MORWEN of the WOODLANDS

Being Prince of Powys Benlli was rich; rich of land and rich of cattle, with fine warriors at his beckoning.

Galloping through hoar-frost on his hunter, through winter stripped boughs of his forest, through dawn mist he spied her.

A beautiful young woman in an emerald gown flowing around her as red hair tumble about her slender shoulders.

The prince called through crystal air to her, while mist gathered as a pall so even as she waved she vanished.

On he rode to flush the stag, pursue the boar, but neither felt the sting of his arrows that day.

He could not ignore the vision he’d been granted, it became his mission to seek her, for had not his wife grown old and plain.

Day after day she teased him, never answering his calls except with a smile and a wave. Till the evening she appeased him.

As the gloaming gathered along the woodland path she stood in his way. He begged her to stay and dwell with him in his castle.

So fair of face was she when she smiled and so certain of herself she could make demands upon one so beguiled and expect their fulfilment.

“Send away your wife,” she said, “Then may we wed and share a life with but one condition.

“I must be absent from your bed once a week, for I am from the land of fairy and must return there one night in seven. Please understand,

“You must never follow me, then I shall not grow old, but remain as fair as this day of our pledging.”

With no pause or hedging the prince agreed. He steered his horse, with her set high upon its pommel, towards home to find his wife disappeared.

“My name is Morwen of the Woodlands.” She declared to the servants who were then themselves snared by the spell of her beauty.

How perfectly and well she carried out the duty of being a prince’s wife, except once a week when she deserted him who became troubled by an inner strife.

He was determined to keep his promise and yet he feared he’d fail in this. Was there some devious purpose to her absences?

An undeclared lover? A secret intrigue? Neither by day nor night was he spared this torment of a truth he could not discover.

Wylan, the prince’s confessor and not unversed in magical arts, conjured a confidence from his lord.

The once adored Morwen was the cause of his dark distress, she’d set his enemies free to plot against him, such had been his infatuation.

It was with regret Benlli had come to view their meeting. Had she not seduced him through her fleeting appearances?

Wylan deduced a devious plan whereby his prince would lose the prime source of his present misery while allowing the cunning cleric ample earthy reward.

Hiding a grimoire of sorcery beneath his habit, the monk made his way to the great standing stones marking the portal into the fairy mound.

Firstly came the rustling of leaves settling down and then the sound of the swishing skirts of a silken gown.

He sat and watched while the earth opened and she descended a marble staircase into the forbidden place mostly hidden from mortal eyes.

The monk opened his book and ground shook as he chanted a fine incantation. “Now,” he said, “She is mine.

“Come dawn and she must present herself at the church and be bound by marriage to me. Such is the oath I alone now make.”

Lit by the sun’s first rays Wylan, hurrying to the church, found a strange, grotesquely tall woman, sat on the steps.

By the days early light, though, she seemed familiar, and then he saw, on her third finger, the ruby ring Benlli had given Morwen.

“I am a giantess now.” She confessed. “Your spell made me divest myself of that fey form by which you knew me. But, on the honour of your life,

“By the oath you swore, you must make me your wife.” Wylan was struck dumb.
“I will tell all,” she said, “So come,

“Sit by me and listen. Ugly now and huge though I be, a great beauty I was a score and five years ago when first I married the prince.

“But I lost his love with my looks as years passed, so at last I made a bargain with the fairy folk, by which I’d remain beautiful,

“As long as I became a giantess in their land once a week. So was I able to sneak back into my husband’s affections as Morwen of the Woodlands.

“Now, though, I am ever cast this way and you are bound to me. This day it is that we must be wed.”

Wylan shrank back, made the sign of the cross and cried, “I will thank the angels if she is restored to her spouse and peace is restored to me.”

And so she was. Prince Benlli’s eyes at last saw through the game so he could see both his wife of the first call and Morwen of the Woodlands as being both the same.

Together then they lived out their lives with no further resort to charms, dying at peace, content in each others arms after many, many more years came and went.

Their castle sank into the earth and the waters of Lake Llynelys began to fill and close over them, and there they lie still.

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