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
“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
“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.”
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
“What…” Aerydd started to ask but Gwyddaen shrugged and interrupted
“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,
“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.
“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
“Aren´t you going to eat anything?”
“Oh, I…” a shadow passed over his fair features, “will explain
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
“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
“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.
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
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?”
“Yes, indeed, a twin even. What do the lore masters of today tell about
“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 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
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
“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
“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
“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.”
”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.”