She approached the lake shore and could once again smell the burning wood as its pungent smell drifted across the still waters of the lake, its heavy scent reminding her of the first time she had noticed the wisps of grey smoke that arose on the far shore of the lake. It must have been twelve months since she watched the shadowy figures as they placed the large cauldron on the shoreline and proceeded to build a fire beneath the black cast-iron belly. Each day she would visit the lake to drink of its sweet cooling waters and over the year she had watched with curiosity as the tall slender woman had visited the cauldron to place her objects into its steaming waters. She had often wondered why the woman continued to disappear into the surrounding woodland only to return later with armfuls of plants and herbs for the pot whose fire was stoked by a small figure who, it appeared, had never left the cauldron untended. No matter what the weather the small figure could be seen huddled over the cauldron either stirring the brew or placing firewood on to the fire to keep the flames burning gently beneath the pot. Just as she had done everyday since that day she gave a curious nod of recognition and lowered her head to drink, her thoughts of smoke and bubbling cauldron giving way to the anticipation of the delicious sweetness that was to come.
The waters were still today and the image of the Arenig mountain range seemed to float ethereally on the surface of the black waters making it difficult for her to see where the mountains finished and the lake began. The mists of the dragons-breath that swirled gently above the waters added to the illusory nature of the images that played upon the surface of the lake. As she lowered her head she was aware of her image staring up from the dark depths of the lake, her golden mane reflecting in the water shimmered as it caught the sunlight. It was a familiar sight that she had seen every day for many years. Ever since she could remember she had been lead down to the shores of the lake for refreshment before the heavy toil of work began. Her master, Lord Garanhir, although a gentle man, demanded hard work from his subjects in payment for a warm stable and a plentiful supply of food.
This day seemed somehow different, she wasn’t able to define what it was that seemed different but there lingered a strange sense of foreboding in the air. Perhaps it was her finely tuned equine senses that picked up the changing atmosphere, or maybe she had caught a subliminal glimpse of events happening over the waters on the other side of the lake, either way she knew that today would be no ordinary day. She continued to lap up the waters whilst nervously staring at her own image reflected in the surface of the lake, her ears pricked up as she heard a noise from across the water. She raised her head, water dripping from her lips as she stilled her body, and strained to see what was causing the noise from the opposite shore. As she looked she became aware of a small figure stooped over as if in pain, its form appearing larger than life as the light from the flames played tricks on her eyes. She had never seen the fire so high or the brew boiling so ferociously, the figure appeared to be clutching its hand to its mouth as if trying to sooth itself. As she stared across the lake the perfect image of the mountains began to distort as waves began to propagate across the surface of the lake from the other shoreline. She glanced nervously down just in time to see her own image begin to disintegrate into a myriad of shattered pieces as the turbulence swelled up onto the shore, the whites of her eyes were visible, seen reflected within the fragmented shards of her image. She froze with fear, her breath visible as it struck the coolness of the air almost mimicked the icy coldness that she felt deep within her being. She stood in the midst of the unknown and waited, waited for an age.
Time had stood still, or so it appeared to her. She eventually threw back her head, allowing her golden mane to sweep back majestically and she nervously pawed the ground with her hoof sending wisps of dust up into the air. Looking across the lake she saw a lakeside transformed. Where the pot-bellied cauldron had stood there lay its shattered remains smouldering amongst the glowing embers of the fire. The beach lay bare and the trees, having had their roots exposed, looked as if they had been petrified in the very act of attempting to escape the destructive forces that had been unleashed upon their landscape. There was utter silence, she strained and listened intently but an eerie quiet had descended on the land, even the sound of the waters lapping at the shore were muffled as if she was listening through layers of silk. The clear blue of the sky had given way to a dull grey expanse of foreboding clouds that had turned the clear light of day into a twilight the like of which she had never seen before.
Her breathing was fast and shallow, she could feel the pounding of her heart as she tentatively edged forward stepping into the black waters of the lake, sending ever increasing circles out across the still surface of the lake. Her lips were dry with fear and she gently lowered her head to drink once more from the familiar waters. She hesitated, something didn’t taste right, the familiar sweetness that she had known since she had been a foal was no longer present. The familiar cool sweetness had been replaced with a sour acrid taste that burned her lips. She jolted backwards removing herself from the water, but it was too late! She could already sense the tension developing within her throat as it began to swell and tighten, her breathing was becoming laboured and terror entered her heart. She knew at that moment that she was about to die, her strength and life force was slowly ebbing away from her body. Slowly, almost imperceptibly she began to lower to the ground as her forelegs collapsed beneath her quickly followed by her hind legs. She was panting heavily now trying to get her breath but she knew it was futile and gently, so gently, she lowered her head onto the damp earth and closed her eyes as she took her final gasp for air. She lay motionless upon the wet earth, a tear had formed and was gently rolling down her cheek where it dripped silently onto the darkness of the soil that was being wetted by the waters that now lapped against her still body.
From the increasing darkness of the night that began to engulf the surrounding landscape a presence could be sensed, a presence that stared with sadness at the body of the horse that lay motionless on the ground. The silver light of the Moon cast a shadow of the horse onto the surrounding ground, its golden mane spread out and was illuminated like a halo by the moon beams. She looked beautiful and yet the presence knew that its beauty masked the truth that it lay lifeless, a mere shell of its former majesty. The presence slowly moved out of the darkness and edged towards the lifeless corpse that lay before it and sensed a change within itself. Feeling the inner stirrings of grief, it began to wail, for it had now tasted bereavement.
Reflections of the Moon bounced playfully upon the lake surface, distracted by the images of the Moon the presence moved towards the waters edge where it caught a glimpse of its image within the water! Confusion filled its mind as it tried to understand the image that played before it. Vague memories began to filter through the veils of unknowing that clouded its mind, as if to try to force more memories to rise up from the depths of its unknowing, it looked again into the blackness.
Moonlight gave the image an eerie glow and seemed to emphasise the blackness of the hollows that stared back at the presence from the depths of the water, hollows that should have been eyes but that were now just empty sockets. Holding back fear and the sudden urge to flee the presence continued to stare into its reflection. Slowly memories began to form of a time, a time that seemed endless, when she galloped through meadows, the wind rushing through her mane which flowed back like golden mist and rippled with each stride. What she saw now was a grey, fleshless skull with hollow sockets for eyes and a mane of pure white that hung loosely around her skull. Her body was draped in white silken veils that shone like the moon hidden behind mare-tail clouds.
Turning away from the body that lay at the waters edge she began to move towards the woodland that surrounded the lake shore. She glanced back for one last time and understood the truth. Her body lay motionless on the earth and would soon return to whence it came, but her true essence was to continue as a shade of the night in search of something that remained intangible, veiled from her consciousness, yet she felt driven to seek it out. Ages past as she continued to wander the land, a mournful wraith-like figure that would haunt the dreams of the troubled, seeking something that would fill the void that grief had left etched deep within her soul.
Each night as she approached the dwellings of the unwary she sensed her longing to be complete once more. Her mournful song could be heard by those whose hearts had felt grief and the dark pain of separation and who longed for wholeness once more. Each night she wondered if these dwellings would release her from her pain or was she destined to continue to wander the nights alone for ages to come.
Rain battered the loosely fixed wooden slats of the barn and the wind howled cruelly through the stables. A makeshift straw bed was piled high in the far corner and the dark foreboding figure of a man could be seen huddled beneath a thickly woven blanket in an attempt to keep warm. In the centre lay a brown mare heavy with foal, sweat beads glistened on her skin indicating that her time was near. Suddenly the man stirred, lifting himself up onto one elbow he tilted his head listening intently. He was about to lay back down thinking that it was just the howling wind playing tricks amongst the slats, when suddenly he heard the noise again. A deep, low mournful song could be heard above the sound of the rattling slats. Sadness suddenly swept over him as memories of the previous loss of his foals filled his mind. Images of broken windows and debris strewn across the straw where the new born foal should have been came flooding back. This was the third May Eve where his mare was in foal and he was determined that this foal was not going to disappear like the previous two.
Outside the darkness was absolute, thick rain-clouds obscured the moon and rain battered the walls of the barn. She stood motionless outside the barn, her mournful song entreating entrance at the door. She sensed the floods of emotion that emanated from within the barn. The sense of bereavement at the loss of his previous foals was almost palpable within the howling winds. She sang again and this time his heart replied with longing for completeness and the hope that this year his foal will survive.
Within the barn the mare begins to grunt, sweat running down her body drips onto the straw already damp from her efforts. At last she gives birth to her foal, its steaming body rests gently on the straw as the mare begins to clean it. The man rushes over to examine the foal but catches a glimpse through the window of movement outside. Before he can act a large clawed hand comes crashing through the window and tries to take hold of the foal. The man stands paralysed with fear and unable to act he fears the loss of yet another foal. Just as he is about to fall to his knees with fear he once again hears the words of the mournful song “let me in once again, let me in” fear leaves him and his heart opens in welcome to the singer of those words. He grabs his sword and, raising it high, he attacks the clawed hand with all his might severing the hand and releasing the foal from its monstrous grip. Standing, shaking and dripping with sweat the man collapses onto his knees and cries out with relief.
Exhausted he stumbles out of the barn, sweat and tears streaming down his face only to be met by the vision of his wife standing in front of him holding a new born child. He reaches forward with his blood stained hand and touches the child’s golden locks of hair. The child had been found lying on the floor outside the barn when the wife had come out to investigate. They name the child Gwri Wallt Euryn, Gwri of the golden Hair and stand holding each other closely as they watch an ethereal grey figure slowly disappear into the darkness.