Author: Muzy [muzivitch]
Characters: Uther, Morgana
Length: 1045 words
Summary: Neither one of them will let her dreams control her.
Notes: No spoilers, takes place in the imagined past. I didn't really INTEND to write another one of these quite so soon, but a WIP crashed and burned, and I found myself with this idea instead.
The dreams start when she's eleven, a year after her father's death. She stops being the girl she was - brash, proud, unwilling to back down - and becomes someone else, someone pale and wan and almost silent, except at night when her screams wake everyone from nursemaid to Uther himself. Gaius prescribes potion after potion, leafs through his books for cure after cure, but nothing really works. Every night Morgana wakes again, crying and incoherent, and each day she becomes more and more withdrawn, until its finally more than even Uther can stand. He doesn't understand girls, he doesn't really understand children, but he understands demons all too well. He doesn't know how young girls are supposed to fight them, but he knows how he does.
He comes to her two hours before bedtime. Her nurse is plaiting her hair in preperation for sleep, and Morgana herself has already changed into the soft linen gown she wears for bed. Uther drops a package of neatly folded clothing onto the bed. "Get her changed into those," he says, "and bring her to the armory."
His tone demands total obedience, but the nurse speaks anyway, her tone soft, but doubtful. "The armory, sire? But Lady Morgana..."
Uther gives her a stern look, and the nurse swallows. "Of course, my lord," she says.
"No longer than half an hour," Uther says.
Morgana does not speak at all.
By the time Morgana appears in the doorway of the armory, her expression impassive but her eyes curious, Uther has set aside the lightweight armor that he had made for when Arthur will start his training. He looks up, and his mouth curves into something that's nearly a smile. "Come here, Morgana," he says, and lifts the breastplate. "Have you worked with armor before?" he asks.
There's a moment of hesitation, and then Morgana nods. "I used to help my father with his. Sometimes," she says slowly, her voice nearly too low to hear.
Uther nods. "This is much lighter than what your father wore," he said. "It's for training. For sparring." He buckles the armor into place and turns away, running his hand across the hilts of the swords before choosing the one he wants. It's light, too light for a knight, but just right, he thinks, for a girl. He turns back to Morgana. "Here," he says. She takes the sword, first staring down at it and then back up at him, her gaze questioning.
"I'm going to come after you," Uther says. "I want you to stop me."
Morgana nods and holds the sword clasped in her two hands. She isn't very good at first, the sword falls to the armory floor with a clatter more than once, but, Uther thinks, the girl doesn't give up, and she has a natural gift for swordplay. If she were a boy, she would have begun her training years before, and would probably already be a good swordsman even at her age, and she would have grown to be a good steward to her father's lands. Since she's a girl, Uther thinks, she can't be any of these things, and he really shouldn't even be teaching her this.
Morgana's first words echo his thoughts. "Why are we doing this?" she asks as she wipes the back of her hand across her damp forehead. Her voice is still quiet, but there's a touch of the imperiousness that he remembers from when she first arrived. Uther smiles slightly.
"You don't like it, Morgana?"
"I do," Morgana says quickly. "But I'm not supposed to do it. I'm supposed to do needlepoint." This last is said with a distasteful wrinkle of Morgana's straight nose, and Uther coughs to cover up the chuckle that bubbles up.
"You can't stand needlepoint," Uther points out with a slight smile before sobering. "And you should learn to fight," he says. "To protect yourself."
"Protect myself from what?" Morgana asks.
"From whatever attacks you," Uther says. He does not elaborate, but from the way Morgana's eyes darken, he knows that she takes his meaning.
"I cannot fight my nightmares with swords," she points out. Uther nods.
"No," he agrees. "But I find this works for me," he continues. "Fighting something, even if its not the true enemy."
Morgana blinks at him. "You have nightmares too?" she asks, and he nods. "What are they about?" she blurts out.
"Things that happened a long time ago," Uther says after a moment of silence. "Things I should have been able to prevent."
There's a long pause, and then Morgana speaks again. "Mine aren't like that." Her hands squeeze into fists and her voice is shattered and stilted, and Uther hates it. "I remember every detail of mine," she continues. "Even during the day."
Uther sets down his sword and lays his hands on Morgana's narrow shoulders, his fingers rubbing across the metal of her armor and soft linen of her tunic in a gesture that melts the tension from her muscles. He's had dreams like that, dreams that consume and terrify. The first two years of Arthur's life it was all he could do to function because of them, and that's not something he wants for the daughter of one of his most loyal friends.
Uther sighs and takes Morgana's chin in his hand. "You can't let them control you," he says. "You won't like who you become if you do."
"But..." Morgana begins, but Uther interrupts.
"You can not," he says. His voice is insistent.
Morgana nods and sets her chin. "I'll try," she says, and Uther smiles. "Good girl," he says and he begins to unbuckle the armor. "I should send you to bed," he says. "I've kept you up too long."
"Yes, sire," Morgana says, and Uther notes that while there is a touch of fear in her eyes, its nothing like the look she had before he brought her down to the armory. She might wake them again tonight with screams, he thinks; few battles like this are won in one day. But Morgana will win it, he thinks as he watches her disappear through the doorway, her thick braid swishing across her back. She won't be defeated by dreams.
Neither one of them would allow it.