Aerydd had heard rumours of that house. “The home of some eccentric Acchian noble”, people said. He had never seen said noble though, and neither had anyone else as far as he knew. Therefore some people claimed that the house was haunted, inhabited by the restless souls of previous owners. And it did look quite unsettling with those dark foreboding walls adorned by the ever-vigilant gargoyles. He fingered once again on the note in his pocket before he raised his hand to knock on the door.

   Dear brother, I´d be delighted to spend the New Year’s Eve in your company. Come to the Latriella Manor at eight o´clock in the evening.

   There had been no signature but a tiny red dragon. Aerydd knew that sign. It meant friend, or in unfortunate cases, trap; and after 32 years of hiding he had learnt to be careful. He knocked seven times and then he made sure that the two pistols that were hidden under his cloak were ready to fire.

   A minute passed. Two minutes. Aerydd started to fidget nervously. The surroundings were quite eerie actually. He surveyed the murky garden several times, and every time he thought he spotted some faint shape in the corner of his eye. Just shadows in the twilight, he told himself sternly. But for every passing moment the sense of unease grew. He heard faint echoes of laughter, and felt shadows of fingers that caressed his neck. And that mist should definitely not behave in such a way, should it? When a few minutes more had passed he finally decided to give it up. Just some silly prank, he told himself, even though he knew it couldn´t be true. In fact it was the unsettling atmosphere of the place that urged him away, but a brave warrior like Aerydd would never admit that.

   Just as he had taken three steps a loud creak echoed behind him and he span around with his hand on the hilt of his sabre.

   “Ah, welcome, my friend”, a smooth and gentle voice said. It belonged to a man of average height dressed up in clothes to fit even the most foppish of Acchian nobles. Judging from his facial features he couldn´t be older than twenty though and his hair had an outlandish dark red shade that Aerydd had never seen before.

   “Uh, thanks”, Aerydd replied quite taken aback. He didn´t let go of the sabre though and eyed the stranger closely with a dark gaze. The eyes of the stranger were grey and suspiciously calm.

   “Well, let´s go in”, he said heartily as he opened the door further. Aerydd didn´t move an inch.

   “Aerydd, ny Darwna fyd”, he said in a hard voice.

   “Ah, the mandatory test, yes”, the stranger laughed. “I had almost forgotten. Vengeance, son of the Oxen.”

   “And you?” Aerydd snarled. He couldn´t even explain this sudden fierceness to himself, but something in the demeanour of that man made him uneasy. And the way he laughed at the old traditions and language made him even more upset.

   “Gwyddaen, na Amryna wd Ceredra fyd.”

   Aerydd was totally taken aback. Amryna wd Ceredra, that would be Darkness and Light, he had never even heard of that clan, but it was genuine Cyreyna, he was sure of that. And he didn´t even know what Gwyddaen meant. He cursed under his breath and met the gaze of the stranger who called himself Gwydaen.

   “You don´t actually know Cyreyna, do you?” Gwyddaen asked in a voice that sounded pitiful in some strange way.

   “Just the usual words and phrases… no one knows it anymore”, he muttered under his breath, keeping his eyes down.

   “Yes indeed, brother, some do remember. Come in.”


The house was as eerie on the inside as on the outside and the queer feeling didn´t stop, quite the opposite actually. Aerydd fingered on his neck every other moment, trying in vain to catch the invisible fingers. Gwyddaen was silent as the grave as he led Aerydd through a maze of dimly lit corridors and Aerydd didn´t say a word either, afraid to break the heavy silence. After what seemed like an eternity (The manor can´t be this big, Aerydd told himself over and over again) they finally arrived in a large hall with high stonewalls. A blazing fire illuminated the room and right in front of the fireplace there was a low table flanked by two black statues wearing ancient suits of armour, standing on two large pedestals.

   “What…” Aerydd started to ask but Gwyddaen shrugged and interrupted him.

   “Later. Sit down, I will get some food for you.”

   And with those words the enigmatic man turned on his heels and disappeared into the corridor again. Aerydd just stood there dumbfounded for a few moments and stared at the door from whence they had come. He was both scared and fascinated, but before all upset. Who is that man to order me around and make a fool out of me anyway? Regaining some of his resolve he walked up to one of the statues. It wore a mail armour covered by red and black robes and the black helmet had a crest shaped like a rampant dragon. Could that be an ancient Cyrian armour? Had it belonged to one of the great heroes of old? His heart started to beat faster as he slowly approached it. Raised his hand to touch the black cloak. Yes, it was ancient, he could feel that. If he would pull it would be torn asunder. Had it belonged to the last High King Oreddyc? King Llwrlws, the last one to fall? Dadweyr Anchrist-bane? Improbable… but he could at least imagine. His hands continued upwards. He touched the mail, a faint ringing echoed through the hall. But at that very moment an ear-piercing hiss split the air and Aerydd leaped backwards as if he had peered into a hole in the ground only to find a hungry lion. He staggered and nearly fell, and then he turned around slowly. In the doorway he saw Gwyddaen with a bowl and plate in hand, smiling serenely.

   “Oh, come on now, sit down. I´ll get your food in a moment, what do you want to drink?”

   Aerydd, who had half expected to get kissed by the blade of a sabre stood there immovable for a moment but then he quickly did as told and sat down. There was a hole in the floor below the table and after a quick glance at Gwyddaen he put his feet there. It was warm and comforting.

   “´Always keep your feet warm`, my foster-father Gwalwaed used to tell me”, Gwyddaen said with a wink as he put down the plate and bowl before Aerydd. “Drink?”

   “Oh, yes… do you have some rum?”

   “In the name of Mwrycca”, he sighed, “where are the manners nowadays? I do have some really nice red wine on the other hand…”

   “Oh… thanks then.”

   And Gwyddaen was gone again. Aerydd shrugged slowly to himself. He felt a bit calmer now, but more confused than ever. The queer fingers on his neck and the fey laughter was gone but this room, and before all his host was no less strange. He didn´t have time to reflect longer on that though for in that moment Gwyddaen returned again with a glass of wine and a pot of rice. He handed the glass to Aerydd and started to give him some rice when Aerydd suddenly interrupted him:

   “Aren´t you going to eat anything?”

   “Oh, I…” a shadow passed over his fair features, “will explain later.”

   Aerydd gave him a suspicious glance but then he shrugged his shoulders.

   “And now the main course”, Gwyddaen said as he walked away once again. And this time Aerydd barely had time to draw a breath before he was back again with a frying pan smelling of exotic spices. When he had given Aerydd some fish (it appeared to be salmon by the colour of it) he finally sat down at the other end of the table.

   “Thanks”, Aerydd murmured as he smelled the spicy scent of the fish. He was just about to tuck in when his suspiciousness got the upper hand of him again. He pushed away the plate.

   “Why aren´t you going to eat?” he asked again, in a more demanding voice this time. Gwyddaen sighed deeply and caught his gaze.

   “Would you believe me if I told you that I can´t? That I don´t need it?”


   “If you are afraid that I´ll poison you there are numerous easier ways for me to kill you, I hope you realize that.”

   “Like what?” Aerydd raised an eyebrow and smirked. Below the table he pulled out one of his pistols though. This man seems to be insane…

   “You don´t actually want me to show you, do you?”

   Aerydd shrugged slowly and took a sip of the wine. “Get on with it instead. Why did you invite me? Who are you?”

   Gwyddaen smiled slightly and looked at one of the statues with a dreamy look on his face.

“I am Gwyddaen, na Amryna wd Ceredra fyd, just as I told you. The Storyteller, son of Darkness and Light.”

   “That´s not one of the four clans.”

   “Right you are. My mother was brought up by the Lions, and my father by the Wolves. But they weren´t Lions nor Wolves, nor Bats nor Oxen. They were Dragons.”

   Aerydd chuckled dryly. “The Dragons huh? They died out with Amryw”, he paused for a moment when the name past his lips. Amryw…Amryna? “and his accursed son Maedryn during the Fall.”

   “Ah, good, you do know some history at least. But did you know that Maedryn had a sister?”

   “A sister?”

   “Yes, indeed, a twin even. What do the lore masters of today tell about the Fall?”

   “That would be quite a long story. I thought you were the Storyteller.”

   “Be brief then. Vengeance is swift.”

   A smile passed over Aerydd´s weather-beaten features. “Well, we have the three Lays; the High King, the Lion of Brestey and the Death of Llwrlws.”

   “There should be a fourth.”

   “Of what?”

   “Of the Anguish of Dyryaen.”

   “Who was she?” Aerydd asked with a raised eyebrow. Meanwhile he went through each and every name that he remembered in his head. He had never heard of that name before.

   “She was the twin-sister of Maedryn the Betrayer. And she was… my mother.”

   Normally Aerydd would laugh at such a statement but something in Gwyddaen´s voice made him swallow the bitter laughter. “That would make you a thousand years old…?”


   “You…” Aerydd shrugged and sighed deeply. “Damnation… It can´t be true. But yet, it would explain it all.”


   “Your knowledge of the dead tongue, your possession of these ancient relics, why you don´t need to eat… your damn eeriness!” Aerydd retorted more violently than he had intended.

   “Right you are of course, though I beg to differ about your last remark.” He winked and smiled reassuringly. “I was cursed with immortality, like my parents.”


   “Yes, cursed by the Fair Folk. Me and my mother as well, all because of my weak father.”

   “Who was he?”

   “You haven´t guessed that already?”

   “You only said that he was a Dragon”, Aerydd whispered dreamily to himself, then a shadow came over his face. “No, it can´t be…”

   “Yes, it can. My father was Maedryn the Betrayer. I am the incestuous child of the heirs of the Dragon Throne. That is what drove him mad. He wasn´t vile or greedy. The realization that he had been tricked to love his sister by the lore masters of old was what destroyed him. It twisted his hope to hatred. Turned his compassion to anger. Made him betray the realm of Daencyr to Breastal the Thrice-damned.”

   “But what happened to your parents? If they were immortal as well…”

   “Maedryn perished in the flames of the Sundering, just as your Lays tell. And my mother… killed herself after she had given birth to me. She had then fulfilled her duties, and wanted to escape her suffering.”

   “I´m sorry.”

   ”So am I. But no one can change history. And you can´t really miss anything that you have never had. I got the best upbringing that I could have hoped for by the old mentor of my father, and love and protector of my mother, Gwalwaed. It was his ancient clothing that you nearly tore asunder when I was away”, he added with a sad smile.

   Aerydd blushed slightly and cleared his throat. “And whose is the other?”

   “It belonged to my grandfather Amryw. But enough of the past, let us now turn to the future.”