BOOK III - The Wolf



Just prior to their dinner, Merlin tells Cadal that he sees Dinias as a source of information and that he'll see to it that Dinias is drunk before they have to leave for St. Peter's. As a result, Merlin learns from Dinias that he, Merlin, had been presumed dead since the night of the fire and that his mother had retired to St. Peter's soon after when a search did not bring any news of her son. At that point, Merlin sees a group of what he takes to be Saxons sitting by the door which doesn't particularly worry him since it's so dark in the restaurant. Merlin then tells Dinias a trumped-up story about his life over the past year in Cornwall. As he tells his story, he notices the maker's mark on the bottom of the china is A. M. which reminds of his father, Ambrosius Merlinus.

As their conversation continues, Dinias gets drunker and louder, but he also seems to be pumping Merlin for information himself, wondering if Ambrosius plans to land in Cornwall when he makes his invasion. Dinias' loud voice makes Merlin realize some people are turning around to look at them, especially two men in dark clothes who look Welsh and whose flagon of wine has not dropped for awhile. He comes to the conclusion that the Saxons near the door seem harmless enough, but the men in black are another story.

Nonetheless, Merlin decides to stay rather than draw more attention to himself by provoking a quarrel with Dinias. Between throws of a dice game, he questions Dinias about what he might know, especially whether the West would stay loyal to Vortigern. Dinias says it would go up in flames. At one point, Dinias remarks that while he may be a bastard like Merlin, at least he knows who his father is. Merlin starts at that, cautioning his cousin to keep his voice down. He wants Dinias to begin winning at the dice game so he'll be less likely to quarrel and be loud. He muses that it would be useful to be able to bring his power to bear on the game to make Dinias win, but that he knows that power really makes nothing smoother. When it comes, it is like having a wolf by the throat.

Dinias soon reveals that Vortigern is now building a new stronghold at Dinas Brenin in Snowdon. Unfortunately, he is having trouble getting it to stand. He has built it four times and every time it has cracked and fallen. Also, he tells Merlin that Vortigern and Hengist aren't seeing eye to eye, so the king is quite beset. Dinias reveals as well why the king has chosen that spot and Merlin realizes it's the same spot Vortigern had shown his grandfather those many years ago when Galapas had told Merlin it was important for him to go with his grandfather to the meeting with the king. There had been the scream of a falcon that day and Cerdic had wanted to cut him in on a dice game. Suddenly, Merlin has the power to make the dice move and Dinias begins to win. When Merlin makes to leave, however, Dinias violently strikes the table and demands he stay and play it out, calling Merlin a bastard who never had a father at all. Just then, one of the suspicious men in black stops Merlin and insists that they have a word together outside.


Dinias' loud voice and his insistence on calling Merlin a bastard set us up for the men in black who are watching them drink and play dice. They are two forces to be reckoned with. We also learn about the stronghold Vortigern is building at Dinas Brenin or King's Fort and how it keeps falling. Match that information with Dinias calling Merlin the bastard who doesn't know his own father and we have foreshadowing of Vortigern's later desire to sacrifice a man just like Merlin to make his walls stand, a prophecy made by the men of magic around him that the walls will stand if the foundation is filled with the blood of a man who does not know his own father. When Merlin realizes that King's Fort is the same spot where his grandfather had met with Vortigern, he remembers the scream of the falcon and the suggestion of a dice game. These elements are present in the moment as well - he is the falcon and Dinias has insisted on the dice game that brought about this part of the conversation. It brings out his power and he is able to control the turn of the dice with his mind.



Merlin refuses to go outside with the two men and instead answers the one he calls Blackbeard who asks him his name. He tries to sidestep the men's interest in him when suddenly an old man from behind reveals his relationship to the old king, his grandfather. Blackbeard, once he knows this is the truth, tells Merlin that Vortigern wants him and has been looking for him the past three weeks. Merlin is forced to go, but is relieved that it seems to have nothing to do with Ambrosius. Unfortunately, Dinias then reveals that Merlin's mother is still alive in St. Peter's, a fact that makes the man turn in surprise. This reaction frightens Merlin, but he still has no choice, because the two men are determined to take him and his mother to Vortigern. As they leave, Blackbeard throws a purse of coins at Dinias feet to pay the reward offered evidently for Merlin and his mother.


This chapter furthers the idea which will come out later about the need for the blood of a bastard who doesn't know his father. Vortigern has been looking for Merlin and his mother for this reason, not because he knows about Ambrosius sending Merlin ahead for information.

New names in this chapter: Blackbeard, the nickname Merlin gives the unknown Welshman at the inn

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