but I believed, at least, that you knew what keys were used for. What’s your next concern? Would you like me to explain what toilet is?”
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere's glare steeled over. Her blade neither moved closer nor further away from the woman's throat as she spoke, as she wouldn't dare to tip her hand an inch until she wrung as much information out of this confrontation as she could. (There was a sword in her body. The circumstances were dire, all right? A matter of life and fucking death.) Even at knifepoint, it seemed the lady was frustratingly persistent to keep whatever knowledge she may or may not have possessed as close to her chest as possible. Ugh. Really? Nothing?

"Aw." Guinevere sighed, sounding mockingly touched when the lady asked to kill her. "How'd that fucking pig earn so much loyalty from you that you'd be willing to die to guard his secrets, huh?" Seriously. She spat the rest, her brow furrowing with frustration. "What a fucking waste." It was a shame that enough people followed that bastard to warrant an entire kingdom at all. In fact, it was baffling. She'd seen gang leaders classier and leagues tougher in the fucking wastelands than that pitiful excuse for a king. It was more than that, though. Something that crawled under her skin about those words and set her insides on fire.

"That your response to everything, lady? Die instead of sticking 'round to fight for your own life, because everything's gone to shit and it'd be too much trouble for you to give a damn anymore? Always thought you Camelot assholes were lazy cowards. But I didn't realize it was this bad." Who knew what castle life was like under that asshole's rule? Guinevere sure didn't. And who even cared? It was useless fucking information as far as she was concerned. Didn't change the fact that it was, in a way, a luxury to decide your own fate on that level. And she couldn't help but resent it. 'Cause there were plenty of people out there who wanted to keep their lives who lost them every damned day because they didn't get to live in a pretty fucking castle with warmth and food and fine silk. Maybe she was being harsh about this, deciding when to die with that much certainty was no laughing matter. But maybe that harshness came from a place that genuinely wanted to help as well. Because damn if it wasn't a waste. And Guinevere hated waste. There was so little to go around as it was that throwing important things away so flippantly might as well have been a damned crime. There was something in this lady's eyes that said she was more than that. That she could be more than that, if she gave herself another fucking chance. And maybe by wording it like a challenge, she'd find it in her heart to give herself another chance. "Don't want me to assume things about you, lady? Then maybe try proving me wrong."

Guinevere pursed her lips then when 'Morgan' apparently cleared up the honest misunderstanding. The sword had a name! Was it really so far-fetched to think a key might as well? It was an honest...

"What the fuck? I'm not a fucking monkey, lady!" Guinevere lashed back. (...Baboons are the monkeys. Not buffoons. But she certainly didn't know that well enough to make the distinction.) She blushed even so. It was an honest mistake! "'Sides, you're the one who's been asking 'what' I am, as if I'm some kinda object. For a second I thought it was a stupid fuckin' Camelot thing! Magic sword had a name too. Excalibur." The magic aura around them seemed to brighten like a spotlight when the word left her mouth, although she couldn't see it when she was too busy watching the woman beneath her like a hawk. No way was she leaving her an opening after getting stabbed in the back. "And Excalibur said Morgan le Fey is my fucking key. So I probably need you to get it out of my chest or some shit." She leaned closer, so their noses were nearly touching. "That said, you're coming with me. So what's it gonna be, lady? You wanna walk or should I carry your ass?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Ah. Trying reverse psychology on her, huh? Very cute. Kind of like watching a mouse build a trap meant to kill the human in its house, really-- the woeful incompetence sent the whole scenario directly into the realm of comedy. Morgan would have laughed, indeed, had the smoke not burned her lungs! (Prove herself to Guinevere? Really? Why, pray tell, should she so much as lift her finger to change the opinion of a woman who had insulted her so? Who had taken everything from her? …somehow it stung, even despite that. Like a slap in her face that she didn’t remember receiving. What did Guinevere know of Camelot, anyway? For all of her love for the supposed ‘real world’, she failed to notice that Camelot, in fact, had been part of it. That everything had its price, and that Morgan had paid it in blood. Oh so conveniently, she had edited the narrative in her head-- us versus them, good versus evil, the lazy, good for nothing idiots versus the heroic survivors from the wastes. No, there was no point talking to her. The only difference between her and the people that she claimed to hate so? They found themselves standing on the opposite sides of the barricade, glorifying the opposite team. And Morgan… well, Morgan didn’t belong anywhere. Akin to the sun dwelling in the center of the galaxy, she stood alone, with none of the orbits ever intersecting hers. Some things, she supposed, didn’t change.)

“You’ve clearly made up your mind,” the sorceress observed. “Who am I to try and change it? I don’t have anything to prove to you, my lady. Not a single thing. You are welcome to let your opinions rot your brain, as I cannot imagine it would be a great loss.” Certainly not with her concluding that she and Arthur had been best friends! The mere idea raised her blood pressure, though Morgan decided not to comment upon it. Doing so would have been feeding her information, you know? Information that she did not deserve, despite reaching for it with her dirty, bloodied hands. Let her think that I was one of his pathetic bootlickers, Morgan thought. The less she knows about me, the better my chances. Chances of what, though? Of escape? Except, where would she go? (There were options, don’t get her wrong. Many of them, even. Would she perhaps crawl into the bed of the king who had agreed to marry her, hoping that her magical talents outweighed the loss of her kingdom? Tempting, but maybe she could let herself get captured by the local bandits instead, solely for the thrill that came with that. You know, since change was the spice of life! Becoming literal spice was another glorious option-- the beasts roaming the wastes loved the taste of magic, the sorceress had heard. Why not commit a good deed for once, hmm? The metallic monsters would appreciate it for sure, considering how rare true witches were. Ah, how was one to pick from such a big, varied pool? It seems I shall have to toss a coin, Morgan smirked to herself.

“No, not a monkey,” she gave her a cruel smile, one sharp enough to cut. “Primates are known to be rather intelligent creatures. I have even read that they can communicate meaningfully with humans, once you teach them the basics. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two from them? Shrieks seem to be more of your thing than actual words.” Guinevere leaving her to her own fate would have been the ideal scenario, but, as the Catastrophe had hammered into their heads, they were much did not live in one. Gods! “If you are that desperate for my attention,” Morgan said, with her chin lifted high, “I suppose that I will go.” (Of course, that choice was very much illusory. Even so, it wasn’t exactly dignified to let herself get dragged to their destination, was it? And since dignity was all Morgan le Fey had left, she wasn’t in any rush to be stripped of it.)

The grey ashes of the wastes welcomed her once again, embracing her like their long-lost daughter. In a way, Morgan felt closer to it than she ever had before-- the dead soil reflected the state of her own soul rather accurately, for dull numbness was all she felt. Dull numbness, and a distant hint of pain. It was like… like receiving anesthesia, you see? On some level, the sorceress knew that it would hurt, but she was too disconnected from her body to really feel any of that. (To really feel anything, to tell you the truth.) “So, what now? Are you going to shove me into doors? I am a big proponent of the scientific approach myself, but I would like to warn you in advance that it isn’t going to work. Maybe try not having hypotheses that are hopelessly idiotic first.”

Morgan might have dropped a few additional bombs, but before she could do that? Seemingly out of the shadows, a group of men emerged. Most of them stayed behind, probably following some strange hierarchy of theirs, though one guy, the biggest and meanest, stepped forward. “Ah, Guinevere! You have no idea how much I love to see you, and without your usual entourage of bitches as well. What, got tired of ‘em? But,” his eyes landed on Morgan, “well, well, well, who do we have here! I didn’t know you were into fancy ladies like that, Gwennie. Tell ya what, I’ll trade her with you. Your fucking life for hers. How does that sound?”
 

ellarose

wanderer
Guinevere sighed as they walked, completely ignoring Morgan's quips as she unwrapped the bloodied scraps of white cloth from her forearms to wrap her hands in them instead. Traveling under the darkness of night in the wastelands when she was this fucking spent was not ideal for a whole slew of reasons. And yet staying put in the ruins of Camelot for the night sounded like an even shittier idea. In no time the place would become a bloody battleground for leftover resources. The castle might have crumbled and their so-called 'holy' ground might have rotted to match the rest of the sad wasteland they lived in, but the precious artifacts and food already stored within the ruined castle walls were fair game to all who stumbled upon them at this point. Those prissy cowards would learn the way the world worked outside of their precious walls soon enough. Without their usual defenses, it wouldn't be long it'd be crawling with beasts and gangsters alike.

'Before the day ends, you shall be bound to me. That is something that I can promise you, on my authority as a king.' If there was any pleasure Guinevere could derive from this situation, it was what a fucking joke that king turned out to be. Instead of accomplishing anything worthwhile or prosperous, his whole kingdom came falling down in one night like a house of cards. Except there was nothing for her to laugh about when she considered what he might have done by deliberately exposing her to that magic sword. Excalibur. She knew it was inside of her, the same way she was aware of her own heartbeat. Is that what he meant by being bound to him? It was confusing and no one seemed particularly inclined to explain.

Guinevere would consider ways to get the answers she needed when she was safely in camp. As always, she needed to tackle one problem before she dwelled too hard on the next. The circumstances weren't ideal, but when were they ever? So long as they didn't run into any trouble, they'd likely make it back to camp by daybreak.

But of fucking course, this was the wastelands. And trouble always had a way of finding Guinevere Leodegrance. Good thing she snaffled that sword from a decorative suit of armor on her way out, otherwise she'd have to fight her way out of this with that lady's measly little dagger.

"Bob." Guinevere addressed the man with a scowl, brandishing her sword and stepping protectively in front of Morgan. It didn't matter one bit that this Camelot lady was getting on her last nerve. She wasn't such a 'savage' that she was gonna let these scummy fuckers undress her with their eyes. No one got off easy with that shit while she was around to say something about it. Discreetly, she moved her hands nimbly behind her, offering her the dagger she'd confiscated to say that, yes, she was going to give it back to her now. If she didn't make it past this scoundrel, she at least had the honor to leave the woman a means to defend herself.

"It's Brice." The man refuted instantly and she could practically see the steam rising from his ears. Prideful sucker. "I dated your sister for a year. You know it's fucking Brice!" Yeah, sure. One of her six other boyfriends at the time meaning that, no, she did not bother committing his name to memory. All she remembered was his face, his wandering eyes and hands. Hands she really should've cut off back then.

"Bobby. Let me level with you." Guinevere prowled forward unflinchingly. 'Brice' shifted uncomfortably for a moment, clearly revisiting the memory of their last scuffle (in which she beat his sorry ass!)-- but then seemed to right himself the moment he realized that his gang was still waiting behind to back him up. "A ways back you'll find Camelot in shambles. Instead of wasting your time with us girls, why don't you creeps head on over there and find yourselves somethin' real valuable?"

"Is it now? Guess that explains the lady." Brian smirked and closed the small space between them, grabbing her roughly by the jaw. "It's been so long, Gwennie. Let me get a good look at you. Still the spittin' image of your sister, eh? Only difference is she knew how to put that pretty face you share to good use. You'd be easier on the eyes if you didn't scowl like that."

Guinevere wrenched his hand away from her face and twisted Bobby's wrist, glaring daggers. Jen was the only one who got to call her Gwennie. The only one. The asshole laughed carelessly at the look on her face and his gang followed his lead.

"Don't think you're getting off that easy, baby. Remember?" He pointed at the scar by his lip. Ah, right. The scar that she had given him. Ugh. Of course Bobby was too caught up in his revenge fantasy to do the smart fucking thing and get what might've been first dibs on Camelot. "We still got a score to settle."

"That fuckin' so. Maybe in your dreams there is." Guinevere kicked him in the groin. And no one got to call her baby. No one. The instant she made her first move was the instant his gang sprung on her like a trap.

"Bitch! Don't you know your place!?" Bobby shouted, "I'll make you pay!"

One by one, Guinevere fought her way through the men coming at her with her focus as sharp as the blades she wielded. Dodging beyond the reach of their weapons and grabbing arms, she kicked one in the stomach, shoved another, elbowed them into each other and slashed through those ones who got too close for comfort. Instinct and adrenaline dominated her every movement, whisking her into a violent dance of sharp claws and teeth as she spun and took care of every threat that dared to come into her line of sight. Slowly but surely, their bodies were piling up around her. Had her gang's reputation to uphold as their leader, didn't she? She might've been nearing her limits, but no way in fucking hell was she going to succumb to Bobby's gang of sleazeballs without putting up a legendary fight first. She and her girls had to fight ten times as hard to get by in a world like this. These stories of bloodshed were what held them afloat and warned the weaker gangs to keep their fucking distance.

Guinevere's heart pounded in her ears with the thrill of the non-stop fight. She coughed out a ragged laugh, scrubbing some of the blood splatter off her face with the back of her hand. When these types of men wanted her to squirm, she smirked instead as a fucking rule. The rumors and stories surrounding her, the woman who smiled when she looked death in the eyes, were ones she liked to encourage the very most.

"Fuck, Guinevere. Just give it up already! You know you won't be able to hold out forever."

"Sure, I know. I'm just having a good time, here!" Guinevere slurred. Because deep down she knew she couldn't. But she didn't give up nonetheless. (If they were going to take her out, she was going to make a mark. And the nine bodies scattered in the dust around them certainly delivered a significant blow to his gang.) From there, however, it was only a matter of time before the exhaustion caught up, she flubbed one of her steps, and one of those brutes managed to snare their arms tightly around her. The second they held her securely, the lights went out on her world with a swiftly timed blow to the back of her head.

Once that was taken care of, the five remaining men circled Morgan like sharks. "You ready to go now, princess?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Morgan le Fey didn’t know what she expected. Perhaps it would have been better not to have any expectations at all, come to think of it-- mainly because the gods seemed hellbent on shattering them before they ever managed to transform into anything meaningful. Even worse, they often used them as a blueprint for what was not going to happen. For example, Morgan’s implicit assumption that Guinevere would lead her to her camp? Gone. Smashed to pieces. Instead of falling into the hands of those bandits, the sorceress supposed, others would take their place. Was it really that different?

(It was. Like the sun versus the moon, or fire versus water, or, you know, receiving a nice, cold glass of wine versus having it thrown into your face. Of course, the sorceress couldn’t have known yet, and so she didn’t. Certain knowledge could only be bought with experience-- with experience and pain, so sharp it etched itself into the very anatomy of your brain. Oh, the sorceress was very familiar with that kind of learning! …back in Camelot, it was the only one that was readily available.)

My life for hers?” she raised her eyebrow, stalling for time. (If there was one thing that all men had in common, it had to be the love they held for their own voices. Arthur, his knights, and even all those fat, round-faced lords? All of them had prattled on, endlessly, making her regret that she hadn’t been born without ears. Giving them the incentive to talk some more, then, should give her the opportunity to reach for her magic, right? For that wild energy sleeping deep within her, with the power of transformation at its fingertips. For the storm contained within her fragile shell, just waiting to be released! “Don’t make me laugh. Do you really value me that little? Might as well exchange diamonds for coal, while you’re at it. Or perhaps fresh meat for ashes. Do you enjoy making bad trades like that? I have to say, I didn’t expect to stumble upon such a… hmm, charitable organization in the wastes.”

“Ooh, the princess is confident,” one of them laughed. “Just wait a little, sweetie. Soon enough, you’ll be able to prove your worth to us. You’re looking forward to it, ain’t you? I can see that in those pretty eyes of yours!”

(And, almost against her will, Morgan felt a chill running down her spine. Because, the way they were eying her? It wasn’t difficult to guess what he was referring to, and no, it wasn’t them having a heated debate over a cup of cocoa. It wasn’t her magical expertise, either. No. No, I need to focus. Threats that only ever remain threats are hollow, and I can make them stay that way. So, indeed, the sorceress did do her best to empty her mind. The spirits were drawn to that comforting void, you know? To the idea of being wrapped in it, in the same way their human counterparts might enjoy crawling under a blanket heavy enough to choke the oxygen out of their lungs. If Morgan had to guess, it probably made them feel less lonely. The problem with her plan, though? They didn’t answer. The beast had already been woken up once today, and now her voice was too weak to rouse it-- a mere whisper in the darkness, too subtle to reach their ears. No matter how much the sorceress tried, it just wouldn’t open its eyes, wouldn’t, wouldn’t, wouldn’t! The dagger Guinevere had handed her was her only hope, then, and gods, what a pitiful hope that was. Barely better than fighting a tiger with a toothpick. Just, how was she supposed to subdue a group of grown men with a few inches of steel? A dagger was a weapon that relied on the element of surprise, and on the shadows to shroud it! Facing a sword with it was little more than suicide, the sorceress knew. The kind of defiance that was purely symbolic in nature, akin to drinking a flask of poison. No, your enemies would never get you that way, but what was the point to that? You wouldn’t get to taste the fruits of your victory, either. For all the world cared, your corpse might as well have been rotting in the ground already.)

So, all in all, cursing would have been an entirely reasonable reaction. Morgan le Fey didn’t curse, though-- no, not her style. She didn’t do so even when Guinevere was subdued, and their demise all but certain. Losing control would get her exactly nowhere, you see? Despair blinded you, much like wool over your eyes would, and she wasn’t about to rob herself of the gift of sight. Not when she could be looking for… hmm, for opportunities, instead. Opportunities to stab someone right in the back, for instance.

“Let’s not make this more dramatic than it has to be, alright?” she said, despite feeling her heart somewhere in her throat. Time. Some time is all I need. “Of course I will be happy to visit your camp.”

***

For the second time that day, Guinevere woke up with her hands tied behind her back. The décor wasn’t much better this time around, either-- the tent they had dragged her into was small and poorly lit, with various stains on the walls documenting its owner’s eating habits. (Spoiler alert: Disgusting. How did anyone manage to live like that, wallowing in his own filth?) “Why, hello, Gwennie!” Brice grinned. “Took you long enough. I thought you might not wake up, and that almost broke my fucking heart. Can’t get that much for a corpse, y’know?” he pinched her cheek, and then looked her up and down with the glee of a wolf who just knew that its prey had no way of escaping. “But I’m sure that your pathetic bitches will pay up, assuming they haven’t grown tired of the stick up your ass. Anyone’s guess, really. In the meantime, though,” he gave her a wide smile, “it’s just you and me.” From somewhere, he produced a knife, and the weapon glimmered in the candlelight. Uh oh.

“What do you think we should do, hmm? I do owe you a scar or two. Or…” somehow, his already impossibly wide smile widened, “…would you like to go play with the princess instead? I mean, I’m not a greedy man. You were the one to capture her, so I suppose I might let you have a turn."
 

ellarose

wanderer
Again. Fuck. Guinevere was pretty confident she was going to die, if only because she was quickly breaking a record for how many times a person could black out within the span of a single night. She grumbled and angled her head away from Brice's touch like a stubborn child refusing to be fed. With her eyes bruised and half-lidded, she busied herself with surveying her surroundings. A dark, disgusting tent. So at least it wasn't a high class fortress or an underground cellar where no one would hear her if she screamed. Not that she was about to resort to that if she had any choice in the matter. What good would it do? The only ones who'd hear her would be Brice and his dogs, as well as anyone else unlucky enough to stumble upon his camp of creatures of the night. And those disgusting bastards fed on the screams of women like vampires on blood or some shit. Seemed like the only weapon in sight was that knife he'd produced. If he'd been a complete idiot, maybe she would've found something to help aid in her escape. But surprise, most people couldn't afford to be idiots out in the wastes. Not even honorary douchebag idiots like Brice.

"Nah, nah, nah. You know I don't really mean that, right? You think I'll be soft on you just 'cause you have Jenny's face?" Brice continued to prattle on with whatever threatening nonsense he'd been spouting about scars and shit. Nah, she wasn't listening to his nonsense. She was far too busy concocting ways to escape from this dump. It'd be fucking shameful, getting hauled back to camp by this sorry excuse for a man. Dying honestly sounded ideal in comparison to the shame she'd feel. However, there was no way for her to avoid his touch when he grabbed a fistful of her hair and forcibly yanked her upwards to look him in the face. "I'm down nine fucking men thanks to you, bitch! You don't know when to quit, do you?" That statement was quickly punctuated with a kick to her ribs, slamming her back down to the ground and effectively knocking the wind out of her.

"Then maybe," Guinevere spat blood at his shoe. "You shouldn't have called your men on me, fucker. They got exactly what they asked for. What'd you think would happen?"

"Fuck you! You're a merciless vixen. That's the one thing you and your sister got in common, y'know that?" Brice growled out, kicking her again. She curled herself defensively as he continued, on and on. Once he got that tantrum out of his system, he straddled her and held her shoulders still. He traced the scar already going from across her nose under her left eye with his knife and then surveyed the rest of her face, like an artist with a paintbrush deciding where to make the next stroke. "I want you to remember me every time you see your reflection. I want you to remember this moment."

Guinevere almost rolled her eyes at the speech. The guy who had given her her first scar had now spouted similar bullshit and she hadn't bothered to remember his name either. Yet another man trying to insert himself in her fucking life, where men did not belong as far as she was concerned. She had enough fucking problems as it was, thanks.

The tip of the knife was cold against her temple, moving in an agonizingly slow arc towards her jawline. The mark was minuscule and already she could feel the blood dripping down the side of her face. Ugh. Just get it over with.

'Guinevere.' The voice spoke softly to Guinevere as she bled. Because she bled. (Don't ask how she knew this. She just did.) A light spread inside of her soul, rejuvenating her with a little burst of sizzling energy. 'Guinevere, Guinevere. Shall I open this source to Morgan le Fey?'

'Sure? Go knock yourself out.'
Honestly... Guinevere wasn't sure what the hell was going on around here. But if it improved the lady's chances against these slimy assholes (more than that measly dagger would) she guessed they might as well use whatever bullshit this was to help out. Morgan was a 'key'-- whatever the fuck that meant-- so maybe she'd be the key out of this place too? The voice also said hope, hadn't it? Even if it was full of shit, it wasn't like things could get much worse. Before she could think about it further, she picked up on the sound of the tent's entrance being unzipped. Tensing with alertness, she watched closely as one of Brice's henchmen poked inside.

"Boss, come on! You promised you wouldn't kill the hostage this ti--" Ah. Guy must've heard the commotion and panicked over the prospect of lost rations. Reasonable enough... and it provided just enough of a distraction for Guinevere to get the angle she needed to bite down on Brice's hand as hard as she could, effectively causing him to drop the knife. When he cried out, she snapped the handle of the knife up between her teeth, kicked Brice off of her and quickly shimmied herself up onto her feet. Crafty as she was, even she couldn't pull off a maneuver to get the knife from her teeth to her hands behind her back. Even so, it was preferable to take the weapon out of the equation... so holding it in her mouth it was. Once that was done, she took advantage of the shock to shove her way past the guy in the entrance and ran as fast as her feet could carry her into the camp.

***

Meanwhile, Morgan had been shoved into a tent all of her own. By nature of the wastelands, it really wasn't much nicer than the one Guinevere had been kept inside despite her perceived 'status'. Those structures no longer existed beyond the walls of Camelot, apparently.

Before that, she'd been given instructions to 'strip down' and then come back out to greet them. It wasn't so much a misguided act of chivalry by the fact that she was a 'lady' that they had afforded her this precious moment of privacy. Rather, the action served as an unspoken test. 'Prove her worth', they'd said before. They were clearly eager to see just how well she could follow their instructions without having to lift a finger themselves. They wanted to see if she understood what they had decided for her was her place the moment they'd brought her into their camp. And if she couldn't comply to their demands? If she wasn't quick enough on the uptake or even remotely disagreeable? The threat was plain that they would settle any matters of defiance with their knives. Her life in the wastelands was forfeit unless she could do as she was told or fight her way out. So... it was time to make a choice.

"Hey. You been in there long enough now, princess. Are you ready to greet us or what?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Well. If there was one thing that Morgan couldn’t complain about, it certainly was a lack of directness! Because it was painfully, abundantly clear what they wanted from her, given their, hm, directions. No, it didn’t shock her. You might expect that from someone who had grown up in Camelot, but the reality was much more complicated than that, you see? Always shadows of grey, rather than just those simple, convenient dichotomies. Both were a different side of the same coin, really. While they had never explicitly told her what she was for, the writing had been on the wall-- it was clear from the skills a lady was supposed to have, from the ways she was meant to conduct herself, and, yes, also from the things that she shouldn’t be doing. Arthur selling her to a stranger was a logical conclusion to all of that, the sorceress knew. So, the only real difference between Camelot and the wastes? Here, they actually fucking told you! …not that that helped, though. It really, really didn’t. The idea of those pigs putting their filthy hands all over her made her stomach drop, and--

--no. No, there was no point to wasting her brainpower on willing her nightmare into existence. The sorceress still had options, didn’t she? The options of a prisoner who could choose between the guillotine and the rope, but they were options nonetheless. In the end, it boiled down to compliance versus resistance. Both were deaths, albeit of different kinds-- one was the death of ego, the other the death of body. And, contrary to what you might think? Morgan le Fey was no stranger to that dilemma. (Over and over and over again, she’d chosen the death of ego. ‘Just you wait,’ she’d told herself, swallowing one bitter pill after another. ‘This will all be worth something someday. Broken bones can heal, but you cannot rebuild yourself from your own ashes.’ And, indeed, all of that had been true. With the long-term perspective gone, though? With Arthur dead, Camelot burnt, and the best version of her future revolving around becoming some ugly moron’s beloved pet? Oh no, no more bitter pills for her! …dying quickly, the sorceress supposed, did have its advantages. The brain wouldn’t be able to experience any trauma properly, for one-- where there was no processing, there could be no wounds, and also no scars that refused to heal. With some luck, there would be no great agony, either. Pain receptors didn’t work instantly, you see? The signal had to run across the neural network, from point A to point B, and when the consciousness stopped existing in between… well, congratulations! You won the death lottery. Even so, that didn’t mean that she’d go down without a sight.)

Morgan paced across the pitiful excuse for a room, her steps small and nervous. Could something in here be used as a weapon, perhaps? Something that would help her put some distance between herself and her attackers? The bandits’ thoughts had apparently wandered into a similar direction, though, for everything, everything about the tent had been picked clean! Aside from the bed, with sheets so stained that it almost made her want to weep, it was empty. Great, the sorceress thought. Exactly what I needed. Thank you, gods, for granting me this wonderful chance. I shall use it to the best of my ability. No, but seriously. Had they given her the shred of hope solely to take it away from her, and her soul shatter? Ugh, remind her to never pray again!

‘Morgan le Fey,’ a voice resonated in her mind, powerful enough to make her take a step back. (It made the words of the bandits feel distant in comparison, as if someone muttered them on the other side of the continent. Almost dream-like, really.) ‘You are weak. Exhausted. You don’t have to be, though. Will you take my hand?’

And, normally, Morgan would have thought about it harder. Normally, she would have weighed all the pros and cons, and asked herself why, exactly, was a spirit associated so heavily with that dreadful Guinevere making her an offer she couldn't refuse. You know what else wouldn't be happening under normal circumstances, though? Bandits barging into her tent, with one of them grabbing her by the throat. "Shit, I thought you Camelot bitches were supposed to be smarter than that. You don't know the difference between wearing and not wearing clothes, huh?" he gave her a wolfish smile, but that wasn't the most concerning thing about it. Oh no, not even remotely. The knife that glimmered in the candlelight was! "I'm gonna show you the fuckin' difference, then. Remember the lesson, bitch." The steel was cold against her skin, cold like the kiss of death, and when he cut through some of the fabric? Morgan took the entity's hand. She took it, and her mind exploded.

(Light. Light, everywhere. Power surging through her veins, so much of it that it almost knocked her off her feet. A kaleidoscope of colors, brighter than anything she'd ever seen, and new constellations being born before her very eyes-- being born, and killed, and then re-created from the same stardust again, all within a single heartbeat. Was... was that what gods felt like? Morgan could get used to it. Fairly quickly, too.)

Notably, her mind wasn't the only thing that exploded. The tent itself did, too-- a strange vortex engulfed it, a vortex of wind and blood and dead roots, and in a few seconds, her would-be tormentors were tied. "What!" one of them shouted, fear mirroring in his beady eyes. (Yes, Morgan thought, to the extent she was still capable of thinking. Fear me, you pathetic creature. Have a taste of your own medicine.) "A w-witch? She's a fucking witch?" Aww, poor him! When it turned out that his victim had claws, he wasn't nearly as confident. In fact, he was shaking like a leaf, his face the color of freshly fallen snow. "P-please! I'm sure we can..."

"What? Die? That you can," Morgan smirked. Instinctively, the sorceress snapped her fingers, and in reaction to that? In reaction to that, the roots cut into their flesh, spraying her with fresh blood. Oh, gods. Gods, how delightful...

***

Conveniently enough, Guinevere found herself close enough to Morgan's tent to see the entire spectacle. The thing that wasn't too convenient, though? The group of men who had also witnessed it, also very close. Both to Morgan and to her.

"Shit! Shit, what the fuck did that bitch do?" the smallest of them screeched. "I did not sign up for some weird magical bullshit."

"Blasted Camelot. I always knew they were fucked up, but this is something else. C'mon, go catch her!"

"Me? Why me? Do it yourself, ya dingus!"

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," a tall man dressed in tatters hugged them both around their shoulders, "there's no need to argue. Not when we can go catch the other hostage. Hi, Gwennie! I don't suppose Brice gave you the permission to wander the camp?" Oh, shit.
 

ellarose

wanderer
Blood tornados. Of course! That was exactly what this complete shitshow of an evening was missing. And by that, Guinevere meant what the everloving fuck?

It only took a second for it to occur to Guinevere what an amateurish mistake it was to fixate on the sight, however abnormal it was. It was the normal response in any situation that involved blood tornados to be sure and that also meant it could be hella advantageous for her if she could pull herself together in time to swing this in her favor. Because obviously she'd picked up on the fact that it distracted her-- so clearly it must have distracted Bobby's lackeys the same way. Which, yeah. When she panned her gaze across the camp, she could see everyone was watching the ruthless witchy lady with their eyes popped open as large as saucers, swirling with the hypnosis a blood tornado would induce. Focus. Get it together. Deftly, she spat the knife in her mouth onto a nearby stump, took it into her hands behind her back, and began the awkward process of sawing away at her restraints with the clumsy, frantic jerks of her wrist. Come on, come on, come on.

Guinevere didn't get the chance to deflate with a breath of relief when she felt the rope fraying against her skin when one of the men decided to reach for the single braincell this band of dinguses possessed and turned their sights on her. Again, she was tempted to roll her eyes. Apparently they had the memory of goldfishes if they thought she was gonna be the easy target next to some magical lady from fucking Camelot. Nah. No. Sure, magic was gruesome and flashy as always (although this version was, uh, admittedly remixed)... but did they all collectively blink and miss it when she took out nine of their men singlehandedly? Like sure, she went down eventually (and only because she was on her last fucking leg) but that was a feat! Where'd these arrogant pricks get off acting as if she was going to be easy pickings in comparison? It pissed her the fuck off. Only solace she could take from this was the fact that their astounding lack of survival instincts were gonna get them killed now.

...Especially if they thought they were going to get away with calling her Gwennie. The reputation she'd cultivated in the wastes wasn't one to be flippantly disrespected like this, damn it! Smarter men would've known this fact very, very well. Unfortunately-- or maybe fortunately-- she was surrounded by idiots. And she was not going down at the hands of idiots. Not tonight, satan.

"Fuck. Figured Bobstopher would've trained his dogs better than this." Guinevere scoffed, backing away slowly as she worked faster at the ropes. Almost, almost... there! The restraints fell to the dirt and her wrists were finally free. Smirking devilishly, she clutched the knife tightly behind her back. "Then let me do you bastards a solid and teach you somethin' useful. Like what happens to sorry bastards who think they can get off calling me Gwennie."

Before the man in the middle could so much as blink, Guinevere stabbed him in the chest. She kicked his body away as she wrenched the bloodied knife out, quickly dodging down to avoid the men who attempted to lunge after her in retaliation. Whew. Her ribs were undoubtedly bruised from that beating she'd taken, she felt it every time she moved or even breathed, but she had to keep going. Survive this hellish night and worry about it later. Pushing her way past every wince and ache, she made for the tent she remembered housed their resources. The cleanest one.

Heh. If Morgan le Fey was going to put on a captivating show, Guinevere might as well take advantage of it. Or, well. In an ideal world, that's what would've happened.

"What has she got there!?" One of the men yelled, noticing her in his peripheral.

"A knife!" Yelled another. The guy attempting to take care of the man she'd stabbed.

"No!" Apparently more of the lackeys snapped out of their trances for long enough to decide that they'd rather take their chances against her than the unpredictable blood tornado. Fucking great! "She's going for the rations!"

Gritting her teeth against the pain, Guinevere attentively swept aside to avoid the bloodthirsty blades of her new perusers, her eyes flicking between them to pick out her next target. Suffering only a graze or two from their blades, she managed to get another hit in-- effectively disarming and taking one of their swords for herself. Ha! But of course, the men were beginning to corner her in front of their precious resource tent. While she could hold her own in a fight... ugh.

Begrudgingly, Guinevere cut her gaze across the camp to meet Morgan's. She tilted her head indicatively at the men around her as if to encourage her to take as many out as she pleased. Like... she'd banded them all up pretty conveniently for her, right? Just had to hope she wouldn't sweep her up in that bloodthirsty tornado of hers along with them. Gulp.
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
So, all those years of studying? Sleepless nights, spent lying in books? None of them had helped her one iota in understanding what was happening, and, weirdly enough, Morgan reveled in it. More, the sorceress thought. More blood and death. More pain, for everything they’ve done over the years. And, even if that seemed absurd? The source of energy within her, that bright, blinding light, listened. It listened and it understood, judging by the way the vines wrapped around her mind protectively. ‘Is that your heart’s desire, Morgan le Fey?’ it purred. ‘In that case, you will have it. You’ve been denied that which is yours for centuries, so now, you shall want for nothing. Rejoice, my sweet! And don’t forget to thank Guinevere, alright? After all, it is through her that you get to enjoy the Excalibur’s might.’ Which, what? The Excalibur? Guinevere had mentioned the holy sword, come to think of it, but that was a mere legend. A fairytale told to children before they crawled to their beds-- one about a savior king, powerful and wise, who would one day save them all. An escapist fantasy, in other words. Exactly the kind of story that spawned men like Arthur, too! (When people like him read the story, you see, they didn’t think themselves to be the audience. Oh no, no, no. In their minds, they were the inevitable protagonists, only learning of the plot so that they could assume their rightful role in it. And, truly, and wasn’t that oh so convenient? Because it meant they got to be always right, always virtuous, always at the epicenter of the events that mattered. Kings, second only to the gods themselves.)

Of course, Morgan would have loved to expand upon her thoughts. That was kind of what she did--allowed her ideas to take her where they would, and explored the consequences of that. Many times, that exact path had led her to a breakthrough that she would have otherwise missed! Right now, though? Right now, when a storm was brewing beneath her hands? Let’s just say that it was, hmm, hard to focus. Hard to focus on anything that wasn’t sowing more destruction, that was. Yes, she thought. Yes, take them. Make it look as if this stain of a camp never existed on the earth’s face, and bury their broken bones. And, oh, the vortex did just that! It danced, close to the ground, the old blood mixing with that of its victims-- the unholy mixture dripped on the soil, drip, drip, drip, and from those marks, uh… something grew. Or did they just emerge from the bowels of the ruined land? Somehow, using the word ‘growth’ felt woefully inaccurate here. (That something that was dead, and had been for a while. Flowers, or at least flower-shaped things, but they had as much to do with the real deal as trophies on some coward’s wall did with actual animals. The stench of death assaulted Morgan’s nostrils as the blossoms unfurled their petals, and upon actually looking there? The sorceress could see that razors were nestled in their centers, covered by rust. Razors that clutched at the bandits’ ankles, attaching themselves like leeches, and drank! Drank to their hearts’ content as the victims screamed, losing so much blood that it would have filled an entire ocean. Quite the central theme, isn’t it? Morgan realized, despite feeling oddly lightheaded. Oddly empty, as if the magic had tapped into the reserves that she hadn’t even known she had and took, took, took, everything that she was willing to give and more. Way more than that, but... no. No point in thinking about that. In order to receive a gift, you first had to give up something of equal value, right? And in that very moment, the sorceress would sacrifice all she had just to make them scream. Blood, that is. Blood has something to do with all of this.)

“What are ya’ll staring at?!” a man, built like a marble statue and doubtlessly about as intelligent, shouted. “Have you never seen a fucking witch? Well, if you don’t do something, you won’t live to tell the story, either!”

“Thanks for the fucking analysis, genius. What should I do, though? Ask her to, pretty please, stop?”

“I, uh, I’m not sure?”

“Run, you goddamn moron!” Many of the lowlives had decided that, yes, that was a sound plan-- their loyalty to Brice was hardly worth that much trouble, especially considering that it likely was their sense of self-preservation that had inspired them to seek the biggest, baddest motherfucker around. None of them had signed up to deal with rampaging witches, you see? And so they did run, like a pack of rabbits that had discovered they’d build their home in a wolf’s den. That’s right, cowards. Fear me, and pray I don’t feel like tracking you down.

Across the plain, Morgan’s gaze met with that of Guinevere’s. The request remained unspoken, though that mattered very little-- she could read all she needed in her eyes, in her badly disguised despair, in that stupidly magnetic smirk of hers. (Should she let her die there? A tempting thought to be sure. In exchange for slaying Arthur, the savage should just… sink into obscurity, where she rightfully belonged. The punishment should always fit the crime, for every Icarus had to learn what it meant to get too close to the sun. Still, wouldn’t it be a little anticlimactic? Guinevere had wronged her, not a bunch of anonymous pigs. A bunch of anonymous pigs who would have been happy to feast on her as well, had the opportunity not been stolen from them.)

It was a split-second decision. The vortex screeched, like fingernails against chalkboard, and sucked the men inside-- within the blink of an eye, they were but a broken heap of limbs, bones and skin, unrecognizable from one another. How many people were there, even? Hard to tell, really, when their parts no longer matched. (When they resembled disassembled mannequins, like the ones Morgan had seen in the rare magazines that had survived Arthur’s burnings.)

A-ah. What are you doing? The pressure against her mind increased, as if the entity wanted to push her brain out through her ears, and--

‘You wanted this camp destroyed, didn’t you? I’m just granting you that wish, Morgan le Fey. Watch. Watch and marvel at the beauty you’ve helped create.’

And, because her feet were suddenly made of lead, watching was the only thing that the sorceress could do! Even as the ground opened hungry maw, and began to swallow the tents. Oh, gods.
 

ellarose

wanderer
The good news was that Guinevere managed to take the rations without much trouble. Mostly because by the time she had left the tent, there was no one around left to trouble her. The bad news? The death tornado that Morgan had whipped around the camp, now filled with gruesome broken limbs, was definitely spinning beyond the woman's control. There was no way that it couldn't be at this rate. That kind of magic just wasn't natural, not the kind of thing meant for humans to wield or tamper with in general. It was too powerful. It consumed more than it provided in a world this broken. (Some whispered that magic was what tossed the world into this bottomless abyss to begin with, draining the life of everything very much like that tornado was. There were many people who crouched in the streets in the cities, trying to make a living off of their hocus pocus prophesies of where magical turmoil and disaster would strike next.) There were consequences for every spell. 'Jenny... what have you done?' The memory claws at her mind and reignites old scars. The sight of her sister's bleeding eyes, the darkness leaking out of her mouth like globs of ink. 'I killed all of them. I had to. They were going to... no. It doesn't matter now. I just had to protect you. You believe me... right Gwen?' No. Now wasn't the time for any of this. Steeling herself to the sight in the present moment, she dug her heels into the earth and tracked the whirlwind monstrosity to see if she had any patterns to the way that it moved.

No. That was the thing, wasn't it? This magic was unruly and unpredictable and before Guinevere knew it, the earth began to concave and sink them in like quicksand.

"Hey, lady! Snap the fuck out of it!" Yeah. Like that was going to stop her! It seemed like the woman was far too preoccupied to hear anything at all, even after the damage was already long done. The camp was a ghost town with the exception of the two of them.

And, seriously? Yikes. The connection was frighteningly easy to make, right? The way that these forces invited more chaos upon the dead earth. Could it be that Camelot's weird, magical experiments were what damaged the world outside of it? Maybe they'd initially had some kind of... protection over it, that kept it from dying with the rest of them. (Listen, her magical expertise only went so far. She had far more things to worry about than magic.) Either way, after tonight it was clear to her that Camelot was more than just a 'prosperous kingdom' beneath the surface. Filled with cobwebs, secrets and hellish forces beyond the span of her imagination... and swords that absorbed themselves into the bodies of unwilling women, apparently. Wait. Wait a damned second. It was that fucking sword that kickstarted this in the first place, right?

"Excalibur." Guinevere called as a last-ditch effort. She sinking into the ground along with the rest of the camp, but time seemed to slow when she reached out for the magic sword. A thrumming rumble echoed in her mind when she noticed a bright blue thread gleaming with a vibrating energy, connecting her to the lady. Before she could do anything about that development, though, the death tornado spun towards her and-- and then it phased right through her? What? Glancing bewilderedly at her hands, she found that she was strangely translucent, like a ghost, glowing in the darkness like some kind of magical phantom. Her edges shimmered with the same blue magic that covered the thread she had seen.

'Oh. Shit. Oh shit, am I dead?' Guinevere thought with a slow-rising horror. Fuck. It'd happened so quickly, so painlessly she couldn't even process it. Then again, that tornado ripped men to shreds within seconds. So if her broken body was floating in there along with the rest of them, then... could it have killed her instantly and dropped her ghost here? But if that was the case, then where were the ghosts of Brice and his band of creeps? This place would be haunted as hell if their ghosts just... fell out of their broken bodies the way hers did. 'I'm fucking dead. There's no other explanation for--'

'You are not dead, child.'

'Can I still deliver these rations to my camp as a ghost? It'd be a fucking waste if--'

'That is your first concern...? No, no, wait. You are not dead, child.'
The voice stressed patiently. 'Guinevere, you are the one who opened this source to Morgan le Fey. The might of your sisters magic will not harm you.'

'Jen's magic?'
Guinevere's head was beginning to pound. 'Ugh. There's no time for this! Cut the source before she kills us.'

'That you must do yourself.' The voice said. Before Guinevere could ask how, the answer provided itself with the magic sword materialized in her hands. 'Cut the thread, my child. That is all you need to do.'

Guinevere lifted the sword over her head and with one swing, severed the thread. But... not really? If anything, it only cut through the blue energy swirling around the thread and dimmed it out. (At this same moment, the ground stopped sinking and the tornado fell flat some distance away, dropping the heaps of limbs, roots, and razor-blade flowers.) The thread tying her to Morgan, though? It remained perfectly intact. 'Wait. Why didn't it...'

'There. That wasn't so hard, was it?'
The voice said softly. 'You cut the source. The thread itself will not break, for not even Excalibur can sever the thread that ties the two of you together. It is much too strong.'

Guinevere shook it off, ignoring the explanation that sounded like a bunch of cryptic bull. While the creepy magic sword was in her hands, she took advantage of the fact that it was outside of her body and quickly threw it to the ground as if it were a ticking time bomb. She backed away and pointed at it accusingly. "Stay there! Don't you fucking dare--"

Too late. Excalibur spirited itself into Guinevere's chest again before she could do anything about it. Fuck!
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
'Morgan le Fey. Morgan le Fey, can you hear me?' And, yes, that she could. The voice was a hailstorm in her chest-- a wedding of lightning and thunder, and rain, rain, rain, so loud that she couldn't even hear her own thoughts. (...had there been any in the first place? Morgan couldn't remember. She couldn't remember a staggering amount of things, come to think of it, yet it failed to so much as faze her. What did memories matter, after all, in the context of this? Of being a goddess among men, sent down from the heavens to feast on their flesh? Indeed, that tended to rearrange your priorities quite drastically.) 'Of course that you can. I'm not certain why I ever doubted you, my little sorceress.' For some reason, the spirit sounded... well, not malicious, but definitely amused. Almost as if there was an inside joke that nobody had bothered to explain, perhaps? Morgan wouldn't have liked it, had she still had the ability to differentiate between the things she liked or not.

'Listen, then, and listen well. You are to guide Guinevere Leodegrance. In her own way, she shall do the same for you as well, but the nature of your role here will be quite different. Time to stop being a pawn, don't you think? Your crown is waiting.' Which, what? One of the things that she could remember was Camelot rotting away-- falling apart, stone by stone, along with her hopes and dreams. Without a castle, what was a crown worth? A fool's respect? Just nostalgia wrapped in shiny paper, that was what this was!

'No. Watch, Morgan le Fey, and see.'

And, behind her closed eyelids, myriads of images flickered, like the stars in the sky above. (A well, deep and dark. The scream of the woman who was being pushed there, along with the crack that accompanied the shattering of her spine. The smell of burning wood, and of human flesh as well. Arthur, the bastard, leaning over a clearly unwilling woman. "Don't be such a child about this, Guinevere. We both have our destinies, you see? Yours simply revolves around me." ...ugh. What, ah, what kind of twisted vision was that? It was and wasn't real, the sorceress knew, but the fragments didn't fit together. The edges... they weren't symmetrical enough, you see? Like many different sets of puzzle mixed into one big, heterogeneous pile.) "Now you are aware. Your eyes have been opened, and so you must look. You don't want a repeat of that, do you? Oh, I don't think you do, little sorceress. You have never appreciated it before. Seek the knights of the round table, then, for they will have your answers. Let the holy Excalibur bathe in their blood. The carnage they've unleashed in the past cycles is a debt, you see? And to be freed from their shadow, you must make them repay it now. Spill their blood, and feed the dead earth. One is rotting in the ground already, but oh, that isn't enough! Because the earth is hungry. Is that understood?' Morgan nodded, despite not understanding a single thing, and then--

--then the world in front of her eyes shattered, showering the dead camp in glass shards. (Don't get her wrong, they cut her as well. Thousands of tiny wounds bloomed all over her skin, like scratches left behind by thorns, and wasn't that funny? Because still, still she had no roses.) Morgan blinked a few times, attempting to dispel the fog that had settled in her brain. There were bandits, those disgusting men who wanted to use her for gods knew what, and...! Oh. Oh, well then. 'Had been' would have been the more appropriate tense, the sorceress supposed. (Too bad that the same tense would likely have to be used for her as well, though. And, how did she know? Well, the blood straight up pouring down her mouth, like some macabre river, was a fairly convincing proof. How had they called it? 'Injuries not compatible with life?' Indeed, the sorceress would wager that most people needed their lungs for their continued existence.)

"You," Morgan grabbed Guinevere by the collar, with a strength that she didn't know she possessed. (What did she have to look like, with fire in her eyes and blood splatters all over her dress? The furthest thing from a lady, certainly, but for once, the sorceress didn't care. Not enough time for that. Not enough time, and not enough will, either. The thoughts were heavy in her head, and every single one of them hurt, like a firebrand pressed into her flesh.) "if I'm your precious key, then make sure there's anything left of me by... by the time you intend to use me. Or... are you... so incompetent... that you'd let me die?" Because there was something scary about it, now that the sorceress was staring it in the face. Gods, gods, gods! Not yet. Not yet, please, not when she still knew so little, not when-- "Foolish woman," Morgan spat out, determined not to let any of her fears show on her face. If death had truly come to claim her, then the least she could do was to accept it with dignity. "I... knew... you'd mess it up."
 

ellarose

wanderer
“Hey... what the fuck are you on about? If you had a couple of magic tricks up your sleeve then maybe you should’ve used them before we got captured! I fought as hard as I could and you didn't even lift a finger. You gotta pull your own fucking weight to get by out here, understand? Nobody's responsible for your life but you.” Guinevere wrenched herself free of Morgan's hold, fighting fire with fire. What kind of throne does this woman think she sits on anyway, calling her incompetent when she was just doing whatever the hell she could to get from one point to the next? Where the fuck were these accusations even coming from? "'Sides, there's no point harping on what's already happened. It's done now."

It was done and they were alive... but who knew for how much longer at that point?

Bobby's camp, which bustled with activity just moments before, was now comparable to a ghost town. A chill crept down her spine as she gazed upon the battered limbs strewn about the earth and she steeled herself to contain her reaction. Fuck. What next? Did she really want to bring a stranger capable of this much destruction into her camp? To be honest... no. Not at all. That kind of magic could undoubtedly hurt her girls in the long run. Bringing Morgan along with her by force would undoubtedly heighten that risk, too. Not to mention that she loathed the concept of hauling a woman to camp with her against her will to begin with. One-- she wasn't even going to sugarcoat it-- it made her feel gross. Even if the woman was guilty of performing some weird magic experiments on her with her fucked up king. And two was that by association... the lady would inevitably become another responsibility once she was under her wing. Another mouth to feed. Another life to look after. Was some stuck up, witchy woman from Camelot really worth all that trouble? Especially if she was going to proceed to treat her less than the dirt beneath her pretty little shoes?

“Anyway... after your murderous rampage back there? I hate to break it to you, but you’re not nearly precious enough for me to risk my gang with this shit. If ‘Excalibur’ kills me because you don't wanna stick around to be my 'key' or whatever…” She pressed her hand over her chest and then shook her head. Did all of this mysterious magic mumbo jumbo scare the hell out of her? Yes. Yeah, fine. But don't even test her-- she’d face her death with fucking dignity if it meant keeping her girls from this kind of harm. If wronging Morgan le Fey was the equivalent of sacrificing her girls to a gory death tornado? Nope! No fucking way. She wasn't having that. “Then I don’t fucking care! Let it kill me. I’m not endangering them in some ploy to save my own skin.”

Refusing to think of what she might have been sentencing herself to by saying this, Guinevere strode across the camp to take a discarded sword into her hand. For as long as she could, she'd keep moving forward. Keep fighting. That was all she could do. Then she adjusted the bag of rations over her shoulder and gazed up at the stars to navigate the direction she'd need to travel in to make it back home.

“I’m nothing like those pigs. Or Arthur.” Guinevere scowled, her eyes flashing dangerously. Right. No way in hell was she following in that bastard's footsteps with all of this. Must've been the fastest route to self-destruction, if the fiasco back in Camelot was any indication. Especially when magical forces beyond her comprehension were involved. “So I’m not gonna force you to come with me. That said? You're not my fucking responsibility. Got it? Whatever you do from here on out is your choice." That was the best course of action, wasn't it? Even if the sword in her chest eventually killed her, it was better if that happened than losing her gang to a stupid mistake. The stupid mistake of angering a woman who dabbled so heavily in dark magic that she could destroy an entire camp within seconds. "You can either come with me and we can try to figure this shit out or… I dunno. Do whatever you damn well please. Brave the wastelands on your own for all I care.”

Guinevere looked Morgan square in the eye to tell her she was dead serious about this.

"If you want my help and a place to stay all you have to do is fucking say so. Instead of treating me like shit." Guinevere gritted her teeth and then turned on her heel, clearly eager to leave. "So? What's it gonna be, lady?"
 

Syntra

Baba Yaga
Morgan just… stared. She stared so hard that her gaze alone could probably burn a hole through Guinevere’s thick skull, and that it didn’t do that was an injustice that almost rivaled Arthur’s undignified end. Just, really? Really?! Did the woman think that she had sat pretty out of chronic laziness, rather than due to the floodgates of her magic being forcibly shut down? Shut down by something Guinevere had done in the first place? Oh, to say that the sorceress did not appreciate the implication would have been quite an understatement. “What?” she smirked, despite her knees growing wobblier by the second. Despite her field of vision getting narrower and narrower, too, as darkness began eating away from it. (Perception of weakness was weakness, you see? It was a never-ending, vicious cycle-- an injured doe always attracted the attention of wolves, for the blood was a big, shiny target on her back. ‘I’ve been hurt once,’ it communicated. ‘Others have cut me up, and now I’m ripe for the taking. Don’t I look tasty? Don’t you want to take me?’ And, no, Morgan didn’t ever want to send out that message! …even now, with so much to lose. Especially then, perhaps, because the sorceress wasn’t one to fall on her knees and beg. Arthur hadn’t broken her-- not him, not their sorry excuse of a family, and certainly not his pathetic entourage of bootlickers. Throughout all those nightmarish years, her spine hadn’t cracked. Why, then, did this woman presume to have this kind of power over her? Even reduced to a shell of her usual self, Morgan could still go toe to toe with her, without breaking a sweat!)

“You… mean to say you didn’t enjoy it? Since you… you love swinging that sword of yours around so much, I figured I’d let you have them. As… as a gift. It’s hardly my fault that you turned out to be… this incompetent. You can only blame yourself.” Every word hurt, for it was a new cut in her lungs-- a fresh wound to be added to the collection of the scars etched into their soft walls, each an entry in a grisly chronicle of battles past. This one, Morgan felt, would be her last. (Shutting up would have been the wisest course of action, undoubtedly. Still, what would be the point behind that? To give her body some time to heal? Except that time alone could do nothing for her! Nothing aside from pushing her closer to death, just like gravity always pulled you towards the earth and not away from it.)

“I can’t believe you killed him,” the sorceress mumbled, coughing up more blood in the process. (Heh. How much of it did she have left? The human body only contained that much blood, and yet, yet hers always seemed to have more of it to expel. More for her to choke on it, too. What would claim her first, hm? The blood loss, the unconsciousness creeping up on her, or maybe the savage herself, once pushed enough? Shame was another alternative, and she refused it to be that, at the very least. No, Morgan le Fey wouldn’t beg! Not for the privilege of spending the rest of her days surrounded by trash from the wastes, feasting on the remains of the old world. Brutes without a vision, just drifting through life like specks of dust. Pathetic, wasn’t it? An insult to the species that had once ruled this planet, and built skyscrapers tall enough to strike envy into the gods’ hearts.) “You,” she rasped, tightening the grasp. (Somehow, it seemed, the proximity to death had given her the strength. Perhaps she was drawing from it…? The boundary between being a spirit and human was blurry, a mere blink away, and maybe, maybe she had crossed it already. Oh well! Not like the technicalities mattered, at the end of the day.) “A nobody. You had no right.”

Not like Arthur, huh? No, her little speech suggested that Guinevere indeed wasn’t like that, although not for reasons that she might imagine. Arthur, for all his foolishness, had been able to grit his teeth and get over himself-- when there had been a goal to work towards, you see, he had even suffered her presence. This woman’s greatest hobby, on the other hand? Grandstanding, and sacrificing herself at every opportunity. How very, hmm… noble of her. Not condescending at all, either. “Yes, thank you for the free will crash course. Without you, I never would have realized that decisions, indeed, are a thing. Please, let me… let me understand more about this novel concept. Have you decided to be this presumptuous, or does it come to you naturally?”

Morgan would have loved to add more, too, but that was the moment her body decided it had had enough. There was a pang of pain, sharp enough that darkness swallowed her whole, and-- and--
 

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