In the Ruins of Bibracte
The Clan of Daffyd and Catrin
This family originally comes from the Black Mountain region of South-East Wales. The men are shepherds, who have grown up tending their flocks of small, tough Welsh sheep in the remote high pastures. The women spend much of their time working the wool and tending the home, though they occasionally do some shepherding too. The family knows a great deal about the whole process of sheep-tending and wool-making – they have been shepherds now for many generations.
They also come from a long line of rebels. Norman-baiting is a long and hallowed tradition for Welsh shepherds, particularly those who live in the high mountain pastures. The independent social order of the remote Welsh countryside is only now, in the early 13th C, beginning to be brought under the iron yoke of feudalism, after centuries of intermittent warfare. Because of the remoteness and ruggedness of the terrain, the high pastures have traditionally been used by the local Welsh-speakers as staging areas for informal, guerrilla-style resistance to their Norman overlords. Thus, while they are not really soldiers, the men of the family have certainly seen their fair share of hit-and-run fighting, mostly with the short-bow. The family as a whole fiercely resents any kind of feudal imposition on their freedoms. They consider themselves the inheritors of a long line of resistance to Norman oppression.
A final tradition that they are bringing from their homeland: singing. Even in the early 13thC, the Welsh are known for the fine quality of their sonorous and harmonic choral performances. This family is no exception. Though they are by no means more than amateurs, they sing together often, and quite well.
The Story of Their Contact With Iosephus
Catrin, the mother of the family, originally met Iosephus in the spring of 1202. She was following a sheep who had strayed up into the highest, least-visited fields, when she felt a strange wind blow by her, and then on up the mountainside. Intrigued, and wondering what it signified, she climbed higher.
At length she came to a rocky area near the peak. There, she found a tall, thin man, covered head-to-foot in shifting tattoos the colour of tarnished silver. He gave her a bad feeling, quite apart from the disturbing oddness of his being there, and she had to fight the urge to run. He looked up, evidently surprised and – was it- pleased to see her?
“You will have asked me a riddle,” he said warmly.
“I will?” she asked
“Oh yes” he said. “I have seen it”
And then, strangely enough, she did.
As it turned out, Catrin was a woman who had always loved legends, proverbs, and riddles. As much as she distrusted the strange, tattooed man who had appeared so unexpectedly before her, she found herself unable to resist the temptation to offer him a particularly fine riddle she knew of. He answered it with evident pleasure, and asked her one back. They ended up exchanging riddles for many hours, much to the satisfaction of both. Then she took him home to meet her family.
Over the years, Iosephus has continued to visit the family on a regular basis. At first, of course, they were highly disturbed by his strangeness and his evidently magical air, and this was the cause of considerable tension. He was very friendly, though, and extremely generous whenever he could be made to understand that that they were in some kind of need. It helped that they had all lived or grown up with Catrin, and so had learned to love riddles. At length, they all grew to enjoy his company, and looked forward to his visits.
Recently, however, disaster struck. After many years of more or less successful raiding-and-resistance, the shepherds of the local area were finally pinned down by the Normans, and put to the sword. Daffyd, the father of the family, and Deykin, his son, escaped death, but were identified as rebels and troublemakers, and a price was put on their heads. The family was forced to flee.
As luck would have it, this was in 1217, just around the time that Iosephus started having more intense visions of Bibracte. Iosephus was delighted to help the family to escape down to the lowlands; he was even more delighted when, in 1220, they eagerly agreed to come with him to help tend the sheep of the new Covenant.
As the saga begins, Daffyd and Catrin have decided that there is nothing left for them in Wales – their friends and family have all been hung or forced into serfdom; the way of life they inherited from their parents, and from their parents’ parents, back through countless generations, is now dead. They feel that their best bet is to try to build a new community, and a new life, at the Covenant at Bibracte. Perhaps there they will finally be free of feudal oppression.