5. The Order of Bards

The Bard’s Oath

The Bard’s Oath was laid down by Taliesin the Everlearned, and based upon the form set out by Eilonwy. The Oath, along with a great volume containing all issues of interpretation ever raised, and the record of the debate and arbitration on each of these issues, is kept in Caer Feddwyn alongside the texts of the Oaths of the Engineers and the Druids.

I swear by Earth and Sun and Burning Fire, by the craft of my hand and mind and heart, and call upon all powers and authorities mortal and immortal to witness my Oath, that I may keep it in deed and intent to the best of my ability and judgement.


I will pay the same respect to my master in the Craft as to my parents, share my life with him and pay my debts to him. His kin shall be as kin to me, in all matters and respects. I will pass on precepts, lectures and other learning to my own pupils, duly apprenticed and sworn, and to no others, and I shall take no pupil until the Pencerdd has deemed me worthy.


I will use my art to aid the people of Cymru to the best of my ability and judgement; I will abstain from harming or wronging any man by it.


I will tell no falsehood which might bring hurt or grievance. Neither will I bear any news which I believe to be untrue, nor repeat any slander. Neither will I record any false history for the purpose of acquiring power by it, for myself or for others.


I will be humble in my practice, and modest in my living.


I will seek not to traffic in the arts of an Engineer or a Druid, nor of a Warrior.


If I swear to serve a lord, I shall do so to my utmost ability, save that in his service he requires me to foreswear this Oath. I shall swear no Oath of loyalty beyond this Oath.


I will charge no fee for the performance of my craft beyond that prescribed by the Order as right and fitting for the reward of my services and the keeping of my person, neither in money nor in kind. I will accept no gift or favour in exchange for my services, nor will I abuse my position to extract such gifts or favours.


Whatever I see or hear, professionally or privately, which ought not to be divulged, I will keep secret and tell no one.


Should I hear or see or unearth any lore which ought to be placed in the keeping of the Order of Engineers or the Order of Druids, I shall entrust that lore to the servants of those Orders and to no other. Whatever other lore I may find I shall spread to my kin of the Order of Bards, and to all those who might profit by it, save that it be of a kind that should not be divulged.


If, therefore, I observe this Oath and do not violate it, may I prosper both in my life and in my Order, earning good repute among all men for all time. I f I transgress and foreswear this Oath, may my lot be otherwise.


Interpretation of the Oath

  1. This is the standard formula for the commencement of any perpetual oath.
  2. The Order of Bards is arranged as a family, such that all Bards should treat one another as kin. A Bard may not take an apprentice until he has satisfied the Pencerdd (Chief Bard) and the Bardic Council of his competence to teach. The Order actually encourages the dissemination of most of its lore (see 10), but the teaching of the crafts is forbidden save to duly sworn apprentices.
  3. The Order interprets this section of the Oath to bind a Bard to perform his duty reliably in recording events past or present, and responsibly in reporting information to others. Importantly, Bards are not supposed to reveal information which might enable another to repeat the mistakes which led to The Burning.
  4. Bards are not held to be bound to speak only the truth. Many of their tales are allegory and metaphor, the events in them untrue, but they are considered perfectly acceptable. What a Bard is bound against is telling or repeating malicious falsehoods. They are also prohibited against hoarding information to gain power, by extortion or by other method.
  5. A Bard is not expected to live in squalor, but he is expected to live modestly, and not bedeck himself with ornaments or rich garments. Caer Feddwyn is a richly appointed stronghold, but its bounty is open to any who come to the gate without malice.
  6. Any Bard seeking to learn the crafts of the Druids or the Engineers can expect little sympathy from the Council. The Order deals in trust, and must maintain strict standards of confidentiality. Many do learn to fight for self defence.
  7. Once recognised by the Pencerdd as a qualified Bard, a member of the Order is free to take any master he chooses. He is not permitted however to swear any Oath which could bind him to foreswear the Bard’s Oath. He is not bound by any higher loyalty to the Pencerdd or the Council, save for the bonds of family.
  8. Bards are not supposed to amass great wealth, but many are kept in considerable luxury by their lords. This is permitted, provided that the Bard maintains his humility. The more important element of this tenet is the prohibition against extorting gifts and favours, which is again treated with the utmost gravity in order to maintain the trust of the people of Cymru in the Order.
  9. The business of a Bard is the collection and distribution of information, but it is considered vitally important that a Bard knows when to keep his peace.  Again, the issue of confidentiality and trust makes this tenet especially important.
  10. The Order prohibits the hoarding of knowledge. If only one man knows a thing, it is lost if he dies. Bards are expected to pass on all lore they gain to their kin, and also to the people of Cymru if they would profit by it without doing harm. Lore pertaining to the crafts of the Engineers or Druids is treated differently, and should be passed intact to a member of the appropriate order and to no other person, save that it may be recorded and stored with the other texts of that Order at the request of its Chief.
  11. This is the standard formula for the conclusion of a perpetual oath.


Taliesin the Everlearned founded the Order of Bards to preserve the knowledge of the past, and to dispense that knowledge to those who needed it, and who possessed the wisdom to use it responsibly. To further this aim, once the fledgling Order was granted the use of Caer Feddwyn as its heart, Taliesin sought the aid of his Evercrafty sister in the creation of a mighty library. Don aided her brother willingly, and Llassar the Architect raised at Caer Feddwyn a mighty edifice, which dwarfed the great keep.

The library contains twenty-eight rooms, lined and filled with shelves, on which to store the books of lore which Taliesin and his folk aimed to gather. Moreover there were rooms in which to store artefacts of the past, and two long galleries in which were displayed such works of art as could be gathered, or which might be made anew. Special vaults also house the recorded lore of the Engineers and the Druids, stored there for safe-keeping. Only once the library was completed did Taliesin deem the Order to be born, and accept the title of Pencerdd – Chief Bard – from his followers. The keep itself became the hall of the Order, in which the Bards and their students might dwell and study, and in which they might give greeting and cheer to weary travellers in the mountains.

Taliesin was already in his seventy-third year when he accepted the mantle of the Pencerdd, but he was the head of the Order for full twenty years more. To help him govern the Order, Taliesin choose his three students and eight others to sit with him on the Bardic Council. Then, one day in his ninety-third year, Taliesin gave his golden harp to a young Bard named Morfudd, took a harp of strong wood and left the halls of Caer Feddwyn forever. Morfudd took word of his departure to the Council, and they recognised that Taliesin had appointed her as his successor.

There was some discontent among the older Bards regarding this appointment, but the young woman quickly proved to be an effective Pencerdd. It was Morfudd who appointed the first Proctors to seek out potential bards among the folk of the cantrevs, and she who formalised the examinations by which the Council determined a young bard’s progress. During Morfudd’s time as Pencerdd the first Eisteddfod was held, as a celebration of Cymru’s culture and as a chance for the Bards who wandered the kingdom to meet one another and tell new tales.

Morfudd lived a long life, and at her death was mourned by many, including the family of the High King Math, the Chief Druid Mabon and the Chief Engineer Welwyn. On her death bed, she passed the golden harp of Taliesin to Llewellyn, the grandson of Taliesin, and Llewellyn was recognised by the Council as Pencerdd. Under Llewellyn the Order grew and flourished, and the Bards came to number among the councils of all the greatest lords of Cymru.

When Donn the Kinslayer rose up and made himself High King by his bloody deeds, Llewellyn proposed to the Council that the Order should oppose him. The Council overruled the Pencerdd however, deciding that the Order must be neutral, and take no sides. As a gesture of faith, Dunlath, grandson of Morfudd was sent to Caer Goludd, to become the Bard of Donn.

Today, Acallin son of Dunlath is the Bard of Caer Caled, and serves the High King well. But the Order keeps it neutrality still, and Teleri daughter of Dunlath is the Bard of Caer Siddi, and serves the Prince Owain. The High King Donn has grown suspicious of the Order of Bards, since they openly serve his enemies as well as his allies, and since Llewellyn has made no secret of his antipathy for the Kinslayer. The Order has so far been protected from the king’s wrath however, by dint of their continuing alliance with the Order of Engineers.


The Order of Bards is far less close-ranked than the Engineers. Although all Bards are tied together by bonds of sworn kinship, the organisation of the Order is quite open. Each Bard is the master of his own affairs and is free to give his loyalty to any lord, in so far as he does not break the Oath.

The governing body of the Order is the Bardic Council, headed by the Pencerdd. The Pencerdd is appointed by his predecessor, and is the titular head of the Order. He is responsible for appointing a Master Bard to fill any vacancy on the Council, which has twelve members, but has no power to remove a member from the Council. The Bardic Council has only limited powers and responsibilities. Most importantly, the Council is responsible for the examination of potential Bards and students.

The Council is also responsible for the selection of the Proctors, and for adjudicating complaints brought against members of the Order. Where complaints allege a breach of the Oath, any proceedings are entered into the record which is kept with the text of the Oath. If a member of the Order is found to have foresworn his Oath he is cast out and prohibited from practising the Bardic arts. Any person found to have breached this prohibition is liable to have his ability to practice the arts removed, a process involving the breaking of the fingers and removal of the tongue. It is a matter of considerable pride that this sentence has never had to be carried out.

The Council’s final duty is the organisation of the Eisteddfod, the annual festival of the Bardic arts. The Eisteddfod is held at the end of the harvest, in the fields of Caer Feddwyn at the foothills of the mountains. It is a chance for Bards to gather and exchange new tales and lore, and for these tales and lore to be committed to paper and placed in the library for future generations.

The Eisteddfod is also the time at which the Council selects the Kings and Queens of the Order. The best harper, the best scholar and the best poet to display their work at the Eisteddfod are awarded the title of King (or Queen) of the Bards. Although these Kings and Queens have no authority, for the next year they and their liege lords are accorded great honour by the Order, and tremendous prestige by the people of Cymru. It is both and honour and a responsibility to be chosen, and the Council pays particular attention to the behaviour of its ‘royalty’.


The progress of a Bard – or would be Bard – follows a strictly prescribed course. A promising youth must be sponsored by a Master Bard and brought before the Council to determine whether he has the qualities required to be a Bard – including, but not limited to, a quick mind, an accurate memory, a desire to learn and a strong sense of responsibility.

If approved by the Council the youth becomes an apprentice, and his sponsor may undertake his training. Some apprentices are not brought before the Council by sponsors, but by the Proctors, Bards whose specific duty is to identify potential apprentices and bring them before the Council. In such cases the Council will select a teacher for the new apprentice; the selected Bard may decline, but it is rare for this to be done.

When an apprentice’s master believes him ready, he comes before the Council again to prove himself. He is tested for his knowledge, confidence and courtesy, and if found ready he is named a Bard. Once he is so recognised the Bard may offer his services to anyone who requires them, is free to travel as he desires, and in fact is not required to ever return to Caer Feddwyn unless he is called to be judged by the Council.

If he wishes to take apprentices of his own however, he must prove his readiness to become a Master Bard. In order to do so, he must first return to Caer Feddwyn and spend time teaching the children of those who live there. He must also produce a number of original works, and demonstrate the responsibility, patience and creativity required to train a new Bard to the Council’s satisfaction. Once he has so demonstrated, he is known as a Master Bard, and may sponsor students to the Council.


The Crafts of the Bards are varied, but mostly revolve around the gathering and distributing of information.

Genealogy and Heraldry

The Order is responsible for keeping track of the noble families of Cymru, charting political alliances, blood feuds and bloodlines. The Order’s genealogists then provide the nobles with details of their family histories on request. They also assign the basic heraldry of Cymru. While this falls far short of the spectacular achievements once displayed by the aristocracy of the Isle of the Mighty, it is nonetheless important to make certain that only one family or warrior society uses a given symbol as its banner.


The harp is the emblem of the Order of Bards. The Pencerdd’s symbol of office is the golden harp of Taliesin, and the playing of the instrument is one of the Order’s most closely guarded secrets.


One of the required arts of the Bards, the study of the history of Cymru and the Isle of the Mighty is the chief focus and raison d’être of the Order. All apprentices receive instruction in at least the basics of history, and of historical enquiry.

Illumination and Scribecraft

While all Bards are taught to read and write, a few display a true flair in the art. These are taught the secrets of illumination and presentation, and are responsible for the preparation of all of the Order’s most important documents. Documents produced by these Bards are both beautiful and distinctive, and one scribe can easily recognise the work of a colleague.


Bards are typically fairly personable individuals, and some develop a particular knack for working on people. This is an ability to sense and to subtly manipulate an individual or group’s emotions and reactions to receive a desired effect. Most commonly it is used to gauge and react to the emotion of a crowd, but it is also most effective for loosening the tongues of the wary or calming those who might seek to harm the Bard.


Bards travel at least as much as the Engineers do, and their need for maps is therefore at least as great. However, the maps of the Bards are quite different from an Engineer’s chart. Bardic maps are at least partially symbolic, and do not represent precise distances and spatial relations. A Bard’s map is a complex set of route instructions and terrain details, including notes on travel times, local points of interest, mnemonic notes relating to the mapmaker’s favourite stories of the areas shown and a wealth of other information, and are also typically very beautiful. This craft allows the Bard both to compose his own maps and to read and navigate by the maps of others, and is quite distinct from the Engineers’ Cartography craft. A cartographer can not read a mapmaker’s map, nor vice versa.


The art of memory is one which all Bards come to rely upon. While their ability to write enables them to make permanent records, they rarely recite their lore directly from books, instead committing it to memory for later redistribution. Needless to say, this requires them to cultivate exceptional powers of recall and mental organisation.

Reading and Writing

The ability to form and understand the written word is the second of the Order’s required arts, taught to all apprentices. All Bardic lore is ultimately committed to written form in the Library of Caer Feddwyn, and is made available to any Bard.

Storytelling and Oratory

The ability to speak before a crowd is an important one for a Bard. This craft is not only the ability to speak loudly and clearly, it is also about knowing what to say and when. It is about knowing and recalling stories, but also about knowing which stories to tell and which parts to emphasise. Coupled with Manipulation, this craft can allow a Bard a considerable influence over his listeners.