Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Song of Heledd

How long ago all that warm weather seems now. In Wales July was the wettest month since November and August hasnt exactly made a dry start. But there is an upside to it, it means no one expects the grass to be mown every week and if the flower beds look droopy and dismal, well, it isnt my fault, how can I be expected to garden in the rain, let the slugs have them I say. So, I stay at my desk and dash out splendid stories - well, hopefully splendid stories anyway. I am more than a quarter t hrough my next, the third novel.

It is entitled The Song of Heledd and is based on some fragments of Welsh 9th century poetry but set in the 7th. The Canu Heledd is narrated by a lone woman, a woman mourning for the loss of her kin and kingdom. She is the princess Heledd, sister to Cynddylan, King of Pengwern who togther with the king of Gwynedd and Penda of Mercia make war upon Oswald and his son Oswiu of Northumberland. An attack on Pengwern results in the entire dynasty being destroyed apart from Heledd, whose keening sorrow reaches us across the centuries in the form of a scrap of poetry.
The poems from the sequence make many references to Cynddylan's hall and her father, her many brothers and sisters are named and some details as to their lifestyle. The thing that sparked my interest is the misery in Heledd's voice and her great sense of guilt. She feels responsible for the massacre of Pengwern but we do no know what her sin is. So this is where I come in to fill in the gaps.
The Song of Heledd is a tragedy, a love story and a tale of war. Heledd takes the reader back into the dusky realms of Briatin's Celtic past to explain just what happened to overset her security and undermine her brother's power. Below is a teaser, hope you enjoy.

The Song of Heledd


I dreamed of the eagles long before they came. In my dream they swooped down from their cloudy crags, blackening the sky, the wind from their wings lifting my hair. They circled, talons extended, before settling on the field of death to tear at the corpses of my brothers.
The dagger of loss ripped open my heart as i waded through my slaughtered kin to find Cynddylan's body and when I saw his limp standard, his torso twisted, his neck broke, his mouth gaping, my world turned dark. I kneeled in his blood and tried to close the yawning wound upon his chest but he was gone. All my brothers were lost, the kingdom was shattered and only I was left, alone. I threw back my head, unprotected beneath a vast and empty sky.


When I woke in the morning, safe in my furs, I flung back the covers and ran outside. My playmates tumbled as usual beneath a kindly summer sky while their mothers spun cloth in the shade of the alder tree.
My brother, Cynddylan, King of Pengwern strode across the enclosure with an arm about his companion. I ran to tell him of my terrible dream but he waved me away, intent on the affairs of men.
As I grew to womanhood the dream faded and I forgot it. It was many years later when the clash of battle first sounded that I remembered what was to come.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you about the weather - it is a shame but it does favour the writer and lessen the garden-guilt.

    Great teaser, Judy. It sounds as if it'll be another compelling story. Look forward to finding out more about Heledd.