Here it is - my first Eisteddfod entry!
It's a short story I wrote for an Internet writing workshop. I was not into modern Druidry at the time, but perhaps the story foreshadows my active interest in OBOD!
I hope you enjoy it.
The path climbed steeply, giving Flan a view of the treetops in the valleys on either side. In front of him, a bare mountainside stretched away to his left and right. Straight ahead, where the shoulder of the mountain was still grassy, stood a circular structure of dry-stone masonry. Flan was just a few hundred paces from the un-hoped for goal of his quest.
He turned a last time and looked back to the east. There, somewhere in the haze, stood the little stone beehive huts in which he and his brothers lived and studied, and the little church in which the Abbot taught them.
“Teach me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Flan had begged him; but he had said that no teacher in the world could teach the whole truth.
“Then teach me to read, that I may find the truth in the Scriptures!” Flan had said. But the Abbot had said that no teacher in the world could teach understanding.
Flan had been disappointed.
“If that is so, how can I learn to understand?” he had asked.
The Abbot had looked at him long and earnestly.
“Learn to recognise the lie, and you will be closer to the truth. Deepen your knowledge, Flan! There are others, to whom our faith means nothing, but who have gathered more knowledge about the world than we have ...”
So the Abbot had sent Flan into the West to find a Druid who would be willing to instruct a young monk.
At the foot of the mountain, Flan could still make out the house with the images of the old gods built into its walls; the house in which he had talked for three days and three long nights with the aged Druid about Truth and Knowledge.
“Our insight into the world stems from knowledge,” the Druid had said, “Your insight stems from faith. We must separate knowledge from error like wheat from chaff to see the Truth; you must separate faith from superstition. For both of us, Truth and Untruth look like twin brothers. But there are others, who simply recognise the difference ... the Elders ... those who were here before us ...”
That morning, Flan has set out early to find one of these “Elders,” an old woman named Dana.
He continued on his way. In front of the roofless, perfectly circular wall that protected the entrance to the subterranean dwelling of the Elder, Flan was surprised to see a shapely young woman with smooth, white skin, long, black hair, and eyes the colour of the cloudless sky behind her.
Flan enquired of her after the old woman, and she chuckled like a mountain stream. “Osgar the Druid sent you, didn’t he? I am Dana – he always calls me the ‘Old Woman’ just because I was in the world before he was!”
Flan surveyed the firm breasts and the narrow waist in the long gown of pale-green linen, and replied that the Druid probably meant that her people had been here before his people.
“Oh, no!” she said. “I was here long before him; he has much of his knowledge from me. You know what I am.”
“So you really exist?”
“Yes, as you can see!”
Flan was silent before this being that was more beautiful than any bride, had the voice of a merry girl, and spoke to him like a wise grandmother.
“You are one of the new Brotherhood,” she said, “One who believes in the God who was here before us, who was killed, and who will outlive us?”
“Yes, and with whom I shall dwell in eternity!” Flan replied unctuously.
Dana’s eyes seemed to penetrate his dark, woollen mantle and his simple, linen tunic, and she said, “Then let us meet again – shall we say, in a hundred years? You will be a real man then, Flan!“
Flan wondered briefly what the Scriptures said abut sex in the other world. He seemed to remember words of the Lord that implied that there was nothing of that kind. That was a pity!
“Whether Druid or monk, warrior or poet, you mortal men all want the same from me,” Dana continued with a merry, girlish chuckle.
“But you will not get it – not just like that!”
Flan bit his lip.
“They all seek the gift of recognising the Truth, as we recognise it. I can see that you are looking for it, too.”
Dana’s sky-blue eyes bored deep into Flan’s soul, and her girlish voice said, “The Spring of Truth rises just behind my dwelling. Whoever drinks of it will from that day on perceive the truth or falsehood of every word that he hears or reads. And more: if a question is put to him, he will always answer truthfully, even if the answer was not known to him before. Is that what you want, Flan?“
Flan delayed not an instant, and said, “Yes, that is what I want! And I will receive the gift just like that – by simply drinking?”
Dana smiled at him like a grandmother at a small child. “Yes and no, Flan! Beside the Spring of Truth rises the Spring of Lies. Whoever drinks of it will from that day on be unable to distinguish truth from falsehood, and he will be compelled to answer any question that is put to him with a direct lie. The water of the Spring of Truth will no longer have any effect on him.”
“And … which spring is which?” Flan asked.
“No-one knows that except my two brothers,” said Dana. “Brock drank from one of the Springs, Cu from the other. They know, but now one of them always tells the truth, and the other always lies.”
“So you must know too, Dana!“
She smiled again. “Brock and Cu are twins. Not even our mother can tell them apart. When you come to the Springs, one of them will be there. He will answer one single question for you. His answer will be the absolute truth – or a direct lie.”
“That means – either I gain access to the whole truth, or I estrange myself from it forever?”
“It is so, Flan! Go around the wall, walk a few paces down the hill, and you will see my brother standing by the Springs.”
His knees trembling, Flan walked around the wall.
To gain the ability to discern truth and falsehood, he would need to have that very ability.
How true were the words of Osgar the Druid: “For both of us, Truth and Untruth look like twin brothers!” True, but mocking!
Were the words of the Abbot any better? “Learn to recognise the lie, and you will be closer to the truth.”
And all that Dana had said was that Flan would receive either a true or a false answer.
Three eloquently phrased counsels that did not help Flan one whit!
The man at the springs looked just as young as Dana, and he was as handsome as she was beautiful.
“God be with you: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost! I am Flan,” said the young monk.
“The Spirits of the Earth, the Air, the Fire and the Water be with you! I am Cu,“ said the other.
‘If only I knew which spring Cu drank from!’ thought Flan.
‘On the other hand,’ he considered, ‘How do I know whether he really is Cu, or a lying Brock?’
“What do you want of me, Flan?” asked Cu, if it was he.
Flan took a deep breath. “The answer to one question: Which of these two springs would your twin brother point to if I asked him to show me the Spring of Truth?”
The twin’s sky-blue eyes met Flan’s steadily, like those of an upright man – or of an inveterate liar: “This spring, on the edge of which I am sitting!”
Flan turned to the other spring, dipped his hands into the water, cupped them, and drank.