Here is the Second Branch of the Story of Rhianon and Pryderi, namely:
I. THE ART OF WAR IN THE MIDST OF PEACE, AND THE FREEING OF ADEN LANACH
When Gwri Gwallt Euryn was at the end of his eighteen years, and driving on his nineteen — and he equal, at the time, to a man of ten-and-twenty — he set forward on his journeyings. Here is what caused him to go: he desired news, if there were any obtaining it, concerning the Talon that had dropped him into the manger of Fflamwen Aden Goleu; and news concerning whence the Talon might have stolen him originally; and more than all, news as to who might be his parents. It was not the King Twrf Fliant that would hinder him, or seek to hinder him, from such a journeying and quest as that.
Teyrnion had taught him Three Unusual Arts, beyond all it would be customary, in those days, for a prince to learn from his foster-parents. At learning them, Gwri was the best pupil Twrf Fliant ever had; indeed, maybe he was the only one; it is not known. He had no equal among the king's foster-sons either at poetry or at war, at games or at the relating of stories; also he was the wittiest of them all, and the blithest and the most handsome, and the delight of every one that was acquainted with him. No one had ever heard the rumor of false speech from him, nor the rumor of discourtesy, nor the naming of his own deeds and attainments; again, at no time had he entered upon battle or contest, without seeing to it that the opposer had the advantages of place and number at the onset, according to the courtesies of war, and the usage of the men of the Island of the Mighty. All these arts and sciences Twrf Fliant taught his foster-sons, and none but learned them well. But beyond them were these Three Unusual Arts that he taught Gwri, who was more a son than a foster-son to him. They were the arts Twrf Fliant himself had acquired when the Three Drops of Wisdom were dropped on his lips during sleep. The first of them was the Art of War in the midst of Peace; the second was the Art of Peace in the midst of War, and the third was the Spell of the Wood, the Field and the Mountain. "With the three arts," said Teyrnion, "it will be a wonder to me if you do not obtain success in whatsoever adventure you may undertake."
So Gwri rode forward, leaving the wind behind him whenever he had a mind to; for the horse he was riding was no other than Gyrru'r Gwyntoedd the Wind-driver, the foal of Fflamwen Aden Goleu, and there was pre-eminence in all that race of horses. He traversed Europe and Africa and the Islands of Corsica; he was in Llotor and Ffotor, in Caer Se and As Se, in India the Greater and India the Less. At the end of two years he came to Dyffryn Llwchwr in Ystrad Tywi, and rode forward until the fall of evening.
At that time he was passing through a field in a green valley; a place of rushes and cuckoo-flower, of forget-me-not and mint and marsh-marigold, and hidden waters murmurous amidst the grass and mint-beds. Mysteriously beautiful it was in the evening; it seemed to him that the Immortals, unseen, might well be watching him. Suddenly he drew rein, and fell to listening, hearing the magical croon and tinkling of a song. Here is what he heard:
Whoever drinks at the Secret Well,
All that he seeks shall be made full clear,
For the Stars and Gods set a druid spell
Of old on the Well at Llandybie.
Murmur of bees in the marshland flowers,
The linnet's song in the linden trees —
Who were the lone, supernal powers
Breathed the wealth of the Wise in these?
What the wind whispers, who shall tell?
Or read the dreams of the mountain mere?
But the Stars and Gods set a bardic spell
Of old on the Well at Llandybie.
Out of the vast, and all alone,
Kings come riding a-quest at eve,
Whence they came at the first, unknown —
But whoso drinketh, no more shall grieve.
For there's wondrous sight in the Secret Well,
And all things hidden made full clear
When the Starry Gods set a druid spell
Of old on the Well at Llandybie.
He looked down, and saw a little runlet amidst the delicate ferns and rushes; it became clearer to him than anything, almost, that it would be magical in its nature, and that he would obtain no success at anything, unless he obtained success at drinking water from its fountain. Therewith he dismounted, and went seeking the source of the runlet; long it seemed impossible to find it; but the more impossible it seemed, the less would he give up the search. Now it would appear that there was no stream there at all; again, he would hear it rippling and whispering invisibly; again he would catch a glimpse of the gleam of its waters. "By the Three Places in Wales," he said (they were the Wood, the Field, and the Mountain), "find the fountain undoubtedly I will." He looked down; there it was before his feet, and the evening star glassed in it.
It was a clear, round pool, spring-filled perpetually; and dimly the yellow sand and pebbles could be seen dancing in the diamond water as it bubbled up out of the ground. He kneeled down, and scooped up water in his hands, and drank. Barely had it touched his lips, when it was made known to him indeed how magical the water was. A breath of wind, all a-tremble and murmurous with the spirit of song, came stealing and whispering through the valley; when he lifted his head, he beheld the hills all other than they had been. Rainbow-colored palaces glimmered up through the gloom and beauty of them; they were all dwellings of arcane, immaculate fire. In his delight and wonder he spoke out loud: "Wonderful, truly, is the water!" he said.
"Wonderful it is, without doubt," said one, answering him. It was a voice that had the sound in it of a far wind among the pine-tops, or of the hum and undertone of falling waters afar on a night in August. He saw a maiden standing by the water's edge on the other side of the pool. In the dusk of twilight a certain glow and dark radiance shone from her, as if she were the heart of all the purple of the evening. The gentle wind rippled through her darkly glowing hair, and swayed her pale green, gold-embroidered mantle; her two eyes were darker than the night sky, and more liquidly glimmering than her own fountain when it may be glassing the multitudinous stars. He rose up, and gave her such greeting as a prince of the Cymry would give to a Goddess; for it was not concealed from him that she would be of the Family of Hu.
"Make known to me who it is that you are," said she, "and what you may be questing; for it is a main privilege for any one to drink from this fountain."
Then he said: "I am Gwri Gwallt Euryn, the foster-son of Teyrnion Twrf Fliant; as for my questing, it is for news concerning a Talon that dropped me in the king's manger at Caerlleon; and for news concerning the parents from whom the Talon stole me."
"Many would perform service in return for the water," said she. "Tydain Tad Awen, the Lord of the Fountain, would expect it."
"Without doubt I will perform it," said Gwri. "Name you whatsoever you will."
"In these waters," she said, "there is the clearing away of uncertainty, and the discovery of inaccessible antique things. It might well be that, having drunk, and thereafter doing the service, you would obtain news both of the Talon, and of the ones from whom it stole you."
"Whether I shall obtain it or not, I will do the service; and that out of courtesy and the desire to requite you for the water."
"Here is what it will be, then," said Tybie of the Fountain: "it will be finding the Birds of Rhianon, that were stolen away from her before your body would have been made. I will make known to you the story of them," said she. "My kinswoman Rhianon ferch Hefeydd had three birds, three daughters of magic, three Singers of Beauty and Peace. It was their custom to come to the fountain at dawn to quench their thirst, and when they had quenched it they would sing, and it would be hard to come by better singing, even among the Immortals. It was the pity of her life that they were stolen; and it was the pity of my life also."
"It will be an honor to me to find them," said Gwri.
"If you will find them," said Tybie, "ride not forward without advice and counsel. It will be better for you to rest here until the dawn; and with the dawn to ride forward. And no one would have success in finding Aden Lanach, the eldest of the birds, unless he had a feather from her wing to guide him; for that reason, it will be well for you to take this feather, and set it in the horse's mane, between the two ears; and in whatever direction the wind may bend the feather, in that direction travel forward. If you part with the horse, part not with the feather also; and when you have found the bird it fell from, return here, and drop the feather in the fountain. You will know her by this: her singing is awakenment, and the passing of sloth into valor.
"Beyond that, it would be unwise to travel on this quest without taking the fill of your drinking-horn of the water from the fountain; it is good for the moistening of eyelids, when there may be need for more than common vision; and three drops of it will put a wonderful excellence in tools, should there be any labor requiring tools for its rightful doing. Also whatever substance may be desired, it will often be found that the water will be equal to it, and even better; for all these reasons, it will be better to take the water. And success attend you," said she, "according to merits and deserts."
She had given him the feather while she was counseling him; there were no means of telling it from the feather of an old white hen. At the end of the counseling, she stepped out over the water in the air, and became a trembling purple dimness, and sank down beneath the stars that shone up from the pool. Gwri filled his drinking-horn, and lay down. Through his sleep he heard the murmur of innumerable unseen waters, weaving magical wisdom into his dreams with song.
He rose up in the youth of the day, and rode forward, having set the feather between the two ears of Gyrru'r Gwyntoedd, as Tybie of the Fountain had directed him. It must be said that the place had changed again, and was without the spiritual beauty of the night before. Beautiful, indeed, were the green hills; and they well-wooded, pleasant places where the linnet sings; but the stars and fires in them were no longer visible, and there was no seeing within them the houses of those Youthful Ones whose prime and youthful May-time is equal to the age of the world. Beautiful, too, were the waters; sweetly rippling was their music in the light and gaiety of morning; but they were bereft of articulate Welsh, where last evening they had spoken and sung. Beautiful were the gold marsh-marigolds, splendid in the dawn; sweet-scented were the mint-beds, beautiful the blue forget-me-not and the pale purple of the cuckoo-flower. But in the midst of all that bloom and beauty, the Fountain of Tybie was not made known to him; it was as if it had never been anywhere, except in his dreams. But he knew what water it was that filled his drinking-horn. The feather bent forward, blown by a wind from some immortal region; it is all a magical country, is that. Gwri rode forward, singing.
In the dusk of evening he came to a branching of ways, and for a moment the feather stood upright, doubtful of its direction. The road on the left ran down a little, and then across a valley-floor of bogland; the setting sun was a flame of gold on the broad pools there, and on the river where it broadened into a ford. Beyond, the world was encumbered and strewn with immense uncouth mountains, somber in the evening, looming up to a rose and primrose and daffodil sky. As for the other road, it would turn off, after a mile or more of straightness, as he could see, into the heart of a great gloomy, marshy wilderness of mountains, ridge upon ridge and shoulder on shoulder of them; wild slopes and morasses and precipices, half dusk-hidden, dark purple, night coming over them. The wind rose up whispering again, and the feather bent down over the left ear of the Wind-driver. Gwri turned, and took the road into the valley. Not long before he was on the brink of the ford.
As soon as the foremost hoof of Gyrru'r Gwyntoedd was wet with ford water, the whole world began to drift and wander, and to become uncertain, and all solid things to flow and scatter, and be driven like foam upon the cataract, like froth caught in the whirlpool. When he turned his head, there was no seeing, any longer, the bank he had left; looking forward, there was no seeing the bank to which he desired to come. It was as if all the waters of the world were foaming about him, or the shadow of all the waters, in a kind of dream and incertitude, with a murmur from infinitely far like the gathering of a shadowy multitude, or the clamor of dim battles, or the roaring of a ghostly wind among oaktrees beyond the borders of the world. It was impossible for him to find meaning or reality anywhere; it was a bewilderment of cloudy waters, of unreal sound, that waxed for awhile; and then waned, until there was an end of the rising of a smoke of foam from the falling of the hoofs of the Wind-driver, and all sound had grown fainter than the dying of a wind. It was to be known by that that the far bank had been reached; but still the world was no better than dimness and a wandering spray. "If ever there were need for more than common vision — " thought Gwri, and took the lid from his drinking-horn. As soon as the end of his finger, wet with the water of the fountain, had touched his two eyelids, foam and mist and uncertainty rolled away and perished. It was clear to him in a moment that he had left the confines of the Island of the Mighty, and indeed, the whole of the regions of the man-inhabited world.
Behind him was the welter and confusion of a foaming torrent without sound, cloudy and impassable, beyond which no vision might travel. Before him was somnolent marshland, gleaming on its pools with the deep gold of the sun; an abode of silence, and again silence, and it appeared to him that no sound would have been heard there since of old the Shouting of the Threefold Name. The boom of the bittern, the bleating of the snipe, would never be wafted there from beyond the ford. If the stag were belling in the uplands in October, or if the wolves were howling when the snow lay deep, it would be the same in that marshland as if there were no live creatures in the world. No wind stirred the tufts on the rushes, nor rippled the pale blue or daffodil brightness of the pools. In front, and the wall of the valley before him, what had seemed to be a range of mountains, now was revealed for a caer, its vastness a boundary for the border of the world. No sound came there; no sound. Were there an army of the Family of Hu Gadarn, or a horde of demons out of nether Abred and Annwn gathered; and they to go forth impetuous as a fire in a chimney, and to charge against the caer, it was doubtful, with Gwri, whether either would come as far as the portals of it, or whether they would be smitten with sleep unbreakable as they drove forward, and fall like long grass before the scythe of the mower in June, or like the yellow leaves of late autumn before the swift running of the wingless, footless wind.
There he chose three round stones out of the ford, the size of the largest apple in the orchards of the world; "They will be needed," thought he; and put them in his wallet. He left the Wind-driver to graze beside the river if he desired to; but parted not with the feather when he parted with the horse. Impatient was that one at being left, and eagerly desirous of accompanying his lord; but "it would be unfitting for you to come," said Gwri; "there is natural obedience for you to remember." Such counsel as that would be enough for Gyrru'r Gwyntoedd at any time. Then Gwri went forward towards the gates of the caer.
Never had he seen the equal of that place since he was born; and might never see the equal of it again in the length and width of the world. As far as could be seen on either hand, the walls extended; no light shone from window or casement anywhere. The walls were so thick at the portals, that no horse could have leaped the length of their thickness. The doors were of solid granite on their hinges; the stems of the ivy that had grown over them were greater in girth than the arms of any man. Three giants leaned against the doors, slumbering; the nature of their clothes or their armor was not to be known, on account of the growth of their hair and their beards.
"There would be no obtaining entry here," said Gwri, "without strategy." He took the first of the three stones from his wallet, and dropped three drops of the water of the fountain on it, and chanted the spell for raising War in the midst of Peace.
"What will be required?" said the stone.
"Tumult, dear," said he; "tumult and buffetings."
He threw it down at the feet of the giants, and immediately it began its work according to his commands. While it was leaping up, and smiting the three of them vigorously, and raising the Dragon Warshout with unexampled vehemence, he went forward, skirting the wall northward in quest of the second door.
It was even vaster than the first when he came to it; the stems of the ivy that had grown over it had the girth of the body of a warrior, and the three giants that leaned against it, sleeping, were three times huger than the others. "There would be no obtaining entry without strategy," thought he; "and even with strategy many would fail to obtain it."
He took the second stone from the wallet, and poured seven drops of the water on it, chanting the same spell; no sooner had he chanted it than the stone became gifted with articulate utterance.
"What will be required of me, lord?" said the stone.
"The raising up of tumult, dear," said Gwri. "The raising up of tumult, and the dealing of impetuous belaborings." Hardly was it out of his hands, when it rose up to its work even more violently than the first had done.
Far vaster was the third door, when he came to it, than the second. The stems of the ivy that had grown over it were equal in girth to the trunk of an oak of three hundred years, and it was all intertwined with the beards of the three giants that slumbered there. As for those three, they would have been the encumberment of a world, so huge they were.
"There must be obtaining entry here," said Gwri, "whether with strategy or without it." Thereupon he took the third stone, and poured thirteen large drops on it, and chanted the spell.
"What will be required, master?" said the stone. "What will be required, in heaven's name?"
"Shouting, dear," said Gwri. "Tumultous shouting, in heaven's name, and the raising up of such confusion as few armies of a thousand men might raise, without grievous exertion; and beyond that, the delivering of well-aimed, stinging blows upon the bodies of yonder giants." The stone rose to its work, and Gwri stood by and watched it.
By that time, the first stone had attained awakening the giants at the first door. Slowly it became apparent to them that they were being belabored, and the affliction of it became more and more oppressive to them, until it seemed that the whole host of the Gods and the Cymry were upon them in the darkness. They fell to roaring and pounding upon the door, desiring admittance and shelter; but had no success at attaining either. "Woe is me!" they roared; "the ruin of the world is here! Alas for the coming of the Gods and the Cymry!" There was no shaking the door, nor rousing up the porter. It appeared to them that there might be entry by the second gate, and they fled towards it in confusion.
By the time they came there, the second stone had awakened the second three giants, and had begun to afflict them with a grievous fear of the ruin of the world, and of the onslaught of the Gods and the Cymry. The six of them pounded upon the door uproariously, but there was no breaking it down, and no rousing up the porter. They fled wailing towards the third door, and the stones oppressed them as they ran.
By the time they came there, the giants of the third door were awakening; the third stone was belaboring them, and giving them no peace, and filling them with the terror of the Gods and the Cymry. The nine of them fell to pounding upon the door and howling to the porter. So great was their weight and their vigor, that at long last the door shook.
"For what reason is there knocking?" cried the porter. "It is no more than two-and-twenty years since Llwyd ab Cilcoed came here with the bird, and broke the slumber of the chieftains. Will there never be peace?"
"Open thou the portals before we are slain," they roared. "The hosts of the Gods and the Cymry are come against Caer Hun."
Above all the tumult, Gwri heard the creaking and rattle of drawn bolts, and the grumbling of the porter from within. "It is a miserable thing that there should be no time for rest and slumber," said the porter; "the portliness of our forms will be wasted with watching." Thirteen bolts there were; but before the tenth of them was drawn, with the pounding and pressing of the nine giants, the door fell inward, broken from its hinges. They surged in over the threshold, stumbling and falling over the door and the ivy stems. But the stones worked upon them vigorously; even then they might have no peace for slumber. They rose up and fled in confusion; some to the right hand and some to the left; and the stones pursuing them. The sound of their flight died away afar, as Gwri strode forward swiftly towards the hall. Through antique blackness, through soundlessness unbroken since the worlds were made, he journeyed; such was the vision that he had obtained with moistening his eyelids with the water, that he came there at last, without once having stumbled or turned aside.
Dim light fluttered and flickered there, like the flickering of a little flame among the wood-ashes, when the fire is near its death. Vaster was the hall than would have been needed for a battlefield for two hosts of ten thousand men. On all the walls and pillars hung swords and spears and shields; they were tarnished and rusted with disuse; no one would have worn or wielded them since the Shouting of the Threefold Name. The smallest of the swords would have had the length of a pine trunk, if the pine were taken from the borders of the forest. A scythed chariot and its horses might have stood on the expanse of the least of the shields. A dead fire was on the hearth, and a cauldron of giants over the ashes. Round the walls without sleeping benches, and at the bases of the immeasurable pillars, lay slumbering a race of giants plunged in antique stupor, the limbs of them, huger than beech-boughs, tossed and sprawling over the floor.
As for what it was that gave light in the hall, and the one thing that had motion or thought there; here is what it was: there was a leaden cage hung high over the throne of the king on the dais, and in it a crowned bird of the color of the sunlight on the snowflake, lovelier than any bird in the forests of the world. It was the bird that gave the light. Pale and beautiful she gleamed in the dimness. There was no aspect of well-being with her; but sorrow, and disquiet of mind, and forlorn unattainment of rest or peace or contentment. Ruffled were her pure feathers; she was fluttering endlessly; her faery wings were worn with beating against the bars of the cage. More sorrowful she seemed to him, than anything he had ever attained seeing. Clear it was to him in a moment that she would be Aden Lanach, the one he had come there to free.
He went forward towards the dais, musing on what means he should use for freeing her. "It will be by raising up War in the midst of Peace," said he; "such peace as it is." Then he chanted that spell again. Barely were the last words of it passing between his lips and his teeth, when he heard commotion and shouting afar, and their rapidly drawing nearer. "It will be the ten giants from the gates," he thought; "the nine sentinels, and the porter the tenth; and the three stones untiringly pursuing them." That was the truth; the stones had made pursuit of the giants three times round the caer within its walls, and were guiding them now into the hall.
In they came, roaring and blundering, and in great fear of their oppressors, and imploring protection from the chieftain sleeping on his throne. Him also the three stones betook themselves to belaboring, delivering fierce, well-aimed, stinging blows upon his head and upon his body. Beyond that, the ten from the gates came to him, and bellowed into his two ears the news they had concerning the Gods and the Cymry. It would have been easier for them to have awakened the mountains.
The three stones took thought within themselves. "We must increase our vigor," thought they; "there will be need of raising up commotion in this hall, although heretofore we may have maintained orderly quietness." Thereupon they rose up against the ten again, and if they had afflicted them grievously before, ten times more grievously they began to afflict them then. Three times they drove them round the hall, and mingled their own shouting of the Dragon Warshout with the bellowings of extreme terror they got from the giants. Gwri watched them, not without hopeful anticipation. During the first circuit of the hall they attained raising such tumultuous din, that the armor on the walls was shaken down, and fell clanging and rattling on the floor. "Not good, where there might be better," cried he; "redouble your exertions." They obeyed him, and at the second circuit raised such a din that the great pillars were visibly shaken. "It is better," he shouted; "but there must be a best. Redouble your exertions, in the name of heaven!" They obeyed him, and at the third circuit put forth their power, and raised ten times the clamor that they had raised before. So loud was the shouting of the stones, and the bellowing of the giants, and the thunder and pounding of their feet on the flagstones, that three of the pillars were brought down with it. "This indeed is tumult," shouted Gwri, praising them; "this indeed is praiseworthy din and confusion!" The fall of the pillars made dust of the flagstones, and caused a trembling of the mountains over a great part of the world; it happened to the third of them to fall on the head of the chieftain of the giants. Then the stones forsook their persecution, and the ten from the gates fell asleep, being freed from it.
The chieftain of the giants lifted his hand to his forehead slowly; slowly he raised the eyelids that had fallen over his eyes.
"It is a fly buzzing in the rafters," murmured he; "it is a fly causing dust to fall from amidst the rafters. Evil upon the miserable fly that has broken my rest and peace! Let the seven harpstrings of slumber have their striking!"
With that a great, solemn harpnote boomed out from behind him on the dais, unconquerable slumber in the sound of it. Gwri leaped towards it; there was a harp there, the three sides of which were equal in size to three full-grown beech trunks from the depths of the forest. Before the note could come to its fulness, his sword had swept through the seven strings. Their snapping rang and shrieked and clamored from end to end of the hall, and voices laden with keen, intense wailing, detestably shrill and screaming, fled out and fled out from every broken end. "Broken, broken, broken!" they screamed; "woe is me, I am snapped!"
Gwri sat down at the base of a pillar facing the Chieftain, and listened to their piercing grief, considering that it would attain its end at last, even should there be waiting. "Here is the end of sleep forever!" they screamed; "here is the end of the delight of Caer Hun!" Although the noise they raised may not have been more than three times louder than the best noise raised by the stones and giants, yet it was ten times more terrifying, or even thirteen times, by reason of its piercing nature. There was no peace in the hall with them, until the last of the giants was on his feet, awakened and amazed, and moaning with bewilderment and vexation.
"Let the seven harpstrings of slumber be sounded! Ah, for the sake of heaven, let them be sounded!"
The master of the harp went to his work confusedly; but the best he could get from the strings was keener and keener shrieking, wailing ever more piercing and dismal, and no news but that sleep would be unknown in Caer Hun from that out. The giants bowed their heads in their hands, and lamented with tears for the breaking of their peace.
Then Gwri rose up, and stood before the throne. "For what reason is this unseemly lamentation?" said he.
"There is an end of sleeping in the hall of Caer Hun," said the chieftain of the giants. "Without it, there will be no diversion for us henceforward. Undoubtedly we shall pine away through grief and sleeplessness, and it will be the death of us. Woe is me for this rude destruction of our sleep!"
"Woe is me," moaned the giants, "for this rude destruction of our sleep."
"Dear help you!" said Gwri kindly; "there is a better diversion than sleeping."
"Undoubtedly this will be without truth. What power hast thou in the raising up of diversions? Sleeping have we been since the worlds were formed."
"As for power, I have Three Unusual Arts of extreme power. Easily could I show you a better diversion than this slothful sleep."
"Make it known to us! Make it known to us, in the name of heaven and man! Make known to us what diversion it will be!"
"Eating it will be," said Gwri. "It will be the preparation of delicious food, and the cooking of it in cauldrons, and the devouring of it. It will be a thousand times a better diversion for you than wasting the ages in brutish slumber and oblivion."
The giants glanced at each other wonderingly, and fell to confused cogitation. "We heard a rumor of it, before the old sleep of the worlds," said they. "It is a long time since we have forgotten this art."
"I will show you," said Gwri. Thereupon he went to the hearth and kindled a fire. He shook out three drops from his horn into the cauldron, and immediately it was filled to the brim with clear water. Then he picked up the wing of a dead bat that had been shaken down from the roof by the shouting, and threw that in also. As soon as it was in the cauldron, the water began to boil. Slothfully and sorrowfully the giants watched him.
He took the horn again, and looked into it: "Is there pepper with you?" said he to the horn; "pepper will be required." He shook it over the cauldron and pepper poured forth from it, stronger than any in the world; the power of it spread from the door to the dais, and from the floor to the rafterbeams. The wailing of the harpstrings died away. The giants looked at each other with slowly kindling delight.
"Ah!" they murmured; "Ah! Ah!" In a little while Gwri took the cauldron from the fire, and set it before the chieftain.
Since the worlds were formed, the senses of the giants had known no delight equal to the delight of the smell that arose from the cooked meat in the cauldron. An aspect of cheerfulness spread over their countenances. Few of them would have desired to sleep, even if sleep had been granted them.
"Let every one come to the cauldron," said Gwri, "and take out of it as much as he may require, and use it according to the desire that shall overtake him." Thrice nine men at a time, they did so; beginning with their princes. It became the strongest desire in the world on every one of them, to consume and devour greedily whatsoever he might have taken.
Beyond doubt, the food was hot, well peppered and of strong flavor. As they consumed it, their hunger grew, and they eagerly desired more. The more they desired, the more they devoured, and the more their sloth was lifted from them. "Marvelous indeed is this diversion!" they said; "many times is it better than foolish sleeping." Heat and liveliness, and the desire for exertion took possession of them, so active was the power of the pepper in the food. From heavy lamentations they were taken with cumbersome laughter and merriment; for the sake of gaiety they fell to snatching the food the one from the other, and even to the delivering of buffets where none might be looked for. So from merriment the shadow of anger would be blown across their souls, a thing unknown to them until then — the buffeted being undesirous of receiving blows. Eagerly, and with uncouth asseverations, with restraintless noise and unseemly vehemence, they clamored after the food and devoured it; and clamoring and devouring they were until the dawn of the morning.
With the first brightening of dawn, the cauldron was empty; and they had long since forgotten that there was such a thing as sleeping in the world, or ever had been. Beyond that, Aden Lanach was at peace at last in her cage, and had left the beating of her wings, and was watching what should befall, not without astonishment and the awakening of hope.
"Wherefore is the cauldron emptied of food? Let it be filled again; let it be filled again quickly, lest pining away should overtake us! Let the cauldron be filled again with food, lest we perish of hunger, and of the lack of this excellent diversion!"
"Miserable is this greed and gluttony!" said Gwri. "The cauldron will never be refilled."
They began to raise up their lamentations again; now there was a sound of bitterness and anger about it, where before there had been only heaviness and loutish grief.
"Wherefore do you lament?" said Gwri. "For what reason is this unseemly clamor of grief? It is a marvel to me, truly, that this should be."
"Alas!" they said, "the cauldron is empty. We lack diversion, and are likely to perish."
"Dear help you better!" said he, cheerfully. "A far better diversion is known to me, than this gluttonous consuming of food."
"Undoubtedly this is untrue. What power or knowledge hast thou for the raising up of diversions? Consuming food we have been since the making of the worlds. No other diversion hath been devised than this."
"As for power and knowledge, I have Three Unusual Arts of extreme power and knowledge. For what purpose were the weapons on the walls?"
"It is unknown to us," said they, bewildered. "For adornment they were, so far as is known."
"Stupid are ye, truly. Useless they would be for adornment. For diversion, and for entertaining amusement they were."
They marveled. "Make it known to us, in heaven's name!" they said. "If there be any truth in this, make known to us for what diversion they were."
"For fighting they were," said Gwri. "For satisfying the ears with excellent din, and for the exertion of strength and violence, and for the laying on of sharp, stinging and well-directed blows. A thousand times a better diversion will it be for you, than the exercise of contemptible gluttony in the matter of devouring food."
A murmur of wonderment and deep cogitation went through them. "We heard a rumor of it indeed, before the falling of the night of the worlds."
"I will make it known to you," said Gwri. He went to two of the swords where they lay, and dropped water on the blades. "It is raising of strife that is required of you," he whispered to them. Then he called to the chieftain and to one of the princes. "Take them in your hands in this way," said he.
As soon as those two had hold of the swords, here is what happened:
"Ah ha!" said the chieftain; "thou buffetedst me!"
"Evil upon thee!" said the other; "thou accusest me falsely!"
Therewith they began to smite at each other with extreme vigor, as if they had been accustomed to fighting since the Crying of the Name. "Ah! Ah!" murmured the others; "mighty and regal indeed is this diversion! Were it but permitted to us also to engage in this!"
"Cheerfully it is permitted to you!" said Gwri, encouraging them. "Let every man pick up one of the long ones and one of the round ones, and use them according to the desire that shall take him, and according to the precedent of the prince and the chieftain."
Eagerly they did so, and as soon as the weapons were in their hands they became acquainted with the use of them, and forgot all diversions except fighting. Delight in battle took their hearts, and they roared with laughter and fell to smiting. Roaring and smiting they swept down from the dais, making conflict in confusion, every man against every man, without order or science, or the natural courtesy of war.
Then there rose up a sound through the hall, that easily soared above the noise of the fighting. It was Aden Lanach in her cage; song had returned to her. A wild war-song it was, and rang and surged and billowed out gloriously, impetuous, tumultuous, millions of notes pursuing each other in a supreme intoxication of battle-music, surging and swaying and leaping among the pillars. The warfare of the giants was whirled by it into a wild, quick ecstasy of fighting. Stately it grew then, slow and majestic, warlike still; and according to its majesty and stern marching sweep, so they were loosened and quelled from their tumult, and took courteous rank and order, until their fighting became of equal dignity with the warfare of the men of the Island of the Mighty. She sang, and her song was awakenment, and the passing of sloth and brutishness into valor.
She sang, and the leaden bars of her cage melted, and fell down upon the floor. She rose up through the air, and beamed and glowed and lightened ambiently among the heights of the pillars, pouring forth her marvels of melody, flooding the hall with music hardly to be equaled in the world. Hearing it, the loutish nature of the giants was continually changed, and they grew in speed and strength and heroic courtesy and beauty. Then far off in the lofty vastness of the hall, there shone forth a glory and a marvelous dawn. Gazing, Gwri beheld the beauty and splendor of a Prince of the Immortals. He saw that Bright One hold forth his arm above the giants, and they came to peace swiftly. He saw Him lead them forth. Then there was silence in Caer Hun again, except for the singing of Aden Lanach.
Brighter than the star of evening, on the fairest evening of July, she passed onward, leading him; sweeping and shedding beauty through the darkness. A breath of wind, sweet from many mountains, full of the scent of heather and bogland, blew in upon his face. He came out from the mountain, through the mouth of a great cavern; and knew that he was within the confines of the Island of the Mighty again. The sun shone over a marshland, that was other than the marshland from which he had passed into Caer Hun. The wind swayed the rushes, and rippled the surface of the pools. He heard the booming of the bittern, the bleating of the snipe afar; he heard the lark chanting in the morning, from her pathless playground in the sky. He saw the ford, and heard the music of its waters; he saw the Wind-driver grazing beside it, waiting for him. Where had been the immensity of the caer, now there were only trackless mountains.
Aden Lanach rose up into the bloom and blueness of the heavens, and he heard her trailing song far away over the mountains. He rode forward, and came that evening to the Fountain of Tybie at Llandybie.
II. THE ART OF PEACE IN THE MIDST OF WAR, AND THE FREEING OF ADEN LONACH
The Well was hidden from him when he came there, as it had been at his first coming, and again in the morning, when he rode forth to seek the freeing of Aden Lanach. He took the feather from between the Wind-driver's ears, and cast it on the air; it drifted a little on the wind and then fell. Where it lighted, the ground began to glimmer, silken and shadowy, around it; and he beheld the Well of Wonder, and the hills on all sides plumed and luminous. Beyond the water, a dark, beautiful radiance, stood the Immortal Maiden; but she had little kindliness or favor in her aspect at that time.
"Greeting of the god and the man to you, courteously," said he.
"And you also, wherefore come you?"
"Aden Lanach is free," said Gwri Gwallt Euryn.
"Yes is she free," said Tybie. "But it was Pryderi fab Pwyll that freed her."
Gwri marveled. "If it please you," said he, "give me news of this king's son."
"He was stolen in the night out of his cradle, before he was a day old," said she. "The one that stole him, stole the three birds also; and it was decreed that no one should free them unless Pryderi freed them when he should have grown up to be a man. From the time of the stealing until now, sorrow, and doing penance, and a mournful fate have been upon my kinswoman, his mother."
Gwri marveled again. "For what reason do you marvel?" said Tybie of the Fountain.
"For this reason," he said. "During all these years it has not been given to Pryderi to find Aden Lanach, although it was fated that he should find her at last. But now that another has gone upon the quest, he has freed her. Considering I was, whether it would not be better for me to go in quest of Aden Lonach also, if it were permitted to me."
"There is no saying that it might not be better," said she; "and therefore it will be permitted to you. This feather from her breast will be granted to you for a guide; set you it upon the wind in the morning, and go forward following it. And it will be permitted to you also to take water in your horn from the fountain, for the sake of vision when it may be required, and for putting excellence in tools. Beyond that, there will be these counsels for you, given freely: Go not forth warlikely, and forsake not peace out of desire for strife, nor quietness where there may be blustering; for it is the nature of Aden Lonach to abhor senseless tumult. Her singing is a coolness upon all aching, and the passing of desire into peace. And neglect not this labor, if you desire to requite me; even though there will be no success for you in it, and no obtaining reward for any one but Pryderi."
"Evil upon me if I neglect it," said he. Before the words were out on the air, she was made one again with the beauty and glamor of the evening.
In the morning he set the feather on the wind, and rode forward following it. It might have been the mere feather of a woodpigeon when he loosed it; but blowing forward, it took on more magical aspect, and glistened in the sunlight, and glowed dimly where there was shadow. By mountain pass and clovered valley, by meadowsweet mead and wood-anemone hedgerow, it drifted and eddied glimmering before him. At noon he passed Caer Hun, but the feather neither paused nor turned there; and from noon till sunset he was journeying on upward into the heart of a wilderness of mountains.
When the western sky began to bloom out in roses and daffodils, he was high above the world, and taking a grassy way that might have been traveled by seven sheep abreast; the bracken on either side was as high as the Wind-driver's knees. Before him the track dipped and wandered continually, so that no more than thirty paces of it would ever be visible at a time. Westward, and he to ride down into it, lay an unseen upland valley, whence, wind-borne, came the sound of pouring and pondering waters; beyond, new dim peaks and shoulders glowed in opal and silver and violet, and above them a sky all fading gold and roses and primrose and lilac glory. He rode down into the valley, and, as the feather directed him, followed the torrent upwards, and the windings and wanderings of the valley. As the dusk came down over the mountains, he came to where the valley widened, and saw, beyond the stream, and about as far away from it as three casts of a spear by the best of spearmen, an immense rock towering up into the heavens; it is unknown whether or not it would have been the loftiest in the world, and no less in height than the Crag of Gwern Abwy in the ancient days, from which the Eagle of Gwern Abwy was accustomed, for the sake of sharpening his beak, to peck at the stars in the evening. Opposite to that, the track branched, one way following the course of the torrent up into the mountains, the other crossing it, and running by the foot of the rock. A breath of wind whirled the feather to the left; a little flame of dim blue and purple, it hung in the air over the stream, and then drifted over to the other side.
"There must be leaping this stream," thought Gwri. Indeed, the breadth of it would be easy for Gyrru'r Gwyntoedd, and not such as to cause boastful thought in his mind, much less the desire for braggart speech; though it might have been impossible for one of a less gifted race of horses. "Crossing here," thought Gwri, "I shall undoubtedly have need of the moistening of eyelids." The more he considered, the less was there gainsaying that. He dipped his right forefinger in the horn, and fastened the horn, and set it back in his girdle again. As he was lifting his finger to his eyelids, the Wind-driver rose up in his leaping like a swallow in the air.
The world changed, and the great foam of innumerable unearthly waters swayed and churned and glimmered about him bewilderingly, with far uncertain sounds, and the passing of a hundred thousand dreams too swiftly for any of them to be seen or known. It seemed to him that he would have been poised in that dim place of unrealities for it might have been as long as seven ages, whence he had come unknown to him, and unknown the nature of his quest. At long last there was a touching of his eyelids, and a moistening of them; at that moment the hoofs of the Wind-driver were on the solid earth again, and all bewilderment vanished. It was the water from Llandybie that moistened his eyelids, and his own finger that brought it to them; it will be known
already that his hand started on that journey at the moment the Wind-driver rose in the air. With the touching of the hoofs on the ground, and the torrent cleared, and the eyelids moistened, and the bewilderment vanished, it was clear to him that he had left the Island of the Mighty again, and was beyond the confines of the world.
Behind him was the roaring of the torrent, black and impassable; and no piercing it for the vision of man. Before him, for leagues and leagues towards the purple darkness on the edge of the world, a great plain extended, and over it afar through the twilight, the roar of shadowy hosts withdrawing from war. He saw their huge encampment on the world-edge, their dwellings that rose against the sky, and were loftier that the mountains, and more innumerable than the innumerable stars. What had appeared, from beyond the torrent, to be a vast rock, was revealed now as a caer, vaster than any in the entire world, and loftier; beyond doubt it would have had its building at the time when the sky and the mountains were made. It seemed to him that if armies were besieging it, the least of whose warlike captains could crumble the mountains in his fingers, there would be no knowing whether they would succeed in taking it by storm or not.
He paused on the edge of the plain for consideration and the making of plans. "Rightly spoke the Lady of the Fountain," thought he; "it is peace that would be needed in such a place as that." Indeed, a rumor of incessant tumult, of gigantic shouting, was borne out to him from the heart of the caer, in spite of its vastness and the vast thickness of its walls. He dismounted, and hid what arms he had under a ledge of rock beside the river; then, leaving the Wind-driver to his peaceable grazing, followed the feather to the portal of the caer. There it rested on the door-clapper, and stirred not until he had fastened it in the brooch on his breast. "Clearly there must be knocking," said he; and knocked.
Cried Gwri, "Is there a porter?"
"There is. Wherefore, O Immortals, is this clamor of knocking? Since the Crying of the Name, truly, ye have besieged Caer Drais; and during that time we have given ye what warfare ye desired between dawn and dusk daily, and even more than according to your deserts. It is unfitting that ye should break in upon our diversion by night."
"Neither an Immortal is knocking, nor any one bearing arms. A wandering craftsman with his craft it is, from the Island of the Mighty."
"I will tell you," said the porter. "During the daytime we make war upon a numberless company of Immortals; and during the night, for the sake of pleasurable diversion, we make war among ourselves. There will be no need for a craftsman, and it would be death for him to enter."
"If ye delight in making war, there will be extreme need for such a craftsman as I am. It would be better to obtain news of the nature of the craft."
"Give me news of it quickly, lest evil happen to thee. Death will overtake the craftsman surely, that cometh here with a useless craft."
"Three Unusual Crafts are with me, and the least of them so little useless, that it would be needed by any chieftain, whether in wartime or in times of peace."
"What will the first of them be, in the name of heaven and man?"
"Cooking," said Gwri, considering that it would be an easy art for him to practice, with the knowledge he had gained of it in Caer Hun. Then he expounded the nature of the cooking, according to the insight he had obtained from moistening his eyelids. "If the head of an old toadstool were thrown into the pot," said he, "at the end of this cooking it would be a nourishing meal for fifty men, or for a hundred, or indeed for a thousand if they desired it; and it would seem to every one that he had never consumed such delicate, wholesome and well-flavored food during his life."
"There might be need for such an art as that," said the porter, musingly. "What will the second be?"
"A better one than the first," said Gwri; "and a more useful to the warward. Sharpening weapons it will be." Then he made clear to the porter the unusual nature of the sharpening. "Were this art to be exercised upon an old hen's feather out of the fowl-house," said he, "it would work upon the feather, and imbue it with peculiarities and virtues and magnanimity unknown to it hitherto, and warlike designs and desires such as few would look for in it; and it would succeed in sharpening it into a sword equal to the swords of the Gods and the Cymry; and the sword should be either bluer than the sky, or paler than the lightning, or of the hue of the invisible air of heaven; and it would have an edge to wound the wind, and cause blood to flow."
"There might well be need of such an art as that," said the porter. "Make known the nature of the third."
"It will be song, in the name of heaven," said Gwri, remembering the power of Glanach at raising it, and considering that Llonach would be the equal of her sister. "Such song it will be," said he, "that if it were sung to an army of grasshoppers in August, they would readily go against giants; and they would obtain such power and strength and heroic courage and magical prowess out of the singing, that it would be amazing if they did not overcome them."
"Ah," said the porter, "there might well be need of such an art as that." Then he mused and considered within himself. "Evil upon me," said he, "if, in consideration of these three arts, thou shalt not be admitted into the hall."
With that he opened the portal, and Gwri went forward into the hall.
There was such a fury of tumult there, as had never been made known before to the hearing of man. In the vastness and lurid gloom before him he beheld the warfare of giants; a wild, extreme, insensate warfare, of such a nature that the fighting he had raised in Caer Hun seemed quiet peace in its comparison. There were seven vast fires on seven insatiable hearths, the least of them equal to a conflagration in the forest. The flames of them leaped up towards the rafters, higher than the flight of the eagle at dawn. Between each of the fires there was an ample battleground for a thousand giants, without peril of singeing hair or scorching limb. The flames roared and waxed and crackled with the waxing of the tumult, the shouting, the bellowing of meaningless war-cries, the thud and thunder of clubs, the crashing of axes, the rending of breaking shields. The clubs would have crushed the mountains; the battle-axes would have cloven the skyward crags. A thousand giants were wielding them; fierce was their strife. They hacked and hewed and mutually pounded, without cessation from roaring and ferocity. They had no delight but in wounding each other grievously, and in receiving grievous and hideous wounds. If any were slain, they would not remain slain; but rose up swiftly and went forward with the fighting.
Gwri traversed the hall without any one perceiving him, and came at long last to the open space before the dais. "Yes," said he; "undoubtedly it is the place." For here is what he saw there: the Chieftain of Caer Drais throned upon the dais, and high above his head a strong cage of iron, and in it a bird equal in beauty to Aden Lanach, or even more beautiful than she. She was of the color of the blue forget-me-not in the marshland; her head was sunk beneath her wing; it was clear that she would have been songless and plunged in torpor during the passing of many years. Few would have been without grief, beholding her beauty and the ignominy that had been put upon her.
"I marvel that Pryderi should not come," thought Gwri. "It would be amazing if yonder bird should be other than Aden Lonach." Then he fell to considering what art he should use for setting her free. "Peace must be attained first," thought he. It may be a marvel to many that no greeting should have been spoken between the Chieftain of Caer Drais and Gwri, although the one of them was throned on the dais, and the other standing before the throne; and indeed, that Gwri should have stood there musing, unheeded and unseen. Here is the reason for it: huger was the chieftain than any other giant in the hall; and if he exceeded them in bulk and stature, much more did he exceed them in ill-favoredness of aspect. If he had ceased a moment from his roaring, and from his laying about him in the air with his club, the whole of the tumult would have waned; and therefore he never did cease from it, nor rose from his throne; but leaned forward there, and gazed upon the giants, and roared and laid about him, and maintained the fighting in that way. The louder he roared, and the faster he laid about him, the higher leaped the crimson flames from the fires, and the louder and more perilous waxed the warfare of his men.
"Is there a silentiary?" shouted Gwri. It was such a shout as might have been heard, on a day in July and the south wind blowing, from the top of Pengwaed in Cornwall to the bottom of Dinsol in the north; but in that hall, even he himself obtained no hearing it. "I myself will perform
the office," thought he. Thereupon he went to the pillar that was opposite the throne, and sprinkled it with water from his horn, and smote upon it three times after the manner of silentiaries in the courts of kings. In place of demanding silence, he chanted the spell of Peace in the midst of War. Such was the power of the water, and the smiting, and the chanted spell, that the chieftain ceased his roaring, and the fires burned low among the ashes, and silence trembled down over the whole hall.
"Woe is me!" said the chieftain, "there is a silentiary in the hall."
Then he beheld Gwri, and smote at him with his club, but Gwri stepped aside from it, and beyond his reach.
"Alas!" wailed the thousand giants, "there is a silentiary!" — and fell to bitter mourning.
"Why stand ye there idle when the hall is in peril?" said the chieftain. "Let the silentiary be slain swiftly, according to custom and precedent." It had ever been the usage in Caer Drais to extirpate silentiaries. "Let him be slain, in the name of heaven, lest fearful silence overtake us."
"As for silence," shouted Gwri; "although ye may have been dwelling in pitiful silence hitherto, there is an art with me that might well be the means of bringing noise and confusion into the hall. It would be the sorrow of your lives, if you should be without gaining knowledge of this."
Sadly the chieftain answered him. "Since the dawn of the worlds," said he, "we have striven against silence, and raised up such tumult as we might out of fear that it would overcome us at last. Owing to this fear there is little joy for us. Beyond doubt the quietness thou hast found here, and the lack of spirited confusion thou hast complained of, will be signs that our strength is waning. Woe is me, in an age or two there will be silence."
The giants sighed. More mournful was this thought to them than any thought in the world. It seemed to them that in the ancient times they would have given no man cause to complain of their quietness.
"Undoubtedly silence will overtake you," said Gwri, "unless ye fortify yourselves against it, and renew your strength. The art that is with me would be the means of freeing you from this fear."
"Make known what art it is, in heaven's name," said the chieftain.
"Cooking it is," said Gwri. "The preparation of nourishing and delectable food, and the boiling of it in cauldrons, and thereafter the setting it before you tastefully for the devouring. It would be of such a nature as to be the maintenance of your strength against waning, and the renewal of it perpetually, and indeed the increasing of it a thousandfold. The food would be in unlimited quantities, and of such natural excellence that little of it would become much; and that the more of it there might be devoured, the greater would be the capacity for devouring; and the greater the capacity for devouring, the mightier would be the power of the lungs for shouting, and the strength of the arms for smiting; so that by the exercise of this art, in a little while there might well come to be warfare, and strife, and noise, and arrogant confusion here; and all this would be at but little cost to yourselves."
"During ten thousand years we have tasted no food, lest silence should overcome us while we were consuming it. Undoubtedly thou art right; we are weakening now for lack of nourishment, or there would have been no cause for thy complaints. At what cost to us would be this providing of food?"
"At the cost of firing under the cauldron, and of water from the well, and of the head of an old toadstool out of the barn."
"Let them be brought to him," said the chieftain, and went back to his roaring, and the giants to their raising up strife. Gwri set the cauldron on the fire, and filled it with the water, and flung in the toadstool. The water boiled, and the tumult waxed, and the giants became even more restraintless than before.
"Their minds are overcrowded with the desire for fighting," thought Gwri. "Distraction will be needed, and the diversion of their thoughts." With that he took his drinking-horn, and made known to it what would be required. By that time the chieftain had recovered his rage.
"What filth and poison art thou putting into the pot?" he shouted.
"Pepper," said Gwri. "Peace be with thee, pepper it is for the flavoring."
"Give me thy pepper-box; let me hold it in my hand and examine it, lest thou cheatest us."
Gwri gave him the horn; it had no appearance in the world beyond that of an old, battered pepper-box. As soon as the chieftain had opened it, the whole hall became filled with the odor of pepper, so that the giants were overtaken with violent sternutation, until the weapons dropped out of their hands. "Ah!" they murmured; "invigorating is this!"
"Pepper it is, truly," said the chieftain. "Rewards and gratitude thou shalt have; and thou shalt even escape with thy life, if there is such flavor as this in the feast."
"Such flavor there will be, and even better," said Gwri. With that the chieftain flung back the pepper-box to him, and fell to roaring and laying about him again. Gwri went forward with the cooking.
The power of the pepper ebbed, and the giants renewed their fighting, not less vigorous than at first. "Somnolence is needed," thought Gwri, and considered how he might obtain it. Then he took his horn again, and made known to it what would be required.
"Dost thou put more pepper in the cauldron?" roared the chieftain.
"I put it not," said Gwri; "more desirable even than pepper is this. Wholesome and pleasant herbs are here; excellent both for flavoring and for nourishment: the leek, the garlic and the onion."
The drops that he shook out of the horn acquired the aspect of those herbs as they fell, and immediately an overpowering and somnolent odor arose from the cooking, soothing the fury of the giants. "Ah!" they murmured; "Ah! ah! the equal of this hath been unknown to us heretofore." So pervading was the power of leeks and onions through the hall, that there was little vigor in the fighting between that and the time the feast was prepared.
"The cooking is finished," said Gwri. "Draw forward the tables."
They did so. The food he set before them was enough for them all, and more than enough; and it was clear to every one of them that he had never tasted the equal of it during his life, either for flavor or for nourishing excellence. They feasted until midnight and drank until dawn; and then there was borne away from the tables enough for three more copious feasts for them, without stint or picking of bones. At midnight the household bard of Caer Drais (such bards as they had there — their office was to stand beside the chieftain upon the dais, and to howl execrations for his encouragement while the fighting went forward) — looked up at the cage. "Lord," said he; "there is danger. The sneezing hath shaken the bars of the cage, and the cessation from warfare hath caused the bird to move her wings."
"Trouble me not during the feast," said the chieftain. "Never have I known such delight as this."
With dawn they finished their feasting, and fell to warfare again; but sluggishly, on account of repletion and heaviness after food; and raised barely such tumult as would have kept sleep from the eyelids of every man between the Island of the Mighty and Greece in the east. "Although there is peril for silentiaries," said Gwri; "the office must be performed."
Thereupon he went to the pillar again, and sprinkled seven drops from his horn on it, and smote it seven times, chanting the Spell. At the seventh smiting and the last word, the chieftain forsook his roaring, and the giants their warfare, and the fires burned low, and peace drifted down over the hall like snowflakes when no wind may be blowing.
"Woe is me for my birth and pre-existences!" sighed the chieftain. "There is a silentiary in the hall, and we are under peril of peace."
"Is there no gratitude with ye?" said Gwri. "Is there no desire for martial conflict? Will ye continue forever at this playful imitation of war?"
The chieftain sighed. "Discouraging is this," he said. "We raised the best tumult we could, and it did not please thee. Then we devoured food, and renewed our strength, and even increased it a thousandfold; and thereafter returned to the fighting, and put forth our whole vigor, and thou art not yet satisfied. Undoubtedly old age and weakening are overcoming us, or thou wouldst have had no cause for complaint. Silence we shall succumb to, woe is me!"
"It is weapons that ye need, and not strength," said Gwri. "It is a certain slothful quietness of disposition, owing to the use of childish weapons, that troubles ye. Although ye may have been accustomed to peace hitherto, I could exercise such an art in your midst, as might well make ye acquainted with the nature of delectable strife."
"What art is it, in the name of heaven?"
"Sword-sharpening it is," said Gwri. "The preparation and making keen of such implements as will cause this playing with clubs and axes to seem dull, miserable, and peaceful."
"Will they do that?" said the chieftain. "Will they confirm us in warfare?"
"In such warfare as is waged by the Gods and the Cymry," said Gwri. "Keen, swift and pleasurable warfare, and no menace of an end to it. Look you now," said he. "Swords I can provide you with, that shall husband your strength in fighting, so that ye shall have more delight out of it in a day than ye have obtained heretofore in a year, and with less waste of exertion; and if any of you should be overtaken with slumber, the pricking of the swords would awaken him, so excellent are they; and I can put the blue sharpening on them, or the lightning-colored, or the sharpening of the hue of the invisible air; and they should have an edge to wound the wind of heaven. And all this would be at but little cost to you."
"Marvelous is this indeed," said the chieftain. "Delightful to our hearing is this excellent news. At what cost to us would it be?"
"At the cost of the wear of the grindstone," said Gwri; "and of the fetching of feathers from the fowl-house to be sharpened into swords."
"Let the feathers and the grindstone be set before him."
They did so. Three old tail-feathers from the fowl-house they gave him; a black, and a brown, and a gray one.
"Which of the three sharpenings dost thou desire on the first sword?" said Gwri.
"The blue sharpening."
Thereupon he took the black feather, and dropped three drops out of the horn upon the grindstone.
"Dost thou put pepper on the grindstone?" said the chieftain.
"Not so," said Gwri; "oil it is." He held up the horn, and it had no likeness to anything in the world but to an oil-vessel, nor the water in it to anything but oil. "I marvel at this," said the chieftain; and for marveling, half forgot his roaring and his laying about him with the club.
Gwri began to turn the stone, holding the feather to it, and chanting the spell of Peace in the midst of War. The feather grew and hardened; a stridulent scream of sharpening rose up, and sparks flew innumerably into the air. More and more swiftly he turned the grindstone. The scream increased, and swayed from this note to that; now as keen as the war-cry of the falcon when she sees the heron in the air; now as low and deep and filled with murmurings as the undertone of the cataract heard from afar. It took some semblance of music; a thing unknown in Caer Drais since the worlds were made. The giants forgot their warfare, and fell to watching and listening and marveling. Aden Lonach stirred in her cage, and lifted her right wing.
"Ah," said Gwri, "here is the sword."
In his hand it gleamed, a great griding gasher, a warlike weapon, and the whole bloom and beauty of the June sky at noonday shining from it. It had been given to none of them to wield such a weapon as that; distaste for clubs and battle-axes seized them at the sight of it. It seemed to them that if they might obtain a thousand of its like, fighting would become a bliss to them such as they had never dreamed of, and that they would pursue the Immortals along the borders of space. "Ah!" they murmured; "a bright, beaming marvel is this."
"What peculiarities are with it?" said the chieftain.
"It would cut through the bole of an oaktree nine hundred winters old, at a hand's breadth from the ground where it was thickest," said Gwri. "It would do that at one sweeping stroke, and then not be at the end of its powers, nor consider it a matter for boasting."
Indeed, it was such a sword as might easily have accomplished as much as that.
"Would it do that?" said the chieftain. "Would it wound the invisible wind? Thou gavest me news of wounding the wind, and of causing blood to flow."
"It would not," said Gwri. "Swords that have the blue sharpening have not attained that art." Then he took the brown feather. "What sharpening wilt thou have on the second sword?" said he.
"The lightning-colored," said the chieftain.
Thereupon Gwri took the horn, and dropped seven drops on the grindstone, and chanted the spell of Peace in the midst of War, and began sharpening the brown feather. More marvelously it grew under the screaming stridulence of the grindstone even than the black feather had grown. Louder and keener and fiercer was the sound of the turning and the whizzing and wearing of the steel, and in turn it would be sinking to hollower far gurglings and more slumberous undertones. Rising and falling, and surging and swaying, and rippling and trilling, and swelling and whirling and triumphing, nearer and nearer it came to having the semblance of music with it, and that the most martial and heroic music in the world, and not less courteous than martial. If any one had looked up at Aden Lonach at that time, here is what he would have seen with her: a lifting and spreading of her two wings, and a folding of them again, and a raising of her proud and gentle crowned head.
"Ah," said Gwri; "here is the sword."
Splendidly it gleamed in his hand, one long, flashing excellence of the color of the lightning of heaven. Its glance, its beam, its pure brightness, sent a ripple of delight and purification through the minds of the giants. They looked down at their weapons with repugnance; one by one they dropped them silently, desiring a more courteous warfare than they had known before. They remembered the warfare of the Gods, and hungered to wage the like of it, or none at all. "Ah! Ah!" they murmured; "wonderful and beautiful, truly, is the sword."
"Wonderful and beautiful it is," said the chieftain. Then he said: "What peculiarities are with it?"
"It would cut through the mote upon the sunbeam," said Gwri, taking pains to enumerate its gifts with precision. "Upon the downward sweep it would cleave through the mote lightly, and divide it in such a manner that the one half should be neither greater nor less than the other. Or it would shave the beard from a midget in the air upon an evening in August beside the stream in the valley; and that without causing wound or scratch or effusion of blood, or even knowledge in the shaved one that his beard had been shaven."
"Would it do that indeed?" said the chieftain.
"It would," said Gwri; "and would consider it no cause for boasting. No granite in the mountains of the world could withstand the edge of this sword, if it had a mind for cleaving things."
(No one that beheld it could have doubted that the sword was equal to this, and more than equal to it.)
"Would it wound the wind?" said the chieftain. "Indeed, would it cause blood to flow from the invisible wind of heaven?"
"Ah, no," said Gwri. "Swords that have the lightning-colored sharpening have not attained that art."
The chieftain sighed. "Although the swords that thou hast made are good swords, and although little accusation could be brought against them, it is none other than the Wind-wounder that we desire."
"Thou shalt have it," said Gwri; and went again to his sharpening.
He took his horn, and poured the whole of the water in it on to the grindstone; and in place of the third feather from the fowl-house, took the feather of Aden Lonach that he had had from Tybie of the Fountain: "It will need the best of feathers for this work," thought he. No sooner had the tip of it touched the stone, than instead of stridulence and screaming, sweet, keen song rose up from it, keener and sweeter than the mountain lark's pennillion that he strews over the skies in the morning — a million times keener and sweeter. The sparks fled forth from the meeting of steel and stone, and rose up to the rafters, and were whirled hither and yonder, and played among the rafters in a fountain of many-colored flames; with the jewels in the mines of the world, or with the flowers of May upon the mountains, there would be no equaling them in glory or in beauty of hue. The giants drew near and watched him; as they beheld the sword grow, and the flame of the sparks kindle and gleam and lighten, they marveled in their delight, and murmured gently, and forgot fighting and brutality, and desired beauty and peace. The cage of Aden Lonach was enveloped in splendor, so that no one was able to behold what light began to glow from it, and to be resplendent, and to impart to the iron bars the nature of the daffodil clouds of the dawn; no one was able to behold the lightnings and glories irradiant through the sky-beautiful wings and feathers of Llonach herself. Loud and sweet and wonderful rose the song of the steel sword and the stone; even the murmur of delight was quieted in the giants. The music beat upon the roof like sea-spray in the caves; the whole hall grew dizzy with the loud, keen, gleaming ecstasy of it; and still it grew keener and keener and shriller and shriller and sweeter and sweeter.
"Ah!" said Gwri; "at last, here is a Sword."
It was as much as thirteen times as beautiful as either of the others, and indeed, more than that. The gleam of the sunlight on the shore-wave, on the curling, glittering breast of it when it glitters and sparkles before the forming of foam, would be dull and without beauty in its comparison. It was neither blue like the noon, nor yellow and pale like the lightning of heaven. It seemed less a sword of steel or bronze, than an intense gap of hard brightness in the midst of the invisible air; more invisible, but for brightness, than the air itself. "Ah! " murmured the giants; "Ah! Ah!" It seemed to them all that they had never experienced delight until then; if they remembered their old-time warfare, they remembered it with disgust, and shame, and repugnance.
"Marvelous it is, and beautiful beyond beauty," said the chieftain. "Make known its peculiarities, if it please you."
"It is a Wind-wounder," said Gwri. "Beyond doubt, its edge would wound the wind."
"Would it cause blood to flow from it?" said the chieftain.
"Without if or were-it-not," said Gwri. "Faster than the fall of the dewdrop from the blade of reed-grass in the morning, when the dew of June is at its heaviest."
"In the name of heaven, make trial of it," said the chieftain. "Never have I desired anything so much as to see this marvel."
"I will show thee," said Gwri. "And I will make known the third of my Three Arts likewise."
"What art is that?" said the chieftain.
"Song," said Gwri. "Song such as should cause grasshoppers to go against giants, and to overcome them."
With that he leaped up lightly upon the grindstone, and swept the sword circling through the air. The whole hall lightened and flashed at every sweep of it. Then he raised up the chant of Peace in the midst of War, loudly, so that every one should hear and be enspelled by it. Seven times the sword circled; there was no seeing its passage, but only the likeness of the sun of heaven resplendent above his head. Nearer and nearer flew the point to the cage where Llonach the Bird of Rhianon was imprisoned, where she fluttered and preened her wings, desiring to remember the art of song. At the seventh sweep of the sword, and the third raising of the chant, here is what happened; with extreme truth this is recorded. Diamond drops began to fall out of the air, diamond-colored blood out of the invisible wind, more swiftly than the fall of the dewdrop from the blade of reed-grass in the morning, when the dew of June is at its heaviest.
Then suddenly it was as if the full moon were to take wings, and to fly up into the midst of the sky against the blackness of the darkest night in the year. It was Aden Lonach upon the wing. With the rising of her delicate, transcendent splendor, song filled the caer, such as if it willed would have imposed sleep on an army of restless hellions; or if it willed would have raised up an army of grasshoppers on the driest day in August to wage impetuous warfare against the giants of the ancient world, and a marvel if they did not overcome the giants. It was Llonach the Bird of Rhianon; it was she upon the wing, raising song. The sword had sundered the bars of her cage; the spell had brought her memory of her ancient skill in music. Her singing was a coolness for all aching, and the passing of desire and ferocity into peace.
She raised the song; she multiplied it marvelously; the notes of it, and their swaying and pouring and crooning, and their bewilderment of sweet, keen ecstasy, entered into the nature of the giants. From ill-favored they became fair; from uncouth and furious, noble of aspect and bearing. They became acquainted with delight, and peace, and wisdom. They heard the breaking of the gates of their caer without sorrow. Without fear they beheld the Princely Immortals enter. They saw the Immortals shine at the end of the hall, like the glory of a daffodil dawn, a daffodil and foxglove dawn above the mountains. They lifted their arms and sang, hailing the beautiful Immortals. The Immortals called them forth; they went out from the hall, following them. As they went, Gwri heard this verse from the giants:
We that have warred since, a slumbering clod,
This wild world woke to the Spoken Flame,
And felt in her heart the dreams of God,
And heard in her dream the Chanted Name,
We have felt the flame of a keener fire
Than kindleth ire in the wrath-ensouled;
We have heard the songs of the Dragon Choir,
And how shall we dwell where we dwelled of old?
And he heard this verse from the Immortals:
Sleep must wane, and the weltering world
Hither and yon be whirled in war;
And life be laved in the foam up-hurled
From passionate Abred's storm-tossed shore;
But always strife shall be merged in peace,
And the storm in calm, and the dawn grow gold;
A flame, a song — and the tumults cease,
And how shall ye dwell where ye dwelled of old?
And he heard this verse from the giants again, answering them:
How should we come to our warfare's goal,
Unknown of old, until night was drawn
Into this wonder of time made whole,
This peace in the daffodil heart of dawn?
We that have warred since the Chanted Name
Rolled in flame through the Primal Cold,
We have felt the breath of the quickening flame,
And how should we dwell where we dwelled of old?