I've always been fascinated by Arthurian Legends. This story probably has so many inaccuracies and of course there are so many variations' it's difficult t find a common ground that makes sense but it is my first story so if you spot any, let me know! If I can, I'll fix it but if I can't, well, at least I learned something new. I also don't have anyone to proofread this and provide feedback for me so I'm going in a bit blind. Any feedback is appreciated!
Every child in the village had been warned against playing near the lake.
'The Lady of the Lake will snatch you away,' they said. Nimue was always one of the few children who listened. She stayed at home while the other kids snuck out to play in the woods.
'Come on, Nimue,' they always whined, 'we're going on an adventure!'
"The spirits will surely take you but not me," was always her reply. "I will be perfectly fine at home."
"You're no fun," the kid groaned, sticking her nose and prancing back to the group gathered nearby. "She won't go! I'm not asking her again, she's so boring!"
The group murmured in agreement but Nimue turned away. She would not rat them out, for they'd gotten her to promise and she was a woman of her word but that did not mean she was stupid enough to go along. The group scampered off into the forest, laughing and making a ruckus, and she hiked up her dress
"Look at Nimue," the baker whispered as she passed, "always so mature for her age."
"The spirit of a noble, that one has," his wife agreed. "She would have made a fine princess if fate were to have gifted more fortune in her placement."
Nimue sent them a small smile and a nod of acknowledgement as she walked by.
"She'll grow to be a real beauty too," the farmer's wife beside them muttered approvingly. "Fate gave enough fortune with that thick, raven hair and eyes like the lake. Pity about her parents though."
Nimue was truly a sight to behold. Everyone could foresee her appeal by the tender age of 10. Her hair grew thick and fast, the shiny black waves reaching almost to her hips already. Her eyes were truly like the lake, a clear, refreshing blue that reflected the light like a pool of crystals and water. Her skin remained pale and clear like porcelain. Long slender legs, a serene voice and rose-petal lips. Even her build was perfect, her body slim and flowing, her bones small and delicate. Many compared her to a floating lily in a pond and found her more graceful.
"The hair is a gift from your father," her mother would always say, "but that bone structure, that's all me."
Her mother was always a lively woman, even as she fell ill and became permanently bedridden. The illness made her weak, tied her down, and giving birth had done more harm than good in terms of her strength. But she never showed resentment, her spirit was never confined like her body.
Nimue loved her mother with all her heart. It was with great sorrow that she watched her wither away. It was a few months after her 14th birthday that Nimue found herself clutching her mother's ice-cold hands tight to her chest and weeping.
Even when she cried, she was beautiful. Like an angel, tiny pearl-like tears running down her cheeks, she knelt by her mother's bed and mourned for days. Even after the body was taken away, she locked herself in her house for a week.
The Lady of the Lake was said to have a heart of stone that kept her anchored to the water's depths.
'I think,' Nimue sighed, gazing out at the lake, 'that a stone-cold heart is something I wouldn't mind.'
'Oh?' The lake replied.
It was, coincidentally, on her 16th birthday that the travellers arrived.
Well, technically they had arrived the night before but she did not hear about them until the morning when her old friend, Kyra, came to greet her.
"Nimue," Dyonas called. Dyonas was her new caregiver. After marrying the niece of the Duke of Burgoyne, he was by far the head of the wealthiest family in the village and owned half of the Forest of Briosque, the forest surrounding the village and the nearby Lake of Briosque as a reward for serving the Duke of Burgoyne as vavasor.
He was the first to volunteer to take the orphaned girl in and cared for her like his own. A small village like their own lacked an orphanage after all.
"Your friend is here to see you," Dyonas relayed, leaning against the other side of her door. Nimue's fingers paused momentarily before proceeding to quickly finish the long raven braid over her shoulder.
"Grant me a moment, I shall be out shortly," she responded. Her guardian's footsteps led away and she finished getting for the day with haste. When she descended the stairs, Kyra awaited her at the bottom with a mischievous grin.
"Nim," she started excitedly, "have you heard?"
"Heard?" Nimue questioned.
"There are some travellers in town," Kyra elaborated. "A man and his son. And the son is quite handsome if I say so myself."
"You've already seen them?" Nimue's lips quirked upward slightly. "How fast you work, Kyra."
Kyra was a bit of a flighty one, a girl who romanticised most events in the town. Nimue knew that, where she was quite content to live out a small, peaceful life in the remote village, Kyra wanted to go exploring and find love. The two were described as the moon and sun of the village on more than one occasion.
"I merely passed them on the way here," Kyra huffed. She folded her arms across her chest and pouted a little. "I'm not that bad."
"And this was a mere coincidence then?" Nimue pressed, pulling her long, azure cloak around her shoulders. "You know as well as I that the market is not the quickest nor the most convenient way here from your home."
"Can you blame me? My curiosity could not wait, it had to be sated immediately," Kyra whined. "Anyway, they were stocking up on a lot of supplies after their long journey here — you know how we live in the middle of nowhere — so I'm willing to bet they'll still be in the market now. We could make it in time."
"To see them," Kyra exclaimed. "Gosh, Nimue, you're awfully slow today."
"I'm not slow, I just lack the knowledge of why this is necessary," Nimue defended. "They'll be gone in a day or two anyway and I am not in search of love or anything of the like."
"But I am," Kyra remarked, "and I'm just about at marrying age. Oh, if I could marry a traveller, I could see the world. And he's quite handsome and oh, he seems to have a decent income. I think they're merchants."
"How charming," Nimue said dryly.
"Come on," Kyra pleaded. "If not for you, then do it for me. I can't just waltz to them on my own, I need support. The dear-friend kind."
"Well, I suppose I need to do some shopping of my own," the blue-eyed girl sighed. "I hear the cook is planning some plain pottage for tonight, so I volunteered to get some more parsnips, turnips and leeks. We're nearly out. Just let me grab some coins from Dyonas and we shall go."
"Of course, the girl who gets accepted into the wealthiest family in the village is the one who insists on doing chores." Kyra rolled her eyes teasingly but her beaming smile gave away her satisfaction. As soon Nimue returned with a small pouch of coins, she took her wrist and pulled her from the house in a hurry. Nimue thanked her natural grace as she barely barely to avoid tripping over her own dress while being dragged along.
"Nimue, I know you wanted to buy some ingredients but he'll be gone by the time we find his trail," Kyra complained as the raven-haired maiden picked up yet another turnip and tested it.
"Don't you mean they'll be gone?" Nimue corrected with a chuckle.
"Right, they'll," Kyra agreed quickly, largely unconvincing. "Now come on, the turnips will still be there later, there aren't that many people in this village!"
"But all the good ones will be gone," Nimue protested, placing the turnip into the basket at her elbow and picking up another.
"Perhaps this one would suit your fancy more." A hand descended into her view, holding yet another turnip. Taking it from him, Nimue blinked in surprise and glanced up at the helper.
"Thank you," she dipped her head. Kyra squeaked and slapped her arm, earning an irritated look as the blonde pointed at the stranger not-so-subtly.
The boy, barely 2 inches taller than herself with scruffy black hair only half-covered by a long brown cloak, was admittedly quite handsome. She found herself staring at his eyes however.
Are they gold...?
Truly, his eyes looked like twin pools of pure molten gold. They could be easily written of as brown, just a trick of the light, if he were not standing so close to her. And he really was handsome. Surprisingly well-cut for a mere merchant traveller. When she had taken the turnip, she also realised, his hands did not feel like a worker's hands.
Kyra cleared her throat and Nimue realised that she had been staring just a few moments too long. She took a sharp breath and turned away, very aware of the short distance between them, Kyra shooting her a sly smile.
She did feel a bit better knowing that he was staring at her as well.
"My pleasure, my lady," the boy swept into a bow. A flirtatious smile danced on his lips and Nimue suddenly felt quite annoyed. She quickly dropped the turnip into her basket and paid the farmer before moving along to the next stand which contained some leeks.
"And what might be this beauty's name?" He followed her shamelessly and she fought to keep a scowl from surfacing.
"My name is of no consequence to you," she retorted, picking her leeks quickly and efficiently. She reached into her coin pouch to pay for them but the boy dropped the exact amount into the farmer's waiting palm before she could.
He smirked as she sent him a reproachful look. "My name's Merlin."
Kyra smirked and trailed along behind, making no move to interrupt them even as Nimue sent her a pleading look.
"The traveller's boy," she stated to show she knew who he was. "Well Merlin, I can assure you that I am not suffering from poverty and so I cannot accept your money in goodwill. Your change would be better spent on people who are."
"A lady of charity! How noble."
"I highly doubt it is my charity you are looking for," she snapped. She caught herself quickly, biting her lip guiltily.
Merlin didn't seem too bothered however. "And why must I be looking for something?"
She sighed and faced him. "Because men like you are always looking for something."
It was true. She saw men like him everyday, men in the village, men she had grown up with and who had raised her. The only thing Nimue could read better than books were people. Everyone wanted something and no one wanted nothing.
She'd recognised him as one of the ones who hid their search beneath smiles and jovial moods. Men like him were the ones who always looked for something greater than money or comfort and that was not always a good thing.
But she found herself surprised by the smile Merlin shot her, a knowing grin and something wise in his eyes. That smile was not something she realised men like him could give.
"Nimue," she blurted out before he could say anything. Something bubbled beneath her skin.
The smile was quickly replaced with confusion and Nimue felt better.
"Nimue?" He parroted.
"My name," she added, turning away to avoid his gaze. How embarrassing.
"Nimue," he repeated again, slower, as though letting her name sit on his tongue for a moment like one would expensive wine. "A lovely name."
"Thank you," she dipped her head curtly.
"Merlin is such a charming name as well," Kyra finally found it fitting to cut in, looping her arm through her friend's and sending Merlin a suggestive glance. "Very befitting."
"And if you will excuse us," Nimue interrupted, sufficiently done with this conversation, "I must get these ingredients back home right away."
"Nonsense," Kyra intervened quickly, taking the basket from her with glee. "You work far too hard, Nimue. I shall take these back for you and you can take a nice stroll or something. Oh, I know!"
Nimue sent her a warning glance but Kyra clapped her hands together cheerily and returned a cheeky look of her own. "Why don't you take Merlin along with you? You can go to the lake. Oh Merlin, you should see the lake."
Merlin's lips quirked upwards in amusement. "I would love to see the lake."
The black-haired beauty spluttered indignantly as Kyra promptly linked her and Merlin at the elbow and shooed them off in the direction of the lake. Merlin smiled down at her, his eyes glittering at this turn of events while she debated how she could escape without appearing rude. No, Kyra would be able to counter anything she threw at her anyway.
"The lake is forbidden," she hissed over her shoulder.
"Don't worry, my lady," Kyra responded, nudging Nimue's back onwards, "Merlin will surely protect you from the spirits."
If the spirits come to take us away, I'm tripping him.
Nimue would never have admitted she was sulking. She didn't sulk. Perhaps, if one squinted very, very hard and tilted their head, then maybe she might've been pouting a bit, but she wasn't sulking.
Ok. She was sulking. But she had a good reason. Her best friend had just thrown her to the wolves.
Merlin constantly snuck little glances at her from the corner of his eye, as though attempting to thoroughly memorise her features. Nimue was really trying hard to erase the soft pinkness that had risen to her cheeks in response but it wasn't quite working.
Really, she had better things to do. She had groceries to get. Turnips to pick. Oh, all the good ones were probably gone by now. Not to mention the parsnips and leeks and she had cleaning to do, there was still a ton of laundry that she wanted to help the maids with once she got back and then she actually had to cook, assuming she ever bought the ingredients. Oh and what about the ironing, two of her dresses still had some wri- He needed to stop looking at her right now.
"Can I help you?" She finally snapped, her eyes darting to her left to catch his in the act.
He blinked, startled, before quickly looking straight ahead. "No, ma'am."
Nimue fought the urge to think of the red blush spreading up his neck and ears as cute and huffed. "Ma'am? Am I so old?"
"On the contrary, you are as young and refreshing as a freshly blossomed spring flower," he replied so smoothly that Nimue could hardly believe the speed at which the words had sprung to his lips.
"Do you mean to act like that," she questioned incredulously, "or are you just naturally an idiot?"
The blush spread further, blooming across his cheeks in embarrassment. "I-I... er..."
"Never mind," she sighed, facing her front once more. "I do wonder how you'll protect me from the spirits with that skittish sort of nature."
"Don't worry, I'll be as heroic as can be and protect you," he assured. "No spirit shall harm you in my presence, my lady."
"You can't possibly promise that," she reprimanded. "None of us know who we are in an emergency, not until we experience one ourselves. For all you know, the spirits could snatch me and you could become a coward in the face of adversity. There is still every chance you could abandon me to save yourself and that would be the end of it."
"Well," he said slowly, "you'll have to forgive me if I turn out to be a coward then, for I'd never abandon such a rare lady as yourself."
"Oh? So you'll leave a lady to the wolves if she's common," Nimue concluded, lingering on the last word with obvious distaste. She relished his cute, dorky demeanour as he quickly backtracked.
"N-No," Merlin exclaimed. "I only meant-"
She silenced him with a smile. "Relax, Merlin, I am only teasing."
Merlin drooped, half in relief and half in humiliation. Nimue eyed him curiously before speaking.
"Well, I think you are many things but a coward is not one of them."
The boy perked up, like a hopeful puppy. "Oh? And what am I?"
"A boy easily swayed by appearances," Nimue quickly shot him down before he got any ideas, pretending to think hard. "A flirt. An arrogant fool, perhaps."
"You wound me," Merlin staggered dramatically, clutching his shirt over his heart for exaggerated effect.
"At times you have a wisdom but it is quickly diminished beneath your carefree exterior," she continued. "When I look at you, I see a contradiction. Merlin, you are a riddle and a mystery."
Their gaze met for a moment and it was dangerously close to setting her ablaze. She felt herself withdraw a bit, but not enough. Not as much as she should have.
"I could say the same for you, my lady," Merlin responded, his voice a bit lower. Nimue resisted the urge to shiver. "What is a princess doing in a small village in the middle of nowhere anyway."
"I am no princess," she remarked, walking just a bit faster. She could see the lake now.
"But you are a lady," Merlin countered, "You live in a mansion, you have the manners of a queen and-"
"- I go shopping for ingredients for dinner," she interrupted. "Something a lady would hardly do."
"I'm willing to guess that was your own suggestion." She faltered for but a moment but it was enough to give the truth away.
Merlin hummed cheekily. "A lady, like I said."
She shot him a sharp look and hiked her skirts up and marching onwards. He matched her, step for step.
Suddenly, they broke free of the tree line and halted at the shoreline. Nimue paled. She hadn't meant to get this far. This boy, he was dangerous. A distraction.
"Ah, it's a lovely view," Merlin called, folding his arms behind his head with a satisfied expression.
"We shouldn't be here. Let's go," Nimue muttered, turning back towards the forest. Merlin blinked and gently took her wrist before she got too far.
"Wait a minute," he protested. "We walked all this way, let's at least enjoy the sights for a minute or two."
"Fool," Nimue hissed. "You say you will protect us from the spirits but you know nothing of them."
Merlin's face darkened just a bit, catching her off guard. "I know a bit more than you might think."
That made her pause.
She quickly recovered and pulled her wrist from his grasp. "Well, if not the spirits, then the Lady of the Lake. This is a forbidden place for a reason."
"The Lady of the Lake?" Merlin frowned in confusion. "She's not real. Just a bedtime story."
"Can't she be both?" Nimue shot back. "Every child around here is taught the story of the Lady in the Lake, of the monster with fair looks and a heart of stone who drags unfortunate souls to the lakebed and devours their hearts. If I have learned anything in my lifetime, it is that all stories hold threads of truth."
"You sure know a lot about the stories," Merlin noted, looking more intrigued than worried.
Nimue felt her expression steel over.
"Yes, well," she responded, "she and I have more in common than you'd know."
She didn't speak on the way back to the village, not to Merlin, nor Kyra or Dyonas. She merely locked herself in her room until her chest stopped aching and her heart turned back to stone.
And that's Part One! This won't be a very long story, there are probably only going to be four or five parts in total. Anyway, pretty please, review! It would help me make this a much more enjoyable story for you all.
Until next time,