Welcome to ‘Rise’

Winter is no longer coming. In fact it’s gone.

This is the time known as Rise in the fictional world of y Ddraig and the start of the Light Time of Year. This month, the crops sown during last month’s Thaw begin to emerge and (as the name suggests) grow taller. The growing moon is the year’s most auspicious moon beneath which to raise new food. By now days are long enough and warm enough that everyone returns to their full work schedules.

Thus, sowing ideally needs to be complete before the moon begins to wax (grow bright) and when the moon is at its brightest, everyone celebrates with a fertility and fire feast to ensure an abundant season ahead.

After such a long winter they’re more than ready to party again!

The Time of Thaw

Welcome to Thaw in the fictional 6th century world of y Ddraig.

As the name (and place in the calendar) suggests this is the time when the ice and snow begins to melt and the first signs of green life begin to emerge. Early in this moon, livestock nibble greedily on the first fresh food they have had for months, grow frisky on the sweetness and freedom, and begin mating. The ground is now soft enough to sow some of the carefully preserved seed and soak the dirt with melted snow.

With water and the gentle sun now stretching for much of the day, it doesn’t take them long to germinate.

Early in this month is the very important Spring equinox which is celebrated with a feast finishing off the last of the stored food and which celebrates the abundance of spring.

Glossary & List of Characters ‘Ascension’

Welcome to the world of y Ddraig in 547AD Brython. Little has changed about the language or pronunciation since the time of ‘Sacrifice’ but there are some new characters to meet.

  • f – pron. as hard ‘v’
  • ff – pron. as a soft ‘eff’ sound
  • ll – The Cymraeg ‘ll’ consonant is like a soft ‘thl’ or a ‘cl’
  • w – a vowel sound closest to ‘oo’
  • dd – pron. a hard ‘th’ [as in lithe]
  • y – pron. ‘uh’ alone or within a word or ‘ee’ on the end
  • c/g – ‘c’ is always hard and interchangeable with a hard ‘g’

Gwanaelle [gooan-eye-ethl] The daughter of a noble family in the North, she fled her father’s weak ways and lived wild until she stumbled upon melangell’s valley (“sacrifice”, book one). When the dragonling emerged from the Creil, Gwanaelle kept her wits about her and, in the simple act of reaching a hand out to it, became the dragonling’s new carer and mother.

Eifion [eye-vee-on] Second-in-command to the high Chieftain’s exiled brother, Cai and now in exile himself, Eifion took the dragonling and Gwanaelle from the yew valley when the darkness came. He has lived in a neighbouring valley with them ever since harbouring a dark and devastating secret.

Nyneve [nun-ave] The child who emerged from the Creil. A dragonling, unascended. She has lived in ignorance of her true heritage surrounded by the love and protection of Gwanaelle and Eifion for fourteen years.

Bleheris [ble-hair-is] A traveller in song, silver of tongue and hair. Bleheris is a bard, well-schooled in the politics of the land. And of y Ddraig.

Gwalchafad [gwolk-a-vad]  Once squire to his illustrious older brother Gwalchmai (known in Artwr’s company by the epithet ‘Gauwain’) Gwalchafad fought his way out of his brother’s shadow and became a warrior in his own right. Now thane of Trellech. Known in the language of the Angles as ‘Gaheris’.

Artwr [ar-toor] High Chieftain of all Cymry, has fought for decades against the Angles and Saxons invading from the east. Relocated his stronghold to Caerllion when a dragon destroyed the one at Caerwent. Surrounds himself and his Queen, Gwynhwyfar, with warriors there.

Y Ddraig [uh thr’eye-g] Drake or dragon. Amongst the oldest creatures on the islands of Brython, survivors of endless invasions from across the seas. Have lived in increasing seclusion since men first wrought iron against their forests. Revered and feared equally, y Ddraig’s magic is universally coveted.

Creil [cray-el] The dragon’s egg, y Ddraig in senescent form. Hunted for its power—political and actual. It offers the sight to those who can master it.

Cymry [cum-ree]. The Romano-Brythonic people south of those lands held by the Picts and the Scoti. Until the 17th century, Cymry referred to the people as much as the land and borders shifted and changed with the people inhabiting them.

Maps (‘Ascension’)

A score of years have passed since the time of ‘Sacrifice’ and the political landscape of Brython has changed considerably as the Angles have claimed much of the east of the island. But by the time of ‘Ascension’ in 547AD little has changed within what is left of Cymry.




Maps (‘Sacrifice’)

To help you get oriented within the world of y Ddraig, here are two maps showing the spread of Cymry in 528AD and the journey that the characters take within it (modern-day Wales).

Brython 528AD


Cymry 528AD [Eryri, Mathrafal, Elfael, Caerwent]


Glossary of characters and pronunciation (Sacrifice, Book I of y Ddraig)

After Rome abandoned Britain to its own protection in the 5th century, those remaining in Briton spoke a mix of old Brythonic (Cymraeg) with Latin overtones. ‘Romano-British’ it is sometimes referred to. This language bears little relationship to words we would recognise today as English and so I have used them sparingly. However, names of characters and places from history I have left untouched. Here is a character and pronounciation guide to help you navigate the world of y Ddraig.

  • f – pron. as hard ‘v’
  • ff – pron. as a soft ‘eff’
  • ll – The Cymraeg ‘ll’  is like a soft ‘thl’
  • w – a vowel sound closest to ‘oo’
  • dd – pron. a hard ‘th’ [as in lithe]
  • y – pron. ‘uh’ [or ‘ee’ on the end of a word]
  • c – always hard and interchangeable with ‘g’

Cymry [cum-ree]. The Romano-Brythonic people south of those lands held by the Picts and the Scoti. Many embraced the new God alongside the old (Brythonic) gods. In the 6th century, Cymry referred to the people as much as the land and borders became irrelevant. As the Angle invaders pushed west, the term came to mean any land where the original Brythons were holding strong.

Y Ddraig [uh thr’eye-g] Drake or dragon. Amongst the  oldest creatures on the islands of Brython, survivors of endless invasions from across the seas. Have lived in increasing seclusion since men first wrought iron against their forests. Revered and feared equally, y Ddraig’s magic is universally  coveted. Later, warlords assumed the title ‘dragon’ to reflect their status. The greatest and strongest of all become the pen dragon.

Creil [cray-el] y Ddraig in senescent form, the dragon’s egg. Greatly desired for its power—political and actual. Hunted across all of Cymry. Amongst its other magic, it offers the sight to those who can master it.

Melangell [Mel-an-gethl]. The fate of y Ddraig falls to her when her people are slaughtered. The Mathrafal [Mahth-rah-vahl] are a peaceful people, true to the old ways and caretakers to one of Cymry’s most powerful mysteries. Infant Melangell was taken forcibly from her family because they are descended from the powerful Annwfn [unn-oo-ven] – the Otherworld [or afterlife].

Cai ap Cynyr [kye ap kunner] A phenomenal warrior  loyal to his Chieftain brother while living perpetually in his shadow. Cai is one of several warriors bringing Artwr those relics he needs to defeat their enemies, the Angles and Saxons. He is Lord of his own stronghold, in Ylfael [Uhl-vial] and the  only true son of Cynyr Forkbeard.

Artwr [Ar-toor] Secreted as a baby with Cai’s family, Artwr is forced—unprepared and unwilling—into the role of pen    dragon in a land overflowing with bickering Chieftains. He has been holding Cymry against the Angle invaders for over a      decade.

Eifion [Eye-vee-on] Cai’s sword-brother, his younger Second-in-command. A loyal champion for the high Chieftain, Artwr, and his immediate Chieftan, Cai.

Gwanaelle [Gooan-eye-ethl] Gwanaelle is a young refugee from the violence of Cymry’s warrior culture.

What is a ‘leap year’?

A LEAP YEAR is any year in which an ‘intercalary’ day exists–that is, a day that is inserted into the calendar to account for the tiny shortages of seconds, minutes and hours that occur across a given period (totalling 6 hours, specifically) caused by the fact that the Earth does not rotate around the sun precisely in 365 days. In the case of ‘our’ calendar, leap years are declared every four years (because 4 x 6hours = 24hours/1 day)
The phrase ‘leap year’ refers to the fact that in a regular year, any given date will advance by one day per year between one year and a next, but in a leap year that date will ‘leap’ over its proper day and come to rest on the next one.
Simple right?
Mmmm…not so much. Over a long period, those extra leap days, themselves, add up and so the Gregorian calendar accounts for that by removing three leap days every 400 years (sheesh, sure hope someone has made a note of that for 2400AD!) by NOT having a leap day in the three century years within any 400 year period that cannot be exactly divided by 400 (2100, 2200, 2300 in the current case).
What? Just…what?
The Celts seem to have liked things a bit simpler. The Gregorian (1582) Calendar wasn’t yet developed and the Celts refused to use the Julian (Roman) calendar that was (literally) in force over Rome’s Empire. Privately, at least. They used their own calendar for tracking the passage of time and their most significant observances. And it was a ‘lunisolar’ calendar (meaning the phases/seasons are determined using both sun and moon as a guide unlike our calendar which is purely solar) which puts it in the company of some traditional calendars you might recognise from today (Hebrew, Buddhist, Hindu, traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean) some other ancient ones (Hellenic & Babylonian).
The Celtic ‘Coligny Calendar’ (for the location in France it was uncovered) at first looks completely baffling until you really get to know it and then it makes as much (or as little) sense as ours. To them, adding a single day in the second month of the year every fourth year and then robbing certain century years of it might seem pretty random (and difficult to track). Well the Celts didn’t mess about with a day here and there. Their core period of time was five years and they whacked an intercalary month in there at 2.5 years and the 5 year mark to bring everything back into reasonable alignment. That also seems a little random until you realise that was month 30 and 60. The dead middle and the end. Pretty logical really.
I’ve written a post about the Coligny Calendar here if you’d like to learn more about it.
Other interesting facts about leap years.
• A person born on Feb 29th is called a ‘leapling’
• The Olympic Games (summer) have been held only on leap years since 1896 (so, yes, we have one this year to be held in Rio)
• In Britain and Ireland, traditionally, women may propose marriage only in a leap year (although this ‘tradition’ doesn’t really trace back further than the 19th C)
• In the medieval period the leap day was calculated slightly differently and fell on or around Feb 24th (ie: the start of the last week of Feb).

The Time of Frost

Welcome to the least formal month in the calendar of the fictional y Ddraig world.

The Time of Frost began on the quarter moon (half light/half dark) and marked the turning of the weather for, now, people and animals began to emerge from the shelters that hopefully got them through winter in one piece. This was a time of experienced assessment, for releasing the animals to the woods if the worst of winter had not truly passed could mean their deaths and, thus, your own. But if the worst had indeed passed then rugged up people and thick coated animals could return into the frost-covered world in readiness for the melting season to come.

Frost is a time of emergence, seeing what had survived and little else.

A (not-very-yet-too-very) brief history of “Wales” and “England”

It’s just not possible to condense a millennium of history into a single post without generalising massively and becoming irritatingly long. Sorry for both, but in the interests of brevity I’m starting at the non-existant year zero (between 1BC and 1AD). Or near to it.

In 55BC, Julius Caesar (looking to boost his military conquests and running out of lands to conquer in the name of Rome) made a flying visit to the south coast of Britannia with a small force, hammered a bunch of Britons living there, was fought off but still managed to take the town he renamed Colchester and high-tailed it back to Rome crying ‘conquest’ of Britannia. Presumably, the fired-up Britons spat in the water after him and sat down to a heavy drinking session believing that they, in fact, had the victory.

Sixty-five years later (in 10AD) Rome tried again, with a much bigger force this time, and the occupation of Briton was formally ‘on’. Parts of Briton (well used to changing of the occupationary guard, I imagine) simply yielded to the might and the phenomenal resources of Rome. They may well have seen very much what was in it for them as Roman citizens. But not everyone was happy at the occupation and so ‘Britain’ fought back on multiple fronts as Rome elbowed their way ever North.

When they got to the most Northern reaches of the land they encountered a ferocious band of warriors they named the Picts (because of the heavy tattoos on their bodies), and repeated efforts by a range of military strategists failed to break the Pict ranks and so Rome just drew a line across the country at a convenient, skinny neck, built a mighty wall there, said ‘yours/ours’ and left the Picts to their North.

About 40 years of creeping occupancy on, they then turned their gaze more seriously in the direction of the ore rich west of the island which appeared to be full of a people of Celtic and Iberian roots and which, up until now, had been more trouble than it was worth. Parts of what we now know as ‘Wales’ capitulated fairly quickly (again, deciding that life as a well-resourced Roman citizen wasn’t the worst outcome for them particularly since, by now, Rome was letting them carry on with their fundamental elements of faith and just…aligning the Roman ones to them). Those in the Northern mountains dug in deep and fought in a way the Romans were incapable of managing – ‘guerrilla warfare’. They drew the Empire up into the mountains where large forces did poorly, they used the terrain to trap Roman forces and gain advantage, and they fought in small, strategic bands that did lots of damage. Thus, Rome more or less said ‘oh well, all the riches are in the south anyway’ and left them to their mountains, though occasionally they put some effort in to battling them just to keep them occupied and stop them from rallying bigger forces.

What they did do was recognise quickly that the power in the Celtic-based society hung on the mysterious Druid class who seemed to have all withdrawn to the isle of Mon (modern day Anglesea) buffered from Rome and the South by a wall of warriors, mountains and a natural moat! The Druids bothered Rome enough that they took forces away from Queen Boudicea’s uprising in the east to try and sort them once and for all.

And they did. And it was horrendous. The Druids, their homes, their holy forests — all razed to dust to try and break the spirits of the remaining Celts.

A large number of remaining ‘native’ Britons saw the writing on the wall and set sail for the Celtic stronghold of Brittany (literally ‘little Briton’) to start over.

Following that, the last lingering Britons did pretty much withdraw into the mountains and eked out an existence separate to the population to the south which was now thriving in its Roman-ness. Cities and towns were built, infrastructure was revolutionised, much of the dispersed population now centralised to those centres which had Roman forts to defend them and shared resources. Rome gave them freedom, structure, resources, education and aspiration. Rome easily beat off any incursions by the Irish (Scoti), the Picts, or Germanic tribes who tried to sneak in. They were funded, protected and empowered. And in very short order things settled down to ‘normal’.

Things could definitely have been worse for some Britons.

For four centuries (three for the west who were occupied much later), Roman Briton ticked over very nicely. But then, way south in Rome itself, a massive organised force (the Goths) sacked some Roman strongholds including Roma. Much like your body does with its blood when under attack, Rome had no choice but to withdraw all its military might from the least-essential lands (the peripheral) to focus on this major threat to its capital lands. Perhaps they assumed they could head back up north and re-take Briton once they were done. So around 400AD (ish) they took their soldiers, and their leaders, and a good chunk of what were (by then) ‘Roman citizens’ and they headed to Rome to defend the Empire.

They TOTALLY abandoned the Romano-Britons they left behind. As break ups went, it was unexpected and brutally clean. The remaining gentry and administrative classes bailed very soon after, following the Roman defence forces back into safer territory and taking their wealth with them. Within a few years, the infrastructure started to fail without experienced people or money to upkeep it. Most trade networks collapsed. People abandoned the failing cities and fled back out to the now-fallow land, dispersing back into the kinds of feudal communities and lifestyles that Rome had found on arriving. They abandoned all their ‘civility’ and national identity and focussed very much on just surviving in their own little patches. Some abandoned the One God (they’d just been getting used to) and fell back on the “Old Gods” out of desperation, trying hard to make amends for having abandoned them so faithlessly.

The ‘re-Celitcisation’ of Briton had begun.

A great analogy: I’ve seen the United States used as an analogy here and it’s a pretty good one because the timelines are roughly the same. In the case of North America, a superpower (Britain, for simplicity’s sake) swarmed in, subsumed all the first owners of the land, set up shop their way, ran that shop reasonably well for a couple of centuries, developed, grew, specialised into the country and power that the US is today (for the purposes of this analogy, ignore the US’s subsequent Independence). The measure of growth experienced in Britain between 10AD and 410AD during Roman occupation was much like the kind of growth the US experienced between 1607 and 2007 — massive! Imagine, then, that in 2008, all of the US’s military, financial and administrative services were simply…withdrawn. Imagine they all got on boats and went back to Britain or France or wherever to fight for someone else. Imagine, then, that anyone who had money invested in the US also upped-stakes with whatever of that fortune they could liquidate and just…left. Think what would be left of that America and what an utter shambles it would be after 400 years of doing things a particular way under the might of an Empirical occupier. Canada would immediately subsume resource-rich Alaska (if they could beat Russia to it), and swarm down from the north and take the border states at a minimum. Mexico and others would swarm up from the South. Every man and his dog would have a crack at getting those abandoned lands for themselves. And all the remaining Americans struggling to survive on what the land could give them without the trappings of their ‘civilisation’ would be completely ripe for the taking.  So…yeah… that was post Roman Briton.

Where were we? Back to the year 410AD, the specialisation and development that happened in Briton between since 10AD had created a strong, healthy civilisation full of Romano-Britons. But then Rome just packs up one day and sails off taking all of its everything with it.

Out of the North of ‘Wales’ rode all those warrior classes and warlords who had denied Rome and who had been ruling the mountains and occasionally battling the Picts and Scoti too who immediately set sail or swarmed in on foot into the north of what would later become ‘England’. Out of the south of ‘Wales’ emerged some of the strongest remaining Romano-British families on a fast-track Warlord program. And a couple of Germanic and Danish tribes came up from the Continent into the south of ‘England’ for good measure.

The struggling Romano-Britons begged Rome for help–like a child to a parent. But Rome was too busy saving its more favoured children (futiley, as it would turn out quite a bit later) and so no help arrived. The britons were pushed by fierce Northerners straight into the waiting swords of Germanic tribes coming ashore from the south. It was a horrible time of slaughter for a people who had lived in relative peace for four centuries.

As history tells it, a warlord called Vortigern–perhaps the King of all Briton, perhaps not–decided ‘better the devil you know’. Legend says he hired some Anglo Saxon mercenaries to come and fight off the Irish, Picts, Germans and Danes in return for some lands.  The regrouping Britons weren’t yet mobilised enough to be an effective defence force and because they were basically bankrupt following Rome’s departure. Land (and what was under it) was all they had. But jeez they had a lot of it.

So, the Angles came as promised and they were awesome. The Picts, Danes and Irish fled back from whence they came (loosely speaking). But the Angles recognised immediately that Briton was so defenceless they had to ask for help in the first place, and they took their time checking out Briton’s mineral riches and, naturally, came to question why they should limit themselves only to the lands they’d been promised?

Gleeful Angle messengers went back to the Germanic lands they’d come from and hundreds of ships were made and sailed to the whimpering shores of Britain. The ‘Anglo-Saxon’ wave began.

Poor old Vortigern has been much pilloried for his stupidity (or greed) in inviting the Angles into Britain but, really, it was only a matter of time. Briton was basically on its back, flailing. Someone was going to take advantage sooner rather than later. But he was certainly naive for imagining that he’d be able to ‘play’ the Angles as though he still had the might of Rome at his back. If he was going to surrender his country to someone perhaps it would have been better the Irish or the Picts? But, by then, Briton was basically Roman in ethos–the Celtic Irish were just too ‘foreign’ and the Picts were just too primitive to tolerate. The Angles, at least, had vaguely comprehensible gods and laws.

So, perhaps they were the lesser of several evils.

Anyway, within two generations of warring (ie: the end of the 5th century), the Island of Britain was split a couple of ways. The Picts still held the north (although they were battling it out with the Scoti/irish who pushed them way back into the north-north and took the south of the North for themselves) and the old Roman wall was still a frontier border that no-one seemed willing to cross. The Angles and Saxons (and to a lesser degree Danes and Jutes) swarmed in with insane numbers and subsumed the entire east of the island right up to that wall forming ‘Angle-land’ or ‘England’ as it eventually became known.

In the West (‘Wealas’, as the Angles called it), all the Romano-Briton-Celt types already there (or pushed there by the Anglo-Saxon invasion) sorted themselves into a defence force and pushed back against the Anglo-Saxons fairly successfully for about a century courtesy of some damned fine War-lording. The ‘Welsh’ were a thorn in the Anglo Saxon’s side for some time but, by the 8th century, the sheer volume of AngloSaxons meant that they had spread into Wales, too, and insinuated themselves throughout in pockets (though, again, not really in the mountainous, difficult north). Those who weren’t willing to stay and fight for a Celtic Wales sailed off for the still Celtic-rich lands of Brittany.

There was a brief flurry of Danish (Viking) incursion in Britain in the 9th and 10th C, but then in the 11th (1066 to be precise) in sailed the Normans. There’s a bunch of politics that goes with this but suffice to say that the Norman leader, ‘William’, was welcomed by large parts of the ‘Welsh’ population either because of the old adage the enemy of my enemy is my friend (and they still very much held a grudge against the Angles/Saxons) or (more obscurely but much more intriguingly) because William and the Normans came from Normandy which, while by now identifying as ‘French’ and being partly populated by Danes, was also fairly recently a rich Celtic land and part of the old Brittany. So the still Celticised Welsh may well have seen William’s arrival as the return of a traditional bloodline. More ‘them’ than the Angles, certainly.

William triumphed, England was Normanised, Wales kind of was too (but not totally because they were still holding onto their own identity), everything north of the wall just minded its own business for a while yet.

And so… the Celts of Briton had become the Romano-Britons and then they became Anglo-Saxon and by the 11th century they were known as the Anglo-Normans as the two cultures assimilated and their language grew to be a mix of (predominantly) French and Germanic based words, with some Danish and old Celt thrown in.

So there you have it. The incredibly tumultuous millennium that was the 1st AD. A revolutionary and revolutionising time for the people’s of Briton. In a nutshell.

The Time of Silence

As the name suggests, the Time of Silence refers as much to the land as it does to the people of the y Ddraig world.

In fictional 6th century Cymry this is the coldest, deadliest time. All the livestock are snugged up inside the shelters and nobody works outdoors or travels or even emerges if they don’t have to. Sometimes they are fully snowed-in and so they literally cannot get out their doors without brands and a team effort. Everyone hunkers down to get through the worst month and, outside, even the remaining birds are quiet, tucked in their nests busy surviving the cold.

Midway through Silence, (and at the mid-point between the Winter and Spring equinoxes) on the full moon is a fire/fertility festival, which was mostly observed within the home (given the impractical season) with candles or (at least) the hearth. It ensured protection and fertility for the crops and animals in the season to come.