The Black Cauldron, Chapter 4 – In the Shadow of Dark Gate

Halfway through the night, there’s a bustle in the hedgerow, or rather a rustling in the shrubbery, and Taran, Adaon, and Ellidyr leap to attention. The light of a glowing bauble reveals it’s Eilonwy and Gurgi! Taran starts yelling at Eilonwy immediately, calling her foolish and scatterbrained. (I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he only does this when he’s under great stress. If he’s been berating her like this for the whole year she’s been working in the scullery – you can do better, Eilonwy. Just sayin’.)

Adaon echoes Aslan as he wearily chides, “Princess, Princess, you should not have followed us.” (Intentional on Alexander’s part? I wonder.) Then Ellidyr calls Eilonwy a “little fool” and Taran rounds on him, saying it’s one thing when Ellidyr insults Taran, but another when he insults his friend. But, weren’t you just insulting her yourself? Swords are drawn, and Adaon has to intervene once again. Ellidyr asks mockingly if Gurgi is the black beast from Adaon’s vision. Adaon sadly says no. Then Eilonwy explains that they had initially followed on horseback, but the horses got spooked being so close to Dark Gate and ran off in the direction of Caer Dallben. Taran says Eilonwy will be going back herself, but she asserts herself: if he can go on a quest, so can she. “Fair is fair!” You go, Billie Jean!

Adaon offers them refreshments, and Eilonwy says admiringly that he’s very kind and thoughtful. (Back off, Eilonwy. Yeah, I know I just said you deserved better, but I’m next in line behind Arianllyn.) She says that they brought along Gurgi’s magical wallet full of food, but that those mysterious provisions are “rather tasteless.” So I was right! Lembas and jerky.

Eilonwy’s impressed that Taran was “ready to smite” Ellidyr to defend her honor. Awww. As she’s effusing, Fflewddur rides in breathlessly, yelling that they need to pack up and flee. Doli, astride his pony, snaps back into being visible and complains that his ears are buzzing. Fflewddur says Gwydion wants them to fall back. Taran asks if the plan failed. No, says Fflewddur, it was perfect, except that they didn’t find the cauldron! Doli relates how he slipped into the Hall of Warriors unseen but saw only an empty platform, and then he heard two of Arawn’s guards talking about how the cauldron went missing a few days ago. Eilonwy and Taran are like, hooray! Arawn doesn’t have it anymore. The adults, less naïve, correct them that the cauldron is dangerous in and of itself, so no one is safe until it is found. They must go to Caer Cadarn, where Gwydion will plan the search. Eilonwy and Gurgi will ride with Taran and Adaon, respectively, since Ellidyr sneers that Islimach is trained to accept no other riders but him. As they’re mounting up, arrows hiss through the woods. The Huntsmen of Annuvin are attacking!