When Morgana reunited with Arthur and Guinevere, both of them responded to her teasing in strange ways. Where her maidservant was surprisingly calm and subdued, now it was her brother whose cheeks rapidly turned scarlet in response to Morgana’s not-so-subtle innuendos.
If it were any other day, Morgana would have jumped on their behaviour with glee.
But that night, her mind and heart were not in the tavern.
The sorceress only pretended to fall asleep that night. She knew how long she had to wait. As soon as Guinevere had nodded off, Morgana cast a very strong sleeping spell on her. The sorceress did the same with her brother.
Neither of them would be waking up until dawn.
Until then… the sorceress was home free.
She reached her destination shortly before midnight. The wheat fields around Scarborough lay quietly in the darkness, silent and undisturbed. The only source of light came from the two lanterns by the door to the windmill. Morgana could hear the chirping of crickets as she walked, paired with the occasional cry of a nearby owl. The windmill’s old, creaky wooden blades groaned heavily as the wind passed through. It sounded vaguely similar to the outskirts of Camelot, right before the fields turned into lush, green forest. To Morgana, the sound was oddly comforting.
The sorceress waded into the wheat fields, careful not to trample any of the crops. The town of Scarborough would need their harvest for the upcoming winter. The previous famine in Camelot had left Morgana with a healthy respect for all forms of food. Princess or not, she now knew what it was like to go hungry. Morgana would not allow herself to destroy anything that could feed someone in the future.
It wasn’t until the sorceress was halfway into the fields, unarmed and with nowhere to hide, that Morgana finally began to doubt herself.
Wait… what am I doing here? This is a terrible idea. I should turn back.
But Morgana’s mind had not been in control of her actions for a while now. And her heart refused to listen. Morgana kept walking, eventually reaching the middle of the fields. She glanced around her with an uncertain look on her face. The sorceress remembered Morgause’s words from earlier that evening. The instructions that she had been given.
“Walk into the field and take the strand that speaks to you the most.”
Speaks to me?
I don’t understand. How is wheat supposed to speak to me?
As she tried to make sense of the woman’s cryptic words, Morgana’s eyes began to wander the surrounding darkness. After a few moments, something to her right caught her attention. Her gaze fell on a single strand of wheat. It was slightly bigger than the others, its kernels a beautiful shade of yellowish gold. It seemed to be moving ever so slightly, gently touched by the faint, passing wind. Morgana nodded to herself.
“That will do,” the sorceress mumbled.
Morgana reached forward and closed her fingers around the strand. She had never picked crops before. As a royal princess, such a thing had always been beneath her. Harvesting crops was a lowly task that was reserved for farmers and peasants. Not for those of noble birth. Because of that, the sorceress had always thought it to be easy.
But to her surprise, it actually took a good amount of effort to pull it free. The strand of wheat dug into Morgana’s fingers as she yanked. It hurt. As she finally pulled it loose, the sorceress could feel the force tearing at her skin. The sorceress winced as she saw the scrapes on her palm. For a moment, Morgana wondered how many strands it would take for her hands to start bleeding.
No wonder that farmers have such rough hands, she thought. And they have to harvest hundreds of these every summer, don’t they? How do they do this all day long?
At that moment, the sorceress could feel a tingling sensation in the back of her neck. She had experienced it often enough around the castle to know what that feeling meant. Something was watching her.
But around her, none of the animals had gone quiet. The forest crickets still chirped. That owl still sounded in the far distance. Morgana could hear a frog croaking nearby. There were no warnings of danger. Whatever it was… nature did not think of it as a threat.
But if it wasn’t a threat… then what was it?
She had to know. The sorceress quickly turned around, glancing behind her-
And her breath got stuck in her throat.
“Sweet merciful Watcher.”
The sorceress had not seen a fairy since she was ten years old. She found herself unable to look away. Morgana was mesmerized by the dazzling creature in front of her. It effortlessly glided through the sky, like a silent mirage. She could see tiny flecks of light, drifting down and touching the wheat below. Where the lights touched, the plants seemed to stand just a little straighter
“Do not be afraid. When the time comes, you will know where to go. But the first step has to be yours.”
Morgana watched in stunned silence as the tiny Fae reached her. It hovered in front of her body for a moment, before carefully lowering itself to the strand of wheat in her hands. Its presence felt… warm. Comforting, like the warmth of a small candle burning in the dark. Morgana could see the flecks of light touch her hands, seeping into her skin. The scrapes on her palms vanished as a pleasant warmth spread through her fingers. Morgana knew that feeling. It was familiar to her. The sorceress had often used that magic on herself.
It was healing magic.
The tiniest of smiles spread across Morgana’s lips. Like all the other children of Camelot, she had heard bedtime stories about the malefic behaviour of faeries. But some part of her had always doubted them. Now, that part of her was proven right.
It had healed her. They were not evil after all.
And if they weren’t…
Morgana’s smile widened.
She never got to finish her sentence. The Fae immediately dashed away from the sorceress, like an arrow released from a bow. The comforting warmth vanished with it. Morgana watched it soar over the rows of wheat, headed straight for the darkness lying beyond.
“Wait! Where are you going?! Come back!”
Morgana chased after the tiny Fae without thinking. All of the childhood warnings that she had heard from Millicent and Sarah were left behind in that dark wheat field. All of the Jacoban preachings, angrily delivered by Agravaine as he forced fear of the unknown into people’s hearts. All of the gruesome things that she had seen in his archives. It vanished from Morgana’s mind. Her surroundings became a blur. Morgana’s body moved on instinct, dashing out of the wheat field and into the forest. A single thought dominated her mind as the sorceress chased after the tiny light.
The sorceress took a step forward – but stoped dead in her tracks when she saw the ring of mushrooms that grew around the massive hill. She remembered what they were. She knew what they did. Millicent’s warnings had long since vanished from her mind… but even now, Merlin’s words would not. She could still hear the boy’s voice in her head, stern and strict as he warned her.
“Faerie rings are dangerous. You must never step into one without permission.”
“A faerie ring is a guarded boundary between worlds. All rings are connected to each other, in the same way that all bodies of water are connected to each other. People with permission can travel between circles freely… but only a few are welcomed in to dance with the Fae.”
“What happens if you don’t have permission?”
“You will anger the circle’s guardians. Fae do not take kindly to unwelcome guests. They will cast a spell on you…”
“…and dance you to death.”
The mushrooms shifted ever so slightly, reflecting the pale moonlight from above. As the faerie vanished on the inside of the circle, disappearing from sight, the forest around Morgana suddenly went quiet. Birds stopped chirping. Insects fell silent. The wind died down, an eerie stillness overcoming the entire area around the faerie mound. For a moment, it was as if nature itself held its breath. Watching. Waiting.
In a soft voice, the sorceress repeated the words that Merlin had taught her all those years ago.
“I come bearing gifts. Please grant me safe passage.”
She still remembered.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then Morgana could hear a faint echo of laughter, distant and ethereal. It drifted through the air around her, fading away as the breeze picked up once again. The leaves around her feet rustled peacefully. Insects resumed their nightly chirping. Morgana instinctively knew what it meant.
Permission had been granted.
The sorceress slowly inhaled. It was now or never.
Morgana carefully approached the circle…
And crossed over the threshold.
The effect was instant. As soon as Morgana stepped into the circle, she could feel herself passing through a barrier of sorts. The scenery in front of her changed. The stars above suddenly became brighter, changing colours and beginning to shift in the surrounding darkness. The dark shrooms and toadstools began to glow with an almost otherworldly light. The colourful fireflies in the hill vanished, turning into something else entirely as the sorceress could now see them for what they were.
She could see dozens and dozens of faeries, dancing between groups of glowing mushrooms and lighting up the ground underneath them as they went. The sight reminded Morgana of an intricate dance, the likes of which she had never seen in a ballroom before. It was mesmerizing to watch. The Fae effortlessly weaved in and out of reality, vanishing and reappearing as they pleased. Whenever one faded, another one appeared. Whenever one sunk down, another one shimmered into existence and took flight, circling and leaving a trail of light behind as they slowly danced their way up and down the faerie mound.
It was as if the sorceress had stepped foot in another world. Morgana had never seen something this otherworldly… and this beautiful.
Morgana smiled, completely entranced by the ethereal display before her. She wanted to join them on that hill. The urge was irresistable. As the sorceress began to walk up the faerie mound, guided by the light of dozens of its ethereal guardians, she could feel a strange realization overcome her.
Merlin was wrong.
I should have gone with them a long time ago.
The creatures guided her as she went, leading her around the mound in a spiralling path that almost felt like a dance of its own. Before long, the sorceress found herself standing in front of an old, wooden altar. The faeries did not follow, leaving her alone at the summit. The sorceress felt herself being drawn to the altar in front of her. She had never seen something like this before – but the magic that radiated off of it was almost tangible. Morgana could feel the hairs in her neck rise up in response.
This was no ordinary structure.
As she looked upon the altar in front of her, illuminated by the moonlight from above, a strange sense of purpose overcame her. An instinctual understanding. The sorceress could not explain it, not even to herself. But she knew what to do.
When the sorceress rematerialized, she found herself whisked away to a different place entirely.
Morgana appeared in the middle of an overgrown forest clearing. As the sorceress tried to get her bearings, she quickly took in the scenery around her. The soft, mossy ground of the clearing was covered in colourful flowers. She noticed the faint outlines of stones underneath the moss, similar to the ones that you would see in a castle courtyard. The sight made her frown.
Wait… what? Castle courtyard?
The sorceress turned around, looking up in surprise. Behind her, Morgana could see what looked like the crumbled remains of an old castle ruin. It was partially hidden from sight by a thick canopy that stretched above Morgana’s head, covering the sky above her and reaching all around the clearing like a protective embrace.
Morgana could feel her heart beat slow down. A strange sense of calm overcame her. This place… it felt tranquil. Protected. Peaceful, even. She still had no idea where she was, but… something about this ruin made her feel safe. Like there was something benevolent watching over it, caring for it as it lay forgotten by the rest of the world. A sanctuary, hidden away from prying eyes.
By now, the sorceress had finally calmed down enough to notice something else. To the far end of the clearing, at the base of the castle ruin, she could see what looked like a small circle of standing stones. She couldn’t see inside it from her current vantage point – but something inside it was emanating light.
A lot of light.
It was only then that the sorceress noticed the music. A deep, rythmic melody resounded from inside that stone circle, drifting through the clearing and causing goosebumps to appear on Morgana’s skin. It sounded vibrant and ethereal, luring all that heard it towards its source.
Including Morgana. The sorceress couldn’t stop herself. Her feet started moving on their own as she was overcome with curiosity. She had to know. As she drew closer, the sorceress began to hear singing. Multiple voices, their interplay sounding even more mystical than the music did. For a brief moment, Morgana faltered- and then kept going. She had come this far. She was not turning back now.
“…You feel it, don’t you?”
She wanted to see this through to the end.
“You’ll be all right. I promise.”
She wanted to know.
“They’re an offering to nature, of course. And a gift to the Fae.”
“Wait – faerie hills? That’s where you go to offer them?”
“Won’t they anger the creatures that live there?”
“Not if you come bearing gifts.”
Morgana didn’t even notice herself stepping out from behind the protection of the tree. Her gaze was locked onto the figures dancing in front of her, unable to look away, their elegant movements drawing her towards them like a moth to a flame.
Morgana grew dizzy as she began to realize the implications of what was shown before her. She finally understood why she had felt so drawn to Morgause. Why she had ignored all common sense when it came to her and Lincoln.
They were like her. No, that wasn’t quite right. They were more.
The sorceress felt an intense, all-consuming sense of longing. The sensation was so strong that it physically hurt.
She knew what the women in front of her were.
And the sorceress wanted to be part of it.
In that moment, more than anything… Morgana wanted to belong.
“What kind of person can go?”
Morgause’s smile widened. As the two of them made eye contact, Morgana could hear the witch’s voice echo gently inside her head.
Only those who are welcome.
The witch stopped dancing as Morgana reached the first standing stone. She gestured for her to wait, turning around and addressing the other three women in the stone circle.
“Look. We have a visitor.”
The others did not take her sudden arrival in the same way that Morgause did. They remained silent, looking at her with large, deer-like eyes. But they did not have to speak for the sorceress to know their reaction. As soon as she stepped into the circle, Morgana could feel waves of shock and disbelief radiate off all three of them, reaching her from beyond the fire and shaking her down to her very core. She had never felt a sensation like that before.
Morgana reacted on instinct. She folded her arms around herself, quickly looking away from them and at the ground as the sorceress tried to apologise.
“I- I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you, I-”
The wave of outside emotions worsened. Morgana could feel disbelief mixed with undertones of confusion. Fear. Sadness. Guilt. Buried pain. By now, she could no longer tell which emotions were hers, and which belonged to the women in front of her. Morgana watched as the red-haired woman took a step backwards, edging towards the end of the clearing.
They were running away.
They were rejecting her.
They would leave her.
Morgana couldn’t bear it.
“No, wait- I’m sorry I scared you-”
Stop. Don’t go.
“I’ll forget I saw this, I-I-“
Please don’t leave me.