:: Sunday, January 16, 2005 ::
Gwyn sat across from Brother Malcolm at a table in the library. He was working on his research into the Oracles; she was reciting the Chief Bards since Adaon the Elder and their principal works.
"Gwyrddyal the Elder, The Lay of King Prystyl and Queen Barra's Lament. Gwyrddyal the Younger, The Misdeeds of Prince Yessel, Hymns to the Salmon of Linliw. Pasgen Silver-Tongue, Nine Songs of Nine Heroes. Trachmyr Stiff-Tongue, The Wordless Songs of the Mountains..." Here she trailed off, and Brother Malcolm looked up. Seeing her blank expression, he sighed.
"Powys," he prompted.
"Daddirren of Powys!" She nodded, but then the blank expression returned almost immediately as she struggled to remember the next part. "The Hymns of Dona?"
"Lines on the Passing of Lesser Kings," Malcolm corrected, shaking his head. "Gwyn, this is material you knew two years ago. It should be like reciting the ingredients in Brother Ethgun's herb bread. If you mean to pass the Trials next month-"
"I know," she said as she rubbed her eyes. They had been at this table since just after breakfast, which they had taken at dawn. It was now noon, or just after. "I just can't concentrate today."
"That is because you are still thinking about the other night," Malcolm said, and Gwyn blushed.
It was now two days since their trek to the mushroom caves and the return of Brother Llyad. It had taken the strength of all three of them to carry the unconscious Druid up the trail to the monastery and at once to Sister Moyra in the Chambers of Healing. Brother Llyad had only suffered cuts and bruises, but the Druid was far more seriously injured.
After taking him to Sister Moyra, they had gone to inform Father Damogan. Gwyn remembered shifting about nervously as Malcolm explained to Father Damogan the reason for the intrusion. The Lord Priest had listened grimly, and then he had grabbed his cloak and ordered Malcolm to take him to the Druid and Brother Llyad, but not before taking the Red-cap that had been their original objective all along. He had ordered Gwyn back to bed – and also to say nothing of what had happened that night.
"I just want to know what is happening!" Gwyn said. "A missing Brother has returned to Tintagel, and he has brought with him-"
"Silence!" Malcolm hissed. Gwyn bit her lip, knowing that she had almost casually broken Father Damogan's command. She looked around at the other clerics in the library, most of whom were engaged in their own studies. If any of them had heard their exchange, none showed it. Gwyn looked sullenly at the surface of the table, and at the illuminated page before her.
For his part, Brother Malcolm realized that he had been overly harsh. He was very curious, too; he would dearly have loved to learn what was happening in the Chambers of Healing. Brother Llyad had met with Father Damogan the next morning, and since then he'd been housed in a guest chamber. It annoyed Brother Malcolm that Father Damogan had not yet told him, the Prime Monk and second in line to the Lord Priest, what was happening. It would do no good, though, to share that frustration with his young Adept, especially one so close to the Trials. He reached across the table and touched Gwyn's wrist.
"I am sorry, child. Were the decision mine to make, I would know what is happening. But that decision is not mine, and neither is it yours. We can only do what we would have done had the other night never occurred."
Gwyn looked up at him and returned his smile. "I know, Brother." She stretched her arms out above her head. "And it doesn't help that the midday meal seems to be running late today."
"Yes, I think you're right," Malcolm said. "Perhaps Brother Ethgun is having problems of his own in the scullery. In any event, I think I've heard enough of the Chief Bards and their principal works. Why don't we pass the rest of the time until Brother Ethgun signals midday by reading from the Oracles?"
She nodded and swung her chair around the table to sit beside him, grateful to at last be done with the horrible business of recitation. Spread out on the table before them were piles of pages, some bound and some not, every page dating from the time of the Ancients, before the Cataclysm. Very little had survived when the world had been bathed in fire; now the Monks and Sisters of Tintagel worked to collect what they could find of the people that had once mastered the world. Malcolm held up one of those documents and lectured Gwyn for a time on its contents and significance. If he noticed when her attention again wandered, he didn't show it. He was finally interrupted by the tolling of a deep bell, and he sighed. "It appears that Brother Ethgun is ready for us," he said. He began gathering up the materials and carefully placing them back in their coffers. Gwyn helped him, and her thoughts turned once again to Brother Llyad and his mysterious Druid companion. She doubted that she would have been able to pay attention to the Oracles, either.
"There," Gwyn whispered. "By those bushes." She pointed to a line of bushes near a copse of trees, about thirty or forty paces away. Gwyn's chamber-mate and best friend, Dana, nodded and lifted her bow. "Shoot!" Gwyn said.
"Would you be quiet now?" Dana said as she drew back the string. The bow quivered as she did so.
"Hold the bow steady, you'll never-"
Dana's bowstring thrummed then, but Gwyn didn't need to watch. The shot went wide, very wide, missing the rabbit by several paces. The rabbit scampered away unharmed. Dana tapped the bow on the ground and glowered at Gwyn. "I don't know why I let you talk me into trying this."
"Archery is very useful," Gwyn said. "You can protect yourself on the road if you can shoot, and you can get something for the pot." She held up the bag that contained three rabbits, three squirrels and a pheasant already. Brother Ethgun would be pleased; he could stretch a bag of game into enough stew to feed all of the sixty permanent residents of Tintagel.
"Something for the pot," Dana echoed. "Bad enough that Brother Ethgun has to torture me with scullery detail without you reminding me of it when we're out here supposedly studying for our Trials." They wandered over to the bushes and found Dana's blunt arrow, which had landed on the ground without hitting anything of note at all. "If I am accosted on the roads, I shall use my feminine skills to forestall the threat." She could, at that; Dana was a tall and voluptuous girl, with lustrous black hair that hung to her waist. She was the type of girl who could turn the eye of the most celibate man, and Gwyn often thought it a good thing that the Monks of Tintagel did not vow chastity. Dana was a good and trusted friend of Gwyn's, though, despite any doubts Gwyn may have held about her character.
"I don't think that would work in all cases," Gwyn said.
"Of course it wouldn't," Dana replied. "But I would be better at that than at using this thing. At least you had a father who could teach you a practical skill or two. Now what?"
A wind stirred, a wind from the sea that was cold, not warm. Gwyn pointed to another distant line of trees. "Let's go try over there, and then we should be getting back. You don't want to be late for scullery detail."
"And deprive Ethgun of his favorite scullery assistant? Perish the thought."
They walked off toward the trees Gwyn had chosen. A brief storm that morning had wetted the ground and made it soft, but the clouds had moved eastward just before the mid-day meal, and after that Gwyn had asked Dana to join her hunting on the mainland. Dana had protested halfheartedly, but neither of them wanted to spend the afternoon studying. For all Dana's apparent bluster she was as serious a student on Tintagel as anyone, and she fully intended to pass the Trials and become a Priestess, although her desire was to leave Tintagel and become an itinerant cleric. Both she and Gwyn had been working so hard lately that they could use an afternoon away from the island and away from the books and the histories of Kings, the names of stars, the lyrics of epic poems, and the classifications of flora. On top of that, Gwyn had other things on her mind. Thus they walked now through the northern countryside of Lyonesse, which was the name given to this part of Prydein.
"This is the most damnably cold summer I've ever seen," Dana said as she pulled her cloak together tighter and brushed a windswept lock of hair from her eyes.
"That it is," Gwyn said. It was a cold summer. Even though the sun was radiant in the sky above, it gave little warmth. In truth it was rarely warm in Lyonesse, and here near the sea it was usually even colder, but this was abnormal. She would swear winter was coming, were it not nearly midsummer. Word had come that the farmers were having difficulty coaxing crops from the land, and the nighttime blessing had come to include a wish for Dona to send the southern breeze at last. Winter would be hard when it finally came months hence if the granaries of Prydein were not full.
Gwyn kept her eyes focused on the line of trees ahead, and suddenly she spotted a fine looking rabbit about eighty paces away. She stopped in her tracks and said, "I'll get this one."
"You've got them all, except for that squirrel with the bad leg that I skewered," Dana grumbled. Gwyn ignored her as she pulled out a blunt arrow, nocked it, took aim, and loosed it. The arrow whizzed through the air and struck the rabbit perfectly. Gwyn couldn't help but smile; it had been a good shot. "Nicely done," Dana said with mock flourish as Gwyn went forward to get the rabbit and put it in the bag. "You are truly the greatest gamesmistress of Tintagel. Your name will be sung by the Bards."
Gwyn bagged the rabbit, recovered her arrow, and rejoined her friend. "The Bards will sing of you too, Dana. It's too bad that Geramir and Teleri of Caer Wyndom will never know of your feats of love." Geramir and Teleri were the only two Bards to have been husband and wife; a hundred years before they had composed together the greatest love songs known. Dana laughed.
"I expect that what I know of love may someday be written into the Oracles themselves, alongside the wisdom of the Ancients."
Gwyn laughed too as they turned onto the path that led back to the Old Sea Road. The ground now sloped away from them down toward the sea. From here they could see the island of Tintagel, with its buildings hewn directly from the rock, two miles away; beyond Tintagel were the gray waters of the Sea of Eire which were dotted with the white of waves. It was said that the waves came straight from Eire, the green isle that lay far beyond the horizon to the west. The mysterious Druids were thought to have originally come from Eire, but Malcolm had told her that this was probably not the case. He suspected that the Druids had their origins in very far antiquity; perhaps even before the Time of Darkness. The current legend was that the Eire waves were the revenge of that land for the invasion which had occurred in the Time Before. A great King of Prydein, the story went, had actually waded across the water to Eire, along with his army, to avenge the honor of his sister who had been forced to marry the Eireian King. Gwyn rather liked the story, even if no one knew how it ended.
"So," Dana began in a tone that made clear what she was about to ask, "what is this I hear about your trip with Malcolm to the mushroom cave the other night? You found more than Father Damogan's potent fungus?"
Gwyn shook her head. "I can't discuss it, Dana. I have been ordered by Father Damogan himself."
"Really? Then it is something important! Come on, Gwyn - everyone knows that Brother Llyad has returned, even though he is in seclusion. We know that much. And now the Chambers of Healing are barred - Moyra's not letting anyone in. Why is that?"
Gwyn looked away; she did not want to acknowledge the expression that she knew Dana was giving her at this moment. Dana was quite adept at piecing together details that seemed irrelevant.
"Dana, there are some things which should not be discussed."
"Gwyn, it's me! I have been there for every scrape and for every escapade. Remember when we went to Ehodd to hear that Bard?" Gwyn winced at the memory. One of the Nine Bards had been in Ehodd, the closest village to Tintagel. Neither Gwyn nor Dana had ever heard one of the Bards before, but the Adepts were not allowed to leave at night without the Lord Priest's leave. However, some of the Monks and Sisters were going, so the bridge would be extended during the night. Gwyn and Dana had stolen across the bridge and headed for town, but they had not known that Brother Denys and Brother Fflagarn had stopped along the side of the road to observe the patterns of the sky or something similar, and thus they had been recognized and caught before they'd even reached halfway to Ehodd. They had been each given an extra two months' scullery detail for that, and still neither of them had ever heard one of the Nine Bards.
"I'm not going to miss out on this," Dana said. "What did you find that night?"
Gwyn chewed on her lip. She wanted to tell Dana everything. She was not particularly good at keeping secrets, much less exciting secrets involving long-lost monks and Druids and secret discoveries made at night amidst the pounding surf. It had the essence of the old legends, like King Prystyl and the Thirteen Treasures or Peranon the Piper's taming of the rats. But she was still under Father Damogan's order of silence, which she would not break.
"You know that Brother Llyad has returned," Gwyn said. "Brother Malcolm and I found him. He had crashed his boat onto the rocks, and somehow he lived through it. We took him to Sister Moyra, and that is the last I know of it." She hoped that Dana would not recognize a lie of omission.
"That's not everything, though," Dana said. "Why would Moyra still have the Chambers of Healing barred? Brother Llyad has been out of Moyra's care for a day now, and still no one is allowed in. You know that young Adept, Diarmuid?"
Gwyn nodded. Diarmuid was one of the newest Adepts, a blond-haired boy of twelve who was stunningly clumsy.
"The other day," Dana went on, "Brother Ethgun actually allowed him to slice some fish."
"Oh, no," Gwyn said, seeing where this was going.
"I haven't the faintest idea what Ethgun was thinking, on that score - building Diar's confidence or something, I don't know - but that boy shouldn't be allowed to even look at a knife, much less actually handle one. I'm surprised his thumb was still attached when he got done putting the blade through it."
Gwyn's memory jogged. "I did see him wearing a bandage on his hand today," she said.
"Yes, well, Ethgun had me take Diar to the Chambers of Healing, but we weren't allowed in! Sister Moyra handed me some cloth through the door and told me to have Diar put pressure on it and return to the scullery. A few minutes later Gruffyd" - Gruffyd was the Adept who assisted Sister Moyra in the Chambers of Healing - "came down with the implements and stitched Diarmuid's hand."
Gwyn smirked. "I'm sure Diar found being in your company for that time was a better soporific than anything Gruffyd gave him." Diar was, in addition to being clumsy, hopelessly infatuated with Dana.
"That's not the point, girl!" Dana scowled. "The point is, we weren't allowed into the Chambers. Why? Does it have something to do with Brother Llyad's return?"
Gwyn only shook her head.
"And for that matter, what is Father Damogan doing sending you and Malcolm traipsing about on those slippery paths down to the Caves before sunrise when the wind is as fierce as it was that night? I tell you, Gwyn, something is not right about this business."
Gwyn scowled. Sometimes Dana was too clever by far.
They were now almost to the Old Sea Road, which ran the length of the coast of northern Lyonesse. It was less than half a mile to the Tintagel Bridge, and they could see it from here. Once, in days long gone by, Tintagel had been connected to the mainland by a long and very narrow spit of rock, and only by crossing this path that could one approach. In those vastly ancient times, ancient when the Ancients themselves were young, Tintagel had been the site of a great fortress, which was easily defended in its isolated and unapproachable position. Now, in the years since the Ancients, the stony pathway to Tintagel had collapsed at last. The only way to get to the island was either by the sea itself - which was almost always quite hazardous - or by crossing the bridge, with the monks' permission.
Even after years on Tintagel, Gwyn was amazed at its workmanship and its function. It was made completely of wood, the great stout black oak of Prydein. Only the two ends of the bridge were permanent, built solidly onto the bedrock. The central section, which was longer by itself than the two ends taken as one, was connected to an elaborate system of gears, pulleys and iron chains, the operation of which was controlled from the watch-house by a great wheel to extend the central section of the bridge and pull it back again. During the winter months no watch on the mainland was maintained at all. The bridge was kept reined in, and only extended if the Lord Priest ordered it. That happened very rarely.
As Gwyn and Dana drew near the bridge the alarm bell atop the Sanctuary tolled three times. This was the signal that visitors to Tintagel were arriving.
"I hear riders," Dana said.
They stopped and listened. Sure enough, approaching horses could be heard coming from up the Old Sea Road, although they couldn't yet be seen.
"A trader, maybe?" Dana mused. "We're due for a few of them." That was true; it had been several weeks since the last band of roving merchants had stopped at Tintagel. Gwyn listened, and shook her head.
"I don't think so. I can't hear any wagons."
She turned out to be right. After a minute the riders came around the last bend in the road: four of them altogether, making for the bridge. As Gwyn and Dana stood watching, the four riders finally passed them and rode across the bridge onto Tintagel, following the road to the square in the midst of the monastery. The riders all wore shirts of chain armor under crimson cloaks with their swords fastened across their backs, and helmets concealing their faces.
"Do you recognize that livery?" Dana asked.
"I couldn't see any markings," Gwyn said. "Come on!"
Gwyn swung the bag of game up onto her shoulder again and then she and Dana jogged across the bridge, their earlier conversation and Dana's questioning now forgotten. They ran past the outbuildings into the courtyard in front of the Sanctuary, where the Monks and Sisters were gathering to see the visitors who had just arrived. Gwyn and Dana joined Sister Eylwen, the gigantic woman charged with maintaining the stables. The clerics of Tintagel only owned three horses and two donkeys, but they generated more than enough work for Eylwen. Eylwen spat on the ground. Gwyn could tell that she was not at all pleased that she would soon have guests.
"Look at those beasts!" Eylwen said. "I don't have food fit for animals as fine as those." They were large and powerful horses, clearly bred from the same stock; each was a shiny brown with a white streak in the mane. Their muscles rippled with strength. These animals were far, far finer than the nags that Eylwen was accustomed to dealing with.
"I hope your stables are presentable," Gwyn said. "I don't think those horses will stand for dirty straw."
Eylwen scowled. "Don't start with me, girl. I've been working in there all day, trying to get the place ready for the summer. But now I'm going to have to serve guests, and who knows for how long? I'll barely have enough grain for our own beasts. And besides, it's damned cold these days."
Dana smiled. "Now, Eylwen, we all know that you've got those stables in perfect condition. Don't try to hide it from us."
Eylwen only grunted in reply. It was probably true, though. Sister Eylwen took her stables very seriously.
They watched as the monks gathered in the square, hastily putting together some kind of reception. Brother Malcolm took his place in the lead position, with all of the other clerics behind him. And Brother Llyad was there as well. Strange, Gwyn thought. Llyad as yet had no official duties as a monk of Tintagel. Then why was he in the group?
"They have not brought any squires with them," Dana said. "Their errand must be urgent."
"We'll find out soon," Gwyn replied.
She was right. The riders had reined up directly in front of the sanctuary. The foremost rider, who was also the tallest, nodded to his men and dismounted, with his men following suit. When the four armored riders had all dismounted, they turned and walked toward the welcoming clerics. Now Gwyn could clearly see the backs of their cloaks, and the white stag device emblazoned there on each.
"They are from Camyrdin," Gwyn said, recognizing the device.
"Lyonesse is not part of Camyrdin," Dana observed. "Why would Lord Matholyn send riders here?"
"Shhhhh!" Sister Eylwen hissed.
The four knights stopped before Brother Malcolm, and their leader then removed his helmet. He was a tall, lean man with graying hair that hung below his shoulders and clear, blue eyes that took in his surroundings with an icy stare. Eylwen exhaled slowly. "Look sharp, ladies," she whispered to Gwyn and Dana. "Lord Matholyn did not send these men. That is Lord Matholyn himself."
While Gywn and Dana thought about that, Lord Matholyn addressed Brother Malcolm.
"Greetings, Brother Malcolm," he said. His voice was a rich baritone. "I see you are the Priest Prime now."
"I am, My Lord," Malcolm said.
"Interesting," Lord Matholyn said.
A strange reply, Gwyn thought. And how is that Malcolm has never told me that he personally knows Lord Matholyn of Camyrdin?
Lord Matholyn gave a formal bow. "Greetings then, Brother Malcolm. I am Matholyn ap Macholugh, Lord of Camyrdin. I thank you for your leave to join you on your island."
Brother Malcolm bowed formally in response. "The Lord of Camyrdin is ever welcome here. Let this place serve always as his sanctuary."
Now that the formalities were out of the way, Matholyn spoke more directly. "I would speak with the Father Reynold," he said.
Malcolm shook his head. "Father Reynold died some time ago, my Lord. Damogan was elevated to the position. He is the Lord Priest now."
There was no missing the scowl that passed over Lord Matholyn's face at this news, but he composed himself quickly and spoke again.
"Reynold was a fine man, and he served the Goddess well. Obviously, the news of his passing has not reached Caer Camyrdin." He cleared his throat. "I would still speak with the Lord Priest, Damogan or no. When will he receive me?"
Gwyn drew a sharp breath. If Brother Malcolm was taken aback by the arrogance of the question as phrased, he didn't show it. But some of the other monks did.
"Does he seriously expect immediate audience?" Dana hissed in Gwyn's ear.
"Quiet, or we won't hear!" Gwyn whispered back. Brother Malcolm was already speaking.
"I believe that My Lord is aware of the protocols of receiving audience with the Lord Priest of Tintagel. The request will be posed to Father Damogan in good time." He bowed calmly, and the Lord of Camyrdin blinked flushed red with anger. He was unaccustomed to being denied.
"I have not ridden the way from Caer Camyrdin to be turned away on Damogan's very doorstep." Behind him, his three Knights stepped forward, but made no other move. It was an obvious ploy to appear menacing. Malcolm was unperturbed, and his voice remained utterly calm.
"Father Damogan will not have his daily routine disrupted for the sake of any man, be he noble or common. You and your knights are welcome to the lodging we can provide until such time as the Lord Priest grants your audience. More than this I cannot promise, Lord Matholyn."
This, of course, did nothing to placate the nobleman, who was now on the verge of losing his temper. He stepped forward and spoke very closely.
"I have urgent business that can only be taken up with the Lord Priest of Tintagel. The Druids have left their Isle and are at work in Prydein. King Cwerith is massing an army near the border between Gwynedd and Camyrdin, and he has already formed an alliance with King Duncan of Caledonia. We are also hearing that the Barons of the Sea Cantrevs are becoming malcontent. High King Irlaris has done nothing about any of this, and I am uneasy for the safety of my people. And there are other signs as well, which you must know about by now. The time may be at hand."
"The time for what?" Malcolm asked, though by his expression he clearly knew what the answer would be.
"The Promised King," Lord Matholyn said. Everyone in earshot gasped at the words. "I must consult the Oracles, Brother, and I must hear what the Lord Priest has to say about this. If I have read the signs correctly, then we must act to find the Welcomer. But I have no time to waste, what with threats to the north and west of my domain. I have risked much by coming here myself, but you know how urgent this errand is. I have no time for verbal fencing with one of the monks of Tintagel. I will see Damogan, if I must use force to do so." He spat these words through clenched teeth, and his eyes blazed with anger.
A very cold shiver ran down Gwyn's spine. In two hundred years, the sanctity of Tintagel had never been violated, and no blood had been spilled here since the time of Gildas the Second. Brother Malcolm blanched visibly, unsure of how to respond to such a threat. Luckily for him, he was spared that responsibility by a new voice which came from the door to the sanctuary.
"If your business is important enough to threaten the safety of the monks, Lord Matholyn, then perhaps I should hear it after all." Standing in the door of the sanctuary was Father Damogan himself.
Damogan looked much older than he actually was. His hair had gone completely white, and his beard hung down to the middle of his chest. He was garbed in the same brown robe that the monks wore; his only badges of office were the golden braid that was wrapped around his waist, the diamond brooch that fastened his cloak, and the great oaken staff on which he leaned. The staff was said to have been first carried by Gildas the Second, many years before. It was carved from top to bottom with runes, and at the top it curled over on itself, fashioning a sort of crook. Its foot was wrapped in a shoe of iron. It was said the staff had magical powers that only the Lord Priest could summon and command, although for all Gwyn knew it could simply have been a great walking stick.
Father Damogan moved down the steps and approached Lord Matholyn. His manner bespoke great strength and severity, as if the responsibilities of his position were a physical weight that had been placed on his shoulders. But he held his shoulders straight and his head high, and his appearance of great age was belied by the unmistakable gleam of youth in his eye.
"I am glad that Dona has granted you good weather for your journey, Lord Matholyn," the Priest said. "I do wish it was warmer, though."
"I have not come to discuss weather, Damogan," Lord Matholyn said. It escaped no one's notice that Lord Matholyn did not use Father Damogan's title.
"Indeed, you have not. I can only imagine what matter may be sufficiently pressing to bring you back to Tintagel. After all, following your last visit you swore never to even step within sight of this place again. Does time in fact heal all wounds?" Father Damogan was staring straight into Matholyn's eyes, as if to peer into his very soul. Matholyn did not flinch.
"As Lord Priest, I would expect you to be the judge of what may or may not be healed by the march of Time. I am but a worldly man, doomed to spend my days on the throne of men." Gwyn had little difficulty detecting the sarcasm in this remark. She wondered what history these two men shared.
"Your throne is where you were born to serve, Matholyn, as was this place mine. I have known of your coming, though; I have awaited your arrival since you left the gates of Caer Camyrdin. Indeed, I already know some of the tidings you bring, and the reasons why you come."
"I suppose that I should not be surprised, Damogan. You always seem to know things before others. Could the dark arts be not entirely forbidden here? Have you been dabbling in the work of the Druids?" This was not an implication taken lightly, but Damogan only smiled.
"You know better than most what arts are practiced here and which are forbidden, Matholyn." His voice sounded almost bored. "But enough of that. You have come to seek the counsel of the Oracles, and you have come at a time when King Cwerith is seeking to begin again the hostilities that plagued your father and his, when the fishermen of Camyrdin are finding their work far more difficult this year, and when your farmers are unable to coax anything more than an ankle high from the soil because summer refuses to blossom. As for the Druids, I am already aware of their stirrings from Mona. You see, there is a Druid here."
Lord Matholyn paled at these words, and he sputtered wordlessly, for once unable to speak. There were gasps all around as well; until that moment the presence of the Druid was known only to a very few people on Tintagel. Gwyn glanced around and saw expressions of concern and fear. Dana was staring at Gwyn, and Gwyn knew exactly why. She looked away.
"A Druid is here?" Lord Matholyn finally managed to stammer. He exchanged glances with the flinty-eyed Knight behind him; Gwyn guessed that this man was one of Lord Matholyn's higher ranking men. "When did this happen?"
"Only three days ago," Father Damogan replied. "His coming was unheralded and unforeseen. Even now he hovers near death in the Chambers of Healing."
"They are dangerous," Lord Matholyn said. "There is blood again in the groves, and they have been seen in the forests. See that your Druid is guarded well."
"They are not dangerous!" The voice came from Gwyn's left, and all eyes turned as Brother Llyad stepped forward. Anger blazed in his eyes. "The Druids are not dangerous! You lie, with your talk of blood and sacrifice!"
Lord Matholyn spun and partially drew his sword. "I do not lie, Brother," he spat. "If you accuse me of such, then -"
He did not finish. Father Damogan snapped an incantation and stamped the foot of his staff on the ground. The ground shook, and there was a deep rumble, like thunder. All eyes returned to him.
"Those who draw their blades against me or against any person of Tintagel do so at their own peril," he said, his eyes afire. "You well know the law of this place, Matholyn ap Macholugh. Sheathe your blade."
There was dead silence following Damogan's words. For a moment that seemed endless, Lord Matholyn held his sword partially-drawn as he glared from Brother Llyad back to Father Damogan. Then, at last, he fully sheathed the blade.
"I know the law here," he said. "And I am a man of law."
"Brother Llyad," Father Damogan said, turning to the angry monk, "Lord Matholyn is here in good faith and will not be turned away. Further, I suspect that the wisdom you have gained in your absence from Tintagel may be of use. You and he may be on the same errand, if I see things correctly."
Brother Llyad hung his head. "I apologize, Father."
"Father Damogan," Lord Matholyn said, "I would still speak of this Druid with you – and about other matters as well. These are dangerous times."
"Then come - allow your men to be hosted, and your steeds stabled. Brother Malcolm, see to the arrangements and bring the Lord Matholyn to my chambers when I send for him. I will also have Brother Llyad there, as well."
"Yes, Father," Malcolm said.
Then Father Damogan turned and headed back up the steps, disappearing into the sanctuary. Brother Malcolm beckoned for Sister Eylwen; it was time for her to see to her duties as the stabler of Tintagel. She gave Gwyn and Dana a look of consternation, and then walked over to the horses. Brother Malcolm led Matholyn and his men off to the Quarterward. As they passed, the flinty-eyed Knight walking behind Lord Matholyn caught Gwyn's gaze and lightly smiled; she gave a small bow in response. Then the other monks all dispersed to their former duties, leaving Gwyn and Dana alone. Dana breathed a sigh of relief.
"Well, I'm glad that is over," she said, and then cocked an eye at Gwyn. "So Brother Llyad brought a Druid here with him? That means he went to Mona. I wonder why the Druids didn't sacrifice him on one of their altars."
Gwyn only shrugged.
"And you, not telling me the most exciting piece of news we've had since we've been here! Ah well, you were ordered to silence and all that. At least I know your oath is worth something."
The bell signaling the midpoint of the afternoon chimed. Gwyn gave Dana a sly smile and handed her the bag of game.
"Aren't you late for your scullery detail?"
Dana went white and ran off without saying anything more. If she hurried, she might make it to the scullery before Brother Ethgun noticed. Unlikely, Gwyn thought, and then she headed off to her own duties, a feeling of unease coming over her.
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