Le Morte d'Arthur
Arthur, Merlin and a group of knights are hunting in the forest (the bright red cloaks provide great camouflage) when they hear the sounds of an animal up ahead. Though Merlin fumbles in his attempt to pass Arthur his spear, Arthur offers him some reassurance at the strange sounds coming from the trees ahead of them. As the knights spread out, a bizarre creature leaps out of the forest in front of them.
It has the head of a snake and the body of what looks like a snow leopard. The hunting party take one look at it and bravely run away. Merlin trips over and Arthur doubles back to yank him to his feet. At a safe distance, they look around and discover that Sir Bedivere is missing Ė his screams echo through the forest as the creature finishes him off.
In the council chamber, Gaius informs the court that the creature sounds like a Questing Beast, said to foreshadow a time of great upheaval. Uther seems uneasy at this, and orders Arthur to ride out with his knights to kill it. As soon as Arthur has left, Gaius tells Uther that the last time a Questing Beast was spotted, it was the night Queen Igraine died. But Uther is stubborn: he believes that heís conquered the Old Religion and that Arthur will destroy the beast.
Down in the physicianís quarters, Gaius is passing on his warnings to Merlin. He tells Merlin that the Questing Beast carries the power of life and death. One bite will kill a man, and there is no cure.
At night, Morgana has a terrible nightmare of the Questing Beast, the Dragonís fire, Merlin screaming in grief, and Arthur lying injured in his bed. Morgana wakes up screaming in a cold sweat, unsure where she is until Gwen calms her.
The following morning, Arthur speaks to his men in the castle square, assuring them that theyíll be successful in killing the beast. Heís interrupted by Morgana rushing hysterically down the front steps and begging him not to go. Merlin escorts her back up the stairs and into the arms of the waiting guards, but seems to have taken her warning a lot more seriously than Arthur has.
Arthur, Merlin and his knights carefully stalk through the misty forest, finding the Questing Beastís paw prints and following them into a cave. Merlin carries a flaming torch and the knights have drawn their swords as they head into the darkness and split up down the various passages.
Arthur hears the sound of hissing, but as they turn, the Questing Beast rises up behind them. Arthur pushes Merlin out of the way and begins to wave his sword at it while Merlin climbs a precipice. The Beast strikes out at Arthur and throws him across the cave, but Merlin distracts it by waving his torch. He uses magic to levitate the sword and ignite it with blue flames before sending it into the Questing Beastís heart. It dies and Merlin rushes to Arthur, realizing with horror that Arthur is bleeding.The scene cuts to Gaiusís chambers where Arthur is laid down on the table. Gaius orders them to fetch the king, and Merlin rushes for his magical book.
Gaius: The King'll be here any moment!
Merlin: He can't die. It is my destiny to protect him. We haven't done all the things we're meant to do.
Gaius: That is a lament of old men.
Merlin: Gaius, he's my friend.
Gaius: Then save him.
Merlin uses his magic to flip through the pages of the book and utters a few magical spells over his body. Nothing seems to happen, and at that moment Uther bursts into the room. Gaius is helpless, and Uther picks up Arthur in order to carry him to his chambers, biting back tears as he does so.
Uther carries Arthur across the courtyard of the castle, but is overcome with grief halfway there, stumbling and falling to his knees. The knights of Camelot rush in to lift Arthur between them, and Uther gets to his feet again, aided by Gaius. From the castle, Morgana opens her window and watches mournfully as Arthur is lifted up the stairs. Merlin watches in horror. Down in the castle dungeons, Merlin confesses to the Dragon that heís failed in his destiny. The Dragon tells him that thereís still a chance to save Arthur.
Dragon: You do not know how to save him.
Merlin: But you can tell me how?
Dragon: Perhaps. It will not be easy.
Merlin: I will do anything.
Merlin: Please, just tell me what I have to do!
Dragon: Very well. The Questing Beast is a creature conjured by the powers of the Old Religion. You must use the same ancient magic to save him.
Merlin: But the Old Religion died out centuries ago.
Dragon: The Old Religion is the magic of the Earth itself. It is the essence which binds all things together. It will last long beyond the time of men.
Merlin: But how can that help me save Arthur?
Dragon: You must find those who still serve it. Those who hold dominion over life and death.
Dragon: Go to the place that men call the Isle of the Blessed, where the power of the ancients can still be felt. There you will discover Arthur's salvation.
Merlin: Thank you. Thank you.
Dragon: And Merlin, the young Pendragon must live, no matter what the cost.
Merlin gets ready to leave on his journey, though Gaius is horrified to hear that he wants to go to the Isle of the Blessed. Gaius says that the Questing Beast chose Arthur, and that changing their mind is not that simple. They will demand a life in return if they are to save Arthur. Merlin insists that he will pay whatever price is necessary.
In his room, Arthur lies unconscious, a bloody bandage over his wound.
The following morning Merlin is preparing his horse outside the castle gates when Gaius gives him a lucky rabbitís foot that Hunith gave him to protect him from evil spirits. Merlin accepts the gift and instructs Gaius to keep Arthur alive until he comes back.
Merlin gallops through the woods as Arthur moans in his sleep. Uther approaches his sonís bed and instructs him to sleep. Arthur quietens. Meanwhile, Merlin is galloping over the hills with snowy mountains in the distance, following the Dragonís instructions.
In Arthurís chamber, Gwen quietly enters and (strangely enough) wakes up Gaius in order to tell him to get some rest. Gaius leaves the room and Gwen rewets the cloth on Arthurís forehead.
Gwen: You're not going to die, Arthur. I'm telling you. Because I know that one day you will be King. A greater king than you father could ever be. It's what keeps me going. You are going to live to be the man I've seen inside you, Arthur. I can see a Camelot that is fair and just. I can see a king that the people will love and be proud to call their sovereign. For the love of Camelot, you have to live.
She takes his hand and presses it to her cheek. Outside, the knights and the people of Camelot have gathered in a candlelit vigil for Arthur. Uther watches in grief, knowing that theyíve come to say goodbye. Gaius tells him that it would take a miracle to save Arthur know, something that Uther doesnít believe in.
Merlin makes it to the shore of a misty body of water, where a small boat is waiting at the end of a dock. A bell on the boatís prow rings softly as Merlin gets into it and uses magic to propel him through the water. Ahead, the pinnacles of an old ruin emerge through the mists.
The boat takes Merlin into the depths of the ruins and stops at the foot of a stone staircase. Merlin climbs and emerges into what looks like a graveyard in the midst of the ruins. He looks around in wonder and calls out hesitantly. Someone answers, and he turns to see Nimueh standing by a stone sarcophagus.
Nimueh: Do you know who I am?
Merlin: Nimueh. You can't be who the dragon meant.
Nimueh: And why is that?
Merlin: You tried to kill me.
Nimueh: Before I understood your importance.
Merlin: And Arthur.
Nimueh: Arthur was never destined to die at my hand, and now it seems I will be his salvation.
Merlin: So you know what I've come to ask?
Merlin: Will you do it?
Nimueh: I do not have the power to mirror life itself and yet give nothing in return.
Merlin: I know that a price will be asked.
Nimueh: To save a life, there must be a death. The balance of the world must be restored.
Merlin: I willingly give my life for Arthur's.
Nimueh: How brave you are, Merlin. If only it were that simple.
Merlin: What do you mean?
Nimueh: Once you enter into this bargain, it cannot be undone.
Merlin: Whatever I have to do, I will do. His life is worth a hundred of mine.
She picks up a heavy goblet that has just appeared upon the sarcophagus and tells Merlin that itís the Cup of Life. If Arthur drinks from it, he will live. Merlin steps forward to take it, and Nimueh calls up a thunderstorm to fill the cup with rainwater. Merlin hands it back and Nimueh pours it into a small canteen. She hands it over to Merlin, but grabs his wrist before he goes.
Nimueh: The bargain is struck. I hope it pleases you.
The sun rises and Merlin gallops back into Camelot, rushing to deliver the canteen into Gaiusís hand. Gaius is suspicious over what Merlin has bargained for, but Merlin brushes aside his questions. Together, they pour the water into Arthurís mouth. Uther walks in as they finish, and Gaius tells him that thereís a slim chance that the ďtinctureĒ will work on Arthur. Uther refuses to leave him and Merlin and Gaius quietly leave. Merlin is following Gaius down the hall when a hand shoots out from an alcove and pulls him aside.
Itís Morgana, pale with heavy bags under her eyes. She tells Merlin that he must beware Ė that itís only just the beginning. Merlin pulls his hand away, and leaves without another word.
A few hours later, under the watchful eye of Uther and Gaius, Arthur wakes from his sleep. Gaius goes downstairs to where Merlin is pacing the physicianís quarters and tells him that the prince lives. Their smiles fade as they realize the price is still to be paid.
Uther thankfully squeezes Arthurís shoulder.
Uther: I thought we'd lost you.
Arthur: Don't worry, Father, I'm not going to die. I think there's someone watching over me, keeping me from harm.
Uther: Maybe you're right. On your long journey to become King, you will need a guardian angel. I shall inform the court that their Prince lives.
As Uther leaves, Gwen enters with fresh towels and smiles in delight as she sees that Arthur has recovered. However, Arthur can remember Gwen stroking his forehead and talking to him, something about ďthe man I am inside.Ē Embarrassed, Gwen grabs the towels and makes a bolt for it.
That night, Merlin waits for his fate, holding the rabbitís foot in his hand as a thunderstorm rumbles and flashes outside. Outside, a cloaked figure passes through the gates of Camelot and a shrivelled hand opens the door to Gaiusís study. Upstairs, Morgana awakens screaming from another nightmare.
Dawn breaks through the window of Merlinís room and he wakes up to find himself still alive and still in one piece. His hand closes around the rabbitís foot and he bursts out of his room in delight. There he finds Gaius leaning over a figure on the floor. Though Gaius warns him away, Merlin approaches to find his mother lying sick on the floor, boils and welts all over her body. Merlin tells her that he saw Nimueh at the Isle of the Blessed, but that he bargained his life, not his motherís. Promising that heíll make her well, he rushes down into the Dragonís dungeon.
Angrily he accuses the Dragon of tricking him into bargaining his motherís life for Arthurís.
Merlin: Did you know my mother would die?
Dragon: I knew the price would be a heavy one.
Merlin: But you sent me anyway.
Dragon: We need Arthur to live.
Merlin: I'm not one of you!
Dragon: We are both creatures of the Old Religion. It is the source of your power.
Merlin: What's that supposed to mean?
Dragon: Your destiny is to protect the young Pendragon until he claims his crown. And when he does, magic can be returned to the realm. Only then will I be free.
Merlin: Oh. So that's all you cared about? I thought you were my friend.
Dragon: I am more than that, Merlin. I am your kin.
Merlin: No. The only family I have is my mother, and you had me murder her.
Dragon: Her life has not been taken in vain. We will achieve great things together, you and I.
Merlin: You will never be released! For what you've done, I'll make sure you never see the light.
Furious, the Dragon breathes fire at Merlin, who deflects it with his own magic. Merlin tells him that the Dragon wonít see him again, and runs away.
Back in the physicianís chambers, Merlin tells Gaius that heís going to return to the Isle of the Blessed and bargain his life for his motherís. He thanks Gaius for all the help and supports that heís given him, but that his magic is useless if he canít save his own mother Ė sheís more important than his destiny.
Merlin goes to say goodbye to Arthur, who is sitting by the fire with his arm in a sling.
Merlin: I need to talk to you.
Arthur: You still haven't got it yet, have you? I decide when we need to talk.
Merlin: Not today.
Arthur: I sometimes wonder if you know who I am.
Merlin: Oh, I know who you are.
Merlin: You're a prat. And a royal one.
Arthur: Are you ever going to change, Merlin?
Merlin: No, you'd get bored. But promise me this, if you get another servant, don't get a bootlicker.
Arthur: If this is you trying to leave your job...
Merlin: No. I'm happy to be your servant. Till the day I die.
Arthur: Sometimes I think I know you, Merlin. Other times...
Merlin: Well, I know you. And you're a great warrior. One day, you'll be a great king.
Arthur: That's very kind of you.
Merlin: But you must learn to listen as well as you fight.
Arthur: Any other pointers?
Merlin: No. That's it. Just...don't be a prat.
Merlin returns to his motherís room to find Gwen tending her whilst Gaius gets some more supplies.
Gwen: I've tried to make her feel comfortable.
Merlin: You have such a good heart, Gwen. Don't ever lose that.
Merlin says his last goodbye to his mother, promising her that heíll make her well again. He gives her the rabbitís foot and mother and son tell each other that theyíll miss one another.
Merlin begins packing for his trip, only to find a note from Gaius.
Gaius: Dear Merlin, My life is already near to its end. There has, for the most part, been very little purpose to it, very little that will be remembered. In contrast, Merlin, your life is destined for greatness. Live by the tenets I have taught you, and I believe you will, in time, become the greatest warlock ever. To have known you has been my greatest pleasure, and to sacrifice myself for you is but an honour. You are and always will be the son I never had.
Over his monologue, Gaius travels on horseback over the hills and forests to reach the Isle of the Blessed, with Merlin in hot pursuit. As he gallops away through the castle gates, Morgana watches him go.
Gaius steps from the boat and walks up the stairs to the graveyard, where Nimueh is awaiting him. He turns at the sound of her voice.
Nimueh: I never thought I'd see you here again.
Gaius: My Lady.
Nimueh: It's a long time since you called me that.
Gaius: I come to ask for your help.
Nimueh: As you did once before for Uther? You did not like the outcome.
Gaius: I offer a chance for you to atone for the death of his wife.
Nimueh: I have saved the life of her son. What more do you ask for?
Gaius: That this time, you take a just price. Merlin intends to offer his life for his mother's. I want you to take mine in his place.
Nimueh: With all my powers of prediction, I could never have foretold this. Gaius the hero. Why should I grant your wish? You stood and watched as our friends burned in the Great Purge. You are nothing but a traitor.
Gaius: Merlin is the one man who can bring magic back to this land. At Arthur's side, he can help forge a new kingdom. A world of peace and beauty that we can only dream of.
Nimueh: And you're willing to give your life, Gaius, for the future they will bring? I'm waiting. Are you ready to die, Gaius? Gaius?
Gaius: For Merlin I will give my life.
As Merlin rushes through the ruins toward the graveyard, he can hear Nimuehís voice echoing over the island. As he approaches he sees Nimueh hold the cup over her head, standing over Gaiusís body. Furious, Merlin rejects Nimuehís offer to join forces and throws a fire-bolt at her. Nimueh easily catches it and throws it back. Merlin jumps out of the way and it explodes in the wall behind him. The second one catches him in the chest and he topples backwards, his shirt smoking.
As Nimueh strides back toward Gaius, Merlin gets to his feet and calls up a thunderstorm from the sky. Nimueh looks up in alarm as a bolt of lightning shoots down from the sky. She burns in its heat and explodes. Merlin rushes to Gaiusís side and begins to weep as he holds his mentorís body. However, Gaius stirs to life in his arms.
Merlin: Gaius. Gaius. Gaius, you're alive!
Gaius: What did you do?
Merlin: Nimueh's dead. The balance of the world has been restored.
Gaius: You amaze me. You've mastered the power of life and death itself. We'll make a great warlock of you yet.
Merlin: So you believe in me now?
Gaius: Well, I would do if...if you could stop this blasted rain.
The two of them laugh and embrace.
Down in the dungeons, the Dragon roars his fury at Merlin, and Morgana once again wakes up from a nightmare, looking around her room in fear.