First Branch - Prince Of Annwn
Book One: Decent into the Abyss
The Hunter and the Hunted
Pwyll, the Prince of Dyved is told by the Mabinogi to go hunting in Glen Cuch. His dogs and him are lost in the woods. Pwyll comes across white dogs that have killed a large stag, his dogs cower but he demands that they take it. He threatens them with a stick and they go into battle, the white dogs back off. It is noted that black is the color of the earth’s womb and signifies growth. White means annihilation.
A gray man on a gray horse comes out of the fog, approaching Pwyll. He asks what manners it is to set one’s own dogs on another man’s dog’s kill. This gray man is Arawn, King of Annwn. Annwn is the closest other world, the Abyss. It is also where all things take shape. Arawn, the gray man and King of Annwn tends to every garden, is the keeper of the plants and the master of the white dogs. His other name is death.
Meeting in the Forest
Arawn does not want to kill Pwyll, although this is Pwyll’s first thought. However, Arawn offers him a trade. It seems that another king, Lord Havgan, is moving westward into Annwn and taking control of more territory. Arawn wants Pwyll to kill Lord Havgan as he can no longer do it himself. (Havgan has an ability to heal if struck twice and therefore one must kill him in a single attack). If Pwyll does, Arawn and him will swear to be brothers. Pwyll is sent to Annwn to be Arawn, if he loses the battle, he will lose Annwn and Earth.
Meeting on the Moors
On his way to Annwn (riding Arawn’s horse) Pwyll meets a huge beast. After a chase, Pwyll’s spear and dagger blind the monster, but the monster manages to wound Pwyll. Blood loss causes him to fall asleep and the gray horse takes care of the monster. While Pwyll is asleep, he is mysteriously healed.
Maker of the Birds
After waking, Pwyll is very hungry; he smells apple blossoms and assumes there must be apples nearby. He finds them and he and Gray eat apples and drink some water. A goddess with three birds approaches them, one bird is green, one is white and one is shiny yellow. The goddess herself is whittling birds from apple wood, each one becomes a real bird as she finishes. This goddess was at one point, the Queen of Dyved and she offers to come back with Pwyll to Dyved and be his queen. The Goddess, is also that of horses (in particular two white ones) and she asks Pwyll to defeat a bird that is not hers. Her three birds put Pwyll in a deep sleep. Once on his way again, he meets a worm that says Arawn is just playing a game with Pwyll, a game of cat and mouse.
The Guardian of the Gate
The next morning, Pwyll is approached by a large bird and the freshly killed heads of men. The skulls lament the way the New Tribe is treating their dead. Pwyll is able to defeat the bird, which turns to ashes.
The Moonlit Land
Arawn’s voice tells Pwyll he has done good work, he gives him meat and wine to feast on. In this world, the dead and unborn are one and the monsters he fought earlier prepared Pwyll for the real battle, Arawn refuses to give Pwyll eternal life though. Pwyll’s lost weapons are returned to him and Arawn speaks of a day when all the Gods unite. Pwyll finds Arawn’s castle and meets the court and Arawn’s wife.
Pwyll fights desire to lie with the queen. Rhiannon also sends her birds to warn Pwyll about Havagan. All the land that Havagan steps on will turn barren.
The Battle at the Ford
Pwyll and Havagan fight until Pwyll bashes Havagan in the head and refuses to slay him (the second blow would render Pwyll powerless against a renewed Havagan).
Pwyll goes back to the clearing he met Arwan at and waits. Pwyll is returned to his body and earth. Pwyll’s cousin Pendaran informs him that the druids knew where he was and that he was gone for a year and a day in earth time (but only a day in Annwn). Pwyll tells his people the story and a great friendship is formed between Arwan and Pwyll.
Book Two: Rhiannon Of The Birds
Trouble Comes Upon Dyved
For three years, Dyved thrives, but the fourth year, the land is bare. The Druids beg Pywll to take a wife to restore fertility as the land reflects the king. They tell him that he must sleep with the White Mare of Aberth, slay her, and then drink her blood to restore the fertility of the land.
Pwyll Mounts the Dreadful Mound
Pwyll and ninety-nine of his men climb the Mound of the King of Dyved. They fall asleep and the next morning, Pwyll is awakened by birds and a horsewoman. Pwyll chases the woman on foot, but cannot catch her. He calls for Kein Galed (his trusted horse) and after a long day of running after the woman on the horse, Pwyll calls it a day and returns to rest. The next day he tries to find another mount to continue searching. Kein Galed refuses to let his master go without him, so they go on and on, to the point of exhaustion. Finally, Pwyll simply asks the woman to stop and she does, saying that if he would have asked before, she would have stopped then too.
What Came From The Mound
Rhiannon and her birds heal Kein Galed who is near death from all the chasing. Even the greatest warriors are born of women and women are the first judges and the first lawyers that they know – which maybe is why some men who respect nothing else, respect women and why others strive forever to make them small. Rhiannon is the daughter of Heveydd, who is King of Bright World but was once King of Dyved. She explains that she is to be wed to a man she does not love. Pwyll agrees once more to help, and marry her, but only in a year and a day. In the meantime, Dyved thrives as Pwyll goes in search of the Bright World.
In The Hall Of Heveydd the Ancient
In the Bright World, no weapons can enter. Pwyll meets Rhiannon’s father and is ashamed at not having any gifts, but Heveydd tells him not to worry. They all go to a great hall with blossoms for carpet, but Pwyll only sees Rhiannon’s beauty. Rhiannon is worried, as the other man is the Grey Lord of Death in the Bright World, Cludd. Heveydd tries to persuade her from marrying Pwyll, because if she does, she will become mortal. At the party, Pwyll gets mildly drunk and offers to give Gwawl (friend of Cludd). Gwawl asks for Rhiannon.
The Breaking Of Many Things
Shamed, Pwyll returns home and awaits Death on the mound. Rhiannon comes for him. She shows him a vision of six of his “true companions” who were to kill him. They are dead. Pwyll awakens, finds a small leather bag near him and then buries the six dead companions. In a year, Pwyll returns to the mound and they all go to the Bright World. Pwyll puts on beggars clothing and sets off to the hall without his men.
Again in Heveydd’s Hall
Pwyll goes to the hall and is stared at. He asks Gwawl for a morsel of food and drink. Assuming that Pwyll is dead, Gwawl tells his men to fill Pwyll’s leather bag. The bag however, is magic and cannot be filled. Ever cunning, Pwyll states the bag will only be full when the true lord of wide lands and great possessions of every kind of noble possession that there is puts both feet upon what is inside and says “Bag, enough has been put in you!” Pwyll traps the evil Gwawl in the bag, ties it up and lets his men play ‘badger-in-the-bag” until Gwawl agrees to Rhiannon’s wish for him to never seek her in love or hate. Pwyll fress Gwawl and leaves the Bright World with Rhiannon. Gwawl leaves a warning for Rhiannon when Pwyll dies.
The Golden Sickle
Rhiannon becomes mortal, but her birds remain a powerful resource. Gorsedd Arberth (High Druid) dies. He swears that Pwyll will lose a son.