The autumn wind howled like a hungry beast as it prowled the stony hills and crags near Chillmark. Another year and another funeral. The mourners had left with their sweet condolences and heartfelt farewells letting a lost stillness return to the halls. The funeral for Lady Sian had been a quiet and dignified affair worthy a lady of her stature. Even though lord Dynbal said he felt great sorrow for his lost daughter he considered it more prudent to burrow her with a sense of noble brooding; avoiding the huge sentimental affairs the Tarrens were prone to indulge in. As the last carts rolled away over the winding paths and the backs of the riders were obscured by the waving grass Maelgwyn was alone again. From the rampart he gazed across his windswept domain and felt emptiness. He thought about lady Siân and the few happy moments they had spent together and felt nothing, realizing for the first time that she had been little more than a stranger in his manor. A sweet bird he had wrested away from her father with sureness and bravery only so that she could bleed out on his bed and be confined within the damp darkness of his family tomb. Her sweet voice had fallen quiet and once again the creaking from the ropes in the hanging tree reigned; marshalled by the soulless cawing of rooks and crows.
‘’Saddle my horse.’’ He gave the lands a last look before he followed his already scurrying squire. He would have to return to his ponderous gazing later; there was more pressing matters to attend to.
As they reached the Nadar River the wind was caught in the trees and as they rode further into the encroaching forest the ancient trees stopped the wind right in its tracks; giving rich undergrowth and swaths of birds a chance to frolic. Maelgwyn had never liked the great forest growing on his doorstep even though he admired the beauty of the yellow and scarlet leaves. The vastness and darkness of the great forest frightened him; the knowledge that people could be lost there, and monsters be found, made his skin crawl. But he knew the path to his battle brothers manor well and after a few uncertain hours in the cavernous woods the forest gave away to reveal Tisbury manor; its lord already outside to greet them.
‘’Greetings Cadry… I come asking for help.’’
“Welcome friend. I have been expecting you, though I do not know your purpose here.”
Having been told by his wife to go outside and wait for a guest to arrive, Cadry did not know quite who to expect by Brangwen was seldom wrong. It was almost like the animals of the forest gave warning when someone approached. Turning towards his new squire Jasper, Cadry orderd him to bring forth his horse and travel gear for he a feeling that they would be needed.
‘’Its Sewel…’’ Maelgwyn sighted, that old crazed goat was turning out to be quite the handful.
‘’He stole Meicals mule during the funeral and when i was informed he was long gone… I need you and your hounds.’’
“The imprisoned man?” Cadry looked slightly annoyed, but as he well knew, nothing is ever a coincidence.
“Curious that. I was planning on visiting you soon to speak to the madman, just in case he turned out to be the one that the Loathly Lady mentioned that might know more about the Crown of Ungwen.”
Just as squire Jasper came back leading Cadry’s horse he was issued another order “Fetch my hounds Jasper, we are going out hunting.”
Turning to his friend Cadry addressed his request “Of course I will help you! Like I said before I owe you and the others my life. If there is anything I can to do to help, you just have to ask.”
The kind words of the rumbling pagan brought a smile to Maelgwyns lips; melancholia is an illness best cured by friends. He had wished for the company of his companions during the funeral but at Lord Dynbals request only Melkin had attended. His attention had been on the tear filled eyes of his wife and the whining of his young son giving them little time to speak.
‘’Thank you brother. He rode east… I think he’s going home.’’
“What is home for that madman? Has he done something like this before?”
Some primal part awoke in Cadry, the part that relished the hunt. He was often reminded at times like these that his ancestors had hunted enemies of their tribe and clan and had taken heads from prominent enemies in an attempt to gain some part of their strength. The taking of heads wasn’t practiced anymore as mandated by the druids but some parts of the Cellydon family had been dark indeed and had heeded the callings of the darker gods of Britain. The glint in Cadrys eyes were not lost on Maelgwyn but he did his best to ignore it.
‘’No, friend. I think his home is where the madness first gripped him: Duplain.’’
So the two friends set of eastwards with the baying hounds leading them along the riverbanks and the forest edge. The trail was fresh and Maelgwyn let Cadry lead the way; respecting, but not liking, his thirst for the hunt. From time to time they would lose the trail on the muddy roads or fallow fields but many had marked the madman’s passing. Even in these troubled times the sight of a crazed noble riding a mule was something to take note off, even if no one dared approaching him.
With the setting sun in their backs they rode through the gates of Duplain and before the Lord Hywel could greet them they heard the cackling of Sewel. Formalities were hastily exchanged and Maelgwyn explained his predicament as best he could.
‘’He rode in this morning and before the guards could grab him he locked himself in there.’’ Lord Hywel grumbled and pointed towards the small shed by the castle wall. Three guards were stationed outside; confused and bewildered by the prattling emerging from the woodwork.
‘’He refuses to come out… or talk sense.’’
‘’If you would allow me to speak to him, Lord Hywel. I believe he, in his own way, trusts me.’’ The castellan nodded and waved the guards away; happy that someone else would handle the situation. Through the thin door Maelgwyn could clearly hear the nasally tone of the once proud castellan. Sewels voice that once commanded respect and obedience was now, like the mind and body of the aging man, nothing but an echo of his former self. Years in that cold stone cell had robbed him of everything.
‘’Sewel! Come out of there!’’ Maelgwyn raised his voice and for a moment the cackling stopped.
‘’No! This is my castle! I don’t need guards to follow me or rules to bind me! Only those worthy are offered my hospitality!’’ Maelgwyn glanced nervously at the senechal behind him and mustered up a dry smile before he turned back and lowered his voice:
‘’I come bearing tribute.’’
The maddening voice fell silent and a quiet shuffling was instead heard. With a creek the door swung open ever so slightly and the bony hand of Sewel appeared from the darkness. A small package changed hands and as the hand disappeared the door remained open. Maelgwyn motioned towards cadry to come closer.
‘’If you wish to speak to him: this is it.’’
Entering the dank shed, Cadry looked around trying to spot the madman. The only feature that could be clearly seen though was a window with open shutters and a curtain waving in the wind. One of the guards peered inside and saw the empty room and shouted:
”Bloody hell, he has escaped out the window!”
Suddenly the other guards and Maelgwyn started fanning out in the courtyard to try to locate Sewel, wherever he may have hidden. Cadry for his part didn’t really care for the old fool, but only for the answers his broken mind may hold decide to go over and have a look out through the open window. That’s when he heard a strange creaking sound and looked up into the rafters. Up in the gloom he could see the old man hanging from one of the roof beams and how he was now lowering himself down to the floor. The entire time the madman was chanting his eternal mantra
“The wheel of fortune is ever turning”.
Cadry asked the old man “Are you capable of answering a few questions? Someone told me that you might know something about the iron crown of the Cellydons, also known as the Crown of Ungwen?”
Something came over Sewel and his demeanour changed.
“You know, you look like your father. I did not like him, and i don’t like you”.
Eyeing the man incredulously Cadry was slightly thrown by the man’s apparent lucidness.
“I know not what the grievances lay between my father and yourself, but if there is anything to apologize for then you have it.”
While Cadry was speaking Sewel moved closer and started walking and capering around the young knight all the while muttering his mantra. Cadry couldn’t help but feel ill at ease. It was said that the mad had been touched by the gods, but it was never said if it was as a blessing or as a curse.
When he didn’t get an answer, Cadry forged on
“Lord Sewel, can you tell me about the crown of Ungwen? I would be very grateful for any such knowledge that you possess and would be willing to share.” Lady Cerys had always told her son Cadry that courtesy never hurt anyone and might ensure that hurt did not come the way of the speaker.
Sewel didn’t stop moving but his muttering changed
“The dark lady that came here and treated me when I had been grievously injured told me many secrets, maybe what you are looking for are among those things. But you see, i swore never to tell.”
Considering the madman’s words Cadry couldn’t help but feel both frustrated and excited at the same time.
“Is there any way that you can be freed from your oath, or perhaps a way that you can share the information without breaking your oath? Is there something you want with it the information? Or perhaps something you want for yourself?”
Starting to walk backwards now, Sewel seemed stranger by the second but still another person than the moonstruck fool that would sneak around on Chillmark.
“I want vengeance on the wheel!” The word were spat out almost like a curse.
“As for my promise…” The man seemed almost to hesitate as if considering something
“No, no… I swore, there is no way to release me or circumvent that oath” Yet something in the fool’s eye told a different tale.
All the while the two men had been speaking, the band of guards had been searching the yard and some of them had apparently decided to check the shed once more. When they came in through the door Sewel went back to his usual deranged self once more. Cadry shouted over the din of the guards that
“I will come and see you again lord Sewel, consider my offer, If you are willing I will help you find away around your promise”.
The last thing the madman uttered before he was dragged away were the words “Only one knows what’s in the kettle”.