There are no greater challenges than the conflict between a man’s personal ethics and the need to protect family and friends. Uther takes Merlin into the depths of human wickedness.
I am Praxiteles, a citizen of Constantinople and the proud servant of Myrddion Merlinus. I met him in Constantinople when I served as a guide during the months he spent in the Pearl of the East. From the very first moment that I laid my eyes upon him, I knew that Merlin, as he is now called by many, was an extraordinary young man, given his youth and his education. How many strangers speak Latin and Greek, as well as their heathen tongue?
Initially, I was surprised at how great men were drawn to Merlin like ants to honey. The healer’s friend, Lord Cleoxenes, is a great man who is, perhaps, the most skilled statesman in our city other than our Magister Militum, Flavius Ardabur Aspar. When I learned from Emir Ali el Kabir, the owner of a large trading house in Damascus, that my young master was the bastard son of Ardabur Aspar, I was shocked at the revelation. Master Merlin had quality, if you understand, so I found no difficulty in forsaking Constantinople for this far-off place called Britain.
Master Merlin was forced to serve Uther Pendragon, the Red Dragon, because Merlin cared for the health and safety of his apprentice, Finn Truthteller, and his wife. Knowing that Merlin’s word was iron, Uther forced my master to serve him and then gave my master to his brother, Ambrosius Aurelianus, as a birthday gift. I was insulted for my master’s sake, but what can a foreign servant do? We were fortunate that Uther’s brother was the High King and a man of great common sense.
From all that my master told me, Ambrosius was a good man and a clever ruler. How happy my master was when Ambrosius set him to work training herb-masters and healers, as well as setting up a network of spies to ensure that Ambrosius received excellent intelligence of Saxon plans. But the unthinkable happened and Ambrosius was poisoned. Uther became High King of the Britons.
My poor master suffered, for Uther (may his tongue rot in his head) would use anyone and anything to bend my master to accede to his wishes. I watched as my master retreated from his friends, so that they should never be used as hostages.
Even when I was spirited to Segontium with the women to set up a safe place for Merlin’s friends to hide – even then, I saw how my master had been forced to do unthinkable, unforgivable things. His only solace was that his cursed Sight promised my master that his suffering was not to be for nothing. The Gods had decided that Uther should be eclipsed by a son, whether he wished for it or not. When I looked into my master’s eyes, I saw great plots in action and terrible murders planned and enacted. I hope my master survived the taint of Uther Pendragon’s madness, but I will never know the truth.
Still, all of Merlin’s friends continue to live in peace and plenty, so Merlin has learned how to leash the dragon, but at what cost?
“This is a magnificent story, told by someone who is committed to the Arthurian legend……I can’t fault it.” Book’s Monthly