Author: Ali-chan (ad_exia)
Summary: Morgana fights a battle that is silent and secret, but she knows no other way of life.
A/N: A fata morgana is a mirage caused by a temperature inversion near the ground that makes objects on the horizon appear elongated and elevated. The name comes from the Italian translation of Morgan le Fay. (Thank you, Wikipedia!)
Some days, Morgana wonders what her life would be like if her father was still alive. She used to think about it often, in those days and months and years when she was young and her father’s death was still a raw wound threatening to bleed her dry. But she was never one to let her weaknesses overcome her, and she grew up strong and sure in this place, where the walls echo with the voices of men and women are best seen and not heard. Morgana is not fond of that rule, and she defies it every chance she gets. She argues with Uther and rages against him as no other woman could, save perhaps the queen; Morgana doesn’t know what Uther was like when Igraine was alive, and neither does Arthur, so she cannot ask. But she can wonder at how Camelot must have been different then, with the touch of a woman that Uther loved so deep and clear. Morgana cannot be more to him than a daughter, and a daughter can never be an equal, in her father’s eyes.
Some days, as she sits before her mirror and looks into the face of the woman she’s become, Morgana wonders whether this person would have existed at all, if things had not come to pass as they had. She wonders what she would have been like, had she not spent her childhood playing at knights with Arthur and watching the men practice in the yard. She wonders what her temperament might have been, had she not been forced to argue loud and long against the king when he was blinded, as he often is, by his fear of that which he does not understand. Morgana wonders if she might have liked this other girl, this kinder, gentler version of herself, more or less than the one she sees now in her place.
The reflection in the mirror is a thing of beauty – Morgana is beautiful and she knows it; she uses it to her every advantage because it is the only thing she has. Her eyes and cheeks, her lips and her hair, the curves of her body are all at her disposal, and she has learned how to harness their effect to the fullest. She can stop a conversation simply by walking into a room; she can make lords and knights squirm with a single, calculated smile, the bat of an eyelash, the tossing of her hair.
These are all weapons in her secret armory, tools at her disposal that she uses, day in and out, to do good as she sees fit. Her very smile is a weapon, as sharp and sure as any sword or dagger, and infinitely more well-hidden behind ruby lips and a fair façade. Her wit is just as sharp-edged, honed by years of verbal sparring with Arthur, at the dinner table and in the corridors. She has learned how to use the tone of her voice, the turn of her phrase to bring glory or destruction down upon her conversation partner, and she has learned, in turn, to read the silent reactions he shows her without even knowing it.
Sometimes she wonders if Uther knows what she’s done for him, for his kingdom and its people. Sometimes she thinks he knows, and other times she is sure he’s not aware of the half of it. She wonders which she prefers: acknowledgement or ignorance, but in the end she cannot choose one over the other. She knows that she craves acknowledgement as any daughter might wish to please her father, but she knows that this shadow-and-light game must sometimes be kept a secret even from the king himself.
But she wonders when she’ll be able to lay them down, these weapons of hers; she wonders when she will truly be at peace. She wonders when she will be allowed to let her guard slip, to let her real self come shining through without fear that someone will use it to find a chink in the armor that protects all that she holds dear. She fights a battle that is constant and unforgiving, more tiring and more valiant than any fought on a battlefield, for Arthur and Uther can come home when the battle is won and rest, but Morgana knows she never can. The game she plays is not flashy or heroic but made of subtlety and secrets. She must never show weakness, or she knows will lose more than she cares to wager.
Morgana looks into the mirror, and tries to see beneath the mask staring back at her. The image she presents to the world is a mirage – it is nothing more than a false image of herself, made sharper and brighter so that it might gleam and garner notice, so that men will flirt with her and tell her, when they’ve had one goblet too many, all their deepest, darkest secrets. Men will tell a woman things he might not otherwise utter aloud, and Morgana knows that, uses it to her advantage in this game she must play.
But every game must come to an end, and every player must lay down their hand upon the table. Morgana does not know what will happen on that day, when her cards are laid out for all to see, but it frightens and excites her and she knows, she knows, that day is drawing near.