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Thirteen

A Novel by Tabitha Hergest

About Early Iron Age Britain

Community Round-houseWhat sort of place was early Iron-Age Britain?

Obviously, short of either a time-machine or an immortal being spilling the beans, nobody's ever really going to know.  Thus, as Tolstoy said - and as remarked at the beginning of Chapter Thirteen: The Calm After the Storm - "history would be a wonderful thing, if only it were true."

That said, when you enter the world of Queen Rhiannon of the Catuvellauni, of her daughter Rhiannon, of Dynedd the Chief Druid, Morfydd the King, Osric the hot-headed grey-beard Druid, the Bards Pennek and Firda, the Druid nurses Beddach and Mynach and the rest, you enter a reasonable facsimile of what life may have been like in those times.  Naturally, there are things we know, and there are things we don't know, and those we know, such as the tribal tattoos, warriors going naked into battle, etc., are included. 

Those things we don't know, such as the precise doings of Druids (the Romans pretty-much wiped them out on the island now called Anglesey some time around CE60), are subject to artistic licence but still are pretty close to what may have occurred in those times.  Much of the conjecture of their activities is actually a confection of Roman scribes such as Tacitus, but given that history is often written by the victorious, and that the ancient Britons had no truck with the "talking marks", we can safely play fast and loose with the Roman version of events.

Of course, a novel is a fictional narrative, even if based on true events - which legends traditionally are - and there's plenty of legend and of lore in Thirteen.  Of course, the Thirteen Treasures of Britain is the most explicit legend, but also the fight to the death for the right to feast on a leg of beef is well enough known to be included as such, and the name Caer Lludd which, through the time-honoured mangling of language known as Chinese whispers, became Lludd's dun, Lud's dun and eventually London, is a central feature in the Mabinogion story of Lludd and Llyfelus. 

As per the foregoing observations on history being written by the victorious, we must also note that legends, too, are given the breath of lies by Christian scribes, who likewise sought to paint the ways of their Pagan ancestors as barbaric.  Archaeological evidence, however, rights those lies, and we are once more indebted to Dr Francis Pryor for his painstaking work in the field, for it allows us some attempt at untangling the Gordian knot to present a version of history closer to the truth.  And whilst that version is even so ever-so-slightly bowdlerised to be just the right side of sensorious in the modern idiom, it is still a rattling good read for all that.

 

Content

Prologue: The Picts

Chapter One: The Awakening

Chapter Two: The Quickening

Chapter Three: The Maturing

Chapter Four: The Understanding

Chapter Five: The Gathering

Chapter Six: The King

Chapter Seven: The Shock of the New

Chapter Eight: The First Test

Chapter Nine: The Initiation of Rhiannon

Chapter Ten: The Complete Set

Chapter Eleven: The Dreaming

Chapter Twelve: The Revival

Chapter Thirteen: The Calm After the Storm