Belasius is the leader who emerges from the island and sees Merlin before he completely clears the trees of the forest. He tells Belasius he is there because there was something abroad in the forest tonight and that he had to find it. Belasius wears a brooch on his robe with a design of circles and knotted snakes in gold and he worships what he calls the Goddess. He claims she is older even than Mithras and admits that it is both secret and illegal. The sacrifice he claims was killed for sacrilege, because he was a King's man. When Merlin questions Belasius about his own safety, given that he seen something secret and illegal just the sacrifice, Belasius reminds him that Ambrosius has a long arm. This thought makes Merlin feel as if someone had put a shield in his hand while he was naked in battle. Belasius asks him why he did not feel afraid and Merlin tells him that he knows danger and death are not yet for him. Belasius assures Merlin that he knew he had the Sight and that he, too, has a use for him just like Ambrosius. He will take him into the sanctuary of his Goddess and present him there. Of course, Merlin wants to protest that this will never happen, but he holds his tongue.
As they are riding home, the sound of a great many horses can be heard.
The standard they see in the torchlight is a scarlet dragon - Ambrosius'
men. Belasius rides away with a warning to Merlin to not speak of what
he has seen, because he may be protected by Ambrosius but he is not protected
from a curse. Merlin is then met by Uther.
In this chapter, we are introduced to a pagan religion which worships
its Goddess through human sacrifice. Belasius is its high priest and he
has aims on Merlin as an initiate. Once again, someone wants to use Merlin's
power for his own benefit. However, Merlin is unafraid, because he knows
this is not the force meant for him to follow and it is not his time
yet to be overwhelmed by danger and death.
Uther's presence makes Merlin weigh how he will answer him about his whereabouts. Uther is dangerous. His story then is truthful to a point - he doesn't tell about Belasius. This is the first time that Merlin recognizes Uther's power and how much like Ambrosius he really is. Uther knows that Merlin is lying about something and then sees Belasius' bloody robe hanging out of his saddlebags. Uther assumes that Merlin is one of this group and begins to threaten him. Merlin insists he's broken no law and will only tell Ambrosius what he knows. Uther tries to intimidate him by telling him he will obey him, too, as he grabs the folds of Merlin's cloak at his neck. Merlin's brooch cuts Uther who then sees that it is the red dragon. Uther's reaction is surprise at first and them amusement. He tells his men to bring Merlin back carefully as his brother treasures him.
When he arrives at the camp, Cadal meets him. He had watched the exchange between him and Uther, because he had ridden back himself to find Merlin. Cadal knew what Merlin had witnessed on the island and warned Merlin that Belasius was a nasty customer. Merlin tells Cadal that Belasius is the Arch Druid and that even knowing how dangerous Belasius is, he will tell Ambrosius everything. Ambrosius, in Merlin's mind, deserves to know, so telling the truth is not just for protecting himself. Cadal's reaction is to say that someday he'll see Merlin afraid. Merlin says he only fears the snatches of the future which show his end, which is the crystal cave. He doesn't know if it's death or birth or a gate of vision or a dark limbo of sleep. Someday he'll know, but until then, he is not much afraid of anything. Cadal wants to know his own end, but Merlin parries his question. Cadal says he knows that Merlin knows, because he sees it in his eyes when he has a vision. Merlin admits it frightens him, but that someday he will be able to command the part of him that knows and sees.
Cadal is relieved when Merlin lies about how he will end up and laughs when he thinks that he can call Merlin a nuisance and him twice royal. That's the moment when Merlin finally realizes he is Ambrosius' son. The Sight had not helped him with this - sometimes men that have the Sight are human blind. Cadal tells him that the rumor had spread about the relationship, because he looked so much like Ambrosius. Uther, however, had thought that Merlin was Ambrosius'
catamite, a reference to a homosexual relationship, and that's why
he was so surprised by the brooch with the red dragon on Merlin's cloak.
Merlin also feels that Belasius knows the truth as well and that's why
he warned him about the curse that even Ambrosius' long arm couldn't protect
him from. He also reveals that Belasius wants to make him an initiate.
Cadal is aghast when Merlin admits that he will go at least once to the
worship service just to learn something new and that going will be another
way for him to learn about his own God. Merlin insists that there really
is only one God and we all come to him in the end. Twenty minutes later
he was dressed and ready to see his father.
This is an extremely important chapter as it is the one where Merlin finally
learns the name of his father. It is also important in that Uther knows
the truth as well. Wearing the red dragon brooch has become a kind of
protection for Merlin. Another interesting aspect to consider is Merlin's
lack of fear. He has moments when he knows his own end - the long limbo
of sleep in the crystal cave - and even though he fears that, he doesn't
fear anything else. Consider as well Merlin's realization of his own power,
when just a look from him can frighten men, and his firm beliefs about
the existence of only one God. Merlin seeks this God, just as we all do,
knowing that he derives his power from him. However, he is tolerant enough
to want to know all the other gods that men seek. In this way, Merlin
seems for us much more human a character and we can identify with his
thirst to know.