At once there came a flash of light and a tall woman, the most beautiful woman Arthur had ever seen, stepped up beside him and waved her arm once. The fog cleared off in an instant, like waving her arm created a great wind, though Arthur felt no wind. The clearing revealed six blue painted Picts, crouched like hunters, but utterly unmoving.
Meryddin got revealed, standing still as a statue on the edge of the forest. The woman stepped up for a closer look. She saw the grandfather, a djin, a lesser spirit of evil that terrorized people to the point where they died of fright and then it sucked out their souls. He had gone over to the other side, but before he went, he allowed a young woman to live. She had a son who soon enough ate his mother. His reign of terror came to the end at the hands of the people, a Frankenstein-type mob, but not before he impregnated a fifteen-year-old girl. She had a son, Meryddin, one quarter djin.
Suddenly it made sense. By the time Meryddin turned ten, his mother, then twenty-five, looked more like fifty. She had no life left to tend the boy. He went into the hands of the druids who worked their mightiest spells to bind the thing inside the boy. They were partially successful, and Meryddin seemed normal after that. But he never lost the ability to see and hear at great distances, though he could not exactly control it, and his power of illusion stayed great.
“Go home, trollop,” the woman said, and Gwenhwyfach disappeared from that place. Arthur stared at the woman until she gave her name. “Danna.”
“Goddess,” he responded.
“No, Gerraint,” she smiled for him. “And it would seem strange to be my own goddess, but he is a Christian now.”
“Yes.” Arthur came more to himself and nodded. “As am I, but…” He quickly looked around. He felt mortified by what he did and it showed on his face.
“No one saw,” Danna said. She waved her hand again and Arthur became clothed. “For you it will be like an unpleasant dream, but you must remember it because there will be consequences.” Another wave and Arthur appeared back in his tent, on his bed, asleep. Then the goddess turned to the others. She started with Meryddin, and when she opened his eyes they almost popped from his head on sight of her.
“I see you,” she said. “I see what is inside of you, driving you. Will you see it?”
“I will show you,” Danna said. “This is in your heart.”
Meryddin got set free even as the vision formed. He saw himself as a child slowly draining the life of his own mother. He saw his father eating his own mother and he screamed. He saw his grandfather and ran, wild abandon in the dark, with no thought for his life, and indeed, no thought at all beyond his fear. How far he would run and whether or not his mind would ever be whole again, even Danna could not say. His influence over Arthur ended, but his wickedness continued and she did not have the right to intervene. There would be consequences, but in the meanwhile, she could do something about the six Pictish statues
Danna looked at the men and thought the compulsion should pass in a week. One madman per night should be enough. She waved her hand once more and all six men appeared, five in villages along the coast and the sixth in the city that would one day be called Aberdeen. They attracted an immediate crowd, night or not. Danna made sure of that. Then the men spoke, but the only thing they could say was, “We should not have gone beyond the wall. Now we are all dead.” And they said it whenever they opened their mouths.
Danna turned to the forest and said, “Hear me.” That voice echoed through the Highlands, rippled across the lakes and blew like the cold wind in the remotest islands of the north. “The time has come. The iniquity is complete. The Picts will be no more. Do not hinder the men from the south. Arthur must have his way.” Then Danna vanished instantly and Gerraint returned, Salvation in his hand as it had been when Danna filled his shoes.
Gerraint looked up at the stars and moon, now clearly visible since the fog pushed off. He returned his sword to its place and climbed off wall. Uwaine stood there, but the boy did not see. Just as well, Gerraint thought, and he thought of those men saying the same thing over and over for seven days, if they should live. He spoke out loud.
“My name is Inigo Montoya. You keelled my Father. Prepare to die.”
Uwaine nodded. “Weird,” he said.
Arthur found Gerraint at dawn, said he had the weirdest dream and since he could not find Meryddin and since Gerraint was king of weird he wanted to share it.
Gerraint interrupted. “I did not see anything through that fog, and there is no power on earth that can make her tell anyone.” He paused when he saw a tear come up into Arthurs eyes. “Meryddin ran away,” he added.
Arthur grasped at that change of subject. “What do you mean ran away?”
“He got scared. He ran, off into the forest, into the wilds of the Celidon. I don’t know if we will see him again.”
Arthur sniffed, dried his eyes and stepped to the tent door. “We have a job to do.” He stiffened, and Gerraint could not even guess what might be running through Arthur’s mind. “We can’t run away,” Arthur said, and he lead twelve hundred men into the wilderness of Caledonia.
TOMORROW: Cat Coit Celidon. Don’t miss it.