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The Ancient Ones

a strange meeting:

The camera tracks through the lush, still beauty of old growth rainforest. We hear the distant twittering of birds and scurrying of small animals. A hunting horn sounds in the distance. Flashes of bright colour are visible far away through the deep green branches. They are followed by the muffled sound of baying hounds and horses' hoofs, and an occasional shout. We hear the sound of the Breton tune 'Gwerz Maro Pont Kalleg' played on a harp.

A series of short closeups reveals wolflike hounds running, and long fingered hands pulling a horse's bridle. Finally we see a thin but handsome young man of aristocratic bearing dressed in a high collared jerkhin, curly toed boots and a wide brimmed conical black hat, mounted on a pony. He is one of the Faery folk.

Towering over a pack of white hounds which are making a din, a supernaturally giant white stag is at bay in front of a stone dolmen. The rider's shaggy grey hounds surround the stag. A closeup shows the young man eagerly walking toward the camera through the trees. He is looking beyond it at the stag with his hat in hand, occasionally glancing down to be sure of his footing. We see that he has a wide mouth, enormous dark eyes and a pointed beardless chin. But his hair is thick and red-gold, instead of straight and dark like the rest of his kind. It is worn just above shoulder length, with the large pointed ears showing through, and a fringe across his forehead.

Suddenly there is utter silence, and the young man looks up in surprise. Where the stag has been we see Arawn, a translucent figure of very pale grey, a man on a white horse. He is much larger than the young man, and his horse is much larger than a Faery's horse. His eyes shine with a white light. He wears a stiff conical hat, but without the brim, and a long, high collared ankle length robe. Instead of hair he has feathers. Where a human wizard would have long hair, he has long feathers growing from his scalp, and long feathers grow where a wizard would have a flowing mustache and beard. Yet he does not have wings. His robes carry the insignia of his ordination into the wizardry, three stars in a crescent moon. Like the Faery folk and their wizards, he speaks with what we would call a Welsh accent.

Arawn (in a supernaturally resonant voice): "Pwyll, prince of Dyfed, you have done me a great discourtesy."

Pwyll (hoarsely): "And what is that?"

Arawn: "Your hounds have taken my stag. That was not polite, Prince Pwyll."

Pwyll: "I know nothing of whose stag it was. Who are you, that make this claim?"

Arawn: "I am Arawn, from the next world after yours. Son of the Mother. You have heard of me."

Pwyll (bowing): "Yes, lord. How shall I gain peace with you?"

Arawn: "Deliver me from the fallen angel who wishes to overthrow my rule. His name is Hafgan, and you must do battle with him. For if a mortal man of peerless valour strikes one blow at Hafgan, that evil creature will be destroyed." He pauses. "I did not tell you that before meeting Hafgan you will have to spend a year and a day in my place."

Pwyll: "But I'll be missed."

Arawn: "You and I may exchange places. You can assume my appearance, and pass through the portal which is behind me. And I will assume yours and become prince of Dyfed for a year and a day. On the morning of the last day you are to meet Hafgan. My people will tell you exactly where and when to meet him, and will prepare you for battle, but you must go alone. On the afternoon of the last day, at this very time of day, you will meet me at this dolmen and we'll become again as we were before."

Pwyll: "I will take upon me this adventure."

Arawn: "Three things are very important. No one in my world, not even my wife, may know that you are not I. And Pwyll, prince of Dyfed, if you forget all else, remember this. You may strike Hafgan only once. No matter what happens, do not strike him twice. No matter what he says, no matter what he does, even if it seems like the right thing to do, even if you curse yourself for it. Hafgan is clever. He knows that if you strike him twice, all will be lost and we will both be plunged into eternal death. For if you strike him a second time, however weak he may seem, he will rise up a thousand times stronger than before and no one will be able to stop him. He will use all his cunning to persuade you."

Arawn looks intently over the camera, obviously at Pwyll. After a measured pause he speaks, his gaze unwavering.

"And the third thing to remember, Pwyll prince of Dyfed, is hardest of all." He pauses. "There will be a test. If you fail this test, you deliver yourself into Hafgan's hands." He hangs his head in despair. "I can tell you no more, but I have little hope of your success. You may change your mind if you wish."

Pwyll: "That I will not!"

From the far side of the clearing, we see Arawn dismount.

Arawn: "Come, bravest of the brave."

He offers his bridle to Pwyll, who comes in frame to take it, looking very small indeed. We see Pwyll walk into the dolmen, leading Arawn's enormous horse, and as he does so he grows and becomes translucent, assuming Arawn's appearance.
read more about Pwyll

the death of a giant:

We fade in to a very old man with a white beard lying on a bed across the foreground. He has the broad face, almond shaped eyes, high cheekbones, full-lipped wide mouth and upturned nose of the Volsungr giants. The old man is Llyr, High King on the Island of the Mighty. His son Bendigeidfran ('Bran' for short) wearing a wizard's blue robe, walks through the left side of the frame to sit gently down beside his father's bed. His nose is small and upturned, and his mouth –as wide as that of any Faery– has full lips instead of the thin lips of the little people.

Bendigeidfran is a strongly built, sturdy man with a beard, a generous face and an honest gaze. Though he has inherited his father's size and facial features, he has the dark hair and eyes of the Faery. His eyes are filled with tears as he gazes at his father. He gently takes both the old king's hands in his own, and holds them throughout the scene. Llyr finds it hard to speak. Only his lips and eyelids move.

Llyr (in the hoarse, barely audible voice of the dying): "Bendigeidfran, there are some things you must remember when you are king after me.... The sword of Arthur is the greatest treasure of this island, you know that.... On the three main islands and the three lesser islands there is not a better advisor than your brother Manawyddan.... Something else.... Do not trust Caswallon. He is the son of my old rival Beli Mawr."

Bran (softly): "No father, I won't trust him."

Llyr: "Listen to me. You know the ocean is rising. We all know the ocean is rising." He pauses to regain what little strength he has left. When he resumes speaking there is an edge to his voice. "When the water on the east beaches of Mon rise a mile beyond the first standing stone, the people on the island must leave it within a year, and the people on the other two islands must welcome them."

There is a silence.

"You and Manawyddan have been good sons to me."

Bran (softly, trying to control his grief): "Father... we both love you very much."

For a few moments Llyr lacks the strength to continue. Bran waits patiently.

Llyr: "Whatever happens.... You remember the time I disowned your sister Bronwen." The old man's eyes fill with tears. "My little Bronwen! My sweet little Bronwen!"

Bran (in a soothing whisper): "She forgives you, father."

Llyr: "But I... I do not forgive myself. Do you know what happened?" Bran shakes his head. "I asked how she loved her old father... as I asked you once, you may remember." There is another pause due to weakness. "And she said, 'As bread loves salt'. As bread... loves salt."

The old man is silent, lost in introspection. Bran speaks very softly to bring him back to the present.

Bran: "I don't understand, father."

Llyr: "Neither did I. Until I finally visited her in exile." His face contorts. "I couldn't bear to be apart from her any longer. She looked at me with those big eyes of hers."

This effort exhausts him, and he closes his eyes. After a few moments he continues with his eyes closed. His voice is stronger.

"I was angry at being so ill received. The food was dull, and worst of all was the bread. It was completely tasteless. I wondered what she was up to, and accused her of ...poisoning me."

Bran (slowly and softly): "It had no salt."

Llyr: "Bendigeidfran, my son, when you are king, promise me..."

Bran leans over his father worriedly.

"It is my dying wish. Promise me that you will never, never let anyone hurt my little Bronwen again. Never... never... let anyone...."

Llyr dies. Bran bends down so that his head is on his father's chest, and cries.
read more about Bendigeidfran

first king of the Faery:

From a hilltop, the camera pans across the town of Gwynfryn, in a narrow valley which shall one day be filled with water. It is dusk, with some sunset lingering in the sky. There is almost no activity. The broken sod roofs of cottages built into the hillside or wedged between landfill reveal torn thatch underneath, and the muddy dirt roads are a depressing sight. Laundry is old and ragged. Houses are grubby and in need of repair. Potholes in the hard dirt roads are filled with ice. The snow covered garden plots are barren. The thin trickle which is the Thames, only a stream at this date, is iced over. The ridge from which we are seeing this scene will one day be the north bank of the Thames, and everything below will be under water.

We see the figures of seven men silhouetted against the sky, looking down the steep hillside at the town. Four of them carry antler pickaxes. They have thrown off the seal head hoods of their cloaks and are bareheaded.

We see Manawyddan in closeup as he gazes down. Taliesin is beside him.

Manawyddan: "I wish Arthur were here."

Taliesin (reflectively, looking through the air at his own memories): "We were there to see it all. The Court of the First King. We're the only ones left now."

Manawyddan: "The People of Time are Arthur's people. Now and forever. He will never be forgotten." He turns his head to look at Taliesin. "Taliesin, you must make sure of that. You have a gift for these things."

Taliesin: "Never fear, old friend. I will make sure."

Both men look into their past for at least five seconds of silence. Then Taliesin gives Manawyddan a quizzical glance.

Taliesin: "You seem to like rough times. It wasn't that great."

Manawyddan throws back his head and laughs. Then both men become suddenly quiet and they look each other in the eyes.

Manawyddan (softly): "Yes, it was."
read more about Manawyddan

a devious plot:

We fade in to a large flint quarry with its many storeys of chambers. Men are lifting large slabs of stone with the aid of pulleys. The camera pans up to the road above, where parties of travellers on horses pass by the quarry. It follows the travellers and their retinue as they journey along the high road toward the castle of King Math of Gwynedd.

Of Math's castle in the distance we see only the ivy covered stone walls above a small town of dwellings built into the hillside. Then closeups show the horses' hooves, the riders' black cloaks and their conical black broad brimmed hats. The camera zooms in to an old wizard and his apprentice making their way along the side of the quarry. The wizard wears a blue robe, of course, but his apprentice wears black, with a 'mortar board' hat.

The wizard walks slowly with his eyes closed, tapping on the ground with a long carved staff. At the top of the staff is a large ball of crystal. A workman walks up to the group with a rock, and the apprentice gives it to the wizard. He looks intently at it through the crystal. The workman keeps a respectful but interested distance. Then we return to the travellers on the road as they go up a gentle incline toward the castle.

An establishing shot shows Math's throne room crowded with courtiers. The camera lingers on the rich colours of the courtiers' clothing, which contrasts strikingly with the grey stone walls. A closer shot shows the king, a stately elder with a long, thin white beard. He sits on an ornately carved dark wood throne. His hat and robe tell us instantly that he is a wizard.

As a wizard, Math is larger than most of his subjects. He wears heelless slippers with curly pointed toes, and his feet are held in the lap of a lovely young woman, modestly dressed in grey and white, who sits on a carved wooden stool in front of his throne. Her name is Gwion. A wider angle shot shows the king receiving various dignitaries and emissaries, and landowners paying homage.

Amid a crowd passing into the throne room, a tall courtier with a wizard's hat and robe overtakes another without those distinctions. The wizard is named Gwydion, and he approaches behind the right shoulder of his brother Glifaethwy, drawing him away from anyone who might be listening.

Gwydion: "Brother, I've been watching. You aren't eating, and something's distracting you."

Gilfaethwy: "You don't miss a thing."

Gwydion: "That's why I'm a wizard and you're not."

Gilfaethwy: "There's a woman at court I fancy."

Gwydion: "What's wrong with that?"

Gilfaethwy: "She has refused me."

Gwydion: "What's her name?"

Gilfaethwy: "Gwion."

The sound of the crowd has all but disappeared by now, and we notice a sudden near silence.

Gwydion: "Who sits at Math's feet? She's an easy treat. If she won't give it herself, we'll take it from her."

Gilfaethwy: "No."

Gwydion: "Why not?"

The two are now at the foot of the stairs.

Gilfaethwy (smiling in the light of this new idea): "Can we get away with it?"

Gwydion: "She's only a footbearer, even if at court. She's the lowest of the low. Nobody will care."
read more about Gwydion

the king with the silver hand:

An establishing shot of the ocean from a beach shows dugout ships with sails, very small in the distance. There are scores of them, and they fill the horizon, but at first we can't see what they are. As the scene progresses they become visible, but by the time it ends they are still far in the distance.

Man's voice (out of frame): "Yes, Caswallon was deposed by the Fa king from the south, but after the fellow went back home the family of Beli Mawr stepped right back in. Lludd is trying to legitimize his claim to the throne by telling everyone he's an oldest son."

Woman's voice (also out of frame, slowly): "But Beli was never High King anyway."

Man's voice: "Lludd is saying that he was."

Woman's voice: "Well I don't care. We need a strong leader right now, with all the things happening on Atlantis. You remember when more of the southerners arrived there?"

Man's voice: "They were killed by the giants. Couldn't get along."

Woman's voice: "Well, some of them escaped, and told people in their homeland about it. A third bunch tried their luck, and did much better."

Man's voice: "Another cup of tea, my dear? It'll stop that tumour."

Woman's voice: "Thank you, don't mind if I do. Well, recently yet another group came from their land in the south, refugees from some war or other, but were not welcomed by their own kind and had to fight their way onto the island. I hear their king is quite the ladies' man. They were here not long ago; they converted, you know. That was the deal, you see, and in return it was agreed that Lludd would lead them to victory."

Man's voice: "Let me guess. Now he's king of both islands."

Woman's voice: "Well, yes."

Man's voice: "Sounds as though he can spot a good opportunity." He pauses for a second. "What was the problem, anyway? There's been plenty of room on Atlantis since that fiasco with Partholon. Even after Mon went underwater it didn't get too many refugees."

Woman's voice: "Their king didn't trust the newcomers. Thought they would take over instead of sharing as they had promised. Only the king's general disagreed and thought they should give the new people a chance. They lost everything. But the general was remembered. He and his people got a quarter of the island, and live there in peace."

Man's voice: "It seems their king misjudged everything from start to finish."

Woman's voice: "Well, thanks to Lludd these new people are nicely settled."

Man's voice: "I like that tradition of theirs… what's it called, now? A court of law."

Woman’s voice: "I heard it was around in Partholon's day. He brought the Princess Bronwen in front of one of these things, and the court ruled against him because she had done nothing wrong."

Man’s voice: "So the court was above the king. We've got to get us one of those."

Woman’s voice: "You're behind the times. Lord Taliesin is heading the Judiciary committee, and you know how efficient he is."

Man's voice: "Good thing it's not Gwydion." Both voices chuckle. "Now what's that?"

Woman's voice (faltering): "Ships!"

Man's voice (in alarm): "Lots of ships! Too many, by the look of it!"

During their conversation the ships have been coming closer and closer. They are still very far away, but they span the horizon, which is dark with enemy vessels. Next we see two of the Faery folk, a man and a woman, running away from the camera up a sandy embankment.

Man (as he runs): "To the castle! Spread the alarm!"
read more about Lludd

the battle at Moytura:

The ships of the giants form a living bridge between the two islands. A wide angle shot shows their terrible fleet filling the horizon, huge dugouts with sails. A wide angle establishing shot shows the army of the little people gathering. We look down upon the Plain of Moytura, a heather strewn meadow surrounded by low mountains.

We see the patterns of the cavalry brigades as they move into position. Each horseman is equipped with a spear, which he holds upright. Those on foot are in the middle. Some of these are Faery and some are Atlans. The Atlans are the new immigrants, the converts who call themselves 'Tuatha de Danaan', eager to fight for their right to stay on Atlantis. In their southern armour, they stand out.

Each man is equipped with a sheathed double edged stone knife, a bow made of wood and sinew, and a leather quiver full of arrows. Both are held on the left shoulder by a strap running diagonally around the right side of his waist and back up. Each man holds a slingshot and carries a small bag full of stones at his belt.

Each battalion has a cavalry unit and a unit on foot, two banners and two designated banner holders, one on horseback and one on foot. Each banner is hung between two crossbars on a shaft, and the symbol on the flags is an Ogam letter representing the symbolic tree of the battalion.

Next we see the first charge of the battalions. They are on horseback, galloping at full speed toward the enemy, who are out of frame. Scores of them pass through the right side of the frame to the left side, their double edged stone knives sheathed and their spears held upright. The banners with their Ogam symbols are in full view. It is a sunny day, and there is a slight breeze. The whole thing looks quite glorious.

Within a chamber of a castle on his way home from Peblig's court, the king of the Tuatha de Danaan is taking off his disguise. His name is Aodh.

We see him in centre frame from his head to his thighs. He is unbuttoning a jerkhin that is padded to make him appear fat. As the costume is removed his lean torso is revealed. As he removes a toque his long lustrous hair falls loose. After he bends over to remove the padded leggings, a brief shot shows his lower legs in horizontally striped red and white stockings and curly toed moccasins.

Returning to the previous camera angle, we see that underneath, his lower torso has been clad in the purple loincloth of an Atlan king. A few women in Prydaan dress have passed behind him, smiling in amusement. During this transformation Aodh has been talking.

Aodh: "Peblig was gone, he was at the Volhall. All the giants on the mainland are under attack by some people called Goths. They're losing, and they're abandoning the Volhall to relocate here. Their king's son is joining Peblig with the entire Volsung army."

We see Light, son of Gwydion. He is behind the line of battle, and its sounds are heard in the distance. Light is in full armour. In the background cauldrons are being moved into place by wizards who are wearing robes but not hats. Light's face is earnest as he speaks to his father. Gwydion is distinctly older now, with grey in his hair.

Light: "I must ride into battle. If I die it makes no difference. What am I anyway? Let me go."

Gwydion : "Don't talk like that." Manawyddan moves into frame, coming up behind Gwydion.

Manawyddan: "He has my armour and my horse. I was told I'm needed as a medic."

Gwydion (turning his head in Manawyddan's direction): "He's needed too."

Light: "But–"

Gwydion (turning his gaze back to Light and speaking with crisp impatience): "I need you. Don't argue with me, Light. You'd be killed in no time."

A wide angle shot shows the battlefield in the late afternoon, soaked with blood. We see rows of inert male Faery bodies as far as the eye can see. Women are bringing more in and laying them down, each body carried by two bearers. Scores of wizards, both male and female, are steadily working to relieve the wounded, carrying jugs full of a clear liquid and sponge bathing the casualties. Ceramic cauldrons full of this liquid are stationed at regular intervals among the wounded, and the jugs are refilled from them.

Other wizards pass along the rows with bags full of supplies, checking for broken bones and pouring single drops of liquid medicines from small stoppered jugs onto the tongues of the casualties. After receiving the medicines and the sponge baths, the previously inert warriors show signs of life, stretch their arms and legs, roll onto one side, or even prop themselves upon elbows and look around. The wizards are tired, and their blue robes are torn and stained with blood. The attendant women are as bloodsoaked as the warriors themselves.

We hear the ominous harmonies of giant music –straight from central Asia, with a chilling suggestion of cymbals. A blood red sun looms large in centre frame. It looks like a dying sun setting on a doomed world. A wide angle shot shows the bloodsoaked Plain of Moytura, rimmed by low mountains in the distance.

Low and red in the sky, the sun casts a lurid, hellish glow over the dead landscape. The mountains have turned black, and shadows of lowering steel grey clouds fall upon the deserted plains, already stained dark by blood which covers all vegetation. It is an evil sight, with no sign of life, for this is the last of many battles. From close by we hear the deep voice of the giant king.

Peblig (in voiceover, bitterly): "No one pities a giant. The enemy is pushing us out of house and home, and every place to the south is swarming with these little ones! Are we not allowed to live?" His voice rises in sudden desperation. "This is not their island! We were here first! In all these lands, we arrived before anyone else. I don't see their women on the battlefield.... We have to take their children. There's no end to their numbers!" He pauses, and continues in wonderment. "Each day they fall, and the next morning we see them back again!"

Suddenly he becomes angry. "I'm not playing this game any more. That spy of mine told me it's those blasted wizards. We must attack them right now no matter what shape we're in. Our survival is at stake; it's now or never."

The camera pans swiftly up to his face. He is a huge man, with striking Volsungr features. His eyebrows begin at a frowning low point in the centre and slant upward, becoming bushy toward the temples at the sides of the head. His thick hair is turning from red-gold to grey. His jutting cheekbones look as though they were chiselled out of stone, and he gnashes his teeth in rage. There is a cast eyelid over his left eye, which is a walleye. He turns his head to his right.

"Lord, do we have your permission to attack?"

In a quick closeup, a richly dressed young Volsungr warrior nods his assent. He is Indech, son of the Volsungr High King on the mainland.

We see Peblig as before. His giant club, roughly hewn from an oak, is held over his head in both hands. Two other giants move in behind him. One is a strong but greying Volsungr woman with crooked teeth. The other is a strikingly beautiful young man with very dark brown hair. They are Peblig's wife Caithleu and his grandson Bres. Next we look up at him from twenty feet away. Peblig's huge form is head and shoulders above the other two, but he is matched by Indech. He brandishes his club in the lurid light. We see Peblig from a low angle only four feet away as he sounds his rallying cry.

Peblig (in a great booming voice): "Children of Volsung! Take back what is yours!"
read more about Peblig

from the Mabinogi, Lebor Gabala, Cathe maig Tuired and Book of Taliesin
influenced by Evangeline Walton

graphic courtesy of Pagan Gifs
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