An Ancient Legend

(To my knowledge this legend - a composite account of The Earth
Goddess' three months' bondage linked to The Sun God's rebirth and
later ransoming of The Lady, has never been published.)

When youth yet bless'd Ynys Y Kedyrn, to maid of royal birth twin sons were born.   But even at their birth was Death's cold lantern hung in darkening skies to cast its shadow o'er two princely lives.  And thus it came to pass - the elder struck by kinsman's shaft, the younger pierced by spear of treachery.

With tender bloom of motherhood upon her countenance, yet full the anguish rising in her breast, The Lady turned for comfort to her lord.

Now he a riding forth had made to western lands, and so she sought the path his mount had trod - perchance to overtake him in her sorrow and despair. And so the setting sun bedecked her robes in red and  gold, while hidden folds hung russet in the fading light, as onward sped The Lady in her need.

The evening sea reared high and wild and hailed her comimg, and there she cried aloud to he who dwelt below: "Llyr, my sister's Lord, who by my power dost manifest thyself to mortal men, whither rode my Lord from thy domain's bleak edge?"

And he replied: "The  way, my Lady, windeth to The Dread Land's ridge, for thither did thy Prince pass from my sight."

And so she journeyed ever on, the night wind chill now rising o'er her frame; and by and by she feels as though some three-score years hung heavy on her heart.   And all the while from wearied eyes flow tears that sting the cheek like water from an ice-clad mere.

Anon the northern ridge's crest is reached, and there before her gaze a castle  bridge hangs ghostly in the mist with gate of iron.  Fashioned are its bars in shape of human bones with grasping-rings like jaws of skulls that lifeless hang when ravens have their feasting done.

The gale shrieks loud and long and with sharp talons tears the royal cloak of colours bright and flow'red veil from off the weary form.  There stands The Lady clad in single robe and meagre, stained dark by endless leagues of her lone quest.  The porter's light is cold and cheerless in the gloom as from the royal lip the words fall few:

"Hast seen my Lord?"

"Why be he here, while his hour is not yet come?" came the cold reply.

A shadow great in stature shimmers in the mist and mail-clad hands give welcome to the high-born guest, and soon a mighty form she sees in all its  awesome majesty - in armour drenched with the tears of grieving multitudes, and o'er the head a helmet horned the dreadful face of Death conceals.

Terror rises in The Lady's breast as from the knight there issues forth a voice as from some cavern dread.

"Round hoofed is my steed, the torment of battle and scourge of the fallen. 

 Before Kaer Aranrot a warband saw I with shatter'd shields. 

 Before Kaer Wydyr's portal the blood-lust of champions swelled as the floodtide. 

 Before Kaer Gwydyon the blade of the broadsword was riven in twain.
 Before Kaer Colur the spears of the vanquished were rent full assunder. 

 Before Kaer Fandwy the souls of the damned were wrenched from their cantrydd. 

  I have been where the warriors of Prydain were slain, from north to south and east to west.

 I am the escort to Ochren's dread keep - I yet alive, they in their death.

Yea Gwyn ap Nyddwr am I, my Lady, in whose dread Kaer thou standest.  Thy Lord is not yet come, but rest thou here content - for,  know thee well, none may a step retrace across the threshold or the shadowy bridge beyond."

A cold dark moon scarce lights the court, but yet it shows that there twixt barbican and inner gate lie rank on rank, unto eternity's reach, the graves of all conceived.

Quoth The Dark Lord harshly: "Piev y bet hun, a hun?   Gowin ymi, mi ae gun.  Yn yd una ton tolo, bet Dilan Llan Bevno.   Bet Lleu Llawgyfes y dan achles mor, cyn dyfod ei armes gwr oedd, gwahoddai ormes."

(Which in the later tongue means this: 'Whose is this grave, and this?  Ask me for well I know.  Where the waves whisper, the grave of thy son Dylan at Llanfeuno.  This the grave of thy son Lleu Llaw Gyffes who, before his hour of doom, invited his own destruction.')

At these words The Lady swoons, her senses stilled as if a spear had flown from Ochren's crenellations to pierce the helm.   And down her spirit falls like stricken dove through chasms of eternity till all is still.  Then did she for a season sleep, for know ye all she may not die until her High Parents still her breath.   Yet held was she in bondage ere a ransom could be found to free her soul.

How fared her Love, her prince?   By th'enchantment of his mother and High Queen whom none e'er saw, because his strength was gone and age's hand was raised against his heart, his hour of death an hour of birth became and thus was born anew - a wond'rous mystery unto all mortal men.

Ere yet his body manhood had regained, lo was he guided in a dream to end The Lady's plight, and so he journeyed in his hidden form to where was held his love of old and love to be, as deep she slept.

Although her countenance was aged and care lay heavy on the once fair head, deep mem'ries flooded forth like waves within the young Lord's mind and slowly drifted down his formless soul to kiss the forehead dear.  And in an instant was he gone - back to form and wakefulness, his dreamtime o'er.

At that same instant did The Lady wake from sleep, the chilling spell that held her gone.  Lo love had flung wide the portals of the keep - love, the ransom that outshines all gold, and so she seeks the gateway and the dawn's grey light.

The bridge once cleared, she falters for a space as far-off voices tremble in the wind - voices of once known subjects of her realm.

"O, Mam", they cry.  "O, fy Fam", they seem to sing alound.  "O, Arglwyddes, dyfodwch ger Teulu yn ystod nos hon."   ("Draw nigh this night to Thy people".)

Lo on that third impassioned cry, a fire appears atop the eastern hillside's crown, and sun's first ray shines forth to strike the Lady's brow where not long since the phantom kiss had wrought its loving spell.

Her senses reel as velvet night with silver stars and dawn's bright gleam and sea's white crest seem all to blend in some vast universal wheel that spins and shakes the mountains from their seat.  Then peace and silence and the ground is stilled once more.

But as her eyes steal down to find again the foothold and the path, she sees  - (what mystery wrought it none may ever know) her dress and robe now white and radiant withall.  And hand to face as witness to the wonder, lo she stands again a maid of tender years with unsurpassing beauty as before.   And where her soft foot treads, white flowers in infant beauty spring, their faces moist with tears of joy.

And so The Lady passed upon her way that morning of enchantment and her soul was glad, her heart was light.

Copyright Gareth Pengwerin 1964