Taran is sick with a fever for about two weeks, during which time Gurgi tends to him, and Fflewddur and Kaw return to Craddoc’s cottage. Fflewddur explains that when he got to Caer Dallben, Dallben told him that Taran was not Craddoc’s son, so Fflewddur rode straight back, but got lost and had to shelter from the snowstorms in a cave for a while. Taran beats himself up about his moment of hesitation while Craddoc lay on the ledge, and Fflewddur tries to console him, saying that he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t feel fear: “Count the deed, not the thought.” Taran, who can’t give himself an ounce of credit about this, says he held back not out of fear, but out of shame at being the son of a herdsman. “Now my shame is for myself.”
We jump ahead to the end of winter. Taran has recovered his strength, and Fflewddur says the passes should soon be clear of ice so that they can journey to the Lake of Llunet. Taran, however, has changed his mind and says he wants to give up his quest. He’s disgusted by how badly he wanted to be of noble birth, when those he deemed beneath him – like Craddoc and Aeddan – were the truly noble ones. Fflewddur suggests returning to Caer Dallben, but Taran can’t face Dallben or Coll until he’s learned to stand on his own. He remembers Orddu’s saying that “the robin must scratch for his own worms” and feels like he now understands what that meant. Fflewddur responds with the wonderful observation: “Scratching for worms is unappetizing… But it’s true, everyone should have a skill.” Then he snaps a harp string by praising his own talent as a bard. Poor Fflewddur.
Taran decides he will journey to the Free Commots and try to find an apprenticeship there. Fflewddur has to return to his own kingdom, and Kaw goes with him, but Gurgi once again insists on staying with Taran. They head east the next morning, with Craddoc’s flock tagging along. After several days, they arrive at a farm, with an empty but well-maintained sheep pasture and a river with nets and fishing lines in it. A bunch of children see the sheep and rush out of the farmhouse, laughing and shouting “They’re here!” (not in a Poltergeist-y kind of way, one hopes). Their dad, a skinny man with patched garments, introduces himself to Taran as “Llonio Son of Llonwen.” Taran says his name is “Taran.” Llonio says that’s a pretty short name; who does Taran think he is, Madonna? Taran says he’s a wanderer, and so Llonio dubs him “Taran Wanderer.”
The sheep are put to graze in the pasture, because it turns out, Llonio doesn’t have a flock of his own. Taran is like, why’d you waste your time creating a pasture then, and Llonio says if he hadn’t, Taran wouldn’t be offering him a flock right now, would he? Llonio is the kind of guy who believes in being ready for miracles. He sends his little daughter, Gwenlliant (which is my second favorite name in the series, after Arianllyn), to get an egg from the henhouse. She returns with a single egg, which, when mixed with a number of other ingredients, becomes a cake that feeds the whole family. Taran is blown away by this, which is kind of silly given that he’s been eating an endless supply of lembas and jerky from Gurgi’s magically restocking wallet for several books now. But there you have it. They all eat their fill, and then Llonio says he’s going to check on his nets and invites Taran to come along. Will Taran accept? We’ll have to wait until the next chapter to find out!