Disclaimer: It's all Lloyd's.

Dedication: To CompanionWanderer, who loves Eilonwy so, and who inspired me with her own marvelous, just-published Prydain drabbles "Hundreds of Words" to return to that enchanted land.

Hope

"Hope" is the thing with feathers,/ That perches in the soul . . .

Emily Dickinson, Poem 314

Death waits for her at the door of the lonely hut. Surely only Death could be so skeletally thin, could have that waxy skin stretched over skull-like face and birdclaw hands. But surely, too, even Death would be more welcoming? This grim being begrudges her not only shelter from the raging storm, but water to ease her fever-parched throat. To buy a night's refuge on the stone-cold hearth she must give him the the one remnant of her heritage that remains to her: the silver pendant with its sliver of half-moon embedded with an icy gem, symbol of the House of Llyr.

As he greedily grabs the necklace the old man announces he is a wizard, a great wizard, soon to be the greatest. But neither he with his cruel words, nor she with her more beneficently magical blood, could ever enchant like her poor slain Geraint, who without wand or spell tricked paper to bloom like flowers, charming her dormant heart awake while he was at it.

Remembering him pierces that once-gladdened heart. She has lost so much, not only her husband but the small daughter stolen from her. And she herself will fail at her quest, she knows it now to her anguish. Her strength is shredded like her tattered slippers and feet torn from walking for days over sharp stones. Burning with fever, her starved body tosses like a dry husk on the wind.

She cannot live out the night, much less rescue her little girl as she had so desperately hoped. Hope . . . no, it is despair that seeps into her heart. She will die in this dreadful place, unknown, unmourned, and her daughter . . . could she too be dead?

But Death really is kinder than the shrivelled enchanter who mocks her pleas for water. On the cusp of dawn, Death extinguishes the fever-flames, cradling her in a light cocoon and rocking her to the rhythm of the waves that used to plash on the pebbled beaches of Caer Colur. Invited by this lullaby, hope returns, nestling on her breast like a soft dove, and she feels rather than hears the message of its song as she sinks to rest.

Eilonwy is alive. She will thrive. Go to sleep now.