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07 April 2011 @ 01:52 pm
Fic: The Black River  
Title: The Black River
Category: Merlin, Smallville
Word Count: 1570
Date of Completion: 5 April 2011
Primary Characters: Morgana le Fay, Clark Kent
Rating: PG
Setting: Through the course of ten years from the start of Smallville to the end.
Summary: Clark and Morgana meet in dreams.
Notes: Written for the wonderful serenography for help_japan, and beta'd by the excellent captaindove.

The Black River

It's the same dream — just once a year but every year. Clark is standing barefoot at the edge of a wide, placid, black river. The shore is made of soft, white sand which crumbles beneath his toes like calcified feathers. There are pink and white waterlilies scattered across the surface of the water; the water and the flowers are so still and the place where the water ends and a flower begins so indiscernible that the entire mass seems to Clark almost like one vast sculpture of glass but for the way each petal, each stamen, each grain of pollen which resolves itself under the lens of his microvision is too delicately shaped, too perfect, too naturally imperfect, to have been blown by hands other than Nature's herself. The water runs cool and deep: he sees that what seemed at first to be immovable and solid is fluid — here moving faster, here moving slower: each current moving at its own pace and creating, when he turns his ear to it, a slow, smooth, undulating rhythm; he realises that the river is its own instrument and instrumentalist and it plays its own song for him alone to hear.

Then he sees, on the far side of the river, a figure dressed all in white. Behind her is a tree: a silver birch, and its bark almost seems to glimmer in the half-light; behind that, he sees forests and rolling hills, and castles hewn from stone and set at the top of mountains like cut jewels set in Nature's crown. She sees him, although they are leagues apart at either side of this vast, singing river — and she wades into the water on her side. The skirt of her gown floats on the surface of the water, twisted into intricate swirling patterns by the motion of the river; for a moment she too looks like a waterlily blown from glass, indistinguishable from this great sculpture set here in the joining-place between Nature and Time — and then, in the blink of an eye, she is approaching him, rising out of the water, smiling in a way which seems both new and familiar to him all in the same aching moment as her skirts fall around her legs, heavy with water.

- - -

When they first meet, and for many subsequent meetings, he compares her to Lana; it is easy, too: superficially they have nothing in common and yet there is a melancholia to each of their beauties — and they share that mysterious smile, that grace of form and movement, that slight hint at utilitarianism, and that self-uncertainty. Morgana, too, has a darkness and a desperation in her that Clark would later encounter, just for a little while, in Lana: that entanglement of idealistic justice-seeking with personal vendetta. But for now they are children. Like Lana, Morgana lost her parents; like Clark, she feels somehow different — somehow dangerous.

- - -

He sees her each year on this night; and every year she is a year older — somehow he knows this means she is real. Now he sees Lex in her: in her torments, in the way she twists the chiffon of her dress between her fingers as she confides that sometimes she does not know what is real and what isn’t, what is right and what is wrong. Then, later, he sees Lois in her too: there is something of the same strength, the same relentlessness about the two of them, something in them both which will leave a print on Time itself.

- - -

When Morgana looks at Clark in this, the closest thing to a sweet dream she has ever had, she sees that he is golden: more golden than the hair on Arthur's head, than his princely coronet — than his kingly crown; more golden than the bear which comes to her in other, less pleasant, dreams; more golden than the bear whose soft, glinting fur she runs her fingers through once, twice, three times before drawing her dagger and plunging it deep into his heart. Both Clark and Arthur will stand proud in the sun, their red capes fluttering behind them; each will usher in a Golden Age — this much she knows. Her own hair hangs wet and black around her face like a shroud; her hands falter. In Clark there is a gentleness, a compassion she had missed in her own life since her mother died: she saw into him, saw that he had grown into adulthood among women he had loved and who loved him back, who had planted that seed of compassion deep within his heart where it bloomed powerfully in red and gold now that he was a man; and she thought about how she had grown up as a weed in the world of men, been treated as a weed, and how it seemed now that no matter what she tried she seemed to stunt the growth of Camelot, wrapping herself around it in an attempt to pull it up towards the sun and stifling it instead.

- - -

"History will not be kind to me," Morgana says to Clark.

"How do you know?" he says, and she just smiles that mysterious smile; he knows that she has ways and means — and that she knows things about him too which she will not share. Then, "You don't have to do these things," he says gently, thinking now that she reminds him of Tess more than anyone — and that Tess was misguided, and did the wrong thing thinking it was the right, and that she was redeemed in the end — "you can change the course of history."

At this she laughs; her laugh is clear and rings across the water but there is no warmth to it. "I can no more change history than you can change the course of this river," she says. "How can you ask me to, when you know that these things have already happened? You, Clark — you save the people you can save, and leave me to my bad dreams and my superstitious, womanly nonsense." Then she looks at him sidelong, and the smile on her face is so good-natured that he can't believe that she will ever fall so far as she seems to think she will.

"Can you hear the river sing?" she says. "The waters of my land hold a great many secrets and they are tight-lipped about all of them; this river holds the deepest secret of all and yet it sings. I hear it sometimes in my other dreams, in my nightmares — on nights where I am bathed in blood and sweat and fire I hear the water calling to me and I know that I will see you soon. But, Clark —" she grips his arm, "— don't you feel it? Don't you feel that our river will soon run dry?"

"What do you mean?" he says, and she releases him.

"Nothing," she says, with a gesture; "forget." But he forgets not a moment of these dreams, even in waking; for unlike other dreams they are not blown out of his mind like dust from an attic with the first breath of morning; they linger with him in the day, and find their way to shelves of memories of things more real, more tangible, which he experiences in his waking life.

- - -

When Clark is twenty-five, ten years after his first shared dream with Morgana, he sees her for the last time. He is called by another name now that he has donned the regalia his mother made for him. There is a change in the air here too: the sky which he had known in perpetual twilight is now tinged with delicate seashell pinks and greys near the horizon. The river, he sees now, is not black but deep, dark blue; the reflection of the sky creates a pink and grey iridescence on the surface of the water, and the flowers bob almost imperceptibly up and down with its movement. The change came on the wind with him; he has become himself now: he finds to his surprise that he is wearing the red cape that Martha sewed for him; it flutters around his shoulders.

Morgana stands on her side of the river and she is dressed in black. He sees the wind come from behind her, pulling her hair and her dress towards him and creating ripples on the surface of the river — but she stands firm. The silver birch has sprouted leaves, and behind it the crowns of mountains shine golden in the rising sun. Morgana stands still at the edge of the river. From deep within her country, Clark sees a golden bear approach her from behind; without turning, she lays her hand upon its head.

"Here we are," she whispers, knowing he will hear, "we two creatures of mythology at our last meeting. There will be songs about you and I, Kal-El, but never songs of us — except this one we have drowned in the river. The river will stop singing and dry up and this place will crumble to dust a thousand years hence, and my bones will be scattered on the wind, and you will not even have been born — yet to take up your mantle. But still we meet, and have met, and will meet. Fare thee well... my once and future King."
snappop: amy pond (the world stops)snappop on April 7th, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC)
This is one of the best things I have ever read.

(I will leave you a proper comment once my thesis is done, but...you are amazing.)
Jenjlvsclrk on April 7th, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
Beautiful - simply and stunningly beautiful. I love the dreaminess combined with the hyper realism of the landscape creating this magical setting. And dear Clark, convinced Morgana can change. Love it!
Don't judge....: Arthurdudeomigod on April 8th, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
This was beautiful, great job :D
KL: arthurandgwenlving_darkness on April 8th, 2011 07:31 pm (UTC)
perfect. her broken heart and hope mingle so well with Clark's ideas that anyone can change. Those last few lines are just beautiful--well, the whole thing is beautiful, but those last few lines are just even more so.
never songs of us — except this one we have drowned in the river

that scenery of the last section, with colors of seashell pink and grey is probably one of the most graceful descriptions ever.
really. really. well done.