I originally wanted to write a first person story from Eilonwy's point of view, but that has already been done so beautifully in this section. So I thought I'd attempt first person with another female character in the series who has always intrigued me.
Summary: Achren regrets the promises she has broken, and makes new ones. Set near the beginning of The High King.
Of Bitterness and Promises
When I heard the commotion I rose to listen as has become my habit. No one noticed me as I entered the common room and stood silently in the corner. I could feel my lips curling with the irony… I, who used to command attention and fear whenever I entered a room, am now invisible. It brings me back so… to the days I had almost forgotten, when I used to be invisible, unimportant, insignificant. Somehow it seems fitting, at the end of the arc of my long life, that I have returned to the status I had in the beginning, before I discovered my power and everything changed.
I spend much time pondering irony, these days.
And at the sight of the burden the harper was carrying limp across his back, a man whose drawn face and matted gray hair were stained with blood, I felt something clench within my heart. I do not know why that man stirred the heart I thought long ago dead, but he did and still does.
In any event, it is of no matter now.
I watched as they carried him in and laid him down with infinite gentleness on a pallet. I could see even from my corner that his spirit was at an extremely low ebb; that fantastic vitality and energy that one could see from a mile away in the spirit dimension was a pale shadow of its former self. It was indeed fortunate for him, I thought, that he had come to Caer Dallben, one of the few places in Prydain where he might find the healing he needed. Then I reconsidered, as I sensed the void beside him, and noted the dark, familiar power swirling in his wounds, and understood what must have happened.
Perhaps he would find it a fate crueler than death, to live, knowing that he had lost a weapon of such might, and that he had allowed it to fall into the hands of the Lord of Death.
There is a certain satisfaction in performing menial tasks such as cooking and cleaning. It had been so long since I had done anything like that that I had forgotten those simpler pleasures of blending delicate herbs to produce the flavor one has imagined, or sweeping up a room and arranging its contents so that it is pleasing to the eye.
What a relief it is, not to be constantly striving to control others, to fight for my status each day. Here my status cannot sink any lower. It is quite a strange thing, after so many years of caring for nothing but power and position.
The folk here are like clear water, with none of the tangled skeins of motivations and agendas that I had become so adept at threading. Dallben seeks knowledge and peace. He speaks truth almost without concern for its effects on others. Coll is a kind man. They both know my history, but neither mentions it. They approach me as an equal, devoid of hatred or desire. For so long I have only invoked strong emotions in everyone I encountered; it feels oddly freeing.
If it were not for the one task left to me in this life, I could find peace here.
With the arrival of Rhun, Eilonwy, and Glew, that peace was disturbed. Their youthful energy swirled around the more sedate and elderly inhabitants of Caer Dallben, of which I now count myself one. But still, I was largely ignored; a fact for which I was grateful. I no longer seek attention; it is a tawdry affair with far more sting than reward.
No, the center of the household, even more than Dallben himself, is the boy, Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper. There is a flame in him now; he has grown wiser though somehow more sorrowful. I once thought him of no consequence; I can see clearly now that I was wrong. Gwydion saw potential in him even when I saw only a foolish boy. I have made many errors in my judgment of character; more of late than I did in my youth, when I had clearer vision and could pierce souls to the heart, could sort through them like precious stones, selecting the finest to hone for my use. In my later years I grew vain and blind, seeing no further than the limits of my own ego.
It is how I made the greatest error of my life, that of trusting that man Arawn. I can look at myself clearly at last, can see how I let him flatter me, lie to me, steal from me. It is bitter to realize that even I, who thought herself cleverer than everyone else, could be made a fool of, like a common woman. It is ultimately ironic, as that was the one weakness I swore I would overcome, swore I would forego my woman's heart and live as coldly and fiercely as any man.
In the end, none of my vows mattered.
They do not trust me here, and they are right not to trust me. Have I ever kept a promise? I lied; I twisted words; I dangled pledges before those I sought to bend to my will. I used people and discarded them. All because I was afraid. Afraid to be nothing once more, to be beaten and locked in a closet once again, to be called a worthless girl, afraid to be powerless and alone.
The circle has come round again; and I see with ever increasing clarity what I must do. It is my destiny to find and destroy Arawn. I am the one, after all, who made him what he is; when I see Gwydion beaten but still lean and fierce like a wolf it fills me with an odd and alien emotion: sorrow. I who have nothing left but regret can do that one thing: find that man who courts the name of death, and bring true death to him. I will face the one who betrayed me, and send him down into the darkness.
It will only be fitting if I die in the end.