“… It was like waking into a nightmare within a dream. I could feel sticky limbs attaching themselves to me all over, leeching the life from me. When I dared to open my eyes all I could see were these black things like huge worms writhing all around me. It was horrible.” As he spoke, fear and disgust were etched on his face. “I was afraid. I tried to tear them off me, kick them away, and the more I fought, the more I became entangled in them. I felt they would break me in pieces.
“I was about at the end of my strength. I don’t know how long I had been fighting. A lifetime, it felt. Then I saw a glint of silver. I reached out, trying to move towards it, I hoped it was the sword. I thought of the old story of the lady of the lake, and remembered Merlin and that made me smile inside. As soon as I smiled the tentacles seemed to flinch away. Then I heard a song. It was so beautiful that I was still and listened. I can’t tell you how it lifted my heart. I just gave in to it and the black things began to melt away. It seemed as if I could fight the darkness all I liked, but I could never win. Yet, by surrendering to beauty and joy the darkness could find no hold on me anymore.
“I closed my eyes and followed the song towards the sword. I could feel the music drawing me and the tentacles released me. I drifted for a long time in a darkness that was soft, not menacing, with the melody all around me. I don’t know how long. I suppose I must have been breathing, but it was no longer important. I just let the waters take me. After a while I could see light through my eyelids and I opened my eyes.
“I seemed to be drifting through a garden that swayed in the current. I followed a pathway of silver sand that led me over a hill. Beyond was a city of stark, white buildings. There was no-one there, so I followed the song. It led me down straight avenues bordered with flat roofed houses, I could see through the windows that the houses were ready for their occupants… tables were laid, toys were waiting for childish hands, tools lay awaiting their master, but there was no-one in sight.
“The paved roads ran straight towards the centre of the city. Beside the path were silent fountains and a stream that now lay empty. Every so often there was a crossroads, with a curving road either side. I felt the city was built in circles around a centre.
“After a while, I came to a great open space, paved and clean. It ran around the biggest building I had seen so far. Fish shoaled like flocks of birds above me. There were wide steps that led up to a columned façade, all made of some white stone with the sheen of polished marble. The roof gleamed a soft gold, casting rays of light into the darkness above.
“I climbed the steps and went inside. The hall was huge, echoing weirdly, almost like the sound in a swimming pool. There was a light, silver bright, shining against a dark doorway ahead of me. I seemed to be wading through water as I walked. I suppose I was, but it seemed the most natural element in the world.
“The room was lined with scrolls and books. All around the walls, millions of them it seemed. I got the impression that every human story was written and recorded here, every tear, every smile. The roof seemed to reach up beyond vision and the walls were not walls, but bookshelves, arranged in concentric circles around the brilliant glow in the centre.
“It took an age to get there. It felt as if I had been walking for years. Maybe I have. Time had a presence but no meaning. There was only now.
“She was there. The child, with her green-gold hair flowing out around her head as if caught in an unseen current. She was standing by a lectern in the centre of the space. The sword was in her hands and she smiled at me, holding out the blade.
Jamie glanced questioningly at Merlin. “She called me father and bade me take the blade. I asked her name and she shook her head, laughing. She told me she was born of water and Light and that her name was mine to give. She showed me a scroll on the lectern and gave me a pen made of a swan feather. Looking at her she radiated something so simple and beautiful, I could think of only one word. I name her Grá.” Merlin had tears in his eyes, but it was Anna who answered.
“Love. You named her Love.”
An extract from Swords of Destiny