When Llyan was ready to travel, Taran put his arms about the cat's mighty shoulders and pressed his cheek into her deep fur as she mewed happily. Silently, he and Fflewddur clasped hands, and he watched while the bard, with many a backward glance, rode slowly from the valley . . .
Fflewddur sighed, grudgingly leading Llyan out of Craddoc's valley, going as slow as he reasonably could. Behind him stood Taran and Gurgi, their faces downcast, Taran's eyes painfully hopeless. The bard shook his spikey head slowly. He'd never imagined things would end this way. It hurt him to leave his friends in that desolate valley, yet he could think of nothing that he could do other than traveling to Caer Dallben as Taran had requested. Still, he wished things could have somehow turned out differently.
Turning, Fflewddur glanced backward. His eyes met Taran's and he tried to smile encouragingly. Taran's only response was a bitter and sorrowful half-smile. Gurgi whimpered slightly, raising a shaggy hand in farewell. Fflewddur turned and faced forward again, thinking back to when he had first met Taran. Despite his grief he almost laughed at the memory. The very young Assistant Pig-Keeper had no sooner laid eyes on him than pulled out his sword and begun to flail it around, violently hacking at the bushes and trees that the bard had desperately ducked behind. By mistake, it seemed, their paths were thrown together, along with those of their other companions, until their adventure became one and their hearts were bound together in friendship. But then, did anything truly happen by mistake?
Again Fflewddur turned to look back at his friends, remembering their next adventure together as they set out to destroy the black cauldron. Taran, wanting to find his place as a man, had sought for honor, and had gained wisdom even as he faced horrible loss. Fflewddur thought fondly of how all the hardships they faced together had simply brought them closer to each other.
As hard as he tried not to, the bard cast a quick backward glance over his shoulder once more. Taran and Gurgi were getting smaller and smaller as Llyan made her way out of the valley. Fflewddur paid little attention to guiding her, too wrapped up in his own thoughts. Memories of their journey on Mona flooded his mind. He thought of all the ways he'd seen Taran grow while struggling with his duties and his feelings.
Yet another time Fflewddur looked back, now barely able to make out the shapes of his companions. With a sigh he thought back over their journeying that had brought them to this point. Taran had shown wisdom in dealing with Goryon and Gast, and he had shown courage facing Morda. If not for him, Fflewddur himself might have remained – he shuddered, involuntarily rubbing one ear. Better not to think of that.
Yes, they had been through much together, their small group of companions. They had faced horrors, but had come through them, stronger for it. Fflewddur had watched Taran grow from an eager young boy to a strong-hearted young man, and had himself learned much from it. So was this, really, how it would all end?
"It just doesn't seem right, old girl," he muttered, absentmindedly stroking Llyan's thick fur. The huge cat purred forlornly, as if she, too, understood that this farewell was more than a simple parting until the next adventure. "At the very least we should all be together," he continued. "Good old Doli, and Eilonwy – Great Belin, how am I to break this to Eilonwy?"
Taran's words rang back through his mind, as clearly as if they were echoing coldly off the walls of the valley – To have Eilonwy know I am a herdsman's son . . . No! That would be more than I could bear. Bid her my farewell. She and I must never meet again. It were better the Princess forget the shepherd boy, better that all of you forget me.
Fflewddur shook his head. "Poor Taran," he said out loud, with the excuse that he was talking to Llyan. "He really doesn't have all that much to be ashamed of. Except with regards to Eilonwy, I suppose. I had always hoped to see them, well, ah, together. Somehow I don't think she would care if he were Assistant Pig-Keeper or shepherd's son. But he's stubborn and puts so much into his ideas of nobility and honor."
Llyan had reached the end of the valley and Fflewddur pulled her to a halt. "Well, what's a Fflam to do? I'll simply have to go to Dallben and learn the truth of the matter."
Slowly he turned and looked behind him once again. The cottage was out of sight, yet he could still see his friends, not with his eyes but with his heart, as Eilonwy might put it.
"Well, Taran," he murmured, "farewell. I go to Caer Dallben, as you asked. Yet there is one thing you asked that I will not do. I will not forget you. So farewell, my friend. Farewell," he added, "for now."
Facing forward again he rode out of the valley. He paused to rub furiously at his watering eyes.
"Great Belin, I've got some dust in my eyes now, I'm sure of it!"
Behind him a harp string snapped with a loud twang.