Tegid, Gwion, and the old man from Llew’s world sat on boulders. They had stayed behind to watch the horses not being used by the Ravens.
“What will happen, Penderwydd?” asked Gwion, visibly worried.
Tegid didn’t blame him; he was too. “I don’t know, Gwion, but we are to care for these horses now.”
The old man watched them with a worried look, his eyes looking large behind the strange things on his face. Tegid knew the frames were used to see clearly.
Suddenly, loud, sharp sounds could be heard from the strip mine in the valley that Llew, Cynan, and Scatha were infiltrating. Tegid was worried. He knew how dangerous these weapons could be, not only because the girl Ffand had been shot by one, but because he had seen them used in the Milliways shooting range. The horses found these sounds disturbing and they whinnied and pulled at their pickets. Gwion’s face paled at the noise and the old man’s shoulders jumped slightly at every report. Tegid wondered why that was. Perhaps he knew better what the men faced down in the mine.
“Gwion,” said Tegid, “it will be fine. Llew has dealt with these kind weapons before.” He knew his words were empty, but maybe they would help his Mabiong feel better.
A clamor nearby caught Tegid’s attention. Men lead by Paladyr had snuck around the mine and had managed to surprise the three as they spoke. Tegid eyed Paladyr. Many of his warband were strangers armed with guns. Tegid knew that fighting back would be useless against them, even if their holders looked rather uncomfortable.
“What brings you here, Paladyr. You are missing the battle,” said Tegid, standing to put himself between the sad warband and his friends.
“I have come to take you to Siawn Hy,” replied Paladyr. “You are my prisoners.”
“Oh,” said Tegid, watching the Raven Flight ride near, “That might be harder said than done.“
Turning to see the warband riding towards them, Paladyr gave a signal. A well-placed shot took out the horse from underneath Garanaw. He had been moving swiftly, and with the death of the horse he was thrown, landing with an audible crack on his arm. Tegid would have run to aid the man, but he was being bound by one of the strangers. Bran had stopped his advance. Some of the other Ravens helped Garanaw to his feet, his arm hanging limply at his side.
Seeing as they had little chance of winning this fight, Bran dismounted and laid down his arms. The rest of the Ravens followed suit and the men lead by Paladyr swarmed them and bound their hands.
“I see you have no honor,” said Bran, but he didn’t finish his thought. Paladyr had swung the butt of his spear into Bran’s head. The bound warrior toppled to the ground, blood seeping into his hair.
“Gag them!” ordered Paladyr. His men quickly went to work and marched the prisoners away from the access road towards the east side of the mine.
Within hours they were at an old tower built by the ancient snake people of this land. The gate was round and very large; several men could enter abreast and the circular stone that had closed the gate was rolled away in its track. Beyond this was a large paved courtyard where arched openings yawned in the walls. Standing at the opposite end of this courtyard was a building. The roof had collapsed and the tiles littered the yard. Paladyr’s men marched pushing their captives across the yard and up stone steps and through a narrow wooden door it was twice as tall as a man.
As they stepped through, Tegid noticed the putrid smell of decay and human filth. Eying the severed heads of two men nailed to the lintel of an inner door, his heart quickened with trepidation.
As he stepped through the small door into the hall torches tried and failed to chase the shadows away. Two doors hung in the wall at the opposite side from the captives and Goewyn stared through the bars of one of them. Tegid was happy to see her still alive and relatively well, but they were still hostages.
From another door in a shadowed corner of the room an unhelmed man emerged. Dressed in bronze armor, his pale face leered at the captives. It was that of Siawn Hy. Tegid was shocked at his appearance, blue veins snaked beneath the man's nearly transparent skin, and he was thin and sickly. How he had survived the wound that he had received from the Bran’s spear was amazing.
“Surprised?” asked Siawn with a sneer.
Tegid shook his head; he was still gagged.
“Ah, I see,” said Siawn eyeing the old man in the company, “Bring the old man here.”
Shoving the little man, Paladyr delivered him to Siawn Hy. The Brazen Man spoke to the old little man in the language of the strangers. “Take his gag off,” said Siawn to Paladyr who obliged slipping the gag from Nettle’s mouth.
A heated discussion took place between the two men in the language of the strangers. Seeing the sneer on Siawn’s face made Tegid sure the man was planning something horrid. Keeping his voice calm, the old man spoke to Siawn.
“Hold him,” said Siawn drawing his sword.
Forcing the small man into a kneeling position the evil men held his arms, while Siawn Hy maneuvered to the old man’s side. Grabbing the old man by the hair he whispered in his ear. With realization blooming in his mind Tegid tried to struggle forward. Men grabbed at his clothes tearing them as he tried to get to the old man. Suddenly the butt of a rifle landed on his skull and all was black.
Sometime later, Tegid woke to find that himself and the rest of the captives had been moved to a small room. Tegid looked around at the men in the room, the old man Nettles was gone. Bran and Drustwn had been beaten and were still unconscious on the floor. There were other injuries, but theirs looked to be the worst. Garanaw’s arm was swollen from the obvious fracture, and he looked pale beneath the dirt on his face. Tegid’s head hurt and he was sure it would need attention, but due the general state of being bound that the Ravens, and he himself was in, he was sure that was not going to happen any time soon.
Looking out a circular window set high into the wall Tegid saw that it was night. After some time, as the night wore on one of the strangers entered the room, and proceeded to take the gags off their mouths. He offered them water from a metal canteen. The men and Tegid greedily accepted this gesture, as they were all very thirsty. Bran and Drustwn were both awake, but dizzy.
“What happened?” asked the bard.
“Siawn beheaded the old man,” said Gwion, “You, Bran, and Drustwn all tried to stop it, but…” The boy did his best to indicate the blows the men had taken with his hand bound behind his back, “you know.”
“We were out for a long while,” stated Tegid.
The boy nodded, “Penderwydd, what is to happen to us?”
“I am not sure, Gwion,” he said, “That is up to the Swift Sure Hand.”
“Do you really believe the Goodlywise even cares?” asked the boy quietly.
Looking sternly at the boy Tegid nodded, “Yes, boy, I have experienced his plans first hand. Do not fret, it will work itself out.”
“Gwion, I need you to wake us every few hours tonight.”
Looking at the men they boy asked, “Why Penderwydd?”
“Because, our head wounds. If we do not wake, it is a worrying sign.”
The boy nodded and the bard lapsed into a sullen silence. Anyway, talking hurt his head. Tegid dozed, his brain needed it, and true to his word, the boy woke the three men. It was after dawn when the Siawn Hy made his appearance, he had the blood smeared frames the old man had worn in hand. Kneeling beside Tegid he hooked them onto the neck of the bard’s siarc.
“I thought you would like to keep these, “ he said his face close to Tegid.
“You didn’t have to kill the old man,” Tegid said while observing Siawn’s sickly face.
“He was a traitor,” spat Siawn, “Would not any king do the same?”
“King of what, Siawn, “ asked Tegid looking at Siawn with defiance burning in his eyes,
“These sad men? You are king of nothing but a dung heap.”
“I told Meldron that he should have just killed you on that island, “ said Siawn as he stood.
Tegid laughed, “Was that supposed to scare me, oh great king of beggars.”
The bard’s words hit their mark. Rounding on the bard, Siawn buried his armored foot in
Tegid’s ribs. Turning the man left the room.
When Tegid caught his breath finally, he noted the pain in his ribs with each breath. Great, broken ribs were wonderful. If he’d been at unbound he would have had his ribs bound, but that wasn’t going to happen any time soon.
“Good idea bard,” said Bran groggily, “Provoke the snake.”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” said Tegid breathlessly, “It felt good for a moment.”
“Next time leave the talking to me,” said Bran, “It might save you a few snapped ribs.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be good at talking?” asked Drustwn wryly.
“You give me too much credit,” said Tegid with a slight smile, “I am only a man, you know. I am of the Learned Brotherhood, but I am just a man as you are.”
The Mabiong watched this exchange with a look of perplexed amusement. Tegid wondered if the boy had ever realized that the Penderwydd was just as fallible as any man. He would have laughed, but that would have hurt too much, both head and ribs.
Several hours passed in relative silence. Coming in finally, Paladyr’s men roused their captives. Bran and Drustwn had to be hauled their feet their head wounds were indeed great. Tegid was slow to his feet, the cracked rib hurt, as did his head. Trudging the Ravens, the Mabiong, and the Penderwydd were lead into the main room. There stood Llew, Paladyr, Goawen, Tanwen, Siawn Hy, Cynan, and many other men. On seeing Llew many of the Ravens turned on their captors and Bran cried out and tried to struggle away. They were quickly subdued though with blows from the butts of spears and dragged back into line.
“You see?" Siawn Hy said arrogantly. “You never fully appreciated me, did you? Well, you have underestimated me for the last time, friend. “
“Listen to me very carefully, “ spoke Llew loudly. “My war band is waiting at the gate. They are invincible. If anything happens to any of us, you will die. That is a fact.”
Siawn Hy batted not an eye, however several of his warriors were moved. Paladyr relaxed his sword.
“It is true, lord,” he said. “ We cannot hope to defeat them.”
Siawn waved his hand as if he were shooing a fly. “But I am not interested in defeating them, “ he replied casually. “I am only interested in defeating the Silver Hand.”
“Then let the others go,” said the King, “Once they are free, I will command the war band to allow you safe passage. Without my word, none of you leave this place alive.”
“Listen to him, lord,” Said Paladyr uncertainly.
One of the strangers came forward and spoke in the strange language they used. Siawn replied with a snarled order. The other man spoke again, and Siawn growled back as he turned to Llew once more.
“If I let the others walk free, you will give us all safe conduct to leave-- is that right?”
“I give you my word,” vowed Llew. “But they go free fist.”
“No, Llew,” Goewyn pleaded, “I will not leave you.”
Siawn chuckled. “Oh, I am enjoying this.”
“The war band is waiting,” Llew told him. “They will not wait forever.”
“Do you think I care about any of that?” asked Siawn. “I will not be ordered about my own prisoner.” He moved close to Llew’s face. Tegid could not hear most of what the man said then, but he guessed it wasn’t good.
He backed away from Llew. “Do it!” he yelled.
“What do you want us to do, lord?” Paladyr asked.
“Kill him!” Siawn cried with the look of exasperation on his face.
“Do it!” Siawn shouted again.
Paladyr’s head whipped around and glared at Siawn. “No.” He lowered his blade and stepped aside. “Let the others go free, or they will kill us.”
Tegid found this rather surprising, he was Siawn’s dog during the war, and had done horrible things in the past. Now, despite it being a desperate attempt at self-preservation, he had the semblance of honor. “Paladyr!” the bard spoke, “Hear me now! You claimed naud, and Llew gave it, “ he continued trying to remind the disgraced warrior that he owed his life to the King. "He did not lie to you then; he is not lying now. Release us all and you will not be harmed.”
“Silence him!” screamed Siawn Hy. There was a swift crack and all was black once again.
A scream in the dark dragged at Tegid’s consciousness, in a moment he opened his eyes on a blurry scene. He was still in the hall on the floor. In the center Llew fell to the floor, a knife in his chest. Llew grasped the hilt of the blade and pulled it out. He flung the knife from him and it skittered across the floor to land in front of Tegid. The bard struggled to his knees but was forced down by one of Paladyr’s men. Blood welled from the wound, and soaked Llews clothes. Siawn stared at Llew with glee as Cynan struggled with as four of the warriors held him down. Paladyr stood grim and silent as he held Goewyn’s arm.
Llew opened his mouth and a sickening wheeze came from it. He tried to prop himself up but his arm buckled and he rolled to his side. Goewyn jerked her arm free of Paladyr’s grasp and ran to him. She gathered him in her arms and started to weep. Tegid could not hear what she said to him. Llew lifted a hand to stroke her cheek. He spoke to her but it was so quiet that Tegid heard nothing of it. Goewyn lowered her face to his and kissed him. The king died there on the floor of that cursed room, by the hand of a man he had once called friend.
Goewyn wept repeating Llew’s name as she rocked and held his cooling body. Tegid was stunned, he could not weep, or yell. It was as if a part of his heart had been ripped from his body. His best friend, and brother had just been cruelly murdered in front of him. He did not notice the look of pride on the faces of Siawn Hy and Tangwen, or the subdued look on Paladyr’s demeanor. He could only take in the tragedy in front of him, as his brain tried to make sense if it all. Cynan’s cries, as he fought against his enemies as they kneeled on his back seemed distant to the bard. The pain in his head, and ribs even seemed like small distant pin pricks against disbelief in his heart and mind.
Siawn commanded the men to pick up the body and to bind Cynan. Tegid could not follow this turning of events; the words were like buzzing gnats around his head. Paladyr lifted the king’s body and followed Siawn from the hall through the courtyard and out of the gate. The captives followed, the fight had gone out of Cynan, and Goewyn had to be supported. Tegid, having recovered a bit, marched boldly forth as did the Raven flight. His mind was still numb from the death of his friend, but the cries of the warriors still reached Tegid’s ears. The cries stopped suddenly at the sight of their king, and Scatha did her best to run to her daughter, but Siawn shouted, “Stop! No one, move!”
Then Siawn ordered Paladyr to lay the body on the ground. He brandished a torch he had taken from the hall, and stood over the king. “Here is your king!” he called.
“Siawn Hy!” Scatha shouted. “You will die for this! You and all your men.”
But Siawn laughed. “Do you want him? I give him to you. Come! Take him away!”
Scatha and two warriors stepped forward and Siawn allowed them to approach. As they neared he pulled a flask from behind his bronze breastplate and doused Llew’s body with the contents. As the three reached for the king, Siawn lowered the torch and set the body alight.
The fire was intense and spread quickly where the liquid had penetrated. His clothing burned first then his flesh began to burn.
Goewyn screamed and it brought him around from his thoughts. Fighting free of her captors she nearly threw herself on the flames, but she was caught again and hauled back.
Siawn looked satisfied with himself. If Tegid had a free hand, he would have punched the smug man in his smug pale face. Hatred, anger, and sorrow welled in his heart.
Siawn Hy snatched something from the flames despite the heat. He raised it with a shout, “With this stone, I conquer!”
From his vantage, Tegid could not see what happened next until the Singing Stone was raised. It was milk-white and turned translucent as it melted in his hand. The evil man stared as the liquid rock ran through his fingers and down his upraised arm like water. He bent to retrieve another stone, as Tegid had given the King three. Three of the stones that held the sacred Song of Albion. Suddenly, the liquid rock ignited and flames engulfed Siawn’s hand and raced up his arm along the molten trail.
Siawn jerked his hand back and held the flaming hand before his face. With a blast to of pure white light the stone in his fist burst into a thousand pieces, scattering flaming fragments far and wide. It was as if the stars themselves were raining to earth.
The third stone, still in the fire had melted and started to increase and flow along the ground in shimmering waves. Where the liquid rock touched a burning fragment it burned with shining white flames.
The fires were great, and the old world was being burned away. The air itself was on fire. Tegid, Gwion, and the Ravens were chained together and could not run from the flames, but they turned to face their fate. The flames engulfed them, but Tegid remembered no burning. There was suddenly, white light and then nothing but the song:
Glory of sun! Star-blaze in jeweled heavens!
Light of light, a High and Holy land,
Shining bright and blessed of the Many-Gifted;
A gift forever to the Race of Albion!
Rich with many waters! Blue-welled the deep,
White-waved the strand, hallowed the firmament,
Mighty in the power of One,
Gentle in the peace of great blessing;
A wealth of wonders for the Kinsmen of Albion!
Dazzling the matchless purity of green!
Fine as the emerald’s excellent fire,
Glowing in deep-clefted glens,
Gleaming on smooth-tilled fields;
A Gemstone of great value for the Sons of Albion!
Abounding in white-crowned peaks, vast beyond measure, The fastness of bold mountains!
Exalted heights—dark wooded and
Red with running deer—
Proclaim afar the high-vaunted splendor of Albion!
Swift horses in wide meadows! Graceful herds
on the gold-flowered water-meads,
Strong hooves drumming,
A thunder of praise to the Goodly-Wise,
A boon of joy in the heart of Albion!
Golden the grain-hoards of the Great Giver,
Generous the bounty of fair fields:
Redgold of bright apples,
Sweetness of shining honeycomb,
A miracle of plenty for the tribes of Albion!
Silver the net-tribute,
teeming the treasure Of happy waters;
Dappled brown the hillsides,
Sleek herds serving The Lord of the Feast;
A marvel of abundance for the tables of Albion!
Wise men, Bards of Truth, boldly declaring from
Hearts aflame with the Living Word;
Keen of knowledge,
Clear of vision,
A glory of verity for the True Men of Albion!
Bright-kindled from heavenly flames, framed
Of Love’s all-consuming fire,
Ignited of purest passion,
Burning in the Creator King’s heart,
A splendor of bliss to illuminate Albion!
Noble lords kneeling in rightwise worship,
Undying vows pledged to everlasting,
Embrace the breast of mercy,
Eternal homage to the Chief of chiefs;
Life beyond death granted the Children of Albion!
Kingship wrought of Infinite Virtue,
Quick-forged by the Swift Sure Hand;
Bold in Righteousness,
Valiant in Justice,
A sword of honor to defend the Clans of Albion!
Formed of the Nine Sacred Elements,
Framed by the Lord of Love and Light;
Grace of Grace, Truth of Truth,
Summoned in the Day of Strife,
An Aird Righ to reign forever in Albion!
Tegid opened his eyes and stood up, the bonds of his captivity were gone. His old and torn clothes were replaced with new ones. The cloth was the finest he had ever seen; he stared at it for a moment, his new fine blue cloak edged in red and yellow tape. His sirac was yellow with red stripes and his breecs were red. He found his staff had been replaced as well with a golden rod and his silver broach was now also golden. Tegid wondered at these things, and then found that his scars were gone, all of them. He looked at his hands and felt his face, he also would have lifted his shirt to look for those on his belly, but he knew they were gone. Turning his eyes to the others before him, he found Scatha, Gwion, and Bran. The Raven flight was around them, they looked as he remembered them, but now the Ravens’ cloaks were midnight blue and each wore a torc of silver. Tegid found Cynan his hand stretched towards Goewyn.
All of them were reclothed as Tegid himself was, in the finest clothing. The Warrior’s weapons had changed too. Gold and silver gleamed on their weapons in the sunshine. The spears were of gold and so too were every sword blade and hilt. Shield rims and bosses shown with silver, and Tegid was awed.
Looking at the sky, he found that it was more beautiful than he had ever seen it before, shining with a living light. Tegid saw that Tir Aflan was no longer cursed; it had become fair and was Tir Gwyn again. Tegid wondered at these things for a time before he woke Bran.
Tegid woke Scatha next, and then Cynan; Bran woke the Ravens and so on. Scatha ran to her daughter and knelt beside her. Goewyn’s hair shone bright and was plated with tiny white and yellow flowers. She wore a gown of blue and a mantle of white, and a henna-colored cloak sewn with plum flowers.
Goewyn ran to the body of the king. . He was arrayed in siarc, belt, and breecs of deep hued scarlet, with scarlet buskins on his feet. He lay wrapped in a scarlet cloak that had the Mor Cylch, the Life Dance, woven into it in silver thread.
Goewyn touched his face and tears welled in her eyes. He was cold and lifeless. Scatha came to stand beside her and Cynan; Bran and the Ravens gathered around. Tegid joined the group, and as he arrived Goewyn raised her tearful eyes to him. “Tegid I thought…” She began to weep.
“He is dead, Goewyn,” Tegid said softly, kneeling beside her. He placed a hand upon Llew’s chest. “He will not come back.”
The bard’s heart was breaking even as he said these words.
“Look,” said Bran, “his silver hand is gone.”
Tegid leaned over the body and raised the right hand. In the place of the silver hand, was a hand of flesh and bone. Tegid laid it across the body’s belly. Goewyn, then took up the hand and kissed it. She then laid it across the still heart.
“Where is Siawn Hy?” asked Cynan suddenly, “Where are Tangwen and Paladyr?”
The evil men had vanished.
“Here!” shouted Cynan, “Found something.”
Tegid and the others ran to join him near the place Siawn had last been seen. “What is it?” asked the big man pointing at a pile of powder on the ground.
“All that remains of Siawn Hy,” said Tegid after examining it.
It was the same with the others, all had been reduced to ash. Cynan wanted to gather the ash and throw it into the sea, but Tegid decided this was a bad idea. “Leave it,” he advised. “Let the wind take it. There shall be no resting place for these.”
“What has happened?” asked Bran.
Tegid lifted his golden rod and raised his other above his head. “The sound of the battleclash will be heard among the stars of heaven and the Great Year will proceed to its final consummation.
“Hear, O Sons of Albion: Blood is born of blood. Flesh is born of flesh. But the spirit is born of Spirit, and with Spirit evermore remains. Before Albion is One, the Hero Feat must be performed and the Silver Hand must reign.”
Lowering the rod, he stretched it out over Llew’s body. “So it was spoken, so it is accomplished,” Tegid said. “The Great Year is end, the old world has passed away and a new creation is established.” Indicating the crimson-clothed body of the king, he continued, “The Aird Righ of Albion is dead. The Hero Feat for which he was chosen has been performed. Behold! He has reclaimed Tir Aflan and brought it under his sovereign rule. Thus, all lands are united under one king” from this day, Albion is one. This is the Reign of the Silver Hand. The prophecy is fulfilled.”
The king’s body was loaded onto a stretcher and hauled behind a horse. The body showed no signs of decay. The warband needed for nothing, as there was game in the hills to hunt. They moved swiftly, but had to stop to rest each day. They were going home. (OOC: Much of it is from The Song of Albion: The Endless Knot books by Stephen R. Lawhead)