Love in the Time of Dragons
Outside Camelot, a woman in a simple horse-drawn cart hums to herself as she heads toward the city. She makes her way through a busy street and lets herself into an empty house, where she takes a jewelled box from her bag, opens it, and whispers a spell over it. Moments later, a strange creature (which looks a bit like a deformed Pekingese with a frilled collar and scorpian tail) creeps out of the box and jumps onto her lap. She soothes it, and it gives her a creepy smile.Gaius is called before King Uther, who tells him that there are rumours from outlying villages: that a physician is offering treatments that may involve magic considering the extent of the injuries involved. He's told that the innkeeper - who according to Gaius was in a critical condition - has returned to work, and Gaius is asked to investigate.As Merlin and Gaius head toward the tavern, Merlin comments on Uther's hypocrisy: that he'll turn to magic when his own family is threatened, but won't allow a magical healer to perform on others. Gaius warns him to keep his voice down, and they enter the tavern beneath a hanging bundle of crystals and feathers. Gaius is astonished to see that the innkeeper has recovered, and asks from whom he got his remedy. The innkeeper is naturally reluctant to talk, but reveals that his wife got a cure from a healing woman in the lower town. He shows Gaius the bottle and Gaius tips some glinting dust into his hand. On the way out, Gaius looks up at the hanging totem with a smile on his face.Back in the council chamber, Gaius convinces Uther that the cures were the work of a skilled herbalist and not magic. Uther is reluctant to agree with his conclusion, but Gaius is adamant.Over dinner, Merlin tells Gaius that he's glad that the innkeeper was protected, though Gaius insists that magic was wasn't involved, much to Merlin's confusion, who saw the sparkling cure and the totem with his own eyes. Gaius feigns ignorance.That night, Merlin is asleep with his book of spells when he's awoken by the door opening. He creeps out of his room to see Gaius just leaving. He follows him through the town to see him knock at a door. The woman opens the door, and Gaius greets her affectionately as "Alice." Seeing guards approaching, Merlin slips away as Gaius goes inside.Gaius tells Alice that he recognised her healing magic, telling her that her skill surpasses his own. She reminds him that it's been twenty years since they were last together, but Gaius is quick to remind her that Uther's laws are still in place and that it's not safe for her to practice magic in Camelot. Alice claims that she came back in order to see him again, and Gaius promises to come back tomorrow. As soon as he's gone, the creature tells her that she did well to befriend the physician: he's the only one that can get them close enough to the king. When Alice protests, the creature snarls at her and her eyes appear black for a moment. With that, she complies.The following morning Merlin confronts Gaius with his nocturnal wanderings. Gaius is mildly annoyed that Merlin followed him, but soon spills the beans: he and Alice were once engaged to be married, back when Gaius had first become physician to the king. Though Gaius was just a novice, Alice was extremely gifted, and together they studied and practiced magic. However, when Uther began the Great Purge, Alice was forced to flee - and Gaius stayed behind. Now he feels as though he's been given a second chance.Later that morning, Gaius brings Alice a joint of meat (the food of love) and they discuss the healing totems that Alice is making. He recalls the day she left, but she points out that they're together again.Meanwhile, Arthur is combat training, which requires Merlin to act as target practice and punching bag. Returning home, Gaius introduces him to Alice and tells him that she'll be staying for a little while. Given that she'll be using Merlin's room, he ends up sleeping on the floor next to Gaius, whose snoring keeps him awake. However, this results in Merlin hearing Alice talking to the creature, and he peers through a crack in the door to see her milking venom from its scorpian tail.The following day, Merlin tries to tell Gaius about what he saw, but Gaius dismisses it as a dream. He declares that he can prove it, but on retriving the box from under Alice's bed, they find it to be empty.Our old friend Geoffrey of Monmouth is astonished to see Merlin arrive him the library, and while Gaius and Alice are preparing a tonic for Uther. Alice ascertains that he takes it daily for an old battle wound. In lieu of Gaius, Geoffrey takes over as Mr. Exposition, and tells Merlin that the creature in the book he's found is the manticore, but that it's considered a legend.On asking to compare some of Gaius's medicines with her own, Alice is momentarily left holding Uther's tonic. As soon as Gaius's back is turned, Alice pours some of the venom into the tonic, only to drop it in fright when Merlin enters.Night time, and Merlin heads back to the library, where Geoffrey has fallen asleep at his desk. He wakes up when Merlin makes a racket, but Merlin makes the objects on his desk levitate, convincing him that he's just having a dream. He obediently goes back to sleep as Merlin investigates the manticore further. In one illustration, he recognises Alice's box.Merlin accosts Gaius in an upstairs corridor the following morning, telling him that the reason Alice's box was empty was because it's actually a portal for the manticore. Gaius insists that he stops, and point-blank refuses to believe him. Back in his quarters, Alice reassures him that Merlin's probably just a bit jealous of her presence. She suggests that Gaius have a rest, telling him that she'll prepare Uther's tonic for him. Gaius doesn't find this at all suspicious.Meanwhile, Arthur is using Merlin as target practice again, throwing a large spear into the target that's been strapped to his back. Arthur notices that he's more surly than usual, and Merlin confesses that he's had a fight with Gaius. Arthur tries to give him some advice and make him feel better by punching him in the arm. It doesn't work.Gaius is reading as Alice prepares the tonic and adds the right amount of scorpian venom. Soon enough, Gaius takes it to Uther who downs it in one. Merlin is absent from dinner that night, sitting outside when he hears the warning bells ring. Uther is passed unconscious on the floor of his room, and Arthur is trying in vain to wake him up. Gaius examines him as Merlin rushes to join him. Uther's eyes snap open and the two recoil at the fact that they're totally black. Gaius spots the bottle of tonic and gives it a sniff.Thunder rolls as Gaius approaches Arthur and tells him that he's not sure what's wrong with Uther, although Arthur thinks he's fairly obviously been poisoned. As soon as they're alone, Merlin points out that the culprit has to be Alice, but Gaius sends him back to Arthur. By Uther's bedside, Arthur deduces that his father can't have been poisoned through his usual food and drink, but that the only other thing he's had is Gaius's remedy. Merlin tells him that he knows who's responsible.Gaius enters his quarters to confront Alice, but before she can tell him anything, her eyes turn black and she's unable to talk. Gaius goes to her, but at that moment Arthur and the guards storm in and place Alice under arrest. As soon as they're gone, Merlin appears and tells him that he had no choice - it was either Gaius or Alice.Down in the dungeons Arthur is questioning Alice, who is nervously trying to tell him that the creature made her do it. Arthur has seen no evidence of a creature, and gets frustrated when she tells him she doesn't know how to cure him. Arthur storms off, but Merlin is witness to Alice struggling to speak about the manticore while her eyes turn black.Gaius is standing by Uther's bedside and tells Merlin that he won't live out another day. He tells Merlin that he understands that he was only trying to protect him, but that he can't believe that Alice wanted this to happen. Merlin assures him that she didn't: the poison came from the manticore.The two of them come up with a plan: if they can destroy the manticore, then its magical poison will loose its potency. However, it's not that easy to kill a manticore, so what they have to do is bring it out of the box, keep it busy, and destroy the box that acts as the portal between this world and the spirit world. By doing this they'll separate it from its life-force in the spirit world, and thus kill it. Or something.They go ahead with this plan, and while Merlin struggles on the floor with a very angry manticore, Gaius performs the spell that will destroy the box. Just as Merlin loses strength, Gaius manages to blow up the box, and the manticore explodes with it. They struggle to catch their breaths and congratulate each other.However, although Uther is restored to full health, Alice is sentenced to death. Gaius tries to explain that she was in the thrall of a magical creature, but Uther will have none of it considering that she practiced magic.Down in the cells, Gaius breaks the news to Alice.
- Gaius: I'm sorry Alice. There was nothing I could do.Alice: Don't. I knew what my sentence would be. Uther will never change.Gaius: No.Alice: I hoped that I could learn from it. That I could harness its magic for the good, for healing. But it was too strong for me.Gaius: At least you are rid of it now.Alice: Yes. And it is far better to die free than to live as a slave.Gaius: I can only hope that's true.Alice: Gaius, before I go I want you to know something. I never forgot you. Since we parted all those years ago, not a day has gone by when I have not thought of you.Gaius: I fear I abandoned you Alice.
- All Just a Dream: Played with, when Merlin convinces Geoffrey that he's having a dream after making various objects on his desk start levitating.
- Bittersweet Ending: Alice escapes with her life, but she and Gaius are parted - presumably for good.
- Cardboard Prison: The dungeon.
- Cute Witch: Alice
- December–December Romance: Alice and Gaius
- Hypocrite: Uther in spades. He's alarmed at the fact that magic is used to help heal people, even though he wanted the excact same thing for Morgana.
- Informed Ability: Gaius states that Alice is more powerful and naturally gifted than he is, but she spends the entire episode under the thrall of the Manticore. Furthermore, all her renowned healing abilities happen off-screen.
- Leitmotif: The theme song playing when Gaius and Alice are spending time together.
- New Old Flame: Alice to Gaius
- Our Monsters Are Different: This manticore has absolutely nothing in common with the usual definition of one.
- Pet Monstrosity: The Manticore