The company sets out at dawn, and Taran, astride Melylas, waves goodbye to Eilonwy, Gurgi, and Dallben. As they enter the forest, Ellidyr’s horse Islimach nips at Melynlas, almost unseating Taran. Ellidyr laughs, “She bites. We are much alike, Islimach and I.” Adaon solemnly agrees that both horse and rider carry “a difficult burden.” He tells them that he dreamed a dream in time gone by – or rather, the night before – in which he saw Ellidyr with a black beast on his shoulders. Ellidyr snorts, “Spare me from pig-boys and dreamers!” but Taran wants to know more. He asks what Adaon dreamed about him, and Adaon hesitates, then says Taran was filled with grief. Taran is surprised, since he’s totes happy, and says that serving Lord Gwydion is more honorable than “washing pigs and weeding gardens!” Does Dallben have more than one pig? If not, I’d take umbrage at the “washing pigs” comment if I were Hen Wen. Adaon says he’s fought in battles and tended fields, and there is more honor in the latter. Not only has he been a farmer, but he’s worked as a sailor, a potter, a fisherman, a weaver and a blacksmith. He’s pretty dang awesome. I think even Taran is starting to crush on him (that is, if anyone could rival pompous old Gwydion for Taran’s affections). Adaon must suspect Taran’s and my growing ardor, because he mentions that he’s anxious to return to his betrothed, Arianllyn, when their quest is done – sorry girls, he’s engaged!
They camp at nightfall, and Fflewddur hands his harp to Adaon, who plays a song of “peacefulness and deep joy.” Taran can hardly sleep for his excitement over the journey, but remembers Adaon’s dream and feels “a shadow like the flutter of a dark wing.” (Sometimes I absolutely have to quote Alexander verbatim because his prose is so poetic, and this is one of those times.) The next day they split up, with King Smoit (grumble, grumble) branching off to his realm to gather his forces for backup. The rest of the party rides single-file up trails through narrow cliffs, and Ellidyr once again bullies Taran, forcing his way past Melynlas and causing Taran to fall from the saddle and nearly off the cliff. Adaon tries to reach him, but Ellidyr, in an unexpected show of heroism, heaves Taran bodily back onto the trail, then puts his shoulder under Melynlas and helps him climb back up as well. Taran is amazed at Ellidyr’s strength. Ellidyr appears uncertain and vulnerable for the first time as he says he didn’t mean for Taran to fall. Then he remembers that he’s supposed to be a stone-cold bastard, and laughs that he was only concerned about the horse, not Taran. Adaon snaps that he can see the black beast in the saddle with Ellidyr.
Gwydion, alerted by one of Morgant’s men, strides up ready to do some scolding. Ellidyr accuses Taran of trying to force his way ahead. Gwydion asks Taran if it is true, and Taran bites his tongue and nods that it is. That’s pretty tough of him, I must say. Even at my age, I don’t know if I could stand falsely accused in front of my hero and take the blame. Gwydion says if it happens again he’ll send them both back to Caer Dallben. Morgant chooses this opening to say he thinks they should take the cauldron back to his realm, not to Caer Dallben, and that three of his horsemen should trade their places with Adaon, Ellidyr, and Taran. Oh, butt out, Morgant! Gwydion basically says as much, and Morgant hisses “as you command, Lord Gwydion.” He’s extremely Snape-like. Fflewddur whispers to Taran that he’s sure Ellidyr was really to blame. I love Fflewddur. He’s such a good friend.
The next day, they see gwythaints, but no Cauldron-Born. Gwydion exposits that Arawn has even more helpers, in the form of roving war bands called the Huntsmen of Annuvin. They are mortal, but magic: when you kill one of them, the others get even stronger. Once again, I’m reminded of a video game; I think there was something very similar in The Legend of Zelda. That night, they ready for their attack on Dark Gate. Doli turns invisible and goes ahead to scout. Coll puts a helmet on his bald head, and Taran has a moment of love and concern for him. Morgant tells a flattered Taran that he would have been honored to ride with him. Then Taran begs Gwydion to come with him, but Gwydion says no, and the riders depart. Adaon says he will share the watch with Taran first and Ellidyr second, and tells Ellidyr to sleep, “or at least keep silent.” Ellidyr pouts. Adaon’s eyes are lit bright by the stars as he keeps watch (swoon). Taran rhapsodizes about how great Gwydion and Morgant are. Adaon says he’s worried for Morgant, because he dreamed that Morgant’s sword was broken and bloody and warriors were circling him slowly. Taran’s like, hey, dreamer, don’t be so upset! And by the way, what did you dream about all the others – Coll, Fflewddur, “good old Doli”… or yourself? Come on, Taran, you have to have caught on by now that there was nothing good in this dream. Adaon doesn’t answer, just watches Dark Gate, and the chapter ends on that quiet but tense note.