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In the imaginary kingdom of Prydain, Princess Eilonwy must leave her friends to go to the Isle of Mona for training as a proper princess. Because Eilonwy has magical powers, she is sought by Achren, the most evil enchantress in the land. Shortly after her arrival on the Isle of Mona, something sinister and secret befalls her. Eilonwy's loyal friends--Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper; Flewddur, the bard; and Prince Rhun, her intended husband--realize her peril and set out on an exciting and terrifying mission to rescue her. They encounter great forces of enil as well as private--sometimes painful--revelations in the course of their journey.
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Lloyd Alexander (1924-2007) was the author of more than forty books for children and adults, including the beloved children's fantasy series, the Chronicles of Prydain, one of the most widely read series in the history of fantasy and the inspiration for the animated Disney film, The Black Cauldron. His books have won numerous awards, including the Newbery Medal, the Newbery Honor, and the National Book Award for Juvenile Literature.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Castle of Llyr
CHAPTER ONEPrince RhunEilonwy of the red-gold hair, the Princess Eilonwy Daughter of Angharad Daughter of Regat of the Royal House of Llyr, was leaving Caer Dallben. Dallben himself had so ordered it; and though Taran's heart was suddenly and strangely heavy, he knew there was no gainsaying the old enchanter's words.On the spring morning set for Eilonwy's departure, Taran saddled the horses and led them from the stable. The Princess, looking desperately cheerful, had wrapped her few belongings in a small bundle slung from her shoulder. At her neck hung a fine chain and crescent moon of silver; on her finger she wore a ring of ancient craftsmanship; and in the fold of her cloak she carried another of her most prized possessions: the golden sphere that shone at her command with a light brighter than a flaming torch.Dallben, whose face was more careworn than usual and whose back was bowed as though under a heavy burden, embraced the girl at the cottage door. "You shall always have a place in Caer Dallben," he said, "and a larger one in my heart. But, alas, raising a young lady is a mystery beyond even an enchanter's skill. I have had," he added with a quick smile, "difficulties enough raising an Assistant Pig-Keeper."I wish you a fair voyage to the Isle of Mona," Dallben went on. "King Rhuddlum and Queen Teleria are kindly and gracious. They are eager to stand in your family's stead and serve as your protectors, and from Queen Teleria you shall learn how a princess should behave.""What!" cried Eilonwy. "I don't care about being a princess! And since I'm already a young lady, how else could I behave? That's like asking a fish to learn how to swim!""Hem!" Dallben said wryly. "I have never seen a fish with skinned knees, torn robe, and unshod feet. They would ill become him, as they ill become you." He set a gnarled hand gently on Eilonwy's shoulder. "Child, child, do you not see? For each of us comes a time when we must be more than what we are." He turned now to Taran. "Watch over her carefully," he said. "I have certain misgivings about letting you and Gurgi go with her, but if it will ease your parting, so be it.""The Princess Eilonwy shall go safely to Mona," Taran answered."And you," said Dallben, "return safely. My heart will not be at ease until you do." He embraced the girl again and went quickly into the cottage.It had been decided that Coll would accompany them to Great Avren harbor and lead back the horses. The stout old warrior, already mounted, waited patiently. Shaggy-haired Gurgi, astride his pony, looked as mournful as an owl with a stomachache. Kaw, the tame crow, perched in unwonted silence on Taran's saddle. Taran helped Eilonwy mount Lluagor, her favorite steed, then swung to the back of Melynlas, his silver-maned stallion.Leaving Caer Dallben behind, the little band set out across the soft hills toward Avren. Side by side Taran and Coll rode ahead ofthe others to lead the way, Kaw meanwhile having made himself comfortable on Taran's shoulder."She never stopped talking for a moment," Taran said gloomily. "Now, at least, it will be quieter in Caer Dallben.""That it will," said Coll."And less to worry about. She was always getting into one scrape or another.""That, too," said Coll."It's for the best," Taran said. "Eilonwy is, after all, a Princess of Llyr. It's not as if she were only an Assistant Pig-Keeper.""Very true," said Coll, looking off toward the pale hills.They jogged along silently for a while."I shall miss her," Taran burst out at last, half angrily.The old warrior grinned and rubbed his shining bald head. "Did you tell her that?""Not--not exactly," faltered Taran. "I suppose I should have. But every time I began talking about it I--I felt very odd. Besides, you never know what silly remark she'll come out with when you're trying to be serious.""It may be," replied Coll, smiling, "we know least what we treasure most. But we will have more than enough to keep us busy when you come back, and you will learn, my boy, there is nothing like work to put the heart at rest."Taran nodded sadly. "I suppose so," he said.
Past midday they turned their horses to the west, where the hills began a long slope downward into the Avren valley. At the last ridge Kaw hopped from Taran's shoulder and flapped aloft, croaking with excitement. Taran urged Melynlas over the rise. Below, thegreat river swung into view, wider here than he had ever seen it. Sunlight flecked the water in the sheltered curve of the harbor. A long, slender craft bobbed at the shore. Taran could make out figures aboard, hauling on ropes to raise a square, white sail.Eilonwy and Gurgi had also ridden forward. Taran's heart leaped; and to all the companions the sight of the harbor and the waiting vessel was like a sea wind driving sorrow before it. Eilonwy began chattering gaily, and Gurgi waved his arms so wildly he nearly tumbled from the saddle."Yes, oh yes!" he cried. "Bold, valiant Gurgi is glad to follow kindly master and noble Princess with boatings and floatings!"They cantered down the slope and dismounted at the water's edge. Seeing them, the sailors ran a plank out from the vessel to the shore. No sooner had they done so than a young man clambered onto the plank and hastened with eager strides toward the companions. But he had taken only a few paces along the swaying board when he lost his footing, stumbled, and with a loud splash pitched headlong into the shallows.Taran and Coll ran to help him, but the young man had already picked himself up and was awkwardly sloshing his way ashore. He was of Taran's age, with a moon-round face, pale blue eyes, and straw-colored hair. He wore a sword and a small, richly ornamented dagger in a belt of silver links. His cloak and jacket, worked with threads of gold and silver, were now sopping wet; the stranger, however, appeared not the least dismayed either by his ducking or the sodden state of his garments. Instead, he grinned as cheerfully as if nothing whatever had befallen him."Hullo, hullo!" he called, waving a dripping hand. "Is that Princess Eilonwy I see? Of course! It must be!"Without further ado, and without stopping even to wring out his cloak, he bowed so low that Taran feared the young man would lose his balance; then he straightened up and in a solemn voice declared: "On behalf of Rhuddlum Son of Rhudd and Teleria Daughter of Tannwen, King and Queen of the Isle of Mona, greetings to the Princess Eilonwy of the Royal House of Llyr, and to--well--to all the rest of you," he added, blinking rapidly as a thought suddenly occurred to him. "I should have asked your names before I started."Taran, taken aback and not a little vexed by this scatterbrained behavior, stepped forward and presented the companions. Before he could ask the stranger's name, the young man interrupted."Splendid! You must all introduce yourselves again later, one at a time. Otherwise, I might forget--oh, I see the shipmaster's waving at us. Something to do with tides, no doubt. He's always very concerned with them. This is the first time I've commanded a voyage," he went on proudly. "Amazing how easy it is. All you need to do is tell the sailors ...""But who are you?" Taran asked, puzzled.The young man blinked at him. "Did I forget to mention that? I'm Prince Rhun.""Prince Rhun?" Taran repeated in a tone of disbelief."Quite so," answered Rhun, smiling pleasantly. "King Rhuddlum's my father; and, of course, Queen Teleria's my mother. Shall we go aboard? I should hate to upset the shipmaster, for he does worry about those tides."Coll embraced Eilonwy. "When we see you again," he told her, "I doubt we shall recognize you. You shall be a fine Princess.""I want to be recognized!" Eilonwy cried. "I want to be me!""Never fear," said Coll, winking. He turned to Taran. "And you, my boy, farewell. When you return, send Kaw ahead to tell me and I shall meet you at Avren harbor."Prince Rhun, offering his arm to Eilonwy, led her across the plank. Gurgi and Taran followed them. Having formed his own opinion of Rhun's agility, Taran kept a wary eye on the Prince until Eilonwy was safe aboard.The ship was surprisingly roomy and well-fitted. The deck was long, with benches for oarsmen on either side. At the stern rose a high, square shed topped by a platform.The sailors dipped their oars and worked the vessel to the middle of the river. Coll trotted along the bank and waved with all his might. The old warrior dropped from sight as the ship swung around a bend in the ever-widening river. Kaw had flapped to the masthead and, as the breeze whistled through his feathers, he beat his wings so pridefully that he looked more like a black rooster than a crow. The shore turned gray in the distance and the craft sped seaward.If Rhun had perplexed and vaguely irritated him at their first meeting, Taran now began to wish he had never laid eyes on the Prince. Taran had meant to speak with Eilonwy apart, for there was much in his heart he longed to tell her. Yet each time he ventured to do so, Prince Rhun would pop up as if from nowhere, his round face beaming happily, calling out, "Hullo, hullo!"--a greeting Taran found more infuriating each time he heard it.Once, the Prince of Mona eagerly dashed up to show the companions a large fish he had caught--to the delight of Eilonwy and Gurgi, but not Taran; for a moment later, Rhun's attention turnedelsewhere and he hurried off, leaving Taran holding the wet, slippery fish in his arms. Another time, while leaning over the side to point out a school of dolphins, the Prince nearly dropped his sword into the sea. Luckily Taran caught it before the blade was lost foreve...
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