Title: Salt in the Wound
Character/s: Nimueh, Morgause, Emrys, mention of Morgana
Summary: Nimueh watches Merlin with a dark purpose.
Warnings: emotional torture, imprisonment
Word Count: 1070
Prompt: 423 Merlin by moonlight
Author's Notes: Merlin by moonlight :P
In her moderately-sized kitchen in her three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom house, Nimueh prepares a snack.
She opens the plastic wrapper on a package of microwave popcorn. She takes out the folded package, and she puts the plastic in the recycling bin. She reads the instructions for what must be the five-hundredth time to be certain of the process, opens her microwave with the push of a button, unfolds the microwaveable paper bag on the rotating tray, and closes the door. Even though she read the recommended cooking time on the instructions, she presses the popcorn button on the microwave.
While the kernels are being rapidly warmed, she fills a large glass of refrigerated orange juice.
She puts the juice container back into the refrigerator, then looks out her kitchen window. The moon is newly waning, so there is still plenty of light by which to see the neighboring rooftops.
She leans against the manufactured stone counter and sips at her juice while she listens to the kernels popping. They're at a rapid pace, and she thinks of an orchestra worth of musicians each popping a sheet of bubble wrap as fast as they can. Some will pop their bubble wrap slower than others, and she starts to count the seconds between the slowing kernel pops.
Not enough time to say the number "one" in her head....
Enough time to say "one," but not enough for the more hurried "one thousand" that follows....
"One one th–" Pop!
"One one thous–" Pop!
"One one thousand, t–" Pop!
Eventually, her nonverbal counting makes it to "three one thousand," and she turns away from the window to press the stop button on the microwave. She prefers her popcorn lightly browned, and that is what she finds when she opens the bag. Perfect.
She adds some salt to the popcorn and mixes it in by shaking the still mostly-closed bag over the sink.
With her popcorn in one hand and glass of juice in the other, Nimueh leaves the kitchen in favor of the television room. She's going to watch a couple of episodes of her show – Merlin – until she's satisfied for the evening.
As she passes the hallway to the bedrooms, she decides to invite Morgause to join her. It's so nice to be living with other high priestesses again, even if the location is a house in town instead of a castle on an isle in the center of a lake.
Nimueh knocks on Morgause's bedroom door.
Morgause opens it without delay, so Nimueh thinks she might be free.
"I'm going to watch my show. Care to join me?" Nimueh asks.
"Which episode are you on?" Morgause asks.
"The Dark Tower. I'm planning to watch at least two episodes tonight," Nimueh replies.
"You know I'm always eager to watch my sister's handiwork. I'll be there in just a minute," Morgause says.
"Alright," Nimueh agrees. She heads for the couch to get herself set up with everything in easy reach.
Only a minute later, they start the episode. The actors who play Queen Gwen and her brother Sir Elyan visit their father's grave, then ride back toward Camelot with a small company of knights. The actor playing Morgana lays a trap, then waits for it to spring.
"Morgana did excellent work consulting on this show," Nimueh remarks.
"She managed to enchant both the Julians to make sure everything she wanted was integrated smoothly into the script," Morgause says with pride.
Yes, that's where I got the idea, Nimueh thinks to herself.
They watch the actors portray Queen Gwen's descent into Morgana's hollow vessel and the king's party's efforts to save the queen.
Nimueh munches her popcorn.
Morgause snuggles under a heavy knit blanket.
Nimueh licks the salt off her fingers and knuckles.
Morgause lays down against the armrest.
At the end of the episode, Morgause decides to go do some work on one of her potions rather than watch more of the show. Nimueh bids her good night and waits for her to leave before she starts the next episode.
As the story progresses through the assassination plots, Nimueh feels more and more excited. She worked hard for this outcome.
The moment she has been waiting for finally comes.
The actor playing Merlin escapes the cells, scales the castle wall in the dark, and enters a chamber where his king is near death. Merlin's mentor believes in him, and Merlin speaks an incantation to save his king's life. The physician looks for vital signs, and, finding none, indicates to Merlin that his effort didn't work.
That's where Nimueh trapped Emrys.
In their centuries-long battle, she has never had a receptacle like this one.
These modern mechanical conveniences make basic survival so much easier. Collecting and preparing meals was never so easy. Bathing in tubs used to take hours to set up. These days, she can focus more of her attention on her planning and spell casting. And that's just what she did.
Her triumph over Emrys became complete when she trapped him within the world of this television show. Her plan wasn't only to imprison him, though. Emrys has to feel what the story says Merlin feels. He is forced now to live through the most hopeless moments of this show – including this one, where he fails – without the relief of any happy endings.
Nimueh watches the actor cry in character, and through her knowledge of her own success – and a little magical sight potion that she invented for the task – she can see the true Emrys overlaid on the scene. His emotions match that of the actor. His face is wet, and his heart is clearly broken.
Her plot to trap and repeatedly torture Emrys has worked perfectly. He exists now only in these moments, whenever any living person plays them on any platform anywhere in the world. Every time she watches him, she can see ever more of his spirit breaking, ever more of his sanity fracturing. It is there to see in his face, and in his eyes.
He was strong, but she has won.
She licks the last lingering popcorn salt from two of her fingers, the feeling of satisfied taste buds mingling with a triumph hard-won. She smirks at the screen, rewinds it 45 seconds, and plays the torment again.
Her zealous smirk holds strong.
Her eyes flick up to you to dare you to rewatch and participate in the torture.