John Fish B.Sc. Publishers of Tenby in Wales (UK)




Alistair Roberts

e-mail: Alistair Roberts










In the time of the past

the future will return

by way of Ceridwen

the Goddess' namesake

In gifted words

as prophecies foretold

the now of your knowing

was ours before,

so mote it be

Set in Wales in the 16th Century, it details the life of a Welsh woman who has the gift of story-telling. This is the second novel in this Fantasy series, where she gives birth to her son, but he's kidnapped when he's 3 months old, turning up four months later at a lake. She travels to Scotland searching for a sister, near Loch Doon, and discovers an invisible island. They battle a black demon with help from an old Celtic god. Whilst in Scotland she also discovers a sword hidden in a ruined castle wall made for her son hundreds of years ago on the invisible island. An air battle takes place between her dragon and the black dragon of death.

She receives various clues, avoids a ship sinking, creates some poetry that impresses the Scots. At home she discovers a new found friend has some family secrets whilst she continues to study the Book of Tara (which she found in Ireland). She later finds herself in Avalon (King Arthur / Merlin, but have avoided using King Arthur) and discovers she is connected to Avalon – more Myths and stories exposed.

She falls in love but discovers that the man is married with a child and accidentally kills him with Sion's sword. She rushes away to Llyn Syfaddon and the crannóg there to hide from her misery. Her son however tells her to return to the Book of Tara.

Then a couple of attempts are made on her life by persons using black witch craft. She later solves a mystery/story from south Wales regarding a man-dog before seeking out and destroying a black warlock with her sisters help which aids their own bonding.

Later she buries the sword of Sion on the top of Cadair Idris fearing it is bringing her bad luck, visits a whale in the ocean which leads to the knowledge that an ancient goddess has been kidnapped by people using black magic and she has to travel to Scotland again to rescue her.

She and her sister discover Sir Gawain, knight of the round table, travel to Loch Ness and Ceridwen talks to 'Nessy', and gets information on how to rescue the goddess from the castle Cawdor. (The year is 1514)

A serious and complicated battle takes place before the goddess is rescued. After rescuing goddess Rhonda, Rhonda gives Ceridwen a large rectangular pale blue crystal. It is a key to Avalon and with it she may travel there any time.

In the final chapter she returns to Avalon to learn more and once again meets Merlin. But on seeing him she realises he holds a secret that no one, not even King Arthur knows. She walks around him then faces him. But before she completes saying what his secret is, the secret walks in. Then Ceridwen informs Merlin she knows the woman is his wife.

[Merlin and his wife feature a lot in the third novel, 'Merlin and Ceridwen']

[29 chapters, 97040 words]





Sample Chapter

Chapter One

Birth's Redemption

It had been several years since Ceridwen's return from the south of England and the fatal encounter with Adeliza sister to King William I, and her date with the past in the Battle of Hastings (433 years in her past) where King Harold had been killed. Her own death had occurred and yet she had no regrets, admittedly she had returned to life, and luckily had been found by a woman she was staying with. Equally lucky was the fact that she didn't press her with questions, for none of her answers would have made sense and many, if not everyone would have thought her mad.

It had taken a couple of weeks for her to recover sufficiently to head home and all the way she was looking over her shoulder wondering if the past or the church might catch up with her.

For a very long time she had avoided leaving her home village of Guilsfield in Wales, and lead a quiet life. But she did study the Book of Tara that she had discovered in Ireland, and slowly unfolded the hidden stories in it and glimpses of an underlying story that was hidden within its' pages. She wondered just where would it lead, and what of her own life?

It was lonely without someone to share it with, but few men fulfilled her expectations and if they came close, they already had their mates. It was a frustrating life in many ways but the greater calling she could not ignore.

She worked as hard as she could and once more she exhausted herself in the process; deliberately. She was now 25 years old, and the year was 1512. Her long straight dark hair sat down over her shoulders, and her blue eyes sat in an attractive and expressive face. Her confidence in herself was certainly complete and she had respect from those who knew her. Her simple home used to be her parents and contained just two rooms, yet it was enough.

She was now also making money or some form of income from writing letters for people and had learnt a small amount of French as well. Rarely did it get used but at least she could recognise it easily now. It was now late spring, and the birth of new lambs and other animals got her thinking again. The emptiness that ached in the back of her heart asserted itself once more.

One day she went to the market in her small village, as she so often did, both with some produce to sell and her flute that gave her comfort when she played it. The overcast morning wasn't too cold and the people were happy and chatting as they do. Once again there were a few visiting traders some of whom she knew and a few new faces she didn't recognise. As she was laying out what she had to sell, a young man probably about her age with a rather large sack over his shoulder asked if he could set up next to her.

Ceridwen replied that she would be happy for him to do so, as an idea formed in the deep recesses of her mind. He laid out three good deer skins and an assortment of items as she carefully and discretely looked him over.

His dark hair was not unlike her own, although considerably shorter for hers was well passed her shoulders. But his pale blue eyes were different to her blue ones and he turned out to be a few inches taller than her, and she thought quite pleasant to look at. Just then he smiled at her, and as she quickly looked away she wondered if he had caught her looking? She hoped he had. But then a buyer came along and distracted her, and soon she found herself busy although the same couldn't be said for the man beside her.

It was an hour or more before she had some time to herself, when she realised she didn't even know his name. She turned to him and realised he had been looking at her. He smiled and didn't turn away, unlike her. She introduced herself and found his name was Vonn.

But as she tried to get to know him, someone took interest in one of his skins and before she knew it she was busy also.

At this point she almost wished neither of them had customers, but life and its' normality had to continue, she knew. She felt frustrated and wondered if life was really out to annoy her. Even though theirs' was a small village close to Welshpool, another hour passed before once again she was free of customers at the same time that he was.

The sun came out from behind the clouds, and finally she learnt he hoped to sell all his skins before he left to go hunting again. When he mentioned that he had yet to find the tavern for accommodation for the night, she made him an offer he couldn't, or didn't refuse. But before they could discuss it further, she was distracted by more customers.

It was a busy morning, perhaps one of the most busy ones she'd known for some time. This rather frustrated her but she had to acknowledge it was good business wise at least. The sun kept playing hide and seek and she caught glimpses of Vonn who seemed to be always smiling. At least that cheered her up until she had to return to a customer.

By midday she had sold most of what she had to offer and he had sold two skins.

'Aye ye seem to be doing well.' he commented as he noticed the shadow of the church tower was encroaching the market area.

'Well it certainly be busier than usual perchance, so I canne be complaining.' In truth she did want to complain, because she wanted to get to know Vonn more but more customers arrived and she had to forget him for the time being at least. It was a long day for her.

By mid afternoon, Vonn had sold his last rug and Ceridwen had sold most of what she had to offer, so she packed up the last of it.

'Yer naught going to continue until ye hast sold the last of it?' he asked.

'Nay, tis more than enow what I hast sold, best if I show ye around the village and we drop our belongs at me place.' As they walked along the path, their hands brushed each other and he took a hold of hers' which is what she had been hoping. Although her heart raced somewhat, she knew exactly what she was doing.

She planned to be the perfect host, and after leaving their belongs at her place, she showed him around the village which contained little more than two dozen homes no bigger than her own. The thatched roofs were common as were the mud brick walls. She showed him the tavern where at his insistence they had a drink or two. But two was enough as far as she was concerned, for she didn't wish to embarrass herself, plus she needed to tend to the fire and prepare the evening meal.

As they walked back to her place she did wonder why he didn't have a woman in his life, but she didn't ask and nor did she really care. He was there and that was all that mattered as far as she was concerned. She wasn't getting any younger, and Gael who had arrived in the village only six years ago, already had two children running around and she wasn't even twenty years old.

Ceridwen got to work on the fire and was pleasantly surprised later to find, Vonn had gone out into the forest nearby and collected some limbs to be used for it. She thanked him with a kiss on the cheek but happily got more in return for he put his arm around her, and kissed her on the lips.

She looked into his eyes and saw the smile behind them as well as the grin on his face. But tea was some way off, and reluctantly she tended to the fire and the cooking. He gave her a light pat on her rear and then walked off towards the forest saying he would get some more wood. She offered him her axe, so he turned back to collect it.

'Ye are full of nice surprises.' he said and headed off again.

She watched him walk off until she realised she was getting too warm being unusually close to the fire, due to her distraction, and she took a quick step backwards. By the time she sorted herself out, she realised he had disappeared and she was disappointed she hadn't watched him all the way. She admired his physique and wished she could see more, but tea still waited for her efforts.

Later as she prepared the evening meal, they chatted about their lives, and she discovered he came from the very south of Wales, from Bridgend. He was something of a wanderer he admitted and he had no family that he knew of. Hunting and selling the results of his efforts was his entire life. He had seen much of southern Wales but was now heading north to see places he had never seen.

Somehow she felt that maybe he would continue as he planned, and just maybe he might return. Either way she wasn't too worried, for what would happen was pre-ordained and she was happy to let it unfold as it would. After all, she couldn't change the future any more than she could change the past, unless of course it was to correct a distorted truth, and that thought had her thinking of her own past. How complicated life can be, she thought.

But when it came to the stories of her life, she left out a lot of details, and anything pertaining to story telling. She wasn't about to take any unnecessary risks, she had been down that path far too often and she had no intentions of repeating it. She was happy to tell him just enough right up to the time she took him to her bed. It was a night she would never forget.

* * *

Vonn had left in the morning heading north as he planned, after stating he might return one day. Ceridwen felt a touch of sadness that he was leaving, but not to the extent she had expected. But she had to admit to herself that although he attracted her, it was not the same as what she had felt for Iwan all those years ago. The rest of the day she was busy with her herbs and the next day and the next. Time rolled on as usual and she lived in contentment, and as the seasons changed, she grew.

By late summer it was clear to all that she was a happy expectant woman, and still she walked to other villages to trade. A new story she also told, one she deemed 'safe' and one that she'd made out as if it was a children's story but as usual it had a hidden meaning and promised hope to those wise enough to understand. Her walking became slower and as autumn arrived, she only travelled when she could get a ride.

Before too long even that became uncomfortable, and she began to wonder how her mother had managed to keep going, carrying all the extra weight. Bending became awkward, and she was so thankful when her neighbours came in and helped with the things that she could no longer manage, or could only do with great difficulty.

By winter she was finding it extremely difficult to walk very far, just over to the market to trade was a journey and a half for her, and she was so grateful that there was always someone to carry her goods for her. At night she spent more time reading the great book that no one knew she had. She sometimes wondered what would happen to it when she reached the end of her life, but thankfully that was a long way off.

Although Vonn never returned, she wasn't heartbroken or even disappointed. Certainly it would have been nice she felt, but he wasn't essential to her. Although she liked him very much, she didn't feel that special love that would make a relationship perfect. She had no regrets but she did have what she wanted, a child.

On Xmas day she enjoyed a relaxing day with the village leader, family and neighbours. She was happy and content, if extremely uncomfortable. Late in the afternoon, the snows returned just as she was heading home accompanied by a woman who lived nearby.

That night in the early hours she went into labour and by early morning the midwife was with her. She was blessed with a moderate labour and right on sunrise she gave birth to a baby boy. She named him Sion.

It snowed all that day and she never ventured outside. Her baby was, she thought, unusually quiet for he hardly ever cried, and when he did it was a quiet soft cry. The mid wife came back to check her twice and assured her the baby was fine. She told her that she was gifted with a quiet child and she should be grateful for that, rather than worried. To her surprise Sion had blonde hair, although the brown eyes were not unexpected.

The following day she got up somewhat tired from feeding Sion during the night, something that she knew she would have to get used to, and went to start the fire. But as she stepped outside she found Gael had already done so and was there with her own daughter. Gael's straight red shoulder length hair made her stand out, despite her small size. Her small grey eyes reflected her usual quiet nature.

'Takes a bit of getting used to once ye hast a child of yer own, so I got it started for ye. May I hold him for awhile?' Gael asked.

Ceridwen passed her son over to her, and still he didn't cry. She was thankful for a contented child as she was well aware of what some babies were like. She had heard plenty which had lungs of incredible power.

'He is a quiet one, wish mine had been like that.' Gael commented.

'Seems I hast been blessed, one has to be thankful for that. Would ye like to stay for the morning meal?' Ceridwen offered.

'Thanks missus but I hast to get back and take care of me own. I'll return later today and see how yer going. Dosnae be trying to walk too far, yer body needs to heal.' She passed Sion back to Ceridwen and put a couple of small logs on the fire before she left.

Ceridwen was grateful for the help, for as soon as she tried to bend down to the fire she felt uncomfortable. She realised she still had a lot to learn about life. She put Sion down just inside the door where he was dry and out of the light snow, but still in her sight as she set about making herself a light meal.

Later, as she was eating from her bowl, Sion started to make what she thought where soft giggling sounds so she picked him up. His arms wriggled slightly as she smiled at him whilst trying to eat at the same time. He sound fell asleep in her arms and she spent more time watching him during the day, than doing anything else. She had a few visitors who admired him and told her how lucky she was. All she could do was agree.

When Gael returned, she brought her son this time who was two years old and took Sion in her own arms whilst Ceridwen tended to the things she needed to for herself.

Slowly Ceridwen's body returned to normal and she got back into her normal routine, except now she had to make allowances for looking after her baby son which required some alterations to her former 'normal' routine. But she soon settled into a new pattern and started catching up on the work which she had fallen behind in. Her only regret was that neither of her parents were alive to see Sion.

The herb garden was rather untidy, but with the cold weather, even the weeds were hardly growing. Drying leaves out in winter was always a slow process and it was now that she wished she had a man around, even if it was just to do some of the mundane work like collecting and chopping up firewood. The herbs were her main source of income and usually received her attention first. She realised that might now change somewhat.

The days turned into weeks as Sion grew, but before too long when she was ready, she took him into the forest for the first time. When she was in that place of the single rock that she visited from time to time, she lay Sion down on the ground and looked around carefully to make sure no one else was nearby. Here, sometimes she spoke to the old gods and sometimes, they not only spoke back, but on one occasion one of them had visited her.

I baptised me son,

in the name of Gwri of the golden hair,

in honour of all the gods

of the past and to the future.

So mote it be.

Then she poured a small amount of water on his head and again checked that no one was around. She picked him up and said to him, 'I hope they will be happy with ye little one.' Then she walked back to the village and found their local priest. She made arrangements for his christening by the church before she returned home. She hoped to keep both the old gods and the current one happy in her life which seemed centred around preserving the memory of the old ones. She lay down and fell asleep with Sion laying beside her.

Dreams... she tossed and turned and tried to shake free, for the dream tormented her as she saw the old gods arguing and she knew it was about her. She couldn't hear their words properly, but they kept looking towards her and she heard at least the phrase 'it was naught meant to be'. Just what that referred to, she had no idea but she couldn't get any closer to them, she couldn't move at all.

She tried to ask them what was going on but her voice had been silenced. How dare they ignore her she thought. She tossed some more until finally she woke up, with an unpleasant sense of the future.

On the pre-arranged day Sion was christened in the local church, before a happy crowd of people but Ceridwen wondered if she had done enough? She hoped she had satisfied God as well as the old gods for there wasn't much else she could do. Surely, she thought, they owed her this much, one child wasn't a lot to ask. But deep in the back of her mind there was a nagging memory of that dream and the question she kept asking herself, why were they angry?

She went home with her son and decided to focus on the future. Somewhere as she was walking home, it occurred to her that perhaps Cadair Idris, the mountains to the west, might be a special place to take him sometime in the near future. After all hadn't she honoured the Goddess Ishtar already? It was an idea she left in the back of her mind knowing it would resurface at the right moment.

As winter dragged on, Sion grew and gave his mother considerable joy, and she also appreciated his quietness and easy undemanding manner. She considered herself truly blessed knowing full well what other babies were like, waking their mothers every few hours during the night demanding attention. Sion would wake once or twice and was soon satisfied with a feed or a clean and soon went back to sleep.

By the second month he was down to only waking once per night, and Ceridwen thought that her life was about as good as it could get. Whether or not a man came into it didn't particularly worry her any more.

Meanwhile the dragon the goddess Rhiannon had given her two years ago, was virtually fully grown and could no longer come inside, for she stood taller than the dwelling. Although the grassed area outside was large enough to accommodate her, just, she preferred to stand in a nearby glen where she could usually see Ceridwen. Too rarely could Ceridwen get away to talk to her, but that as she knew was the way it would always be.

Sion grew and learnt to giggle but still a nagging thought lurked in the back of her mind. She eventually dug up the Book of Tara so carefully hidden under her bedding. She resumed her studies of the large and extremely old book that contained many myths.

Her supply of dried herbs were also low and so she spent the next month at the end of winter trying to stock up on her herb leaves and skins for trading but the weather wasn't ideal for either.

She at least now didn't have to worry about walking great distances, as her dragon was more than capable of taking her anywhere she wanted. All she had to do was avoid been seen climbing onto an invisible creature, which meant she usually left around sunset or late at night when there was enough moonlight for her to see.

She planned to take Sion to Cadair Idris in another month or so once he was stronger, and see what eventuated, for she hoped that Goddess Ishtar might approve at least, plus she had a desire to see the large flat mountain again anyway.

In a few days the third full month since Sion's birth, she thought about then would be a good time to take the trip she was planning. She had a particularly busy day, all morning spent at the market selling what little she had to sell, then tidying up her home, her son, then cutting up more wood to dry out in the lean-to for the fire.

After tea she was so tired, she lay down and just as quickly fell asleep. That night she dreamt about three fires, set neatly apart spaced in the form of a triangle. It was a good night for her in that Sion never woke up, letting her sleep right through.

She woke in the morning, rolled over as the light began to increase and reached out for him but her hands found nothing. Her scream woke anyone nearby who wasn't already awake.

Chapter Two


For the next month she searched every nearby village, but by that time everyone else had given up. Despite everything, and the relentless searching, no sign of her son was every found. Nor were there any tracks even to follow, as a fresh fall of snow on that fateful morning had made sure there were none to be seen. Every night she quietly cried herself to sleep, when she could sleep. Even her dragon had searched from on high, but there was simply nothing to see.

One night she went deep into the forest on a full moon, and as loudly as she could she cursed the gods for allowing this tragedy to happen and for not warning her of an impending danger to her own flesh and blood. Without any cause or evidence, she blamed them. In return, they favoured silence and said nothing.

The gods themselves were worried but they knew there was nothing they could do. Fate had engineered a plan and there was no turning back, but some of them thought that perhaps she should be told, but wiser council claimed that such a move would serve no purpose and so silence still reigned free.

Ceridwen lost considerable weight from failing to eat properly over the next couple of months, and one day Gael paid her a visit. She brought over a pot full of stew and shared a meal with her.

'Tis been two months now, ye cannae keep going like this. I know ye are older and wiser than meself, but seriously missus ye hast to snap out of this and start eating properly.' Gael said to her firmly.

Ceridwen looked up from the bowl she was staring at, surprised at Gael's tone.

'Dosnae look at me like that,' Gael said 'ye know I ne'r say anything. Well now tis different, ye are wasting away and that tis naught right. Ye hast done nothing wrong, so why are ye punishing yerself? Tis a right waste of a good life and ye hast time, lots of time yet for a family. I cannae say why someone took yer child, except mayhap it was someone who couldnae hast their own. The point is ye need to be getting on with life and open yerself to other possibilities.'

As Gael paused, Ceridwen decided to end the conversation, 'I'll nay be bothering with argument, I shall continue searching and naught ye say will change that.'

Gael looked at her before putting her bowl down. 'Aye will ye now? And meantime yer gardens are shabby, yer home is untidy and ye look a right mess! Hear me out, for I only want to say one other thing then I shall be done. Dost ye think yer Mam or Dad like what they see now of ye and yer life?'

Ceridwen's face started to go red and her anger started to fire up, until she saw her mothers smiling face in her mind. They both knew Gael was right. She sat down again having half risen and shut her mouth before she said anything.

'Aye, so ye know I am right for once. I wouldnae say nay more except to remind ye that ye are loved Ceridwen, ne'r forget that.' Gael looked at Ceridwen and was surprised to see tears running down her face. Even when she lost her parents she had hidden those tears from Gael, but not this time. She gave her a sisterly huge as best she could though she wasn't.

That night she went to sleep early and slept the sleep of one who had never slept before. She dreamed deep. There she was on Cadair Idris, a cloudy day with the clouds just above the top of the mountain, but there was an evil creature standing on its' top not far away from her. It was a man, yet not a man for it had a long thick tapering tail and two horns on its' head like those of a bull. The greyish brown skinned demon had two letter M carved on its' forehead. Somehow it meant something to her but that memory wasn't coming forth.

It stood there looking at her and smiling in a most unpleasant manner as if it knew something she didn't. Could it be, she wondered, but then it and the mountain vanished and were replaced by the scene of a beautiful lake surrounded by forest. She slept long and didn't wake until mid morning.

That morning she admitted to herself that perhaps Gael, the very quiet Gael, might have been slightly right. Damn it all she was thinking, she was completely right. What a surprise she thought, it was almost a reversal of roles and just maybe she should start getting her act together. She cleaned up her home, found she had no herbs prepared and attended to that until mid afternoon, then went out with her axe to collect some firewood. Life started to return to normal.

That night she dreamed deep again, and again it was the lake, but this time she was standing at it's edge with a young woman. She thought she should know the face, but it was a foggy dream, and who it was alluded her, but she could at least see the smile. She tried to speak but the finger went up to the mouth suggesting she shouldn't.

When she woke in the morning she felt the dawning of something new. Time had waited for her, but seemingly it would wait no more, she thought. Did she see a Lady in the lake in her dream?

She went out into the forest early that morning, set a few traps for rabbits and then collected more wood for her fire. As she was doing so, she looked up to the sky and said, 'Dosnae be thinking I hast forgiven ye I hast naught.'

She heard a cough, then, 'Aye is that so, and what is it that ye think I hast done?'

She was startled, and turned around to find a middle aged man walking along the vague path across the grass. 'Sorry, I was perchance talking to meself. Pray that ye dost naught think me foolish.' she replied.

He smiled before replying 'Tis naught for me to say. But if ye canst tell me I am on the right path to Guilsfield I would be most grateful.'

During a brief conversation she discovered he had travelled from Brecon in the south of Wales near the largest lake Wales had, called Llyn Syfaddon. As he walked off, the scene of a long lake came back to her mind from her dreams. But at the same time a certain amount of anger started to rise, she was damned if she was going to do something that might help the gods of old.

There was a glen not far away where Meaghan was standing and watching her and Ceridwen noticed how large she had become. Her colour had finally settled into a bizarre black and white scheme, her left half pure black and her right half a distinct white. She had often wondered why that was, but never pursued the thought very far, until now.

Was it not what she had once or twice, discussed with someone. The negative or dark was nothing without the positive and light? Did this not refer to balance in all things, and how many times had she told that to others? But when it came to herself..... She tried to stop her mind thinking, and turned the other way. Firewood was all she wanted.

After several trips taking wood home for her fire, she set about starting it and cooking a proper meal for once. She did what she had too, then cleaned up and sorted some herbs until well into the evening. The cold of winter was starting to fade, though the trees were not ready to start their new growth.

Then as soon as she was asleep the dream came back. There was that young female again and she knew she should know her, but the frustration was there of not knowing. Then she heard her words clearly.

The lake so quiet

nay a ripple to be seen

and breeze speaks naught

so it is on Llyn Syfaddon

But he who stands on the crannóg

if gifted as be a bard

may see that which is unseen

if patience is a virtue

And in such times as afore said,

the hands may rise from beneath its' surface

and a gift will be bestowed

on the one waiting on the crannóg

The gift may be a sign

or it may be real

for thy dosnae know.

In the lady's hands it shall be

and only she shall know.

She saw the lake and then the island within it, the crannóg perhaps. But then it drifted away taking the girl with it. She woke in the morning feeling frustrated.

As she was preparing herself a meal in the morning, and putting herbs out to dry in the new spring sun, the words told by the girl returned to her and then she recognised both the voice and the person. She cursed the gods yet again when she realised it was the young goddess Winifred, and never had she seen mention of her in any written work but then she hadn't bothered reading anything for some time.

She had met her once courtesy of the goddess Rhiannon on top of Cadair Idris, but it was a brief meeting where Winifred had recited a warning. She had forgotten it and yet she only now realised it referred to the events at the Battle of Hastings that had seen herself die and then come back to life in her own time. Presumably the spell had worked as time was as it should be, or at least she hoped it was. She had work to do and so she put those dreams out of her mind, for the time being at least.

She spent a good part of the day weeding her gardens and collecting more leaves for drying. But by midday the memory of that dream and Winifred's face came back to her and she let out her thoughts. 'Be damned with ye, leave me alone.'

But she didn't realise a woman was walking passed. 'Aye well if it's meself ye are talking to, that canst be arranged.' But the woman was clearly smiling and joking.

'Nay, I was talking to meself, sorry I had nay idea anyone was there.' Ceridwen said rather apologetically.

'Verily I am naught worried but I guess something troubles ye. I am Gweneth and I hast naught long since moved to yer fine village. Tis an extensive herb garden ye be having there.'

Ceridwen stopped working and spent some time getting to know this middle aged woman with light brown hair and green eyes. After an hour or so, she went on her way, but Ceridwen wondered why she was alone. But what had also got her attention was the fact that she had been born in Brecon, although she hadn't lived there for many years, in fact not since her childhood.

She wondered if she should curse the gods again, but clearly they were ignoring her curses or they wouldn't have sent her another sign. She thought that they were nothing if not pushy.

She worked until just after sunset, then lit the fire, cooked herself a modest meal, wrapped up more herbs and realised she had enough now to do some trading.

It was probably just as well for she was almost out of candles and there were several other items she needed. She fell asleep praying the dreams wouldn't return but they did. She saw the gently rippling water of the same lake, the island that being man made was called a crannóg and standing on the shores, was her dragon.

She felt the gentle breeze and listened but apart from the birds there was nothing else to be heard. No messages, no voices, no signs. Were the gods ignoring her, as she ignored them? She feared that they had more patience than she did, and she knew it for a fact. She was mortal and they were not and she could see them smiling, dare she scream at them again she asked herself, but she knew it would be in vain.

The dream drifted away as she vaguely saw a hand rise out of the water.

The next morning she organised herself and headed into the markets. Once there she expected a quiet day as very few people were trading and the morning was more than slow. By midday she had sold very little, when she saw Gweneth walking towards her.

She bought a few herbs, then whilst it was quiet Ceridwen asked her about Llyn Syfaddon.

'Aye well I cannae tell ye much, we left Brecon when I was about fifteen. Tis a long lake surrounded by low hills although ye canst see the mountains in the distance. There is an island they say was created by early settlers only some one hundred and twenty feet from shore, for the lake is naught very deep. There is a single dwelling on it which I think was once used by priests or bards or both perchance. They say there is a creature in it called afanc, but I hast ne'r heard of anyone seeing it, least naught in me lifetime. Naught sure what else I canst tell ye.'

So they spent time discussing herbs before Gweneth headed to her home, but not before inviting Ceridwen to an evening meal. Only once before this year had someone else cooked tea for her.

She had a pleasant evening and found in Gweneth a friend who was in some ways rather like her mother. When she went home that night she went into the forest a short distance, certain that no one was around.

'If I dost this will ye at least tell me why ye took me son?' She waited long minutes for an answer or a sign, but there was none. She turned around and headed home but at the same time an owl hooted twice and was silent. She stopped briefly and looked back up into the trees. She saw nothing, but she smiled anyway. She would get her answer eventually, she thought. After all she had the Book of Tara, and she held their hopes and memories more or less, in her hands.

* * *

The trip south was spectacular as far as she was concerned, all the mountains and larger hills were still covered in snow but finally by the end of the day they had reached Llandrindod Wells. She found accommodation but was surprised at just how tired she was. She managed to do some trading with the tavern keeper and enjoyed a decent meal before she went to sleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

She dreamed again that night, but by the morning she had forgotten it all, at least she thought she had. Llanerch Inn was the only establishment in the tiny village, but Ceridwen rather liked it. Their water came from natural springs and it seemed to her that it was the purist she had ever drunk. However she was soon on the next stage of her journey seated next to the driver of another wagon, a man in his advanced years with the longest grey beard she had ever seen. Whilst talking to him on the long trip, she discovered that the Romans had in fact become aware of the natural springs in that area. She wondered if the old Druids had known about them.

All during the journey, she could see her dragon flying overhead, often circling as she could fly faster than the horses could pull the cart.

It was another long day, and after passing the village of Llanelwedd there was virtually nothing, except the occasional farm until late in the day when they arrived finally at Brecon. Brecon included a modest chapel which had a tower that was clearly newly constructed, unlike the main building. The nearby castle seemed to have a good vantage point overlooking the village and the river. Her driver went directly to the tavern as night fell, for he was staying there himself before continuing his journey further south. The night was quiet and her dreams were absent.

Ceridwen woke early in the morning, and finding no one else awake went outside and found her dragon resting near the edge of the forest. The forests themselves were rather thick and the moon was about to set as she looked around and found no one in sight. She walked up to Meaghan and climbed on her neck, why walk, she thought when she could fly to the lake, and save her legs all that work.

She knew it was somewhere a modest distance to the east, towards the impending sunrise. As they rose into the air she noticed many small clouds which they passed through, but the silence reminded her that the future was always ahead of her, just like the lake was. As the light grew, the clouds seemed to thin out, and through them she shortly saw the lake itself. Before long they landed on its' shore and she saw the crannóg and further in the distance, the snow covered mountains. In fact the snow was almost down to the very shore of the lake as the sun finally tried to raise itself above the mountains. She stood next to her dragon with her hand on Meaghan's long neck as they both admired the view.

'Beautiful isn't it.' she said. Meaghan turned to look at her and their eyes meet. Ceridwen realised there was still more to this dragon than she realised.

'If only ye could talk.' she said.

Meaghan's mouth opened just slightly. 'If that is yer wish.' she replied!

Ceridwen turned quickly to face her and spoke without thinking. 'Ye canst talk and yet ye hasnae before? Wherefore hast ye naught spoken until now? Tis hard to understand ye, verily this is perplexing! Pray tell me why?' Ceridwen implored her.

Meaghan looked away to the other side of the lake and the mountains before replying. 'Perchance because ye hast naught asked. Tis naught for me to dost unless ye be asking.'

'I just had to ask?' Ceridwen asked rather dumbfounded.

'Aye me friend, simple as that.' Meaghan replied in an almost amused dragon tone. Ceridwen thought she was smiling, which is an odd sight on a dragon but she wasn't exactly impressed. 'I would hast thought I should hast been made aware of this, perchance ye didn't think of this?'

'Tis naught for me to tell ye what to think, this ye hast to work out for yerself. Now would ye be wanting to go over to that island ye call a crannóg?' Meaghan replied in a matter of fact tone.

After shaking her head a few times she climbed onto her neck again and they flew the short distance to the man made island with its deserted and old looking circular room. As she stood on the ground that wasn't far above the water her legs almost failed and she grabbed Meaghan for support. It took her a full minute to be able to stand on her own legs unaided.

'I feel something is here, dost ye?' she asked Meaghan.

'Aye this is one of those places like Tara.'

Ceridwen walked up to the old circular room or hut, but it was a shambles and she didn't risk walking inside. But she touched the wall of it and suddenly felt as if she couldn't let it go. Its' pull was strong yet she let it, for here she knew was a place she needed to be. To hell with the gods, she thought, she was doing it for herself for she knew the touch of her own destiny. If it benefited them as well, so be it, she thought. Then her mind took her across the water to the middle of the lake. The water bubbled, the water boiled. Steam rose.....

She took her hand off the wall, and turned slightly and saw a place where obviously small boats could land on the island. She walked down to the edge, removed her footwear, and walked into the water, but she didn't know why. Just that she had to do it, her destiny called. No more denying it, she decided to face it head on, and in she walked until the water was up to her hips. She looked back at the crannóg and saw Meaghan sitting there content. Ceridwen looked back out at the lake as she remember some words.... Winifred's.

But he who stands on the crannóg

if gifted as be a bard

may see that which is unseen

if patience is a virtue

She stood there and raised both her arms, with palms facing upwards. 'I hear ye me lady, I am yers.' She closed her eyes and waited. Patience she hoped, was one of her virtues, and waited she did. Minutes went by and she hoped her arms would last the distance.

The silent lake rippled, then rippled more, something was moving somewhere as she opened her eyes and lowered her arms. For before her she saw an arm risen out of the waters just ahead of her, and in the single female hand was what she had never dreamed of, yet had always hoped for. A shiver went rapidly up her spine.

It was her, now seven months old, son!

Chapter Three


Here he was back in her arms and now seven months old. He had put on weight and looked healthy, and his smile soothed her worries and concerns for him. At least he had been looked after, but by who exactly? She suspected the gods themselves had taken him and whilst before it was just a suspicion, and she had blamed them, it was simply because she didn't know who else to blame.

But now.... And if it indeed had been them, for clearly they were returning him, the great question she asked out loud was, why! She suspected she would get silence in return yet again, and perhaps her yelling at them had caused them to be silent? But then she realised her legs were cold, for she had given no consideration when walking into the water, that it was fed by a river from the snow covered mountains.

But she didn't care, she had her son back and that required joy, so she reached into her sack and brought out her flute. It was time to be thankful and thank the lake, it's lady.....

Then she remembered the stories about Merlin that she had researched last year, was this the lake or the same lady? It didn't seem likely, she thought. She played, and the tunes skipped across the water and echoed in the valley. Angels watched, faeries danced and the gods gave a sigh of relief. She played on. Her son lay there next to her and smiled, he giggled a couple of times and kicked his feet. She played on.

After a while, she picked him up and raised him above her with a view of the snow covered mountains behind. She gently rocked him and said 'Grammarcy.' ("thank you"). She lowered him on her lap and tickled his chin and he smiled again. She looked up at Meaghan, standing not far away and said, 'What dost ye think?'

'I think it is as it should be Ceridwen. I am glad he has been returned to ye, the world is in balance again.' Meaghan rested her head on her forelegs.

Ceridwen looked at her eyes then back at Sion. She thought of those kind words and wondered just where would the world turn to now. But then Meaghan turned her head skywards, and Ceridwen noticed. Soon she saw a distant shape flying towards them, a sight she was now used to. It was no bird, and she had no fear. Was this the answer to her burning question arriving, or would it be a denial?

The dragon landed a short distance away, and from its neck came none other than young Winifred. But even at her young age of.... Ceridwen wondered if age could actually be applied to goddesses, twenty years if it did, she thought.

She was now taller than Ceridwen and was wearing a red flowing dress.

'Aye and ye be wanting to ask me about yer son, pray dost naught for I hast nay answers for ye. Even if I did I suspect I would naught be allowed to utter them. But he is a bonny wee boy...' But she paused in thought, then walked up to Ceridwen who had stood up with Sion in her arms.

Winifred touched his forehead, then stood back with an expression of mystery.

'What pray tell is wrong?' Ceridwen asked.

But Winifred was still thinking, considering, 'I, I am sure naught is wrong, perchance the opposite!' For she was truly uncertain of what she had sensed and she had come with a purpose but had not expected to find this.

'Please explain, I know ye sensed something when ye touched him.' Ceridwen pleaded. But Ceridwen wondered if she really wanted to know, she had just been handed back her son when she had just accepted that she would never see him again. What more could happen, no she didn't want anything to happen at all, couldn't they just leave her son alone?

'Ceridwen, it is naught a bad thing although I am naught certain what it is. This much I dost know, one of the gods has given him certain powers but understand this. Even I am unable to ascertain exactly what that is, I simply sense it, dost ye naught?'

She looked at her son who was now dozing off to sleep. His smile earlier, his contentment she assumed was for being in her arms again. But was there more to it?

'I am naught sure, verily I hast been too happy to notice anything except his presence.' Yet her own last word triggered a deeper feeling, perhaps unconsciously she had sensed something. Winifred just smiled.

'Walk with me Ceridwen, yer dragon will watch him.' said Winifred.

She put him down on the grass next to Meaghan, now sound asleep, and followed Winifred to the end of the small man-made island. Even Winifred admired the view, 'Truly this country has more feeling, more potential than most mortals canst understand. Yet every now and then one of them does and thee call them Bards. Naught that long ago, yer country produced Lewys Glyn Cothi who wrote of this lake,

The afanc am I, who, sought for, bides

In hiding on the edge of the lake;

Out of the waters of Syfaddon Mere

Was be naught drawn, once he got there.

So with me: nor wain nor oxen wont to toil

Me to-day will draw from here forth.

'Well now ye know the truth of the afanc, but ye best keep that one to yerself. Now for what I hast come to present to ye, some information that ye canst use anyway ye like. One day it will make more sense than ye currently will understand.' Winifred said.

'Melchizedek, also known as First Priest Kohen, a title by receipt of his father Noah, is the first and original custodian of the Poets and Poetry, all others come after him. If ever ye need help with yer stories or poems, he is the one ye should consult if the others fail to help. There is one other piece of information I should give ye, once it is remembered by meself.' She turned away and looked at the far shore for long seconds, before facing Ceridwen.

Winifred looked into Ceridwen's eyes, and saw patience, endless patience and thought it was just as well. 'I am telling ye for many reasons, and some would doubt me reasons, but Rhiannon and meself are in agreement that ye need to know. Ye hast an older sister who lives somewhere in Scotland.' She waited for Ceridwen's questions, but her expression remained as it was, yet it seemed that her eyes didn't blink.

Several seconds passed and nothing. Even Winifred wondered if someone had paused time, before Ceridwen finally reacted.

'Sister? Tis impossible, verily me parents would hast mentioned this?' If it was a day of surprises Ceridwen thought, then it just did a double take and sent the world into a spin.

'I am naught aware of the details so I cannae be offering what I dost naught know. This may naught make sense but I dost naught think they were aware of her existence. Wherefore that is the case I am uncertain, it would seem they thought her lost or dead, and had nay idea of her continuance. These are details that are unimportant to us, but I cannae ignore that they are important to ye. Only ye canst probably find the answers.' Winifred turned and started to walk towards her dragon.

'But verily ye hast more than that for me?' Ceridwen implored.

Winifred turned back to face Ceridwen. 'Hast more I dost naught, but what I hast given is more than enow. This is naught in the lap of the gods, tis solely in yers Ceridwen. I wish thee good luck and fortuitous journeys always.' She mounted her dragon without looking back, but Ceridwen watched her until she was out of sight.

Ceridwen turned and went back to her son and dragon, and whilst he was still asleep, picked him up and once satisfied that there was no one to be seen, climbed onto Meaghan's neck and flew back to the shoreline to spend the rest of the day.

Just after sunset they flew north and finally landed south of Mochdre to sleep the rest of the night away. The following day she walked through Aberbechan then waited for nightfall again. Before midnight, they landed back at Guilsfield.

On her return home, she realised she'd have to come up with an explanation for her son's return and the truth couldn't be used. So she made up a story about an older couple having him and that they had been killed in an accident near Llanelwedd Wells only the week before, and how by a miracle she just happened to discuss his disappearance with a local when the two events suddenly fitted and he was returned to her.

Gael even called it a divine miracle, but Ceridwen played it down and said she was just grateful for his return, because she truly was. She set about considering what she was going to do and started to research what she could regarding Scotland. But where to look?

For days she took care of the usual matters, hunting rabbits, working in the herb and vegetable gardens, washing, looking after her son and on the odd occasion looking after other children plus her usual work in the markets.

Eventually she dug up the Book of Tara again from its hiding place in her home underneath her bedding, and started studying it again. It had been so many years since she had originally dug up the book on the Hill of Tara near Dublin but now she wondered if it could give her a hint as to where to look in Scotland for her sister.

In all this time she had still only worked out or decoded about half of the huge book, and that in itself was not only hard work, but had contained more surprises than she expected. But right now, there was only one thing she was looking, and hoping for.

But then she translated one fairly easy passage with no secret or encrypted words, and symbols, then suddenly she got the sense of herself behind the words. Was the timing right she asked herself, was it now a clue revealing itself?

In the seventh month

seven deer will drink of the lake

as nine geese fly overhead

and the snows begin to fall.

In northern reaches far away

from the land of yer home

such will be the scene

painted in the past in words of yer own.

For I Ceridwen hast written

in the hands of meself

so that sadness of the time

may be replaced with love.

Seek out the truth

dost naught be afraid

neither I nor ye

are separated but by time.

And though we are one

the future is still to unfold

The word will guide ye

If faith and ye be one

It implied to her that she should seek a sign in the seventh month towards the end of summer, certainly some time away yet. But it didn't give any indication as to what the sign referred to. But on the next page was something totally different, and in it she could see some clues.

I am the ocean whose depths ye dosnae know

I am a stag of seven tines

I am a river too wide to cross

I am a boar in the forest's heart

I am a faery that awaits discovery

I am a dove's flight listening for ye

I am a pine tree straight and tall

I am an arrow that travels true

I am the wind carried to yer face

I am a poet sitting on a hill

I am a salmon in the pool of knowledge.

Who canst see clearly the lakes water

Who canst hear me footsteps in the forest

Who canst see me flying overhead

Who canst feel me on their face as they sit on the hill

Who canst find the pool where I swim?

For whom does the dragon fly

Only she with the dragon of balance,

that which is black and white

Yet the style of writing was different, she was certain that the author of this part of the book was different to the previous entry. But there was no mistaking the dragon referred to was hers, for none other (that she knew of) had ever been black and white. The reference to it being the dragon of balance she understood, like day and night. One didn't exist without the other, rather like positive and negative, a thought she'd had before. All she had to do was wait for the right time to find all these signs in one place.

* * *

Spring came upon the land and the snows on the hills faded away although once in a while a fresh fall of snow would appear again. But these too became fewer and ceased before summer's arrival. She worked hard as usual and still spent some time on the Book of Tara. It slowly revealed more to her but at this stage it was myths and stories but nothing too secret or helpful.

Finally July arrived and she had forgotten what to expect as the days started to shorten again but her son grew. Dreams were few of late, until this night. For she saw snowfall in late summer, but it was a northern land where the sun was low on the horizon and she saw seven deer drinking from the lake, then nine geese flew overhear, the lead one turning its head to look at her. She woke from her dream and reached to find Sion still there beside her. She let go a sigh of relief, and then remembered. It was time, she knew.

That morning she told Gael she would be leaving the next day to do some trading in a number of villages and would probably be gone for a week or so. But she had no plans to do a lot of walking, nor pay for a lot of transport, she hoped to keep that to a minimum.

In the middle of the day however, Gweneth came over to see her and offered to cook them tea that night. This had happened several times in the last few months, and sometimes it was Ceridwen who cooked for Gweneth. But as she planned to leave that night she had to decline the offer which surprised Gweneth.

'Is everything alright Ceridwen?' she asked.

'Aye, tis just that I'm leaving tomorrow to dost a lot of trading in the north and I still hast herbs and such to pack.' She just didn't mention how far north she was going.

That night with the brightest of stars on a perfectly clear night they flew north to a location just north of Glyn Ceiriog. They slept peacefully in the forest, and in the morning she walked nearly two hours and reached Llangollen. She spent a few hours trading and buying food, and some clothes for Sion, before heading north and stopping in the forest until early evening.

Meaghan landed near them, and Ceridwen had a quick meal, then loaded her sacks and themselves onto Meaghan's neck, and they flew off into the night sky, this time sharing it with a few scattered clouds.

They finally saw the Irish sea as it nestled in the joint between Wales and England south of Liverpool. They set down on grassy pastures and scattered trees not far from Neston and the coast itself. They were now, once again on English soil.

She slept until the early hours and woke to find the new moon low on the western horizon an hour or more before sunrise. The air was still, and the only sound was a cock crowing in the distance.

She gathered up her sacks plus her son, and told Meaghan she thought it best to get far north of the city of Liverpool before looking to walk or obtain transport in the more conventional manner. They landed less than an hour later near a village called Much Hoole. She walked into the village to the sounds of English accents, and although she couldn't find any transport, she was told that the town of Preston just slightly further north might provide her with something, and so she kept walking.

The countryside was much flatter than what she was used to, and the farms probably somewhat larger. More noticeable however was that villages were more numerous and the general sound of daily life was louder. The autumn grass was starting to loose its' rich green colour. Even the elm tree leaves had started to change to their golden autumn colourings, whilst the oak leaves were turning a dull golden brown colour.

When she reached Preston she discovered a large town that was a main trade centre, and full of textiles, most of which she hadn't seen before. The knitted and woven garments made her smile, and after getting a meal to eat at a tavern, she set up to trade. She was rather thankful that hardly anyone else had herbs, but there were many selling skins.

Nevertheless she had a successful day's trading, during which she managed to enquire about transport, and found that there were regular services north to Lancaster as well as further north, even to Scotland. She bought some cloth and then found, and paid for her trip to Lancaster.

Three hours later, after a ride in a modest cart pulled by two bay coloured horses, she was dropped outside a tavern, and noted that Meaghan was flying in circles watching her and deciding where to land. After a simple meal she rested for the night.

But that night she had an odd, disturbing dream about a rather ornate knife and not one for eating with. There was an argument and faces floated around in the dream, none of them looking happy. She woke with an unpleasant feeling, but quickly focused on Sion who was already awake and looking at her hopefully. After feeding him and then having a meal herself, she packed up and headed outside.

She decided to do some more trading' realising she still had a considerable distance to go, and she would have to buy all her food.

Trading wasn't particularly good this time in the noisy market area, so she decided to start walking and see if she could get a free ride along the way. Otherwise she would resort to night flying she decided. Never was Meaghan out of her sight long which was reassuring.

It was early in the afternoon, when she packed up, and left the small town of Lancaster, and resumed her journey towards the colder north. After about an hour she came to the small village of Carnforth and followed the path that forded across the river there. She saw farmers working in some fields before it slowly changed back to scattered trees and small forests. It was then she noticed a man sitting partly behind a tree ahead on the side of the road. Clearly he wasn't working. She looked up in the sky and saw her dragon flying overhead slightly off to the east and waved to her. Meaghan flew closer.

As she walked along the track the man stood up and brushed himself off before turning to her as she got closer and asked her where was she going.

'Along this path.' she replied.

'Aye and yer naught exactly English are thee.' But he placed himself in the middle of the path so she stopped.

'And yer naught exactly being nice now are ye!' said said in a firm voice.

It was a statement and he knew it, but it didn't stop him pulling out a knife and demanding her two sacks.

'Ye might want to reconsider yer actions, robbing a defenceless woman is the actions of a coward and I nay be giving ye anything. Best ye run along before ye be the one to get hurt.' she stated very clearly.

But as he started to move towards her, she quickly moved back and yelled out just one word, 'Now.'

The hapless man had no chance and dropped the knife as he turned to face a sudden wall of flames. He only partly succeeded, his hair was burnt and his clothes smouldered as he ran off, and Ceridwen stopped Meaghan from finishing him off completely. It was only the second time she had seen her do that, but then she didn't remember the time Meaghan killed the archer who fired the arrow that went into Ceridwen's side on the eve of the Battle of Hastings.

She walked along the path again, but in a few paces she found the knife he had dropped, and decided it might be wise to carry it for her own protection. But in touching it, she sensed something. She saw the vision of a woman knelt on a low altar in front of a fire with arms outstretched and raised slightly above her, out to her sides, chanting something. The dark hair and eyes reminded her of someone, her mother. But it wasn't her mother, she was sure of that. It was someone in their late twenties, she thought, perhaps her sister?