“Why are you hiding?”
This was bad. This was very bad. The young Faun took a step back, frantically looking around for an escape. In a nervous stammer, Lincoln mumbled:
“I-I’m not hiding-”
“You so were!” the girl yelled, gleefully interrupting him. “You were standing all the way behind the rocks, right where I couldn’t see you! That totally counts as hiding! Wait, why were you there anyway? Are you shy? Were you there last time? Are you always there?”
The sudden barrage of questions, paired with the shock of his plan failing spectacularly, was more than young Lincoln could handle. He completely froze up. His eyes darted down towards the ground, locking onto a nearby pebble for dear life as his mind scrambled to come up with a response. He had no idea what to say. The young Faun had never talked to a human before, let alone a human girl- he didn’t know any of their rules, or habits, or quirks, or any of the million other things that could set them off.
Oh, Goddess. What do I do, what do I do, what do I-
His rapidly spiralling train of thought was interrupted by the voice of the girl in front of him.
“Hey, it’s okay. I don’t bite.”
That answer did nothing to set him at ease. Lincoln gulped. Did humans bite? Was that a thing? When did they start biting? He didn’t have anything to defend himself with – all he had were his hooves and his violin, neither of which was useful against biting. And he wouldn’t get horns or antlers. This was bad. Lincoln’s eyes flashed across the ground a second time, this time in search of a weapon – but that thought was quickly interrupted, as well.
“Is this your home? I’ve only been here a couple of times, but I always hear really pretty music when I visit. Is that you? You were holding a violin. Are you the one playing music?”
Where had he dropped that?
Lincoln nodded sheepishly, his gaze darting back and forth between the ground and the girl as he awkwardly scratched his neck. The violin was on the ground, lying right at her feet.
“That’s so cool!” the girl shouted in response, her eyes glimmering with enthusiasm. Lincoln was slightly taken aback by the intensity of it. He had heard her laugh many times before. But he’d had no idea that even her normal voice was this present.
The young Faun didn’t dislike it.
“It sounds amazing!” the girl continued, excitedly hopping from one foot to the other. “Did you learn it from someone? Do you have a teacher hiding somewhere, too? Did you teach yourself?”
“I… I taught myself.”
“Really?! The bards in the castle aren’t half as good as you! And you’re the same age as me! You’re amazing!”
“You… think so?”
“I know so,” the girl said confidently. “I bet that you’d give any bard in Cornwall a run for their money.”
A tiny smile spread across Lincoln’s face. His cheeks suddenly began to feel very hot. Lincoln looked down shyly, unable to keep eye contact with her. As he fiddled with his arm rings, the expression of the girl in front of him suddenly fell. The young Faun watched as her bright smile faded a little, then fell into a frown.
“Hey, wait. So, if you’re not hiding… then why are you back here?”
Lincoln’s feelings of awkward curiosity rapidly slid back into nervous caution at the girl’s words. The young Faun hesitated. He looked at her for a few more seconds, making sure that she wasn’t growing any claws. Then he explained, parroting what he had been told since birth.
“Humans are dangerous. The Fanes say I shouldn’t get near them.”
“Who are the Fanes? Your parents?”
He didn’t understand what the young human meant with that. Lincoln shrugged, unsure of how to respond. The gesture made the girl’s smile falter. She frowned, nodding knowingly.
“My dad doesn’t like me going near strangers, either,” she said. “He says that if they’re bad, they’ll take me away like they did mama.”
For a moment, Lincoln could see that same forlorn look from before seep into her expression. But this time, it didn’t linger. No tears appeared in her eyes. The girl sighed, her grief significantly lessened by the effects of the magick that still lingered around her.
Before too long, her smile returned. Lincoln watched as she took a step towards him, holding out her hand for him to take.
“Here. It’s okay. You don’t seem like someone bad. And I’m not bad, either. You don’t have to hide back there, okay? Come out, please.”
The young Faun gulped, nervously looking down at her outstretched fingers. There were no claws. He hadn’t seen any fangs when she talked, either. Lincoln’s eyes flicked back and forth between her face and her hand, his voice uncertain as he asked:
“You… promise you’re not bad?”
“Sure!” she replied brightly. “I promise.”
A promise. To Lincoln, that was good enough. The young Faun stepped forward, carefully placing his hand in hers. Her smile became even wider as he did so, a smile that Lincoln shyly returned. His shoulders relaxed as he allowed the girl in front of him to grab his other hand. She giggled and began to pull him past the standing stones, into the clearing.
Her hand felt strangely vibrant for a human. The young Faun had never held a human hand before, but the Fanes always talked about how they felt grey. Rigid and colourless, with most of them being without magick. But not this girl. Lincoln could feel the spirit flowing through her, brightened by his music and reflected in the happy smile on her face. As the two made eye contact, he could see a set of sparkling, light grey eyes, reflecting the sunlight from above.
His cheeks instinctively began to feel hot again. Lincoln quickly broke eye contact and looked back down. She was still holding his hands. It was an odd sensation. The young Faun felt… nervous, but not in a bad way. He felt eager. Giddy, almost. Despite all the warnings that said otherwise, she really wasn’t scary.
The Fanes were wrong. This wasn’t so-
The kiss caught him completely by surprise. It came so far out of left field that Lincoln froze up, unable to process. The girl’s lips felt felt soft, like a butterfly landing on his nose. Lincoln could smell a faint, flowery scent drifting towards him.
The next moment, his mind caught up to the rest of him. The young Faun jumped back in surprise, his eyes growing as large as gold coins.
She chuckled, highly amused at his bewildered reaction. A mischievous smirk spread across the girl’s face.
“That’s a thank-you,” she explained. “For the music. Don’t lie – you played that for me, didn’t you? Because I was feeling sad in the ruins.”
Lincoln probably should have been angry at the insinuation that he would lie. The other Fae would have exploded. Especially Nimueh. But the young Faun merely smiled, still feeling the lingering kiss on his nose. His insides felt strange and fluttery, like some of the butterflies that danced around them had made their way inside.
He didn’t dislike that, either.
“Yeah. I did.”
“What’s your name?” the girl asked.
“I can’t tell you.”
“Why not? Because you’re a Fae?” she replied, a curious expression on her face as she cocked her head quizzically. Lincoln gave her a single nod.
“Yeah. We can’t tell humans our true name. Not unless we really trust someone. You shouldn’t ask for it.”
“Okay,” the girl nodded, immediately accepting his answer. “Then what can I call you? Do you have a nickname? I can’t just call you ‘violin boy’. That sounds kind of mean.”
“The Fanes call me Lincoln. They say that it means ‘of the lake’.”
“It’s pretty!” she gushed. “I’ll call you that, then. It’s very nice to meet you, Lincoln. My name is Morgause-”
He tried to interrupt her, but Lincoln wasn’t fast enough. He didn’t manage to stop her before she finished her sentence. The girl talked a lot – and she was fast, too. Lincoln, not used to that level of socialization, was having trouble keeping up. The young Faun shook his head at her.
“You shouldn’t give me your real name, Morgause. That’s dangerous.”
“The Fae. If they ask for your name and you give it to them, they can take it from you.”
“How would they do that?” Morgause asked, surprised. “It’s my name. They can’t just take that. What would they even do with it? Do they keep names on a shelf somewhere? Do they have a name jar, like with cookies in the kitchen?”
Lincoln shrugged, chuckling at the comparison.
“Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t take them.”
“Well, I think that’s-”
The two of them were startled out of their conversation by the sudden sound of a harsh, male voice. It cut straight through the tranquil clearing, sending butterflies and sprites scattering in all directions. The man was shouting–
– but his voice didn’t come from the glade. The sound was trailing out from the other side of the faerie circle.
The human side.
In his rush to hide and play music for Morgause, Lincoln had forgotten to close it.
The young Faun froze. He didn’t know what to do. This had never happened before. From the other side of the circle, they could vaguely hear someone calling Morgause’s name.
With an apologetic look on her face, the girl turned back towards Lincoln.
“I have to go now. The guards are looking for me. The new ones are mean, and they always panic when they can’t find me, and then dad scolds me and sends me to my room all day. But I’ll shake them off tomorrow! Will you play for me again? Out in the open this time?”
Lincoln only caught about half of her explanation. The young Faun had no idea what words like “guards” and “dad” and “room” meant. But it didn’t really matter. He could feel the butterflies in his stomach stir again, fluttering in quiet excitement as the second half of her words sunk in.
“You mean… you’ll come back?”
“Yeah! Of course! You don’t mind, do you?”
A shy smile spread across his lips as Lincoln shook his head at her.
“…no. I don’t mind.”
“Great! Thank you for having me, Lincoln. Your home is great, and your music is amazing! See you soon!”
With that, the girl ran off. Morgause dashed through the clearing, jumping over a rock before diving straight into the faerie ring. Without hesitation, like she had done it a dozen times already. She instantly vanished from sight. Lincoln could vaguely hear voices echoing out from the other side. They were angry at first, but gradually turned into dissatisfied grumbling. Before too long, that too trailed off into the distance.
Lincoln carefully closed the circle behind her. But the young Faun found himself still staring down at it long after Morgause had disappeared. He felt strangely lonely all of a sudden. The glade around him was vibrant as always, the butterflies and sprites slowly returning. His flowers swayed in the afternoon breeze. If he picked up his violin, the clearing would be filled with music again. It had always made him feel happy.
But for some reason, this time, that wasn’t enough. Even with the music, his home felt strangely empty. Like something was missing. Something important. It only took Lincoln a few minutes to realise what was wrong.
It missed laughter.
The young Faun couldn’t wait to hear it again.
“…See you soon.”
Lincoln had devised a plan for when Morgause returned. The young Faun felt a strange need to impress her. He would plant more flowers. Lincoln would sing to them, and ask one of the dryads to help with making them grow. If they used their magick, it only took a few minutes for the seeds to turn into blooming flowers. Sometimes they glowed, too. Morgause would probably like it. Maybe. The young Faun wasn’t sure. Lincoln could spend the rest of the time practicing his songs, choosing which ones to play for her next while he waited in the glade.
Just for a little while.
Until she came back.
The young Faun never made it to the first flower.
Nimueh’s attention was pulled away from her ritual by the arrival of a familiar presence. She could feel Lincoln, the Faunling, enter her lair through the faerie ring – but something felt off. The dragon immediately detected the enormous amount of corrupted spirit that seeped into her sanctuary with him, festering in his body. Alarmed, Nimueh turned around-
And the sight before her made the water in her veins run cold.
Almost immediately, Lincoln’s legs gave out underneath him. Nimueh watched as the Faunling crashed towards the ground, painfully landing on his side as he clutched his head in agony.
“Nim…ueh. It… hurts,” he groaned, his voice nothing more than a ragged whisper. The Water Dragon quickly knelt down next to him. She reached out for the spirit that had grabbed hold of him, feeling its power with rapidly growing astonishment. Nimueh had not sensed coagulated darkness of this magnitude in years.
“Why do you carry so much of it? How many humans did you play for?!”
“Just… one,” Lincoln grunted back, panting heavily. Nimueh shook her head at his answer.
“Impossible. This takes years of hardship to form. You cannot have gotten that much from a single person. Certainly not a child. Not unless-”
She never finished her sentence. Her eyes widened in shock as, in an instant, the realisation hit her.
“It can’t be.”
Her shocked words did not reach the child in front of her. Nimueh watched as Lincoln curled up, his body shivering with pain. The young Faun let out a whimper.
“Brace yourself, Lincoln. This is going to hurt.”
He nodded. The Water Dragon leaned forward, manipulating the water around Lincoln to push him back up. She took a deep breath and grounded herself. Nimueh could sense the magick flow through her, rising and falling like the tide with every breath she took. She could feel the spirit flowing through every living creature around her. From the glowing flowers that lined the edges of her lair to the sprites that circled above the entrance to Avalon.
All of them were drowned out by the vile, corrupted spirit that radiated off of the Fae in front of her in waves. A tainted, malefic energy, its tendrils reaching out to everything in range.
Carefully, with a practiced hand, the Lady of the Lake took a hold of that darkness and dragged it out. The ruthless cold seeping into her skin was not an unfamiliar sensation. She remembered its taste. The Lady of the Lake had absorbed and cleansed it countless times in the past, before her priests were erased from existence. They had been made for it.
But Lincoln was not not. She could see him shivering on the ground, letting out a soft whimper as the corruption left his body.
The Water Dragon had expected to need to cleanse a mild headache.
Once again, the boy exceeded all of her expectations.
“I warned you, Faunling,” she spoke. “Magick always comes with a price. Always.”
“What… was that?” Lincoln groaned.
“Darkness. Corrupted spirit. Dark magick. There are countless names for it – but it normally takes a lifetime of hardship or severe trauma to coagulate this much. You played only for that one girl?”
Lincoln gave her a nod, his body still shivering. Nimueh’s eyes narrowed in response.
She hadn’t thought there were any of them left.
With a tired expression, the young Faun looked up at her. Even the Water Dragon felt a pang of guilt at the hollow expression in his eyes.
“Morgause felt this?”
“To some extent,” the Lady of the Lake answered reluctantly. “You experience it more intensely. I can take it out of you – but I cannot make this painless, Faunling. Not for you. Your body is not made to hold corrupted spirit.”
Her words barely seemed to reach him. Lincoln’s eyes were cloudy and unfocused. When he spoke, his voice was barely more than a whisper. – and focused on the wrong part of her sentence.
“…She doesn’t feel it anymore?”
“No, Lincoln. She does not.”
The young Faun let out a sigh, leaning forward and easing into her arms. Nimueh let him. The Lady of the Lake had never experienced maternal emotions towards anyone. It was simply not in her nature.
But she’d always had a soft spot for this one.
“Magick always comes with a price, Lincoln,” the Lady of the Lake said, softly repeating herself. “Always. It is best that you learn that early. But you are still young, and I am not heartless. I will offer you this only once. The magick that I gave to you – do you want me to take it back?”
Lincoln rested his head on her shoulder as the dragon lifted him up, idly looking down at the water flowing around them. The young Faun let out a tired, resigned sigh.
“I need it.”
Morgause returned to him the very next day. Just as she promised.
The two of them spent hours in that sun-lit glade, counting butterflies and spotting shapes in the clouds.
The young Faun played for her again that day.
And the day after.
And the day after.
He ignored the heaviness that settled in his chest. The sluggishness of his thoughts. Lincoln soon became numb to the pain, growing used to bearing it. He could handle the pain. When it became too much, and his legs began to shake, he dragged himself off to Nimueh, who always made him better.
He would never tell her.
It didn’t matter.
Nothing else mattered… compared to that smile.
It was a strange, vaguely familiar voice, drifting towards him from the fog. He almost didn’t hear it. But it was there. The Faun could feel a hand on his shoulder, squeezing his skin and accompanied by a faint, floral scent.
He knew that scent.
Lincoln blinked. His gaze trailed off towards the girl dancing in the middle of the clearing. For a moment, the Faun’s eyes lingered there. Then he frowned, and turned his head to look behind him.
“That’s me. You didn’t think you’d be rid of me that easily, did you?”
Lincoln could feel his mind falter, sluggish and confused by the sudden, glaring contradiction in the reality around him. The urge to turn away from her was overwhelming. To ignore her existence. To keep looking at the dancing girl in the clearing, blissfully unaware of everything but the sound of her laugh.
To forget everything else.
But he couldn’t ignore his senses. Morgause settled into the flower patch next to him. Lincoln could feel the sensation of her gloved fingers running across his back. He could see the raven-black hair curling over her shoulders. The Faun could smell the faint scent of her floral perfume, drifting through the clearing. With a knowing smirk, Morgause looked over at the girl in front of them.
“It meant that much to you?”
“It means everything to me.”
When Morgause saw his sorrowful expression, her smile faltered. She leaned in. The Faun could feel her arms wrapping themselves around his waist. Morgause pressed herself against his back, gently resting her head in between his shoulder blades. The soft breath on his skin was both familiar and comforting.
From that first day… her embrace had always felt right.
“Thank you, Lincoln.”
“Come on. Let’s go home.”
It felt as if Lincoln slowly rose up from the depths of a very, very thick fog. The Faun was vaguely aware of his body hitting water. Through the haze, Lincoln’s senses slowly returned. He could feel the soft embrace of someone holding him. He heard the flow of water around him, together with the sound of small droplets hitting the surface. A familiar, flowery scent drifted towards him from above.
He knew that scent.
Slowly, the Faun opened his eyes. Everything around him was a jumbled blur of colours. It was overwhelming. Lincoln fought the urge to close them again, allowing his senses time to adjust. The darkness above him slowly began to take on a familiar, humanoid shape. Lincoln could see dark hair trailing down the front of her blouse, stopping a few inches away from his face.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”
He knew that voice.
After a few seconds, a name finally came to him.
Lincoln could see a single tear trail down her cheek as the witch looked down at him, cradling his head in her hands.
“Hello, Lincoln. Welcome back.”
Lincoln and Morgause were the first to get a combined theme song. (Arthur and Morgana were the second.)