Disclaimer: violence, death
The King of Essetir reached her just as she stepped through the doorway. She had been so focused on the purple mist in front of her – on the deep, alarming feeling of unease in her chest – that she didn’t notice her surroundings until it was too late.
Cenred reacted instantly. Morgana could feel a surge of spirit flooding out behind her – and the next second, the ground in front of her burst open. A single, massive wall of stone sprung up in front of her, shielding her from harm. And not a moment too soon. The coffin rammed into the wall so forcefully that the impact made the ground underneath her shake. If not for that wall, she would have been flattened. Morgana watched as the silver-engraved coffin fell to the ground, toppling over. The sight of it was deeply disturbing. She tried not to think about which of her ancestors had just been used as a ranged projectile.
Are you all right?
Morgana nodded, speechless. She had never seen magic this powerful before. From either side. She felt strangely disconnected from her own senses, a weird pressure in the back of her mind pulling her gaze back to the darkness.
I am going to destroy it. Stay back – I cannot destroy corrupted spirit and protect you at the same time. Do you understand?
Morgana couldn’t place her finger on it… but something about Cenred’s words sounded wrong. The pressure in the back of her mind increased. Something was trying to break through. Morgana could hear a strange, familiar voice well up in the back of her mind, arising from a distant, deeply buried memory… a memory that did not belong to her.
We do not destroy.
Look, and see the truth.
And she did. Morgana moved on instinct. She took a step forward, then another. The sorceress looked past the stone wall, to the creature that was crouching on top of her mother’s coffin. She could hear its claws scraping across the silver plating, leaving deep gashes in the stonework. She could see the tears and cuts on its body. Morgana could feel the swirling aura of darkness, coalescing around its body and seeping into everything it touched.
She should have been terrified.
But she wasn’t. Morgana felt no fear. What welled up in her chest, slowly rising to the surface and fed from the depths of her memory… was heartbreak. Something about the sight in front of her resonated with something hidden deep inside. The budding witch could feel a strange feeling of déjà vu, as if she had experienced this before. Morgana made eye contact with the creature in front of her, consumed by pain and rage and hatred-
And peered right through, seeing the truth underneath.
Please. Someone. Anyone.
It hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts
Morgana stepped out into the open. A high-pitched, unnatural shriek resounded against the stone walls, originating from the boy’s corpse and echoing through the crypt. The room suddenly dropped in temperature – and the next second, two more stone coffins came hurling towards them.
Cenred was rooted into place, forced to summon two more walls of stone at the last second to shield them from the incoming barrage. The King of Essetir let out a verbal curse, reaching out directly to Morgana’s mind as she continued to walk away from him.
Stop moving! You will lose your life!
But his words no longer reached her.
Back on the surface, Arthur, Gawain and Lancelot were locked in intense combat. They had tried everything. Incapacitating Bayard. Disarming him. Severing limbs. Overpowering him, with all three of them attacking at once.
Arthur could feel himself weaken as the minutes ticked by. He had never fought so intensely for so long before. He knew his limits. Before long, all three of them would be exhausted – and Bayard showed absolutely no signs of slowing down. No matter how many times they brought him to his knees. He’d just get back up. At some point, out of desperation, the Crown Prince had even tried to decapitate him- but the blade faltered after two inches, stopped from slicing all the way through.
But there had to be a weakness. There had to be something. And so they kept fighting, slashing wildly as they cut him again, and again.
But nothing worked.
The Crown Prince could feel himself getting exhausted. He was moments away from reaching his limits. And he was not the only one. Arthur could see Gawain’s grip on his sword weakening, and Lancelot’s arms were visibly shaking. Both of them were on their last legs. The young knight leaned heavily on his sword, panting as he caught his breath.
“There… has got… to be… another way…!”
Gawain growled, lifting his sword high above his head as he charged in for another attack. The young redhead swung his weapon down wildly as he aimed for the back of Bayard’s neck-
But Bayard blocked the blow, wrapping his clawed hand around the blade and pulling it towards him. Gawain hadn’t been prepared for that. He went stumbling forwards, losing his balance as the weapon was yanked out of his grasp.
And it cost him. As Gawain tried to regain his balance, Bayard’s leg suddenly shot out, bending and cracking as he swept Gawain’s feet out from under him. The young redhead went crashing towards the ground. Hard. He fell onto the dirt with a loud, painful thud.
Gawain barely had time to recover. From the swirling mist above him, he could see Bayard’s heavy leather boot come crashing down, aiming to crush his midriff. The young redhead quickly brought up his arm and blocked the blow. He let out a cry of anguish as white-hot pain shot through his forearm.
It was all he could do. Gawain had reached his limit. He was exhausted. This was the end of the road for him. He instinctively knew what was about to happen.
But if he was going to die, then he was going to do it while looking evil in the eyes. Gawain looked up at the monster in front of him, his teeth pulled into a defiant growl.
And the young redhead froze. Gawain finally noticed. It was barely visible underneath the purple mist… but it was there.
A single tear, dripping down from Bayard’s cheek.
The Prince of Mercia was weeping.
Morgana Pendragon ignored Cenred’s increasingly frantic mental pleas as she was overcome by a strange, familiar sense of purpose. She had felt this way before. When she had drawn poison out of Arthur’s body. When she had treated Gawain’s cuts and bruises while he wasn’t looking, after the boy had gotten into yet another fight. When she danced with the other witches back in Scarborough.
Back then, casting magick in a coven had come with a strange sense of drive, of purpose – but that sensation was nothing compared to the overwhelming urge that the budding witch felt now. Morgana had never experienced a compulsion this strong before. She couldn’t fight it. She moved purely on instinct, drowning out everything else in the crypt while her eyes locked onto the creature in front of her.
Help me help me help me help me help me h e l p m e
The sorceress felt no fear as she looked down on him. A profound sense of grief spread through her chest, calling out to something deep inside of her. With a soft voice, Morgana spoke.
“It’s all right. I’m going to help you.”
She focused, grounding herself as she called on the magic inside of her. Millicent voice resounded through her mind as she drew in more and more. Warnings to stay in control. To restrain her emotions. To keep her magic contained- but she didn’t listen. Not this time.
As the creature in front of her leapt off the coffin, its claws aimed at her face, it was suddenly repelled backwards. Cenred had caught up to her. He blasted it backwards, holding the body up in the air as the King of Essetir fought the swirling mist around it for control.
I cannot hold it there for long, he growled. Move out of the way and let me destroy-
But Morgana cut him off, instinctively stepping forward.
Let me do this.
The sorceress could see Cenred turn his head to look at her. A brief flicker of confusion crossed his brow. The King of Essetir braced himself as he lifted the boy’s body even higher. They could see it thrash around in the air, claws slashing at them as another unnatural shriek escaped from its mouth. The vile, purple mist around it grew even thicker, oozing from every inch of its body and slowly making its way towards the two of them.
It was what she had been waiting for. Morgana had chosen to let intuition guide her. She was moving on instinct alone. And instinct had never been this loud. The sorceress took a deep breath. She raised her hand, stretching out her fingers towards the corruption in front of her-
And, with a strength that she never knew she possessed… began to draw it out.
But his warning came too late. Gawain was pinned, doing all he could just to stop Bayard from crushing his windpipe with his boot. As Bayard raised his blade to go in for the kill, both Arthur and Lancelot charged in-
But their blades met with nothing. They clashed in mid-air as Bayard ducked out of the way at the last second. Arthur could hear the snapping of bones. The thing in front of him he spun around, his blade flickering in the torchlight. Then, in a single, swift movement…
Bayard stabbed Lancelot through the chest.
Morgana stumbled forward, almost doubling over as she gasped for air. She couldn’t feel the ground underneath her feet anymore. She couldn’t feel the cold air around her. Her limbs were slowly going numb as a horrible, malefic cold settled inside of her body, wrapping its tendrils around her and taking her breath away. She couldn’t breathe. Her vision started swimming.
The sorceress looked down, wincing at the sight of the black, vile spirit that coagulated around her blackened fingers. Like a vile poison, it began to drip onto the ground. Morgana could feel herself being drawn in, her skin slowly draining of colour as it began to swallow her lower arm.
But that wasn’t enough. It still wasn’t enough. She needed to drain more.
She needed to draw in everything.
Arthur watched in horror as his friend staggered backwards. His legs gave out underneath him. Lancelot fell to his knees, groaning in pain as the front of his armour began to stain a bright crimson. He was badly hurt. They needed to give him medical attention, immediately. If they didn’t…
He grit his teeth as he looked at Bayard, still moving with the same violent force as at the beginning of the fight. The Crown Prince instinctively knew.
This was bad. No matter what they did…
They couldn’t win.
And Lancelot realized that, too. Arthur could see it in his eyes when their gaze met across the battlefield. With a pained grimace, the young knight groaned:
“I cannot… hold it… much longer…-”
“I’m not leaving you behind!” Arthur yelled. He could hear Gawain get up behind him. The young redhead was not in a much better condition than Lancelot was.
“No… he’s right,” Gawain growled, placing an arm around his battered ribs. “We can’t beat it. You need to run-“
“I am not abandoning you! Either of you!”
Not this time.
In the life of any knight, there was a single, defining moment. A make-or-break situation, where a man could either step up and face life’s challenges head-on – or break down, proving himself unworthy.
The future King of Camelot did not realize it… but on that day, Arthur found his defining moment.
Stand your ground.
As Arthur stood in between Bayard and Gawain, gripping his sword and staring into the darkness, the Crown Prince could feel a strange sense of calm overcome him. His fears faded away. His breathing slowed. Arthur took a single step forward, raising his chin as he was filled with a strange, cold determination.
A Pendragon does not run.
The Crown Prince of Camelot could feel an immense surge of power course through his body. As he raised his sword, he could see Bayard hesitate. Je took a step back.
That was all the encouragement that Arthur needed. The Crown Prince moved on instinct, slashing at the foe in front of him again, and again, and again-
And with every blow of his sword, Arthur could feel his mind being battered. An immense sense of pressure coursed through his skull. His vision went blurry. Flashes of memories began to force their way to the surface – memories that did not belong to him, invading his mind like a disease and chilling him to his very core.
Cenred was almost blown away by the force of the spirit that was released, flooding every inch of the stone chamber like a massive tidal wave. The sheer amount of raw power was overwhelming. The only thing keeping him from getting blasted against the wall was the fact that he had stoneshaped his feet onto the floor- and even that was not enough. Cenred could feel himself being pushed backwards, leaving heavy grooves in the stone floor. The illusions on his form faded together with the corrupted energy in the chamber as Morgana’s power absorbed everything in range.
Every strand of magic. Every wayward, corrupted layer of spirit. It was drawn out and absorbed into her body as the room was filled with a blinding white light, washing over the crypt and cleansing everything it touched.
The King of Essetir had not seen that kind of raw power in a very, very long time.
As the blinding light faded, Morgana Pendragon finally collapsed. Panting, the sorceress fell down onto the floor. Her entire body was shaking. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t hear. Morgana felt all of her senses shutting down, violently forced out of her body by a horrid, wretched darkness.
She couldn’t get it out. Its claws had dug its way deep into her body. Morgana could feel dozens and dozens of emotions at once – rage, fear, heartbreak, agony, rejection, despair, – they flooded her senses, festering in her mind and slowly destroying every thought that she had. The sensation was so overwhelmingly violent that it took her breath away, leaving the sorceress gasping for air.
It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.
Someone spoke to her through the chaos, the sole voice of reason in what was quickly becoming a sea of rage and pain.
She was drowning. Morgana couldn’t feel the ground underneath her anymore. Her arms and legs were completely numb as she sunk deeper and deeper, the festering mire threatening to swallow her whole-
Stop. Let it go.
It is not your burden to bear.
Slowly, the raging chaos inside Morgana’s mind subsided. The screaming stopped. The violent emotions faded away, her head growing quiet. She was able to breathe again. Her senses slowly returned to her, one by one, as the festering darkness inside of her was pulled away. Painlessly. Effortlessly. Like an immense burden being lifted off her back. The budding witch finally became aware of her surroundings again.
But Morgana was too tired to look up.
Slowly, the swirling, purple mist around Bayard’s body faded away. The Prince of Mercia lay motionlessly in the sand, the claws having vanished from his fingers, his skin battered and bruised. His chest moved up and down slowly.
Not a single cut remained.
“Sweet merciful Watcher.”
Arthur could hear Gawain move past him, stumbling his way towards Lancelot. The young knight lay motionlessly on the ground. Gawain fell to his knees, almost collapsing himself as checked his friend’s pulse.
“He’s… he’s still breathing,” Gawain gasped. “I’ll… get a stretcher- Take him to the… hospital.”
But the Crown Prince did not respond. He couldn’t. Arthur fell to the ground, doubling over as his mind finally made the connection.
He recognized those memories. Arthur had been to those places. He knew where they were. He knew what they signified. The Crown Prince instinctively knew just what Agravaine’s presence in those memories meant – just what had happened in those dark chambers.
“You weren’t there, milord. It was bad. It was really bad. Not just when they arrested us, but when they took other people, too.”
Gawain had warned him.
Guinevere had warned him.
“People need burial rites, even if they died horribly! Especially if they died horribly! I-if you don’t…!”
Arthur couldn’t move. He stared down at the ground in a stunned daze as wave after wave of realization hit him. There was no vile sorcerer. No villain to punish. Not this time. The Crown Prince could feel a horrible sense of nausea overcome him as he finally understood.
“…it was us.”
“It wasn’t a sorcerer. It was us.”
It was us.
The sorceress wasn’t even aware of the sound of footsteps leading away from her. She covered her mouth, a wave of nausea hitting her.
The boy’s body had been floating in mid-air, suspended above her mother’s coffin. Every trace of corruption had vanished. The wounds were gone. The gashes had healed over. His claws had disappeared. The vile spirit had faded away, leaving behind the thin, malnourished body of a single human boy. Morgana watched as gravity slowly regained its hold on his body. He started to plummet towards the floor.
She reacted on instinct. With her last ounce of strength, the sorceress leapt forward. She caught the boy just before he hit the ground.
“I’ve got you,” Morgana muttered, wrapping her arms around him. “You’re okay. I’ve got you.”
She gently lowered him onto the ground. There was barely any weight to his body. He wasn’t breathing. Morgana could barely feel her fingers on his skin – like she was holding onto a mirage. Morgana instinctively knew that the person that was lying in her arms… wasn’t human. Not anymore. He wasn’t whole.
But the soul was still there.
The boy’s eyes fluttered open, cloudy and confused as the remaining spirit allowed for a brief moment of consciousness. Morgana could still see the remnants of fear and pain reflected in his eyes. The boy spoke, his voice a soft croak as he looked up at her.
“It’s all right,” Morgana whispered. “It’s over. You’re safe now.”
“They… hurt me. I didn’t… do anything.”
“I know. It’s all right. They won’t hurt you anymore, I promise – I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
Morgana knew that he didn’t have much time left. The sorceress could feel him fading. Her entire focus was on the tormented soul in front of her. As the tips of his feet began to grow transparent, Morgana could see the clouded expression on his pale, youthful face slowly twist into something else. A crippling fear, bordering on panic. Morgana saw a single tear roll down his hollow cheeks.
Then another. And another.
He was terrified.
He was just a child.
The sight broke her heart into a thousand pieces.
“Please. It’s… cold. I don’t… want to die.”
“Please. I’m… scared.”
He was just a boy. Just a child who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Who had gotten caught up in a feud that had nothing to do with him… and everything to do with her.
Morgana knew. She knew that she had caused this. If she had not used her magic against Agravaine, if she hadn’t infiltrated his chambers and challenged him… then this boy would still have been alive. So many people would not have lost their lives.
This was her fault.
A dull, throbbing pain coursed through her chest. The sorceress could feel her own cheeks staining with tears as she looked down on the boy in her ams.
“What’s your name?”
“You’ll be all right, Rupert. I promise. You’re not going back to darkness. You’ll never hurt again.”
A whispered plea, bearing with it more pain than someone his age should ever have to bear. Morgana cupped his face, gently wiping one of the tears from his cheek. He was so afraid. So frightened. But he didn’t have to be. As Morgana looked down at him, the words suddenly came to her. She had no idea where they came from. No idea what the buried, hazy, unfamiliar memories were from which the words surfaced. But deep down, the priestess knew that they were true.
Nothing had ever felt more natural.
“I promise, Rupert. You will not go anywhere bad. Not you. Did you know? When you leave here, you’ll go to Avalon.”
Morgana smiled, her voice soft and gentle.
“It’s a special place, for only the purest and gentlest of souls. For people like you. You’ll be all right. In Avalon, there is no more pain, or sadness, or heartbreak. Everyone there is at peace.”
“Everyone,” Morgana said, her smile widening. “Faeries and humans and sorcerers, too. They can all exist in harmony, without any hatred or suffering.”
As she spoke, Morgana could see Rupert’s expression slowly change. His body relaxed. His tears stopped flowing, the turmoil and panic in his eyes fading away. Where he had been gripped by fear before, now, she could see calm. Trust. Acceptance.
And just a sliver of hope.
“I can… go there?”
“You can,” Morgana said, her eyes turning misty as she looked down on him. “You have my word. You’ll never grow hungry again, Rupert. You’ll never have to be scared again, or sad, or have your heart broken, or feel lonely. You’ll never feel pain again. You won’t have to worry about anything. You’ll be free, and safe, and at peace.”
The priestess gave him a single nod.
“Really. I promise.”
Slowly, the tiniest of smiles spread across the boy’s lips. Morgana could see Rupert’s head tilting backwards. The boy closed his eyes, his expression tranquil as he let out a final, soft whisper.
“That sounds… nice…”
His presence vanished, fading away like the final wisps of a sunset. Morgana gently lowered him onto the ground. Her fingers could no longer feel his body. Her own tears fell down onto the cold stones as the husk in front of her slowly began to disintegrate.
She knew that his soul was not there anymore.
Rupert was at peace.
In that moment… she would have given anything to go with him.
Thank you Snuffy Bucket for Rupert’s death poses, and MercuryFoam for teaching me how to use gimp 😭