Being the second part of the tale of the Dream of Rhonabwy in which Rhonabwy is introduced by Iddawc Cordd Prydain to Arthur and watch the troops assembling in preparation for the coming battle of Mons Badonicus.
Then came Iddawc and they that were with him, and stood before Arthur and saluted him. "Heaven grant you good," said Arthur. "And where, Iddawc, did you find these little men?"
"I found them, lord, up there on the road." Then the Emperor smiled. "Lord," said Iddawc, "why do you laugh?"
"Iddawc," replied Arthur, "I do not laugh; but it pains me that men of such stature as these should have this island in their keeping, after the men that guarded it before."
Then Iddawc said, "Rhonabwy, do you see the ring with a stone set in it, that is upon the Emperor's hand?"
"I see it," he answered.
"It is one of the properties of that stone to enable you to remember what you have seen here to-night, and had you not seen the stone, you would have never have been able to remember anything."
After this they saw a troop coming towards the ford. "Iddawc," asked Rhonabwy, "to whom does that troop belong?"
"They are the men of Rhufawn Pebyr the son of Prince Deorthach. And these men are honourably served with mead and bragget, and are freely loved by the daughters of the kings of the Island of Britain. And this they merit, for they were ever in the front and the rear in every peril."
And he saw but one hue upon the men and the horses of this troop, for they were all as red as blood. And when one of the knights rode forth from the troop, he looked like pillar of fire blazing across the sky. And this troop encamped above the ford.
Then they saw another troop coming towards the ford, and these from their horses' chests upwards were whiter than the lily, and below blacker than jet. And they saw one of these knights go before the rest, and spur his horse into the ford in such a manner that the water dashed over Arthur and the Bishop, and those holding counsel with them, so that they were as wet as if they had been drenched in the river. And as he turned the head of his horse, the youth who stood before Arthur struck the horse over the nostrils with his sheathed sword, so that, had it been with the bare blade, it would have been a marvel if the bone had not been wounded as well as the flesh. And the knight drew his sword half out of the scabbard, and asked of him, "Why did you strike my horse? Was it in insult or in counsel to me?"
"You do indeed lack counsel. What madness caused you to ride so furiously as to dash the water of the ford over Arthur, and the consecrated Bishop, and their counsellors, so that they were as wet as if they had been dragged out of the river?"
"As counsel then will I take it." So he turned his horse's head round towards his army.
Iddawc," said Rhonabwy, "who was that knight?"
"The most eloquent and the wisest youth that is in this island; Adaon ap Taliesin."
"Who was the man that struck his horse?"
"A youth of forward nature; Elphin ap Gwyddno."
Then spoke a tall and stately man, of noble and flowing speech, saying that it was a marvel that so vast a host should be assembled in so narrow a space, and that it was a still greater marvel that those should be there at that time who had promised to be by mid-day in the battle of Badon, fighting with Osla Gyllellfawr 1.
"Whether you choose to proceed or not, I will proceed."
"You speak well," said Arthur, "and we will go altogether."
"Iddawc," said Rhonabwy, "who was the man who spoke so marvellously to Arthur just now?"
"A man who may speak as boldly as he listens, Caradog Freichfras, the son of Llyr Marini, his chief counsellor and his cousin."
Then Iddawc took Rhonabwy behind him on his horse, and that mighty host moved forward, each troop in its order, towards Cefndigoll. And when they came to the middle of the ford of the Severn, Iddawc turned his horse's head, and Rhonabwy looked along the valley of the Severn. And he beheld two fair troops coming towards the ford. One troop there came of brilliant white, and every one of the men had a scarf of white satin with jet-black borders. And the knees and the tops of the shoulders of their horses were jet-black, though they were of a pure white in every other part. And their banners were pure white, with black points to them all.
"Iddawc," said Rhonabwy, "who are those pure white troop?"
"They are the men of Norway 2 , and March ap Meirchion is their prince. And he is Arthur's cousin."
And further on he saw a troop, whereof each man wore garments of jet-black, with borders of pure white to every scarf; the tops of the shoulders and the knees of their horses were pure white. And their banners were jet-black with pure white at the point of each.
"Iddawc," said Rhonabwy, "who are the jet-black troop over there?"
"They are the men of Denmark 2, and Edeyrn ap Nudd is their prince."
And when they had overtaken the host, Arthur and his army of mighty ones dismounted below Caer Badou, and he saw that he and Iddawc journeyed the same road as Arthur. And after they had dismounted he heard a great tumult and confusion amongst the host, and such as were then at the flanks turned to the centre, and such as had been in the centre moved to the flanks. And then, behold, he saw a knight coming, clad, both he and his horse, in mail, of which the rings were whiter than the whitest lily, and the rivets redder than the ruddiest blood. And he rode amongst the host.
"Iddawc," said Rhonabwy, "will that host flee?"
"King Arthur never fled, and if those words of yours were heard, you would be a lost man. But as to the knight whom you see over there, it is Cai. He is the best horseman in all of Arthur's Court; and the men who are at the front of the army hasten to the rear to see Cai ride, and the men who are in the centre flee to the side, from the shock of his horse. And this is the cause of the confusion of the host."
Then they heard a call made for Cadwr, Earl of Cornwall, and saw that he rose with the sword of Arthur in his hand. And the image of two serpents 3 was laid on the sword in gold. And when the sword was drawn from its scabbard, it seemed as if two flames of fire burst forth from the jaws of the serpents, and then, so wonderful was the sword, that it was hard for any one to look upon it. And the host became still, and the tumult ceased, and the Earl returned to the tent.
"Iddawc," said Rbonabwy, "who is the man who bore the sword of Arthur?"
"Cadwr, the Earl of Cornwall, whose duty it is to arm the King on the days of battle and warfare."
And they heard a call made for Eirynwych Amheibyn, Arthur's servant, a red, rough, ill-favoured man, having red whiskers with bristly hairs. And presently he came upon a tall red horse with the mane parted on each side, and he brought with him a large and beautiful sumpter pack. And the huge red youth dismounted before Arthur, and he drew a golden chair out of the pack, and a carpet of diapered satin. And he spread the carpet before Arthur, and there was a golden-red apple at each corner, and he placed the chair upon the carpet. And so large was the chair that three armed warriors might have sat on it. Gwenn was the name of the carpet, and it was one of its properties that whoever was on it could not be seen, though he could see every one. And it would retain no colour but its own.
1 Osla Gyllellfawr being Octha or Aesc the son of Hengest who supposedly inherited the kingdom of Kent in 488 and therefore might well have been the leader of the Anglo-Saxons at the historical battle of Mons Badonicus.
2 References to the men of Norway and Denmark shouldn't be considered to fantastical. This is where the Vikings came from and it was not unknown for Viking mercenaries to fight in the service of the kings of Wales. See Gruffudd ap Cynan for example.
3 "the image of two serpents" - The duel serpent motif was apparently the insignia of the Segontienses Auxilium Palatinum the garrison of the Roman fort of Segontium, modern Caernarfon, and therfore just the sort of symbolism that would appeal to a Romano-British warlord.