Merlin’s life had changed the moment Asha came out of the Grimoire book. And ever since the night at the inn, this change had become permanent.
Asha said that she would be Lady Swanwick only for the night, and despite that, she continued to be Lady Swanwick for the days and weeks afterwards. When she announced that she was pregnant, Merlin had doubted her. After all, how could she be so sure right away. But when she put his hand on her stomach and he felt a third magic pulse. He asked how a child inside a nymph’s womb could grow so quickly. Asha explained that with a nymph, the growth of the baby depended on the strength of the magic of the mother. But since both she and Merlin carried magic in their veins, the child inside her grew stronger and faster than ever.
Ever since then, their relationship had changed. It was a subtle change, really. So subtle that Merlin barely noticed it.
The moment they got back to the hut in the forest, Asha told Merlin to burry the Grimoire book inside the deepest hole that he could dig. Merlin didn’t need to ask why she wanted him to do that. Since she had decided to be with him, the presence of the Grimoire book was a nuisance. This meant that the prying ears of the nymphs inside the Grimoire book had to be sealed away.
He drew a rune on each of his hand to strengthen them, and then he began to dig away. He dug until his all the strength left his body.
“You fool,” Asha frowned when she saw how exhausted Merlin was. “How will you fill the hole if you are so exhausted?”
Merlin had never felt so embarrassed. So focused was he on digging a deep hole that he did not think of saving any strength to put the soil back.
“But...thank you,” Asha smiled and used a towel to wipe the sweat and dirt off his body. To her, the depth of the hole showed how much he cared for her.
There were also some other changes in their relationship, and changes to their hut, for that matter. Since Merlin had accepted as Asha as his wife of sorts, she had begun acting like one too. She promptly took over the hut and threw out most of the wooden furniture Merlin had built for himself over the years. She drew some runes that were beyond his understanding on some nearby trees and her magic carved out some elegant furniture that only a master craftsman could build. She also ordered for Merlin to go to town and buy brooms and brushes to clean the inside of the hut.
In a single week, Merlin found himself making more trips to the local town than he did in his entire life. He brought back everything from new clothes to wooden chairs over to cheese, dried bacon and even fresh bread.
Asha drew several runes on the brooms and her magic brought these objects to live and they began to clean by themselves. Merlin was ordered to build a shelter for the pig and a storage house for the food.
Merlin watched as his old hut was transformed into a small house. On the outside it was larger and appeared sturdier. The inside was filled with elegant furniture and its cleanliness indicated clearly that a lady had move in.
The only thing that hadn’t changed was the straw mattress they slept on. Merlin had offered to go to town and drag back a soft feather mattress, but Asha declined.
“It is your fault that I have grown fond of this horrible bed,” she sniffed.
Every night they would make love on the this straw mattress. It did not feel as soft and fine as the one at the inn, but it had the feeling of home. On it, they would indulge in their lust and passion, and every now and then, Asha would wake him up by taking his cock into her mouth. For many men, this would be something out a dream, but for Merlin, he knew that it was a necessity for Asha.
Much to Merlin’s vexation, Asha still traveled to town every now and then in order to get her meal. Asha however quickly noticed how this jealousy drove Merlin mad, and resigned herself to drinking Merlin life force...for most of the time.
It took immense effort on her part to not suck away all of Merlin’s life force when she fed on him. After all, it was a nymph’s natural instinct to drain a man if he became entrapped in the sweet ensnares of her mouth.
To avoid this, she would travel to the edge of town in the middle of the night to hunt for drunk men who were singing and dancing under the moon.
Perhaps it was because she had to restrain herself whenever she drank Merlin’s life force that her natural nymph instincts grew nigh untamable whenever she fed on a man whom she didn’t know or care for. Even while she was trying to control herself, she always sucked away most of the life force of the men she caught. And when she was famished, she would discover a lifeless corpse before her.
In the morning, the man’s family would discover that their son and husband was gone and a search would begin. Over the months, more and more men were found drained to their bones.
It was always a mystery why these men all died with a smile on their faces.
People began to say that these drunken men had been killed by an angel. Why else would they smile?
Asha kept her nightly hunts a secret from Merlin, but it was a secret that became difficult to keep as her stomach grew bigger. Her growing pregnancy made it harder for her to make trips in the middle of the night, forcing her to suck more life out of the men she did catch. And unbeknownst to Merlin, the corpses continued to pile up around the edge of the town and the rumors of an angel turned into the tale of a demonic maiden who continued to search for her dead lover — killing any men she found out alone.
Four months after their night at the inn, Asha’s stomach had grown so large that it was difficult to move on her own and Merlin had to help her stand up. To her relief, she gave birth to twins within a week of that. A boy and a girl.
Initially, Merlin was worried that Asha’s nymph instincts would cause her to kill the boy, but surprisingly, he as much magic in his veins as his sister did.
The baby girl had long pointy ears like Asha and even though she was only an infant, Merlin could already see that she would grow up to become a great beauty like her mother.
“She is pure blooded,” Asha smiled as she held their daughter in her arms. “Thank the Lord that none of your human blood got into her.”
Merlin bit his tongue to stop the sudden spike in anger when he heard those words. Ever since the day he met her, she had openly looked down on the human blood that flowed in his veins, and she continued to do so now with little sensitivity towards his feelings.
She put down the baby girl on the bed and took the son from Merlin’s arms. She inhaled sharply.
“The magic is strong in his veins...he will become a great wizard one day,” Asha said. “His eyes are already starting to glow.”
“It will be troublesome if anyone saw him though,” Merlin said. “It will take two or three years until he will learn when to hide his magic.”
“Yes,” Asha agreed. “We will shelter our children until they are old enough to care for themselves.”
“What do nymphs do with their children once they have matured?” Merlin asked.
“We give them a choice,” Asha said and put the baby down on the bed next to his sister. “They can either stay with the tribe or go out on their own to find their destiny.”
“Humans usually send out their children,” Merlin said.
“Perhaps that is better than giving them a choice,” Asha said. “It will force the boys to become men.”
Merlin swallowed. He had the vague feeling that Asha was going to be tougher on the boy than the girl.
“But humans and nymphs have one thing in common in regard to treating their offspring,” Asha said.
“The mother has the right to name her children.”
“I think among humans, the father also has a — “
Merlin was silenced by Asha’s shining glare. Among the nymphs, the father was usually killed, so of course he had no right to name the children.
Merlin resigned with a sigh. No matter how much Asha may adhere to the role of being his wife, at the end of the day she was still a nymph and would always be a nymph.
“I think her name will be...Elizabeth Swanwick.”
With a smile, she picked up her daughter.
“Elizabeth Swanwick? But that is my mother’s name.”
“So?” Asha shrugged. “I feel no animosity towards your mother even though she was nothing but a human. I think it would be right to honor her by naming our daughter after her.”
The words ‘our daughter’ stabbed Merlin’s heart. The words that left Asha’s mouth were very real and true, yet he could still scarcely believe that this was reality.
“Our daughter...our son...our children,” Merlin thought as he watched Asha cradle Elizabeth in her arms.
“And the boy...,” Asha thought out loud. “The boy...”
She glanced over to Merlin.
“I shall give the rights to naming the boy to his father.”
Merlin couldn’t help but laugh. He wasn’t sure if this meant that Asha respected him enough to give the naming rights of the son to him, or if it meant that she didn’t care very much about the boy since nymphs usually killed any sons they had anyway.
“Arthur,” Merlin said. “Arthur Swanwick.”
“Arthur?” Asha frowned. “Do you mean to spite your king?”
“No,” Merlin shook his head. “I just hope that he might become everything that I am not, and everything that King Arthur is; strong and wise, loved and accepted by the people of his kingdom.”
“You fool,” Asha chuckled. “King Arthur may appear strong on the outside, but he is still nothing but a man. And all men have their weaknesses.”
“Truly?” Merlin raised an eyebrow. “And what is King Arthur’s weakness?”
Asha pointed at Merlin. “You.”
“Yes,” Asha said. “Why do you think King Arthur hasn’t contacted you ever since you sealed away all the demons?”
Merlin didn’t answer. He wanted to hear if Asha’s conclusion was the same as his.
“You and us demons are the only ones King Arthur cannot control,” Asha said. “That is why he had you seal away the demons, but now he doesn’t know what to do with you.”
“But why would the King fear me? I have served him loyally my entire life.”
“Because you have magic in your veins,” Asha said. “You and your magic are the one factor he cannot predict. Magic is capable of doing anything as long as the user knows how to cast it. “
“If he sees me as a threat, then why hasn’t he killed me when I was a child?” Merlin asked.
“Because if he did that, who would seal away the demons?”
“Then he why doesn’t he kill me now?”
“Who says he isn’t going to?” Asha said. “You have fulfilled your purpose, Merlin. Why do you think he hasn’t contacted you ever since? He is waiting for you to make any move that might make you vulnerable.”
“But what can he expect me to do that could give him the chance to kill me?”
Asha thought for a moment. Her eyes darted back and forth, her long pointy ears twitching slightly.
“Tell me Merlin, has he ever asked you to leave the forest after you have sealed away all the demons?” Asha asked. “Any order or request that might force you the safety of your hut?”
Merlin nodded. “The day before I released you from the Grimoire book, a royal messenger came with a letter from King Arthur, ordering me to deliver the book to Camelot.”
“And you didn’t go?”
“I was planning on resting before making the trip to Camelot, but then you came.”
Asha smiled with satisfaction, her eyes glowing faintly. “I think I might have saved your life.”
“You truly think that King Arthur would have me killed if I came to Camelot?”
“I think so,” Asha said. “You can never be sure, but if he saw us demons as a threat, then he will surely see your magic as a threat too — no matter how much you displayed your loyalty.”
Merlin sat down on a wooden chair that Asha had carved using her magic. His mind was racing with different possibilities. It was indeed true that King Arthur has not given him a second order to deliver the Grimoire book ever since he refused the first one. If that first order was to lure to him into a trap, then right now, King Arthur must be waiting for him to make a move.
The only reason for King Arthur to not attack him outright in this forest must be because he was afraid of Merlin, yet Merlin was sure that if King Arthur’s men attacked him all at once, he would have difficulty defending himself.
“What should I do now?” Merlin asked.
“Nothing,” Asha answered right away.
“Nothing,” Asha repeated. “If King Arthur is doing nothing, then why should you do anything? Perhaps his lack of messages is signaling that as long as you don’t make any trouble, he will leave you alone.”
She picked up Elizabeth and handed her to Merlin. “You have a wife and two children to take care of now. Our safety should be your first priority.”
Asha gaze was entirely serious. Her playful attitude was gone. Merlin understood the gravity of her words. Now that she had decided to stay by his side and become the mother of his children, he had to bear the responsibility of a father and husband.
He cradled Elizabeth in his arms and watched her as she slept peacefully. She had the expression of an angel despite the fact that she was a nymph. If one ignored her ears, then she would appear exactly like a human child.
“Perhaps humans and demons have more in common than we know,” Merlin thought.
Elizabeth stirred in his arms and gurgled. She opened her large eyes and immediately Merlin could feel the magic ooze out from her.
“Her magic is strong,” Asha commented while she had Arthur in her arms.
Magic looked up from Elizabeth and saw Asha with their son. Suddenly, he felt a lump in his throat. This nymph and these two children were his family now. He had to do everything he could to protect them.
“Don’t worry,” Asha smiled when she saw Merlin’s expression change. “I am here too...and I will protect all of us.”
There was a tight bond of trust between Merlin and Asha, yet Asha knew that as a nymph, there were some things she had to do behind Merlin’s back because if he knew, she knew that he would disapprove. Yet for a nymph, these were necessary.
Elizabeth was a nymph while Arthur was a wizard. This meant that Arthur could grow and survive on human food while Elizabeth’s nymph body required the same diet as her mother.
Every night when Merlin went to sleep, Asha would go into the forest and skirt around the edge of town to find any men who were on their own. She would seduce them drain them of their life. But now that she had Elizabeth to feed, so she had to take even more than usual. Now every time she went hunting, there would at least be one dead man.
Once she had what she needed, Asha stored the magic in her body and later infused this special source of magic with the milk in her left breast. Merlin never noticed this, but when Asha breastfed Arthur and Elizabeth, Elizabeth always sucked on the left breast while Arthur got the right one.
Rumors spread like wildfire around Marlborough and nearby villages, yet no one knew what was causing so many men to die every week. Some say that it was a demon who roamed the lands and was taking revenge on humans. Some say that this was God’s punishment. And one particular rumor said that there was a mysterious, ghost-like beauty who wandered around the edge of the forest at night, singing sweet songs to lure in lonely men.
Elizabeth grew much faster than Arthur. In a matter of weeks, she had grown to the size of a ten-year-old girl while Arthur was still an infant.
“Nymph babies grow fast,” Asha puffed her chest with pride. “When I was her age, I was already capable of casting simple spells.”
Elizabeth had learned to read and write within five weeks after she was born. Three weeks after that, she had learned how to cast spells. And two weeks after that, the complexity of her runes had surpassed Merlin’s.
Merlin was both amazed and slightly frightened by the pace of her mental and physical growth. He could understand now why nymphs grew up to look down on humans as inferior beings.
But to his relief, Elizabeth did not show the distaste towards humans her mother did. She loved her baby brother Arthur and would play with him outside. They even slept together on a second bed Merlin had built for them. Asha did not treat Arthur any different from Elizabeth either, although she did spend more time with Elizabeth in order to teach her the different runes.
“She takes after you,” Asha said one night when Elizabeth and Arthur were sound asleep.
“She is a pure-blooded nymph, but she loves humans likes you do,” Asha said. “I never thought that my daughter would be like that.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“I don’t know,” Asha said. “She may feel kindness towards humans, but humans will never return this kindness.”
“Don’t worry, no one is going to harm her.”
“I hope you are right.”
Asha waited until Merlin fell asleep before she slipped out of the hut and into the forest. Just like every other night, she went on her hunt for the life force that she and Elizabeth needed.
Even though Elizabeth had developed a tongue for human food, her daughter could instinctively tell that this was not enough to maintain her body.
“It will be time soon...,” Asha murmured. Soon she will have to properly explain to Elizabeth that she was different from her brother and father; how the blood in her veins was that a nymph and that her body needed the life force of human men in order to continue functioning.
Usually nymphs would tell their offspring about these things the moment they were capable of speaking, but Asha had chosen not to do that with Elizabeth. Asha told herself that she had grown soft. Due to Merlin’s influence, she has lost the merciless stance which all nymphs had towards humans and the truths of life. She wanted to maintain Elizabeth’s innocence just a little longer before she had to tell her that both of them would outlive Merlin and Arthur by centuries.
Time would pass slowly for Merlin and Arthur, and in the blink of an eye, they would die. It was a simple fact of life that human bodies were a lot less durable than those who had pure demonic blood in their veins. Asha and Elizabeth on the other hand would watch Britain throughout the reign of King Arthur and whatever future kings decided to do with the land.
Soon, she reached the edge of town. It was a lot quieter than usual. Normally she would be able to hear the sounds of craftsmen laboring into the night, or drunk merchants singing out on the streets.
“Wait for me, I need to go...piss,” she heard a man’s voice.
Asha smiled. She had found her target.