The Black Cauldron, Chapter 13 – The Plan

After all that talk of dear little Dallben, the three enchantresses usher the companions out of the cottage, slam and lock the door and refuse to open it again, even though Taran bangs on it until Fflewddur wisely advises him to leave off, since “all that knocking and thumping might – well, you don’t know but what those, ah, ladies get upset at noises.” I love Fflewddur. Even more so when he pulls the age card, reminding the gang that he is the oldest one present and his advice is to return to Dallben, who will know how to deal with Orddu et al. But Taran says they don’t dare leave the cauldron in the hands of the enchantresses, and Eilonwy agrees with him: “I believe no one, human or otherwise, should have that much power.” The bard is outvoted, yet undaunted, and he quickly warms to Taran’s suggestion that they should simply steal the cauldron and take it to Dallben and Gwydion. But first they must find it.

The shed they are supposed to sleep in is drafty and cold, so Gurgi runs off to find some straw to keep them warm. Fflewddur and Eilonwy suggest that Taran try to sleep, perchance to dream of the cauldron’s location. He’s about to try it when a terrified Gurgi returns, pointing wordlessly to the chicken roost… where there sits an enormous cauldron, covered in “dark brown flecks and stains which Taran knew were not rust.” They are all affected by how plainly evil it is, and agree it must be destroyed as soon as possible. They plan to come back after nightfall with the horses and haul it off. Gurgi overcomes his fear enough to congratulate himself for always finding lost things: “He has found piggies, and now he finds a great cauldron of wicked doings and brewing!” Tee hee! Drink for “piggies.” But Taran can’t help wondering if they were meant to find the cauldron, considering how poorly hidden it was.

As dusk falls, a candle lights the window of the cottage. Taran does his peeping Tom act again, peering in the window, and this time what he sees aren’t three old crones, but three beautiful young maidens! They are busy carding wool, spinning, and weaving, and they continue to work until almost dawn, when the candle vanishes and is replaced by the sound of snoring. Fflewddur thinks they must have resumed their other forms, since he “can’t imagine beautiful ladies snoring like that.” The companions hastily return to the Black Crochan, and, one on each side, try to lift it. They aren’t able to budge the cauldron, but when they try to reposition, they find they are stuck and cannot pull their hands free. They struggle in vain… and then Orddu appears in the doorway.