At A Convent In Brittany

The nuns helped Sister Marinaia to her cell. The birth of the child was imminent. Father Umberto already stood waiting by the stone bird bath containing holy water, which had been taken from the herb garden to serve as a sacred font for the christening.

The pains were severe, but Sister Marinaia upheld her silence. Mother Viviane gripped the young nun's ice-cold hand and thanked God for the gift of vision.

In the face of skepticism and repulsion, Sister Marinaia had maintained her claim of perpetual virtue, vowing before the blessed Virgin that no man had entered her bed. She had been hovering precariously on the brink of suicide when Mother Viviane had recognized the handiwork of an incubus and wisely intervened, providing welcome solace to a much troubled soul.

The head of the infant crowned and the small convent trembled to its foundations as the Lord of the Pit ranted and raved. His crimson eyes glowered and the stiff hairs bristled furiously on his pointed chin.

How dare that wrinkled and pious old crone thwart his plan to set upon earth an evil to counterbalance the good which would be brought about by the emergence of one to be eventually acknowldged by the righteous as the Messiah! It might well be centuries before such an opportunity presented itself again.

Protesting lustily, the babe entered the world. Mother Viviane whisked him into the arms of Father Umberto. "Be quick," she directed. "We have only moments to baptize him before his spirit is consumed with sin!"

"A name," urged the holy man. "What is his name?"

Sister Marinaia offered up a prayer for her tiny son.

"I would call him Merlin," she said weakly.

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