About a month later Bill and I took a trip to North Wales and visited the rocky beach and the cave where Medea had made her nest. It looked almost exactly as it had done in the 14th Century so it was quite a shock to come upon the ruins of Castle Ventris. The western walls and two of the towers still stood but the rest was gone, the thick walls fallen and the stone taken away by the locals to build their houses and barns for their animals. I wandered across the broken flagstones towards a sunken area of stone heading for the spot where someone had erected a stout iron fence. When I reached it and peered over I realised that I was standing on all that was left of the dungeon. Before me was the water filled pit where Sir Locke had tossed the body of the Welsh rebel and who knew how many others? I wondered idly if anyone had thought to excavate the pit and what they might find there........
In the village nearby we found the remains of a Norman Priory Church and at the eastern end were what appeared to be the cover stones of several substantial tombs. The largest showed a Knight in full armour, lying beside his lady. I was examining this when a churchwarden appeared and came over to us.
“Do you know who was buried here?” I asked.
“Oh these are not the original burials” he explained. “The stones were brought in here in the late 18th century from the chapel at the old castle. This once marked the resting place of the first English Baron who gave his name to the castle. Baron Erik Ventris and his wife Lady Lowry Aberfraw. The Baron died in 1312 but his wife survived him for many years. She was much loved apparently and her Shire was one of the very few to escape unscathed after Queen Isabella's overthrow of Edward II in 1326” he said.
“Most of the Welsh Shires supported the King, particularly since he was holed up in Caerphilly Castle with Hugh Despenser. But for some reason she kept her men out of it and supported the Queen........ no-one really knows why.”
He smiled at me. “Women's intuition perhaps? Her decision certainly saved the lives of many of her people and the Queen subsequently ruled that she could run the Shire herself without having to marry again, presumably as a reward for her support.”
“I expect there are quite a few stories told about that time?” I asked curiously.
He laughed. “Oh yes! It's said that in about 1331 the new King Edward III sent a force to deal with the Baroness since it was known that she had supported his mother and Mortimer. He had overthrown Mortimer and executed him by this time. Lady Lowry's forces were led by her Chamberlain who was a veteran of the King's grandfather's wars against the Scots. He is generally thought to have been too old to fight, however it's said that he insisted on leading her men personally although they were heavily outnumbered.
The story says that the King's army was ranged before the much smaller force from Castle Ventris and were about to attack when an enormous red dragon appeared and landed between the armies. It went up to the Chamberlain and appeared to speak with him before positioning itself alongside him. The horses of the King's forces began to panic but the Chamberlain's old charger seemed quite calm in the presence of the great beast. The King's army was said to have been so terrified that they fled without a shot being fired. After that Ventrishire was left in peace.”
Bill and I glanced at each other. “A dragon?” I asked.
“Well obviously it wasn't a real dragon” he explained with a superior smile. “It's generally assumed that a force of Welsh rebels arrived to back up the Baroness's men, the story of a dragon was simply a metaphor, the red dragon being the symbol of Wales.”
“Oh, I see!” said Bill. “Yes, that makes sense.”
The churchwarden chuckled. “A dragon! Really, sometimes we Welsh can be very inventive don't you think?”
“Oh certainly!” I said with a smile.
He gave a little nod and left us to look around.
Bill waited until the door had closed and then turned to me. “You know, I'm going to have to have a word with them! They can't keep doing this......”
I laughed. “It's too late now. I'll bet Medea and Hector have both been keeping an eye on him!”
We wandered around the church for a while and I noticed that there were several more tombstones belonging to others of the Aberfraw family but my eye was drawn to a broken effigy in the corner of the Nave. The face was weathered into a blank oval and the figure itself was broken into three pieces, but it also showed a knight clasping a sword between his hands. A piece of broken stone showing the carved folds of his cloak had fallen and was lying beside the figure. A broken carving at his feet bore the letters “C O . B”.
I thought of the last glimpse I'd had of Milus Corbett, just before Medea had opened the portal. He had been mounted on his grey charger Quinton on the edge of the cliff, his dark cloak draped over the horse's rump. He had raised a hand in acknowledgement and watched as we disappeared. I smiled to myself, imagining him preparing to take Quinton into battle for one last time in defence of his Lady and his wife and family.
I placed a kiss on my hand and pressed it gently onto the broken, weathered stone.
“Goodbye Milus......” I whispered.