I can’t think of better surroundings for creating an epic tale of fantasy and adventure than the awe-inspiring Caerphilly Castle! So when I was asked by Head Custodian Catherine Collins to help children and their parents collaborate to create a bedtime story to be read around the fire in the Great Hall, I jumped at the chance.
It was all part of a Knights at the Castle event – with participants enjoying the company of Sir Andrew, the castle knight, and getting the opportunity to make lanterns and tour the site in all its spooky, red-lit glory.
Here is the created story – a culmination of all the ideas, characters, plot devices, dialogue and descriptions thought up on the night by those who attended. Feel free to cwtch up around a fire, lantern, torch or candle to enjoy our ghostly tale of revenge and adventure…
Owain and the Red Revenge
Owain felt a cold shiver run down his spine as his footsteps echoed on the grey stone steps. “Well this is a fine ending to my first day,” he muttered miserably to himself as he descended into the castle dungeon alone. Hot wax from his candle dripped onto his hand and he yelped and then sneezed for the twentieth time that day.
Owain the Sneezer was what the others had started calling him, and he hated the nickname as much as he hated the dusty stone walls of Caerphilly Castle. He wished he was back home by his own fire, with his parents and siblings by his side, and pulled his tatty tunic closer to his shivering bones.
“See that you hurry with that bucket boy!” a voice shouted down from the top of the steps. It was Sir Andrew, who had sent Owain down into the dungeon to find a mop and bucket to clear up the mess in the Great Hall. Owain had sneezed so loud and with such force, it had made Sir Andrew drop his soup bowl and splatter dark gloop all across the floor, right in front of all the paiges sat down for their supper. Now he was being punished, and his stomach sank in the shadowy gloom.
Owain looked all around him, but could see no mop or bucket, only a large oak cupboard in the corner. Perhaps they’re in here he thought, and tried the handle but it was locked. He felt his nose tickling in the mouldy air, and before he could stop himself another sneeze blasted out. His candle dripped burning wax once more, but this time onto his toe, which poked out of the hole in the end of his boot. He hopped madly about in pain, and stumbled into the cupboard. It began to wobble and then lurched to one side. CRASH. It broke apart, and to Owain’s horror, a skeleton fell out at his feet with a loud clatter.
“What in heaven’s name be going on down there lad?” yelled Sir Andrew. Owain thought his legs would give way beneath him in fright, but instead of collapsing in a heap, he sneezed loudly once more.
“Thank you,” said Owain. Then he realised that this voice was not Sir Andrew’s and it did not come from the top of the grey stone steps. It came from right behind him and it sent a shiver down his spine! “Who… is… there?” stammered Owain in a whisper, as he turned to look at the speaker.
A lady stood in the centre of the dungeon, next to the shattered skeleton. She wore a green dress and her skin was pale and glowing in Owain’s candle light. “Come hither boy. Tell me your name, you who released my bones from their ancient prison. Be you friend or foe?”
“Urm…” Owain hesitated and thought once more that he might collapse.
“If you be my husband’s ally, then in truth you are my foe – for I doth hate that man who broke my heart and took my true soul mate in his cruelty.” As she spoke, her cheeks grew red in anger and the dungeon walls were licked with unearthly flames of fire. “That foul demon banished me to this dungeon and he now roams the castle freely. So tell me boy, be you friend or foe?” The bones of her skeleton rattled and shook on the dusty floor beside her.
“Friend… definitely friend!” replied Owain. He could see the effect her anger had on the castle walls, and didn’t want to see what she might do to him if she thought he was her enemy.
“Boy, come quickly! The castle is on fire with cursed flames of red.” It was Sir Andrew calling from above.
The Green Lady swept passed Owain and up the stairs. Owain raced after her and stumbled breathless into the Great Hall. The whole room glowed crimson, and fear was on every face seated around the long wooden tables, as the Green Lady made her way towards the enormous fireplace. “Gilbert, come forth and face me… feel my wrath. Or dost thou know I am too powerful now my bones have been released from the prison you set for them?”
A great rumble echoed down the chimney and around the hall, then a second ghost appeared in a flurry of dust – it was Gilbert de Clare. Owain felt his nose tickling again and tried desperately not to sneeze. “Who set you free oh wretched wife? Show me the one and I will curse him forever!” bellowed Gilbert.
“You would have me banished for eternity, but this boy has saved me.” The Green Lady’s anger rose up once more and flames licked the four walls of the Great Hall. “I will consume you in the fire of my wrath Gilbert!” she shouted.
“Never! I will lock away your bones… and as for that boy…”
Owain couldn’t contain himself any longer, and let out an almighty sneeze. The force of it pushed Gilbert into the fiery walls, and with a piercing shriek, he sizzled and then disappeared. Instantly, the castle walls returned to grey stone once more.
The Green Lady turned to Sir Andrew. “Give me your sword, for I must knight this boy who has rescued me with his valiant sneezing.” Owain knelt down on the cold stone floor before her, and for the first time that day began to believe that life at Caerphilly Castle might not be all that bad after all.
“Arise Sir Owain the Mighty… Sneezer!”