The Mirror Isle – a mission report by Eborus
According to the legends of my people, there is a mirror of our isle that lies at the intersection of the Lands of Death, Arcadia and the Mortal World. It is a place that our dead go to before heading off to serve their ancestors, or to be reborn into the cycle of life.
This island is anchored in place by three thrones; each occupied by a broken king – one mortal, one fae, and the other from the court of the dead. For a generation all was well on the island, for King Nudd sat upon the mortal throne, and the Lord of the Deep Woods sat on the throne of fae, and Hadaig, Father to Rooks, sat upon the throne of the court of the dead.
But King Nudd had three sons and in their folly they hatched a plan to move the mirror isle back to the plane of Avalon, whence it had been drawn from originally, there to become a new home for the exiles of Caer Glas. And to meet this end, they would each draw the spirit of the kings into themselves – Ceirwyn would take the Lord of the Deep Woods; Owain would take King Nudd; and Rocnat would take Hadaig, Father to Rooks.
The first part of their plan was completed and Ceirwyn drew the spirit of the Lord of the Deep Woods into him and the throne of the fae stood empty. But it seems that the brothers three were cursed for their plan was interrupted, and the Lord of the Deep Woods’ spirit was bartered away to a demon in the Pits of Taxation, and Ceirwyn lost all memory of his past and of the plan. And Rocnat was taken to madness, and lost in the mists at the end of a battle, and Owain was killed by demons from the Void after his return from the Summerlands. And the throne of the fae stood empty. And the isle was set adrift, and Hadaig was driven mad and tied to his throne lest he rage across the isle.
Little of this was known to the children of Caer Glas. They were wracked with the grief of losing their loved ones. And charges of treachery were levelled against them, when they sought only to redress past crimes. And Scipio was executed and those that remained argued and were split each going their own way. And a cold winter was had by all.
But spring heals many hurts and summer clears away bad memories. And so when the time came again for the nations of Edreja to meet, many were there of the children of Caer Glas, some even that were thought lost, and old grudges were put aside and much was the merriment had by all present.
On the second day of feasting a visitor approached the camps of Caradoc and Gwalchmai, and he came as a representative of the Twrch Trwyth and demanded the return of his Horn. There was much debate, and a retelling of the Horn’s history was called for. Gwalchmai was adept at the task and once he had finished, all knew the true facts of that tale.
Alas, I have not time to retell it here, but let it be known that an ancestor of Nudd had wrestled that horn from the Twrch Trwyth in fair fight, and the beast had relinquished it without complaint. For years it had hung in the great feast hall of Beomarise, and many had coveted it – for no feast was there ever so fair, no music ever so sweet, nor wine ever so fine, as that presented to a company once the Horn was blown.
And those that were gathered fell once again to debating, for none could remember where they had last seen the Horn, and many worried lest it had fallen into the hands of the Dragon, or been destroyed by the ravages of the Fomori. And a reply was given to their visitor that they had it not, and as such could not give it up.
Now the visitor was mad, and he swore that if the Horn were not given freely, then it would be taken by force. And he sent his kin against those of Caer Glas, and though their number were small, they were fae creatures both massive and strong, and of a shape twixt man and boar.
The children of Caer Glas were hit hard, but many allies stood with them: Piers and the Company of the Boar, and Sagramor of the Spears of Lugh, and Lord Marshall Hugo – all of them brave and hardy and strong, and of the land of Albion. And the Twrch Trwyth’s kin were driven back and peace returned to the camps of Gwalchmai and Caradoc.
And the wise of Caer Glas held council, and wracked their brains in search of memories, and stories, and rumours regarding the lost Horn of Twrch Trwyth. And one remembered that the Druids had taken many of the precious things into safe keeping, and that they now dwelt in a wood close to the lands of the Brec Bras, not a nights walk from Exeter Circle. And Eborus and Branwen, being allied to that order, chose to undertake the quest to the Druids encampment. And they chose Caradoc as their guide and their guard, for none had better knowledge of that land than he.
The journey was arduous, and many were the rumours that sang on the night’s wind. They told of a force in the woods that struck at outlying homesteads, and that drove cattle wild, and killed lonely travellers caught out of doors after dark. But they arrived at the Druid’s camp safely, and persuaded one of them to travel back and speak before the council.
Before the Druid would answer the questions of the council, he challenged them to a game of riddles. Many faced the Druid, but it was Aisla who bested him. And at once he told the tale of the Horn since the tearing down of Beomaris, for it had been in the safe keeping of the Druids all along.
And one of those there gathered asked of its whereabouts now, and the Druid replied,
“Alas, one of our own fled with it and left naught but parchment in exchange.”
And one of those there gathered asked what was written upon that parchment, and the Druid replied,
“Alas, it is written in the tongue of our forefathers, and that I cannot read.”
And one of those there gathered asked who could read it, and the Druid replied,
“Alas, there are none left that I know of.”
Now the Twrch Trwyth was not idle, but sent his kin against the children of Caer Glas, and many hard battles were fought. And other forces made their moves, darker forces, with intent set on dominion. And so it was that another messenger arrived to speak to the children of Caer Glas. He was of the court of the dead, sent by King Nudd to warn of danger.
And this messenger told of happenings on the Mirror Isle; of the drift of the Isle towards the Lands of the Dead, and of the ambitions of Annwn Lord of the Dead who sought the Mirror Isle for himself, and of the awakening of the Twrch Trwyth, disturbed by the threat to its wilds and hidden realms. And the messenger told of the empty throne and then he proclaimed,
“You must find a broken King to sit on the throne of the fae. And you must give back the Horn to the Twrch Trwyth, for his needs are greater than your own.”
And then the messenger took the form of a raven and flew back from whence it came.
And then Annwn’s forces came and they laid a trap for the children of Caer Glas, and the children would have escaped the trap had the kin of the Twrch Trwyth not also assailed them. An unhappy turn of fates wheel and hard malady by mischance spun. And Branwen, grandchild of King Nudd, and heir to the throne of Beomarise, the White Lady, wife of Percival, and mother of Percival, she of the healing hands, Mistress of the Druids of Albion, she was taken by Annwn’s minions and they led her to the Lands of the Dead. And along with her they took faithful Mallory, women of mystery and maiden of the waves, she with the hands quicker than the eye.
And the children of Caer Glas rose up in arms and followed the minions to Annwn’s lands, Gwalchmai was there, and Rebecca his wife to be, and Aisla “Cat-Claw”, and Percival husband to Branwen and Caradoc the Dan-Baeth, and others beside. And standing in front of Annwn they demanded the return of their Lady, but Annwn laughed and told the children of Caer Glas that they could have their Lady, but that he claimed the life of Mallory. And before Aisla could raise her sword, or Gwalchmai could speak a word in defiance, Annwn cut the throat of Mallory and threw her body to his hounds, and there defiled it with wicked relish.
And he spoke thus:
“Take this message with you to Cadarn: tell him that I will have the Cup of Souls returned to me before the turning of one year.”
And the children of Caer Glas woke amongst their allies and Branwen was there but Mallory was not.
The time came for the gathered peoples to return to their own homes, and the children of Caer Glas travelled back to Albion seeking one who knew the old languages and who could decipher the parchment in the old tongue. But it was long before any were found, and not before the Golden Boars had struck twice again, once at the Camp of Survivors (Caer LLwyd) – where there was a great battle and once at Brighthelmstane – where they sought Branwen and her child.
Eventually, the year drew to its close and the dark months came upon Albion, and Benedict Karlennon called to his side the brave knights, warriors, and learned folk whose loyalties belonged to the Crown. For a great evil had festered in the depths of the Marchwood, and now it’s influence had reached into the very heart of Albion’s dream. And a quest was undertaken by those gathered to cleanse the shadow from Marchwood and so set free the dream and allow it to soar once more.
And on that quest were gathered many of the children of Caer Glas – Gwalchmai, and Aisla, and Branwen to name but a few. And they acquitted themselves well, in equal measure to the other heroes from Albion and the Treatied Nations – Finn Drakkar, and Percival the Fae of many colours, and Phoenix and Tig and Faramir of the sorcerous arts, and Lady Grimnir and the Falcon Knights – not least of them Lord Robert Falcon, and the Fair Lady Rebecca recently wed to Gwalchmai, and Sir Geoffrey Walker and his Uncle – Christian, and Will of the Bow, and Arianrhod the Raven Lady, and Sagramor, and Glycell of Water, and Pelleas favoured by the Ancestors, and Leri Penhaligon of Tears – shield maiden, and l’Ume and r’Ant close to the ground, and Krudd from under it. And all of these and more besides put right the evil in the Marchwood and banished it back from whence it came. But not without cost – for Benedict was lost to the great houses, as was Will, and others that would bring many tears were I to recall, and much was the sadness that came with the joy. And all these things belong to another tale.
But whilst the Hosts of Albion were in attendance at the Karlennon Hearth, Branwen revealed to them the contents of the druidic parchment since deciphered. It was an apology to the Druids from one of their number, who had taken the Horn lest it be misused, though where it had been taken was unclear. And the Children of Caer Glas were no wiser as to its location, and they tore at their hair and rung the flesh from their fingers thinking of a way to rid themselves of the curse of the Golden Boar.
And even as they cried into their mead, a Druid calling himself Hafgan came amongst them. Mad he was, and raving about the Horn of the Twrch Trwyth and of the Poison Fae who had taken it. His eyes were wild, and they would not sit still. Constantly, they searched the shadows seeking for the assassins he was sure were after him. For a long time he had hid in the wilds of Far Arcadia guarding the Horn from all that would take it. And he told the children of Caer Glas how he alone of the Druids had been taught a ritual by Bratan, one that would open a path from the mortal world to Arcadia and the Horn. But the Poison Fae had hunted him, and he had abandoned the Horn and fled Arcadia, whilst they followed after, seeking to kill him and close the one route open to mortals who wished to claim the Horn.
Seeking to calm his fevered mind, the children of Caer Glas led him to the safety of an Inn called the Black Lodge, whispering honeyed words and singing songs from old Caer Glas. But there appeared amongst them two visitors from the court of Poison Ivy, and Hafgan became skittish and fled back into the woods to be lost in its shadows. And the one called Reid was found dead of poison, and the Lords of Albion declared an edict against the Druid, thinking it was his doing.
But the fae from the Court of Poison Ivy remained behind and spoke to the children of Caer Glas. Brother and Sister were they, and thick and narcotic their words. They spoke of the Mirror Isle and of King Nudd, and wove dreams of splendour about Finn and Percival, Kings of the fae, tempting them to sit upon the empty throne. And to Eborus and Gwalchmai, they suggested a turn on the throne of King Nudd. And of Branwen, they sought whereabouts of her son, and their sweet cloying words spoke of the safety of Nudd’s lap. But the children of Caer Glas were pre-warned and turned the fae away.
Again on the second day, Hafgan reappeared and spoke of the Poison Fae and their attempts to kill him. But his manner was too wild for the children of Caer Glas in the hard light of day, so when the Brother and Sister from the court of Poison Ivy reappeared, the Druid was left to run off into the woods as he would. And they listened to the words of the fae, who told them of a division in the court of Poison Ivy, and of how three lords had left the Mirror Isle and travelled back to Far Arcadia, taking the Horn of the Twrch Trwyth with them.
And Eborus and Branwen reasoned that as they were messengers of King Nudd, it would thus be safe to trust them. And when asked, they agreed to accompany the fae to the Mirror Isle, for Branwen wished to speak with her grandfather, and Eborus wanted to look upon those of his kith and kin that had departed from the shores of the mortal world.
And upon reaching the Isle, they were taken into the presence of King Nudd. And Branwen, the White Lady of Beomarise, asked him what he required from her son, and King Nudd replied,
“Only his safety.”
And she asked him about the empty throne, and King Nudd replied,
“It must be filled.”
And she asked him by whom, and King Nudd replied,
“By a broken King of the Fae.”
And then Eborus the Eyes of the Hawk, asked him who his father was, and King Nudd replied,
“For an answer to that you must give up something precious.”
And Eborus turned away and received no answer.
On their return to Marchwood, Branwen and Eborus were asked about the Mirror Isle and Eborus had tears in his eyes and would only say that he had seen their friends. But Gwalchmai turned away, and a look of mistrust settled on his brow and he would speak to them no more. The fates are cruel that the Ancestors twist about us in the weave. For later that day Gwalchmai accepted a gift – a potion of great strength from Finn grandson of Balar. And from the time that the liquid touched his lips, until a full day had passed and the quest for the Horn of the Twrch Trwyth had ended for the children of Caer Glas, no words left his mouth but that Branwen and Eborus alone could understand them.
And for the rest of that day, Branwen and Eborus busied themselves persuading Percival and Finn to sit on the Throne of the Fae, for Percival was a King without a land, and Finn was a King in exile.
On the third day Hafgan returned, and Aisla asked him to perform his ritual and take the Hosts of Albion to the lands of the Three Lords of the Poison Fae in Far Arcadia, and to lead them from there to the Horn of the Twrch Trwyth. They met in a clearing in the Marchwood, and with music and dancing they summoned the Dancers, and Hafgan performed his ritual and the Hosts of Albion were transported to the Poisonous Forests of Far Arcadia.
Immediately, they were ambushed by the Poison Fae. And bitter was the fighting, and dangerous, for the fae fought well – as good as any there, yet every blow they landed was suffused with poisons, and the healers were hard put-to to keep the brave on their feet.
But in good time the Poison Fae were driven back, and Aisla ordered the hosts to follow Hafgan deeper into the woods in search of the Horn of the Twrch Trwyth. And after a short journey they arrived at a circle of power and in front of them, at its centre, sat King Nudd.
And Aisla asked King Nudd the location of the Horn of the Twrch Trwyth, and King Nudd replied,
“The Three Lords of the Poison Fae guard the Horn.”
And Gwalchmai asked King Nudd how to defeat the three Lords, and King Nudd replied,
“With the Arms of Hadaig.”
And Branwen asked King Nudd how to get the Arms of Hadaig, and King Nudd replied,
“Sit thee a fae upon the throne.”
And the two Kings of the Fae, Percival and Finn spoke with each other and then stated their terms.
“Each of us will sit on the Throne for one season of each year. Finn will sit on the Throne for the season of winter, and Percival will sit on the Throne for the season of spring.”
And King Nudd replied,
“Agreed! Get thee to the Inn of the Poison Blade, there you shall find the Arms of Hadaig.”
And the Hosts thanked King Nudd and travelled on their way.
The path meandered through the woods, and the heroes of Albion followed its course until they reached their goal. But twice the ladies of the woods diverted them from their course. First, they came across a fae weeping as she walked.
And Aisla approached and asked her who she was, and the woman replied,
And Aisla asked her whom she cried for, and Alarch replied,
“For my son.”
And Aisla asked her who her son was, and Alarch replied,
“Ceirwyn the Wild Mage.”
And Aisla turned away and could speak with her no more. And it was left to Gwalchmai to escort Alarch through the woods.
And Alarch Red-Eyes asked him about the circumstances of her son’s death, and he would only say,
“He lost his mind in the Pits of Taxation.”
Alarch Red-Eyes was grieved and full of rage and she told Gwalchmai that she bore no love for the Lords of the Court of Poison Ivy, for they cast her out to live alone in the wild woods with her son. And the rage that had festered in her heart through all the years of her loneliness found vent.
And she made promise to Gwalchmai,
“Get me the tears of one who cannot cry, the spit of a man betrayed, and a drop of blood from a maiden, and I will brew a vitriolic ichor for these Lords.”
And these things were easy to find, for Aisla carried the Sword of Tears, that wracked her with pain when ever she cried, and Gwalchmai had been betrayed by the brother of a Lord, and Mistress Charlotte Gray was still whole in her maidenhead. And the Poison was made, though Aisla paid dear for the shedding of her tears, and ever since has had a weakness in her sword arm that grows with the years.
The second woman was armed like the Celtic Queens of old. And again Aisla approached and asked her who she was, and the woman replied,
“Angharad Tawny Wave.”
And Aisla asked her what she sought, and Angharad replied,
“The horn of a Unicorn.”
And Aisla asked her where they could find one, and Angharad replied,
“Send a maiden into the clearing ahead of you, and let her wait alone. If her virtue is true, then a Unicorn will appear.”
But Aisla would not see a Unicorn lured to its death and turned away so that Angharad called behind her,
“Children of Caer Glas, thou art become weak.”
And so they arrived at the Inn of the Poison Blade, and they found Hadaig’s Arms within; a set of the blackest plate, a pair of gauntlets, and two swords – one of plainest steel, the other deadly sharp. And Aisla summoned to her those with sensitivity to enchantments, and she bade them examine the arms and find out what powers they possessed.
Percival was there first, and he studied the armour and declared,
“This will protect its wearer form all normal weapons.”
Next he studied the gloves and declared,
“These will protect the wearer from the two swords.”
Then he studied the sword that was deadly sharp and declared,
“This will cause grievous wounds to those whose father was Man.”
Finally he looked upon the sword of plainest steel and turned away from it and stormed out of the inn declaring,
“This sword should be destroyed and I will have nothing more to do with this quest until such is done.”
And he gathered to him the other fae and told them of the sword, and all foreswore the quest, such was their fear and outrage. For that sword was of an alloy and a casting that would do grievous harm to any fae that it bit.
Now Aisla would have none of it, and she asked for a volunteer to take up Hadaig’s Arms, and the brave Lord Robert stepped forward and placed the armour upon his back, and slid the gloves over his hands, and carefully picked up each of the swords. But perhaps Hadaig was described entirely by his outer demeanour, for as soon as the two swords were in Sir Robert’s hands, he became possessed of a spirit that claimed the name of the fae from the court of the Dead, and Lord Robert was become grim.
And the Host of Albion set out to find the three lords of the Poison Fae in exile, and reclaim the Horn of the Twrch Trwyth. And the Percival and his brethren brought up the rear, unwilling to take part in the quest, nor utterly forsake it. And it wasn’t long before they encountered the three lords in a clearing amongst the poison vines, surrounded by their fae kindred. And with them was a messenger of Annwn, and his undead minions, here to collect the Cup of Souls.
And Leri spoke with him and she told him that she would not give up the cup freely, and the messenger of Annwn replied,
“So be it. On this day you fight both the Poison Fae and the Court of Annwn, prepare yourselves.”
Lord Robert, under possession of Hadaig, did not wait for the parley to end, but instead launched an attack on one of the three lords, and that before the last of Albion had arrived within the clearing. And his blades struck home, tasting the flesh of fae. And the fae withdrew, but Lord Robert followed until he was well over the enemy lines and had become surrounded. Then a Fae lord cast a bolt of magic at Lord Robert’s head and he fell to the ground. He would have been killed there and then, and his body cut into a hundred pieces to be fed to the ravens, had not the host of Albion pushed forward at that moment.
The fighting was fierce and the heroes of Albion struggled to hold their ground, yet still the fae of Albion withheld their support. And the healers were forced to join the fight, and the fae would not even take their place to heal the wounded. And Albion’s forces were caught in a pincer between the minions of Annwn and the kindred of the Poison fae and Branwen was cut down with a blow that left her pattern fluttering in the weave. And at last out of shame and love for his wife, Percival put aside his reservations and joined the fight.
But this was not enough to turn the tide of the battle. And Leri looked about her, holding aloft her shield to block the many blows that would have otherwise smashed her skull. And she endeavoured to make a deal with Annwn’s messenger such that he would pull back his minions.
And Annwn’s messenger replied,
“This I will do, if you make oath to gamble your soul to my lord in a game of chance when the sun reaches it zenith and begins to die once more for the year.”
And Leri agreed. Thus it was that some of Annwn’s minions pulled back from the fight, whilst others turned on their fae allies. And Albion’s heroes were saved – though at what cost none would know until Midsummer.
Now Alarch’s ichor had been given over to Rafe, and Lady Straife applied it to three of his bolts, and he loosed them from his crossbow, and one struck home and was an end to that lord of the Poison Fae. Of the other two lords, one was mobbed by Lord Robert and the soldiers of Albion whilst the other pulled back with what remained of his kindred. But the Horn of the Twrch Trwyth had been taken, and no sense was to be had by causing further harm to Albion’s troops by giving no quarter. So the two sides withdrew and went their separate ways.
The one that had wrestled the Horn from the grasp of the Poison Lord was named Alistair Crowlie, he of the Westmarch. And a powerful enchantment was on that Horn to foster a great yearning in those that held it, such that they would not wish to give it up at any cost. And Alistair found himself under the Horn’s spell, and great though his will was amongst those of Albion, little was it in defeating that spell, and in his desire to withhold the Horn he departed with all speed into the woods of Arcadia.
And a great hunt was called for, and the Lords of Albion sallied forth after Alistair and the Horn of the Twrch Trwyth, and in a dark clearing they found him and he was cut down and the Horn wrestled from his grasp. And this time it was given over to Branwen of the true line of Beomarise, all of whom are immune to the effects of the Horn’s enchantment. And she took the Horn and gave it into the hands of a messenger from the Twrch Trwyth who had recently arrived. And he received it gratefully and peace was sworn between his Lord and the people of Albion.
And the hosts of Albion departed from Far Arcadia and returned to Marchwood Keep. And Finn Drakkar travelled to the Mirror Isle and sat upon the throne of the fae whilst winter lasted, and Percival sat on the throne after him in the spring. And Branwen sat her son upon the knee of King Nudd and there was peace again in the place of rest of our people.
And here ends the tale of the Three Thrones and the Horn of the Twrch Trwyth. And I know it to be true, for by my own eyes and ears did I witness the events within.
Eborus, the Eyes of the Hawk.