The Tale of Lleu, Chapter X: Imbolc
“In the darkness, in the silence, is the seed
As it was, as it was, as it was in the beginning
Is the seed
In the darkness, in the silence, there is growth
It is now, it is now, it is now and ever shall be
In the night, in the tumult, there is growth
Without end, without end, whirl without end
Light carries on”
~Robin & Miriam, “Of the Milk and In the Belly”
*** *** ***
Upon his frozen throne in Ardudwy, Gronw sat, ruling a land locked in the darkness of Winter. The moon shone transfixed through the castle window, a sparkling panoply of stars bejeweling the night sky, cold and remote. The ground remained icy and hard, but something was changing, something stirring in the air, and in the Earth.
Blodeuwedd sat close by, and he could tell that she was growing restless. She came and went as she pleased; he afforded her that freedom, and she always returned, but of late her sojourns became longer and more frequent. They stared at each other in silence; the only sound between them the trickle of melting snow. He smiled. She preened her feathers indifferently. No, she would not stay for much longer. She could not, must not. He knew this to be true, and yet, it pained him, for he loved her as much as his Brother. The Winter must soon be leaving, and so must its King.
The owl looked back at her lover, and on ghostly wings she flew to his side, landing lightly upon his resting hand.
“The Lion comes,” she said. “His wounds have been healed by the fire, and by the fire of the forge comes Winter’s doom. Anon must we depart, and each go our ways into the Spring.”
“Aye,” said the Winter King. “Though you leave me with sorrow in your going. I must to my fastness at Penllyn, to await the dawning Sun.”
“We shall see each other again,” said Blodeuwedd. “Neither the Winter nor the Summer last for ever.”
He kissed the bird lightly upon her head, and as an eddying gust of snow, she was gone. A single white feather remained by Gronw’s hand.
*** *** ***
Lleu collapsed into bed after a long day in the forge. His wounds troubled him less now, but hard work was hard work, and the labour of remaking the spear that had slain him was taxing upon his body. No sooner had his head hit the pillow, but he fell fast asleep, and dreamed. He was yet in the very same bed, in the very same room, but something was different. Something in the air had changed.
An owl lands lightly at his window
silent as death
ghost-white wings fluttering at the glass
He stares into its dark eyes
orbs of reflected moonlight
deep as wells
from which he might ne’er escape
Fragmented and paralyzed
suspended on a thread between his world and hers
Talons click impatiently upon the stone
The frosted windows creak open
as if carried on an unseen Winter breeze
He listens as the silence between them
builds to a heart-pounding intensity
Fear and excitement grip him
He slides quietly to the window
the owl whispers to him only “Soon,”
and is gone …
What this portent foretold, Lleu could not know, and he spoke not a word of it to his father or the King. His vigor renewed by sleep and dreams of an owl at his window, the rest of the night until the dawn, he spent at the forge.
*** *** ***
Gronw and his warband soon departed Ardudwy, leaving Lleu’s realm unattended. The frost and ice that had gripped the land were melted ere long. They returned to Penllyn and remained there, but left only three messengers to greet the Summer King when he should arrive.
The Spring was coming, and Blodeuwedd the Owl was gone, to lands and places little known by either Gods or Bards.
It has been said of old, that once let in, if ever an owl should fly from you, it shall carry away with it the luck of your house. Such it was for Gronw the Winter King.
But that is another tale, for another time…