The companions finally arrive at Caer Dathyl, which is busy with war preparations. There are a few women there who have not been sent away for safety, but Eilonwy refuses to join in their spinning and weaving, or to put on a dress: “I’m comfortable just as I am.” Taran is summoned to the throne room, where Gwydion is conversing with the High King Math, who has aged greatly since Taran last saw him.
Math greets Taran and tells him not to be afraid – he knows that Gwyn the Hunter is summoning him and he won’t live much longer. “What grives me is not my death,” he says, “but at the end of my life to see blood spilled in the land where I sought only peace.” Gwydion says that they will defeat Arawn, thanks to the forces Taran brought from the Commots, as well as Lord Pryderi’s battle host, which is only a few days away from arriving. The bad news is that King Smoit is busy fighting the southern traitors in the Valley of Ystrad and cannot make it to Caer Dathyl, and the northern kings are delayed by the harsh winter.
Taran and Coll admire the treasures of Caer Dathyl, but Coll still longs for his garden back home. They meet Taliesin, Chief Bard of Prydain and father of Adaon. Fflewddur proudly reminds everyone that Taliesin gave him his harp, and Taliesin says he feels guilty for doing so, having known about the harp’s power and suspecting that Fflewddur has had “some small trouble with the strings.” Fflewddur denies having ever had any trouble, causing two harp strings to break instantly – har de har! Then he says that it’s been good for him to tell the truth more often, and that doing so has “harmed no one, least of all myself.” Taliesin says that Fflewddur has learned a good lesson and been a good sport, and offers him his choice of any of the harps in Caer Dathyl. Fflewddur, of course, opts to stick with his “old pot”: “It sits well against my shoulder.” Awwww. They talk a little about the different types of wisdom, and Taran mentions Adaon’s brooch. Taliesin says that Taran’s path to wisdom may be the hardest type – enduring loss and grief on the journey to becoming a vessel that can pass that wisdom on to others.
King Pryderi arrives! Everyone gathers in the Great Hall to greet him. Nervous Gurgi bears the banner of the White Pig, alongside all the actual, fancy banners. Eilonwy says she thinks it looks better than most of the others. (I can see this making a really cute scene in the film version.) Pryderi, who has golden hair that’s shinier than a helmet, and “high, jutting cheekbones” – uh oh, that’s a bad sign – strides in with his sword unsheathed and addresses the assembly scornfully. He’s come not to join them, but to demand they surrender. Because he’s bad, you see! It’s King Morgant all over again!