They made their way through the winding forest path, sometimes having to make large detours to get the carts around narrow passages. Grainne was an excellent guide. She could see the path they must take long before Gwilym knew why she was directing the horses there.
That night, after Grainne had cast her protection spells and they had eaten their cold food, they lay together and both took grateful pleasure in each other’s body. They snuggled together after, spooning their bodies and murmuring soft words.
“What will we do if we come across bandits?” Gwilym asked. “They won’t be so obvious to come galloping down the path after us. They use stealth and will try to kill us before we even see them.”
“I’ll hear them first; you can depend on that. And I will use the spell we always use against them. Have you never heard of ‘The Questing Beast’?”
“Aye. King Pellinore’s quest. Few have ever seen it. It makes the noise of a hundred dogs. You must be granted the quest or born to it like Pellinore.”
Gwilym, who was stroking Grainne’s face, felt her smile as she said, “Tomorrow you may meet the great beast.” She sighed and fell asleep. Gwilym followed her soon after, wondering about her statement.
The next day, the boys were up and Gwilym watched them horsing around outside the pavilion. Bleddyn was showing them tricks he had earlier taught his twin brothers and they were all looking up at him with shining faces. They lined up in turn to ‘walk up the tree’. Here Bleddyn would hold their backs, supporting their weight, as they walked up the trunk of a tree and then, while he grasped them by the shoulders and belts, they walked along the underside of a large bough. They squealed in delight, asking for turn after turn until Bleddyn was exhausted.
Gwilym sliced some bread and mushrooms to make breakfast for the family. Bleddyn switched to another trick. He demonstrated first on Llawen, then the others lined up to try it. He would stand behind them while they stood with spread legs and their hands touching the ground in between their feet. Bleddyn would reach down and grasp their hands, then with a mighty heave, lift up. The boys’ bodies would do a complete flip and land back on their feet. As Gwilym called them for breakfast, he smiled in remembrance of when he used to do that with Bleddyn.
The boys ate and packed up the carts again, saving the sleeping Grainne for last. Gwilym carried her to the cart and lifted her into the seat. Mumbling protests, she took the reins and off they went, into the forest. As he thought about this he realized he was wrong. He turned and shouted to his boys, “How far can a dog run into a forest?”
Bleddyn and the twins groaned but Madoc looked confused and asked Bleddyn what his father meant. “Da always asks us questions to make us think. They’re usually stupid jokes that play on words. Try to answer.”
“A mile!” said Madoc.
“Forty miles!” tried Bleddyn.
“Depends on the size of the forest!” said Jac.
“You’re getting closer!” said Gwilym.
The boys thought about it for a while, tried some more guesses then gave up and begged for the answer.
“Halfway!” replied Gwilym to the boys’ astonished faces. “After that, he’s running out of the forest!”
“Ohh!” said Llawen. The rest of them groaned. Gwilym laughed and then felt an acorn hit him in the back of the head, followed by the raucous laughter of the boys in the cart behind.
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