The priest came back a few minutes later, however, as part of the retinue of a bishop. Yes, that’s right. A bishop and a whole entourage of priests and layity and baggage-handlers suddenly appeared. Horses and horses, laden with luggage.
“What’s this I hear about you hanging a poor little mouse?” asked the bishop.
“It’s a thief!”
“You’re behaving terribly shamefully. It’s a mouse! Let it go!”
“Maybe my friend Mister Bribe can change your mind?” suggested the bishop. “Seven pounds of silver.”
“Twenty-four pounds of silver?”
“Not for fifty pounds of silver!”
“Sixty pounds of silver, all these horses, and all the luggage. It’s very high-end luggage.”
It was very high-end luggage, and perhaps Manawydan was tempted, but he still refused. “What’s it to you, anyway? You seem awfully eager to get this mouse freed.”
“Name your price,” the bishop insisted.
Manawydan shrugged. “I want Pryderi and Rhiannon back from wherever they went.”
“Sure,” the bishop said, to Manawydan’s considerable surprise. “What else?”
“An end to the mysterious curse that I’ve spent zero time investigating, the one that depopulated this region.”
“Okay. Whatever. It’ll happen.” The bishop rubbed his fingers together. “Now, you want to hand over that mouse?”
Manawydan held up the mouse, to give it to the bishop, but at the last minute he had a thought and he jerked it away. “Hold on. Why do you want this mouse so badly?”
The bishop groaned in frustration. “You are awful, you know that? Obviously the mouse is my pregnant wife.”
“….” Manawydan did a double-take. “Wait, what?”
The bishop, whose name incidentally was Lloyd, sighed. “Okay, fine. I’ll recap the whole damn thing. Over a century ago Pryderi’s father Pwyll played Badger-in-the-Bag with a friend of mine, Gwawl. When I heard about it, I set about cursing him, but he was already dead so I cursed his son instead, and also his country and his mother and his wife and his liege lord, ie, you. I’m a bishop, so of course I have magic powers.”
“So it was you!” Manawydan cried in amazement. “It was the bishop all along!”
“Yes, yes,” Lloyd said testily. “Try to keep up, would you? I vanished the people of this region, and I stole Pryderi and Rhiannon, and I transformed my followers into mice so they could steal your crops. That last one wasn’t my idea, it was my wife’s idea. She volunteered, because she knows how much I dislike you and your terrible passive ways.”
“Ha ha! So I outsmarted you!”
“I guess, in a way. If it makes you happy, whatever. I don’t care any more, I just want my wife back.”
“First promise to return Pryderi and Rhiannon! And lift the curse!”
“I already did, you simpleton.”
“Then… then promise not to take any additional acts of vengeance against any of us!”
“Done.” The Mabinogion, which is considerably more on the side of Manawydan than he deserves, asserts at this point that if Manawydan hadn’t made this demand then Lloyd totally would have done more wicked magic after. But instead Lloyd waved his magic bishop-wand, and Pryderi and Rhiannon and all the missing people reappeared. “Now can I have my wife back?”
“I guess.” Reluctantly Manawydan handed the glove with the mouse in it over to Lloyd. As Lloyd turned the mouse back into his pregnant wife in the background, Pryderi and Rhiannon thanked Manawydan for only taking about three years to rescue them.
“No problem, guys!” Manawydan hugged his wife and stepson. “What’ve you guys been doing for the last three years, anyway?”
“I had to wear gate-hammers on a collar around my neck,” said Pryderi. “It sucked.”
“My punishment was worse,” said Rhiannon. “I had to wear a bunch of horse-collars. I mean, a bunch.”
“And that’s why this story is called ‘Manawydan son of Llyr,’ or ‘the Story of the Gate-hammers and the Horse-collars!'” declares the Mabinogion proudly.
“Wait, what?” I ask, but no answer is forthcoming.