SLIGHTED

“de batailler et kerneller de pere et de caux ses chambres de novel comencees en sa place ou mansion”

Well there was one. A licence to crenellate, or more precisely a freedom to crenellate. It was hardly going to be a fourteenth century equivalent of the 7s 6d dog licence his father had had to buy each year for the family pet. He smirked at the thought before turning his eyes back to the microfiche reader.

There it was, clear as day in the Recognizance roll. Well as clear as day if you read 14th century Law French, which he suspected Robertson didn’t. Freedom to turn a town house, albeit a large one on four burgage plots into a defensible building with battlements. Perhaps not actually a castle, although given the problems of Richard II’s rule the concept was far from passé, and in the light of what happened in the debacle following Richard’s murder, fortification was a prescient step for one of the Cheshire men

Being the king’s enforcers was bound to attract a certain amount of discontent and desire for revenge if and when that reign ended with the opposition taking over.

Westmacott sat back and pushed aside the vicissitudes of the century long conflicts between fifteenth century English mafia bosses wearing crowns. He turned his attention instead to composing in his head a series of letters and articles. The short pithy letters would go to the local and regional papers destroying the drivel in Robertson’s articles and in so doing, his popular reputation. The articles for peer reviewed historical journals would slide the knife in deeper and turn the blade more effectively, ending Robertson’s professional standing, such as it was, as a historian.

Robertson would probably not notice of course. He hardly moved in those circles. Westmacott had checked his credentials when he had read the articles in the local rag. He was barely more than a hack journalist. At best an antiquarian repackaging and peddling the idiocies of eighteenth and nineteenth century collectors of folk myths. Barely one step up from those who had believed the stories about Joseph of Arimathea bringing the Grail to Glastonbury. An early example of fake news to gain money position and power. Westmacott almost laughed out loud. You had to hand it to those Benedictines – a great scam that still had resonance to pull in the gullible five hundred years after the monks themselves had been given the heave ho.

Robertson had made enough himself out of recycling folk myths and speculation. Nowhere near the scale of medieval religious scams of course but too much to be allowed to go unchallenged.

In the greater scheme of things it was a small enough victory, but it would be satisfying enough. It would restore the truth about a departed building, reinstate a much loved, to Westmacott anyway, dignitary of the fourteenth century to his proper place in the local pantheon, and remove a competitive charlatan.

Westmacott saw this as an undisputed victory for truth, justice and the Historiographic way. Of course it would also bolster his own reputation for deep forensic research, his careful and precise correction of modern populist revisionism. That it simultaneously destroyed someone who had irked him and challenged his position as the expert in the region was simply an unfortunate byproduct of his commitment to historical truth.  He had certainly crenellated and fortified his position with this find. At that thought he could no longer contain himself and he let a rather unprofessional squeak of delight escape into the silence of the reading room.

There were a couple of shuffles of disapproval from the few other occupants. Westmacott sneered; probably family history buffs. Genealogy for the masses. What a sad thing he thought.

He made sure his notes were complete, properly referenced and concisely contextualised, then rewound the fiche to the reference page, extracted the cassette and switched off the machine.

He pocketed his pencils, tucked his notepad under his arm and almost swaggered back to the archivist’s desk.

‘Find what you were looking for Mr Westmacott?’ She asked. Charming lady he thought, quite natural she should know her most illustrious clients by sight.

‘Yes thank you, a most rewarding afternoon.’ With that he placed the cassette on the desk and waited for her to check the catalogue and sign it in and him out.

‘Ooh. You are popular aren’t you?’ she said as she checked the cassette number and typed into the computer. Flattered but slightly confused Westmacott couldn’t help himself and asked,

‘Am I?’

The archivist laughed.

‘Sorry Mr Westmacott. Not you, though I’m sure you are. I meant this chap.’ She waved the microfiche cassette at him.

Westmacott was puzzled. He had assumed he would have been the only person to request the Recognizance rolls from Richard’s reign for some time. Of course they were bundled with many other ‘Welsh papers’ and Palatinate papers so it needn’t necessarily be a worry someone was trespassing on what he thought of as ‘his’ patch.

‘That is surprising.’ He said as noncommittally as his thoughts would allow.

‘Yes, not out for years then here he is out four times in the last month including today.’

‘Four? But this is the first time I’ve been back this year.’

‘Yes, the other three were that nice man who writes the “Times Past” column, Mr Robertson.’

‘In the last month?’

‘Yes, last time was two weeks ago. Very enthusiastic he was, said he would be making quite a splash with some of his findings. He expected it to be in this week’s Express. Said it would fortify his position as the expert on local castles quite nicely. He likes a joke does Mr Robertson.’ She put the cassette back on the carousel. ‘Right. Anything else I can do for you Mr Westmacott?’

`No. Thank you.’

‘Are you all right? Mr Westmacott. Mr Westmacott!’

 

Photo credit: <a href=”https://visualhunt.co/a5/2815f4″>Orchids love rainwater</a> on <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re7/434462b2″>Visualhunt</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”&gt; CC BY</a>

REVISITING PENDRAGON

I was looking back at the blog and my deep mysterious files of finished and in progress stories on various flash drives the other day, and I came across the Welsh mystic/magical detective who was a derivative of a Caldicot Writers day out to Cardiff Bay. An innocent observation over tea and a bun in the Norwegian Church led me to speculate about what a meeting in the Bay area might be about.

The idea quickly grew into the concept of a deniable underground semi official group fighting a mystical attack on Wales in particular and the old land of Britannia in general.

And so was born: Pendragon.

I did several things wrong:

Using it as a Dickensian challenge to write a weekly serial, which was very hard work to stick to, with everything else going on, and

Getting bogged down in worrying about the rampant internet underworld rubbish connoting the Illuminati with a World Zionist Conspiracy.

I was so appalled at the thought that my story might be seen as either being a part of this tosh or in some way nodding towards its existence that I froze and stopped the story.

Looking back on it after a considerable hiatus several things struck me about this decision and the story itself.

First: who gives a stuff what anti-Semitic idiots think? The Illuminati was nothing to do with Jews or Zionism and stuff the idiots who think it was/is.

Second: why should I be constrained by a concern that I would be misunderstood as perhaps being a part of these wannabe Nazis when I know I am not, and would, under my familial circumstances, be barking mad to be?

Third: I had not read any of the Rivers of London books by Ben Aaronovitch or the Laundry Files series by Charles Stross then, but now I have I am both amazed and concerned at the similarities (in ideas, not quality of execution) between their concepts and mine.

The result of my rediscovery of the story and the subsequent musing and thoughts about the similarities with other series made me reevaluate my decision to abandon Pendragon. The idea amuses me and intrigues me, and now I know others have done similar things I feel more inclined to revisit and rework the concept.

The fact others had similar ideas is a poor reason not to continue. My idea was entirely separately conceived and the style, details and overall concept are sufficiently different as to be immediately distinguishable. Besides, my work is unlikely to be confused in any shape or form with writers of their stature.

So I will be revisiting the idea of Pendragon, but I will not be making any unkeepable promises about writing an instalment every week, although I hope to publish some of the results on the blog.

It won’t be immediate as I am working on several other things at the moment but as and when I can rejig Pendragon, and hopefully take it further, I will make it available here.

 

WHAT HAPPENED TO PENDRAGON?

What happened to Pendragon?

Research. That’s what happened to Pendragon.

That, modern internet stupidity and a crisis of confidence about being misread happened that’s what.

Plus real life etc – That Dickens bloke must have been quite obsessive (the deadline thing explains some of the gibberish he wrote anyway!)

Seriously though, I had this idea for the Illuminati to be a major player in what was going on in my story. Not just the Bavarian originated offshoot of the Enlightenment but the conspiracy theorists beloved super secret organisation that makes the Freemasons, Knights Templar and the Bilderberg groups look like the boy scouts.

So far so ordinary.

I studied a bit about the original Illuminati while doing a course on European Humanities and the Enlightenment. They seemed interesting enough, persecuted in their time and sufficiently obscure to make a great sinister organisation behind the workings of magic in Wales and the world.

What I hadn’t taken into consideration was how the right wing loons on the internet had interpreted this stuff. The Illuminati (who don’t appear to have actually survived suppression in the late eighteenth century have got tied together with the whole World Zionist conspiracy trash put out by neo Nazi idiots. I was doing a bit of innocent research for how my Illuminati might have survived and thrived in Wales post 1785 (with actual magic of course!) when it became increasingly obvious that despite the truth it was going to be very difficult to separate modern perceptions of the Illuminati as a front for the New World Order as a Jewish conspiracy, from my version which had nothing to do with that at all.

I am still tempted to continue but I have absolutely no desire to be party to fuelling this anti-Semitic tosh. So I stopped.

I am wondering whether to carry on now and flip it so the Illuminati are actually the good guys or to just ignore the general current idiocy regarding conspiracy theories.

On the whole I may for another story on a different tack altogether.

Apologies for baling so spectacularly and not explaining why.

PENDRAGON 6

The silhouetted figure sat back a little.

‘What do they want?’ Came the voice out of the darkness. Davies was surprised to hear a chuckle in the voice.  ‘Oh the same old thing, you know: “… by degrees, and in silence, possess themselves of the government of the States, and make use of those means for this purpose.”’

Davies struggled for a moment, realising Pendragon was quoting someone. It sounded familiar, but as he had read pages of drivel about secret associations supposedly taking over the world recently he couldn’t place it immediately. He looked to Pendragon for help and raised one eyebrow in silent supplication.

‘Weishaupt. The supposed founder of the Illuminati.’

Davies considered this for a moment. Weishaupt was the Bavarian philosopher normally credited with establishing the Illuminati.

‘Supposed?’ he echoed.

‘Do you think the idea sprang into being in 1776?’

‘The Bavarian Illuminati were real, the Freemasons kicked them out and the Elector of Bavaria banned them.’

‘He banned everyone.’ Laughed Pendragon. ‘But yes, they were real. They just weren’t the first. That was their first attempt at being more open, at hiding in plain sight.’ There was a pause. ‘Is that really what you have come to ask me about? The Goleudigion?’

‘I’m not sure. I think so.’ Davies took a deep breath as he considered how much he should, how much he could, tell Pendragon. He was so far over any lines of formal procedure that may exist for his office that he had virtually nothing to lose. In for a penny he decided. ‘Do you know about Owain Blundell?’

‘Yes. On Sanctified ground too, between uchelwydd and criafol, mistletoe and rowan. Not your doing then?’

‘Us!?  No. We don’t do that sort of thing.’

Pendragon snorted.

‘I’ve heard that said often enough after someone has had an unfortunate accident’

‘It’s true.’ Davies said controlling his anger at the supercilious tone with all the strength he could muster. ‘Anyway, Owain was working with us, why would we want to kill him?’

‘With you? Pendragon snapped.

‘Yes. That’s why I’m asking about the Goleudigion. It was his material that gave me the first real evidence they might be behind what I’m investigating. Until then it was just hints and whispers.’

‘What was he doing for you? I wouldn’t have thought you needed any help from him in esoterica.’

Davies smiled in acknowledgement of the joke.

‘No. But I was looking at some disturbances which looked to be aimed at something a lot bigger than the normal meddling. Something that could reach far beyond us here. There were people in the Assembly involved.’

‘And you used Owain to find out who they were and what they were doing. Did you have any idea of the danger you were putting him in?’

‘Obviously not. It’s no benefit to me to have a dead practitioner on my hands. I wanted to know what it was, not evidence that it was serious enough for murder’

‘I suppose so.’ Pendragon acknowledged.

‘He knew it was dangerous. He didn’t pick the farm as a meeting place by chance. He was protecting himself from the one form of attack he was fixated on.’ Davies sighed. ‘He forgot you can kill people with kinetic energy as easily as with thaumaturgy.’

‘The Illuminati’ have always been pragmatists. People think they have a Grand Design that everything is working towards.’

‘And they don’t?’

Pendragon snorted.

‘They may have an aim, which is pretty much what I told you when I quoted Weishaupt. But a universal plan with every link in the chain laid out? I think they would have made it a shorter chain if they had, don’t you?’

Davies considered this for a moment before replying.

‘I don’t know. Until a few months ago I thought they were a group of Enlightenment Masonic wannabes who died out two hundred years ago.’

‘And now?’

‘I think I may have a semi-mystical sect on my hands, who’ve killed once to protect their plans.’

‘You’re under rating them.’

‘Yes?’

‘Yes. They’ve been around for centuries. And after their brief flirtation with openness they’ve gone back into the woodwork. And, as you have seen, one hint of exposure and they’ll strike without mercy.’

‘Yes.’ Davies chewed his lip as he wondered how to ask Pendragon for help. ‘I’m sorry about Owain. I would have offered him more protection if I had realised.’

‘He wouldn’t have accepted it, I don’t think.’

‘Oh! Why? How do you know what he would have done?’

‘How do you think he gained his esoteric knowledge?’

Davies paused as the implication of the question sunk in.

‘Yes,’ Pendragon answered the question he could sense was about to tumble out of Davies’ lips. ‘He was of the Ancient Order. If it’s any consolation, he hadn’t told us he was working with you. I would have advised against it if he had.’

Davies nodded his head. He knew that despite their common interest in this matter it was almost unheard of for the Office and the Order to work together since the parting in the nineteenth century. He was surprised though. Owain had not been suspected of being with the Order. Not that that would have prevented his post in the Assembly, but the Office liked to know who had allegiances other than their own in the esoteric arts when they were near Government.

‘You have no love of the Goleudigion then?’

‘Love? Only that of a sad parent who watches a child gone astray.’

‘Parent?’

‘The Goleudigion were once part of the Order.’

‘In Wales?’

‘Across those lands where the Order had once guided knowledge.’

‘The Illuminati are druids?!’

‘They were. Many years ago.’

‘But you are not..?’

Pendragon laughed.

‘There are no feuds so bitter as those between family.’

PENDRAGON 5

6796240760_6fde57aecc_z

The words hung between them like a portent. What did Davies want to know? He had thought about that question himself, even before Blundell had died in the yard of Kennixton Farm at St Fagan’s.

Owain Blundell had worked for the Assembly and before that for the Welsh Office, and with his knowledge of how things worked in the labyrinth of political machinery in Wales, he had been as well placed as any to help Davies. He hadn’t been unique in that though. There were many others who knew as much, and some who knew more. The problem for Davies was; the more they knew the more they were likely to be the target of his investigation rather than an ally. He had known Blundell was clean and that made him reliable, but what had made him unique was that he was both clean and already aware of the continuing interweaving of past and present, the reality of things the vast majority of the world had abandoned or never known. Davies didn’t have to explain, to cajole, to convince Blundell of the reality of what he was telling him and asking him to do. And now Owain was dead.

Davies felt a twinge of guilt for dragging Blundell into the firing line but only a twinge. Anger was his dominant emotion. Anger that what looked like his best lead had gone and anger that he was now forced into a line of action that could be infinitely more dangerous for him and less direct. It wasn’t as if Blundell had gone into the business unsighted. He had clearly been aware of some of the more arcane dangers when he arranged the meeting with Davies.

Kennixton farm had stood on the Gower for four hundred and fifty years before being brought to the folk museum at St Fagans on the outskirts of Cardiff. The museum had repainted the walls in the bright protective red under instruction from an antiquarian who happened, also, to be a druid. He had also very firmly recommended the planting of a Rowan in the garden. He hadn’t mentioned it to the museum staff, but this aided the locking of the spell he had rewoven as the house was reconstructed and painted. He had ensured that the carved figures inside the doorway were properly aligned and reblessed with mistletoe and birch before he left.

Owain had no doubt hoped these measures and the past mystical connections of the building would secure him from spiritual attack. Well, thought Davies, it was true no supernatural harm had ended his life. That had clearly been the physical work of man. A blow that had left Owain physically dead whatever his spiritual condition. Dead before he could tell Davies in person the results of his ferreting in the banality of the paperwork, that he had believed revealed so much.

What Blundell had managed to do before he died, was to conceal in thefarmhouse a flash drive holding thousands of documents culled during his work for Davies. In there, Davies believed, was the key to unlocking the conspiracy. How to use it was, so far, beyond him. The papers were unencrypted and perfectly readable but, as far as Davies and his team could tell, their meaning was far from clear. They appeared to be a collection of the normal documentation of government business. If there was a theme, a thread running through them Davies could grasp the end that would unravel it. The only solid confirmation of what Davies had had inklings of from the beginning, was one document, an internal memo between officials, suggesting the overarching involvement of the Goleudigion in something of extreme importance to the Government.

Davies, despite the nature of his day to day work amongst things living, dead and in between that were not generally acknowledged to exist, had considered the existence of the Goleudigion as a myth. There was something so silly about the idea of them that led rational minds to dismiss them, and at the same time, if they were more than a lingering fantasy they were almost too sinister to contemplate. The thought that they were real was so fantastic that he had no idea of how to start the enquiry through normal channels, even if such things existed within his remit. How could he trust anyone in the established order, if the thing had lasted throughout the years hidden in secret from even those tasked with investigating mysteries? Paranoia was the problem. But if they were real, it wasn’t paranoia, it was prudence.

Hence this meeting with Pendragon. He had put out tentative feelers to see if Pendragon would meet him with the aim of a temporary truce and alliance for their mutual benefit. Pendragon could of course be one of them himself, but the general tenor of what he was, suggested that was unlikely. He didn’t fit the profile of the membership in as far as it was known.

 

Given the widespread belief in the existence of an organisation bearing that name, in English, at least on the Internet, it was surprising that the profile on the books of the department was so thin. The vast majority of the Internet material, Davies put it at ninety nine percent at least, was the maunderings of neo Nazi fantasists and of deranged conspiracy theorists. As he had read some of that material he had laughed and wondered what the authors would make of the truth of his work if they heard of it. Probably dismiss it as fantasy, as he dismissed, with more justification, their nasty little anti-Semitic ramblings.

Pendragon sat waiting. Davies hadn’t really come to a conclusion about what to say to Pendragon even now, as he sat before him in the dark collections room in the National Museum. There were some things in which you had to rely on instinct in the moment, and he hadn’t known how he would feel until he sat here. He had said the word to provoke a reaction on which to judge the next stage. He hadn’t expected histrionics but he had half expected a sarcastic dismissal. If Pendragon were one of them, a simple way of deflecting Davies would be to mock him about believing in such silly myths. On the other hand if Pendragon knew nothing except the myth, he would not spare Davies’ blushes for believing in such popular hokum. His actual reaction suggested there was more to the matter of the Goleudigion in Pendragon’s view than simple myth. Davies hadn’t come this far to simply back away. He looked Pendragon in the eye as best he could given that the light was shining in his, Davies’ face.

‘I always thought they were a myth. It seems I may have been wrong. I want to know if your side of the hill thinks they are real.’

Pendragon had obviously had enough time in the moments in which Davies had made his decision. He answered without hesitation.

‘I thought you would know more than me. They are more on your side of the fence than mine you know.’

‘So they are real?’

‘Oh certainly.’ Pendragon paused and must have caught a hint of the scepticism in Davies’ face. ‘Not the New World Order drivel on the internet. Not the fantasy Zionist conspiracies of pathetic right wing fantasists.’ He explained. ‘But the real order? They are still very much alive’

‘And what is the “real order”?’

‘Good question.’ Pendragon said. ‘You’ve obviously read all the basic material? Done the standard research?’

‘I’m not sure there is any standard research on them.’

‘Oh be serious. You’ve read all about the groups known as Illuminati in the normal historical circles. You’ll have read enough of the gibberish on the net to discount that and no doubt you will have searched your own organisation’s records.’ He paused and Davies got the impression of a smile in the shadows. ‘How thin were they?’

Davies nodded in recognition of the accusation. They had been very basic indeed compared to the accounts of other secret societies and mystical groups. There had been the barest acknowledgement that the historical Illuminati had been active in Wales and fewer references still to a group going under the name Goleudigion. The records skated over their practices and hinted that they were a harmless and slightly deluded sub branch of Freemasons. The organisation’s hierarchy regarded Freemasons quite favourably, as at worst harmless, and at best a good thing for the binding of society under charitable intentions. Davies had no feeling about Freemasonry one way or the other. They weren’t the Templars of common mythology and they seemed to him to be a useful outlet for a desire for philanthropic deeds by stealth. However, whatever the common misgivings about them, they were hardly a very secret, secret society. Their halls were clearly marked and it wasn’t that difficult to join.

The sheer sparseness of detail about the Goleudigion however, had made him dig deeper, and the deeper he had dug the less benign that group appeared. But real leads to their current activities were very hard to come by. They had no halls on the high street, no charitable dances, no pictures of officers of the group in the papers. They lived far deeper in the shadows and appeared a lot less approachable than Freemasons.

‘You seem to know more about their working than I do. How can they cover their existence even from us?’

‘You know about Iorwerth ap Rhys?’ Pendragon asked.

‘He was our commander for the middle of the nineteenth century.’

‘He was. He was also a high ranking member of the Goleudigion. That’s when your organisation and mine fell out.’ He paused for a moment. ‘I always thought someone would have noticed how that split came just as the Blue Books were published and draw their conclusions. I suppose there was too much distraction and not all of it accidental. I underestimated the power of the Goleudigion.’

‘So tell me: who are the real Goleudigion, how do they fit into the Illuminati and what are they doing now?’

PENDRAGON INTERLUDE 1

Well what is going on?

Davies, if that’s even really his name, is sat in a dark basement full of stuffed things in a Welsh museum talking to some mysterious cove about Goleudigion who according to Davies’ musings have some plans for Wales, and perhaps the wider world, he doesn’t much like the look of. But what are Goleudigion? And who is Pendragon and why should he know anything about them?

And if Davies is the good guy in all this, why does he have a different name from the one Pendragon once knew him by? And is he really a police Superintendent? And what did happen to all those people on the train and at Cathays station?

Will all be revealed in the next episode? Or will something disturb the narrative flow?

Decision, decisions!

PENDRAGON 4

Almost opposite the spot Davies occupied, but twenty feet below, was the main public entrance to the museum. To the right, half way between that doorway and the imposing flight of stairs that led up to the upper balcony at that end of the hall was a larger than lifesize bronze statue standing on a wooden plinth. It depicted a drummer boy, sat on a wall with a cannonball at his feet. Davies treated himself to a rare smile, he had remembered correctly. There was the sculpture by Sir William Goscombe John of the, possibly apocryphal, drummer boy, depicted in the act of encouraging his comrades at the Battle of Dettingen. It was a copy of the South African War memorial to the King’s Regiment in Liverpool. “Y Bachgen Drymiwr Dettingen” himself thought Davies. He hoped it was the right one.

He looked at his watch. Four minutes to two o’clock. He was early. He scanned the visitors milling around the entrance hall. Just to the right of the main door was a figure, half hidden in shadows of the lockers where visitors could leave bags, umbrellas and other impedimenta frowned on by museums and galleries. The lockers curved out into the hall making a blind spot ideal for lurking in. The figure was still, poised almost; waiting for something Davies was sure. Not unusual in a museum gallery, but certainly odd in the entrance hall with nothing particular to stare at apart from some lockers and a set of seats. In the shadows it was not clear where, if at all, the figure was looking. Davies detached himself from his vantage point and made his way around the upper balcony towards the head of the stairs. There were several exhibition cases along the balcony which, while not completely obstructing his view of the lower floor made Davies move away from the protective rail that ran around the edge of the upper floor and lose his sight of the lockers.

Halfway up the rise to the upper floor the staircase split, one set of steps going left to the balcony opposite Davies side and the other right. Davies reached the head of the right hand flight and made his way down. By the time he reached the conjunction of the two upper flights the figure was no longer visible. Davies fought the urge to run, he checked his watch again, two minutes to two o’clock, and descended to the ground floor.

He walked to the right, skirting the entrance to the interactive rooms where children, and adults could examine various geological and natural history exhibits in close detail and use microscopes and hear talks on items of current interest. Doing so provided him with a shield of enthusiastic young museum visitors as he approached the man’s last known location. He held back at the side of the hall, where he could see the statue and the surrounding area quite clearly. There was no-one who looked to be a likely candidate for Pendragon. Davies had met him before, but always in situations where it had been difficult to form a clear impression of the man. He took a few steps out of the shadows towards the drummer boy. He loitered looking all around for a sign of the man he was due to meet. He must have looked as lost as he felt because one of the attendants at the information and ticket desk opposite the entrance walked across to him.

‘Mr Davies?’ she asked, although it seemed clear to Davies that she was pretty certain of his identity.

‘Yes. That’s me.’ He said smiling in what he hoped was not too confused a fashion.

‘Your friend asked me to give you your ticket. He had to go ahead and speak to the artist himself, but he was sure you would understand, and he said he will see you in there.’ And with that she pressed a small sheaf of papers into his hand.

‘Oh! Thank you.’ He said looking at the ticket that was on top. It allowed one adult entrance to the preview of the exhibition of modern installation art in the ground floor gallery to the east, past the cafe. Davies flicked through papers. They were flyers for the exhibition and forthcoming attractions. Davies put them in his inside jacket pocket and walked the length of the hall.

The inside of the gallery was in darkness with a hologram water effect playing on the floor. It was like walking into unknown waters. A situation Davis thought Pendragon had not chosen by accident. There was a quiet susurration of sound playing from speakers somewhere in the darkness as Davies walked into the simulated waters. Around a bend built into the gallery the waters gave way and the lighting effect was reversed with a black floor and glittering steel kitchenware arrayed as sculpture at eye level. Disconcerting dragons and steel horsemen arose, seemingly as far as the eye could see. This room was silent but beyond some acoustic baffle walls there was the faint sound of squealing. Davies moved on.

He was in darkness and what he had thought was squealing was the metallic screeching of the tines of a thousand forks being dragged down steel sheets. Davies fought the urge to cover his ears and strained for any other sensory input. As his eyes became accustomed to the darkness, figures darker than the background blackness twitched and moved. Davies walked up to one. It was an animatronic sculpture draped in black velvet. He turned and walked to what he could now see was a faint glow of direction arrows to the next part of the exhibition when one of the animatronic figures reached out a hand and took his elbow firmly in its grip.

‘Dewch gyda fi, rwan.’ It said

‘Come with me, now.’ Davies thought. If I can move after that, I will.

Davies sat in one of the collection rooms in the bowels of the museum. He was grateful for the nip of Dick Penderyn whisky Pendragon had offered him. His nerves had been somewhat disturbed by the disorientation of the approach in the exhibition. Exactly what Pendragon had intended of course, and as Davies’ eyes adjusted once more to the bright spotlight set at an angle behind Pendragon, he realised that once again he had no clear view of the man’s features.

‘I’m sorry about the slightly melodramatic approach.’ The man in the shadows said. ‘But I find melodrama is preferable to being placed at a disadvantage. I hope you weren’t too inconvenienced.’

Davies wasn’t inclined to be understanding.

‘You took a chance I know about the Goscombe John figure didn’t you?’ he said.

‘Not really. You wanted to see me remember? And I was pretty sure I knew my man. And I did, didn’t I?

Davies had to hand him that but he didn’t want to be too magnanimous. He grunted.

‘I presumed you were as concerned as I am, otherwise you wouldn’t have agreed to meet me?’ There was a slight pause as the figure appeared to mull this over.

‘Shall we stop fencing…’ the figure hesitated, ‘Davies, is it you are calling yourself now?’

‘Yes, Davies. All right. Let’s get down to business.’ He hesitated and then, because he knew how difficult this must be for Pendragon as much as himself, he said, ‘And thank you for answering my call. I appreciate it.’

The figure laughed heartily at that.

‘You never fail to surprise me. After all these years you can still be courteous when the need arises.’

Davies smiled. He couldn’t see Pendragon’s face but he knew the man could see his.

‘I haven’t known anyone as long as I’ve known you. We may be enemies, but that time alone lends a certain feeling of… comradeship? Brawdgarwch?’

‘Oh, let’s not say enemies. Let’s say rather, we occasionally have different immediate interests.’

‘You should have been a bard.’

‘And you a druid.’

There was a silence.

‘So. Goleudigion?’ Davies threw the word out there. If Pendragon reacted in any way, even with the advantage of the light in Davies’ eyes, he would know there was a lead to be followed.

There was a chilling lack of reaction from across the room. A stillness which was reaction enough in itself.

‘What do you want to know?’ The voice, already carefully modulated, became lower and even quieter.

PENDRAGON 3

The Cardiff Bay shuttle terminated at Queen Street and Davies got off to change trains. While he waited for the next Merthyr train to arrive, Davies spent the time checking on his fellow passengers on the platform. There was no-one he recognised. Two conservatively suited men stood muttering to each other and occasionally looking down the line toward Central Station. They fitted the bill for lookouts for Pendragon, but probably a little too closely. If Davies had to pick an unlikely couple of watchers it would probably be the two blond Danish tourists, incongruously clad in walking gear. He supposed a couple of tourists could have spent the night in Cardiff before dressing for a country walk and catching a train to Merthyr but it seemed an outside bet. Bound to attract attention and therefore unlikely and a great disguise at the same time. Davies tutted to himself. Too much second guessing. All he had to do was be aware of any obvious threat and make his way to where he hoped he would find Pendragon, or at least the next clue for the meeting.

The train, an old class 143 Pacer DMU set, chugged along from Central and stopped, almost gratefully Davies thought, at the platform. He waited as a Chinese couple got off and the two business men and the Danes boarded the train before he got on. So, we’re all going the same way he thought. He wasn’t going to narrow the field down that way at any rate. There were already several passengers on the coach Davies boarded. The Danes were with him and the business men were in the forward carriage. Most of the existing passengers looked like locals travelling back up the valleys but you would expect them to look like that Davies reasoned. He sat as far away from all the others as he could.

The journey up the line to Cathays didn’t take long, even for a diesel engine as old and battered as the 143’s. Built in 1987 they were a stop gap with an expected life of 20 years maximum. Nearly forty years on they had been passed down from BR through a variety of privatised companies until they reached the graveyard of rolling stock, the Valleys Line. The brakes squealed and the air hoses hissed and the carriages rattled to a halt at the back of the University Gymnasium. A couple of what Davies presumed, from their youth and dress, were students waited for the lights to announce that the doors could be opened. Davies waited for the students to press the button and get on before he suddenly stood and jumped through the doors onto the platform. The guard glared at him as he waved to the driver and got back on the train and shut the doors.  The Danes stayed on the train, but Davies found himself watching the two business men wander off down the side of the gymnasium towards Park Place in front of him. Behind he could hear someone crossing the tracks by the footbridge from the Senghenydd Road car park.

The walkway from the station led onto Park Place just opposite the north wing of the University Main Building across the road. Davies took a smart left turn and marched along Park Place to the Students Union. He trotted up the steps to the veranda cafe and bought a latte. He was pleasantly surprised to find that student palates obviously demanded more than the Norwegian Cafe clientele. As he sat he watched the two business suits disappear into the University Campus buildings. The unfashionably long haired character who had crossed the lines behind him stopped across the road outside the entrance to the main building and looked around. Davies was sure that he had seen him but the man never gave any clue as to whether he had seen what he wanted. He looked at his watch and then made his way down the road towards the city.

Davies finished his drink glancing at his watch to make sure he had time to make the rendezvous without running and went to relieve himself of the effects of waiting for contacts in coffee shops. When he came out and walked down the steps, the long haired man was walking back up the road towards Corbett Road and the University library. Looking for something, or someone, mused Davies. He waited for the man to walk along the slight bend in the road towards the law school before he stepped down onto the pavement. He walked smartly in the opposite direction to the man and when he saw a gap in the traffic, crossed the road and turned off down the side of the University towards Alexandra Gardens and the Temple of Peace. Just before he reached the Gardens themselves he turned left and made for the rear of a magnificent white civic building in a simple Classical style. Davies crossed a small employees car park and made for a service entrance and rang the bell. A man opened the door and Davies showed him his identification. After a second’s hesitation the man allowed Davies into the building.

‘What can I do for you Superintendent?’ the man asked him. Davies gave the man his serious but confidential look and brought his lips near the man’s ear. There was no need for this, they were alone in a room full of packing cases and materials for ensuring exhibits were not damaged in transit, but it was the conspiratorial touches that always helped Davies felt.

‘I’m supposed to be meeting someone here in ten minutes. It’s vital our meeting is not compromised and I fear I may have been followed. I know the Director personally and he has previously assured me that I can count on his help in these matters. All I need from you is access to the main upper gallery and then I can pass on my commendation to him for your assistance.’

The man may have been impressed by Davies’ identification and felt drawn in by the tone and the confidence Davies had shared, but he still felt a little wary of strangers approaching the delivery bay door.

‘Would you mind if I rang him?’ he asked Davies. Davies glanced at his watch and gave a snort of impatience.

‘Go ahead.’

The man walked through the rook to an office and picked up a phone. A minute later he was back, looking a little shamefaced.

‘Sorry about that.’ He said. ‘But you can’t be too careful these days can you.’

‘Not at all.’ Davies said. ‘You did exactly the right thing. Now can we go?’

The man led on and took Davies up a service lift to the upper gallery. Davies thanked the man who looked a little crestfallen at being abandoned at the exciting bit. He waited until the doors had shut and the lift had whirred away to the depths of the building before he turned and walked out onto the landing, looking down across the expanse of the lower floor of the National Museum of Wales.

Pendragon collected

I have just put the first two blog posts of PENDRAGON into a page of their own. The intention is that as I write posts that continue this story (this is the kiss of death to any creative urge on this isn’t it? Hope not!) I will add them to the page (under WRITING). That way, should anyone want to read the story without having to hunt around for the blog posts they can do.

PENDRAGON 2

Re reading that bit of observation inspired writing from Cardiff Bay inspired a few more ideas, so for the moment and as a bit of light relief from a couple of other more serious (?) scribblings (any excuse to avoid real work!) I thought I’d take Pendragon and Davies for a little walk and see where they lead.

PENDRAGON PART 2

Davies kept his face as immovable as he could under the circumstances as he read the content of the letter the boy had brought him. He stood up, dropped a couple of coins on the table as a gratuity and walked out of the Norwegian Church. The breeze from the bay made it cooler than the scene had looked from inside despite the sunshine. Davies allowed himself a thin smile. It was Wales after all.

He tucked the note back in the envelope and put that into the inside pocket of his jacket. Old fashioned clothes as the boy had said. Old fashioned meant different things to different people Davies had decided years ago. To the transient Cool Cymru mob of the late 90s it had meant something to be sneered at, dismissed and walked, if not run, away from. To Davies it meant solidity, unyielding values and a sense of place and being. He glanced at the Senedd building which housed the work of the people Davies ostensibly worked for. Its style embodied something of that sense of impermanence that came with iconoclasm for the sake of it. As he passed the front of the Assembly building it continued to remind him of an oversized 60s ashtray perched on a load of scaffolding. Be nice when it’s finished.

In front of him was the solid form of the Pierhead building. Red brick, built in 1897 and good for a few hundred years more with a bit of care, even it had been built by Englishmen. Davies wondered how long Rogers’ bit of flummery would last. Davies skirted the side of the basin, now called for some reason Roald Dahl Plass, currently occupied by the lady Boys of Bangkok before heading off up Bute Street. Were there no Welsh writers or artists who could have been honoured Davies wondered.

He walked up Bute Street, a small piece of what the docks had been, left over almost by accident it seemed in the gentrification of the Bay area. Davies liked its permanence but he wasn’t stupid. He remembered the state of the area before redevelopment came along. He didn’t think everything should be preserved. He just didn’t like the way any old rubbish could get built if it was labelled as new, challenging and radical in concept. He didn’t like what the Goleuedigion were planning for Wales, for the world come to that, and if it took a radical approach to stopping them Davies was prepared to bend a few rules. He smiled as he got to the top of the old street and crossed over from the new build houses to Cardiff Bay Station. Bend a few rules? He was prepared to throw the rule book out of the window.

Today was a case in point. The only thing he should be doing with Pendragon and his kind officially, was removing them from the field of play. Oh they had met before. Had a drink, a chat about their respective sides’ views on the world. But they were most definitely not on the same side. And yet here he was chasing over Cardiff to meet him, dancing to his tune so that, presumably, Pendragon could work out whether this was some sort of trap or not. So be it, Davies could shake as fine a leg as the next man when required, even at his age.

He stared at the timetable. Sure enough a train was due in a couple of minutes. He took out the note and glanced again at the copper plate handwriting.

“Y Bachgen Drymiwr Dettingen, 1400.

P.”

The screeching of the old DMU approaching brought Davies back to his current surroundings. The train pulled up at the single line terminus and disgorged some tourists and a few political apparatchiks. He took one last glance at the paper and put it away, safe in his pocket again. He hoped he had read it correctly. He understood the Welsh well enough:

“The Dettingen Drummer Boy, 1400, P”. The Battle of Dettingen had been in 1743 not 1400 so he presumed that meant two p.m. He had no chance of getting to Germany by two o’clock so he hoped he was right about Pendragon meaning the Dettingen Drummer boy in Cardiff, and if so, that his memory of where it was , was correct. He jumped on the train and grabbed a seat. Time to find out.