Last week Manawyddan agreed to visit Dyfed.
So they rode on their way, the seven comrades, fanning out over the silent land towards their homes. From time to time they would pass a deserted home, thatch breaking off the cold roof and drifting in the breeze. Sounds of distant weeping floated in and out of hearing.
Finally the blue haze of the Preseli mountains showed on their right hand side, and Pryderi’s eyes lightened as he entered his own kingdom. In spite of himself, some of Manawyddan’s emptiness dissipated under the young Prince’s optimism.
The South of Wales was not so decimated as the North, and snug little farmsteads were still frequently dotted amongst the heather. And one day, at the end of a ride that seemed endless, the palace of Arberth came in sight. Pryderi lashed his horse to a gallop, and they sped down the final road. People streamed out of cottages as they passed to see what was the matter, and as soon as they saw the streaking golden hair, they began to bustle and throng towards the palace.
In the yard, the men slid off their horses. Men ran out of the stables to attend them, and grinned broadly when they saw their lord returned, greeting him roughly. Pryderi was everywhere, laughing, calling everyone by name, and looking into all the familiar corners.
“Pryderi, Pryderi!” screamed a voice from the direction of the great hall.
Pryderi jerked round, “Cigfa!”
The short plump woman hurtled across the yard and into the arms of her lord.
Manawyddan watched, smiling gently. It warmed his heart to see joy again. But still, he could not take a part in it.
Absorbed in the scenes unfolding in front of him, Manawyddan started and turned. There she was. The woman who’s own son had given her in marriage. And the very woman who could deliver a lesson to the man who overstepped!
Manawyddan showed the respect he felt, bowing low. “My lady, it is good to see you.”
Rhiannon’s eyes twinkled, “My son should be exiled for this lack of courtesy.”
“I don’t mind being ignored for a while,” Manawyddan smiled back. “It does me good to see all this joy.”
“Well, despite my son, you are most welcome.” Rhiannon returned his courtesy with a stately bow. “Pryderi,” she called, “do you remember your mother?”
All of her dignity was suddenly swept aside as she whooped and hugged her son ruthlessly.
They all trooped inside for the welcome feasting to begin. Inside the door a group of grave men waited for Pryderi, dressed in rich clothes and jewels.
On seeing them Pryderi suddenly drew himself up, “My lords.”
Manawyddan stifled a chuckle as his voice came out at a lower pitch.
“We are glad to see you safe home, my prince,” one bowed.
Pryderi advanced to the throne. “And I am rejoiced to be here again.” One by one, they gave him their homage, and then everyone settled down to eat.
The feasting lasted several days, as Pryderi caught up with all the affairs of his kingdom. He asked Manawyddan’s advice on several points, which was flattering, but to his surprise, what was more rewarding was the time he spent with Rhiannon. With each passing day he noticed how their minds were alike in so many ways. Tears filled his eyes more than once. Was it possible he had found a second home at last?
On only the third day of the feast, he raised his voice across the room to Pryderi, “My lord, I would like it well if everything panned out like you said.”
“And what did you say, my son?” Rhiannon asked in pretend haughtiness.
Pryderi coughed a little, “Mother, I suggested you would be an excellent wife for Manawyddan.”
Rhiannon gasped, hands on hips, “Well, my son, have you forgotten how, of my own free will, I turned my back on one suitor to marry your father?”
“I’m sorry, mother,” he muttered, studying the table, “but I did think it would be a good thing for you.”
Suddenly Rhiannon wheeled on Manawyddan, breaking into laughter, “I’m teasing you, Pryderi – mostly. It would please me also, for it to be as you have said. Provided that the son of Llyr himself formally requests my hand.”