Myrddin and Medraut
Bernard S Gaidasz
The soft soil of the heath yielded to the hands of the men as they dug in the near silence of the evening. Thin tendrils of mist drifted through the wood, following the winding course of a nearby creek.
“Dig fools, he’ll be soon upon us!” The soft hiss came from a hooded form standing some distance away.
One of the kneeling men looked up, his wide eyes trying to locate their pursuer in the darkening wood. He raised his right hand and began to cross himself. The figure leaped forward and slapped the man’s hand down before he could touch his right shoulder. “That will call him upon us as surely as the hound brings the hunters to the fox.” The kneeling man glanced at the thickening fog and nodded. “Finish digging.”
The man returned to his task, and for a long time, the only sounds were the ceaseless burble of the creek, the soft threnody of insects, and the grunts of seven men digging deeper into the the earth. The hooded figure paced the line of men and prodded them gently with his urgings. “Deeper! At least two arm’s length, or our efforts are for naught.”
As they dug, the full moon rose above the horizon and higher into the sky, washing the world with a cool, silver patina. It took nearly an hour, but at last they finished the hole to the hooded figure’s satisfaction. He signaled a nearby copse. Two boys, leading four horses, walked out of the gloaming, splashing through the water.
“Quick, now, in the hole. Make no sound, for he is close.”
“Close?” The man who had crossed himself earlier was shivering. He whipped his head back and forth.
“Nearly upon us.” The rest of the men glanced around, fear in their expressions. The hooded figure moved away. “Help the lads. Get that gold buried.” The men fumbled to get to the horses and to drop the items they carried into the fresh hole. Pieces were lifted from the packs and laid to rest, only the occasional clink of metal betraying their efforts. Minutes later, they finished.
From the south, there was a sound. An eerie ululation. The horses flipped their ears back in terror and tore at their leads. The hooded figure reached into its cloak and pulled something from within. “Go now! He arrives!”
The men and horses scattered into the surrounding woods. Listening to the men run away, the hooded figure turned back to the source of the sound. “Myrddin.”
Another figure stepped into the cool moonlight. He looked like a woodcutter, with an ax hanging from his neck, boots on his feet and a torn coat. His hair was wild, and his beard was thick.
The hooded figure raised a cross. “Rise up, Lord…”
Myrddin, the woodcutter, laughed and flicked his hand. The golden cross crumpled, folded over on itself, flew from the hooded figure’s grasp, and tinked into the treasure the men had been trying to bury. “Your god is weak. His symbols so easily destroyed.” The woodcutter gestured again and a small strip of gold from the hole flew into his hand. He glanced at the Latin. “Even the words sound weak, unlike those of the Old Gods…”
“Dos i chwarae efo…” The hooded figure spat the phrase.
Myrddin smiled. “Welsh, colorful as it is, is not the Old Tongue.” He folded the slim strip of gold in half and it too, flew back to the treasure. The two of them stood for a long moment, the silver of the moonlight on their shoulders. The sounds of the fleeing men now gone.
The hooded figure laughed, turned, and with a gesture of his hand, the dirt piled next to the hole rained down on the treasure and buried it. In moments, the work of hours was undone. No sign that there had ever been hole or treasure.
The hooded figure turned to face Myrddin. “And now?”
“The tide turns. A king will fall.”
“It means an end to the Old Gods. The Old Religion.”
“As long as I live, the Old Religion will not die.” With that, Myrddin turned and vanished from sight.
All that was left was a hooded figure standing alone in the moonlight.
And then, just the moonlight.