The Once and Future Queen
In a grim old castle by the sea, a king looks over a tomb with a helmet and shield laid upon it. The door opens and a knight comes in, accompanying a man in a red cloak. The king confirms that he is indeed Myror, a feared assassin. To prove himself, the assassin overpowers an armed man standing in the corner and assures the king that heís prepared to kill royalty if the bounty is high enough. The king tells him that he wants the death of Arthur Pendragon.
Back in Camelot, the knights are preparing for a jousting tournament. Merlin is suitably impressed by the violence of it all, but Arthur is more concerned when his opponent withdraws his lance after Arthur is temporarily blinded by the glare of sunlight on his armour. And who is he jousting against? Itís Sir Leon! Arthur is annoyed that he was let off so easily, but Leon informs him that he would not have hesitated were he fighting a different opponent. Looking around at the other knights gathered there, Arthur suddenly realizes that all of his victories in the past may well be compromised because of his status. Demanding that he not get any special treatment, Arthur stomps off.
In Arthurís chambers Merlinís assurances that people donít give Arthur special treatment are not particularly comforting considering even he is only telling Arthur what he wants to hear.
Arthur: That just proves it. All my life I've been treated as if I'm special. I just want to be treated just like everyone else.
Arthur: You have no idea how lucky you are.
Merlin: Well, anytime you want to swap places, just let me know.
Arthur: That's not a totally stupid idea.
Merlin: You're Prince Arthur. You can't change who you are.
A light-bulb goes off in Arthur brain, and suddenly heís got a plan to fight unprejudiced in the tournament. Over dinner that night Arthur tells Uther that a strange beast has been seen on the northern borders and that itís his duty to get rid of it. Merlin tries not to laugh at Arthurís description of it:
Arthur: It is said to have the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the... face... of a... bear.
Uther gives Arthur permission to hunt it down, despite the fact that it means heíll miss the tournament.
In the woods outside Camelot Arthur bids farewell to his knights, instructing them to remain silent on his return to the city. As soon as theyíre gone Merlin arrives with peasant clothes and escorts him to Guinevereís house Ė who canít believe that Merlin has managed to talk her into hiding the prince at her house. Arthur isnít particularly impressed by his new surroundings, and even less impressed by the farmer Merlin has selected to impersonate him.
Back at the castle, Uther is being informed by the knight that King Odin has placed a price on Arthurís head in retribution for the death of his son and that Myror the assassin is already on his way. Uther orders that the guards be doubled (yeah, thatíll work) in the hopes that they can intercept Myror before he arrives.
In the forest, Myror hides in the treeline with a crossbow (complete with magnifying lens) as the horsed knights go by, only to see that Arthurís saddle is empty.
At Gwenís house, Arthur is sceptically watching over Williamís makeover from a simple farmer to a knight. With a bath, armour and some coaching, William seems to be getting the hang of conveying a noble bearing Ė complete with bossing around Merlin.
Exhausted, Merlin collapses on his bed, only for Gaius to instruct him to clean his leech tank. Meanwhile, Arthur and Gwen are sharing living quarters and find themselves with a problem over the fact that thereís only one bed. At least, Gwen has a problem, as Arthur simply takes the bed for himself. Too shy to say anything, Gwen makes a bed for herself on a pile of sacks in the next room, and after calling an awkward goodnight, the two fall asleep.
Over the heads of the guards on duty, Myror scales the castle walls into the castle and kills a guard who stops him in the corridor. In another part of the castle Myror ambushes his informant and tells him that Arthur is not among the party travelling to the northern border. Realizing that they must have separated and that the prince does not want his whereabouts known, Myror disappears back into the shadows.
The following day is the tournament day, and Merlin and Arthur watch from a tent as Uther announces the opening of the joust to the crowds and the line-up of knights on horseback in the arena. After some final advice for William, Arthur prepares for battle as Merlin watches William try to handle his horse. From the stands, Gwen finds his ineptitude somewhat amusing.
Once the introductions are done, William returns to the tent, Arthur dons his helmet, and the two switch places. The tournament begins (kudos to the French stunt artists) and Arthur dominates every joust he participates in. Despite herself, Gwen looks rather impressed, though Myror is also among the stands, clearly thinking things over. Back in the tent, Arthur swaps places with William so that the latter can smile and wave at the crowds, and voices his annoyance that someone else is getting the credit for all his hard work. Merlin knows the feeling.
Up in the stadium, Myrorís informant joins him to tell him that Arthurís servant is still in Camelot. He points out Merlin, watering Arthurís horse. Out loud, Myror wonders why heís working for another knight.
Back in the physicianís quarters, Merlin tries to sneak past Gaius, but doesnít get far. Heís neglected to clean the leech tank, and gets a pile of new chores to do in the meantime. In her house, Guinevere clears the table and teasingly tells Arthur that the ladies of the court are very impressed with Sir William. After a momentís thought, she asks him why heís going to such lengths to prove himself.
Arthur: I fear that people respect me just because of my title.
Gwen: I don't believe that's true of everyone.
Arthur: Would you tell me if it were?
Arthur: When I'm competing as William, my title doesn't matter, nobody gives me any special treatment. So when I win this tournament...if I win this tournament, it will be because I deserve it and not because I am Prince Arthur.
Guinevere looks intrigued, but the spell is soon broken when Arthur decides he wants to have a bath. Gwen points out that she doesnít have a bathtub, so he requests a bowl of water instead. Fetching her shawl, Gwen pointedly states that sheíll have to walk all the way down to the well to get water Ė but Arthur isnít listening.
The following morning Gaius finds Merlin asleep on the floor, still holding the scrubbing brush and bucket. Sick and tired of the constant demands on his time, Merlin snaps:
Merlin: Wha..? Do you think I sit around doing nothing?! I haven't had a chance to sit around and do nothing since the day I arrived in Camelot! I'm too busy running around after Arthur! Do this, Merlin! Do that, Merlin! And when I'm not running around after Arthur, I'm doing chores for you! And if I'm not doing that, I'm fulfilling my destiny! Do you know how many times I've saved Arthur's life? I've lost count. Do I get any thanks? No. I have fought griffins, witches, er...bandits, I have be punched, poisoned, pelted with fruit, and all the while I have to hide who I really am, because if anyone finds out, Uther will have me executed! Sometimes I feel like I'm being pulled in so many directions, I don't know which way to turn!
Gaius stares at him, dumbfounded.
On the second day of the tournament Merlin notes that Sir Alinor has advanced to the final. During his run, Arthur faces Sir Leon and unhorses him from his saddle. Everyone except Gwen gets to their feet to cheer, and Gwen informs Gaius that she believes ďSir WilliamĒ to be an arrogant pig. Hearing the cheers from his tent, Arthur looks forward to the time he can unmask himself to the crowds, and Merlin points out that he really does miss all the attention.
Whilst watering the horse, Myror approaches him and asks him some casual questions about what itís like to work for his master. Merlin muddles through the questions, but by the glint in Myrorís eye, has already given too much away.
Gwen is busy sweeping the floor when Arthur enters, asking her to mend his shirt. She tries to hide her sleeping area, but Arthur is too quick and he looks around the tiny room in confusion, wondering where her bed is. Finally sick of his attitude, Gwen takes his invitation to speak her mind:
Gwen: You don't have any idea, do you?
Arthur: About what?
Gwen: About how rude and arrogant you can be! This is my home and you are my guest in it! I know you are used to more luxurious quarters, but that is not an excuse to be so rude! You claim titles don't matter to you, but you behave like a prince and expect me to wait on you like a servant! Saying it means nothing if your actions betray you! Would it kill you to say please and thank you once in a while?!
She pauses in shock, and falls quiet. Abashed, Arthur apologises for his behaviour and decides to make it up to her by making dinner. Escorting her outside, he turns to face his greatest challenge: a chicken.
Outside on the street Merlin runs into Gwen, who tells him that Arthur isÖcooking her dinner. Baffled, Merlin enters her house to find Arthur staring into the insides of a raw chicken. He orders to him to fetch two dinners from the castle kitchens, along with a decent shirt.
Myror is snooping around Arthurís room when Merlin enters and fetches a shirt from the closet. Unnoticed, Myror follows him out.
Arthur keeps lookout while Merlin sets the table with meals acquired from the castle kitchen. At the sight of Gwen returning, Arthur hustles Merlin away and throws him the raw chicken as he leaves. Heís out of the way just in time, and Arthur sits Guinevere down at the table as Myror peeks in through the window. As he preps a mini-crossbow, Arthur seems charmed at the fact that Gwen compliments him on the meal.
Myror is just about to fire the crossbow when the Camelot guards finally do something right and interrupt him in the act. Myror makes a run for it into the castle, and manages to elude the guards by pulling a Spiderman and hiding under the draw bridge, dangling beneath it.
Merlin serves the chicken to Gaius and apologises for losing his temper. Gaius apologises in return, and the two are about to start dinner when a messenger knocks on the door and requests Gaiusís presence. Itís Sir Leon!
The body of the guard Myror killed has been found, and Gaius confirms that his neck has been broken, no doubt by someone who knew what he was doing. Leon informs them that an intruder was seen in the lower town, and Uther realizes that there is indeed an assassin on the loose. He orders him found and killed before Arthur returns.
Back at Gwenís house, Arthur is asking her whether he has any other annoying habits sheíd like to tell him about.
Gwen: No, none.
Arthur: There's something else, isn't there? What is it?
Gwen: Well, the truth is...you snore.
Arthur: I do not snore.
Gwen: You do. The first night you were here, I thought a pig had got into the house.
Arthur: So now I'm a pig. Thank you, Guinevere.
Gwen: I just meant you sound like a pig. I think I better stop talking.
As Arthur rises to clear the table Gwen notices that the plates are from the palace kitchens. Missing the point of her anger completely, Arthur manages to insult her status as a servant, and gets another tongue-lashing. Unlike everyone else in his life, Guinevere isnít going to tell him what he wants to hear, and expresses disappointment that he cheated at making dinner instead of displaying a true act of humility. Moved by this, Arthurís apology is cut short by Merlin bursting in through the front door to tell Arthur about the assassin.
Arthur recalls killing King Odinís son: he challenged Arthur to a duel to the death in order to prove himself, and Arthur was given no choice but to defend himself. Merlin points out that no one but the three of them know where Arthur is, and Gwen agrees to let Arthur stay on at her house. She offers him the bed but he refuses, only to order Merlin to drag a mattress down from the castle. BecauseÖthatís not noticeable.
The following morning Gwen watches as Arthur prepares to leave for the tournament, both of them looking oddly self-conscious. Gwen presents Arthur with a token that he can wear for luck, and on an impulse, Arthur leans forward to kiss her. Itís a pretty good kiss, if the dramatic sunlight and violins have anything to say about it. When they part, itís difficult to know whoís more shocked, and Arthur quickly makes his exit.
From the shadows, Myror watches the hooded Arthur meet Merlin on the street, and peeks through the tent flaps to see Arthur and William dressed in identical colours. From there, he creeps into Sir Alinorís tent and snaps his neck. As Arthur prepares, Myror tests a specialized lance that has a sharp retractable point at its end and smiles to himself.
Arthur and Myror face each other on the jousting grounds and Arthurís armour is pierced by the deadly lance of his opponent. Merlin and Gwen watch in horror as Arthur is nearly flung from his horse and hurry to attend to him in his tent Ė but not before Merlin notices the sharp tip of Myrorís lance.
Gwen attends to Arthurís wound in the tent, and tries to convince him not to return to the joust. Merlin investigates the man who wears Sir Alinedís armour and realizes that itís the assassin, but Arthur has returned to the joust before he gets a chance to warn him. Having passed his lance to Arthur, Gwen informs Merlin that heís too late and the two of them rush into the stadium.
Arthur and Myror hurtle toward each other, but thankfully itís in slow-motion, so Merlin has enough time to rush down the wall of the stadium and cast a spell that throws Myror off balance, giving Arthur the opportunity to unhorse him. Myror lies dead on the ground as Merlin hurries to help Arthur get off his horse and support him into the tent.
In the privacy of the tent, Merlin tells Arthur, Gwen and William that he was jousting against the assassin. Outside the crowd is cheering, but with a glance at Guinevere, Arthur decides to let William go ahead and collect the trophy.
Gwen: I thought this was going to be your moment of glory?
Arthur: Perhaps this is a time for humility.
Merlin, Gwen and a hooded Arthur watch with smiles as William celebrates his victory in front of the cheering crowds. From within Sir Alinedís tent, Gaius is utterly confused at the sight of a stranger under Alinedís helmet and asks Merlin for answers.
Later, Arthur stands in the Council Chamber before his father and the court, bloody bandages covering his wound. He tells them that the assassin attacked him on his way back to Camelot, but that he was able to kill him. Uther demands that they make Odin pay for his attempt on Arthurís life, but Arthur insists that peace be made instead.
Uther: Perhaps you're right. How was the rest of your trip? Fruitful?
Arthur: Very. I learned a great deal. How was the tournament?
Uther: Excellent. We have a new champion, Sir William of Deira.
Arthur: I'm sorry I missed all the excitement.
As Merlin smiles to himself, Arthur shoots a wide grin across the room to where Guinevere is standing, only for his smile to fade at the downcast expression on her face. As the court members exit the room to the outside corridor, Arthur nervously calls Guinevere over.
Arthur: Guinevere. What happened while I was staying with you...I'm afraid my father would never understand.
Gwen: You don't have to explain. Perhaps when you are King, things will be different.
Arthur looks as though heíd like to say something more, but Uther calls to him. As Arthur leaves, he looks back over his shoulder at her, and on that note, Guinevere thoughtfully turns away.
Back in the physicianís quarters, Merlin is being made to scrub the leech tank in punishment for lying to Gaius about the goings-on of the past few days, and the episode ends with the sight of Merlin struggling with the leeches stuck to his face.