Bran the Blessed, son of Llyr (pronounced Lir, apparently) was king of all of Great Britain once upon a time. He hung out on a beach with his brother and two half-brothers, Manawydan, Nissyen, and Evnissyen. Nissyen was a good kid and a peacemaker, which was good, because Evnissyen was a real jerk.
Suddenly, thirteen Irish ships appeared! Bran and all his guys went down to the dock and met the travelers, who came to them in little boats.
“Hey there, fellas,” said Bran to the travelers. “Are you guys invading? Is this an invasion?”
“What? No!” The Irish visitors seemed a little offended at the idea. “We’re here on behalf of our king, King Mallolwch (pronounced mahl o look, maybe?). He’s on one of these ships, but he’s shy.”
“Is he Welsh? He sounds Welsh.”
“Despite having a very Welsh-sounding name, he is Irish. Mallolwch has a proposal for you, in two parts. But it’s all or nothing. You can’t agree to one half and not the other.”
“Lay it on me,” said Bran.
“Mallolwch wants to marry your sister, and also he wants to enter into a high-level alliance. Ireland and Great Britain, shoulder to shoulder!”
“That sounds reasonable as an opening gambit,” allowed Bran. “Let’s all go back to my place and drink and hash this out.”
So that happened, and even though Branwen was ranked number one for beauty among her people, and in the top three overall, Bran went ahead and married her off to Mallolwch. They had a nice big wedding, it was great but not especially compelling plotwise.
The next day everybody was cleaning up and sorting their things, and then Evnissyen (the jerk) decided to pick a fight. He hadn’t been invited to the wedding, because no one liked him, and when he discovered a bunch of Irish horses in the stable and Irish luggage on the patio and so on, he swore and – in another act of unexpected animal cruelty – took his aggression out on the horses. These poor defenseless Irish horses he sliced up right a razor blade, until they weren’t pretty no more, no, they were disfigured.
The Irish grooms quickly ran to tell Malollwch, who decided that Bran’s people were crazy. One minute they were giving him a hot wife, the next they were abusing his horses!
“Screw this,” he said, and left.
When Bran found out the Irish delegation had packed up and left, he sent his best guys Iddig and Heveydd after them to talk. This was a different Heveydd than in the last story: that was Heveydd the Old, this is Heveydd the Tall. Iddig and Heveydd caught up to the Irish group as they were loading their stuff back on their ships, and asked what was what.
“Disfigured horses is what!” cried Mallolwch. “Never let it be said that Mallolwch the Welsh-sounding Irish king ever sat around and tolerated it while his supposed friends and in-laws mutilated his horses! I mean, c’mon, what’d you expect?”
“Land sakes, I’d think that you’d insult me first, before giving me a hot wife, if that was your plan. Otherwise, how am I supposed to take it?”
“But nobody authorized the mutilation of your horses! Bran is, right now, going around and shouting angrily at everybody who is covered in even a little bit of horse blood.”
“Even so, it’s a dick move.”
The messengers returned to Bran and relayed Mallolwch’s message. Meanwhile Bran had questioned Evnissyen (the jerk) and learned what had happened.
“Okay, well, he’s right to be upset, but if he leaves now then I’ll have married my sister to him for nothing, and she’s in the top three ladies of these islands. So go back and tell him whatever he needs to hear.”
Heveydd and a couple of other guys rode back to the docks (Iddig sat this one out). There, the Irish delegation was just finishing their loading. Heveydd apologized on Bran’s behalf, explaining that everybody hated Evnissyen (the jerk) but he was a prince and so hard to control. Then Heveydd offered brand new, AAA-grade, top end horses, one to replace each of the horses that had been so cruelly sliced up. When Mallolwch hesitated, Heveydd threw in a generous cash bonus, silver for each horse too.
Mallolwch huddled up with his advisors and they agreed on the following points.
- They came all this way with the goal of making an alliance with Bran, so leaving like this ran counter to their aims.
- Bran’s offer was a generous one, and they were unlikely to negotiate a better reparation.
- If they refused the offer, in fact, they were going to come across as jerks.
Mallolwch didn’t want to be thought a jerk, so he ordered the ships be unloaded, again, and returned to Bran’s court with all his people.
“I feel just awful about this whole thing,” Bran told him as soon as they’d arrived.
“It’s okay. I have jerk relatives, too.”
“Well, since you married into the family, he’s your jerk relative also!” And Bran and Mallolwch shared a merry laugh. At least, Bran laughed. Mallolwch just gave kind of a strained, forced smile.
Bran’s face was a mask of sympathy. “Mallolwch, buddy, are you okay with this?”
Mallolwch started to nod, and then sighed heavily. “I know you’re being really generous by compensating me both with new horses and with the cash value of the horses that were mutilated. I should be fine with it. It’s okay.”
Bran didn’t like the pall the whole thing had cast on what was meant to be a merry occasion. “Seriously though, I want to make it up to you.”
“Your offer of money plus replacement horses is more than fair,” Mallolwch assured him. “I know that.”
But Bran wouldn’t hear it! “No, no, let me make this right. Let me give you something cool.” Bran led Mallolwch over to a side area, and pointed at a large… thing… that his people were even then in the process of setting up. “Please, accept this gift!”
“Uh, sure. What is it?”
“We call it the Black Cauldron!”
NEXT: NOT MAN OF CAULDRON BORN!