CHAPTER 1: UNWITTING BETRAYAL
My parents told me afterward that Stan had been at the hospital almost as much as they had, that he often held my hand and talked to me, that almost as often he cried when he thought nobody was looking. I often wondered if his friendship had somehow anchored me, saved me.
And yet here I was, standing by him as he slept, with some of my ancient and medieval past personas wanting to throw him out the window, smother him with a pillow, run him through with a sword—anything to mend the tynged and save me from that uncertain something waiting to swallow me up. I didn’t really blame them in a way—some of them came from much more savage times in which moral dilemmas did not interfere with survival. Fortunately, they were just echoes of the past; I was the one who was in control, and if I had to face death or worse so Stan could live, then I would. Easy to say, I know, but at the time I really believed it. My past lives gave me a wild side I sometimes had to restrain, but they also gave me wisdom “beyond my years,” you might say.
That did, however, leave the question of what to do with Stan. I could do more than charm him to sleep. I could, for example, make him forget, but that process posed more risks. I would have trouble wiping just the memories that threatened me, and, looking down at him and thinking about his brilliant mind, I just couldn’t make myself take the chance. Besides, unless I erased much more, and took an even bigger risk, he would just come to the same conclusion again at some point in the near future. Instead of erasing his memories, I settled for a temporary fix and made him think he had dreamed the conversation with me. When he awoke, he would be a little groggy, not prone to act out the discussion he thought he had dreamed. I would walk him home—he lived just down the block—and I would buy myself a few days perhaps, to figure out what to do.
“Yes, Stan,” I whispered to him again. “You were right. I am Taliesin Weaver right now, but I was also the Taliesin who journeyed with Arthur to Annwn and then wrote about the journey later. And I was the more ‘historical’ Taliesin who was the court poet to King Urien of Rheged. I am betting you looked him up in Wikipedia and would have asked me about him had I given you half a chance. I have been other Taliesins as well, and many, many other people. The best part of all that, though it almost crushed me, is I can access any memory, use any skill from any of them; at least I can if I concentrate hard enough. Why that is true, what the purpose of all of it is, I really, really, wish we could find out together, but that, my friend, is a journey I am going to have to take alone.”
With that I brought him back to semi-wakefulness, just as I had planned, walked him home to make sure he got there in one piece, went back to my place, had the usual tense dinner with my parents, played the harp a little, and then crawled into bed, though naturally I couldn’t sleep.
Around midnight I heard howling that would be enough to freeze anyone’s blood, let alone someone like me who knew what it meant. The howl was followed soon enough by harsh scratching at the windows and by a moaning lament in, you guessed it, Welsh.
Over breakfast, my parents speculated about what could have caused all the racket last night, but I already knew.
We had heard the Gwrach y Rhibyn, the Welsh Banshee. When it spoke, it spoke to the relatives of the one who was going to die, wording its lament from their point of view.
Last night it spoke to my parents. It repeated, “Oh, my son!” to them over and over.
Now what Stan did or didn’t know became the least of my worries.
The tynged had been broken, and the price for its breaking was death. Mine.
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Genre - Fantasy / Young Adult
Rating – PG13
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