This has been a really great experience overall. It's challenge to keep up with it and to keep yourself moving forwards, but I think it's really rewarding to push yourself forward and give yourself some leeway to be bad at it. I definitely want to try it again and pick another ten days and then write separate stories each day instead of three stories chopped up weirdly into ten days.
Anyway, onto the fic!
For as long as Morgana can remember, she's had the dreams. Gaius says that that's to be expected, that sometimes childhood psychological scars manifest in our subconsciousness even as adults. Morgana knows he's saying this because he knows her parents were killed by raiders when she was just barely old enough to remember it. They were amongst the first to push beyond the walls of Camelot, ready to form another settlement, expand the ring of the main outpost into the hollowed out remnants of a village from before, but they had pushed too far. Camelot's guards couldn't protect them.
Morgana survived the attack by hiding in a closet, keeping quiet as the raiders demanded information on how to breach Camelot's defences. She remembers the heavy footfalls on the floorboards. She remembers breathing in the scent of her mother clothes all around her as she listened to her mother and father's screams. Uther was the one who found her crying there in the aftermath, ugly tears rolling down her face, and she remembers the feel of his fatigues as she clutched and sobbed into them.
Morgana's dreams aren't of those nights, though. She can't quite make them out yet, but they feel heavy, dangerous. They don't feel like terror and the house she used to live in, old wood soaked through with blood. They feel like stone and water, something deep and powerful, and when she wakes up, they fade so quickly she can't hold onto them.
Gwen thinks they're important somehow, that they're about something Morgana has forgotten, that they're something she's trying to remember. Arthur thinks that they're just dreams, like that one he had of running around Camelot without a shirt on and then riding on a horse that could climb up ladders.
As she's gotten older, something has shifted. The dreams feel darker, stranger and when she wakes up, it takes longer for the fog to clear. Some details linger, a lake, a roar of a strange beast, stone walls against her palms.
During the days, she works with Gwen in the forge, machining the parts they need around the outpost while Gwen forges batches of bullets that still will still work with their old weaponry. Gwen's father taught them everything they know, and he trusts them to be able to run things while he gets their sole truck working or he patches up the boiler or he replaces a loose railing on the walkways. Uther (who has raised her now for ten years) doesn't approve of her work, though he doesn't put up much of a fight. He gets enough accusations of favoritism for granting Arthur his place on the guards. Morgana thinks he'll always look at her and see the fragile little girl she was and not the woman she's become, and with Arthur, Uther sees the man he could be and not the boy he still is.
Morgana's hard at work when the new arrivals, which is why she misses the big news. Her shoulder still aches from when she strained it the week before, trying to hold too much weight on her back. It's just her for the moment. Gwen's hared off to pester Arthur about something. She gets like that about all the juicy gossip.
Morgana is so focused on her work, she doesn't hear him come in. She doesn't hear him until he's shouting to be heard over the noise of her lathe.
"Hello," someone says. "I'm looking for, um, Gaius? I seem to have gotten a bit turned around."
She turns to see a boy there, about their age, standing in the doorway to their workroom. She freezes. That thing inside her shifts again. Recognition, this time. She knows he feels it too, because his voice trails off, his eyes going wide. She turns the machine off.
"Who are you?" she asks, when really she wants to ask what are you.
"I-- Merlin," he says. "I'm Merlin. From Ealdor." His forehead furrows, and he bites his bottom lip. "I know we don't know each other yet, but do you ever-- do strange things happen when you're around?"
"No, not really," Morgana says, because the dreams don't count. She may not understand what he's asking, but she can feel -- the way she can feel when danger is coming close or the way she knows when a metal piece is perfect in her hands -- that the two of them are the same, that they're alike.
"But-- you're--" Merlin says.
Morgana shakes her head. "I don't know what you're asking," she says.
Merlin frowns. It looks almost comical on his earnest face. "Oh, sorry. I didn't-- sorry."
It takes less than a day for Gwen to start inviting Merlin to eat meals with the rest of them, and Morgana isn't sure if she finds his presence more amusing or unsettling. Thing is, Merlin's kind of an oaf, prone to tripping over his own feet or stumbling over perfectly ordinary conversation. But there are other times when he'll look at her, and she swears his eyes are a different color.
He and Arthur get off on a bad foot from the start (not very difficult when it comes to Arthur), and they spend all of lunch sniping at each other while Gwen tries to keep the peace.
"What's Ealdor like?" Gwen asks. She's only ever been outside the walls once, and that time, they'd gotten lost in the woods. Not much to see there except trees and dirt. Arthur's been out foraging, and Morgana once had the chance to revisit the place where her parents had been killed, but Gwen doesn't have that excuse.
"Small," Merlin says. "Loads smaller than Camelot." He shrugs. "Not much to say, really. Mum thought it would be better for me if I trained in Camelot for a while. They say this is the only place that's got power -- electricity -- in the entire region." He fiddles with his napkin and bites his lip. "Dr. Gaius was kind enough to give me a place to say."
Arthur snorts. "Fat lot of good that's done him, seeing as you've already broken two test tubes and set one of his chairs on fire. We've only got one glassblower, you incompetent, and Gaius always complains that he's not very good." Morgana does have to agree there. Edward tries very hard, but the results of his work tend to be misshapen and a little lumpy.
"Oi!" Merlin says. "It's my first day. Some of us don't have a father who's always around to make sure we get plum positions with with the guards."
"Stop it, both of you," Gwen says. She's always been the one to step in when Arthur and Morgana are going at it. Morgana is not surprised to see that she'll do the same with a new person in the mix.
"He started it," Merlin says, jabbing a thumb in Arthur's face.
Arthur sputters. Morgana sighs. She says, "Arthur, do stop being a prat for a moment and let Merlin talk."
"I've got more training to do now anyway," Arthur says. He stands up and leaves the table. He's always been something of a drama queen when he doesn't get his way. It's one of the things that Morgana really hates about him.
Gwen shoots them both annoyed looks. "There's been talk that Mercia is looking to attack, and he's worried that we we're not ready for it. His father has been on his case for weeks now."
"Oh," Merlin says.
"No reason for him to take it out on us," Morgana says.
Gwen just sighs and shakes her head.
That night, Morgana dreams of dragons.
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