Read The Book Of Three Online

Authors: Lloyd Alexander

Tags: #Adventure, #Children, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Young Adult, #Classic, #Mythology

The Book Of Three (15 page)

BOOK: The Book Of Three
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"To Fflewddur Fflam shall be given one harp string. Though all his others break, this shall forever hold, regardless of how many gallant extravagances he may put on it. And its tone shall be the truest and most beautiful.

"To Doli of the Fair Folk shall be granted the power of invisibility, so long as he choose to retain it.

"To faithful and valiant Gurgi shall be given a wallet of food which shall be always full. Guard it well; it is one of the treasures of Prydain.

"To Eilonwy of the House of Llyr shall be given a ring of gold set with a gem carved by the ancient craftsmen of the Fair Folk. It is precious; but to me, her friendship is even more precious.

“And to Taran of Caer Dallben...” Here, Gwydion paused. “The choice of his reward has been the most difficult of all.”

“I ask no reward,” Taran said. “I want no friend to repay me for what I did willingly, out of friendship and for my own honor.”

Gwydion smiled. “Taran of Caer Dallben,” he said, “you are still as touchy and headstrong as ever. Believe that I know what you yearn for in your heart. The dreams of heroism, of worth, of achievement are noble ones; but you, not I, must make them come true. Ask me whatever else, and I shall grant it.”

Taran bowed his head. “In spite of all that has befallen me, I have come to love the valleys and mountains of your northern lands. But my thoughts have turned more and more to Caer Dallben. I long to be home.”

Gwydion nodded. “So it shall be.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter 20

 

Welcomes

 

THE JOURNEY TO CAER DALLBEN

was swift and unhindered, for the lords of the southern cantrevs, their power broken, had slunk back each to his own tribe throne. Taran and his companions, with Gwydion himself leading, rode south through the valley of Ystrad. Eilonwy, who had heard so much of Taran's talk of Coll and Dallben, would not be denied a visit, and she, too, rode with them. Gwydion had given each of the companions a handsome steed; to Taran he had given the finest: the gray, silver-maned stallion, Melynlas, of the lineage of Melyngar and as swift. Hen Wen rode triumphantly on a horse-litter, looking intensely pleased with herself. Caer Dallben had never seen so joyous a welcome--- though by this time Taran was not positive about what Dallben had or had not seen--- with such feasting that even Gurgi had his fill for once. Coll embraced Taran, who was amazed that such a hero would deign to remember an Assistant Pig-Keeper, as well as Eilonwy, Hen Wen, and anyone else he could get his hands on; his face beamed like a winter fire and his bald crown glowed with delight.

Dallben interrupted his meditations to be present at the feast; though soon after the festivities, he withdrew to his chamber and was not seen for some time. Later, he and Gwydion spent several hours alone, for there were important matters Gwydion would reveal only to the old enchanter.

Gurgi, making himself completely at home, snored under a pile of hay in the barn. While Fflewddur and Doli went off exploring, Taran showed Eilonwy Hen Wen's enclosure, where the pig chuckled and grunted as happily as before.

“So this is where it all began,” Eilonwy said. “I don't want to sound critical, but I don't think you should have had all that trouble keeping her in. Caer Dallben is as lovely as you said, and you should be glad to be home,” she went on. “It's like suddenly remembering where you put something you've been looking for.”

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Taran said, leaning on the railing and examining it closely.

“What will you do now?” asked Eilonwy. “I expect you'll go back to Assistant Pig-Keeping.”

Without looking up, Taran nodded. “Eilonwy,” he said, with hesitation, “I was hoping--- I mean, I was wondering...”

Before he could finish, Coll came hurrying up and whispered that Dallben would like to see him privately.

“Eilonwy---” Taran began again, then stopped abruptly and strode off to the cottage.

When he entered the chamber, Dallben was writing with a great quill in The Book of Three. As soon as he saw Taran, he shut the volume quickly and put it aside.

“Well, now,” Dallben said, “I should like the two of us to speak quietly to each other. First, I am interested to learn what you think of being a hero. I daresay you feel rather proud of yourself. Although,” he added, “I do not gain that impression from your face.”

“I have no just cause for pride,” Taran said, taking his usual place on the familiar bench. “It was Gwydion who destroyed the Horned King, and Hen Wen helped him do it. But Gurgi, not I, found her. Doli and Fflewddur fought gloriously while I was wounded by a sword I had no right to draw. And Eilonwy was the one who took the sword from the barrow in the first place. As for me, what I mostly did was make mistakes.”

“My, my,” said Dallben, "those are complaints enough to dampen the merriest feast. Though what you say may be true, you have cause for a certain pride nevertheless. It was you who held the companions together and led them. You did what you set out to do, and Hen Wen is safely back with us. If you made mistakes, you recognize them. As I told you, there are times when the seeking counts more than the finding.

“Does it truly matter,” Dallben went on, “which of you did what, since all shared the same goal and the same danger? Nothing we do is ever done entirely alone. There is a part of us in everyone else--- you, of all people, should know that. From what I hear, you have been as impetuous as your friend Fflewddur; I have been told, among other things, of a night when you dove head first into a thornbush. And you have certainly felt as sorry for yourself as Gurgi; and, like Doli, striven for the impossible.”

“Yes,” admitted Taran, “but that is not all that troubles me. I have dreamed often of Caer Dallben and I love it--- and you and Coll--- more than ever. I asked for nothing better than to be at home, and my heart rejoices. Yet it is a curious feeling. I have returned to the chamber I slept in and found it smaller than I remember. The fields are beautiful, yet not quite as I recalled them. And I am troubled, for I wonder now if I am to be a stranger in my own home.”

Dallben shook his head. “No, that you shall never be. But it is not Caer Dallben which has grown smaller. You have grown bigger. That is the way of it.”

“And there is Eilonwy,” Taran said. “What will become of her? Is it--- is it possible you would let her stay with us?”

Dallben pursed his lips and toyed with the pages of The Book of Three. “By all rights,” he said, “the Princess Eilonwy should be returned to her kinsmen--- yes, she is a princess. Did she not tell you? But there is no hurry about that. She might consent to stay. Perhaps if you spoke to her.”

Taran sprang to his feet. “I shall!”

He hurried from the chamber and ran to Hen Wen's enclosure. Eilonwy was still there, watching the oracular pig with interest.

“You're to stay!” Taran cried. “I've asked Dallben!”

Eilonwy tossed her head. “I suppose,” she said, “it never occurred to you to ask me.”

“Yes--- but I mean...” he stammered, “I didn't think...”

“You usually don't,” Eilonwy sighed. “No matter. Coll is straightening up a place for me.”

“Already?” cried Taran. “How did he know? How did you know?”

“Humph!” said Eilonwy.

“Hwoinch!” said Hen Wen.

 

 

The End

BOOK: The Book Of Three
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