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Arianrhod, daughter of Don

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Gwern son of Matholwch and Branwen was named king of Ireland. Before he could begin to rule, his mother's brother cast him into the fire, because of the hatred Efnisien, Branwen's brother, bore towards Gwern's father Matholwch. There Gwern burned, while battle arose between his father's people of Ireland, and his mother's kin, lords of the Island of Britain. The battle was so violent, and the deaths so many, that Gwern was soon forgotten entirely. Only a very few of the wise recalled that a son of Matholwch, a lord of Ireland, had been burnt to ash. One of these wise ones was the lady Arianrhod.

Arianrhod daughter of Don, sister's daughter of Math son of Mathonwy, lord of Gwynedd, said to her brother Gilfaethwy, "When you go to Gwales in Pembroke, to sport with a girl in the house of the Assembly of the Head, will you bring me the smudge of ash on the windowsill?" And Gilfaethwy son of Don did not understand the request, but he brought the ash to his sister. Then Arianrhod daughter of Don said to her brother Gwydion, "When you go to Harlech, to harp before the birds of Rhiannon, will you bring me the smudge of ash on the floor behind the great table?" And Gwydion son of Don guessed what the request might be for, and he brought the ash for Arianrhod. Then Arianrhod daughter of Don said to her uncle Math, "When you go to Ireland, to treat with the lords of the island, will you bring me the ashes in the hearth of the house of Bran?" And Math son of Mathonwy understood the request, but nevertheless he brought the ashes for Arianrhod.

The smudge of ash that Gilfaethwy brought was the left arm of Gwern, carried by the survivors of the battle to Pembroke, and the smudge of ash that Gwydion brought was the right leg of Gwern, carried by the survivors of the battle to Harlech. And the grate full of ashes that Math brought from Ireland was the head and the torso and the right arm and the left leg and the genitals of Gwern son of Matholwch. Arianrhod took the ashes into her inner chamber, where none but her most trusted women would go, and she laid them out on her own bed, arranging them into the form of a body. But the ashes of Gwern had no life to them.

Then Arianrhod went to Math son of Mathonwy, and she said, "I am tired of this house. Let me ride with my women down to London." Math shook his head, but he permitted her to go, and she rode down with her women to the White Hill of London where the head of Bran the Blessed was buried. She left her women behind the Hill and walked alone into the Cave of the Head.

The head of Bran the Blessed said to Arianrhod, "Is it already the time to break my concealment?" But Arianrhod said, "No, lord, it is not yet time. I ask only for a drop of your blood, to bring your sister's son Gwern son of Branwen to life."

And the head of Bran said, "I will give you the drop of blood, if you want it, but be wary, lady. Gwern is indeed the son of Branwen, but he is also the son of Matholwch, the king of Ireland who struck my sister and spoke harshly to her, and forced her to work in his kitchens where the butcher boxed her ears every morning. If you raise up Gwern, think of my sister Branwen, and do not allow the son of Matholwch to gain too much power over you."

Arianrhod said nothing to this warning, but she took the drop of blood, and thanked Bran, and rode home with her women to Gwynedd. When she entered her inner chamber, where the body of ash waited, she placed the drop of blood on the nape of the body's neck. And then the body was no longer ash, but the warm flesh of a naked, well-formed man, and he opened his eyes and looked on Arianrhod. And he said, "I am Gwern son of Matholwch, rightful king of Ireland, and I love you." And Arianrhod looked at the beautiful body of Gwern, and she said, "I am Arianrhod daughter of Don, sister's daughter of the lord of Gwynedd, and I love you. Stay here with me in secret until all the ash is gone from your brow."

Gwern remained secretly in the inner chamber of Arianrhod for seven years. At the end of each year, he would say, "Arianrhod, let me leave your chamber. Let me gather an army to take back Ireland, which is my inheritance, and when I have returned, I will send for you as my wife." And Arianrhod would say, "There is still ash on your brow. Wait another year, until you are stronger." And Gwern waited, and lived for a time in pleasure with Arianrhod.

But at the end of the seventh year, Gwern said, "Arianrhod, there is no more ash on my brow. If you do not let me go, I will kill you, and you will never be my wife and the queen of Ireland." And she said, "No, I will not let you go. Wait another year." Gwern raised his right hand and struck Arianrhod on the cheek; this was one of the Three Unfortunate Blows of the Island of Britain. Arianrhod remembered Bran's warning, then, and she hated Gwern as much as she had loved him before. But she smiled and said, "I am sorry, my love. You are ready, and you may go and conquer Ireland. Only kiss me once more before you leave."

Gwern bent to kiss Arianrhod, and as his lips met hers, Arianrhod reached around to press the nape of Gwern's neck with her forefinger. The drop of blood which Arianrhod had set into Gwern's neck spilled out upon Arianrhod's hand. At once, Gwern began to crumble away into ashes. Arianrhod swept the ashes into a pile and spilled them out into the sea, and when she had done that she spoke no more of Gwern son of Matholwch.

Later, when Math son of Mathonwy bade Arianrhod step across his wand, to test her virginity, two boys fell from Arianrhod's body. Arianrhod would not willingly name her sons, because of the hatred she held for their father, but the elder boy greatly loved the waters, so Math named him Dylan son of the Sea. And whether Dylan loved the sea because his father's ashes rested there, or for some other reason, is not known.

This is the story of the Raising of Gwern. It is also the story of the blow that Gwern gave to Arianrhod, which was one of the Three Unfortunate Blows of the island of Britain, and the others were the blow that Matholwch father of Gwern gave to Branwen mother of Gwern, and the blow that Gofannon brother of Arianrhod gave to Dylan son of Arianrhod, called Dylan son of the Sea. And this is the end of the story.