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The Men of Ardudwy

THE Men of Ardudwy once upon a time found there were no maidens in their district for them to marry. In the Vale of Clwyd, on the other hand, there were so many maidens that husbands could not be found for all. There was a bitter feud, however, between the two districts, and the men of Ardudwy could not go a-wooing to the Vale in peace.

Those of the men of Ardudwy who wished to marry determined at last to steal wives for themselves, as they could not get them any other way, and taking advantage of the absence of the warriors of the Vale on an expedition they swooped down, and, snatching away the flower of the maidens, proceeded to carry them off to the mountains.

Messengers recalled the warriors of the Vale from their expedition, and a strong band of them started hot-foot in pursuit of the robbers. They overtook the fugitives near a lake among the mountains of Ffestiniog and summoned them to yield. The men of Ardudwy, though greatly outnumbered, scorned to surrender, and a fierce battle followed. All day long the noise of splintering spears, swords clashing on swords, and battleaxes crashing upon armour, rolled among the eternal mountains.

At first the men of the Vale rushed carelessly upon the men of Ardudwy, thinking that it was but a light task to overpower the little band, but so many of them fell that they drew off to order their attack better. They carefully marshalled the bravest of their number and charged; a desperate hand-to-hand struggle followed, but the men of Ardudwy, though they lost many good men, at last beat off the assault. They now feigned flight, but as the men of the Vale came on with wild cries and uproar, they wheeled round and cut down so many of them that they fled in disorder. They soon rallied, however, and delivered charge after charge. Time after time the men of Ardudwy flung them back, but they became fewer and fewer with each charge.

In the late afternoon there was a lull in the fray. Then the men of the Vale, gathering all their available force, delivered a last overwhelming charge on the weakened band. The men of Ardudwy sold their lives dearly, piling corpse upon corpse, but they were exhausted with wounds, their spears were shattered, and their swords were hacked and blunted. When the men of the Vale fell back to recover breath and strength, they found that there were only four of the defenders left alive. Though the number was so small, they did not close with them, but surrounded them and plied them with javelins and stones. Still the four of Ardudwy fought on while breath remained in their bodies; then one by one they sank down upon the pitiless storm of javelins, and at last there was nothing left of the gallant band but a heap of dead.

Even then, Death had not taken his full toll of victims. The maidens of the Vale had, ere their kindred came up, learned to love their captors. They had been stationed by them on the top of a precipice rising sheer and steep out of the lake, behind the position which was to be defended, and from here they had watched the long-drawn-out struggle. When the last of the men of Ardudwy fell, and the desperate fight was done, they plunged into the waters red with the blood of their lovers and kindred, like some great flight of white birds sweeping down from a wave-washed cliff down to the sea. The still waters leapt in foam: one loud shriek woke the air, and then silence reigned over all.

The lake was called after them Llyn y Morwynion, the Maidens' Lake, and not far from its margin great stones may still be seen marking the place where those who died in this great fight were buried.

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