Asha Swanwick: The Grimoire Maiden

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Chapter 2

“By the order of King Arthur, you are to deliver the Grimoire book to Camelot,” the Royal Messenger read.

Merlin sat inside his hut, listening to the messenger’s voice. While he did not shake with fear, Merlin could sense that the man did not want to be here.

He stood up and opened the door to his humble home.

“Would you like to come in?” he asked.

“Ah!” the messenger boy cried and he fell to his knees. “P-please, do not kill me.”

Merlin sighed. No matter how hard he tried to be friendly to the handful of humans who talked to him, they always reacted with fear. He wondered if his purple eyes made his smile appear evil rather than friendly.

Merlin raised both of his hands, signaling that he had no intend to harm the messenger boy.

“You are on your way back to Camelot, yes?” Merlin asked and the boy nodded. “Why don’t you take the Grimoire book with you? It would save me the tiresome trip.”

“King Arthur’s orders are for you to deliver the book!” the boy exclaimed.

Merlin shook his head. While what the boy said was true, he could also sense that he did not want to carry the Grimoire book. And who could blame him? No human being in his right mind would want to touch a book that contained every demon across the kingdom. It was a book oozing with evil and only Merlin’s magic was powerful enough to contain it.

“Wait here,” Merlin told the boy and went back into his hut.

He took out a piece of dried animal skin and a quill. Sealing away all the demons in Britain had taken a great toll on his body and he was not ready for a five-day trip to Camelot. He wanted — nay he needed — a few weeks of rest.

He wrote a message in elegant cursive writing, spelling out his exhaustion to the King. He then tied it into a roll and handed it to the messenger.

“Give this to King Arthur,” he said.

The messenger boy nodded meekly. Merlin could sense that the boy feared him slightly less now, but was still far from being comfortable in his presence.

“Go,” he said simply and the boy ran as fast as he could. In just a few moments, he had vanished between the trees.

Merlin let out a breath. He was truly exhausted from the spell King Arthur had him perform. Tempting his pure blooded demonic brothers to fall into the trap he had set up and then sealing them all away inside the Grimoire book was a Herculean task.

Frankly, he was reluctant to follow King Arthur’s order when all the demons had been sucked into the tree. It required him to betray his demonic brothers and sisters. He had to choose between the humans and the demons, and it was no easy choice. After the demons found out that his father had mated with a human woman, they hunted him and ripped him to shreds. Whereas the Church burned his human mother on a stake. But Merlin had obeyed King Arthur all of his life, and he thought that if he obeyed this final order, perhaps he could earn the King’s trust and live inside the capital again.

However after he had sealed away all the demons, he remained banished from the capital. King Arthur continued to keep him in a tiny hut deep inside a forest and never even gave a word of gratitude.

Merlin felt that he had betrayed his demonic brothers for nothing. Although it wasn’t as if the demons had ever treated him with any kindness either.

Merlin slammed the door shut and lay down on the straw mattress he himself built.

“Curse him,” he muttered. “Curse the King.”

He closed his eyes and drew the blanket over his head. He had desperately hoped to earn the trust of the King and maybe, just maybe, gain a true friend. But now he knew better. Even if he followed every order King Arthur gave him for the rest of his life, the King feared him far too much to consider him a friend.

He felt his demonic blood boiling with anger.

“Hnghh!” Merlin cried and he felt a painful stab in his chest.

Merlin knew very well what was happening. The painful lump inside his chest grew ever larger and eventually he felt warm tears forming in his eyes.

“How human of me,” he sobbed and he felt a tear trickle down his cheek.

He wondered what he had ever done to deserve all this. He wondered why he had to be alone. He wondered why, despite his best efforts, every human being he came in contact with would feel nothing but fear.

Merlin often looked at his reflection at the lake where he drew water. The only difference between himself and normal human beings were his eyes; they glowed with a purple light, indicating that there was demonic blood flowing in his veins. Beyond that, he could not tell why other people were so afraid of him – was it really only his eyes that damned him to a life of solitude? His admitted that he was more muscular than most other men such as the messenger. He had to fend for himself ever since his demonic father died, and through that, his body had become like that of a seasoned warrior even though he had never been on a battlefield, nor did he have a violent bone in his body. His dark brown hair fell to his shoulders and his hands were large and rough from all the labor he did. Tasks such as hunting, collecting food and firewood, drawing water, building shelter – these were all usually done by several people, but he had to do it all by himself. And with these rough hands, he had also taught himself how to draw runes that could channel the magic in his blood and direct this power to change something in the physical world.

Even though Merlin had never thought of himself as such, he was a hunter, warrior, builder, cook, wanderer and magician. To survive on his own, he had gained more skills than other any normal person. Yet no number of survival skills could fill the ever-widening lonely gap in his heart.

Merlin cursed the King Arthur under his breath, but he knew that in truth, he was the one who was cursed.

For the first time in a long time, he cried like a newborn. Tears flowed freely as he indulged in self-pity, cursing God and all his Holy Angels for giving him this punishment he did not deserve. He cried until his tears dried out and he lay there, ever more exhausted.

And just as he was about to fall asleep, a woman’s voice sounded in his ear.

“Hold me...”

“Hmm?” he murmured and sat up.

“Hold me...”

“What...?” Merlin scowled. This was the voice of female, but he instinctively knew that this was not the sound of a human woman. This voice had a layer of magic in it.

“A nymph...?” Merlin wondered out loud and he looked around. No. He was confident that all the nymphs had been sealed inside the Grimoire book.

He looked over to his desk and saw that nothing about it had changed.

“Hmph,” he sighed and with one hand motion, commanded for the book to fly over to him. He held it his hands and stroked the cover. It was the same as before. The red ruby still decorated the middle of the fine leather cover and there was a magic reinforced iron lock keeping the book tightly shut.

Merlin closed his eyes and pried his ears for the voice. There was only an eerie silence. Even insects and birds avoided his hut, for every living creature in the forest could sense the magic in his demonic blood.

But was it possible that from the thousands of nymphs in the kingdom, one escaped his spell?

Merlin did not think so, for he had pride in his magic abilities. Nevertheless, he decided take some precautions and took the Grimoire book to bed with him. No doubt the iron lock and reinforced corners of the book would make an unpleasant bed companion, but he reasoned that it was better to be careful. If the demons ever escaped from the Grimoire, they would escape with vengeance and he was sure that he would be the first to die.

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