Sorry for the delay. Between having the stomach virus from hell and then my principal passing away, I don’t have any air left in my lungs. And I got stuck in this over a stupid thing. Ah well.  Thanks everyone for reading.

When the Ribbons Dance – Chapter 03

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When the Ribbons Dance

Chapter 03

Stopio ble rydych chi! Pwy ydych chi?”

Bronwyn scowled at the arrow point, inches from her nose. “HEY!” She dropped her bag and pushed the arrow to the left. “It’s kinda late for a reenactment!”

He put the arrow back in her face. “Psy ydych chi?”

She pushed it to the side again. “And this is a protected historical site!” She shook her diminutive finger at him. “You need to go! I will call the police!”

There was laughter behind her and she turned to see she was surrounded by similarly dressed men, hooded and arrows notched.

And aimed at her!

She recognized the language, lived it, spoke it. The Welsh language hadn’t changed much in over a millennium, unlike English. The articulation, however, was archaic and odd.

What language is she speaking?” one asked.

Alright!” she turned back to the man in front. His arrow was back in her face. “You’re taking this reenactment too far! And for the last time,” she pushed the arrow again to the side, “get that thing out of my face!”

I would wager that she is an English spy! We should just execute her now!” This caused Bronwyn to gasp.

I do not remember the English dressing like that.”

Or anyone, to be honest.”

There was rustling. “This is a strange rucksack! I wonder what’s in it?”

How do you open it?”

What? HEY!” Bronwyn reached for her knapsack from the man behind her who had picked it up. “You keep your hands off my stuff!”

The man who grabbed her bag had a feral smile. It was not nice. He pulled it from her reach. “Give her to me. I’ll make her sing. We will know who she spies for!”

Up until this time, Bronwyn had been speaking English. The retort was swift and in a tongue she knew he would understand. “Try it and I’ll kick your balls clear into your throat!”

Jaws dropped and she felt herself restrained in the embrace of the warrior behind her. “Ah.” he whispered in her ear. “She has teeth and claws. Methinks you are not the man for her.”

And she is our guest!” A girl of mid-teen years stepped into the clearing. She was dressed in an outfit suitable for the 12th century. “My grandfather sent me to remind you of that, Meaurig!” Obviously unafraid of the men with the bows, she smacked the warrior – Meaurig – on the arm and pulled Bronwyn from his grasp. She then turned to the man holding her bag. “Give me that, Cnaithur. Threatening to go through a fine lady’s things! I’ll tell your wife!” She grabbed the bag and handed it to Bronwyn. The girl turned to her and smiled in the mist. “My name is Glenys and my grandfather is the village wise man, Aelhaearn. You are probably hungry. Please come.” She turned and left, clearly expecting Bronwyn to follow. When she didn’t, Glenys turned. “We mean you no harm. My grandfather is waiting dinner for you and we have a warm place for you to sleep.” She gestured towards the direction from where she came. “Unless you want to stay with these wharf rats?”

No. Not really.” Bronwyn swept around Meaurig and followed Glenys. As they exited the trees, Bronwyn got a good look at her surroundings.

It had been almost twilight when she entered the grotto where the Druid had been buried and was not quite full dark while she dealt with The Bully Boys. However, now, it was full dark and in the distance, she could see a village, fires burning in the center of the square and lights through the windows. She could smell cooking smells; ham, roast fowl.

And unwashed bodies.

This wasn’t here before…the landmarks…the landmarks are different… that mountain in the distant is from the wrong angle…

Glenys?”

Aye?”

Who is king?”

The girl snorted. “That would be the question, now wouldn’t it?” They began moving downhill. “You must be very new if you don’t know.”

I’m kind of lost and trying to get my bearings.” She put on her best poker face. “I’ve been wandering and out of touch, so I’ve heard little news as of late.”

Hywel should be king,” this came from the warrior – Meaurig – who was close behind. “however Christiana’s brats, Dafydd and Rhodri, have run him to Ireland.”

Bronwyn’s mind churned. If this wasn’t a reenactment, she was standing smack-dab in Madoc-country in the 12th century!

Wait a minute…. Madoc…

What is the name of that settlement ahead?”

That,” Glenys stated proudly, “is Ceredigion and a fine town, it is!”

While Bronwyn’s mouth was silent, her brain was not.

Ceredigion?

~~~…~~~

Welcome! Welcome!” Glenys’s grandfather was spritely and moved with energy that Bronwyn was envious of. Bronwyn couldn’t place a finger on his age, especially in this time period, if this was a time period. He could be in his thirties, or his sixties. Most likely in his eighties!

Or maybe she was insane. For not the first time, she decided one of the Bully Boys had hit her in the back of the head and she was lying dead on the ground back at the dig. Great! They’d probably re-opened the Druid’s grave and dumped her in it.

With a suddenness that startled the archaeologist, the old man had her settled at a table, a bowl of something steaming in front of her. She didn’t recognize it, but it smelled good. Despite the fact that she had eaten in the previous two hours, she was now starving. Wine was set before her in a bowl and the old man plopped down across from her. “Well? Eat! Eat!” He stared at her while she lifted bowl to her mouth. He spoke again just as she began to sip. “I am Aelhaearn. Some call me the village wise man. Others call me a silly old bastard.”

No. They call you a heretic!”

Where did you come from?” This was directed at the rude Welsh Warrior was hidden in the shadows, and he was getting on her nerves. And her nerves were already shot, trying to figure out how one minute she was in 2016 and, if Owain was dead and Hywel was still alive, the next she was in 1170.

Oh yeah. Colin hit me in the back of the head and she was buried in the Druid’s grave. This wasn’t a bad hell, to be honest. Just this annoying arrow-happy warrior with the God complex.

I have lived in Deheubarth my entire life.” ‘

Bronwyn’s bowl stopped in mid-lift. “What?”

You asked,” he reminded her snidely, “where I came from. I told you.”

She drank from the bowl and eyed the roasted fowl that Glenys set in the middle of the table.

Where are you from?”

She closed her eyes to keep from screaming and drained the bowl. Setting it down, she reached for the wine bowl.

So full of words and now you have none?”

I think,” Aelhaearn interjected gently, “our guest is tired and confused. Rather than interrogate her, you should return to your hearth. She might be more amenable in the morning when she is rested and you have remembered the manners your mother taught you.” The Druid waved at him as if to brush him away. “Go. Go on with you.” He waved at Glenys. “You too. Go on with you! She is safe with me!”

Meaurig snorted and moved towards the doorway. As he passed the older man, he leaned over, eyes glittering beneath his hood and his whisper very audible. “Aye. But are you safe from her?”

Bronwyn’s eyes shot open, fire and daggers…

Meaurig smiled at her, but continued to talk to the Druid, his face still shaded in the dark. “She has teeth and claws. Told Cnaithur she would shove his man parts into his throat!”

Aelhaearn chortled. “I would pay well to see that.” He waved at him again. “On with you. Out. Out.” He waited until the two left before turning back to his guest. “Would you like more wine?”

Bronwyn immediately burst into tears.

~~~…~~~

At some point, Bronwyn imbibed something that made her sleepy and the old man tucked her in a pallet that was lumpy and smelled strange, and was not of the 21st century. She dreamed of dancing skeletons and war. She woke before dawn. Getting up, she stumbled into the main living area of the dwelling.

The wise man – Aelhaearn – was seated at the table, potions and a plate of sand before him. Craggy features were lit by the fire, shadows from his finger, dragging through the sand. “You will wish some privacy for a short time, I suspect,” he muttered. “There is a chamber pot and a bowl of water through that doorway.” He nodded to the side, where an entryway was covered with a bit of hide. Bronwyn slid from her seat and started towards the doorway. “Take a lamp with you. I would be most aggrieved if you fell to the floor.”

I would be embarrassed as hell,” Bronwyn muttered back.

Several minutes later, Bronwyn returned to the table, a disdainful snarl on her face. There was a self-satisfied smirk on Aelhaern’s face as he poured honeyed mead into the bowl in front of Bronwyn. “The accommodations not to your liking?”

Bronwyn’s sigh was heavy. “Your hospitality is superb, however I’m not used to this way of life.” Her smile did not reach her eyes. “It is as if I am in a dream I can’t wake up from.”

Now the Druid’s smile turned sad. He sat across from the woman. He moved his potions and plate of sand to the side, took off the necklace of talisman’s and then plopped the animal skin pouch to the side. He didn’t seem to notice Bronwyn’s reaction to the pouch. “This is not a dream. I fear,” he continued with sigh. “It is the future of my people that I fear for and I have used great magic to aid us and our people.” He poured himself a goblet and lifted it. “I had hoped for a warrior. A warrior of great renowned.”

Bronwyn took a sip from her bowl. “I hope your magic provides you with one.”

Where are you from?”

She reached for the pouch. Her hand hovered above it. “May I?”

Certainly.”

Bronwyn picked up the sack and inspected it closely. The colors were brighter, and she knew she was seeing it in all of it’s original glory. She shook her head and continued to turn the bag. “This is very…surreal.”

‘Tis simply a moleskin sac. My wife made it for me.”

His nonchalance caused Bronwyn to smile. “She does beautiful work. Tell her, I’m jealous.”

Aelhaearn’s smile was sad. “Alas, she passed ten Yules back. Sweating sickness no one could cure her from.”

I am sorry.”

You have not answered my question.” His hand covered hers. “Help us, please.”

Bronwyn breathed deep. “If Owain is dead and Hywel is still alive, than I am from almost 850 years in your future.”

Aelhaearn’s grin was genuine. “Ah! Better than a warrior! A historian!” As quickly as his grin rose, it fell with thundering velocity. “Oh no. You cannot-”

The woman was shaking her head. “Not a word.”

The Druid leaned back on his stool, shoulders slumped. “If things are not as we wish, we would attempt to change history!” He shook his head sorrowfully. “Oh dear. I have done you and my prince a great disservice.”

We’ll figure it out.” Maybe I’ll just wake up and claw my way out of the grave Colin and his cronies left me in.How long has Owain been dead?” She pushed the empty mug towards the old man, nodding for more. A cold wind snapped through the hide covering the doorway, causing both woman and old man to shiver.

I will heat some cider.” Aelhaearn took the mug and stood up. “Glenys will be along at sunrise with eggs and pork strips.”

Bacon!

He went to the hearth and stirred the embers, causing flames to flare up. Taking an earthen jug from the mantle, he poured the contents into a kettle and swung it over the fire. “She is a good girl, my granddaughter.”

She certainly put those warriors in their place!”

Aelhaearn grinned. “She is a spit fire. Just like her mother and her grandmother.” He looked over his shoulder to see Bronwyn turning the decorated purse over in her hands, inspecting it closely. He came around the table and sat across from her. He took her hand in his. “Why are you so interested in my moleskin?”

She handed it to him. “It is a thing of beauty.”

‘Tis not that beautiful,”

I was simply admiring it.”

He squeezed her hand. “In answer to your question, Owain died five days ago. His eldest son, Hywel, was to become king, however, his half brothers, Dafydd and Rhodri have chased him out of Wales and into Ireland.” His grip tightened and his look hardened. “He will be back. I know Hywel. He will bring an army of great might with him.” Bronwyn stayed very still, Aelhaearn watching her intently. “What do you think of that?”

I’m told I have an excellent poker face, so you’ll get nothing from me.”

Poke her face?”

This statement caused Bronwyn to grin. “It means if I am playing a chance game, I will not give anything away with the look on my face.”

AH!” Aelhaearn grinned back. “Stone face. Tell me something you can tell me.”

Bronwyn nodded. “Did Christiant and her sons have anything to do with Owain’s death?”

I have not considered that.” Aelhaearn’s face screwed up in thought. “They did move quickly, did they not?”

It is speculated among scholars in my time that they must have had a hand in it.”

The Druid exhaled loudly. “If they did, I know nothing of it and I wouldn’t breathe a word out loud. Not unless all three die before I do.” It was quiet for a few moment. “Hywel is a good man. He will make a good king. How will he be remembered? How will Owain be remembered? In your history?”

Bronwyn was careful choosing her words. “Owain will be remembered for having too many sons.” Aelhaearn chuckled at that statement. “He will be remembered for his political sparring with Henry II.” Aelhaearn went from laughing to growling. “As well as trying to keep the peace within his own family.” She decided not to tell him historians cringed at the thought of him marrying his first cousin, although he was not the first, nor the last to do so. “Hywel will be best remembered as Wales first lyric poet. Eight of his poems will survive to my time.” She turned the hide pouch in her hands, examining the handiwork.

A poet, but not a king.”

I didn’t say that.”

Aelhaearn rose from the bench and went to the fireplace. The cider was boiling merrily in the kettle and he poured both his and her mugs full of the steaming liquid. “Yes, you did, but your secret is safe with me.” His fingers flicking over the goblets were a graceful ballet in the shadows, but she wasn’t paying attention. “You are unusually enamored in my moleskin pouch. Drink.” He pushed the earthen chalice towards her.

Hywel will be mostly and best remembered as a poet,” she reiterated. Bronwyn set the sack down and reached for the cup. It was warm and it dawned on her how cold she was. “A wonderful, talented poet who was not restricted in the content of his poems, as the court bards are. Love and his love of nature and Cymru.”

The old Druid waited until she had drained the goblet. From somewhere, a cock crowed. “Tell me about you.”

Not much to tell.”

Oh, I think differently. I prayed for a statesmen, conjured and sacrificed for a warrior, and I got-” he held his hands towards the woman, “you. There must be a reason why the gods sent me a…” His voice trailed off, waiting obviously for Bronwyn to give him answers.

They gave you an archaeologist.”

Refilling her cup, Aelhaearn smiled. “And just what is an archaeologist?” Smoke rose from the depths.

I study history from civilizations that had no written history or have a written history in a dead language. Ancient Cymru has very little written history, the majority of it kept by the Bards. So I dig up things.” One eyebrow lifted, the man obviously asking her to elaborate. “I dig up old things. Really old things. Hundreds and thousands of years old things.”

Huh!” Aelhaearn sat back. “Why would you want to dig up old things?”

It’s how we study past times that have no written documentation.” She drained the goblet and held it out for more. “We study old foundations, pot shards, weaponry, other things.”

Other things? Sounds interesting.” Aelhaearn was now refilling his own chalice. “And what was the last old thing you dug up?”

Bronwyn’s nose was deep in the chalice, her voice echoing eerily. “I.. uhm… am interested in your pouch because I excavated your funerary and that pouch was among the artifacts.”

Aelhaearn scrunched up his nose. “You… excavated? I am not familiar with this word.”

Immediately, Bronwyn deflated. “My team and I were digging the foundations of an old settlement about two or three days walk from here. We found your grave.”

Digging foundations?”

Dug up foundations and other things..”

Aelhaearn’s face screwed up in consternation. “You dug me up?”

Yes.”

You dug up my grave?”

Yes.”

I was in it?”

Yes.”

The druid seemed horrified. “You dug up my grave! How rude!”

Bronwyn shrugged. “I apologize, but your grave taught my students much about their history.”

Aelhaearn’s mouth crooked. “And what did you learn?”

That you were much beloved and well respected.”

My grave told you all of that! Well,” he sat back with a smile, arms crossed, as the hide covering was swept aside and Glenys came in, her apron rolled over eggs and pork. Soon, the smell and sounds of frying eggs and bacon filled the room. The sun rose, filling the chamber with light.

And it filled Bronwyn with dread as to what she would find outside the cottage. And she wondered if she would ever go home.

~~~…~~~

You conjured a warrior and instead brought forth a historian who says she desecrated your grave and refuses to tell you what we need to know to put Hywel back on the throne of Cymru and Madoc at his right hand,” Meaurig sneered, “and you are happy about this?”

Oh aye, indeed. Very happy!” Aelhaearn was out walking, blowing rings in the cold air.

Is there any way you can send her back and trade her for someone useful?”

Aelhaearn stopped in the middle of the road and stared at the tall warrior with deepest disgust. “I do not know you.” He waved his hand. “Begone, you bothersome gnat! Send me someone with intelligence whom I can converse with and who doesn’t mind walking in the cold. We have troubles that need tended to.”

Aye, troubles that extend to our king in exile while his half-brothers, who couldn’t govern a jail cell prance about-”

NO!” The Druid shook his head. “I mean, aye, they are troubles indeed and they will work themselves out as they should, however, we have other troubles.”

Great Goddess of the Moon!” Meaurig beseeched the sky. “Our king is dead, his heir in exile, and we have other troubles. Are the Britons amassing on the border?”

Aelhaearn stared at the younger man. “Watch your tongue. The Christian priests take offense if you call on other deities.”

You offend them,” Meaurig reminded the Druid, sticking his finger in the elderly man’s face. “I know not why you still live.” The two resumed walking.

Where do you think they get their sanctified wine from? Their ‘holy water’? Hmm?” The Druid put his hands behind his back and strode forward, but not before turning around to ensure no one was near them. “I have not the heart to tell them the majority of the grapes come from their own vineyard and I spit in it.”

Meaurig began to chuckle. “Something tells me that is not all you put in their wine.”

Oh, I will never tell. Just,” he raised a finger, “do not accept any offers to partake with them.” Both hands went behind his back again. “Our guest needs proper clothing. She cannot go about garbed as she is and I was hoping you had some suggestions. I doubt she will not wish to stay inside for long.”

Fine.” Meaurig’s sigh was deep and painfully felt. “She is of a similar height of my little bird. I’ll take her some of my wife’s clothing.”

If it fits, you can give her all.” Aelhaearn appeared most jovial. “You certainly can’t wear them!”

Meaurig rolled his eyes. “I’ll take something by later. And her name is?”

Aelhaearn stopped in his tracks. “Why, you know? I have no clue what her name is!” He began to giggle. “I have completely forgotten to ask her.”

~~~…~~

Bronwyn stood at the table, perusing the small home. She was alone, so she was able to gawk and stare without repercussions. There were four rooms; a chamber room, two small sleeping areas and the main chamber that appeared to be nothing more than a large eat-in kitchen. Satisfying her curiosity, she spilled the contents of her knapsack across the table and laid the shawl Charles’ mother gave her on it as well. A notepad, Royce’s Cross Pen, her car keys, phone, kindle, wallet, and her MP3 player with earbuds. Suddenly, Royce and Faun’s problematic dig took on new light. She began to giggle.

Oh Faun. If I’m not dead and buried, I did fuck up your dig! Good for me!

The door was pulled back and Glenys stepped through. She caught sight of the things on the table.

Oh, this is pretty!” She reached for the hand-knit shawl Charles’ mother gave her. Bronwyn would never be able to send her a thank you card for it. “Such an unusual color!” She handed it over to Bronwyn. “Did you make it?”

Thank you. And no, I didn’t.” She folded it gently. “My knitting ability is pretty wretched.”

My mother did this sort of weaving,: Glenys handed it back. “She died when I was young, so she was unable to teach me.”

I’m sorry.”

The sound of footfalls approached the dwelling and Bronwyn stepped back into the shadows as the door was pushed aside. The warrior who brought Bronwyn in the previous night, stepped through, a bundle in his hand.

He was tall, very tall, and as he stepped into the light, searching the room, he pulled his hood back and she bit her lip to keep from gasping.

He was the warrior that had stalked her in her dreams.

Long limbed and lean, with sharp, narrow features gracing a gently chiseled face, he had eyes of glass, that glittered in the firelight. Everything about him whispered of taut muscles and a physique of all work and little play. He was grace and power at the same time. His was a startling, carved, rugged beauty. Bronwyn couldn’t put an age on him; late-twenties to early-thirties, but again, she was unfamiliar with this time period and how it aged people.

There you are.” His voice was deeper than most and the sound of it brought Bronwyn out of her musings. “Why are you hiding in the shadows?” The bundle he was carrying found itself on the table next to her own.

I’m not hiding,” she stepped to the side, slightly into the light. “I wouldn’t think my presence would be well known.”

He began untying the sack. “Oh, it is very well known that Aelhaearn has a guest with strange mannerisms who wears even stranger clothes. However,” Bronwyn could have sworn the man winked at her, “Aelhaearn wears strange clothes and has strange mannerisms. It is bandied you are a long-lost daughter.”

I think,” Bronwyn stepped closer to the table, her female curiosity getting the better of her, “you are teasing the Druid.”

I am. He is a good friend and a very wise man.” He held up the green velvet he pulled from the sack. “He feels you would be more comfortable dressed as if you belong here.” He held it out to her. “If this fits, I can obtain more.”

Bronwyn took it, holding to her shoulders. It was a traditional dress from the time period, a front and back panel, lacing up the sides. She watched him pull a cream-colored under-dress out. She found herself bustled from the room, both garments in hand, by Glenys, into the side chamber. The girl threw the hide covering down and spun around. “Well, hurry!” she hissed. “I want to see these on you!” Bronwyn found herself stripped down to her underthings and the under-dress thrown over her head. “I can’t believe he’s parting with these!”

Do they be-”

Shhhh!” Glenys looked over her shoulder. “Don’t let him hear! I recognize this kirtle! It belonged to his wife.”

Bronwyn’s heart fell. The gorgeous man was married. Just her luck! “He has a family?” she whispered.

No!” Glenys cupped her hand to her mouth and whispered in Bronwyn’s ear. “His wife was dragged off by Northmen some years ago. He hoped for her return for so long, but that hope must be fading. Raise your arms.” She began to lace the ties. “The dress is a bit long, but we can sew that up in no time.”

Well?” Meaurig was a typical male; impatient. “Does it fit?”

Allow me to hush that bear!” Bronwyn whispered, making Glenys giggle. She” moved back through the hide covering. “It’s a tad long, but I think Glenys and I can take care of that.” She spread her skirts and curtsied. “And what is the name of the gallant knight who sought to clothe me in a fine, lady-like suitable manner?”

Her smile was infectious and Meaurig had to smile back. “No knight. Just a simple bowman-”

You lie.” The door crashed open and Aelhaearn strode through.

You should just put in a revolving door,” Bronwyn muttered. She smiled back up at the tall man. “Your name?”

This,” Aelhaearn gestured, “is Meaurig ap Yoruard, first knight in the service of Prince Madoc ap Owain Gwynnedd. Forgive my manners, but your name?”

Bronwyn was holding very still, staring into the icy depths of Meaurig’s eyes.

Madoc?

Your name?”

Bronwyn.” It came out stronger than she thought it would.

Branwen?”

No.” The smile was back. “Bronwyn. Browyn Da… merch Iohanne.”

He bowed. “Bronwyn merch Iohanne, ’tis an honor.” He stood up. “I will go get the rest.” His leaving was a whisper.

She stared at the door until snapping fingers in her face disturbed her musings.

Don’t worry,” Aelhaearn laughed. “He has that affect on all women the first time they see him.”

And then he opens his mouth and ruins it,” Glenys finished. She went to the hearth and pulled down a shoe-size box. “Stand up! I’ll raise the bottom of your kirtle just a wee bit.” Bone needles, the likes that Bronwyn had only read about, came out with finely spun thread and the teen was quickly at her feet. “This is such a pretty color for you and your hair.” Bronwyn finally took a moment to look at the dress.

It was a pretty color, she decided. The under dress was off-white, with what looked to be crochet or heavy threaded lace at the wrist of the sleeve and the flounce of the skirt. The kirtle or over dress, was emerald green, made of finely spun wool and a darker green embroidery around the neck. It laced up both sides and Glenys made sure it was laced snugly, showing off Bronwyn’s curves.

Glenys was done by the time Meaurig returned with an armload of clothes.

Which kept Glenys and Bronwyn very busy for the rest of the afternoon.

~~~…~~~

Aelhaearn introduced her as his grandmother’s sister’s cousin’s great granddaughter’s sister, visiting from Rome. No one believed it, but then again, no one really cared. She was simply the visitor staying with the wise man and she was welcomed warmly. The Druid was beloved among the people and even the priest from the Catholic Church enjoyed the man’s company. In the ten days since Bronwyn arrived, Father Ioseph was a frequent visitor to Aelhaearn’s humble abode. The two men argued and discussed dogma and doctrine and life. A lot of wine was drunk and many an afternoon, both stumbled into the small yard, talking a streak, breath rising in puffs of smoke from the cold.

Meaurig was a nightly fixture at the evening meal, and a few times, escorted Bronwyn into town. He knew everyone and they knew him. On more than one occasion, they would stop by the baker, where the tall Welshman would purchase a sweet bread to share. He seemed to enjoy Bronwyn’s company, peppering her with questions of her life before her… arrival, curious, it seemed about her world. Eventually, he would ask her about what it was she did and as she expected, he attempted to coerce her into telling him when Hywel would return from Ireland; what Owain’s sons needed to do to prepare for removing Rhodri and Dafydd from power.

Bronwyn would just smile and shake her head.

After several days and attempts, Meaurig lost his temper.

Why? Why will you not tell me what I need to know? Madoc needs to know when Hywel is returning, what he needs, where he needs to be!” His explosion took place in front of Aelhaearn’s home and for not the first time, Bronwyn was grateful the cottage was removed from the town. His pestering was now annoying her and she was ready to tell him to find another walking companion. “Do not shake your head and act as if you do not hear me! You speak our language well enough!”

If you do not like what I tell you or if you decide you know a better way from what I’ve told you, you will attempt to change history.” She shook her head. “That cannot be allowed to happen. I will not fall into that trap.” With that, she turned and entered the home, welcoming the smells of Glenys’s cooking.

~~~…~~~

Two weeks before Yule, a rider came to town. Aelhaearn said he was expecting a guest and wanted a shoulder of beef to smoke, so Bronwyn and Glenys were in the village, visiting the butcher. He also said the air felt funny and demanded they take Meaurig with them.

So the Welshman followed the two women through town, growling about being a nursemaid and sitter. He was irritable and as Aelhaearn was equally skittish, Bronwyn was jittery. It seemed no matter what she did or where she went, the bowman was at her elbow and she could not for the life of her, escape him. At least, he was easy on the eyes and didn’t grunt much. As the butcher wrapped the roast, Glenys headed across the street to see if Lynwyn had any cheese or late fruit, leaving Bronwyn and Meaurig to gather the meat. The two had just exited the shop when a rider bearing a vaguely familiar sigil on his fur collared cape, cantered into the main square and stopped. It was cold and damp, so there was no dust kicked up, to which Bronwyn was grateful for.

He turned, looking for who knew what, before calling out. “People of Ceredigion, perhaps one of you can help me. I am seeking Prince Madoc.”

Try the castle,” a voice from the crowd spoke up.

The man’s smile was oily and he gave Bronwyn the creeps. “Ah, but I have come from there and no one knows his whereabouts.” He continued to look about. “Come now. Surely someone in this rat-hole knows where the prince is hiding!” Silence. “I was hoping,” he turned and caught Meaurig’s eye, “you could tell me. Ah. Lord Meaurig. A kindred spirit, no doubt. You know of Prince Madoc’s whereabouts?”

Lord?

Greetings, Cewydd.” Bronwyn found herself gently pushed behind the tall Welshman. Meaurig didn’t seem pleased to see this Cewydd. “Nay, I have not seen the prince since before the king’s death.” Bronwyn peered around him, trying to get a good look at this man who upset her protector.

Cewydd was short and he probably rode a large horse to compensate for his lack of stature. His hair was blonde and hadn’t been washed in a long time. Even his mustache and beard was oily. His clothes, however, were of good, sturdy quality and Bronwyn wondered if the layer of sweat and grime was simply traveling?

But most inns had tubs in which to bathe. Even Aelhaearn had a large, if chipped, bowl for Bronwyn to wash in. So Bronwyn privately believed that the man was just nasty.

Why are you looking for Madoc, Cewydd?”

The man’s grin now turned purely evil. “The king would like to speak to him.”

Meaurig brightened. “Hywel has returned?”

I was speaking of Dafydd.”

Meaurig stood very tall and put his hand to his back, on the hilt of his short sword. “Dafydd is no king. Owain made it clear-”

But Owain is no longer with us, is he?” The man’s smile quickly faded. “Dafydd and Rhodri are Owain’s legitimate heirs and Cymru would be wise to remember that!” His face turned into an ugly sneer. “Dafydd and Rhodri have declared themselves joint kings and they wish to come to terms with Madoc to ensure there is no ugliness or problems.”

I don’t recall the church ever approving of King Owain’s and Queen Christiant’s marriage.” The local priest stood across the square. “In fact, they excommunicated Owain for marrying her against their wishes. I doubt they consider Dafydd or Rhodri, much less any of their other children, legitimate.” Father Ioseph spoke up with much authority. Cewydd scowled at him, but the grey-haired priest did not back down. The surrounding crowd appeared to agree with the priest, mumbling their ire of the newcomer.

Cewydd turned back toward Meaurig, his angry sneer turning into a cunning snarl. “I see you have a new little bird under your wing. I would hate for her to come to the same fate as your wife.” He pulled his horse up and turned him, spitting over his shoulder. “Find Madoc and tell him to present himself before Dafydd before Yule.” And with that, he kicked his horse too harshly and took off out of town.

But not before knocking the priest down.

Who did not get back up.

Tbc

Stopio ble rydych chi! Pwy ydych chi?” – Stop where you are! Who are you!