Nimue was twelve years old when she first met Merlin. He was young and handsome with coal black hair and eyes, an exact opposite of her honey blonde hair and summer blue eyes, and one could immediately sense something different about him. It was his incredible magic, of course. Just standing a foot from him, Nimue could feel the vibration of his power, quite like standing next to a lightning bolt.
How she fell instantly in love at their first meeting! Nimue lived in a beautiful castle near a vast lake, and Merlin had come to see her father, Dionas. But Nimue got the feeling Merlin had really come for her. She was proved right. Soon after their first meeting, Merlin told her she had powerful magic and he would help her develop it.
Nimue couldn’t believe it! She would be spending everyday with her love, learning to be powerful and revered, just like Merlin. On the very first day of his lessons, Merlin did something odd. He drew a circle around Nimue, a magic circle that was drawn for protection. She would find years later, however, that the circle also bound her to a place of Merlin’s choosing. But for now, Nimue was content to stay at Merlin’s side and learn everything about his magic.
Fire, earth, air, water. Merlin had given her a strange first task. She had to concentrate on these elements one at a time to see what happened. This, he said, would reveal the source of all her power. Wanting to please Merlin, Nimue did as he asked. She closed her eyes tight and thought of a great roaring fire, even bigger than her father’s castle. But no matter how hard she tried, nothing happened. Merlin laid a hand on her shoulder and told her to try the next element. Going from one to the next, sweat broke out on her forehead as she tried and failed at the first three elements. A great fear overcame Nimue. If she couldn’t succeed at this one, small task, Merlin would surely leave!
She was almost drained of all her strength when she came to water. Nimue could hardly stay on her feet. Weary but determined to keep Merlin with her, she closed her eyes and thought of the vast lake just a few yards away. She concentrated on pulling the water up out of its banks, over the smooth colorful pebbles to blanket the emerald green grass, and settle around her feet. At first, Nimue thought the cool wetness kissing her toes was all in her imagination, but when she opened her eyes and saw the crystal clear water glistening all around them, she squeaked with delight, then threw herself into Merlin’s arms.
Nimue wasn’t sure if it was the water or Merlin’s arms tightening around her that gave her strength, but she was suddenly charged with energy. Lots of energy that filled her and moved through her. It was as though Nimue could conquer a dragon with her bare hands and win. With a chuckle, Merlin glanced down at her with pride shining in his eyes and said they had found her source of power.
For five years, she and Merlin were inseparable. Nimue gobbled up Merlin’s knowledge, but couldn’t seem to sate her thirst to learn more. In that time, Nimue could tell Merlin’s love for her grew stronger with each passing day. He began talking about getting married and starting a family. How could he discuss such things when there was so much to learn? Nimue wanted to know it all. Her power was almost equaled to Merlin’s. She was so close.
Then one day Merlin surprised her. He said he had to leave for a while, that a great king would be born and would require his help. Merlin told her all about Arthur and how his story was written in the stars. Nimue marveled at Merlin and his ability to see the future. That was just another thing she had yet to learn!
The day Merlin was to leave, Nimue couldn’t believe how sad she became. Probably because he wouldn’t be there to teach her more magic. Merlin promised to return after Arthur was born and settled safely with a foster family. Fearing Merlin wouldn’t return, she made him promise to come back and teach her everything he knew and not hold anything back. Even how to do and undo the magic circle. She also asked he never use magic on her again. In return for all this, she would marry him. Seeing the fire that burned in his eyes at the thought of them married, he agreed, and sealed his promise with a lingering, passionate kiss. As Merlin set out, Nimue placed her fingertips on her tingling lips and was suddenly overcome with grief.
Nimue practiced everyday Merlin was gone. She even learned a few things on her own, like making the lake by her house disappear and reappear. But Merlin stayed on her mind continually. The days passed slowly and Nimue grew restless. One day, she decided to venture away from her father’s castle just for a short time. But as she set out and came to the border of her father’s land, Nimue couldn’t take one step more. That dreaded magic circle kept her from leaving her father’s land! No matter how hard she tried, Nimue couldn’t break the circle.
Three long years passed before Merlin returned to her. Nimue spent more and more time in the lake, absorbing its power into her to fuel her magic. She could breathe in the water and didn’t have to leave but once every new moon when the power of the water was at its weakest. Merlin stood at the edge of the lake and called to her, but Nimue knew for three days he would arrive. She could feel his presence. One look into Merlin’s onyx eyes, however, made the last three years fall away. Nimue knew in that instant she still felt a great love for him.
It took another four years to learn all Merlin had to offer. They even forged the great Excalibur and magical scabbard together. But he saved the magic circle for last, promising to tell her on their wedding night. When the wedding came, Nimue dressed in the most beautiful white silk gown ever created and held a fragrant bouquet of lilies in her hands. As always, Merlin was her opposite, dressed in black from head to foot. But he was so handsome and Nimue could feel the love she had been trying to suppress for him burst forth. However, she knew she would never be able to love him completely until he released her from the magic circle.
On their wedding night, they made love under the stars. Nimue was bursting with love and happiness, until she heard Merlin’s swift intake of breath and felt him stiffen. He was gazing up to the stars and she knew the news wasn’t good. Something terrible was going to happen unless Merlin did something to prevent it. Nimue was heartbroken to learn Merlin had to leave once again. She begged to go with him, but he refused, and left in a hurry.
It wasn’t until the next day, Nimue realized Merlin had left without showing her the secret of the magic circle. That very night, she studied the stars, trying to see what Merlin had saw. He had taught her how to read the stars and she was confident she could do it. As the scenes began unfolding, Nimue saw something that turned her blood cold. Her Merlin had been teaching another beautiful young lady named Morgan Le Fay his magic! Not wanting to see anymore, Nimue closed her eyes to the stars and couldn’t look again. It was too painful. She went to the lake, her sanctuary, and remained in hopes of healing from the deep wounds of betrayal.
When Merlin finally returned, Nimue refused to see him. She told him in her mind she never wanted to see him again and to leave her alone forever. About a month after he left, Nimue had a dream that she read the stars accurately, but had seen the past. Merlin had begun to show Morgan magic but when she started using it for evil purposes, he stopped. It wasn’t long after that Merlin had been lead to Nimue. So, Merlin hadn’t betrayed her. When Nimue woke and looked again at the stars, she realized her mistake. Unfortunately, she couldn’t set out to find Merlin because of that dreaded magic circle! And no matter how hard she tried, Nimue could not find Merlin. She asked her father to find him and he sent men out to search.
It took two years before Merlin was found and came rushing back to her. Nimue tearfully admitted her mistake. Finally, Merlin showed her how to do and undo the magic circle and the reason he had to leave in such haste. Uther had been poisoned by Morgan Le Fay and Merlin had to be sure the king named Arthur his successor before his death. Nimue decided to never doubt Merlin again and was grateful he so quickly forgave her.
But, years later, it would be Nimue who would betray Merlin. Morgan Le Fay’s dark powers grew to such strength, she would eventually do everything she could to kill both Arthur and Merlin. First, putting Arthur under a spell to have him sleep with his own sister, Morgause, which resulted in Mordred’s birth, then using Guinevere’s love for Lancelot to have her betray Arthur, Morgan fought hard to tear the kingdom apart.
One night, Nimue saw in the stars that Morgan would kill Merlin. In a desperate attempt to save Merlin, she lured him into a cave where they made love. As he slept, and with tears in her eyes, Nimue drew the magic circle to bind him there, then went back to her lake. One day, she promised to release Merlin and prayed he would forgive her.
What do you think? Should Nimue have used the circle to protect Merlin, even though she might have lost him forever?