BOOK III - The Wolf



Merlin is taken to the top of the crag where he sees that the wall has cracked for the fifth time. The workmen there are afraid, not of the king, but of the force which they believe in, but don't understand. Maugan keeps arguing for the immediate sacrifice, but Merlin is freed to fulfill what he claims he can. He raises his arms to the sky in a kind of show for the crowd so that they will not be immediately inclined to listen to Maugan. At that exact moment, the sun goes in and stayed in and the dusk begins to thicken. Then, Merlin finds the rock behind which he had hidden that day so long ago when he had followed Vortigern and his grandfather. It is cleft by a young oak tree, just as he remembers, and Merlin crashes through the brush beyond it, telling the king he will show him the magic beast that lies beneath his stronghold and eats at his foundations. Then, he finds the opening to the mine of his vision and enters.

The cave of the mine is even bigger than Merlin remembers. Merlin knows that he can show the king the faults inside the mine that are compromised by the weight of the walls above, but that will not save him. The king needs a magic answer to satisfy the priests and the magicians and the workmen and the people beyond. So, he looks into the bottom of a pool where a rock, vaguely shaped like a dragon, lies. With all the torches reflecting off the shining rock of the cave, Merlin thinks it will make the dragon shape come to life. However, much more happens. His power comes to him and he begins to fall into a vision. He feels like his blood is seeping into the pool and his hands tear in pain at the rock. He sees the whirl of banners and wings and wolves' eyes and the tail of a comet like a brand. He throws his hands into the air between himself and the flashing visions and he hears his own voice calling out until he falls into darkness and silence.


The strong sense of secrecy and magic permeate this chapter. First, the wall has fallen again and the workmen are more afraid of the unknown power that controls it than the king who might punish them for it. Second, Merlin seems to command the sun when he lifts his arms in a false kind of magical movement. Third, miraculously, he finds a rock shaped like a dragon to fulfill his false prophecy, hoping that the torches will give it a magical appearance. Finally, the god comes to him again and Merlin sees a vision that can only be a metaphor for the arrival of Ambrosius and his army and the victory Merlin has known all along must happen.



When Merlin awakes, he is in one of Vortigern's best bedchambers with Cadal beside him. Cadal had followed him all the way to Dinas Brenin and when he arrived, everyone was proclaiming Merlin's name, calling him the King's Prophet. Cadal learns from Berric, a soldier who first gave Merlin a torch, that Merlin had prophesied the battle between the red dragon of Ambrosius and the white dragon of the Saxons with the red dragon winning in the end and a bear coming out of Cornwall to sweep the battlefield clear. The name Cadal said Berric used in repeating the story was artos or Arthur to mean bear. Now, Vortigern is following Merlin's advice which is to drain the pool by a conduit and find the beasts which are bringing the King's fort down - the red and white dragons. Of course, Merlin remembers none of this.

Merlin is unworried about the King draining the pool, even though as an engineer, he knows that won't keep the walls from cracking. He feels that there is something there, because the advice given occurred in one of his visions and the god had led him on the right path so far. He dresses in a dark robe, puts on a dark cloak and his dragon brooch and heads out to the sight where Vortigern has ordered the pool drained. He knows now he can convince Vortigern to leave this tight corner of Wales and hole up someplace where Ambrosius can smoke him out. The ship with Marric has already sailed back to Less Britain with the news that Merlin is in Vortigern's hands. He needs to be able to eventually get back to Ambrosius himself with the news of Vortigern's whereabouts. He tells Cadal to take some stolen horses down by the stream where a tree has fallen across the water and wait for him there. Cadal doesn't want to leave him alone in the middle of the wolf pack, but Merlin reminds him to trust what is inside of him, Merlin. He knows they may kill him someday, but that day is not today.


Once again, the power which has followed Merlin from the beginning is there to protect him when he most needs it. The prophecy is a true one, showing the victory of the Red Dragon, but it also proclaims the coming of King Arthur, whom the onlookers believe is artos, the bear, sweeping clean the battlefield. Yes, he will come out of Cornwall as Merlin says in his trance, because he will be the son of Uther, the brother of Ambrosius, and Ygraine, the Duchess of Cornwall. The onlookers, including Vortigern, don't know about Arthur, we, the readers will be familiar with the legend. Also, Merlin once again knows that he has nothing to fear from the wolf pack of Vortigern, because his power has told him this is not the day of his death.

New names in this chapter: Berric, a soldier who offered Merlin a torch into the cave, and then tells Cadal everything that happened in Merlin's vision

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".