Chapter One

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I ducked and rolled across the rough stone floor, narrowly avoiding the plunging spear looking to impale my left temple. Leaping to my feet, I glanced from side to side, the darkened warriors advancing invisibly and silently towards me, surrounding me. I had no choice now. I knew these shadowed fiends wouldn't hesitate to strike out to kill, and my assessor wouldn't stop them. Whether he did or didn't, it would prove I wasn't worthy. Taking quick, shallow breaths and steeling myself, I tensed, waiting. NOW! Exploding upward and hanging higher than any should be able to, I drifted aloft, lazily gliding down, falling at half the rate of a normal human being. When I landed, I launched into a blur of crazy motion, running circles around my adversaries and loping of limbs that dared approach. When the last warrior fell, lights appeared, and a wizened old man shuffled forward, his strong voice belying his age.

"Well done child. You have proved yourself worthy. Better than any that have come this way." he looked at me curiously.

I was breathing heavily, strangling my sword as though more enemies might materialize from the the walls. Which, I reflected, They very well might. 

"Thank you sir." I finally gasped. To myself I thought, Well I'd better be. I've been training for centuries. Squelching those memories, I turned to Merlin, praying he wouldn't ask about my ability to stay aloft far longer than any human being. I wasn't about to explain. 

"Are you comfortable?" Merlin asked, his eyes twinkling.

"Um...yes sir?" I couldn't keep the question out of my voice. What the heck does he mean? 

"What's your name?"

Oh. Living in a time period when girls were frowned upon, I wondered if the wizard's perceptive eyes could see beyond my plain leather jerkin overlaying an unadorned white long-sleeved shirt and leggings and into my mind....

"Uh...." I didn't know what to say. I knew it was forbidden for women to be anything above chattel, but I couldn't abide by those rules. I blurted the first name that came to my mind.

"Aiden." I winced. The name of my brother stirred goulish memories in my mind, a thick soup of dead and forgotten people I had once cherished above all else.

Merlin half closed one eye, a smile spreading across his grandfatherly face. "Are you certain Selah?" 

I gasped. That was it, I was done for. I'd be kicked out in shame, if I wasn't executed first. "I-uh...."

Merlin laughed. "Please relax dear child. You are just what I need."

My chest heaving I choked out "But...but...the king..."

"Listens to my council, yes?" He raised his eyebrows at me, and I nodded,breathless.

"Good. Let us begin your training. You'll need more than excellent fighting techniques-that's just a perk."

"Then why make it part of the initiation?"

"It's a very important perk. You have to be able to stand up to the likes of Morgana with out quaking, and the shadow warriors are mere bugs compared to her."

I halted. "Morgana? Mere bugs?"

Merlin stopped and turned. "Yes. Are you afraid?"

I nodded, certain I was failing a test.

"Good." Merlin swept out of the battle arena. I followed, my curiosity piqued. Keeping my mouth shut, I strained to keep up as he padded down convoluted corridors and seemed to dance through certain hallways, warning of a trap there or a false floor here. "Can't have my apprentice falling into some obscure hole now, can we?" He chucked. More than curious now, I jogged to keep up, agilely leaping over obstacles set in place to trip intruders. Merlin grumbled about how not even the castle staff could make it through these halls anymore. I giggled, then slapped a hand over my mouth, aware I may be making a social faux pas. Merlin laughed gaily, and I joined in, finally feeling free in the presence of this intimidating man. 

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