Now Merlin was the wizard that started it all -- he taught the rather dense Arthur about the mysteries in the minds of men, how the land was split up among warring bullies, and only a strong king could bring people together under an ideal of knightly service around a round table.
In those times, Merlin knew all there was to know, how to read the stars, how to make healing potions, and cast magic spells, and he seemed to have eyes and ears in every corner of the land. They say Merlin lived time backwards, that he knew the future the way you and I know the past. (If he knew the future, then he must have known how the schemes of the evil Mordred would destroy Arthur and his round table of knights, how Lancelot and Guenivere would suffer from forbiden love, how the flower of knighthood would die in slavery in foolish crusades to find The Holy Grail. And he must have also known the name that would be his doom -- Ninyve)
One day Merlin was instructing Arthur, showing him marvelous events in some far-off time, some distant place, when suddenly Merlin turned pale and silent.
"What is it, Merlin?" asked Arthur. "Tell me, magician, what I can do and I will do all in my power to help you."
Merlin said nothing, but began gathering some of his books, herbs and instruments into a small bag.
"What is it, Merlin?" shouted Arthur.
Merlin turned to Arthur and whispered "She has come. It is Ninyve."
Ninyve came to Camelot from the country to seek settlement of some provincial dispute. She was young and nervous in this city of wonders. She walked the busy streets, barely able to contain her amazement and confusion at the famous knights, the richly-gowned ladies, the mixture of dialects discoursing upon a million unfamiliar subjects. Ninyve shyly stood at the edges of Camelot's central square, watching, listening, wishing this moment could last forever.
Suddenly, an old, old man in an outlandish gown, all stooped and out of breath, ran up and shouted, "My lady, I am Merlin, and have been fated since Time began to love you more than life itself."
Ninyve took one look at this wheezing old geezer and ran away as fast as she could.
And Merlin just stood there, with tears in his eyes, foolish with his fated love for Ninyve.
Merlin could do many things. He could order kings, and kingdoms, he could heal the sick and fly through the air. He could do all manner of magic and sorcery, but he could not make Ninyve love him.
Even when she learned that this old man that loved her was the wisest and most powerful man in the city of Camelot, she was not moved. But Merlin persisted, and persisted, until she was half mad from seeing Merlin everywhere she went, saying "Ninyve, be my love and I shall teach you all the powers I have."
Finally, after months of this, Ninyve said "Allright, Merlin, Teach me all your powers and I shall be yours. Come."
And Merlin, who knew the future, came -- for Ninyve.
And they traveled many days from Camelot to a wild woodland, and Merlin taught her the secrets of sorcery. But still, Ninyve would not let Merlin touch her. Merlin pleaded and pleaded, and Ninyve finally said, "Allright, teach me the curse that can't be broken, and I will live with you."
So they went into a cave and Merlin invoked a Luxury Spell that turned it into a rich bedroom, with silk sheets and satin hangings and a great fireplace, and then he taught her the curse that can't be broken.
Immediately, Ninyve ran out of the cave, turned back, and sealed its entrace with the curse that can't be broken, so Merlin was trapped inside for all time... thinking of Ninyve.
Now most tellings of this tale end here, with the great Merlin condemned by his own infatuation to a miserable existence. Some say that since Merlin is immortal, for all eternity he will be in that cave. Others say he will only be freed when his nation needs him. Either way, he remains sleeping in that lonely bed, still in love, even now, with that woman, Ninyve.
But what of Ninyve? What happens to a young woman when she is given the greatest powers on earth?
The sources are very sketchy about what happens after this. They mention that she led an existence separate from other peple, living mainly in the woods; she didn't use her awesome power for wordly things, as Merlin had. We have accounts of travelers taken ill on the road and miraculously cured by a beautiful, wild woman of the woods. We have stories of the victims of injustice whose wrongs were righted by this strong wise women. We have reports of her talking for hours to woodland animals.
So the years pass for Ninyve.
The last mention of Ninyve in the old books is the story of a knight, bewitched into an insane love for a coarse, heartless, dull-minded lady. The accursed knight was living in squalor, desperation, and filth in a hut outside this unworthy lady's castle, fruitlessly pleading his love for this ugly woman.
The unworthy lady seemed to enjoy torturing the knight. She had her servants drop garbage and human waste on him, and would bring her friends to laught at his humiliation.is tragedy.
One morning, Ninyve happened by and saw this tragedy from a bridge. Perhaps thinking sadly of old Merlin, she said the magic words and the knight's curse was lifted. He was freed from his unfortunate infation with the unworthy lady.
At lunchtime, the heartless lady came by to subject the knight to some new humiliation, but the knight ignored her. The unworthy lady was surprised, and soon came to understand that the curse on the knight had been lifted. She began to speak to the knight in terms of tender endearment, but no matter what she said, the knight ignored her and packed his things to leave. Soon the lady was begging, but when the knight looked at her, he saw only her coarseness and was disgusted.
He fled the scene of his recent humiliations until he got to the bridge where Ninyve was hiding and started to cry.
"What shall I do now?" moaned the Knight. "I can never love again. Perhaps it is better to die."
Ninyve, hearing this, stepped out of her hiding place. "Knight," she said "you are free from your curse. Your life is your own again. Why do you complain?"
"Because the lady's curse, which flooded me with false love, leaves my heart dry now," he said. "And I know I can never love again."
Ninyve felt sorry for this young knight, so filled with a premature awareness of an unfair and capricious world. "I'm sure you will find love," she said.
But he could not be consoled, nor would he believe he could ever love again.
"You must try," pleaded Ninyve.
The knight looked at this barefoot, wild woman for a long time and then said, "Will you come with me until I find love?"
And Ninyve said "Yes, I will go with you to search for love." And they left that place together, the heart-broken knight and Ninyve.