The Black Cauldron, Chapter 18 – The Loss

Taran wakes that evening to find Eilonwy, Gurgi, and Fflewddur tending to him. They’ve lit a campfire, and Taran is alarmed that it will betray their presence to the Huntsmen. Fflewddur says they couldn’t let Taran freeze to death, and besides, the Huntsmen are looking for the Black Crochan, which they don’t have anymore – Ellidyr has stolen it. While Taran was unconscious and nearly drowned, Ellidyr fought the others off (even snapping Eilonwy’s bow in two, which is so not cool) and rode away with both the cauldron and their horses. Taran says he pities Ellidyr, who is so clearly tormented by the black beast. Fflewddur says he would pity him more “if he hadn’t tried to slice off my head.” Heh. But Taran recognizes his own desperate need for glory in Ellidyr. He gloomily says that maybe Ellidyr was right, and a “pig-boy” should never try to seek the same honor as a prince. Eilonwy exclaims that he’s not a pig-boy, he’s an Assistant Pig-Keeper: “one is proud and the other isn’t. Since you have a choice, take the proud one!” Which is very good advice, applicable to pretty much any way you might describe your job or yourself. Taran remembers what Adaon said about finding honor in a well-plowed field, and says from now on he will seek honor where he knows it will be found.

In the morning, they head south toward Caer Dallben. Later that day, a war party appears on the horizon, flying the colors of King Morgant’s House of Madoc. Taran greets Morgant, tells him that Adaon is slain and Doli is missing, and asks about Gwydion and Coll. Morgant says they’re both alive and looking for Taran. They had heard from Gwystyl that Taran had gone to Morva in search of the cauldron. Eilonwy can’t believe that useless Gwystyl actually did them some good, and Morgant says that Gwystyl is “the shrewdest and bravest” of the Fair Folk way post occupiers, which is why Eiddileg placed him so close to Annuvin, and that Gwystyl must have intended that they misjudge him (why, though? It’s not clear). Morgant also tells them that Ellidyr is with him, having brought the cauldron singlehandedly all the way from Morva. At this, Eilonwy flies off the handle, despite Taran’s commanding her to stay silent. She’s not about to be bound by that stupid oath, and she tells Morgant the truth of how they rescued the cauldron and then Ellidyr robbed them of it. Taran won’t confirm or deny the story, but Morgant says he already had a feeling Ellidyr was not telling the truth.

They ride to Morgant’s camp, where the cauldron is guarded by two warriors. Taran asks if Morgant is not worried that the Huntsmen will attack the camp and take the Crochan. Morgant says he’s not afraid of any challenger, even Arawn himself. And then, shockingly, the companions see Ellidyr – bound, bloody, and unconscious. Taran whirls on Morgant, accusing him and his men of “shameful and dishonorable treatment.” Morgant replies by saying that Ellidyr tried to resist him, and Taran had better learn from his example. Then he tells his guards to disarm the companions and bind them. Because he’s eeeevil!