Asha Swanwick: The Grimoire Maiden

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Chapter 10

For many years, Merlin lived alone in his hut, and a few weeks ago, a nymph joined him from the Grimoire book. And now, a third member demanded entrance to Merlin’s humble chambers.

When they arrived at the hut, Merlin and Asha saw that the pig was already waiting for them. But it was a rather impatient pig. It continuously circled the hut and tried to find a way in. It used its body to ram the door and walls, and even used its snout in an attempt to dig a tunnel underneath the wall.

For a few moments, Merlin simply watched the pig with a raised eyebrow.

“What exactly did you tell the pig?” he asked Asha.

“I gave it my memories of the path to your hut and told him to go there.”

“It appears the pig is rather determined to go inside,” Merlin commented.

“Indeed,” Asha agreed.

The pig turned and noticed the return of his female master. Like a dog, the pig heaved its weight and ran towards Asha. It sat down in front of her, as if waiting for some kind of reward.

With a kind smile, Asha’s hand glowed and she touched the pig's head. Afterwards, the pig obediently followed her.

When they entered the hut, Merlin’s thoughts raced.

“What to do, what to do,” he murmured.

He considered all options. By his own estimates, the townsfolk would gather their weapons and stream into the forest to hunt him and Asha when dawn broke. Right now, he could either pack up his things and flee, or he could draw a protective barrier around his hut to prevent the townsfolk from entering this part of the forest.

Merlin turned to Asha and the pig which sat next to her. He let out a breath. He almost forgot that he wasn’t living alone anymore. He couldn’t just think for himself. He had to worry about Asha...and her pig.

“Right, first thing’s first,” Merlin said and grabbed the knife Asha used to try to kill him. “They will come after us and the pig, so let us eat the pig the first.”

The pig squealed when it saw the knife and hid behind Asha.

“No!” Asha shouted, kneeled down and put her arms around the pig’s fat body.

“W-what,” Merlin mouthed, confused by Asha’s reaction. “Didn’t we go to the market to buy food?”

“But not the pig!” Asha shot back. “I wanted this pig as a pet.”

“A pet!”

Merlin stared at the pig and then at Asha. He could see right away that Asha was not going to let him slaughter it, and if he did it while she was away, he would certainly face the merciless wrath of a woman and nymph.

“Women...,” Merlin mumbled and put the knife back on the table. “I don’t understand you.”

“I’m not a woman,” Asha hopped over to Merlin and grabbed his arm. “I’m a nymph.”

She looked up at him and her eyes glowed faintly with a purple light.

“Don’t use your magic on me,” Merlin growled.

“You are no fun,” Asha pouted and her eyes changed to the bright blue she had when they were in town. “Is this better?”

Merlin regarded Asha with a suspicious eye.

“Why are you so happy?” he asked. “The townsfolk are going to come soon to hunt us, there is no time to fool around.”

“Merlin, you fool,” Asha giggled and poked his cheek. “Did you know that all nymphs are also women?”

“What do you mean?”

“And women are happy when a man protects them like you did today.”

Merlin felt his heart thump. What Asha said was true. Today in town, he protected Asha when he could have simply abandoned her. Not only that, he revealed his own identify and risked his life.

As far as he should have been concerned, Asha was a nymph who did not belong in this world and caused him nothing but problems. It would have done him nothing but good if the townsfolk ripped her to pieces.

“Perhaps my seduction is working on you?” Asha teased him.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Merlin replied roughly and shook his arm loose.

“But you called me a woman just now.”

This made Merlin stop. She was right again. Mere moments ago, under his breath, he called her a woman.

Before he could find any way to reply, he felt Asha put her arms around him from behind.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you for saving me.”

Merlin wanted to say that it was nothing, but there was something about Asha’s voice that left him speechless. There was no magic layered into her words, yet there was this strange sincerity that made his heart stir.

“I really thought that I was going to die,” Asha whispered. “I thought that you would abandon me...since I shouldn’t be here...”

All of the sudden, Merlin felt the usual Asha vanish and instead she became a simple girl who was afraid of death.

“I was scared,” Asha whispered and Merlin could hear her voice break. “Thank y-“

Merlin didn’t let her finish. There was something awfully strange to hear a woman — or nymph — cry. He turned around and put his arms around her slim frame. He pressed her against him and Asha wiped her tears against him.

“You like this don’t you,” Asha said in between her sobs. “You like it when I’m weak like this.”

“No one can stay strong all the time,” Merlin said. “I think even a nymph needs to cry sometimes.”

“Ha!” Asha laughed mockingly and used his clothes to blow her nose. “A young fool like you acting like a wise man.”

“I’m not acting.”

Asha laughed again and calmed down. She wiped her tears using her sleeves and escaped his arms.

“I’m going to go outside to build a barrier,” she said.

“To protect us from the people who saw us today?”

Asha turned to him with a grin. “To protect the pig.”

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