Copyright Oggbashan June 2012
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.
Nimue turned as another woman squealed in dismay. She saw a young woman grabbing her clothing from the ground and dashing behind the nearest bush to conceal her nakedness.
"Merlin!" she shouted, "Stop it!"
"Sorry," Merlin said in a tone that showed he didn't mean it. "You shouldn't use that spell to divert my magic. I want to see you naked, not an endless succession of random women."
"How many have you stripped today?"
"Not many, Nimue. A dozen or so, I suppose."
"Why keep doing it, Merlin? You can see it doesn't work. I'm still fully dressed, no matter how many women you strip stark naked."
"But it would be nice to see you naked, Nimue," Merlin said wistfully. "It isn't much to ask for all that I'm teaching you."
"Perhaps, when you have taught me everything you know, then I might strip for you."
"But then you could protect myself from anything I could do."
"That's true, but I might consider it as a reward."
"But you might not?"
"Oh well, you have a lot more to learn, and that will take a long time. For example, you are a long way from mastering the basics of illusion. Can I wait years to see you naked? I'm not sure that the remote possibility that you might strip is sufficient incentive."
"It'll have to do," Nimue snapped. "Anyway, you can always create an illusion instead of the real thing."
"I'll keep trying."
"I know you will. You're a dirty old man, Merlin."
"Am I? I had a bath last week. Am I old?"
Merlin transformed himself into a passable living replica of the Greek God Apollo, naked except for a loin cloth.
"Enough! I know that you can make yourself look like anyone or anything, but you are still a dirty old man underneath."
"Perhaps you should change your appearance as well? Shall I demonstrate?"
Merlin, still appearing as Apollo, made a couple of moves with his hands.
"No!" Nimue shouted. "I'm happy with my present appearance. I don't want to change from what I look like now."
"If that's what you want. Shall we continue our walk?"
"You could change back to looking like Merlin. Everyone's staring at us."
"I don't mind. I'll stay like this for a while."
Merlin crooked his arm. Nimue tucked her hand into it and they walked towards the town walls. Their progress was watched intently by all the people they passed. From time to time another young woman's clothing dropped off her into a neat pile by her feet. Each time Nimue pinched Merlin's arm in protest.
The guards at the City Gate came out of the guard room to watch them approach. They seemed fascinated.
"Your disguise seems to have an effect on them," Nimue whispered.
"I don't think so. They're just pleased to see an attractive young woman, and you are very attractive, Nimue," Merlin whispered back.
"Compliments won't make me strip, Merlin," Nimue hissed, before smiling at the guards who were staring open-mouthed.
As Merlin and Nimue entered the street beyond the City Gate the crowd parted. The pair walked through a clear street lined with onlookers. Someone started to cheer, and their progress became almost triumphal as more and more people joined the crowds.
Merlin led Nimue to a restaurant on the edge of the City's main square. As soon as they sat at an outside table there was an unseemly rush of serving staff who couldn't take their eyes off Nimue as they took orders for food and drink.
The drinks arrived promptly but the waiters seemed unwilling to leave the vicinity of the table. Even the restaurant's owner came out to ask if everything was in order.
It seemed to take the whole staff including the cook to serve the food. The crowds beyond the restaurant's reserved seating area continued to increase. All their attention seemed to be on the table where Merlin and Nimue calmly ate their meal, watched intently as if the crowd had never seen people eating before.
There was a gasp when Nimue spilt a couple of drops of gravy and wiped them off with a napkin.
When they had finished, and Merlin paid the bill with money apparently taken from inside his skimpy loin cloth, the whole restaurant staff lined up to see Merlin and Nimue leave.
"Isn't their response rather excessive, Merlin?" Nimue whispered as they walked through a parting crowd towards the centre of the square.
"I don't think so," Merlin replied. "Look, there's a pool below the fountain. The water seems very clear. I can see the bottom. Can you?"
Nimue looked at the water and then squealed. She tried to cover herself with her hands as the crowd laughed at her.
"Merlin!" she screamed. "Do something!"
Merlin gestured twice. Nimue was wearing clothes again, modestly.
"You! You!" Nimue seemed lost for words.
"You agreed. Your exact words were 'I'm happy with my present appearance. I don't want to change from what I look like now.' I had just stripped you but let you keep the illusion of clothing. I could see Nimue naked. Everyone else saw a naked Goddess Aphrodite."
"They didn't see me naked?" Nimue breathed.
"No. They saw a naked Goddess. Only I saw the real naked Nimue. You really must study the uses of illusion. You have a lot to learn..."