Lotis Heroes Monthly - February 2022
Retelling Myths: Nimue and Merlin - An Excalibur Love Story
Nimue and Merlin - An Excalibur Love Story
"Merlin," I said, as I looked into his eyes.
"Nimue," he said, as he looked back into mine.
And there we were, staring sadly at each other in the middle of an enchanted forest - an old man and an eternally young fairy, two lovers about to part.
It was a long time ago, when I had first met him - the famed mage Merlin.
Back then, my name was Vivian.
I had been born with great magic inside of me, but no one knew how to teach me about it.
For many years, even into adulthood, I had kept it hidden - because of the fear of losing control of it, as well as the fear of what others might do if they knew about it.
That was, until Merlin took me under his wing.
And from him, I learned about the greatness of the magic within me.
I felt as though I had been reborn. I was now finally about to harness and control the power that was inside of me, and I became complete.
Years past, as I studied under Merlin.
He taught me many things about magic, and about the greater world around me.
And, through each other, we learned about love.
We were so young and in love back then.
We thought that we would spend the rest of our - well, mine, at least - lives together.
But, as things do, things gradually changed.
At first, they changed for the better.
After years of hard work spent improving my magicks, I was granted fairyhood by the Queen of the Fairies.
As part of my transformation, I had chosen the new name 'Nimue' for myself.
Along with all the honour and power that being part of the fae provided, I was also granted youth and longevity for many centuries to come - perhaps even for an eternity, if I were to become powerful enough.
This meant that my cambion lover - Merlin, the offspring of an incubus and a mortal - would no longer outlive me by eons.
We rejoiced at the newfound time that we would have for each other.
Soon, however, another great honour would be bestowed upon me.
"Oh, Nimue," Merlin said to me, "I will miss you."
"I will miss you as well, my love," I said.
We embraced, and we held each other for a long time.
I had accepted the title and the position as the Lady of the Lake from the Fairy Queen.
As great as this honour was, this meant that my duties and my time would be tied to the realms of the fairies and the lakes.
Merlin, on the other hand, felt that it was his duty to continue his guidance of the mortals - thus, he wished to stay in the mortal realm.
After a long talk, we decided to follow our hearts, and to live our lives separately, only being able to be with each other intermittently.
And so, at the bank alongside a lake, we said our goodbyes to each other.
Our embrace ended, and we kissed.
"Remember," I said, "you can always find me at any lake."
His expression was sad, but he forced a smile, "I will."
I touch his forehead to mine.
Then, as our time together ended, I turned around, and walked into the lake.
The years and decades past.
Whenever he could spare a moment, Merlin would visit me.
I watched as he grew older, while I remained young.
Although Merlin's cambion nature had given him a long lifespan, his body still grew old. That was, unless if he took the time to rejuvenate it.
However, that was the one thing that he could not afford to do - not during these tumultuous times.
The land of Britain was in turmoil - kingdoms rose and fell, and they battled each other for dominance.
Merlin had sought to bring an end to all of that.
He wanted peace.
And he worked tirelessly for it.
"I would like you to help me forge a sword."
Now an old man, Merlin had come to a lake to visit me.
We had taken a seat on the bank by the lake, surrounded by the mists of dawn.
"A sword?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied, "A sword enchanted with your blessings, to protect the future king."
Stunned, I asked, "And who is this future king?"
Merlin paused, before he answered, "His name is Arthur. He's King Uther and Queen Igraine's hidden son - conceived and born before the two were married, while Igraine was still married to another. He was hidden away, out of fear that this affair would undermine Uther's rule."
I gasped, "That would make him Morgana's half-brother! Does she know?"
Merlin shook his head, "No, not yet."
"She's your student, Merlin!"
"I know," he said, with guilt in his voice "But, for now, the less people who know about Arthur, the better."
"With King Uther's recent death leaving no apparent heir, the nobles have started to fight amongst each other for the throne," he explained.
"Arthur is still too young right now," he continued, "not even a decade old. He's not ready to be king yet, and the nobles would have their way with him, if they were to find out about him."
"But, under the right tutelage," he said, with hope in his voice, "I believe that he can become a great king! I believe that he can be the one to unite the kingdoms of Britain, and bring peace to the land!"
I looked at my lover, and saw the hope and determination that he had in his eyes.
I sighed and acquiesced, "Alright, my love, I shall assist you."
"Thank you, my love," he said, "Not only will this sword protect the king-to-be, but it will serve as a symbol of hope and power for the new kingdom as well!"
And that was how Excalibur was born.
I handed the repaired Excalibur back to King Arthur.
"Thank you, my lady," the young king said, bowing.
Years had passed since Merlin and I forged Excalibur together, for the king-to-be.
And now, Merlin and the now-king had returned with the sword, broken into two.
I had repaired the blade, and had blessed it with my enchantments again.
With the sword reforged, King Arthur looked at it with a smile, before putting it away into its sheath.
Merlin smiled at me, before saying to the king, "My king, would you please allow me a private moment with Nimue before we set off again?"
Arthur looked at the two of us. He smiled and said, "Of course, take your time."
"Thank you again, my lady," the king said once more, before taking his leave.
After Arthur had left, I smiled and said to Merlin, "You seemed to have raised him well."
Merlin looked over at the young king, who had taken a seat by some trees near the lake. "I am proud of him. He is on the path to becoming a great king."
Turning back to me, Merlin asked, "And how is young Lancelot and his cousins?"
I had taken in Lancelot when he was just a baby, after his parents, King Ban and Queen Elaine, had died.
The kingdom that he was from soon fell to enemies after that, and his cousins were entrusted into my care as well.
"They are doing well," I said, with a smile, "Young Lancelot, in particular, is taking well to his training."
"If you can guide Arthur to become a just and good king," I said, "then, if Lancelot is willing, I shall raise him to become a wise and just knight, and I shall send him to aid Arthur when the time is right."
Merlin smiled and nodded, "Thank you, Nimue."
"I must caution you though, Merlin," I said, "Excalibur is a great sword - one which could do great harm if it fell into the wrong hands."
Merlin's face turned grim, "You are right, my love."
"I shall ask Arthur to return it," he said, "when he has no need of it anymore."
I nodded, "Thank you, my love."
"Unfortunately," Merlin said, sighing, "our time together is short, once again."
"It is alright, my love," I said, "We still have many more years and meetings to come."
Merlin nodded, and we kissed.
Then, we bade each other farewell, and parted once more.
The years passed, as they do.
Lancelot and his cousins became fine knights, and I sent them off to join King Arthur.
With the Knights of the Round Table by his side, King Arthur began to bring peace and prosperity to the land.
Merlin's vision of unity and peace was finally coming true.
Perhaps he could finally rest, I had thought to myself.
Unfortunately, it would not be the kind of rest that we had hoped for.
"Are you certain?" I asked.
Merlin nodded, "I am, my love. I have no other choice."
We were standing in Brocéliande, the enchanted forest that Merlin had chosen for his long rest.
As the sun's light pierced through the treetops, I looked at my lover with sadness.
"I'm sorry, Nimue," he said, "But, for the past several years, I've felt my demonic nature gaining more and more influence over me."
"If I don't rejuvenate my human side and my body soon," he continued, "then I fear that the incubus side of me may soon overwhelm me."
I sighed sadly, and looked away, "I know, it's just..."
Merlin took my hands into his, "I know, my love, I know..."
"What about Arthur?" I asked, "Have you told him?"
He chuckled, sadly, "I left him a letter. I don't think that I could bear telling him myself."
"But," he smiled, proudly, "that boy has accomplished so much in such a short time! He managed to unite Britain, and his court in Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table are doing well. I have no doubt that he and his knights will lead Britain into an age of prosperity and peace!"
I smiled back, "I am proud of them as well."
"However," Merlin said, his face turning grim, "I've had a troubling vision..."
"May I ask you for one more favour, my love," he said, "before I take my long rest?"
"Of course," I said, concerned, "what is it?"
"Should Arthur fall," he said, "please take him to Avalon, so that the mystics and magicks there may heal him. So that, perhaps, he can return again, during the time of Britain's greatest need, as their Once and Future King."
I looked at Merlin, puzzled at his request.
But, nonetheless, I agreed, "I will."
"Thank you, my love," he said.
He started to step back, to part with me, "And now, I-"
"Oh!" he said, suddenly remembering something, "I forget to mention Melissa."
Stunned by the sudden change of mood, I could only say, "M-Melissa, your new apprentice?"
"Yes, her," Merlin said, waving his hand around frantically, "I had sent her off to continue her studies, after teaching her what I could in the time that I had left."
"I wanted her to concentrate on her studies, so I didn't tell her about this," he said, "but, she probably suspects something. So, if she comes looking for me, please tell her that I'm sorry I couldn't be more straightforward with her."
"Y-Yes, of course," I managed to say.
For a few more moment, we stood there, staring at each other, unable to part.
Finally, Merlin said, "Alas, I must leave now."
The sudden finality of his words caused my eyes to well up with tears.
As he stepped back towards the tree behind him, he said, "I cherish all the time that we've had together, my love, and I hope to see you again when I awake."
Then, with a sly grin, he said, "And perhaps when we meet again, I'll be as handsome as I was on the day that you met me."
A laugh burst out of me, even as the tears streamed down my face.
"You have always been handsome to me," I said.
As he reached the tree behind him, roots sprang out from the ground beneath him, and began to gently wrap around him.
I watched as the roots slowly pulled Merlin into the tree.
When only his face remained, he smiled and said, "Farewell, my love. I hope to see you soon."
Through my tears, I smiled back, and I said "Rest well, my love. I will see you soon."
And I watched as Merlin disappeared into the tree.
Arthur would later visit me.
He would ask me to take him to where Merlin was, which I did.
Saddened at the lost of his old friend, he would later leave behind a memorial stone, which read, "Here rests Merlin - wise advisor, mighty mage, and dear friend."
Even later still, Melissa would come, searching for Merlin's whereabouts.
I would also lead her to Merlin's resting place.
Though saddened by the loss of her mentor, she would continue her studies.
She would eventually become a powerful sorceress, finding fame amongst the Paladins of Charlemagne.
The years would continue to pass.
And every now and then, I would find myself in front of the tree, waiting for the day when my love would awaken once again.
This story turned out to be more backstory information to my previous Camelot stories than I had planned.
I still think that it turned out well, but it reads more like a middle chapter than a standalone piece, which is unfortunate. However, it may work out if I were to expand on the stories and put them in chronological order in the future.
This story is also the end of the "Excalibur quartet", which explores some of the key moments throughout Excalibur's history. Besides this story, the quartet also includes "Arthur and the Sword in the Stone", "Bedivere and the End of Excalibur", and "Pellinore and the Duel with Excalibur" (yes, "Arthur and the Sword in the Stone" is in both the "King Arthur trilogy" and the "Excalibur quartet").
Though Excalibur plays a smaller part in this story, I felt that understanding the stories of the creators of Excalibur was important as well.
There are a few different Ladies of the Lake across the many, many different versions of Arthurian legends; and sometimes, more than one appear in the same version!
The most well-known ones are:
the Lady of the Lake who raised Lancelot (hence, his name "Lancelot du Lac", which translates to "Lancelot of the Lake")
Nimue/Vivian, the apprentice of Merlin who traps or kills Merlin for a variety of reasons
one of the more used reasons was that Merlin fell in love with Nimue, but Nimue did not love him back; however, Merlin would not stop his advances; so, she had no choice but to trap him under a rock/in a tomb/cave/tree/tower/some other thing in a forest; in this case, Nimue replaces Merlin on Arthur's court afterwards
another reason that has been used a lot is that Nimue just hated Merlin and wanted to be the most powerful in the land, so she uses the magic that Merlin taught her to kill/trap Merlin
the Lady of the Lake that created and gave Arthur Excalibur (which may or may not be the same sword as the Sword in the Stone)
the Lady of the Lake that takes Excalibur when it is thrown into a lake when Arthur is about to die
the Lady of the Lake that helps take Arthur to Avalon
And all of these Ladies of the Lake have been combined and separated into different characters, depending on who's telling the story.
The most popular separations, from what I've seen, are either that Nimue/Vivian is not a Lady of the Lake, or that she's a different one from the one that is associated with Excalibur.
For my version, I wanted to keep things simple, so I decided to just have one Lady of the Lake. And since I had already established that the Sword in the Stone and Excalibur were the same sword in my previous retellings, that made it easier to just keep her involved in the events as well.
Also, I wanted to provide a reason that Merlin had to disappear from Camelot, but still keep Nimue and Merlin on good terms with each other, so I made up the whole thing about Merlin's demonic side overwhelming him if he didn't rejuvenate himself.
As for Melissa, she is most well-known from Orlando Furioso, a sequel to the incomplete Orlando Innamorato - both of which are Italian fusions of the Matter of Britain (Arthurian legends) and the Matter of France (Charlemagne and his Paladins).
After finding that out, I just had to include that little tidbit in my story.
The Sun Aegis - Continuing work on Part 7.
Audrey, The Unicorn Girl - Continuing to work with @Tobatoons, the artist for this project. Inking continues for Chapter 1!
Thank you for reading!
More of my writing and other projects can be found here!