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Online Study Guide: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart - Book Summary

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THE CRYSTAL CAVE: FREE PLOT SUMMARY / ONLINE NOTES

BOOK II - The Falcon

CHAPTER 6

Summary

When Merlin awakes in Ambrosius’ room, there are fresh clothes awaiting him, including a clock fastened with a copper brooch. It is embossed with a dragon on a scarlet field, the same device Merlin had seen the night before on Ambrosius’ seal-ring. For the first time, Merlin feels he looks like a prince. Cadal tells Merlin at breakfast that Uther also lives in the same house, but that he will be away to the north for a few weeks. Merlin is happy about this as he thinks Uther does not particularly welcome him there and is annoyed by Ambrosius’ continued kindness towards Merlin. In spite of the fact that Merlin thought Ambrosius would not see him much, he is frequently called to Ambrosius’ rooms to talk, to question, to play the harp or try his hand at chess. More importantly, Ambrosius reveals all he can to Merlin about the worship of Mithras and how he has used it as a uniting factor among all the warring tribes in Less Britain in order to create his army. He warns Merlin to keep it to himself as it is very secretive. Merlin wonders aloud whether Ambrosius wants him to be an initiate of Mithras and Ambrosius says that remains to be seen, but it’s possible Merlin’s god is Mithras.

Cadal becomes Merlin’s own servant and he is given another solid gray pony which he nostalgically names Aster. He explores the land around him, finding two more standing stones with symbols that soon disappear: a dagger and an open eye. He doesn’t fear the stones in the daytime but at night, they bring the hairs on his neck to a stand and Aster shies away from going that direction.


Merlin also sees King Budac on his rides around the town. He is impressed by the way he sits in his saddle, like a man thirty years younger and he remembers Budec’s vow to be avenged on Vortigern for the killing of Constantius, even if it takes a lifetime. Budac and Ambrosius foster the idea that the army is for defensive purposes only so that Vortigern knows nothing of their plans. They are also used as a foraging party for the town, finding food, wood, fuel, weapons, and tools. They also form a corps of engineers to help prepare them for landing blind-folded in a strange country and living off it.

Soon Ambrosius finds Merlin a tutor named Belasius, a man who is concerned with the accounting side of Ambrosius’ business. He is a much harder tutor than Galapas or Demetrius had been, but Merlin does his work well and avoids Belasius’ heavy sarcasm and quick temper. One day, Belasius leaves the lessons earlier than usual, warning both Merlin and Cadal when they go for their daily ride, to stay to the road and be home by dark. Cadal suggests that go by the engineers workshops as Merlin usually loves to do, but Merlin insists on the ride, saying he feels he must go. He even insists on going through the forest, a much more dangerous ride.

Notes

The brooch on Merlin’s cloak is significant in that it is Ambrosius’ own coat of arms - a dragon on a crimson field - and he has seen to it that Merlin wears it. It can only mean that Ambrosius knows this is son and has taken the first step towards recognizing him as such. Uther’s annoyance at Merlin’s presence may indicate that he, too, knows Merlin’s relationship to his brother and may see him as a threat to his own aspirations. The worship of Mithras is another form of foreshadowing for when Merlin will challenge its practice. The signs which appear on the standing stones are again foreshadowing of events yet to be. Belasius, Merlin’s tutor, seems a secretive man who makes a strange warning about Merlin’s ride. We are left with the question: What might he have to hide.

New names in this chapter: Belasius, Merlin’s tutor in Less Britain


CHAPTER 7

Summary

Merlin enters the forest unafraid, because Ambrosius had made being abroad in Less Britain less dangerous. He also feels the need to ride ahead of Cadal for a sense of solitude. He has been followed by Cadal everywhere he goes and Cadal has even come to be called “The Watchdog” or “Merlin’s Black Dog.” It makes Merlin wonder if he is a hostage after all. Suddenly, an animal jumps out of the brush and spooks the horses. Merlin is thrown and wrenches his ankle. The pony he was riding takes off and Cadal is sure he is running for home. Merlin, however, knows the horse has just stopped a short way ahead and sends Cadal for him. The pony, too, has come up lame, so they will have to walk slowly back, with Merlin on Cadal’s horse and Cadal walking and leading the pony. They set off on what will, no doubt, be a couple of hours getting home when suddenly Merlin sees a white star - the Bear - in the sky and remembers a track off to the south that will be a shorter way home. Cadal agrees to take the path, but warns Merlin to keep his weapon drawn in case of trouble. Again, Merlin replies, using the Sight, saying he knows there will be no trouble. As he has done several times before when Merlin said something prophetic, Cadal makes the sign against the evil eye.

Notes

In this chapter, we see Merlin beginning to use his Sight more frequently, an act that gives him a tremendous feeling of power. He knows so much, including that he had to come that way and that neither “darkness, nor distance, nor time meant anything.”


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