THE LEGEND OF THE LADY
The Druids of Avalon | Beyond the Books Short Stories
THE ARRIVAL | THE DAUGHTERS | EXILE
Note: The Legend is a blend of historical fact, historical legend, and the author's imagination. It's offered as entertainment only and is not intended as a representation of actual historical events.
On a storm-swept night, in the year counted later as AD 33, a tiny boat navigates the treacherous coast of southwestern Britain. The craft is owned by Joseph, a merchant from the town of Arimathea in Judea, who has extensive trading contacts in the tin-rich British countryside. But the boat is not journeying for trade; its cargo is something much more precious. The lone passenger, a young woman, is fleeing the turmoil in Judea following reports that a great prophet, a man who had once been a simple carpenter, had risen from the dead after his execution.
As the boat rounds the southwestern tip of Britain, the storm intensifies. The captain orders his crew to sail up the Sabrina Channel, hoping to find a safe haven in which to put ashore. As the channel narrows, the craft navigates the edge of the Mendip Hills. The woman aboard rests her hand on her belly and prays the vessel will reach safety.
It was not to be. Winds drive the boat onto the rocks; the craft splits apart. As the water rises to take the woman, she grasps a wooden plank. She's swept past the rocks lining the coast and into the tidal swamps.
The next morning, as the winds calm, a Celtic holy man, troubled by his visions of the night before, poles his raft along the edges of the swamp. He discovers the young woman, lying cold and all but dead. Gathering her onto his raft, he brings her to his village on the Druid isle of Avalon.
The woman survives. She did not offer her name, saying only that she's traveled from Judea, carrying the message of the Carpenter Prophet: Walk in the Light. She carries a token from the prophet, tied in a sack about her neck: a simple wooden cup he used during his last meal.
It is clear to the Druids that the woman is touched by magic; it's equally clear that she's heavy with child. Calling her simply "The Lady," they care for her. Her cup - the cup of the Carpenter Prophet - is a powerful relic. The vessel is imbued not only with the magic of the Light, as The Lady professes, but also more dangerous magic. The Druids call this power Deep Magic: the dangerous and unpredictable power of the gods.
The Lady's time soon comes, and she is delivered of twin daughters. The next day, she disappears, leaving the infants behind. One Druid initiate says she saw The Lady walking upon the swamp. But thought the Druids searched and searched, no body is ever found.
The Daughters of the Lady are named Eluned (white) and Eirian (silver), for the Light magic it is apparent they possess. The Druids of Avalon raise the twins as their own, teaching them herbcraft and enchantments, and the sacred Words of the Old Ones who erected the ancient circles of stone. The Daughters are also trained in the Druid craft of silversmithing, learning to work the precious metal mined from the nearby mountains.
When Eluned and Eirian come of age, they take The Lady's magical cup and work through the night. Laboring with silver, gems, and magic, they create a new casing for the simple wooden vessel. Into its surface they set the mark of the Druids of Avalon: A Celtic triple spiral, signifying the three faces of the Great Mother, surrounded by a four-quartered circle entwined with vines. The magic of the Old Ones, merged with the power of the Carpenter Prophet. And so the cup of the prophet is transformed into the Grail of Avalon, and the Druids live in peace and magic on their scared isle.
Then war comes, and changes everything.
The Roman army has maintained a presence in Britain for almost a century, but in the year later called AD 43, the Romans launch a full-scale invasion under the command of Aulus Plautius. The Celtic people of Southern Britain, a loose collection of tribes, are not well organized to mount a united resistance. Some tribes prefer to cooperate with the invaders. Others resists, and their priests and priestesses, the Druids, provide inspiration for the rebellion. But for all the holy men and women's prayers and magic, the Celtic resistance fails.
In the year later known as AD 51, Caractacus, king of the Catuvellauni tribe, is captured and transported to Rome. A decade later, Boudicca, queen of the Iceni tribe, leads an uprising against the Roman army, and succeeds in driving the army out of the town of Londinium. The Celtic army slaughters hundreds of Roman civilians. Suetonius Paulinus, the Roman governor of Britain is outraged.
After the Roman army regains the upper hand, Boudicca commits suicide rather than be transported to Rome. Paulinus issues an edict against the Celtic Druids. Druidry is declared illegal, and anyone caught practicing Druid magic is put to the sword. The famous Druid college on the isle of Mona, on the northern coast of Cambria (now the island of Anglesey in Wales), is brutally destroyed.
The Druids of Avalon endure a fate similar to their northern cousins. The Romans begin a purge of the West Country, arresting and killing Druids, and demanding the Celtic tribespeople move from their wilderness homes to the Roman cities. As the army marches on Avalon, the Druids flee. The Daughters are separated. Eirian disappears with the Grail of Avalon; Eluned escapes with a handful of Druid kin.
The settlement on Avalon is destroyed.
Eluned escapes the Roman advance with her Druid husband, Dyfan, along with their daughter, Wynne. A handful of Druid fugitives escape with them. Wynne has inherited the magic of her mother and grandmother--it seems the Lady's magic descends through the female line. The small band of Celts, detained by Roman soldiers, hides their Druid identity. The army herds them to the Roman city of Isca Silurum, a town two days distant from Avalon, on the northern cost of the Sabrina channel in what is now modern-day Wales.
The Druids make a life in the Roman city. It's a place where Celt and Roman culture both clashes and blends. A fortress town, it is the home to many soldiers. The army brings prosperity - an abundance of food and goods the likes of which the Celts have never seen. Many of the richest merchants are their own countrymen, who trade goods to the Roman army at a healthy profit. The Druids are fortunate in that they have been able to keep their identity a secret, and thus have not been pressed into slavery. As free Celts, Eluned and her kin make their living as weavers. Her Daughter, Wynne, marries Cyric, the son of a Druid of Avalon. Wynne has her own Daughter, Tamar, and a son, Uwain.
Several years later, Cyric's wife and son die of fever, leaving him grieving. Tamar, his daughter, is all he has left. She's a young woman, old enough to take a husband. He knows the Lady's magic must be passed to a Daughter of a new generation.
Cyric arranges a marriage between Tamar and Morvyn, the son of a friend. The marriage is not a happy one, but produces blessings in the form of a son and a daughter, conceived together, and born on the same day. Tamar names her first-born Rhys. Rhys's twin sister is Gwendolyn.
Seven years later, death strikes again. This time it is Tamar who is taken. Cyric, grief-stricken once again, makes a bold decision. He cannot allow Gwendolyn and Rhys, heirs to Avalon and to The Lady, to be raised in a Roman town. They must learn the Druid magic of their ancestors. Though Druidry is still illegal, and any Druids discovered congregating in the wilderness would be arrested and summarily executed, Cyric can no longer live a Roman life. He cannot allow the path of magic, the Words of the Old Ones, and the lessons of The Lady to be forgotten.
It is time, Cyric declares, for the Druids to return to Avalon.
© Copyright 2017 by Joy Nash. All Rights Reserved.