The Witch's Quickening
Note: a couple of characters in this episode are not named on-screen
but are given names in the credits. Where applicable, these names have been used.
A convoy of Camelot knights and other servants are escorting a cart through the forest when they come across a man lying prone on the ground before them. Sir Radnor dismounts and bends over the man, hearing him mutter something
. Too late, Radnor realizes that it’s “bandits”, just as a large group of them attacks the party, killing everyone. Among them is a young woman called Enmyria
who slits the throat of the driver and begins to investigate the contents of the cart.
Only Sir Radnor is left standing. At sword-point he declares that he’d rather die than beg for his life, and Alvarr – the decoy – is only too happy to oblige him. With the entire convoy dead, Enmyria brings Alvarr a suit of chainmail from the cart and Alvarr tells an off-screen character that they’ll make Camelot by nightfall. A small figure removes his hood
and smiles: it’s Mordred
In the pouring rain the bandits enter the Lower Town, their cart checked over by guards, but (inevitably
) given the all clear. Concealed within a barrel, Mordred gives telepathic commands to two of the bandits who carry him through the castle. Dressed as a Camelot knight, Alvarr follows them and dispatches the two guards that notice their presence with his own magical powers.
Merlin is awoken from his sleep by Mordred’s telepathy and begins to search the castle halls for him, discerning only four words in the confusing mess: “Morgana’s chamber is next.”
The bandits help Mordred out of the barrel and are order by Alvarr to wait in the forest. Together, he and Alvarr make for Morgana’s room, with Merlin right on their heels. With magic, Alvarr unlocks Morgana’s door and Mordred wakens her from sleep. Their happy reunion is cut short at the sound of the warning bell.
Merlin is running through the corridors when he crashes into Arthur and his men scouring the castle for the intruders. Once he’s released from Arthur’s choke-hold, he informs him that he heard voices heading for Morgana’s room.
Alvarr introduces himself to Morgana, telling her that he found Mordred wandering in the woods, hunted by Uther’s men. Morgana sympathises with their plight, but is hesitant when they ask for her help in stealing the Crystal of Neahtid
that was taken from sorcerers in the last days of the Great Purge and hidden in the vaults of Camelot.
Arthur commends Merlin for his initiative in seeking out the intruders, but Merlin’s enjoyment of getting praise (for once) is quickly over when Arthur bursts into Morgana’s chambers to find it empty. From her bed, Morgana orders them to leave. Embarrassed and annoyed, Arthur blames Merlin for the interruption and stalks off. Unconvinced, Merlin puts his ear to the door, where Mordred listens from the other side.
Having successfully hidden them, Morgana agrees to steal the crystal after Mordred uncharacteristically speaks out loud, asking for her aid.
The following morning a tired Merlin tells Gaius about the events of last night, including the fact that it was Mordred who was guiding someone to Morgana’s chamber and that it must have been extremely important to take such a risk.
In Arthur’s chamber, Morgana opens a drawer and takes his keys, only to run into Merlin on the way out. She makes a hasty excuse and leaves, though Merlin’s suspicions are piqued.
Down in the so-called “impregnable vault” Morgana unlocks an unguarded door and simply takes the crystal that is lying on a cushion in the middle of the treasure. Well, that was easy.
Merlin is serving Arthur a meal when the warning bell rings (don’t the citizens of Camelot ever get tired of this thing ringing every time there’s a problem in the castle?) The theft of the crystal is discovered, and on noticing that the locks have not been tampered with, Merlin is blamed for not having locked Arthur’s chambers. Recalling Morgana’s presence in his bedroom, Merlin is silent.
In the Council Chamber, Uther is giving Arthur a tongue-lashing for not protecting the crystal better. Despite not knowing what the crystal does, Uther knows that many sorcerers died to protect it and is therefore important to them. Uther demands its return.
In the Physician’s Quarters, Merlin and Gaius discuss the fact that it was Morgana who took the crystal, having no idea why she did or what she wants with it, and that they can’t accuse her without proof. Gaius tells him that the crystal is said to “hold the secrets to time itself,” though he doesn’t know what that means. Basically, no one in this episode has any idea what the heck's going on.
Down in the dungeons, Merlin asks the Dragon for help, who refuses to give it unless he’s set free. Merlin stalls for time, and the Dragon begrudgingly tells him that the crystal can show a person the future. On being told that Morgana has taken the crystal, the Dragon tells him that she does not have the power to wield the crystal, but that Mordred might. The Dragon warns Merlin that the ancient prophesies tell of an alliance between Morgana and Mordred, one that will lead to Arthur’s destruction. He tells Merlin that the union between them must be stopped at any cost.
Up in her room Morgana snaps at Gwen when she takes too long to leave her chambers. Alone with the crystal, Morgana stares into its depths, and then up at her doubtful reflection in the mirror. Cloaked and hooded, she slips from the castle by night, followed closely by Merlin.
On horseback, one follows the other through the forests until the morning sees Morgana reach the Druid encampment, still unknowingly shadowed by Merlin. He watches from behind a tree as Mordred joyfully embraces Morgana, and she hands the crystal over to Alvarr.
In a quiet moment together, Alvarr tells Morgana (who looks amazing in this scene
) that in time he hopes that Mordred will master the power of the crystal and that when he does, they’ll strike down Uther and all that serve him. Morgana is a bit hesitant about the “all who serve him” part, but Alvarr tries to reassure her.
Alvarr: If we are to win this war, there can be no half-measures. I see this troubles you.
Morgana: Yes. Yes, it does.
Alvarr: My Lady, we fight for our very survival, as do you. The boy. He told me you have magic. You need not be afraid.
Morgana: I know. I'm sorry. I've become so used to concealing the truth.
Alvarr: Believe me, I understand what that feels like.
Morgana: Every day I must look Uther in the eye knowing that if he were to discover who I really am, he'd have me killed.
Alvarr: You have been very brave.
Morgana: I don't want to be brave. I just want to be myself. I don't want to be alone anymore.
The two look as though they are on the brink of a kiss
, but Morgana pulls back just in time. She makes her excuses and leaves for the castle. As soon as she’s out of sight, Alvarr is joined by Mordred who asks if they’ll see her again soon, and Enmyria, who congratulates Alvarr on “playing her well.” She and Alvarr kiss in the early morning light.
Back in the physician’s quarters, Gaius is handily sharing Alvarr’s profile with Merlin: that he’s a sorcerer, that he’s sworn to over throw the king, that he’s a fanatic, and that his charisma blinds his followers to do his bidding
. Merlin points out that both Morgana and Mordred have fallen under his spell, and that Mordred can harness the power of the crystal. Together, the two of them come up with a plan to stop them.
In the Council Chamber, Gaius informs King Uther and the court that an informant has told him that the crystal has been stolen by a band of druids led by Alvarr. Morgana listens from her chair, appalled. Refusing to divulge the name, Gaius tells Arthur and Uther of Alvarr’s current location, and Uther orders the guards to be summoned so that Arthur can ride out and reclaim the crystal.
Outside in the corridor, Morgana tries to dissuade Arthur from going.
Morgana: Arthur, you're not seriously thinking of going on this mission, are you?
Arthur: No, I'm not thinking of going on this mission. I am going on this mission.
Morgana: But you're chasing nothing but a rumour.
Arthur: True, but for now it's the only lead we have to go on.
Morgana: You're wasting your time. I assure you.
Arthur: Morgana. I never knew you cared.
Morgana: What are you talking about?
Arthur: I can look after myself, you know. It's a combination of raw talent and hard training that makes me...
Morgana: Yes, I know. That makes you so utterly obnoxious.
Realizing that he won’t be persuaded, Morgana gallops out by night to warn Alvarr of the approaching invasion. By the morning, Arthur and Camelot’s knights are swift on her trail. Morgana is surrounded by renegades in the forest and hurriedly warns Alvarr that the knights are no more than two hours behind her.
Alvarr: Then we must be prepared for them.
Morgana: What can I do to help?
Alvarr: You can flee while you still have the chance. Morgana, I am grateful for all that you have done, but a battlefield is no place for you.
He gives her a quick kiss on her cheek, and leaves her behind.
Meanwhile, Arthur’s men are drawing near to the encampment, though Arthur has noticed Merlin’s odd silence.
Arthur: I don't know why I bring you on these expeditions. You spend the whole time terrified.
Merlin: I'm not terrified.
Arthur: Yes, you are. I can tell you are.
Merlin: No you can't.
Arthur: If you weren't scared, you'd be talking rubbish as usual.
Merlin: Well, I am talking rubbish as usual. I mean, I am talking as usual, so clearly I'm not scared.
They reach a fork in the road and Arthur asks Merlin for directions, having been told that Gaius has told him the way. Merlin dismounts and – with Arthur complaining in the background – listens carefully for the voices of the Druids in his head. Sure enough, he hears Mordred whispering in his head and points them down the right hand path after creating footprints in the mud with his magic.
The knights sneak through the trees of the forest, seeing an encampment straight ahead. Arthur notices something is wrong, stepping into the clearing and touching the embers of the campfire: they’re cold.
Arthur: Well, whoever was here, they're not here anymore.
Merlin: Yes, they are.
A volley of arrows shoot out of the trees and the bandits attack, led by Alvarr. The two groups clash together, and from a hilltop, Morgana looks back in regret at the sound of swords. As Alvarr fights off a knight, Enmyria runs up a tree trunk in order to backflip behind a knight and kill him from behind. She and Alvarr exchange a look in the midst of battle before Alvarr yells at Mordred to run. Merlin shelters in a hollow tree trunk, but on seeing Mordred escape, Merlin causes a tree branch to levitate before him, tripping him up. As two knights advance on him, Mordred causes two spears to kill them, and stares straight at Merlin before he makes his escape:
Mordred: I shall never forgive this, Emrys, and I shall never forget.
The fight draws to a close, and the knights are checking the dead bodies around them. Alvarr is the last man standing, who attacks Arthur as he approaches him. Arthur easily overpowers him, and demands the crystal back.
Alvarr: What use is it to you? You're a fool. How many lives have been lost this day? And for what? You cannot wield the Crystal. You do not have the power! None of you do!
Arthur does not engage, but simply retrieves the crystal from Alvarr’s pockets and moves on, motioning for the guards to tie him up. As he passes by, Merlin gets a glimpse of the crystal and seems transfixed by it.
By the campfire later that night, Arthur asks Merlin to feed and water the horses. Instead, Merlin points out that the bandits had obviously laid a trap for them, suggesting a traitor in the castle. Arthur points out that they were magic and no doubt used their power to sense them coming. He then orders Merlin to guard the crystal while he sleeps. Merlin drops it on the ground, reluctant to touch it.
Later that night, temptation overcomes Merlin and he lifts the crystal to his eyes. Inside it, he sees the Great Dragon flying, himself surrounded by flames, Camelot smoking in destruction, the Dragon breathing fire, and himself weeping. He drops the crystal in horror.
The following day in the Council Chamber, Alvarr is forced to kneel before Uther and confess his treason. Morgana watches in distress, but breathes a sigh of relief when Alvarr tells the court that he acted alone without any inside help. Uther sentences him to death, only for Alvarr to accept this fate bravely and defiantly. Morgana stares angrily at a satisfied Uther as he claps Arthur on the shoulder.
He, the knights and the court members leave, and Morgana waves the guards out of the room, leaving her alone with Uther.
Morgana: How many more must you kill before you're satisfied?
Uther: He was guilty. He confessed his crimes. You heard him as well as I.
Morgana: His only crime was to defy you.
Uther: Why are you defending this man? He was a sworn foe of Camelot. You know this.
Morgana: Is it any wonder he wanted you dead? You, who have persecuted his kind day after day, year after year?
Uther: I will hear no more of this, Morgana!
Morgana: Because you're an arrogant fool. You were deaf and blind to the very needs of the people you profess to serve and protect! The people will tolerate it no longer!
Uther: I said enough!
Morgana: They are rising up against you! From this day forward, I do not know you. From this day forward, I disown you.
She heads for the door, but an infuriated Uther shouts:
Morgana clenches her hands, but turns to look at him before leaving.
Morgana: And you, Uther, you will go to hell.
Uther is left thinking, what the heck just happened?
In the Physician’s Chambers Merlin is picking at his dinner, and tells Gaius what he saw in the crystal.
Merlin: But what I saw has not yet come to pass, and I am scared, Gaius. I am really scared of what the future may hold.
Gaius: There is nothing on this earth that can know all possible futures, even the Crystal.
Merlin: But what I saw, it was so real.
Gaius: It was real, but it was just one reality. The future is as yet unshaped. It is we that shape it. It is you, Merlin. The decisions you make. The actions you take. Remember that. Eat your soup before it gets cold.
In her bedchamber Morgana asks Gwen for her sleeping draught, telling her that her nightmares have returned. From there she goes down to the dungeons and convinces the guards to let her see Alvarr, presenting them with a pitcher of wine from beneath her cloak. She hints to him that she’s dealt with the guards, and he thanks her for her help, gently touching her hand with his own. She wishes him luck, and leaves.
As she waits in her room, Alvarr breaks open the cell door with his magic and makes his escape, killing one of the drugged guards when he groggily tries to stop him. As he flees Camelot, the warning bell once again wakes the tired Camelot citizens from their sleep.
In the council chamber, Arthur is telling his father that they’ve searched everywhere for Alvarr, but that he’s gone completely. The fact that the guards were drugged suggests that he had help escaping, and Uther’s eyes fall on Morgana as she enters the room – as does Merlin’s.
Uther: Let this be understood, whoever has done this, they have betrayed me. They have betrayed the kingdom. If I ever discover who it was, they will rue the day they were born.
But Morgana stares back at him defiantly, and Merlin watches her go with fear in his eyes.
From the Dragon’s cave, the Dragon shouts out to Merlin, demanding his freedom. In his bed, Merlin covers his ears in a futile attempt to block out his voice. It's clear that the Dragon isn't going to put up with much more of Merlin's stalling...
- Action Girl: Enmyria
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Alvarr seems to hold this allure for Morgana.
- Almost Kiss: Morgana and Alvarr.
- Battle Couple: Alvarr and Enmyria
- Because Destiny Says So: The Dragon insists that Morgana is evil based on this.
- Becoming the Mask: According to the DVD Commentary, Alvarr's feelings for Morgana are genuine by the end of the episode.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: This trope is mentioned explicitly in the DVD Commentary. Alvarr has been fighting his entire life to bring down Uther, but for Uther, he's just another magical rebel to be executed.
- Cardboard Prison: Alvarr breaks out in a matter of seconds.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Crystal of Neadhir, in a way. Though it does not appear again, Season Three shows us where it came from.
- Children Are Innocent: Subverted with Mordred.
- Conflicting Loyalty: Merlin, torn between Morgana and the Druids, Arthur and Uther, and the warning words from the Dragon.
- Darker and Edgier
- Death Glare: Mordred to Merlin.
- Fridge Logic: In the beginning when Morgana steals the crystal, she leaves the pillow empty after two powerful magicians talked to her. Why not put a fake crystal in its place? Nobody would check too carefully and this entire episode could be avoided.
- Go to Your Room: Uther to Morgana.
- Grey and Grey Morality: Were it not for Alvarr's relationship with Enmyria and her "you played her well" comment, then there would be no real reason for the audience not to be on his side.
- Jerk Ass: Arthur is more of one than usual in this episode.
- Manipulative Bastard: Alvarr, or possibly Mordred. It's hard to pinpoint which one is calling the shots.
- Mostly Narmless: Uther and Morgana's confrontation after Alvarr's sentencing. For some it's a tense scene in which Morgana sets her heart against Uther once and for all, for others she comes across as a petulant teenager yelling at her father over a man she barely knows - not helped by the "go to your chambers!" line, and the rather baffled look on Anthony Head's face once Morgana storms out.
- No MacGuffin, No Winner: The crystal of Neahtid is put back in the vaults of Camelot, where it's no good to anyone.
- Playing Possum: Alvarr, in his Establishing Character Moment, making him seem brave and cowardly at the same time.
- Shoo Out the New Guy: Alvarr is built up to be a major player in the show, and is a significant reason as to why Morgana definitively turns against Uther, but this is his first and only appearance.
- Start of Darkness: For Morgana.
- This Is Unforgivable: Mordred to Merlin after Merlin magically trips him up in the hopes that the Camelot knights will catch him.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: When Mordred calmly kills the Camelot soldiers.