The Hunter's Heart
In a small village, Guinevere is tending to a garden and stops for a breather, unconsciously playing with the engagement ring hung around her neck. She's startled by the sound of hoofbeats and screaming, and hides behind a wall at the sight of men on horseback galloping into the village.
She bolts around the side of the house and skids to a halt at the sight of a man with a sword, only to fall onto the ground. The man raises his sword and is about to finish her off when another man stops him and stands over Gwen.
Helios: Wait. There is still some pleasure to be had here.
Back in Camelot Arthur has a surprising announcement to make to the court and his knights. He tells everyone that disputes over the lands of Gedref are finally resolved, and that peace between the two kingdoms will be cemented with a union of marriage between himself and Princess Mithian. The court begins to applause, though Merlin doesn't look at all pleased. At Gaius's urging, Merlin reluctantly claps with a fake smile on his face.
In the corridor, Merlin is annoyed that Arthur didn't tell him about any of this.
Merlin: Surely it's a little bit...
Down in the vaults a young page is putting away some official looking documents. He's just leaving when Lord Agravaine asks him for something, and throws out a few subtle threats when the boy seems reluctant to hand it over. He says that he cannot betray his master, and Agravaine commends him on his loyalty just before he stabs him in the stomach and drags his body away.
Agravaine rides out to Morgana to tell her that he hasn't been able to acquire the plans to the siege tunnels that she's asked for. She suggests that he take the risk himself, and get the plans personally.
In Helios's encampment Gwen sits nervously as she's dressed in what looks like a harem girl's outfit. Helios enters the room and introduces himself, asking her to dine with him. He's not too threatening, and Gwen decides to play it nice.
Back in Camelot the court is arrayed on the front steps of the castle to welcome Princess Mithian to the kingdom. She is brought forward on her horse and removes her veil to reveal a lovely young woman. Arthur seems impressed, and after a bout of mild flirting, Arthur introduces her to the court. Meanwhile, Guinevere is ushered into a dining room and seems surprised to find that it's quite welcoming, with candles and cushions and a fine meal. Helios asks to hear her life story, telling her that they have all night.
Under the cover of darkness, Agravaine drags the young page's body to the bottom of the castle parapets and shoves a note into his shirt.
Guinevere finishes up her completely fabricated story to Helios: that her family was killed and that she travelled many months to find a safe place to live, ending up on a farm where she would help with the pigs. Helios seems sympathetic, and they are interrupted by a guard who informs them that Lady Morgana has arrived and requests an audience. Helios orders her to be brought in, but notices that Gwen is startled. She makes a quick excuse and manages to slip away, veiling herself as she passes Morgana in the hall.
Morgana notes that Helios has had company, but tells him that she does not yet have the plans. When Helios protests, she reminds him that he's still preparing his army. He offers her a drink.
Helios: You are welcome to stay.
The following morning Sir Leon has brought Agravaine to see the body of the young page, speculating that he fell from a high parapet. Agravaine suggests that they get Gaius to examine the body.
Over breakfast with Gaius, Merlin is sulking. He believes it's Arthur's fate to marry Guinevere, but doesn't know what to do about it, or even if he should. Just then Leon knocks on the door, asking for Gaius's presence. Gaius looks over the page's body, noting that his neck is broken but that there are no other injuries to suggest that he fell from a great height. He finds the letter and Agravaine grabs it to rush it to the King.
Arthur reads it over, realizing that it's a letter to King Odin that offers to sell him Camelot's secrets. Arthur and Agravaine go down to check the vaults to make sure nothing was taken, and Arthur gives orders to ensure the vault's safety. Once he's alone, Agravaine smiles at the fact that he now has full access to the plans and maps of the castle.
The next scene shows him delivering the right map into Morgana's hands. She performs a spell to transfer it onto another document.
That night at the feast Merlin is looking disgruntled at the fact that Arthur and Mithian are getting on well. He performs a quick spell to spill soup onto Arthur's front, Mithian simply wipes it off. Agravaine joins them to say that the situation with the vaults is cleared up. Later that night Arthur escorts Mithian to her chambers and invites her on a picnic for the following day.
Morgana returns to Helios's hideaway with the plans to the siege tunnels. Unbeknownst to both of them, Guinevere is listening in on their conversation and learns not only that Agravaine supplied the plans but that Helios's forces will soon be ready. Stones slide out from under Guinevere's feet and Morgana realizes that they're being spied upon. Helios demands that the camp be sealed and soon armed guards are running everywhere.
They make it into Guinevere's chambers, and Morgana recognises her old maid's dress. Soon she has a name and demands that Gwen be instantly found.
Guinevere rushes through the forest with Helios's men in hot pursuit, but manages to elude them by jumping into the river and hiding under the water until they've passed.
Meanwhile, Arthur, Mithian and Merlin are on their picnic. After finding a suitable spot, Merlin decides to humiliate Arthur (and put off Mithian) by forcing Arthur to belch loudly in front of her...twice. Unfortunately, Mithian finds it rather charming and responds with a loud burp of her own. Merlin rolls his eyes.
As it grows dark Helios wants to call off the search, but Morgana insists that they keep searching, telling him that there's only one place she'll go: Camelot. Helios calls his men together with a loud whistle. Under the light of the moon Guinevere kisses her engagement ring and waits out the darkness by a small fire.
By morning Merlin is complaining about Arthur, but Gaius is too distracted to offer him any sympathy. Preparations for the hunt are going on when Mithian approaches Merlin and tells him that she can tell he doesn't like her, but that she only wants a chance.
Mithian: I'm sure you have good reasons. One thing I've learnt since being here is that Arthur values your opinion above almost all others. Even if he'd never admit it.
Morgana is racing through the forest on her horse and spots the smoke from Gwen's campfire. The sound of horses wakes Gwen up and she begins to run, Morgana close behind her. Morgana spots a broken twig that Gwen has passed by, and manages to cut off her path.
Morgana: Gwen. Nice to see you again. Oh, you've forgotten. I've hunted in these woods since I was a child.
She turns and runs in the opposite direction, but Morgana uses her magic to throw her off her feet and knock her unconscious against a tree.
As the hunt from Camelot approaches, Morgana stands over Gwen's body and tears the ring off from around her neck, dropping it on the forest floor. Hearing the hunt, she smiles and utters a spell that causes Gwen's body to glow.
Merlin is complaining about the lack of game in the forest, when Sir Leon shouts out that he's spotted a deer. From his vantage point away from the group, Merlin makes eye-contact with the little deer and realizes that there's something wrong. In its eyes he can see Guinevere, and when it leaps over a puddle he can see her reflection in the water. The hunt rushes past him and Arthur takes aim with his crossbow. Merlin causes the bolt to go astray, but he's unable to stop Mithian from taking a shot.
As the hunt searches for tracks, Arthur leans down and discovers Guinevere's ring. Ignoring Mithian, he looks up at Merlin in shock. Both realize that Gwen must be near, and though Mithian sees their exchange, she doesn't understand what it means. Arthur gets up, announcing that there'll be no more sport today.
By night Merlin returns to the forest on horseback, crying out Gwen's name. He finds her eventually, shivering on the ground with an arrow in her leg. He removes the bolt and performs a spell, healing her leg and calming her at the same time. She wakes up the following morning and the two friends hug each other in relief. She tells him that Morgana enchanted her and that she and Helios are planning to attack Camelot with Agravaine's help. She tells him that he stole a map from the vaults, but although Merlin urges her to return to Camelot with him, she refuses, still believing that she betrayed him. Reluctantly, Merlin leaves her.
In his chambers, Arthur is sadly holding Gwen's engagement ring when Merlin bursts in, telling him the news. Arthur is irritated at the news that Agravaine would ever betray him, and checks the vaults for the maps to the siege tunnels - they're exactly where they should be. Agravaine smirks to himself. However, it's not long before Merlin returns to Arthur's room.
Arthur: How can I love someone who's betrayed me? It doesn't make any sense. Yet how can I make myself love another, tell me that?
Arthur confesses that he has absolutely no idea what to do, and asks Merlin to tell him what he should do.
Merlin: All I know my lord is that no one would sacrifice more for Camelot and you than Gwen.
Merlin notices the ring in his hands and leaves.
By morning, Arthur is sending Princess Mithian away, offering her all the disputed lands for Gedref, and gives her a treaty that he's had prepared.
Mithian: Tell me. Who is it that trumps a princess?
That night Arthur asks Merlin if he's done the right thing, and Merlin assures him that he did, and that Gwen will be found.
- Animorphism: Morgana turns Gwen into a deer.
- Bare Your Midriff: Gwen in the harem outfit.
- Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: Implied between Helios and Guinevere.
- Big Entrance: Princess Mithian arrives in Camelot with a team of imposing knights, an equestrian display, a dramatic unveiling, and a Reaction Shot from the gathered crowd that puts her pretty high on the Sliding Scale of Beauty.
- Bring News Back: Guinevere races to warn Camelot of impending danger.
- Captain Obvious: Leon: "DEER!" Thanks man.
- The Chase: Morgana and Guinevere's subplot.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: One of Mithian's conversations with Merlin has shades of a stepmother trying to get a stepson to warm up to her.
- Dramatic Irony: On seeing the deer (which is actually Guinevere under a spell) Sir Leon tells Arthur: "She's a beauty. Sire, she's all yours."
- Fairy Tale: Guinevere turning into a deer and being hunted by a king is similar to The Brothers Grimm's tale Little Brother and Little Sister.
- Friendship Moment: We finally get a Merlin/Gwen hug.
- Friend Versus Lover: A variation. Merlin dislikes Mithian, but it's for Guinevere's sake.
- Girl of the Week: Princess Mithian
- Go-Go Enslavement: Gwen, though it's not that bad. Family show, remember.
- Held Gaze: Merlin and Arthur when the latter finds Guinevere's ring in the forest. Mithian notices and realizes that something beyond her understanding is happening.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Morgana's plot to exile Guinevere from Camelot only puts Gwen in a position where she can overhear her plans to invade Camelot. Furthermore, Morgana tears Guinevere's engagement ring off her neck and leaves it in the forest; Arthur finds it and is reminded of Guinevere at a point in which he was trying to move on.
- Likewise, Merlin's attempts to make Arthur seem foolish in front of Princess Mithian actually make her more endeared to Arthur.
- Even Mithian, by insisting on coming on the hunt, ends up (unknowingly) shooting Guinevere, leading to the hunting party searching for deer tracks and Arthur finding his engagement ring, resulting in him sending Mithian back to her own kingdom.
- Idiot Ball: Agravaine makes a rather dumb move by stabbing Owen in the chest and claiming that he fell from the parapets - but luckily for him, Gaius and Leon are even dumber. Neither one manages to notice the stab wound, despite being called in specifically to investigate the body.
- I Have No Idea What I'm Doing: Arthur, when faced with the perfect marriage to a princess, or the choice to seek out Gwen instead.
- Left Hanging: A scene has Gaius looking over the letter that Agravaine planted on Owen and exclaiming that something is wrong with it. This scene goes nowhere.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Agravaine kills Owen and throws him over the battlements, hoping that people will assume he got drunk and fell. This is despite stabbing him in the chest. However, nobody manages to notice his wound anyway. Not even the court physician.
- McGuffin: Plans to the siege tunnels.
- Nice to the Waiter: Mithian is one of the few noblewomen (heck, one of the few nobles, period!) who is genuinely nice to Merlin. A pity she's in the way of his Fan-Preferred Couple...
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Helios is an Affably Evil version of this, Arthur (as usual) and Mithian.
- Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Deconstructed. Mithian was designed as Arthur's perfect match, on a political and personal level. But he can't deny the fact that he's still in love with Guinevere, and so sends her packing.
- Princess Tropes: Princess Mithian ticks a lot of these, including Ermine Cape Effect, Everything's Better with Princesses, Princess Classic, Spoiled Sweet, Pimped-Out Dress, Pretty in Mink, and Princesses Rule (given that there's no sign or mention of her parents). There's even a touch of the Tomboy Princess about her.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Guinevere overhears Morgana's plans to invade Camelot and so makes a frantic dash home to raise the alarm, despite knowing that she'll face the death penalty if she returns. All whilst wearing a flimsy harem girl's outfit, she runs from a hoarde of mercenaries, eludes them by diving into a river, spends a cold night by herself in the forest, is chased down by Morgana on horseback, is turned into a deer and shot by her romantic rival, spends the rest of that day with an arrow in her thigh, but is finally able to pass on her message to Merlin to give to Arthur. Arthur ignores it.
- Shipper on Deck: Merlin. Apparently only Guinevere is allowed near Arthur, and he comes complete with In-Universe Die for Our Ship when he dislikes a perfectly harmless new Love Interest for no other reason but that she's unknowingly getting in the way of his Fan-Preferred Couple.
- In fairness it is Gwen and Arthur's destiny, and if it weren't for the fact Mithian is in the way, he would probably have liked her.
- Unknown Rival: Mithian to Guinevere. Although Mithian gets an inkling that she's being rejected in favour of another, Guinevere never learns of Mithian's existance at all.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Merlin isn't remotely curious about why Gwen is dressed as a harem girl. Maybe he was just being polite.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Mithian knows she's in a love story, she just doesn't realize that she's not the Love Interest.
- Woman Scorned: Subverted with Princess Mithian, who is initially rather huffy when Arthur sends her away, but then quietly admits that she'd give up her own kingdom to be as loved as much as Arthur loves Guinevere.
- Written-In Infirmity: Arthur was frequently shot from a right angle throughout this episode as Bradley James had a swollen cheek from dental surgery. It's best seen in the goodbye scene to Princess Mithian.