With true friends… even water drunk together is sweet enough. — Chinese proverb


“Do you have a moment, cadlywydd?”

Cadogan looked up from the open diptych on his desk to find Gerlad standing in the doorway of his study. “Certainly. Since when do you have to ask me?”

The younger man shrugged. “You seemed occupied, and this isn’t about Am Rhyddid business. Young Bryn ap Coll is downstairs and has a question for you. I’d have directed him to the bennaeth Idris if he were home, but he and Anwen are visiting Bren Argoed today if you’ll remember — ”

“ — and so it’s my turn to play chieftain,” Cadogan finished with a chuckle. “Go and tell the boy to come and see me.”

Gerlad inclined his head in a gentle nod. “At once.” He turned and disappeared down the hallway.

I wonder what the child wants? Cadogan mused.

{Don’t ask me,} answered Sabar. {Apparently it’s something that can’t wait for Idris, though.}

The cadlywydd gave a mental chuckle. Well, we are talking about Coll ab Eudef’s son, after all. Young boys aren’t much given to patience as it is, and Bryn possibly less than most, from what I’ve heard.

{That reminds me of someone I know,} Sabar commented drolly. {I wish I could remember who…}

Oh, hush, said his host good-naturedly. Cadogan was well accustomed to the gentle teasing his symbiote sometimes gave him over the foibles of his boyhood and youth. Sabar had been present for many of those years, his previous host Berwyn having been a member of Clan Branoc himself. Berwyn had chosen to headquarter the Am Rhyddid in Dinas Coedwyg in part for the safety of his own kin and their households, but the rebellion’s heart and soul had always been right here in Llanavon, where Branoc ap Gryg had once vowed that all his progeny would oppose Bel the Deceiver and lead any fight to overthrow him and free Tir Awyr. Thus had Sabar observed the growth and personality of one Cadogan ap Cynan, younger son of the clan’s then-chieftain, for several years before Cadogan reached his majority and officially joined the rebellion’s ranks. Berwyn had taken on the role of Cadogan’s mentor when the latter was merely sixteen, helping to shepherd the rash, raw youth safely to responsible adulthood. Sabar, having both observed and at times assisted in the process, rarely missed an opportunity to offer his current host a loving reminder of the impetuousness of his younger self.

There came the thump of footsteps on the stairs, their slightly uneven rhythm suggesting that their guest was taking them two at a time. Cadogan suppressed a grin, pretending to study his diptych as he heard the boy approach the doorway.

A slight cough sounded just before he heard tapping on the doorframe. Looking up, he saw the familiar reddish hair and freckled countenance of Coll’s son, not unlike Coll’s own appearance. Now there’s an apple that fell not far from its tree, he commented silently to Sabar.

Smiling, he said aloud, “Hello, Bryn.” At the boy’s sudden hesitance, he raised a hand, beckoning. “Come in, son; come in. Gerlad tells me you have something you wish to ask me?”

Bryn ap Coll was not quite ten years old, and while he wasn’t particularly shy, Cadogan was aware that the boy seemed to be somewhat in awe of him. Granted, he supposed that his age, his rank and his station might combine to elicit that sort of reaction from a child who knew these things without knowing him well on a personal level, but by thunder, he didn’t want or need the local youth to be tongue-tied in his presence. Respect was one thing, but awe made him uncomfortable. He was merely a man, and anything else he might happen to be came by accident of birth or as the byproduct of his status as Sabar’s host — and that came simply from his service to the rebellion.

He realized that whatever young Bryn’s question might be, the boy had probably intended to pose it to Idris, with whom he was likely more familiar. Idris had always lived here in Llanavon whereas he and Sabar had been away for months at a time until the past year or so. Unaware of Idris’ absence today from Bennaeth Bod, Bryn had likely spied Gerlad at some mundane task in the dooryard and simply asked after ‘y bennaeth’, meaning Cadogan’s nephew and co-chief, only to be surprised when he was bidden to approach Cadogan himself. Caught unprepared for the encounter, the boy now stood silently in the doorway, shifting from foot to foot as though unsure how to proceed.

Unfolding himself from behind his desk, the cadlywydd crossed the room and reached out to clasp the boy’s arm in greeting. “Come on in,” he said again, drawing the child gently into the room and guiding him toward the pair of chairs that sat before the fireplace, turned so they faced slightly toward each other as well as toward the hearth. “I’m not going to bite you, son.”

Lowering himself into one chair, Cadogan patted the other. “Sit down and tell me what’s on your mind.”

Wide-eyed, Bryn nodded and perched himself on the edge of the empty seat. “B-bennaeth,” he began, stammering slightly. “Er, c-cadlywydd…”

Cadogan shook his head, smiling again. “Let’s try ‘Uncle’,” he suggested kindly. Not only was it a common enough term of respect from a child or youth to any man at least old enough to be that individual’s father — although he supposed that in his own case, to be addressed as ‘Grandfather’ would have been more than equally proper — but he was certain that Bryn was in fact his kin along at least one branch or other of the complicated tree whose fruit was the local populace. Coll’s line had been present in Llanavon since Branoc’s time and must surely have entwined with his own at some point over the span of several generations.

His eyes even wider, Bryn nodded. “Uncle…” He swallowed, then continued, the words suddenly tumbling out in a rush. “I was wondering whether you or Bennaeth Idris had decided who should receive Ethni’s puppies?”

{So that’s what he’s after!} Sabar exclaimed with a silent chuckle.

Cadogan suppressed the urge to laugh aloud. Now he understood what weighty matter had brought the boy to see him. Ethni, Bennaeth Bod’s deerhound bitch, had given birth to a litter of eight pups — four of each sex — just over two months earlier. All eight had survived infancy and weaning, growing to become healthy, playful and sometimes inconvenient balls of fuzz who liked nothing better than to scamper about the house whenever humans were present. Cadogan knew that some of the previous holders of Bennaeth Bod hadn’t been keen to allow their dogs in the house, but Idris had as much of a soft spot for them as he did, and thus Ethni and her get were permitted indoors rather than being relegated to yard, stable and shed.

With at least six pups in need of home — Ris had announced his intention to keep one for himself and Idris was of a similar mind to keep another at home along with its dam — there had been some discussion as to who ought to receive the remaining puppies. A dog of this type was an asset to a household, being useful as a companion or guardian for children and in myriad other ways. They were also useful for hunting deer and boar or even the occasional wolf if one should happen to threaten livestock. There weren’t many wolves on Tir Awyr, but there were some. Cadogan knew from Sabar that Bel had likely imported a few of them along with the other animals that had accompanied his ancestors from the First World in order to achieve some natural balance in the environment he intended for his slaves. While those first arrivals had undoubtedly had livestock, wild game would have been seen as necessary too, and that meant having some natural predators other than humans to keep their numbers in check so their overall breed would be healthy.

He’d always thought it odd to reflect on this, but in essence it did give some truth to the belief held for years before the Wars of the Gods and the Interregnum that followed that Bel had so ordered the world as to provide a fertile home for his worshippers. He had, but it wasn’t done out of benevolence or for their own benefit.

Cadogan pulled his attention back to the present. Bryn was swinging his feet, which dangled just a few inches off the floor, and watching his face nervously. Well, Coll’s family was mentioned and agreed upon, so I suppose it won’t hurt to tell them by way of Bryn, he commented to Sabar.

“We have indeed,” he informed the boy solemnly.

The feet swung faster as the blue eyes widened again.

{Oh, give it up,} Sabar told him.

Cadogan chuckled, grinning. “Bryn, which do you think would be better, a boy or a girl? Or perhaps we should ask your mother and father?”

The boy’s face lit up with a smile so broad as to be barely containable. “Oh, a boy, please, Uncle!” Suddenly remembering the manners in which his parents had undoubtedly drilled him, he hopped off the chair and executed the slight bow of the head that was as far as any Pridano went toward obeisance, even to a clan chieftain — or to the highest military commander in all the Five Worlds. “Thank you, bennaeth. Er, Uncle.”

“You’re quite welcome, Bryn. I’m sure you’ll give him a good home.” As Cadogan spoke, the boy’s eyes met his again. “One thing, however: I should like to wait until Idris has returned from Bren Argoed before you take your puppy home, because I know that he and Ris each want to keep one, and I don’t recall which ones they’ve chosen.”

“When will he be home?” The anticipation in Bryn’s voice was palpable.

“Sometime this evening, I believe. One of us will send word to you and your family then, if it isn’t past your bedtime, and you may come and choose your puppy. If Idris returns late tonight, then we’ll do it tomorrow. Fair enough?”

Bryn nodded, his attempt at formality warring with the joy in his expression. “Yes, please. Thank you again.”

Cadogan clasped the boy’s shoulders warmly. “You’re more than welcome, Bryn. The pups need people to take care of them, and I know you’ll do a fine job of it.” He stood, guiding the boy toward the doorway. “You should probably go and give your mother and father the news, so they have time to prepare a bed and all the other things puppies require when they leave their mothers for their new homes.”

“Yes, sir.” The boy flashed him a grin and made for the stairs, his pace just short of a run.

“Bryn?” the cadlywydd called after him.

“Yes, Uncle?”

“Take the stairs one at a time, please. You may have need of your neck.”

“Yes, sir!”

Cadogan listened to the retreating footsteps. At least it sounded like Bryn was following his instruction, although he was going nearly too fast to tell. And you just hush, he cautioned his symbiote, knowing that another comment about his own boyhood behavior was probably forming in the Tok’bel leader’s mind.

{What did I say?} asked Sabar innocently.

Nothing yet, but you were about to.

{I wasn’t, I swear.}

Then that would be a first, Cadogan told him drily.

{So, who else is going to get a puppy?} Sabar asked, changing the subject. {I know a few other names were mentioned, but you’ve still not accounted for all of them.}

Well, for one thing, it’s high time Neirin had a dog.

{I like that idea. I wonder if he’s ever had one before. Nearly all human cultures have dogs, of course, both on the world of their Tau’ri ancestors and the worlds upon which the Goa’uld settled them. But not all families keep them.}

He’s a member of my family now, and Branoc’s line have always kept and bred hounds. I’ve seen the way Neirin laughs at the pups’ antics when he’s here, and I’m guessing he will enjoy having one of his own.


Cromwell approached Bennaeth Bod with a sack of meal over his shoulder. It was part of the tithe of the miller Derfel, which the colonel had offered to convey for him. Lighted lamps set in the manor’s windows cast a cheery glow in the gathering twilight, the diamond-shaped windowpanes creating patterns on the small front lawn that was all that remained of what he’d been told was once an extensive forecourt. After Tir Awyr was reconquered by Bel, the local folk had looked to their chief, Branoc ap Gryg, and his family for protection and drawn in close. As a result, the present-day village of Llanavon had grown up within what had once been intended as the manor home’s private grounds.

Having seen such edifices from time to time during his travels on  Earth — though most of them had been on a grander scale — the colonel could imagine what Bennaeth Bod might have looked like during that brief golden moment spanning the twenty years between the time of its completion and the arrival of the Goa’uld system lord’s invading force. Today the house was simply the largest among the cluster of homes that lined Llanavon’s narrow cobbled streets. Even surrounded as it was by smaller houses and cottages, it was still an impressive structure. At one time, Tesni assured him, it had fronted directly on the village square, although that had been when her grandfather was a young man. Since then, another row of houses had been built between the manor and the square, with a cobbled lane between. Owing to Bennaeth Bod’s imposing, high-ceilinged height, however, it was still possible to look out the windows of Cadogan’s second-floor study and gaze across the neighboring rooftops directly into the square.

His breath misting in the chill air of late autumn, Cromwell mounted the steps onto the wide front porch and reached for the door handle. It had taken him weeks after he’d been assured that it was well within his rights as a member of the family to simply walk straight in without knocking before he’d been completely comfortable in doing so. He’d endured much gentle, affectionate scolding from both Tesni and Anwen — not to mention Cadogan and Idris — before finally breaking himself of the compulsion to knock.

Tonight the issue was rendered moot as the door swung open to reveal Ris. “I saw you coming up the walk, Uncle Neirin,” said the youth, reaching for the sack. “Here, let me take this. Mother and Aunt Tesni say to tell you that dinner’s nearly ready, and Uncle Cadogan has asked that you join him in his study beforehand.”

Cromwell divested himself of his load and shrugged twice to loosen cramped shoulders. Brushing at a stray bit of meal that had found its way through a seam in the sack to adhere to the wool of his tunic, he smiled at his protégé. “Thank you, Ris. I’ll go and see him now.” He clasped the young man’s left shoulder briefly as Ris lifted the sack to his right, then turned toward the stairs leading to the second floor.

Cadogan occupied a chair before the study’s fireplace, a glass at his elbow and the poker in his hand as he stirred the blaze. At Cromwell’s tap on the doorframe, he turned and laid the poker down. “Ah, Neirin. Good evening to you.”

“Good evening, Cadogan.” Cromwell took a seat in the other chair, twin to the cadlywydd’s, that faced the fire. The chairs were upholstered in densely-woven horsehair fabric, its rich dark sheen accented by the firelight. They always reminded the colonel of the wing chair in his grandparents’ parlor in Nanticoke. He recalled his Taid Cromwell sitting in that chair every evening to smoke and read the newspaper just before dinner, with his feet propped on the hassock and pipe smoke curling around his head.

Cadogan, of course, bore no resemblance to the colonel’s grandfather and was nowhere near his age, nor did he smoke. He rarely used a hassock, preferring to stretch his legs out before him and rest his bootheels on the hearthrug. Still, there was something comfortingly familiar in their ritual of relaxing together before or after family dinners with conversation and brandy or dwr o fywyd, the ‘water of life’ distilled by the Pridani and the neighboring Albannu — who called it uisge beatha -— from malted barley dried in kilns. Scotch by any other name, Cromwell had mused upon first encountering it, delighted to discover whisky production alive and well here on Tir Awyr.

Jack O’Neill had introduced him to Scotch from the standpoint of a connoisseur. Cromwell had consumed his share of whisky before that, but Jack’s approach was different, and under his best friend’s tutelage he had developed a taste for several varieties of single-malt. Cadogan’s preference was for a particular style of dwr o fywyd made not more than ten miles from Llanavon, in a place called Blaen Fynnon. Its spicy, slightly fruity flavor carried just a hint of smoke and differed from that of Cromwell’s beloved Laphroaig and the other rich, smoky Islay single-malts he had come to favor back on Earth. The local product apparently used malt dried over wood fires rather than peat, the latter being uncommon in this area. But it had a charm all its own, and he was glad for the cadlywydd’s having made him aware of it.

The historian in him was still trying to figure out whether the art of the drink’s manufacture might be something that had come with the Celts originally brought from Earth or a practice that had developed independently later on. The fact that the names in use for it here smacked of a shared origin — ultimately Roman at its root — with those used on Earth indicated that it had predated the relocation, but as far as he knew, distillation hadn’t reached the British Isles until several centuries after that time despite having long been known in the ancient world. He surmised that among these transplanted Celts the distiller’s art might well have spread to Tir Awyr from descendants of the Continental Celts settled on any of Bel’s other four planets, which made sense since their ancestors would have had longer contact with Rome before being removed from their world of origin. Either way, it had been a pleasant surprise to find that the Pridani had a thriving industry in the making of spirits.

Cadogan lifted a decanter made of greenish glass from the small table set between the two chairs and poured amber liquid into a fresh tumbler before topping up his own. Cromwell took the proffered drink and murmured thanks, sniffing appreciatively. The liquor’s rich nose assured him that this was indeed the cadlywydd’s favorite Blaen Fynnon variety, aged a dozen years or more and possessing a smooth mellow warmth entirely appropriate to the substance that George Bernard Shaw had once called ‘liquid sunshine’.

He raised the glass, inclining his head toward his friend. “To your health.”

Cadogan mirrored the gesture, a smile playing about his face and a mischievous look in his eyes. “To yours,” he echoed.

They drank, and Cadogan took up the poker again, shifting a log from the edge into the midst of the fire. Sparks popped and flew upward. “I have it in mind to give you a gift, Neirin,” he said, laying the poker down once more.

“There’s nothing I need, Cadogan, and you know it.”

Cadogan gave him the mischievous look again. “I think you might find this useful, regardless.”

Cromwell raised an eyebrow. “What are you planning this time, and how worried should I be?”

The cadlywydd chuckled. “There’s nothing to worry about at all, Neirin. I merely think that a man can never have too many friends… and you’d be doing me a favor into the bargain.”

What in the world is he leading up to now? the colonel wondered. “Cadogan…”

Cadogan waved a hand, the chuckle morphing into a laugh. “You should see your face right now,” he said. “Relax. I only mean to send one of Ethni’s pups home with you and Tesni this evening.”

Cromwell snorted. “Oh, is that all?” He hid a smile behind a sip from his glass. “You had me worried there for a moment. I was wondering what else you’d managed to acquire that needed flying.”

His timing was perfect. Caught in mid-sip himself, Cadogan struggled not to laugh again, but failed. Something halfway between a cough and a guffaw escaped him, and he set his tumbler down on the table between them, tears streaming from his eyes as he mopped his face with his handkerchief. “How do you do that?” he wheezed. “You’re nearly as bad as Sabar.”

The colonel grinned. “I’ve had practice.” He watched as his friend coughed a couple more times and then blew his nose before putting the handkerchief away again. “You all right there?”

Cadogan matched his grin, his face still pink. “I’m fine. And it was worth it to see your expression a moment ago.”

Cromwell chuckled. “I suppose it was.” He stretched his legs, matching the cadlywydd’s own posture, and wriggled his toes inside his boots as the warmth of the fire began to penetrate. “I haven’t had a dog in a long time. Not since I was around Ris’ age.”

“Well past time for it, then. I’ve seen how you enjoy watching the pups play. Do you have a favorite?”

The colonel began to shake his head, then thought better of it. “Actually, the male with the lighter spot behind one ear is probably the one I like best. Though they’re all great pups.”

“Well, if he’s the one you want, then he’s the one you shall have. Ris is keeping one of the other males, and Idris has decided on one of the females. I’ve already told Coll’s boy that he may have a pup, and he wants a male as well, but Idris and I felt the household should have first choice.”

“Thank you, Cadogan.” Cromwell grinned. “It’ll be fun having a puppy around, and Ethni’s breed are beautiful dogs.”

“Tell me about the dog you had when you were a boy, Neirin,” Cadogan invited. “Did you have more than one?”

Cromwell took a sip from his glass, the warmth of the whisky blazing a trail down his throat as its heady bouquet filled his nostrils. “Well, only one at a time, but I had two of them. The first was Shane, a cross between two breeds of herding dogs.” Shane had been half German Shepherd and half Border Collie; a dark-furred, intelligent animal with a playful disposition. “I was very small when my family got him, and my older brother was the one who really trained him. Good dog; lots of fun to have around and Nick did a good job with his training. After Shane died, we got Duke, who actually looked quite a bit like one of your deerhounds.” Duke had been a mixed-breed dog as well, but his predominant heritage appeared to have been Irish Wolfhound. He’d been part of a litter of pups born to a neighbor’s wolfhound bitch, and there had been other wolfhound crosses in the neighborhood. Cromwell remembered Duke as a majestic-looking dog with the rough coat and general body proportions of a wolfhound, although his coloring had been brindled brown and black with a hint of copper like the male collie-shepherd-probably-wolfhound mix who’d lived up the road, and his head had appeared narrower than was common in most wolfhounds.

Cadogan nodded with interest. “Did you hunt with Duke, then?”

“No,” said the colonel, shaking his head. “I know some people where I come from hunted with dogs, but I never did. I understand it’s common here, though.”

“But you did hunt?” The cadlywydd was looking at him oddly now.

“Oh, sure, I hunted. Deer, mostly. Just didn’t take the dog with me, that’s all.” Cromwell recalled the countless times he’d taken to the woods with a rifle during deer season in his youth. Hunting here was done with bow and arrow, something he’d never gotten around to trying on Earth, despite having learned archery in high school where it was part of the physical education curriculum. Thus far he’d not yet been included in a hunting party, having been rather busy with the tasks Cadogan had set for him in his service to the Am Rhyddid. He knew he’d want some practice with a bow beforehand, to reacquaint himself with the ancient weapon.

“You said your first dog was a herding dog. Did your family have sheep, or was it cattle or maybe goats?”

Cromwell shook his head. “None at all, actually. We didn’t have any herd animals; our only animals were the dogs and a cat we had for a while. It wasn’t uncommon for people on my world to keep pets for companionship alone, and that’s primarily why we had ours.”

Cadogan nodded slowly, wearing the expression that said he was conversing internally with Sabar. “I see.”

His friend was clearly trying to integrate the idea of non-working dogs into his worldview, and Cromwell offered an explanation. “Cadogan, life on my homeworld is a bit different from here. A lot of our food comes from very large farms rather than small ones, and at least in the area where I grew up, there are more people who don’t live on farms than people who do. Some of my neighbors were farmers, though, and as a youth I did do farm work sometimes, for pay. I’d milked cows and fed chickens and all that before coming here, and done some planting and harvesting too.” He didn’t mention that most of his planting and harvesting had been done in his family’s vegetable garden, as the farmers he’d known on Earth used motorized equipment to plant and harvest their crops. He’d learned to operate some of it as a teen, mostly for hay-making, but of course none of that mattered here on Tir Awyr, where fields were still tilled by hand or with the help of horse-drawn equipment such as plows. What he’d learned in his parents’ and grandparents’ vegetable gardens had thus far proven sufficient for doing his fair share of the communal work necessary to keeping the local populace fed.

“It shows, Neirin. You’ve never shied away from doing any of those tasks in your time among us. I suppose I simply haven’t considered all the ways in which your world might actually vary from our own.” The cadlywydd held up his glass, studying firelight filtered through the amber whisky. “Are things really so different here compared to there?”

Cromwell contemplated this as he sipped from his tumbler again before answering. “Not in any truly important way, when I stop to think about it. Our ways of doing certain things may be quite different, but the principles behind them are the same, and the results… well, let’s just say that I’m completely comfortable with the way I live here, and what I have in my life.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Cadogan smiled warmly. “I know it took you some time to find your feet among us, but it’s good to know that you’re happy.”

Cromwell raised his glass in a half-salute to his friend. “I am. As I told you before, there’s nothing I need that I don’t already have.” He grinned. “But I’ll be pleased to have that puppy.”