‘I was in the Fort of Nefenhyr:
herbage and trees were attacking.
Poets were singing;
soldiers were attacking.’
The Battle of the Trees
The trees are still. Frozen. Still stained with blood thigh-deep. It trickles down trunks, drips from boughs. Mighty Oak is soaked in it and whomping Willow and Alder, who marched at the fore as Brân clashed his spear on his shield and Lleu, strong-handed, radiant, rode in the branches like an Eagle.
Blood is dripping from heart-shaped Ivy. Honeysuckle cannot shake off her tendrils. Clover is drowned. Bramble is, of course, in his element, and Blackthorn is bloodily pretty. Birch regrets putting on his armour, now speckled white and red like a hound, he is kneeling like a sorrowful knight.
Raspberry, who did not put on his defensive palisade, lies broken and bereft of his blood-red fruits. Vine the destroyer is destroyed, Pear the oppressor oppressed, Bracken the pillager pillaged. Heather, no longer purple but red, regrets being enchanted into the army. Cherry’s commotion is silenced.
Pine, in the place of honour, downed his needles and wept. Dogwood, bull of battle, hangs his head. In the woodland beyond Caer Nefenhyr it rains nothing but blood and the cry of a lapwing ever circles.
Souls of soldiers and poets flit between the trees like birds fighting over blood-red berries like harpies. They have gazes like the fragile doe who wanders leaving bloody footprints between worlds.
A sagging snakeskin is strung up, stretched out in the trees like an afterbirth, emptied of a hundred souls.
Amidst the alders is a bloody pool. In it float the bones of a toad and his hundred claws. In the centre is the green and glowing toadstone from his head which, like a crown, symbolised his majesty.
Beyond the woodland, on a hill, like a cairn or totem, are piled the hundred heads of a great-scaled beast. The roof of his tongue and his napes are empty of battalions yet cries still echo from the hollows.
Atop the heads, like a flag of victory, is Gwydion’s staff with Eagle feathers fluttering in the wind.