Last week we left Pwyll bravely stepping into the Otherworld for the second time. Unlike him, we failed to find an entrance to the Otherworld, so this story is illustrated by general photos of Wales.
The birds led them to a palace as the sun began to set. And there, by the door, was a white figure waiting for them. The birds swooped away to alight on her head and shoulders as she ran forward into the welcoming light that streamed from the entrance.
“Rhiannon!” Pwyll gave a glad cry.
She ran into his arms, smiling thankfully, “I sent my birds to meet you, lord, but I still wasn’t completely sure if you would come.”
“I would come to you anywhere, Rhiannon,” Pwyll comforted her, “But tell me – the birds are yours?”
She smirked at him, “Yes, lord.”
“But then – what are you, Rhiannon?!!!”
She laughed at his shock, “A person, like yourself. I may have a slightly longer lifespan and a few powers, but that’s because I’m a faery. We cannot help how much or how little the people of your world respect us. Anyway, come inside and meet my father.”
The couple joined hands and stepped inside. It was much like any other feasting hall. Except in the high seat sat a man who looked older than time. His white beard flowed down his chest and his eyes watched Pwyll coming towards him. Pwyll bowed at the foot of the throne.
“So you are the man my daughter has chosen,” Hefeydd said, in a neutral voice, “Well, it is right that the bridegroom should have the chief seat.”
He got up and offered his chair to Pwyll, bowing stiffly. Pwyll bowed low back and took it. Rhiannon took the chair on his right and the feasting began.
During the meal Pwyll could hardly drag his attention away from Rhiannon long enough to concentrate on the official toasts. But all the rest of the time they talked and talked, making up for the year they had spent apart.
Finally the official business was over and the tables were cleared. Everyone’s wine cups were filled to the brim and the formal atmosphere relaxed.
Just as Pwyll knew he could talk to Rhiannon uninterrupted, there was a disturbance at the door. As he was the ruler of the feast, Pwyll dragged his eyes away from the vision at his side, “Now what,” he wailed to no-one in particular.
By the door stood a youth, tall and with auburn hair. He came up to the table and bent his knee respectfully, but not for long, as the gold band round his neck and his proud carriage proclaimed him a nobleman. If Pwyll had been looking at Rhiannon, he would have seen her furious expression.
Pwyll followed the formula, “Greetings, stranger. Come and sit down.”
“No, I thank you,” the young man replied, “I have come to ask a favour from you.”
Pwyll nodded. He was expecting that. It was the custom at feasts for lords to be generous.
“Whatever it is that you want, if I am able to give it to you, you shall have it.”
“Why did you say that?” Rhiannon whispered at his side. Pwyll glanced at her and to his shock, her face was ashy pale.
“My lady,” the stranger’s voice cut in triumphantly, “He has given his answer, and in the presence of nobles, so he cannot go back on it.”
As quickly as she had turned white before, Rhiannon flushed deep red and her chest heaved. But she said nothing and bowed her head, sinking into deep thought.
This was very confusing. Pwyll turned back to the man. “Friend, what is your request?”
“The lady who I love is to be your bride tonight. She is my request, along with the feast that is here.”