"Myrddin," Gwenhwyvach called as she gently shook her mentor's shoulder. The elderly man was splayed over the table, quill still in hand, a prophecy plastered to his weathered face by the ink of its writing.

"Not now, Nimue," he murmured, still half asleep, limply waving a hand in a shooing motion.

Gwenhwyvach drew her hand away and looked at Myrddin askance. "I am not Nimue."

"Of course you're not," the prophet replied, now mostly awake. As he carefully peeled the wayward prophecy off his face and rubbed away the ink marks with his sleeve, Gwenhwyvach shook her head fondly before fetching the tray of soup she had placed aside on a convenient stool.

"So," began Gwenhwyvach once the table had been cleared of parchment and both had settled down to lunch, "what is today's prophecy of?"

"Nothing important for us," Myrddin said, waving his spoonless hand dismissively. "The weather will apparently be quite dreadful in some far off corner of the Orient."

Gwenhwyvach gave a noncommittal "Hm..." before lapsing into thoughtful silence.

The pair ate their meal in companionable quiet, Myrddin occasionally jotting down notes on a scrap of parchment while humming quietly to himself. Once the last of the soup and bread had been consumed, Gwenhwyvach cleared away the bowls and sole plate, placing them back on the tray before she returned the ensemble to the kitchens.

When she returned, Myrddin was playing a melody on his reed pipe. Gwenhwyvach stood in the doorway and listened as the elderly man played a song that vaguely reminded her of spring.

When the last note had faded away, Myrddin grinned at Gwenhwyvach and asked, "What did you think?"

"Is it for a new spell?" she asked.

Huffily, Myrddin replied, "Not all music has to be used for spells."

"In that case," said Gwenhwyvach, "it was nice."

"Nice? Nice?! Merely nice?!" The bard-prophet looked indignant and somewhat sullen.

"Well, if you want a more educated opinion, why not ask Taliesin?"

Myrddin merely glared in reply.

"I jest. I jest!" Gwenhwyvach giggled. "I do not doubt your musical prowess."

"Your vote of confidence overwhelms me," Myrddin said dryly as he set his pipes aside and resumed his seat at the table where a pile of documents sat waiting.

Gwenhwyvach shook her head with a smile before retrieving her cloak from a rack of antlers adjacent the doorway. With well-practiced ease, she neatly flung the covering over her shoulders and clasped the fabric closed in one fluid motion.

"And where are we off to now?" Myrddin asked without looking up from his work.

"To the lake."

Myrddin's salt and pepper eyebrows rose almost to his hairline and he glanced up at Gwenhwyvach. "Again?"

Gwenhwyvach paused. "Is there any reason why I should not?"

"None," said Myrddin, turning back to his work. "Just be sure to return before sundown."

"I am not a child," Gwenhwyvach said, looking mildly miffed.

Myrddin looked up again and said with a straight face, "I know, but who else would bring me my supper?"

Gwenhwyvach sighed, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Very well then. I will be back before sundown."

"Farewell, then," Myrddin said, waving his meal-bringer away with his free right hand.

"Farewell," said Gwenhwyvach before she whirled around and briskly strode out of the room.

"Is it Vivien?" Gwenhwyvach asked from her seat on the lake shore. She fiddled with a blue-gray pebble absentmindedly.

The Lady of the Lake danced an elaborate figure-eight in the air before replying in singsong, "Nope-nope, but Vivian is a pretty name."

Gwenhwyvach sighed and glanced up at the sky. With a start, she noticed how low the sun sat in the western sky. Leaping to her feet, Gwenhwyvach hurriedly brushed off her skirts, the pebble dropped and forgotten in her haste. "I am sorry, but I have to go."

"Must you? I like this naming game, gaming name, name game, game name." The Lady of the Lake giggled.

Gwenhwyvach reached her pony and began to untether him. "I told Myrddin I would be back before sunset."

"Oh... I guess you really do have to go..." The Lady seemed to deflate, the tendrils of ever-present wanter slowing their dances, some threads completely evaporating.

"I promise I will be back soon." The knot at last came free in Gwenhwyvach's hands and she mounted.

The Lady of the Lake instantly perked up. "I know," she said, "but can we play just one more round? Please?"

Gwenhwyvach glanced up at the sky once more and, judging that she had a little bit of time to spare, nodded. She sat in the saddle for a long moment, trying to think of a name they had not already tried. It was not Olwen, it was not Ragnelle, and it was definitely not Gwenhwyvar...

What was the name Myrddin had called her this morning? Niniane? Nineve?


The Lady of the Lake froze. Then she began to scream.