Vivien and Blaize found the two young men later. "You must come with us. It is time." No word of explanation was offered she merely motioned Merlin and Uther into the woods outside. After walking in silence for some time, they reached some dolmens in a clearing. In particular, two formed the shape of doors and stood facing each other on either side of the clearing, inside a external ring which played tricks with your mind, forever giving the impression of people od things at the edge of your vision. Later Uther confirmed many druids had appeared and chanted, watching things that Uther could not see. But for now Vivien turned to Merlin with a heartbreakingly sweet smile. Blaize stood next to her, a smile lingering around his gruff features and a suspicion of tears in his eyes. "Summon a stag Merlin." Merlin frowned and performed this easily. It was a beautiful beats strong and noble. Blaize turned ot Uther and offered him a knife. "Do you love merlin as a brother and the Goddess above all." Uther nodded. "Kill the stag." Blaize said and Uther did so. Vivien dipped her fingers in the blood and lightly anointed Merlin's forehead. "Are you ready?" She asked and comprehension dawned. It was another test. Blaize spoke then. "I told you he was ready. Let him go and may the Gods smile on him." He placed a crown of mistletoe and oak on Merlin's head. "You enter a Bard. Gods be willing, you will leave a Druid." Vivien took him by the hand and led him to upright stones forming a rough door frame. She offered him a bowl of red liquid to drink from. The smell was heavy and spicy and it burnt his tongue as he drank. Even as he did so, the world began to grow dim and remote. It was surrounded by a misty haze and its smells and sounds were muffled. Vivien's clear voice penetrated the fog. "Look at the gateway Merlin." he did so and a clear world was revealed through the gate but not the outside world, a different world. "Step through. Therein lies thy way. If the Gods favour thee and thy luck holds, thou shalt exit again, if not we shalt mourn thee as one dead. Steel thy heart and be not afraid. Put thy faith in thy skills and know we pray for thee. Enter now." He did so and vaguely registered Vivien cutting her hand and sealing the gate with her blood. He could not return that way. He must travel through the other world and exit, born again.

* * * * *

Even now, Merlin could not suppress a tremble at the memory. Nothing would induce him to remember that time. It had felt like years and he was made to doubt. Stripped of all his outer defences by the Gods, he'd clawed his way back and somehow survived but he had never felt confident. In truth the only clear memory was breaking through the other door and falling into Blaize' and Uther's arms. Only then was he aware of the scratches that cloaked his body and that his robes were in a state of disrepair and worse of all, he'd flung away his harp. his knife, everything he'd carried to survive. Trembling and broken he had turned to face Vivien.....

* * * * *

but Vivien wasn't there, or not the Vivien he had become used to. Every line of that well-know face was incandescent with an inner light that obliterated her humanity and gave her the guise of a god. When she spoke her voice was overlaid with echoes of other voices A faint choral effect. The Triad were present within her. She motioned Merlin to her. "Thou hast been judged worthy in Our sight. Thy magic is everything. We planned it to be and thy natural aptitude has come as an unexpected joy. Thou hast found favour in Our sight and thou art supremely worthy to be a Druid and to be the Heir to the most Beloved Blaize. Now for thy gifts from Us. First We shalt confer on thee, thy druidic robes." Vivien raised a hand and Merlin's robe was whole again and bleached purest white. "Secondly, We return unto thee, thy Harp. It would grieve thee greatly to lose it and it would grieve Us greatly to lose the joy of thy song. Finally, thy Staff. May thou prove worthy of Our trust. Do not fail, Druid , for thou art destined to be the greatest of thy fellows and thou must achieve great deeds to save this country. Great deeds come only with great sacrifice but thou hast shown thyself strong to endure and to live. Know that, thou hast Our blessing and Our love." The figure turned to Blaize. "Thou hast done well. Be joyful, thou hast fulfilled thy task and thou hast done so magnificently. " Finally she turned to Uther. "Hail, King-to-be and father of the greatest of Lords. Hunter of the Forest, never forget thy death will come through betrayal yet thou shalt live in glory and forever on the lips of men." With that, the divine light began to fade from Vivien and the four were left standing in silence in the forest clearing, filled with eerie echoes of the Goddess' words.

Merlin shuddered, coming out of his trance like state and his movement seemed to bring the others back to this wood, rather than whatever astral trajectory the divine voice had sent them along. Vivien alone still seemed the most unconscious of her surroundings. The light was fading but her face had not still completely regained its humanity and her eyes looked strange as if they could see so much more than what is normally in a human field of vision. Blaize walked over to Merlin, with tears glistening in his eyes. His powerful voice, barely above a whisper of emotion. "Well done my boy, well done. You have done me proud." In an unusual outburst of emotion, Blaize hugged Merlin to him, beaming with a kind of paternal pride. "Didn't I always say he'd make it? Didn't I always say he was good?" Blaize gloated over his pupil's victory.

Uther came over to Merlin then, still shaken by what he had witnessed. He licked his lips before speaking and his voice was slightly hoarse. "Are you alright Merlin? it seemed like you were in there for hours." Merlin nodded mutely, he felt new born. It was as if everything was fresh. The stains of winter were fading and life was returning to the world. He felt on the verge of comprehending the bird's song and smelling out the meaning of the woods. Everything seemed to be coursing with life and magic. Even the most mundane of activities bathed in beauty because he was alive and he'd come so close to staying in the weird twilight other world, where every action dragged, filled with pain and horror. The world was beautiful and he would never see it like this again, never seen the sparkle in the water where it splashed and churned. No moment could be reclaimed and he had gone through life blind to the power in every simple thing. Nothing was constant not even the rocks, everything moved to its eventual destruction but it sang on its way and in the chains of time. Life's beauty was its transience. Its balance, the equilibrium. It was that he was here to protect, no Druid could freeze time without destroying the beauty. Aching and weary the two men return alone to the castle. When Blaize returned later still, Vivien was gone.