Last week, Rhiannon triumphantly gave birth to a boy. Women were brought to watch over the health of mother and baby, but they all fell asleep…
As one, the women’s eyes flew open. They stared at each other, rubbing their eyes. What had happened?
The first woman gasped, her breath guttering in her throat. “Where is the boy?!”
All they could see was an empty nest of bedclothes beside the sleeping Rhiannon. But the shutters were wide open, the curtain torn.
“The – boy – is – gone!” another one breathed.
“Yes,” said a third, a thin, older woman with a sharp nose, “And if we are killed for this neglect, the vengeance will be small!”
They all let out cries of fear and turned frightened faces towards her, “What are we to do?”
“Well.” The woman smiled, glad to be the one to solve the problem, “The Lady Rhiannon is from the Otherworld. Everyone knows this. And tonight is May-eve, a night when magic is particularly strong. Let us say that Rhiannon killed her own child, in a fit of madness. And that we burned the body so as to not distress Pwyll any further.”
The other women all nodded.
As the sun crept above the horizon Rhiannon woke up, feeling love burst in her heart for the tiny body she had held in her arms the previous night. Her son! She reached for him – but found only cold bedclothes.
A sliver of fear needled its way into her mind. She sat up to meet the gazes of the six women, wide awake and watching her.
“Women, where is my child?”
They all looked at each other, confused. The eldest one finally spoke. “Lady, do not ask us about the child. Did you not kill him yourself? We could not stop you, for we have never seen anyone as violent as you!” They all nodded emphatically.
Rhiannon frowned as she looked at the women. What were they saying? What had happened? Panic began to set in, but she controlled her voice.
“The gods know all things. Don’t slander me. If you tell me this from fear, I swear I will protect you.”
“Truly,” another woman said, “We would not bring punishment on ourselves for anything in the world.”
Rhiannon looked from one to the other, bewildered. The woman was right. They would have been very careful, because the law stated they could be killed for any neglect. But she had not gone mad! She was asleep the whole time! Where was her son!?
“For pity’s sake,” she cried, “You will not be punished for telling the truth!”
“We are telling the truth, lady,” a third chimed in, “And we will keep on saying it until we are believed.”
Rhiannon sat stunned.