Edern sweated profusely under the stares and expectations of so many. He’d spent weeks talking, telling stories of his exploits, and constantly interrupted or gainsaid by Vortigerns lackey whenever attempting diplomacy. This night, this feast of tale and song, would be his chance to speak without interruption. Days and days of preparations, asking questions about the old stories. This had to work.
On the dais between the two great fires in the hall shadows danced strangely. Seen through the flames the guests seemed almost otherworldly. Damn, this was as bad as Carlion, maybe worse.
Edern mopped his brow and cleared his throat. Oh god, please do not let the cough ruin this.
In times long past
Under the truce of great Llud
The earthborn ruled
A hesitant enough start, and no great feat. But at least they were listening. Had he gotten this right?
Of light and heaven, tribe of mother Don
All her three sons gone
Ruled by shadow and treachery
Was that a trick of the light, or did that lackeys shadow suddenly loom large and threatening across the great table and king Cadwy?
Of water and darkness
The tribe of Llyr came
Ruled by greed and hunger
Oh god, what was happening? Such sudden menace, was the light fading? Was his voice even his own? The words kept spilling out, strangely compelled.
The treacherous shadow gave
And gave, and gave to the hungry
Greed unsated and reaching
The tribe of Don rose
To cast both treason and greed
Down to blackest depths
There sat wise Camnwe
In mind a tribe his own
Steadfast apart, yet deceived
As Edern spoke, though he hardly knew his own voice or words any longer, scenes of great treason, an usurping shadow, suffering, rebellion, nobility and the isolated wise king danced across his vision. From the bated breath, muffled gasp and still cutlery around the tables in the hall most saw the same.
Treachery and greed both
Together too great an enemy
For any, even the most wise
With light fled
There is no apart
When all is fallen to shadow
Suddenly aware that the fires on either side had died to embers and the hall had been cast into stark gloom, Lord Ludwell fought to find his voice. What in all the hells had happened? Were the clumsy words he had spun truly what had held the hall in thrall? Truly, strange things happen in Somerland. Bowed and hoarse, he spoke.
“There are other versions of this legend, with ends more worthy of bright summer. Some where the wise king lends his strength to the lightborn and the lands never fall completely into night, but more commonly the king lends sanctuary to the beleaguered Don, forbidding both greed and treachery from his doorstep. In those versions where the war goes ill for the Don, they then find some refuge in the long summer and some light remains to become a new dawn.”
No one in the great hall would tell a story after this one, not that night. The feast would continue the next day. Edern could not attend, falling violently ill and spending much of late winter coughing blood into the guest bed. The Sumerlanders were gracious hosts, many courtiers, ladies and even the king himself sharing his bedside occasionally. Long were those winter days, and though the king refused to speak more of politics, he would mention the heart blade…