The Lady of the Lake
A horse-drawn cage trundles into Camelot during a thunderstorm. In the driver's seat is a large, cruel looking man; inside the cage is a young girl in a torn dress, curled up to protect herself from the rain. The man stops the horse in front of a tavern and after checking over the chains that keep the girl prisoner, goes inside to eat.
Elsewhere, Gaius and Merlin are finishing up a house-call to a sick patient. On the way home they pass by the cage, and Merlin is startled as the girl sits up and grabs the bars of the cage. Shocked, he asks Gaius why such a girl is kept prisoner. Gaius informs him that Uther pays good money to bounty hunters to round up people with magical abilities and that he shouldn't meddle with such dangerous people. But Merlin's eyes are locked on the distraught face of the girl.
Later that night, Merlin gets out of bed and sneaks past the slumbering Gaius. He peeks inside the tavern to ensure that the bounty hunter is busy with his meal and opens up the cage. Telling the girl not to be frightened, he uses magic to unfasten the manacles around her wrists and gently lifts her from the cage to the ground. They hide behind the cage as the tavern door opens and the bounty hunter emerges. Soon realizing that the cage is empty, he begins to search the area. With another incantation, Merlin makes the sign hanging in front of the tavern fall upon his head before grabbing the girl's hand and making a run for it.
He leads her down into the tunnels under the castle, coming to a stop at a large alcove. She slumps against the wall and flinches when Merlin offers her his coat. She asks her why he saved her, and he says that it could have just as easily been him in that cage. He tells her that he'll be back with candles and food, and introduces himself. Quietly the girl gives him her own name: "Freya."
The following day, Merlin only finds rotten fruit and stale bread in the cupboards of the physician's quarters. Taking them, he heads up to Arthur's room and replaces the plate of meat, cheese and bread with this more frugal offering. As he's about to leave, Arthur wakes up and demands to know what's wrong with his breakfast. Merlin insists that he's getting fat. Outraged, Arthur throws the food at him and informs him that he's got plenty of chores for him to do.
Merlin prepares Arthur's bath as Arthur changes behind the screen, reminding him that the water should be hot. Merlin mutters a spell to get it boiling, and unfortunately Arthur puts his foot into it before it's had a chance to cool again. Furious, he grabs a bucket on the table next to him and throws its contents over Merlin.
The bounty hunter enters the council chambers to speak with Uther, and is addressed as Halig. He tells him that a girl has escaped and Uther offers him guards to help in the search for her - though Halig warns that she's dangerous. He's not quite sure why, only that even the Druids were afraid of her. Gaius finds this unusual considering what he knows about the Druids, but clearly already knows who's responsible for helping her escape. Halig says that he saw two figures running away from the cage, and Uther orders that the girl be found.
At the gate of the palace, those exiting the castle grounds are forced to line up so that Halig can look at them each in turn in the hopes of identifying Freya's accomplice. Merlin is let through, though Halig casts him a suspicious glance as he hurries away.
Down in the tunnels, Freya is sleeping and Merlin tries to gently awaken her. She leaps up in fright and Merlin soothes her. He unwraps the napkin to reveal the food, and while Freya eats hungrily, he arranges the candles in the earth around them. With a glance at Freya, he lights them with magic. She doesn't react. He notices a tattoo on her arm: the treskelion, and Freya confirms that it's a symbol of the Druids. After a few questions, Freya calls herself "cursed" and Merlin tries to convince her that magic can be a gift. With a little spell he makes the candle flames levitate up from their wicks, burning in mid-air. Freya is visibly impressed, and though Merlin has to go, he promises her that he'll return with more food.
Once back in the physician's quarters, Merlin is cornered by Gaius who demands to know if he's helped the Druid girl. Merlin denies all knowledge, but voices his pleasure that she escaped. Gaius doesn't seem entirely convinced, and warns him about Halig's search.
As Merlin serves Arthur lunch, he uses magic to topple utensils onto the ground, and steals items from his plate by telekenetically floating them into the pitcher that he carries. Arthur gets increasingly frustrated, but Merlin is soon racing through the castle corridors on his way back to Freya. He runs headfirst into Halig who drags him into a prison cells and grabs the pitcher. He tips it upside down, scattering the sausages onto the floor. Merlin stutters that they're just the prince's leftovers, but Halig is not convinced. He pushes Merlin into a chair and is about to use his fists to get some answers out of him when Arthur walks past and sees what's happening. He rescues Merlin and states in no uncertain terms that he has nothing to do with the Druid girl's disappearance and that if Halig wants to question him, it has to be done through him. Looking surly, Halig leaves and Arthur notices the sausages on the floor. Again claiming that he's doing it to prevent Arthur from getting fat, Merlin makes a quick getaway.
Merlin returns to Freya to find that she's been crying.
- Merlin: I'm sorry I took so long. You must be hungry. What is it?Freya: Nothing.Merlin: But you're upset.Freya: No.Merlin: D'you think I wasn't coming? But I promised you I would.Freya: I scare most people away.Merlin: I'm not most people. How long had you been in that cage?Freya: A few days.Merlin: And the bounty hunter?Freya: Halig.Merlin: How did he find you?Freya: You can't always trust people.Merlin: I know. That's why I left home.Freya: Where is home?Merlin: Ealdor. It's a small village. Just a few fields, a couple of cows. Nothing special.Freya: My home was next to a lake surrounded by the tallest mountains. In the winter the storms whipped up the water into waves and you thought they were going to crash down and take away all the houses. But in the summer, wild flowers and light. It was like heaven.Merlin: Sounds perfect.Freya: It was.Merlin: Was?Freya: My family died.Merlin: Have you been on your own ever since? You're not on your own anymore. I'm going to look after you. I promise.Freya: You can't look after me. No one can.Merlin: No, I don't think you understand. I've never known anyone like you. I wish I could stay.Freya: You're going?Merlin: We need to be careful. I'll come back in the morning. You know I will be back, don't you?Freya: Merlin, I've never known anyone like you either.
That night, in the lower town of Camelot, a pair of young lovers out for a midnight stroll are attacked by an unseen monster. The bodies are found the next morning, and Gaius examines them while Uther and Arthur keep watch. Gaius states that it looks like the work of a wild animal, but the ground around the body is soft and there are no paw-prints. There are only human foot-prints leading away from the body, and Gaius deduces that they may belong to the killer - yet no mortal would be capable of inflicting that level of damage on a body. Uther concludes the attack was the work of a magical creature.
Merlin returns to Freya with a loaf of bread and invites her to ask for anything she wants to put on it. Freya replies: "strawberries", a request that throws Merlin a little. He holds out his hand and whispers a spell - then opens his hands to reveal a small red rose. Freya smiles and accepts it. They hear a noise and Freya begins to panic, stating that she can't go back in the cage. Merlin comforts her and promises that he'll look after her no matter what. She stares at him, and the two lean in closer for a kiss.
Back in the physician's quarters Merlin is humming to himself as he eats his dinner. Gaius demands that he sit down before completing his chores, but Merlin states that he's got things to do elsewhere.
Merlin is excited when he goes to Freya, telling her that he's decided its time she was smuggled out of the city. He'll bring her a disguise to help her escape, but stops short when he sees how glum she is. Freya tells him that she'll miss him, but Merlin smiles and says that he plans to go with her. Freya tries to talk him out of it, reminding him that he has a good life here, but Merlin won't hear any of it. Gradually Freya begins to smile, and they make plans to run far away - to somewhere with a lake.
In the castle, Merlin knocks on Morgana's chamber door to find that she's not there. Hurriedly he crosses the room and begins to rummage through her clothing, only to be caught holding up a dress just as Gwen walks in. He comes up with an excuse on the spot: moths. He's checking to make sure Morgana's room hasn't been infested, but states that the dress he now holds will have to be burnt. Leaving a bewildered Gwen behind, he makes his way down the corridor, a little embarrassed when he has to walk past two guards with the dress in his hands, and then bumping into Arthur. Arthur takes in the sight.
- Arthur: What are you doing?Merlin: Er, running an errand for Gaius.Arthur: For Gaius?Merlin: Yes.Arthur: Strange.Merlin: Oh, I don't think it's for him.Arthur: As long as you do a decent day's work, Merlin, that's all I care about.Merlin: No, no. It's not for me.Arthur: What a man does in his spare time is completely up to him.Merlin: No, you- you've got this wrong.Arthur: Colour suits you, Merlin.
Elsewhere in the lower town, Uther and Gaius are looking over yet another dead body. The creature has struck again the previous night, this time killing two guards on their rounds, and Arthur has eyewitnesses claiming the creature responsible was a giant black cat with wings. On Uther's urging, Gaius promises to do some research and share his theories before the day is out.
Merlin brings the dress to Freya who is at first delighted, but then sadly puts it aside. Merlin tries to cheer her up, reminding her of their future life together, and she tells him that they'll need more supplies. Merlin gives her a happy kiss, but as he races away, she sadly says: "Goodbye, Merlin."
Merlin runs into Gaius in the physician's quarters who tells him about the mysterious attacks. Merlin feigns interest, but only begins to pay attention when Gaius says that he believes the Druid girl is responsible, recalling that Halig said she was "cursed." He believes that she's a Bastet, someone who transforms into a monster on the stroke of midnight. Merlin angrily denies this, and the truth about his involvement in her escape comes out. Gaius tells him that it's his duty to report this to Uther before more innocent people are killed, and Merlin begs for time to get her out of the city.
He races back to Freya's hiding place, only to find the dress laid out on the ground.
Later, Gaius tries to comfort him, but Merlin won't be consoled - he only hopes that she's safe. This is not the case, as Freya is currently trying to evade the guards. Night falls, and Merlin hears the warning bells ring. Freya is cornered in a courtyard as Arthur, Halig and the guards slowly advance on her. She begs to be let go, and Arthur looks somewhat sympathetic until the midnight bell begins to toll. Freya doubles over, screaming in pain. She tranforms into a large winged panther, and soon makes short work of Halig. Merlin rushes into the courtyard just in time to see Arthur lunge forward and injure the Bastet. Using magic, Merlin causes a piece of masonry from the castle parapets to fall, and Arthur dives out of the way. It buys Freya enough time to take to the air, and Merlin follows her back to her hiding place.
He nervously approaches the Bastet lurking in the darkness, and reaches out to gently touch its head. It retreats back into the dark and Merlin follows with a torch, finding Freya in her human form laid out on the ground. He covers her with his jacket and brushes her hair out of her eyes.
- Merlin: You're all right. You're safe now.Freya: You must hate me.Merlin: No.Freya: I'm a monster. I tried to tell you.Merlin: I know.Freya: I wasn't always like this.Merlin: Shh. You shouldn't try to talk.Freya: There was a man. He attacked me. I didn't mean to hurt him, but I thought he was going to kill me.Merlin: It was an accident.Freya: His mother was a sorceress, and when she find out that I'd killed her son, she cursed me to kill forever more.Merlin: I'm going to make you better, Freya.Freya: No, Merlin, the wounds too deep. Please go.Merlin: No. I'm not leaving you here.
Some time later, after the sun has risen, Merlin carries Freya through the forest to the lake of Avalon. She's wearing Morgana's dress, and as Merlin lowers her to the ground she looks out over the water, finding it beautiful. As she dies, he makes him a promise: that one day she will repay him for his kindness. Merlin begins to weep over her body.
The scene cuts to Freya lying in a small boat filled with fern leaves. Merlin looks over her body one more time and then gently pushes it out into the water. It drifts toward the centre of the lake and Merlin tries to compose himself so that he can cast a spell, setting the boat alight. He watches for a few moments, and then sadly turns away.
Gaius finds him sitting by himself in the physician's quarters, and Merlin tells him that the girl is dead. Gaius hugs him and tells him how sorry he is.
Later Merlin sits in Arthur's room, looking out over the row of boots that he has to polish. Arthur comes in and sits beside him, having noticed that he's been upset lately. Arthur thinks it's because he threw cold water over him.
- Merlin: It wasn't very nice.Arthur: It was a bit unfair. Like when you called me fat.Merlin: Why was that unfair?Arthur: Because I am not f...
He realizes that Merlin is joking and pulls him into a headlock, releasing him only when he admits that Arthur doesn't need to get in shape. Satisified that he's made him smile, Arthur then states that he's got to complete all the chores he's given him.
- Attempted Rape: Freya insinuates that this is what led her to kill a man, thus resulting in his mother cursing her.
- Awful Truth: Freya's Dark Secret
- Beautiful Dreamer: Merlin watches Freya sleep for a few moments.
- Birds of a Feather: Merlin and Freya; both shy, unassuming, sweet-natured youngsters with magic.
- Bounty Hunter: Halig
- Break His Heart to Save Him: Freya runs away so that Merlin doesn't lose his chance at a good life in Camelot.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Discerning viewers will well-remember that Freya's cremation takes place on the same lake that Merlin threw Excalibur into.
- Clothing Damage: Freya's torn dress.
- Continuity Nod: This is not the first time the treskelion tattoo has been seen on a Druid, nor the last.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Perhaps. Freya turns into a Bastet because she killed a man in self-defence and was subsequently cursed by his vengeful mother. That's Freya's version of events, and there's no in-show reason to disbelief her.
- Downer Ending: The Damsel in Distress and Love Interest dies in the hero's arms.
- The Dulcinea Effect: Freya, so much so that Merlin is willing to abandon his destiny and run away with her.
- Empathic Environment: It's raining as Freya dies.
- Foreshadowing: So, did you get the part where Freya likes lakes?
- A couple more fulfilled within the episode. The first, when Merlin brings Freya food (she eats like an animal) and the second, when he is stealing a dress for her and tells Gwen that, since it's infested with moths, he'll have to burn it. Cue Freya being cremated while wearing it.
- Friend or Idol Decision: A romantic variant. Merlin must chose between Freya and Arthur. He actually chooses Freya, but destiny puts a stop to this.
- Holding Hands: Merlin and Freya, when he's helping her escape from Halig, when he tells her he has never known anyone like her, and when they kiss for the first time.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Gaius's rationalisation for turning Freya over to Uther; she might be an innocent victim of the curse, but she will keep killing people until she's stopped.
- Impending Doom P.O.V.: While the Bastet is hunting.
- Karmic Death: Halig is killed by the girl he terrorized.
- Let Them Die Happy: Merlin takes Freya to a place that reminds her of her home.
- The Lost Lenore: Poor Freya.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: The Bastet has a panther's body and bat wings..
- Not What It Looks Like: In quick succession with Gwen and then Arthur when Merlin is caught with one of Morgana's dresses.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Invoked; Gaius notes that the druids, who are sworn to give care to all in need, must have had a very good reason to expel Freya from their camp.
- Panthera Awesome: The Bastet's true form.
- Pet the Dog: Though he doesn't know the reason why, Arthur senses Merlin's upset and does his best to cheer the latter up.
- The Promise: "Someday I will repay you."
- Transformation Sequence: The Monstrous Transformation type.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Merlin and Freya
- Too Happy to Live: Not a person, but a relationship. Merlin and Freya were way too happy together to be together for very long.
- Was Too Hard on Him: A minor example. Arthur is briefly concerned that Merlin's ill-spirits are caused by Arthur's earlier, just-a-little-too-mean prank.
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Freya turns into a Bastet.
- The X of Y: The Lady of the Lake
- You Must Be Cold: When Merlin gives Freya his coat.