The Black Cauldron, Chapter 8 – A Stone in the Shoe

The companions set off toward Morva, with Fflewddur admitting only after two harp strings have snapped that he doesn’t know the way and letting Adaon lead instead. Ellidyr is pouting and won’t talk to anybody. Taran remarks to Eilonwy that trying to bring back the cauldron single-handedly is “the kind of childish thing I’d have done when I was an Assistant Pig-Keeper.” Eilonwy retorts that he’s “still an Assistant Pig-Keeper” and that he’s only going to Morva because of Ellidyr. Taran starts to regret his choice, and asks Adaon quietly if he’s kept something from him that would have swayed his decision. Adaon, who’s looking strong and joyful, responds that we all have a destiny, though we don’t always know what it is. Taran thinks that Adaon knows his. He asks again what Adaon dreamed about himself, the last night at Caer Dallben. Adaon smiles and says that he saw himself in a sunlit glade, with birds calling and flowers springing up from bare stone. Taran is relieved that it wasn’t something unhappy. As for me, I break out in chills at the beautiful image and what I know it means. Sigh.

They ride through the night with no sign of the pursuing Huntsmen. Doli isn’t sure exactly how long Gwystyl’s track-concealing powder lasts, but humphs that they’re bound to be caught sooner or later. Ellidyr’s horse, Islimach, has gone lame, and Taran offers to check it out. Ellidyr warns that no one can touch Islimach but him, and at first it seems that he’s right and the skittish mare will trample Taran. But then Taran is able to calm her and remove the stone from her shoe with a technique Coll taught him. I really like when Taran is able to use his farming expertise for good in these stories, although of course the proud Ellidyr doesn’t appreciate it one bit, accusing Taran of trying to steal both his honor and his horse. Taran fires back awesomely: “What stone is in your shoe, Prince of Pen-Llarcau?” He goes to dine with the others on Gurgi’s magical provisions and leaves Ellidyr to sulk.

Adaon commends Taran’s patience with the black beast. Taran says that Ellidyr will feel better when they all share the glory of finding the cauldron, and Adaon rather preachily replies that there should be glory enough in living all the days that we have. He’s sounding a bit like Gwydion, but I will cut him some slack because a) he’s my boyfriend, and b) I think he knows at this point that (spoiler!) he doesn’t have many days left. In fact, the next thing he does is to ask Taran, should some harm come to him, to take the three things he values most: his horse, his packet of healing herbs, and his fiancée. Er, that is, the brooch his fiancée gave him. He’s never met anyone he would trust more than Taran with these precious things. Taran is like, nothing’s going to happen to you, silly! But at Adaon’s insistence, he agrees.

They decide to rest until midday, and Ellidyr takes the first watch. Taran, the first to wake, finds Ellidyr and Islimach are gone. He wakes the others, and they find Ellidyr’s trail headed in the direction of Morva. They head after him, but he’s got several hours’ head start. When the shrill call of a bird rings through the woods, Adaon says it’s not a real bird call, but the signal of the Huntsmen. Doli rushes off to check, and comes back to report five Huntsmen are close. He’s all set to play the same invisibility trick that worked last time, but Adaon for some reason says no, we have to stand against them this time. I’m super-annoyed because what can be the goal of standing versus running away? They engage in battle, and one of the Huntsmen draws a dagger and is about to kill Taran. Adaon slays the Huntsman, saving Taran’s life and getting a dagger in the chest for his efforts. Hold me, you guys. Adaon slumps over in the saddle, clutching the dagger. Taran catches him before he falls, and cries to the others to retreat: “Adaon is wounded!”