An Excerpt of “Kernow bys Vyken: a History of Cornwall” written by Alfred Trelawney, discovered in the Halls of Pendrinn, Yuletide 1118

An Excerpt of “Kernow bys Vyken: a History of Cornwall” written by Alfred Trelawney, discovered in the Halls of Pendrinn, Yuletide 1118

Of Marcus Connomorus, the Hound of the Sea, many tales are told of how he warred with the Sundered Isles for control of the Seas.

Of Geraint Gorlois we know many stories. Of him, his wife Igraine, and the great Uther. Of Igraine’s handmaiden, Dame Mellyor, we know also.

Of Marcus Gorlois, his nephew, Sir Tristan, the great seafarer, and his love for Iseult, many tales are told. Many tales are told too, of when Merlin the Mage gave Marcus Gorlois a pair of assess ears.

Shall we speak of Piran the Tinsmith, who some call Piran the Great, and how he made Cornwall’s tin sigil?  Every child of Cornwall knows of his mines, and of the Bucca Wyn and the Bucca Dhu.

The Fell Coppinger? The Nine Maids of Boskedan? The Whooper of Sennen Cove? Tresgeal’s Dancing Stones? The Mermaids of Padstow and Zennor?

The giants, Blunderbore, Bolster, Cormoran, Morvah, and Morgawr? Of Jack, who killed them all?

Or shall we have the tale of King Doniert, of King Dungarth, Queen Ygerna, or Queen Dungraine? Of Erbin, or Cadoc, or Condor? Of Drustan, or Egwine, or Rictus? Or perhaps the tale of the Owlman?

Or Macsen Wledig, the Dux Britanniarum? The ghost fleets of the Doom Bar?

No. Our tale, for now, shall hark back to before Cornwall was called Cornwall, before even it was called Kernow.

This is the tale of the Sunken Towers of Ys.

And so we come to the tale of Ys – the island city at the Southern tip of the White Isle. Abutting what we now call the Duchy of Cornwall, the land known in the Old Tongue as Kernow, Ys, so the legends say, was a wonder to behold.

Great bronze walls did separate the land from the sea, for Caer Ys itself was built upon land low to the sea, for near all of the inhabitants of Ys were seafaring folk, as was their King, Gradlon.

Gradlon had many ships he used to wage war against the faraway countries of the North. An outstanding strategist, he won most of the battles and pillaged the vanquished, amassing great wealth.

Gradlon’s fleet was great, and with it he waged war across Britannia. One such raid did take Gradlon to the North, whereupon he raided a castle on the coast.

On this venture Gradlon did lay siege to a castle. On his victory, Gradlon put the castle to the flame. The sailors returned to the beach and as Gradlon looked back to the burning castle, he saw a vision that would change his life.

He saw a red-haired woman, watching him. Malgven, a shining Queen, a Fae. Standing before him, she told him, “I know you. You are courageous and skillful in fighting. My husband is old; his sword has rusted. You and I are going to kill him, then go to your country of Ys.”

Gradlon’s ships sailed into a wide river, and with Malgven’s magic came onto the city of Eoforwic, unnoticed. They stormed the city and sacked the palace, putting the King to the sword, and making off with his treasure.

Their flight to the sea, however, was blocked by ships flying the Banner of the Boar, the sigil of Eoforwic. Gradlon unfurled his full sail and set his ship, Morvarc’h, to ram the blockade. As he did the magician Malgven stood at the fore and cause fire to spring forth from her hand and destroyed the blockade.

Gradlon’s fleet sailed on to Ys, raiding the coasts and isles as it did. After time they returned to Ys, to the acclaim and praise of all, for Gradlon had married at sea, and given Ys a Queen in Malgven, and in time Malgven gave them an heir in Princess Dahut.

Some tales speak of Queen Malgven dying in childbirth, others speak of a different ending altogether. These tales say that she did not die but, some time after the birth of Dahut, she asked Gradlon what he thought about their daughter.

He responded “I already cherish her as I cherish you.” Malgven announced that Dahut’s face would keep the appearance of hers, so she would not be forgotten by him, because it was time for her to return to her world. She added that they would see an island shortly after, and Gradlon should let her go there; otherwise they could never see the earth again.

Soon after, they saw an island and there Malgven was left alone. Shortly after, Gradlon returned to Ys with Dahut, but without Malgven.

So long and so successfully did Gradlon sail and raid, it is said he boasted that his mastery of the seas surpassed even Mananaan himself. Thus Mananaan, enraged, strode forth from the surf, entered Gradlon’s great hall, and challenged Gradlon to prove his mastery.

The Lord of the Seas did come forth in his guise of the Coast Hermit. Mananaan stood, his bare feet leaving pools of water behind him, his hair and beard the grey of the seas and sky in storm with strands of seaweed entangled within, his salt stiffened robes, and his belt of shells.

All seafaring and coastal folk know of the closeness of the Hermits to the will of the Lord of the Seas, and thus treat them with respect and reverence. King Gradlon, in his hubris, saw not the holy man, but a vagabond, trailing water into his palace of marble and cedar and gold.

With scorn did Gradlon order the hermit expelled, and set his men to drive the man away at spearpoint. When the captain of his guard stood forth, one Cornieus Trevellian, and pleaded with the king to be mindful of the holy status of the hermits, the hermit did laugh.

With a voice of raging seas did Mananaan speak, “Right glad am I to find that in the Halls of Ys there is one who keeps to the old ways.”

When the voice rumbled and echoed around the hall, Gradlon knew his mistake, and threw himself on the floor before the Hermit Lord, begging for his forgiveness. Mananaan bade him be silent, and answer for his boast.

For his boast that Ys was more beautiful than even Mananaan’s sunken halls. For his boast that Morvac’h could outpace the Wavesweeper. For his boast that hist mastery of the seas surpassed even Mananaan himself.

Gradlon begged and pleaded and prostrated himself before the Hermit Lord, who averted his eyes in disgust. He spoke, had the King took the challenge like a man, Mananaan would have had at least some respect for him. But to cower and supplicate thusly?

No, spoke the Hermit Lord. If Gradlon was such he did not deserve the honour of a fair challenge. He had shamed himself and his people, and would have to prove his mastery of the seas in the true way.

The Hermit Lord raised his arms, and a great, earth-shuddering crack rolled through the hall, followed by a low roar, growing louder and louder. Mananaan raised his arms, and declared if Gradlon were the master of the seas, then he should prove it.

The bronze sea walls of Ys gave way, and the steely, cold waters rushed over the land. King Gradlon, in madness and anguish, drew his sword and charged at the Hermit Lord. At last, Mananaan cried, a true show of strength, and duelled the roaring King.

He bade Princess Dahut flee, and Mananaan roared that if she could reach the highest room in the tallest tower, then he would spare one soul of Ys. As Princess Dahut reached the highest room in the tallest tower, she heard the waters rushing up the spiral staircase after her, and cried as the waves burst through the tower window.

People said that Princess Dahut, after her death, became a mermaid and that she appears to fishermen the evenings of moon, combing her long golden hair, and singing;

Gwelas-te morverc’h, pesketour
O kriban en bleo melen aour
Dre an heol splann, e ribl an dour?
Gwelous a ris ar morverc’h venn,
M’he c’hlevis o kanann zoken
Klemvanus tonn ha kanaouenn.

Fisherman, did you see a girl from the sea
combing her long, golden hair
as the great sun shone
here by the side of the sea?
I saw the pale girl from the sea,
I remember hearing her sing,
Sorrow hung in the air and the song.

Of the People of Ys, House Trevellyan’s story emerges from the crashing waves that befell that great city. It is said by heralds and the learn’d folk that the Cornish families whose names begin Tre- are descendant from the sea-folk of old Ys. Only Corineus Trevellyan emerged alive from that great disaster. A water horse emerged from the surf and bore him on its back to safety, finding the sands of the land he would call Corineum, that the common folk rendered Kernow.

Mananaan, vengeful and changeable as the sea, kept his word, and spared one soul of Ys, and from that soul was the line of Kings of Kerwow begat.

Of the Isle of Ys, all that now remains is the Islet upon which sits Caer Pendrinn, and the shifting danger of the Doom Bar – Cornwall’s sand shoal, which has claimed the life of many an unwary sailor.

It is said, however, that on a clear night, when the wind is low, when standing at the cliffs south of Pendrinn, one may hear the soft, haunting peal of the Bells of Ys, ringing ‘neath the waves, where it lies as one more jewel on the seabed of Mananaan’s kingdom.