The prince did not come entirely unannounced! There were messages. They slipped through the air and invaded Gwyn's fingers; his joints ached, things fell out of his grasp, and he knew something was on its way.
They had nearly finished the barn; it only needed a few extra nails on the roof to secure it against the wild winds that were bound to come, and planks to fit for the lambing pens. That was Gwyn's task. He had never been much of a carpenter and today he was proving to be a disaster. But he could not pretend that cold or damp was causing his clumsiness. A huge September sun glared across the mountains, burning the breeze. The air was stifling!
Gwyn hated hammering on such a day. Sounds seemed to sweep unimpeded into every secret place, and with his father on the roof banging away at corrugated iron, the clamor was deafening.
"Aww!" Gwyn dropped his hammer into a bucket of nails and thrust his fist against his mouth.
"What've you done, boy?" Ivor Griffiths called from his perch.
"Hammered my thumb, didn't I?"
"You need glasses!"
"Take after you then, don't I?" It was a family joke, Ivor's glasses. They were always streaked with mud or lost. Gwyn could see them now, balanced on a pile of planks.
"Is it bad?" his father asked.
"Mnn-hmm!" Pain began to get the better of Gwyn; the numbing ache was aggravated by a bruised and bleeding thumbnail.
"Better go and see Mom," his father suggested. "You're no use injured, are you?"
"No, Dad!" Gwyn slid a chisel into his pocket, wondering why he felt compelled to do this. Perhaps something at home needed his attention. He didn't know then, what it would be.
He stuck his thumb in his mouth and jogged down the mountain track toward the farmhouse. In spite of the urgency he could not resist a look back at the barn. It would be a grand shelter for the ewes, something to be proud of, they'd done it all for themselves: he and his dad, his cousin Emlyn, and Uncle Idris. It was a family affair.
"Idiot!" Gwyn told himself. "There's nothing going on here." It was such a bright and beautiful day. He could see it all from his high field and all was well. Nothing threatened from the valley, where trees glowed with early color. There were no phantoms hiding in the mountains that stretched calm and splendid under an empty sky. But the warning in his hands could not be ignored.