Hywel said, "That's just the juliet tower. There was a Norman keep around it, but that's down now..."
"Who destroyed it?" she asked, in a dull and morbid tone.
I cannot find a usage of the term "juliet tower." It recalls the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet; but if that were the reference, it would imply popular awareness of the Romeo and Juliet story long before Shakespeare's era.
"[...] And the saddle mountain, high afar off, is Pen-y-fan."
Latin (and also Italian): "to enter." It is not clear why Cynthia uses the infinitive, rather than the imperative entra.
TODO: Check grammar.
She had cared about something -- something minor, but something.
"Arthur's Court. Tonight and tomorrow, everyone here is a lord or lady."
Hywel had seen the long-nosed man in her memories, wondered who he was.
"[...] Just at dark, the Lady will appear bearing Caliburn, and there'll be a splendid first court. Then tomorrow, the Triumph, and the joining of the Kingdom. In the afternoon, the Cauldron Quest, and finally the Evening Court..."
Caliburn is an old form of Excalibur, Arthur's sword. (The one given by the Lady of the Lake, not the one in the stone.) Arthur's Triumph was his victory over the Saxons (an event used as a year-mark in the very beginning of the book; p3, p357). The Joining would be his unification of the British Isles into one kingdom. And the Cauldron Quest must be the TDW version of the Grail Quest; the Celtic legend of the Cauldron of Life replaces the story of Christ's cup.
A small boat appeared, with a woman standing in it; there was only a small stiff sail, and no one seemed to steer the craft (though there was a heavily draped couch in the stern that might have concealed marvels, or an engineer).
Even in a small Welsh town, theatrical engineering is important.
"I can't -- how can anyone make up words to music as it plays?" She turned and walked out of the pavilion.
Hywel turned to the adults who were arriving. "Would you get that lantern over here, please? The doctor needs light. [...]"
The speaker was a small, stocky woman in a gray wool gown and white linen cap. She was flat-featured, forty or a little more, with bright eyes.
Introduces Mary Setright.
The boy yelled. Startled, Cynthia drew back her hand, raised it to slap him.
"Madonna... Messer Ficino... forgive me: I am the only Ricci left." Her voice was remarkably even.
Cynthia was focussed on reality while acting as a doctor; but now she perceives Hywel as the dead Ficino (see p230). She refers to Mary as "Madonna" ("mother"), perhaps imagining Lorenzo's mother Lucrezia.
[The medallion] was as wide as two fingers, cast in white metal, with a hole for a cord or chain. The face showed two dragons, one incised dark, one bright in relief. The dragons were fighting, and the dark one was clearly winning the combat.
Uther was the father of Arthur. (Some versions of this story apply the prophecy to Vortigern, an earlier king.) The prophecy was that the king would find two dragons fighting under a hill; the white would at first have the upper hand, but the red would triumph in the end.
The Red Dragon was the kingdom of Wales. The White...
The White Dragon represents the Saxon people of England.
The epitaph, of course, was Rex Quondam, Rexque Futurus: "The Once and Future King."
(The medallion's legend is more literally "And the Future King." The spelling "Futuris" appears to be a typo.)
There were minds at work here, he knew, who did not have his fear of the energies of magic: people playing with wildfire.
The medallion has some spell imprinted in it. Hywel has said repeatedly that magic is costly, slow, self-destructive, and weak in comparison to the energy expended. (See p144, p170, for example.) This spell, then, must be energy expended recklessly, without thought of the cost.
Mary told the vermin to go, all but the spiders whose webs she harvested for wound dressings, and they all but the spiders went away.
"I've sung [Cynthia] asleep," [Mary] said, "but she's still not resting; she talks, in her native speech -- Italian, is it? She talks of poison, and a man with a scourge, and quicklime. She said she is a gwaedwr, though I can see she does not need blood. What has my sister seen?"
Cynthia is recalling the poison in Florence (p78, p79, p98); the fanatic Savonarola (p82); and the murder of her family (p98). And she sees herself as a vampire because of her role in Claudio Falcone's death (p117, p238).
[...] Mary's shrine on the wall, the twinkling candles and the Latin cross.
"I will not eat," she said suddenly. "I'll starve, or swallow poison, but none of your food or wine."
Cynthia may be reliving a story of a journey through the underworld; these traditionally include a prohibition against food or drink. Lorenzo and Ficino recited parts of Dante's underworld poem (p87-88), so it would be associated with her repressed memories.
This is not the Christian doctrine of our era. But it is no farther from it than the heresies that were pushed out of the early Church in our history. (Those tended towards the denial and mortification of the flesh, whereas Mary's statement sacralizes it.)
The damage is because Hywel is using magic on Cynthia to keep her still. He does it reluctantly ("despite himself," p238); his use of magic always harms himself and his subjects, as Ptolemy taught (p23). But he cannot avoid helping Cynthia.
Note that Hywel is not reluctant to use magic on himself (suppressing the nausea). Presumably he feels that he deserves the (slow) self-harm inherent in that. The contradiction inherent in that stance is not surprising; the conflict underlies his life.
Hywel has met hundreds of wizards in the 54 years since he met Ptolemy. That may include the majority of the wizards in the regions he has traveled, since wizards can always sense each others' magic. But it is still a considerable number. If Hywel has met every wizard in Europe (in the timescale of a lifetime), we have a rough lower bound on wizardly talent of one in a million humans. If he has missed some, they would be proportionally more common.
"...and I took a sacred thing and cut into a little boy's heart. And I did it very, very well..."
The phrase "very, very well" echoes Mary's compliment on p234.
He knew what kept those five alone from devouring themselves. It was not the sorts of spells they worked, nor the names they worked in, nor magic circles or eye of newt or the phases of the moon. He knew what it was, but knowing could not save him, because the parts of him that could sustain faith were all burned out.
A level of faith that most people do not attain, clearly, if only five wizards in hundreds have it.
"Eye of newt" is an ingredient of the witches' spell in Macbeth (act 4, scene 1).
"I have said to you before, this work of yours will not make you happy. When will you believe this, and rest?"
"Never," he said finally. It was only half an answer, because he did believe her. He [...] had known for over half a century, since his first departure from the Beautiful City Byzantium, that he was not on the road to any heaven.
It has been 54 years since Hywel met Ptolemy. Therefore, he must have visited and left Constantinople -- and committed himself to destroying it -- in his first few years after becoming a wizard. Most likely he carried through his intent (p23) to follow Ptolemy there.
"There was another thing in the boat, I could not see what it was for the setting sun... but I think it was a treasure, for it shone like red gold."
The scene makes it clear that Bedwyr is describing Arthur's body, in the boat. This underscores the association of Arthur with the Red Dragon in the legends of Wales, and recalls the medallion that Hywel found (p235).
The knight looked up. A moment passed, as if both were thinking that now it would be only love, and no adultery, but too late, too late.
Bedwyr (Bedivere) here has the role that Lancelot usually takes: the knight who loves Gwenhwyfar and Arthur equally.
And he genuinely wondered if Mary's unspoken accusation was true: had he brought her to be healed only because he wanted her for his real work... his dragon-hunt? He touched his pouch, seemed to feel the medallion warming through the leather.
The text hints that the medallion is magically active. (Contrast the cold, inert medallion on p47.) It may be influencing Hywel in some way. But if the medallions are active at this point, they are only trying to get themselves spread around Wales; and their later effect -- p352 -- does not seem to be relevant either.)
"Rhiannon..." said more voices.
They believed that just reading a person's mind gave the reader total communion with that person's soul. They were wrong, so cruelly wrong.
It was a brilliant high summer day [...]
Summer of 1478 AD, now. This sequence of scenes covers almost two years.
The wizard had too many secrets, she thought.
The story shifts to Cynthia's point of view, for very nearly the first time since chapter 3 (p99). She has been the sole protagonist of a few scenes (e.g., p189), but her state of mind has been conveyed almost entirely from the outside.
Now that she is recovering, we begin to see her observations of Hywel's state of mind. The narrative focus reflects her new non-passivity. And this reveals more of her to us, but also more of Hywel; for he is (as she perceives) a secretive character, and his narrative is always guarded and incomplete.
She nodded, thinking of Urbino's hill fortresses, where there had always been someone waiting for Byzantium... and, since Duke Federigo had a son, perhaps there still was.
"Some say [Rhiannon] was the moon. Often she's a lady on a white horse swifter than wind... Why are you laughing?"
"Because if I didn't I'd cry. [...] You know, don't you, that Lorenzo de' Medici called me 'Luna,' for the color of my hair? Dimitrios spoke to me once, or tried to... he talked about riding a white mare called Luna. [...]"
It was a few days past Iambolc, the February festival of light, [...]
It is now February of 1479 AD. (Hywel's comments about spring and the coast seem to imply that it is still their first winter in Wales, but this cannot be the case, since the previous scene was summer -- p243.)
[...] drifting across the country in search of plots and legends and planchets of white metal.
Wherever the things came from, they had spread far and wide. In every village they entered, they found the medallions, worn or carried close to the body and out of sight.
"A dozen years ago, Harlech was holding out for Henry against Edward, and my lord Herbert was told to take the place. He decided to make an example as he went up the Vale of Conwy, and he assuredly did. You could follow the army by the smoke of its burning [...]"
This is William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.
"[...] I could show you an inn, where still the sooty bones--" He stopped, shook his head.
The inn Hywel grew up in was in the Vale of Conwy (p3, p21). This must certainly be the inn he mentions. It would have been burned over forty years after he left, but it is clearly still a painful thought; Hywel refuses to take that road.
"Rhiannon once went into a strange house, and found a fountain within; but when she touched it she was held there, unable to move hand or foot, lips sealed fast. It took Gwydion son of Don all his wit and the threat of murder to free the lady."
This story is from the third part of the Mabinogion, in slightly altered form. (Gwydion does not appear in that chapter; it is Manawyddan who frees her.)
[...] the first red leaves of autumn blew out of the darkness, past the windows, and vanished again behind them.
He was blond, tall, with a warrior's build. He wore a black velvet gown of scholar's pattern, but the collar was white silk instead of linen, [...]
Introduces Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers.
The book, on the other hand, she recognized instantly; it was the most standard of medical references, the Liber Mercurius.
Appropriate, since Mercury carries the caduceus, which is a symbol of medicine. However, no such medical work exists in our history.
"I am the last Ricci of Florence," she said, needing to know if she could indeed say it.
"Oh... I understand, I think. Lorenzo de' Medici was my friend."
"He was my patient." It still hurt. She supposed it always would. It was better, surely, than an atrophied soul.
"If you own a copy of Doctor Pier Leone's On the Systems of Muscles and Bones, I would like to see it."
This work does not exist in our history either.
He must be only nine, she thought, or ten.
"Then... we need another room, for a surgery; a stone room, so the walls can be scrubbed down with lye. [...]"
Antisepsis and the germ theory of disease, several centuries earlier than their appearance in our history.
Introduces Doctor John Morton.
Morton smiled. "In Britain, you mean. Well. A man must remain supple, Doctor. Do you feel no stiffness of age? Oh -- your pardon, my lady. Now, if you will excuse me, good night to you both."
(This might be the implication that an old man's joints get stiff, but other organs get less so. If so, then Morton's (faux) apology is for the (deliberate) crudity.)
"As a young man I used to have four supple members and one stiff one. Now I have four stiff and one supple." (Henri, Duc d'Aumale, 1822-1897)
"I might as well tell you now," he said with a deadly calm, "I can do nothing for the boy."
"Is only to examine those nodules, be sure of what I suspect. [...]"
"And [Pier Leone] could not treat these?"
"No, he couldn't. But there's a footnote to one case: 'Referred to a sorcerer. Apparent remission.' So you see--"
So a wizard could possibly help Edward; but Hywel is refusing to (p253). Either it violates his ethics of magic, or he believes it would cause more harm than good; or, more likely, the one because of the other.
"Cynthia... do you ever feel an aching in your muscles and sinews? A great aching, more than you would expect from exercise?"
Hywel is certainly not changing the subject; this must be relevant to magical healing, and to what Morton implied (p252). But Hywel himself is the only wizard whom Cynthia has been near (up until a few moments previously, when she met Morton). So if this aching has a magical cause, it must be Hywel. (See p254.)
(It could also theoretically be caused by Mary, or something she did. But Hywel considers her healing entirely benign, and did not hesitate to elicit it on Cynthia's behalf. So this possibility is unlikely.)
"I have an oath to Minerva Medica," she said, and thought Which I will not break again.
"How old do you think Morton is?"
"What? Thirty-five, perhaps forty, I suppose."
"He will be sixty in the next year."
"What does that have to do with this?" She caught her breath. "I don't know your age, Hywel."
Hywel here implies that Morton was involved in the plot to bring the Exemplification to England. (Guillaume died while trying to carry this out; see p170. In fact, his strength was drained through magic -- not directly by Morton, but if he were undertaking Morton's plan, then the parallel would hold.)
Maybe he should be hurt, she thought suddenly; better than an atrophied soul.
She knew it was not the bed. The pain had come before, and it was indeed much more than a common night cramp. It struck her worst when she slept, because then she dreamed, of straining to escape from a box nailed shut. Or a bed, with snow blowing through the window, and her blood draining out.
So Hywel was right about the cramps (p253). Given the previous discussion (p252), the only explanation is that Hywel has been draining Cynthia's energy, to some extent. And indeed, we recall that he moved very stiffly in chapter 3, particularly in the cold (p122); but he shows no such difficulty in this chapter, even when Cynthia is shivering (p259).
"[...] You didn't faint when I excised the nodules."
"Perhaps you would like a position... a teaching chair at the University at Oxford?"
Oh, White Lady, she thought. It might have been Lorenzo speaking: I would like you to go to Pisa, bella Luna.
[...] a white palfrey waited for Cynthia. She laughed when she mounted it, so that she would not cry.
They rode out into a gentle October breeze.
People were out on the road in numbers, headed for the circles of the old faith, to be safe against the spirits that would have the freedom of earth tonight [...]
We presume it is now October 31st (Halloween). The previous scene (p256) must have been the same autumn, because it began the trip to Mary's cottage which is now almost complete. (And chapter 10 is not too far in the future, because Prince Edward's illness will still be news then -- p281. This confirms that it is 1479 AD; see p265.)
Note that there is still an "old faith" in the Wales of TDW history. The old Roman Empire would have brought its gods; and possibly the influence of the Byzantines spread their array of gods as well, as Christian missionaries did in our British history. As one would expect, the indigenous "old" beliefs seem to be more prevalent and more honored than they are in our world; Samhain brings a large part of the population out of their homes.
Hywel eased his Venetian eye from the socket.
His false eye is Venetian glass (p111). It is also, we now find, a conveniently portable crystal ball.
Yet there were rules, and rules. Strip, to carry less weight -- that made sense; fix the route with a map of chalk and candles -- he could understand that. But he did not know why the Road must be walked barefoot, and without lanterns.
Diana Wynne Jones describes a similar spell in her book Deep Secret. (Published in 1997, so it may well have been influenced by TDW.) It has the same converging rows of candles, and explicitly invokes the nursery rhyme of Babylon.
Neil Gaiman wrote the rhyme into his 1999 novel (later movie) Stardust. The candle it described was a rare artifact, carried on the way rather than placed on the ground.
(To complete the polytope, the epigraph of Stardust is a poem by John Donne: "Go and catch a falling star..." Diana Wynne Jones placed that poem in her novel Howl's Moving Castle, laid on the Wizard Howl.)
She had faith absolute that as long as she had someone to kill, she need never herself decline; and there was no evidence that it was not true. When she died, she did not even curse the mob that tore her apart.
See p239, p239. Like the other four, this woman was a person of faith. Unlike the others, her faith was not in anything that we, or the polytheistic TDW world, would consider a religious matter. Nonetheless, it was effective.
There was such a serial murderess in Hungarian history: Countess Erzsébet Báthory. She lived somewhat later than TDW's era; she was born in 1560 AD. The Countess and her accomplices tortured and killed a great many girls and young women. (The legend is that she bathed in their blood to retain her youth.) She was eventually imprisoned, although without a formal trial, and died in solitary confinement in 1614.
One of Andrei Codrescu's first novels, The Blood Countess, described Bathory's life.
John Morton had visited her some years before that.
John Morton went on a diplomatic mission to Hungary in 1474 AD.
The wording implies an event somewhat more than five years in the past, so TDW history does not match exactly here. (Of course, the obvious object of his visit, Erzsébet Báthory, is mismatched by over a century. See p259.)
Later, Hywel thought, he would tell her about Arianrhod.
"A large enough magic has... side effects. Corona, it's called, or just spillage. Something like this..."
"You m-mean," she said, "that you were influenced, at L-ludlow."
"I suspect I was. It doesn't change the substance of what I said... but I'm sorry for the way I said it."
The argument on p253.
"Do you have to be a wizard to feel that? I mean, to be affected?"
"No." When we destroy ourselves, he thought, we may take the rest of humankind with us.
It is not clear whether he is too caught up in glum contemplation of wizardry to notice that Cynthia is apologizing as well.
He wondered, unable to help himself, why the damned snakes worked.
[...] there were five or six men, ordinary men-at-arms, in the Duke of Buckingham's livery. Of course, he thought; Morton could hardly do his grisly business in Brecon Castle without the master's knowledge. One soldier carried a little pendulum of corroded silver cupped in his hand, and Hywel knew how they had been found.
His heel crushed out the last candle, then came down on the discarded bit of matchcord.
Hywel breathed a word of nine syllables, and stroked his forefingers together. The powder vials across the man's chest went off in a single long flash. He fell down, his heart and lights spilling on the ground.
"Lights" is an archaic English word for the lungs.
Hywel waited until this moment to cast his spell. There are two possible reasons: he needed the strength returned by the extinguishing of the last candle (see p260), or the spell relies on the sympathetic connection between matchcord and gunpowder. Or, likely, both.
[...] he fell down, thinking, Kill me, kill me and I'll curse you all blind; but they just held his head down with a boot to his temple. And he could not blind himself, but had to watch after Cynthia running, silver in the darkness, until the soldier shot her down.
As in chapter 1, even a wizard bound with snakes can cast an effective death curse.