Math and Gilfaethwy
In all of Wales there was no greater warrior than Gilfaethwy, son of Don. His noble spirit and mighty swordgrip had led him through a hundred battles unscathed, and had brought him much fame and honor. And so, it was hard for any in his retinue to fathom what could have brought his spirit into such a deep melancholy.
Gilfaethwy sat each day on his high seat, lord of the southern realms of Dyfed and Ystrad Twi and leader of the armies under King Math, son of Mathonwy. The warrior’s wooden hall at Arberth held a hundred fighting men for meals and sleep, but during the days men from hamlets all over the countryside would come to seek audience with their lord. His word was law, and he was both feared and respected for his unswerving demands for order and justice.
Gilfaethwy and his advisor Gwydion, son of Pebin, had returned a week earlier from a visit to bring tribute to King Math in Gwynedd and it was for that length of time that his vigor had been gone from his flesh. Now, each day as the chieftains who served under him had come into his hall to beseech and complain, he would sit with his arms draped listlessly over the sides of his dark, oaken throne. In one hand he held with his fingers the rim of a jeweled goblet from which he never drank but would often look upon.
Of all the people who had grown concerned for his humour, none was more worried than his loyal advisor Gwydion. In the bright and clear morning light, as a chieftain from Gwales spoke of a drought that would delay his cantref's payment of herring and wool, Gwydion watched his lord with concern. He stood next to the throne dressed in his drab brown robes, and when he looked down at Gilfaethwy’s face he saw that the furrows in his brow had deepened even more and his sagging eyes were nearly closed. He knew that he must discover the cause for his lord’s distress and find a way to end it.
That day he said nothing, deciding to watch first and consider his lord's actions. On the following day he nearly spoke openly to Gilfaethwy at the evening's feast, but the somber lord left the table early and would take no visitors in his chamber. It was not until the third day, when the sun was dipping behind the western horizon, that Gwydion finally asked his lord the cause of his depression. Gilfaethwy sat blank faced on his high seat, twirling the goblet in his grasp. Since entering his current state his black beard had become tangled and unclean.
“What do you mean, Gwydion?”
“I mean that your strength and color seem to have left your body as if you were close to death. I fear that you are ill.”
“It would do me no good to speak of what has happened to me.”
“Might I ask why, my Lord?”
After a long pause, Gilfaethwy spoke slowly and delierately. "I cannot speak of what is wrong,” He looked at Gwydion with half shut eyes. “The wind owes allegiance to the spouse of my troubles."
Gwydion paused in thought then let out a slow breath. He nodded to himself in understanding. "Say no more. I will arrange for the fulfillment of your wishes, and with that your sickness shall pass."
"Nay, Gwydion, though you are wise and resourceful, this matter, I fear is beyond mortal powers to solve."
"Just so, my Lord, just so. And thus grant me this favor: give me nine of your swiftest hawks, nine of your noblest steeds, and nine of your strongest hounds to pay homage to Myrddin at his cave to see what good this will do for your troubles."
Gilfaethwy breathed deeply as he looked through a window towards the tall wooden walls that encircled his hall. "As you will, Gwydion. Though I have vowed never to take up his Sword again, at least the old man may still grant me comforting wisdom to help me to my grave."
Gwydion bowed and left the hall, eager to put an end to his lord’s suffering.