The Chronicles of Prydain, and all characters therein, belong to the wonderful Lloyd Alexander, to whom I owe many hours of joy and inspiration.
Be warned at the outset: this fic has no plot. We know from Eilonwy's own testimony that nothing exciting happens on Mona. This is mainly a creative exercise for me, as I thought it would be amusing to explore her personality through her own thoughts as she blows off steam, and also to flesh out some details of the world of Prydain that we aren't given in the books. I have tried to stay within canon, only adding characters and events that could have happened, even if we weren't told about them.
Readers need not point out that my writing is nothing like Mr. Alexander's. He writes with an elegance and simplicity I could not hope to emulate. But I do hope that in my own fashion I do justice to his wonderful characters. Enjoy!
I've never done this before.
Write for myself, I mean. It always seemed like a silly idea; writing something I didn't intend anyone to ever read. But I find myself picking up a quill in desperation.
It was Dallben's idea, of course – it was he who gave me this book before I left, saying that I might find it useful, for if I could get as many words as possible onto the paper, there'd be fewer left to come spilling out of my mouth at inopportune moments. I ought to have been vexed by such a remark, but you can't be vexed with Dallben; his eyes dance at you so. It's odd to see such young eyes in such an old face. But we shall see if he was right.
Goodness knows I need something to spill words upon, for there's no one here to talk to intelligently and such a dreadful lot to talk about. Sometimes I think if Queen Teleria tells me once more to hold my tongue and attend to my work, I shall burst like a ruptured seawall and roar gloriously. She has a look she gives me – her eyebrows cocked and her mouth pursed like a tightened drawstring – and every time I see it I have the perverse inclination to jump onto the nearest table and screech out bawdy drinking songs at the top of my lungs. What a pity I don't actually know any.
There, that was something I needed to say and couldn't. Perhaps Dallben was right after all. I do feel better; it's one thought out, one thought less to go bouncing and crowding about in my head until I'm sure it must be swelling like an overripe pumpkin.
I should never have the time for this were it not for the interminable two hours a day when all the ladies must retire to their chambers for "rest" – as if we'd been doing anything that could possibly require it! Although I admit that sitting over needlework for hours at a time is exhausting, in a mind-numbing, neck-kinking sort of way; it has nothing of the satisfying weariness you feel after a day of farm work. Of course I never looked breathlessly forward to a day of hard labor at Caer Dallben, and certainly there was nothing glamorous about it, but at least it had a real purpose that made you feel like you'd done something worthwhile with your day.
But, oh yes, the "rest" period. (I actually heard Aeronwen refer to it as her "beauty sleep" yesterday –ugh.) It has been an ugly fortnight, trying to find something to occupy myself during this wretched two hours – the first day I just came up and screamed into pillows until I was hoarse – but today I remembered this book. At least it will be a way to pass the time more satisfactorily than pacing the floor like a mad thing, or staring out the window and wondering what Taran and Coll and Gurgi were doing at this moment, which only makes me so miserably lonely that I have difficulty holding back tears. Indeed I have indulged in them a time or two, and then had to feign illness to keep from going down to supper, for I will not appear with red blotchy eyes for all the women to gossip over and the queen to "tsk" at me about.
I suppose I should begin with a bit of explanation over why I am here, and where "here" is, on the unlikely chance that anyone else should ever read this, or in case I grow too old to remember such details. (Strange thought!) Very well. I am staying – I can't call it living – at Dinas Rhydnant, the castle of King Rhuddlum and Queen Teleria, rulers of the Isle of Mona, which is the closest land to my own ancestral castle, Caer Colur – but more on that later. I suppose they are distant relations in some way, and that is why I was sent to them, unless it was simply that they were the only ones who would take me, since it seems they have their own purposes for me in mind – but more on that later, as well.
This isn't my preference. I was sent here from Caer Dallben, a small farm in the countryside in the mainland, where I'd been living quite happily for the past four years. I supposed I would continue on there permanently with no obstacles, but last spring Dallben seemed to decide out of nowhere that I wasn't being brought up properly. He decreed I should be sent away to someone who would train me as a young lady, and as what Dallben decrees always happens, one way or another, here I am.
I am still a bit put out about his reasons. Although my new associations with nobility have made it very clear what he meant – the criticisms of my atrocious manners, unrefined tastes, and general un-ladylikeness always being uttered distinctly within my earshot – I fail to see why I need such things changed. I have every intention of returning to Caer Dallben and living out my days there, as long as certain inhabitants are agreeable – and they are, or else I am much mistaken – and I don't see what good my current training is going to do me. Lessons in fancy embroidery are wasted when the sewing consists of making jackets and patching leggings – which Coll has already taught me to do. I don't think I need to know the fine arts of conversation or the subtle sciences of governance in order to feed pigs and pull weeds. And all this prancing about, learning to curtsy and hold one's head just so and walk "as though your feet never touched the earth", as the queen puts it, will come in so handy in the scullery!
How shocked all the women would be if I admitted I wanted to go back to all these things. None of them have ever done a day of real work in their lives. Fancy Aeronwen feeding a pig!
Of course the real reason I'm being trained, from their point of view, is quite clear. I've never told anyone here my intention to return to Caer Dallben, and the king and queen are quite content in the destiny they've laid out for me. They think I don't know about it, but I'm well aware they intend me for their son.
I should be honored, I suppose. Obviously they consider me worthy to reign, though no doubt they base that opinion only some vague notion of royal blood and not my actual qualities, or else they'd have tossed me out within a few days. I'm sure the queen expects my natural inborn good breeding to surface any day now, like buried treasure, to justify all their hope and efforts. I feel a little guilty when I think of how they'll be disappointed, which is irksome. After all, no one asked me first – if they had, I could have told them, and they wouldn't be wasting their time. The only reason I don't 'fess up now is that I promised I'd stay here and learn all that was required, and I don't want to ruin it and likely get sent somewhere else to start over.
It's not that Rhun is so very bad. On the contrary, he's quite good – one of the only truly good souls I've ever met. There's no guile in him at all. He's got an appalling lack of common sense, but does seem to be improving, and he's so well-intentioned that somehow you don't mind his mistakes. He'll be a good king if he has the right sort of advisors. And the right sort of queen, who is definitely not me. Not I, I should say. I can just hear Queen Teleria correcting my grammar. But in any case, I could never marry Rhun. It's a curse of royalty that they are so often obliged to marry for politics rather than love, and it's one I don't intend to let fall on me. My realm is on the bottom of the sea – I have no obligations to it, and expecting me to behave as if I do is like chaining me to drown alongside it.
I do not look forward to the day I dash their expectations. After all, from their point of view, it was generous of them to take me, and they are kind to me, beyond the irritation of all these pointless lessons, though even that is all "for my own good", I know. But it does annoy me the way the queen constantly praises Rhun in my presence, though less annoying than it would be if her praise was all true. As it is, she's so far off the mark, I can laugh to myself about it.
Rhun himself is sweet and friendly to me, and I prefer his company to anyone else's here, because he is so unpretentious and…and real. I feel the sort of familial affection for him one might feel for a rather simple younger brother. He knows of his parents' plans, I think – it's impossible for him to hide anything – but we haven't discussed it yet. I hate the thought of hurting his feelings even more than offending the king and queen by refusing him. But it can't be helped. Imagining myself as Rhun's wife makes me snort amusedly and squirm at the same time. I just know all his children would have that round, pink moon face of his.
Anyhow…I've been here a fortnight now; it seems an eternity, and no end in sight. I promised Taran I would learn everything as fast as I could, but I appear to be utterly backward at the sort of things I'm being taught. The queen says it's because I don't really want to learn and that I'd make excellent progress if I weren't so recalcitrant. How does one make oneself want to learn such things? I fear I am starting far too late in the process.
The rest hours are almost up – I know because the shadow of my window casing has moved to the very edge of the carpet. The days I've spent watching that wretched shadow! But the time has flown by today, while I've been writing. I should have trusted that Dallben would know. After all, he's always writing in that everlasting Book of Three.
Perhaps when I next see Flewddur I can persuade him to teach me some bawdy drinking songs.