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We were once engaged to be married.
Gaius to Merlin, talking about Alice

Love in the Time of Dragons is the ninth episode of the third series of Merlin which was first broadcast on the 6th of November 2010.


After the mysterious cure of many sick people in Camelot, Merlin spots Gaius fleeing secretly at night and follows him. He discovers the mysterious healer is Alice, the beloved of Gaius, whom he was about to marry until she was forced to flee so she could be safe from the persecution of magic by Uther Pendragon. Gaius, being happy that he works with Alice again, does not suspect that she is controlled by the manticore, a mythical monster who urges her to kill the king and is not convinced when Merlin warns him. What will Merlin do to persuade Gaius, release Alice from the manticore and help his mentor save his beloved from the execution?


As the episode begins, Alice rides into Camelot and takes residence in a local house. Once inside, she removes a large wooden box from her bag. She casts a spell and a magical creature emerges from the box, snarling and vicious. The next day, Uther tells Gaius that he has received reports of a physician offering miracle cures and that he suspects the use of magic. Gaius agrees to visit the local tavern to speak to the innkeeper, who had been fatally ill but is now said to be fully recovered.

Merlin and Gaius visit the tavern and find the innkeeper in fine spirits. He eventually confesses to the pair that his desperate wife acquired a remedy for his illness from a healer she met in the lower town. Gaius examines the remedy - a dust that sparkles with magical power. However, Gaius later lies to Uther, claiming that simple herbs were used to heal the innkeeper. Though Uther seems skeptical, he is eventually convinced that no magic was involved. Merlin tells Gaius that he is pleased with his decision to protect the innkeeper, but Gaius denies any knowledge of the man's use of magic. Merlin insists that the remedy was enchanted, but his mentor dismisses such accusations.

Late that night, Merlin spots Gaius sneaking out of their chamber and secretly follows him to a house in the lower town. There, Gaius encounters Alice and the pair share an emotional reunion. Spotting a patrol of knights, Merlin quickly returns to the castle. Meanwhile, in Alice's house, Gaius explains that he had known of her presence by recognising her work at the tavern. The pair admit that they have missed each other in the 20 years they have been apart, but Gaius warns Alice that Uther is already suspicious and will find her if she remains in Camelot. She explains that she returned to the kingdom to see him, and though Gaius departs, he promises to return the following day. Once Gaius has left, the magical creature emerges from Alice's box and congratulates her on a successful deception. The creature explains that Gaius will allow them to get close to Uther and, when Alice protests, it uses magic to silence her.

In the morning, Merlin admits to Gaius that he followed him the night before. Gaius eventually reveals that he was visiting Alice, his former fiancée. He tells Merlin that he met her many years ago and was impressed by her powerful magic. Alice's healing skills were famous in Camelot, until Uther declared war on magic. Gaius explains that he warned Alice and struck her name off the list, allowing her to escape the kingdom, and that he is now thrilled to have a second chance with his former love. Later, as Gaius and Alice reminisce about old times, she attempts to confess her deceit, but once again the creature's magic chokes her words and she quickly changes the subject.

After a hard day's training with Arthur, Merlin returns home and is informed by Gaius that Alice will be staying with them for a while. That night, having given his room up to Alice, Merlin struggles to sleep on the floor and is stirred by the sound of Alice whispering. Sneaking a look through a crack in the door, Merlin spies Alice extracting and bottling the magical creature's venom, which the beast reveals will be used to poison Uther. In the morning, Merlin relates his tale to Gaius, but the physician does not believe him. In an attempt to prove his accusation, Merlin retrieves Alice's box from under her bed, but finds that it is empty.

Merlin sneaks into the library

Sometime later, Gaius and Alice prepare potions together. Gaius explains that Uther takes a daily remedy for an old battle wound, and, once he is distracted, Alice poisons the potion with the creature's venom. However, she is startled by Merlin's sudden return and drops both bottles to the ground. They smash into tiny pieces and Alice hurriedly cleans up the mess, while a suspicious Merlin watches. That night, Merlin sneaks into the library and researches the magical creature, discovering that it is a powerful beast called a Manticore. He informs Gaius that Alice's box was empty because it is not a container, but rather a portal for the Manticore. Merlin again accuses Alice, but Gaius refuses to believe him and is saddened by what he believes to be his ward's jealousy of Alice.

The legendary Manticore

Gaius returns to his chamber and, while he rests, Alice volunteers to prepare the remedy for Uther. She once again poisons the potion with the Manticore venom and presents the remedy to Gaius. He takes it to Uther and the unsuspecting king quickly drinks the potion down. Later, Arthur discovers his father unconscious. As Gaius and Merlin examine the king, he springs into life and his eyes glow black with dark magic. When they discover the discarded remedy bottle, Merlin accuses Alice of poisoning Uther, but an angry Gaius orders him to return to Arthur's side. Rejoining the prince at Uther's bedside, Merlin reluctantly informs Arthur that he knows who poisoned the king.

Alice holding the box containing the manticore

In his chamber, Gaius confronts Alice, revealing that he knows she is to blame for the king's condition. Alice attempts to confess, but the creature chokes her words and Arthur's knights swiftly arrive to arrest her. Merlin apologizes to Gaius, claiming that he had no choice but to turn Alice in, but Gaius angrily retorts: "It wasn't your choice to make!" Later, Arthur interrogates Alice in her cell. She admits to poisoning the king, but claims that "the creature" made her do it. Arthur begs her for a cure, but she confesses that she does not know of one.

Merlin meets with Gaius at Uther's bedside and attempts to apologize, but Gaius tells Merlin that he knows he was just trying to protect him. Together, they begin to work on a cure for the king. Gaius reveals that the Manticore venom is too strong to cure, but if the creature is killed, then its magic will fade and the venom's power will be weakened. Through further research, Gaius discovers that the Manticore cannot live in their world for long, since it draws its power from the ancient evil of the Spirit World. He plans to destroy the creature's box, trapping it in the normal world. Merlin reminds his mentor that it will require powerful magic to destroy the enchanted box, and Gaius decides to call on his old skills as a sorcerer.

Merlin casts a spell to summon the Manticore and the creature emerges from the box, launching itself at him. As the creature claws at Merlin, Gaius casts a series of spells at the box, but to no effect. Gaius eventually summons all of his magical power and the box is destroyed. The Manticore leaps towards him, but disintegrates in mid-air. Sometime later, a recovering Uther sentences Alice to death, ordering her execution the following morning. Though Gaius reminds him that she was under the thrall of the Manticore, Uther argues that the use of magic under any circumstances is unacceptable.

Alice's Manticore

Gaius visits Alice in the cells and the pair share a tearful goodbye. She explains that she had originally wanted to harness the Manticore's power for healing, but the creature had proven too strong for her. Gaius apologizes for abandoning Alice many years ago, but she reassures him that he remained behind to protect her. The pair profess their love for each other and hug emotionally. The following morning, an emergency bell rings throughout Camelot. Merlin rushes to inform Gaius, but he is unsurprised, cheekily suggesting: "Perhaps one of the prisoners has escaped?" Merlin realises that Gaius has helped Alice to escape Camelot, and reminds his mentor that he could have gone with her. Gaius cheerfully replies: "I could have done, but then who'd look after you?".


Main Cast[]

Recurring Cast[]

Guest Cast[]



View the transcript here.

Release & Reception[]

Air date: 6 November 2010. 6.90 million viewers.

Behind the Scenes[]

  • The Manticore has been created and brought to life by The Mill and realised by motion capture acting, a technique made famous by Andy Serkis's Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. A video published by the company - and now unavailable - revealed some secrets about the postproduction of this episode. Few screencaps at Merlin Hypnoweb.


  • Morgana and Gwen do not appear in this episode.
  • This is one of the few episodes in which snippets from Gaius's past are revealed.
  • When Gaius is talking to Alice about poisoning Uther, Arthur's red shirt can be seen through the gaps in the door behind him, waiting for his cue to burst in and arrest her.

See also[]

Series 3
The Tears of Uther Pendragon  • Goblin's Gold  • Gwaine  • The Crystal Cave  • The Changeling  • The Castle of Fyrien  • The Eye of the Phoenix  • Love in the Time of Dragons  • Queen of Hearts  • The Sorcerer's Shadow  • The Coming of Arthur
Interactive quest: The Quest for Morgana
Mini-episode: Merlin in Need special
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