The dream Rhiannon dreamt whilst under guard passed out of all her understanding. There was a cauldron, such as she had never seen before, deep in the bowels of a cave which, devoid of any light-source she knew, looked as if it was lit with a sort of preternatural phosphorescence. The cauldron was huge, and her dream suggested it had Majickal properties. A tattooed warrior, clad in nothing but a shining but care-worn helmet, approached it and fished out some succulent cooked meat to feast on; then came another man – young like the other, but scrawny and timid, afraid, it seemed, of his own shadow, and he looked with dismay as everything he fished out to eat was either raw or rotten. Then a woman – more a girl, as young as Rhiannon, it seemed, but evidently battle-worn yet proud of her victories and eager for more. She, too, had her fill from the cauldron. Beside this was a horn, again Majickal which, her dream suggested, overflowed with whatever drink the bearer desired at any moment. Then there was a sword, which she dreamt to have a blade of purest flame, and a marvellous golden chariot which promised to carry her hither and thither at the blink of an eye.
Rhiannon began to fear she might be ill – she had vaguely similar dreams whilst heavy with fever – but then again, this was no ordinary fever if fever it was. For although she didn’t understand, at the same time there was a kind of understanding – a light of certainty, a rock in the turbulent waters of strangeness. She didn’t know, for example, what these items meant, but she knew they were of profound significance. She knew, too, that she would soon know, even though that particular bubble of thought was unconnected with the circumstances as she saw them or the rest of what she took to be her crazy dream.
The reverie of her dream was shattered, though, when two men and a woman came for her. She had been asleep for twenty hours. Again, not a word was spoken that she could understand, and their strange attire further told her they were not of any world of which she was consciously familiar yet, at a certain level, she found them strangely comforting. When she was bidden, then, Rhiannon was biddable in her progress to the large dwelling.
She entered, and was seated on a rug of soft fur before a group of serious looking men, some clearly old with grey beards yet remarkably clear, even effervescent, eyes, and some younger, their beards shorter and more colourful – and as many if not slightly more women of various ages but all with the severe but rain-purified look that comes with years of hard mental application in the face of the inexplicable. She recognised one – the middle-aged woman from the day before, this time clad like the others, in simple, translucent white robes not too dis-similar to – although far longer than – the night-shirt in which she was still attired, which might have been fashioned with the loom she espied against the wall.
One of the older men was the first to speak. “What is your name, child?”
Rhiannon remained silent, not understanding the question.
“What is your name?” The man’s voice signalled the beginnings of exasperation, and the middle-aged woman placed her hand on his, beseechingly.
She said to Rhiannon: “child, my name is Rhiannon...”, and broke off in her flow when she saw the girl react with a smile at the sound of her name. Finally, after a long, mutual, expectant gaze, the girl said “Rhiannon... is my name”, and gestured to herself. The elder Rhiannon smiled, trying to hide her puzzlement at the tongue even the more learned Druids had not heard, and then went into a huddle with her colleagues.
Eventually, the woman turned back to the girl and, her features softening, took Rhiannon’s heart-shaped face in one of her hands, as kindly as she could. “Rhiannon, where do you come from? Who are you?”
Now it was the girl’s turn to look puzzled. “Do you not speak English here? What is this place?”
One of the grey-beards whispered in the woman’s ear. She thought for a moment, and then nodded. She got up, followed by the man, and beckoned the girl to another area of the house, where she was sat on a red rug, which seemed to be made of fox hide. The woman held her by the hand and stroked her arm. Docility itself; strangely as, 'though the strangest things were happening to her, the girl saw nothing to alarm her. Not even the man reaching into his leather pouch and taking a handful of coarse, peculiarly smelling grains which, muttering incantations whose sound she could not even begin to grasp, he cast into her face; this fazed her, momentarily; she was momentarily stunned, floating on a sea of wonder. But then the woman let go her hand and said: “Rhiannon, can you understand me now?”
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