‘I know what to do with you, Cyledr’ Gwyn hissed. ‘But first, tell me why you followed my bride last night ‘
‘I wanted to take her back, that’s all. He told me to, Gwythyr. I’m one of his’.
‘Don’t you lie to me, son of Nwython’ Gwyn’s voice became steely, dangerous. ‘Don’t you dare lie’.
‘I’m not lying’.
‘You are. You’d have taken her for yourself ‘
Cyledr felt the dagger’s tip pierce his neck.
‘Let him go!’
Creiddylad ran out of the tent, worried, pleading.
‘Please, that is enough, let him go!’
‘He’d have raped you, if not for my men, how do you not see it? He’d have raped you and left you for dead. That’s what you do to fair young maids, Cyledr- don’t you? How many have you killed? Twenty? Thirty?’
Creiddylad looked repulsed, disgusted. She clearly didn’t know – but he was right.
‘Should I dispatch him for you, my lord?’ Taron suggested, stepping closer, but Gwyn waved him off.
‘Should he, now?’
Cyledr felt his legs tremble and give in. Fear filled his every pore, panic seized his mind.
‘Have pity, lord ‘ he croaked ‘Have pity’
‘Please, I will do whatever you want! Let me go, and you’ll never hear a thing about me. I know I’ve done many a bad thing, but please…I swear by my father’s life, I’ll do whatever you want ‘
Gwyn looked pensive. He frowned, biting his lip. Misjudging that, Cyledr almost thought he had a chance. But Gwyn wasn’t that simple.
‘Bring in the prisoner’ he finally said. Panic rose in Cyledr’s mind again. Were they going to torture someone in front of him to get him do what they wanted?
The prisoner had his face covered, but his voice seemed familiar, although it was muffled and tense.
‘Whatever you do to me, I forgive you’ he said ‘ I know you can be ruthless, son of Nudd, but I never wronged you, nor your kin. If you kill me, well, I’m an old man, I’ve had my time. But please, I beg you- if you have my son somewhere here, Don’t harm him. He is a good boy,my lad, no matter what you heard…’
‘You can’t do that’ he said, his voice barely audible.
Gwyn turned to him, his eyes flashing.
‘What was that?’
‘You can’t do that. Not my father ‘
The prisoner gasped.
‘My boy….my son…is that you?’
Cyledr tried to sound reassuring, kind – but he never was that, to begin with. He was never a good son, although he wasn’t a bad one either. But something just didn’t work. Sometimes it just doesn’t.
‘I am here, father. I came to get you back home’
Gwyn’s eyes darkened.
With one swift move he took the hood off the prisoner’s head. Nwython blinked and looked around, visibly frightened.
‘Your son is here, Nwython. He has just forfeited your life.’
Nwython’s eyes widened. Whatever they said of Cyledr, this was too much.
‘You must be wrong, lord ‘he said ‘My boy would never…’
‘Would never do that? He did. He swore by your life he’d do anything I asked of him’.
Now Cyledr saw the whole thing as it was. It was a trap, clearly. They had his father to make him do anything.
‘Bow to me’
Cyledr obeyed. He sank to the ground, kneeling.
‘My lord ‘
Gwyn looked amused.
‘I’ll do anything just let my father go’
Gwyn moved closer, swift as a snake.
‘I’ll make you die for me ‘ he whispered, ‘ And you will die – a thousand times, before you plead again ‘
Nwython seemed to have heard that. Everyone did.
‘Not my son, lord! Please! Take me instead ‘
‘You did nothing wrong, Nwython. It’s not your fault you son is a drunk and a murderer. It’s not your fault’
‘I’ve had my time. Let him live’
‘Are you bargaining with me, Nwython?’
‘I’m asking as a father. No parent has to witness his child’s death ‘
‘True. I am not entirely heartless. Your son swore to me’
‘I did. Will you let him go?’
Tension was palpable.
‘I am sorry, Nwython’ his voice was soft when he spoke. ‘I am sorry. But there is no other way. No pain, I promise ‘
The old man smiled.
‘I am ready. You will let him go?’
‘Then I can die in peace’ Nwython said ‘And I forgive you ‘
Nwython fell to the ground. Cyledr roared and darted forward.
‘We made a deal, Cyledr ‘ Gwyn turned to him. ‘He was a man of his word. As I am. I promised I’d let you go. ‘
Cyledr stood rooted to the spot. He could not make it out.
‘Be my guest, son of Nwython. Have something before you go. You can’t refuse me. You promised ‘
He held something in his hands, something that glistened wetly and bled. Cyledr’s heart sank.
‘Be my guest ‘
‘What do you want of me ?’
Gwyn’s face was stern.
‘Your father’s heart. You destroyed him – and you shall pay. I’ll make you die for me. Many a time. ‘
Blood dripped from his hands.
‘Go on ‘
Trembling, he took the still warm heart in his hands. He swore, alright. But this…
‘And if I refuse?’
‘No matter. I’ll make you ‘
Blood felt like steel on his lips. Blood stang as steel. Blood was everywhere. Blood was all he saw – and he could feel panic rising, he could feel his mind giving in.
‘Let him go’
He ran. Forest seemed alive, menacing, unwelcoming. In hours – or days- he collapsed under an oak tree still clutching his father’s heart. The half of it.
No one saw him again- but some shepherds claimed a strange man in tattered clothes, covered in blood roamed the forest. They called him Y Wyllt – the madman….