Chapter 21

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Cigfran. The giant raven's name was Cigfran, Eleri mused. They had spoken, albeit briefly, for the raven could not communicate with the living once night had turned to day. Conversely, once the sun had risen, Cigfran could only speak to the dead. This seemed a little backwards to Eleri, but she wasn't going to say so, not after the raven had said it was possible to go to the Land of Anwnn and return with a living, breathing Celyn.

As the first rays of the rising sun were creeping over the horizon, Eleri walked back to the summer camp in an elated daze. She couldn't believe it. Her hopes and dreams might not be lost after all. Of course, Cigfran had said it wouldn't be easy, and that the price would be high for such an endeavour, but Eleri was willing to pay anything to straighten out this terrible twist her life had taken.

Whereas before the raven appeared in the valley of the dead, Eleri had been consumed with dark and deathly thoughts, now she had a desire for life that she had never known. She had a purpose. She had a quest. It seemed loosing everything had made her understand how precious living was. For without life, she could not restore Celyn to this world.

Cigfran had been sparse with the details. She had yet to explain why she was protecting Eleri, and from whom. Neither did she say why she was willing to help her get Celyn back and right this wrong she had suffered. But to Eleri, these were small things, not important things. The only thing that mattered was Celyn. She didn't even ask exactly how she was supposed to cross The Veil, negotiate her way in the world beyond, find the Summerlands, locate Celyn and then bring them both back to the land of the living. That was a question for another time. All that she cared about was that it was possible.

In the hazy half-light of the new morning, she navigated her way out of Cwm Meirw and around the southern tip of the escarpment, before stopping to look up at the stone circle. It was circling over Cylch Cerrig that Eleri had first seen Cigfran, on the day King Brenin had blessed her and Celyn's intention to marry. Now, this evening, she would be marrying Arwel instead.

The raven had stressed this could not be avoided. Celyn had agreed to Arwel's challenge, and in so doing, bound Eleri to the winner. If she was to refuse, she would bring shame upon herself and her tribe, not to mention, shame upon Celyn's shade. And, she would still be forced to marry Arwel in the end. It was better to do what had to be done without disgrace.

Nevertheless, it wouldn't be as bad as she imagined, Cigfran had cawed. The raven had a plan for the coming day, even if she didn't say a word about the subsequent ones. All Eleri needed to do was follow her instructions for that evening and her quest would be underway. It sounded simple.

Was this what had been meant by the recurring message, "Wait for the moonlight, Eleri. Only then will you find your destiny"? It was in moonbeams that Cigrfran had been revealed to her in the dead tree, and in that moment, her perspective had shifted and her life had changed. But where had those words come from in the first place? Cigfran the Raven or another? She cast the thought aside; there would be time for questions later.

On entering the summer camp, the inhabitants were beginning to wake. Women, up before the men, bustled about, fetching fresh water from the river, or else were working bread ready for baking. Midsummer's Eve was a busy day for all concerned, for no-one worked on the longest day itself and yet so much had to be prepared for the festivities.

Eleri had her own preparations to make. There were bridal rituals that had to be completed before the ceremony. If she did not go through them, she would be forbidden from marrying, raising again that question of disgrace.

She pushed open the door-flaps of her tent and stepped inside. Her eye was immediately drawn to the pile of clothes in the corner. The clothes Celyn had worn when he died. She walked over to them and picked them up. For a little while all she could do was stand there, holding them, inhaling the lingering masculine scent of the warrior. When she finally broke the spell the garments had over her, she exited the tent and dropped them into the campfire. The clothes a man or woman died in needed destroying in case they harboured evil spirits.

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