The present system of Cantrevs was instituted – so lore tells us – by Pwyll the Wise, first High King of Cymru after The Burning. The system was simple, dividing the kingdom into twenty-six districts – the Cantrevs – each under the jurisdiction of a local lord. Each of these Cantrev Lords commanded the loyalty of a number of vassals, and in turn owed his fealty to the High King Pwyll. Each lesser vassal was responsible for the livelihood and wellbeing of his people, and for ensuring that surplus produce was sent to the Cantrev Lord.
When the surplus was gathered by the Cantrev Lord it was used in the system of trade known as Pwyll’s Balance. The people of the hills would supply the people of the valley with surplus wool, mutton and lamb in exchange for beef, grain and milk. Pwyll’s Balance relied heavily upon the honesty of the Cantrev Lords in their dealings with one another, as overseen by the High King and the officers of his court. Likewise it was dependent on the honesty of the vassal lords as overseen by the Cantrev Lords, and on the honesty of the peasantry as overseen by the vassal lords.
Under Pwyll’s rule, the surplus goods from one Cantrev had to be transported by foot and wagon to their destination, a slow and unsatisfactory method, especially for the transportation of meat and milk. It was in search of a better means of transportation then that Pryderi son of Pwyll turned to Don the Evercrafty. And for Pryderi son of Pwyll, Don forged the first great Engine with her own hands, and it was named Pryderi’s Chariot.
Pryderi – it is said – was so pleased with the Engine that he not only bade her build more of these great machine-beasts, but gave to her and her apprentices the caverns over which they built their great stronghold of Caer Goludd to house their workshop, and ordered that coal and iron be brought for her to work with. And in the caverns beneath Caer Goludd, Don and her folk wrought mighty forges, and from the gates of the stronghold there rolled forth the great Engines of Cymru. And on their beats of iron and steel the Engineers travelled, and behind the Engines they drew great wagons bearing steel and tools, and they set about repairing the iron roads which once bound Cymru together, and which in short time under Don’s hands bound her together again.
Thus was Pryderi able to move from one place to another within his kingdom, and he became known as Pryderi the Swift. Also the goods from one cantrev could more swiftly be taken to their neighbours. For this great service, the Engineers asked only a small fee in goods, a tithe to provision Caer Goludd and to feed the Engineers and their labourers as they maintained the iron roads. Although these demands were most reasonable, with neighbouring lords, High King and Engineers to supply, the cantrev lords were obliged to make better use of their land and resources, and the people of the cantrevs to work harder for their livelihood.
Under Mathonwy the Weak, Cymru began to splinter, and it was only through the actions of the Three Orders that the kingdom was maintained through that king’s ineffectual rule. The Engineers undertook to order the continued movement of the cantrevs’ surplus, but the cantrev lords grew ever more reluctant to part with their goods. Many grew greedy, and hoarded their wealth against the agents of the Order and the High King. In time, Mathonwy’s incompetence left many of the hill cantrevs without grain with which to make bread and brew beer, and the valley cantrevs without wool with which to clothe themselves.
And so, in the face of such necessity, Don the Evercrafty obtained the High King’s licence to order the kingdom as she saw fit, such that it would provide for the needs of all of its people. The twenty-six cantrevs were disbanded, and forty-two new cantrevs made in their place. Lords whose worth was high were given leave to keep much of their lands, but those whose worth was great only in their own eyes were stripped of land and titles. New lords were raised up, and each of the new Cantrev Lords swore fealty to the High King, and took oaths to maintain their new duties.
Under Don’s hand, the first duty of all Cantrev Lords became the supply of the surplus to be collected by the Engines. Thus Don ensured that none – be they of the valley or the hills – should go without on account of their neighbour’s greed. It was the duty also of the Cantrev Lords to provide soldiers for the High King’s warband, and to man the Dyke which bordered the Ruin of Anglia, and the duty of the lesser nobles to provide servants and novices for the Three Orders.
Cymru is not a land at peace, and in truth has not been so since the days of Pryderi the Swift. The Lords of the Forty-Two Cantrevs still owe their allegiance to Donn, but many now grow restive. These are turbulent times, and many plot to increase their power at the expense of others, even their King. Yet it is not by hoarding their wealth that many of these nobles seek advancement, but by dispensing it. In acts seemingly of great generosity and devotion to their High King, they make gifts to one another which they – and their folk – can scarcely afford. They battle hard for prestige at the court of Caer Caled, while at home their household troops engage each other with swords to steal each other’s herds.
Even the Three Orders have not proven exempt from the bickering of the Cantrev Lords, and Bards, Druids and Engineers alike have been beset with force of arms and golden gifts alike. Power has become the goal and the ideal for many Cantrev Lords, and the land has become bloody. But still the trade between valley and hill continues, and all send their warriors to fight the Beasts along the Dyke. Open warfare has yet been averted by the power of the High King and the will of the gods.
Some now even mutter of rebellion, although few would dare to actually raise arms against the High King, and some speak of Owain, the prodigal King. For now the High King holds the peace against such troublemakers and rumourmongers, but under pressure from both the Ruin of Anglia and Ireland he has begun to take drastic measure to ensure that the land remains united. Several fractious Cantrev Lords have found themselves stripped of their lands – if not their lives – and their goods and titles given to loyal men of the King’s household, or to neighbours too long oppressed.
In a further attempt to combat the dissolution at work in the Kingdom, of late the King has decreed a new division of the land. The forty-two cantrevs have now become the Little Cantrevs, and the land divided into the High King’s domain and six Great Cantrevs, each commanded by one of Donn’s closest nobles, whom he has raised to sit upon their own thrones as Kings beneath the High King. Many of the Lords of the Little Cantrevs chafe under this new restriction, being no longer the highest order of lordship in Cymru. With the Great Cantrev Lords in place however, the eye of Donn watches his subjects more closely, and those who grumble do so in secret.
Acallin, Bard of Caer Caled
The land of Cymru is divided into seven parts, one greater than the other six, the greatest being the High King’s domain of Ceridigiawn, and the six the Great Cantrevs of Gwynedd, Powys, Dyfed, Deheubarth, Morganwg and Gwent. The Great Cantrev Lords are called Kings, and each is given leave to fly his own banner, train his own warriors and govern his own people, so long as he gives to the High King his due. The natures of these kings are as follows:
Gwynedd: King Llanellwyn the Fell-Handed
Formerly Donn’s warleader, Llanellwyn’s reward for his part in Donn’s ascension to the throne of Cymru was kingship of Gwynedd. Snowdonia falls into Llanellwyn’s domain, and it is a cause of great dismay to this bold warrior that he has failed to bring the Loyal Outlaws before the High King. He is a warrior of great cunning and skill; a loyal ally and a deadly enemy. He is the marshal of the Society of the Black Boar.
Powys: Queen Morgannwy the Hard
The sister of Llanellwyn the Fell-Handed is the ruler of the kingdom of Powys, neighbour to Gwynedd. Together brother and sister control the northern coast, and thereby passage to Caer Manawyddan in the north, and the trade routes to Ireland. She shows no mercy to her foes, but despite her name is most generous to her friends. Morgannwy has no sons, but two daughters both fair and wise. The elder daughter, Gwenwyfar, is the bride of Anoeth son of Donn. The younger, Gwenwyach is marshal of the Society of the Falcon, and her mother’s warleader.
Dyfed: King Callidyr the True
King Callidyr is called the Grocer of Cymru. His kingdom of Dyfed is the most prosperous of the seven divisions, and he was given this fine realm because he is the most honest of Donn’s nobles. His people are well provided for, and the tithe which he delivers to the Balance is never short. It is said by some that the hall of Callidyr is the leanest in Dyfed, for he thinks of all others before himself. His cousin, Gollur the Thoughtful, is his warleader, and marshal of the Society of the Eagle.
Deheubarth: King Llam the Unconquered
It is said by many – and most of all by Llam and his Bards – that King Llam the Unconquered never fails to achieve his desires. Bold, cunning, charismatic and ambitious, Llam was given the kingship of Deheubarth because defending its border with Anglia leaves little time for his thought to stray to dreams of the High Kingship. A man of action, rather than prudence, he is himself marshal of the Society of the Lion.
Morganwg: King Gruf the Reckless
The youngest monarch in Cymru, the King of Morganwg is lord of the Green Cantrevs. Noted for its excellent crops and green pastures, Morganwg passed into Gruf’s hands on the death of his father, King Grufydd. Donn is known to favour the headstrong but wealthy king as a future match for his young daughter, Morwen, but Queen Modron has made it plain that he would have to show far more wisdom before she would allow the match. Rathtyen the Sure-Handed, greatest archer in Cymru, whom some had named the mistress of King Grufydd, is the warleader of Morganwg and a temper to her liege lord’s excess. She is the marshal of the Society of the Hound.
Gwent: Queen Maegwyn the Cautious
As her neighbour is the youngest, so Queen Maegwyn of Gwent is the eldest of the monarchs of Cymru since the death of Grufydd. She has long been a trusted adviser to Queen Modron, and to Donn since his ascent to the throne. Although her body is failing, her mind is still sharp and her tongue no less so. Her grandson Moren is her warleader, and marshal of the Society of the Stag.
The histories of the Bards contain clear records of the founding of the Three Orders of Cymru, in the time of Pryderi the Swift. In the years before the coming of the High Kings, and even in the reign of the first High King, Pwyll son of Dafydd, men thought only of their survival. Bereft of the tools on which their lives had once depended, they struggled to rediscover the old ways of breaking the earth and making it fruitful. Through those dark years, the lore of the time before The Burning was all but lost, only fragments surviving in scattered treasuries of knowledge.
But even then, some few men and women of true vision foresaw that the wisdom of their forefathers – if it could only be separated from the follies which had brought about The Burning – would one day be a thing most valued and needed by the people of Cymru. Among these few, three stand out, and are remembered above all others for their wisdom and their tenacity: Three, with but one father and one mother. Two sisters and one brother they were, the Children of Tegid Foel and Ceridwen.
Tegid Foel and Ceridwen were keepers of lore, perhaps the greatest in the time before the High Kings. Tegid Foel was said in his time to be the wisest man in all the world, and of all women in the world to have been surpassed in wisdom only by his wife, Ceridwen. In Caer Manawyddan, the City of the Sea, they dwelt long together, and there raised their three children. These children grew in the wisdom of their parents, and by the time they were of age they had surpassed both Tegid Foel and Ceridwen. Seeing this, the lorekeepers smiled upon their children, and they sent them out into the world to seek even greater knowledge.
As his children set forth, Tegid Foel took each of them to one side, and charged them to use their wisdom in the best cause, and for the good of all. To seek knowledge but not to take it if it were withheld. To teach their wisdom to others they deemed able to use it well. And after her children had spoken with their father, Ceridwen took each of them to one side, and charged them always to watch for each other’s good and health. To be one in deeds and purpose. Not to keep the lore they found from each other.
And so the three children of Tegid Foel and Ceridwen set forth from Caer Manawyddan on their journey. And the natures of the three were such as this:
Eldest of the three was Don the Evercrafty, who looked always to the future. Wise was she in the ways of the hands, in the making and remaking of devices, and the shaping of metal, stone and wood. Her art and awen were in her fingers, and from the greatest stone or the smallest scrap of steel she could bring forth a form whose beauty was matched only by its function. She was ever the strongest of the three, and her will was like an iron lance. She had a desire for order and unity, to give to all the people the means to bring all they could from their lands. To see the kingdom of Cymru made whole and at peace by a strong hand and a mind that could banish want from the land.
Second of the three was Taliesin the Everlearned, who dwelt always in the past. Wise was he in the ways of the mind, in the learning and recollection of tales and knowledge, and in the speech of men. His art and awen were in his eyes, his ears and his tongue, and nothing which occurred about him went unnoticed and unremembered. He was ever the most patient of the three, and his will was deep and subtle. He had a desire for truth and learning, to bring the word of the past and to see the kingdom made whole and at peace through an awareness of the failings of the kings before The Burning.
Youngest of the three was Eilonwy the Everwise, who cared always for the present. Wise was she in the ways of the land, in the lore of plant and animal and the secrets of the earth and sky. Her art and awen were in her heart, and no creature moved but that she could divine its place in the world, and no being was so lowly that she did not mark its falling. She was ever the most compassionate of the three, and her will was stubborn and tenacious. She had a desire to end the suffering of the land and the people, and to see the kingdom and the world beyond made whole and at peace when all will to hurt was gone.
Far and wide the three travelled, and much they learned in each other’s company. In time however they saw that the three of them could never alone both gather together all the lore which was to be gathered, and use that lore for the good of all.
They pondered this problem, and Taliesin the Everlearned said at length: “It seems clear to me that what we must do is teach our lore to others. To take students whom we might teach and train, and who in their turn might teach students of their own. Thus our lore and wisdom will spread and grow, and there will be many to gather new lore, and not just we three.”
Don the Evercrafty considered her brother’s words, and replied: “Your words have wisdom, but consider you this. We have seen have we not how grievous hurt can come when lore is given without wisdom. We dare not teach our lore to any who would learn it, nor allow others to teach it where it is not earned.”
And Eilonwy the Everwise spoke then, saying: “Then let us teach our lore only to those who can show us wisdom, and responsibility. We shall swear an oath, one to each other, not to let our lore be learned by those who have not the wisdom to use it well, and that same oath let us demand from all whom we would teach.”
And Don and Taliesin both cried out that this was a splendid notion, and all three agreed that they would swear such an oath that very hour. But before they swore, they fell to talking of what they should teach to their students.
And Don said: “First and foremost, we should teach them the crafts of the hands. Then they may build the machines which will release the people from the burden of want, and they will be free to learn all else that we have to teach.”
And Taliesin said: “First and foremost, we should teach them the history of the land. Then they shall know what was, and so learn from the follies of our ancestors, and they will be ready to receive all else we have to teach them.”
And Eilonwy said: “First and foremost, we should teach them to care for themselves and each other, and for this land. Then they shall be strong, and the land fruitful, and they will be able to learn all else we have to teach.”
In this way they argued long, until Don said suddenly: “The hour is all but past; it is time we should swear our oath.”
“But what is it we swear to do and to teach?” Taliesin asked.
“Let us do this then,” Everwise Eilonwy suggested. “Let us swear now each to find the students who are best suited to us. And Don shall teach her students they crafts of the hand, Taliesin shall teach his students the history of the land, and I shall teach my students the ways of caring. And we shall further swear, and our students shall swear, that we and they shall work always in harmony, that all of our lore shall be kept and used for the good of all.”
And once more Evercrafty Don and Everlearned Taliesin cried out in agreement with their fair and wise sister, and there and then the three children of Tegid Foel and Ceridwen swore their oaths and went their ways.
Don the Evercrafty became the first and greatest of the Engineers of Cymru. She took as her students Gofannon the Smith, Llassar the Architect and Angharad the Mechanist, and she took as her husband Gofannon the Smith. Her students were as she was, driven and ambitious, seeking always greater perfection and confident in the good that they did. And when Pryderi heard of Don’s craft, he came to her, and for him she built the first Engine, Pryderi’s Chariot. And Pryderi was pleased, and gave to Don the caverns of Caer Goludd in which to teach and practice her craft.
Taliesin the Everlearned became the first and greatest of the Bards of Cymru. He took as his students Gwenllian the Scholar, Aneirin the Poet and Morwenna the Harper, and he took as his wife Gwenllian the Scholar. His students were as he was, curious and inquiring, anxious always to learn both from the mistakes of the past and from the successes. And when Pryderi heard from the lips of Don of the lore of Taliesin, he came to him, and for him Taliesin composed the great History of Cymru. And Pryderi was pleased, and gave to Taliesin the mountain fastness of Caer Feddwyn in which to teach and practice his lore.
Eilonwy the Everwise became the first and greatest of the Druids of Cymru. She took as her students Drudwas the Beast-Tamer, Creiddylad the Healer and Emrys the Gardener, and she took as her husband a man named Cadell, who was no student of hers, nor anything more glorious than a simple farmer. Her students were as she was, humble and gentle, desiring always to ease the hurt they saw around them. And when Hawise the Graceful, the Queen of Pryderi the Swift fell ill, Taliesin told the High King of his sister’s arts, and Don herself set forth in Pryderi’s Chariot, to bring her sister swiftly to Caer Rigor. By her arts Eilonwy restored the Queen to health, and Hawise gave to Eilonwy the woodland halls of Caer Achren in which to teach and practice her art.
Thus were the Three Orders formed, and thus did the Three Cities of Caer Goludd – City of Wealth – Caer Feddwyn – City of Celebration – and Caer Achren – City of the Trees – come to be held by those three Orders.
From The Great History of Cymru (vol. 2), by Morfudd, Pencerdd of Cymru
In the time before The Burning, it is said that the warriors had lost much of the respect of the people, and it was not considered strange to find a house with neither spear, nor axe, nor sword within. But when the fire came, and the land of Anglia was blasted and men lost the old ways, they turned in anger and desperation upon each other. No man’s land was safe from another, no laws of demesne held sway, and in time men turned back to the laws of the blade.
In the Dark Time, many leaders rose among the folk of Cymru, and the leaders who would prevail gathered to them those that had skill in arms. In time the strongest of these leaders forged for themselves petty kingdoms, and many of those in their power worked the lands which they claimed. But always others would seek to take what they had, and make it their own, and so the warriors kept vigil against invaders and bandits.
With the coming of Pwyll son of Dafydd, and in the fighting against the fell beasts of the Ruin of Anglia, and in the forging of the High Kingdom of Cymru, the warriors found much employment, both in the service and the opposition of Pwyll’s intent. This was the warriors’ time, and they profited much in the love of their lords therein.
But when Pwyll’s Balance was established, and the land lay at a kind of peace, the warriors seemed almost to have fulfilled their purpose. Yet there were still bandits in the forests and the high places, and the lords of the cantrevs sought still to gain more than they gave, by force of arms. And the watch upon the Dyke needed warriors of valour and skill to keep the beasts at bay. And while their need was lessened, and while many warriors took to working the land in time of peace, they kept skill and blade ever sharpened against need.
It was Efnissien the Proud, warleader to Pryderi the Swift, who first undertook to rationalise the organisation of Cymru’s warriors. With the aid of Don the Evercrafty and Taliesin the Everlearned, Efnissien created the first of the warrior societies. Academies at arms, these societies were charged with the training and provisioning of those who wished to learn the art of combat, and with preventing their members from fighting among themselves.
To each society, Efnissien awarded a banner, to be their standard and their license to teach the warrior skills. The first banners bore the Red Dragon, the Black Horse, the Beast, the Hammer, the Harp and the Tree. The Red Dragon was given to the warriors of the High King’s household, while the Black Horse belonged to Efnissien himself. The Beast was given to those who guarded the Dyke. Hammer, Harp and Tree were given respectively to the Engineers, the Bards and the Druids, giving them the right to form their own warbands for their protection. Only the Engineers availed themselves of this privilege, and the Society of the Hammer was formed to protect the Engines and the railways.
Efnissien then assigned banners to the households of Pryderi’s loyal followers, that their warbands would remain strong while those who might plot against the High King could raise no army without drawing suspicion. By controlling the banners, Efnissien controlled the ability of the lords to gather armed force, and so the land came to a state of uneasy peace.
In the time of Mathonwy the Weak, the lords grew presumptuous, and many raised armies though they had no leave, or bartered threats and favours with the High King to be allowed to raise a banner. By the time that Don the Evercrafty came to be entrusted with the reordering of Cymru, many lords were already raising armies to challenge Mathonwy’s rule.
The Societies of the Red Dragon, the Black Horse and the Hammer were thus placed under Don’s guidance, their marshals ordered to obey her instructions, and these three overcame the Societies which served those lords Don found unworthy to retain control of their lands. When the land was reordered, Ifan the Cold, warleader of Mathonwy and marshal of the Black Horse, instructed his warriors to gather the banners of those societies which had been cast down, and they were burned on a great pyre.
But five of the fallen banners were lost, and raised again in the wild places, and societies gathered again beneath them. And the marshals of these societies gathered and conferred, and sent Tangwen daughter of Mor, marshal of the Society of the Fox, who was named the Radiant, to speak with Ifan the Cold. She came to him, and she spoke, saying that the faults of their former lords should be not held against the banners which had been spared the fire, and asking that the five societies – Fox, Badger, White Pig, Dove and Wolf – should be given leave to train warriors who would fight for those who had no banner.
Now it had been in Ifan’s mind to crush these upstart societies and consign their banners to the fire, and to put to cruel death any who might come to plead their case. Even knowing this to be so, the marshals had dared approach the warleader of Cymru, and even knowing the risk to herself, Tangwen had allowed no other to go in her place. Wise she proved, for faced with the radiance of the shieldmaiden, Ifan’s cold heart was melted.
By the king’s leave, Ifan decreed the five to be the Free Societies, with leave to train warriors who held no allegiance but to their banners, so long as no member of the society should raise arms against the Banners of the Red Dragon, the Black Horse or the Beast. Further, Ifan took to wife the marshal of the Society of the Fox, Tangwen the Radiant, and of their union was born Essylt the Valiant.
Many times since the Burning of the Banners has a banner been taken from its marshal and given to another. Most dramatically, the Banner of the Black Horse was taken by Donn to be his own, while the Banner of the Red Dragon was placed in Caer Caled, from whence it was stolen by the Loyal Outlaws of the Prince Owain. By the High King’s decree, the Society of the Red Dragon is unlawful, and the Banner to be taken and burned by any loyal warrior.
New banners have also been created, and given to those who have found the favour of king or warleader. When the Great Cantrevs were created, each of the new lords was given a new banner, and permitted to hand down their old standard to whichever of their vassals they favoured most.
Among the lesser cantrev lords, only a few have their own banners. Most are obliged to send their warriors to be trained under the banner of their liege lord, or under the Black Horse or the Beast. The Society of the Hammer recruits warriors as its members travel, offering the most gifted youths the chance to join the guardians of Caer Goludd. These three – the Black Horse, the Beast and the Hammer – are thus by far the largest and most powerful of the Societies.
A lesser lord may also turn to the Free Societies. The Fox, Badger, White Pig, Dove and Wolf still turn a good trade, and own a good reputation for dealing honestly. There are other Free Societies however, who have taken or been given banners from who-knows-where, and these have less integrity than the five, although their fees are lower. Many a lord has been burned from dealing with these societies instead of with the five.
Tarawg, Chronicler of the Society of the Dove.