Goodness me, I don't know why people like this book at all. NOTHING HAPPENS IN THIS CHAPTER.
Well, he was not prince of Britain yet.
It's really all about Lleu—how untried he is, how unready. He's timid, thoughtless, frail, young, untrained, without any obvious talent. There is an important first paragraph where Medraut explains his family tree for the uninitiated (i.e, Lleu, Goewin, and any reader not previously familiar with Mordred's bloodline); Lleu points out immediately that "Morgause + Artos = Medraut" is in fact incest. It is meant to be a secret who Medraut's mother is, though Morgause fostered him. But he tells Lleu and Goewin because he considers it the true reason Artos won't make him his heir.
So, with that off his chest, in spite of himself Medraut relaxes a bit and hangs out with the twins:
Inwardly I longed for their companionship, and the two sometimes allowed me within their circle. Not completely, and not always. But enough. We visited the smithy; we flew my Oriental kites of red and gold paper from the top of the Edge. We rode together, and spent long hours exploring the surrounding country. And twice I took Lleu and Goewin into the copper mines. The first time was by day, with Artos.
We stood in the entrance of the cavern that leads to the main workings, and Cadarn the chief foreman explained to the twins how the copper ore is removed and how the shaft entrances are reinforced with stone lintels. But I am not sure they saw anything beyond an impression of the intriguing black, hollow place before them, shot through with darts of flame and glinting water, and echoing with the voices of men and the sound of metal against rock.
The second time I took them was by night.
During the long spring mornings Artos was rebuilding the floor and heating system of the villa; he was painstakingly prying up sections of tile and replacing the crumbling hollow clay bricks that lay beneath the atrium. The exposed catacomb of the hypocaust had the look of a miniature crypt, ancient and airless, so old and grim that while the floor was uncovered Lleu would not walk through the atrium by himself after dark.
One night I challenged him: "Would you see real darkness?"
Goewin, fearless, said, "Show us." So that night I took them back to the mines. We made our way quietly through the young fields to the forest and the Edge; Lleu's broken arm kept us from being able to climb, so we took the safest and most open paths. But beneath the Edge there is only the earth itself, and there the concept of safety becomes brittle and trivial. We stood in the first cavern, quiet now, and Lleu's face was waxen in the light of his taper… Lleu and Goewin had only seen these tunnels full of the movement of men pulling carts and cutting stone. The carts stood at rest now, and the stone lay in heavy piles or jutted strangely and unnaturally from the walls where it had been hewn. The caves are no darker by night than by day; our candle flames cut the darkness softly, like a hand parting hair, not a chisel shaping rock.
"…This is all yours, Lleu," Goewin said suddenly. "When you're high king, this will be part of your kingdom too."
"Dare anyone say he owns this?" Lleu said.
"Surely not one who is afraid of the dark," I answered quietly.
He hated that. He hated it, and never argued: we stood two hundred feet below the surface of the earth, and only I knew the way out. Even Goewin said nothing in his defense. The prince of Britain, and afraid to walk through his own house at night! Well, he was not prince of Britain yet.
Perhaps I managed to shame him with my derision, and now he learned to disguise his fear. After that night, as his father replaced the atrium floor, Lleu followed behind, filling in and matching the broken stretches of mosaic with chips of glass and malachite and azurite. After he had glimpsed the abyss, the low dusty hollow place beneath the villa no longer frightened him.
But I had not finished with this lesson in darkness.
So he takes them on a picnic. It's just a picnic, seriously—nothing of import happens except that they travel through a Tolkienesque landscape which is, in fact, part of the Pennine Way near Kinder Scout in Derbyshire, and I pretty much described it almost exactly as I experienced the same excursion, one memorable afternoon when I was 22.
One afternoon in deep July I rode north and east with Lleu and Goewin, straight across the green country toward the high moors on the horizon, through the forested park where the high king's deer and boar grew fat…
…across one of the old, straight Roman roads paved with heavy flagstones. Beyond that we followed a little river between steep wooded hills, and left behind us the poppy-lit fields. The way grew steeper; behind and below us the oak and birch leaves shone green in the sun, and the river snaked away in runnels of diamond light. Above, the high, flat peak that one can just glimpse from the top of the Edge was shrouded in cloud and mist. I know the moors well enough, but Lleu and Goewin had never been here before.
…We entered the fog. Beads of water hung like amethysts on the heather. Behind us where the ground fell away the cloud came down like a screen, hiding the countryside below.
At last we came to a wide, flat, shallow stream with unexpectedly white sandy banks like the mouth of a river; on the near bank stood a cairn of piled loose rock. We dismounted and added a few pebbles to the cairn, drank from the stream, and ate a luncheon of honey, bread, cheese, and eggs. We talked while we ate, for when we were silent we were too much aware of how alone we were, and how lost we could be.
And what they talk about is kingship. Lleu is full of highmindedness, and Goewin warns him of treachery. He laughs and says,
"When I find treachery within I'll call on you, suspicious one. I can continue Father's defense."
"But it isn't just a matter of defense!" Goewin pressed. "You have to be able to change, to know whether to attack or to organize new treaties yourself, even if you're not sure they'll work--you have to stand your ground but be fair to your enemy at the same time. That's what Father really does. You have to learn to take risks."
They turn back then, and the chapter ends:
We broke into sunlight again, and began the journey home across that broad, bright country.
Director's Notes: Since I can, I'll point out that the book ends with the same words. "We finished the journey home across that broad, bright country."
Geez Louise, it took me a long time to figure out how to do the fog.
Mark made the sun. He asked me to take this picture to prove it:
(I said to him, "Mark, I need you to make me a sun." It really does twist you in the gut when you realize you are more or less quoting yourself. Not to mention quoting Morgause.)