I'll never forget that day when the curse of Finndragon befell Castell y Mynydd and all of the Kingdom of Morgannwg, even if I live another fifteen hundred years. I had been serving as apprentice wizard to Myrddin for just over a year and he was still filling my time with the most unpleasant tasks, whilst neglecting my tuition in the arts of magic making.
That entire sunny day had been spent scrabbling around at the bottom of the large, filthy duckpond, trying to gather the roots of the countless reeds that adorned the pond. Apart from being dirty, the water was very cold particularly at the bottom which, in the middle, was about twice as deep as I am tall. The task was especially difficult as I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face. And of all the days to have such a duty, it had to be right in the middle of the Feast of August when everyone else in the kingdom were having so much fun at King Dafydd's castle.
Of course I had tried to get out of it in the first place, "I can't swim!" I objected, but Myrddin was having none of my excuses.
"You won't need to swim boy, just crawl along the bottom and pull out the roots, but be careful not to damage them as I need them intact for my spells!" he had shouted violently at me.
I don't know why, but I don't think that Myrddin liked me very much. Nevertheless I continued to plea my case, "The water is very deep, so I won't be able to get to the bottom!"
"Don't you think that I'd thought of that, you idiot. You can tie this sack around your waist, I've weighed it down with heavy stones. There's plenty of room in there for the roots too!"
"But I will surely drown if I am weighed down, then what use will I be to you, Master?"
By the look on his face I could see that Myrddin had just about lost his patience with me and the next words he hurled at me were streaked with malice. "I am Myrddin, the mighty wizard to King Dafydd, the ruler of the most powerful kingdom in Wales!" He spat each syllable, covering me in tiny beads of his saliva.
"Don't you think that I would have a spell suitable for such a task?"
With that he swirled an arm around his head and then swung it in my direction. I felt nothing at first, but then a strange sensation came over me. My chest seemed to tighten and try as I might I could not get any breath into my aching lungs. I could feel me eyes starting to bulge and I put my hands to my throat, vainly hoping that that would somehow help. Myrddin stood there laughing and passers-by stopped to see what the fuss was about. In any other circumstance I would probably have felt embarrassed, but at this moment the only emotion that I had was of sheer panic.
Myrddin continued to laugh as he tied the heavy sack around my waist and I sensed a blackness creeping up on me as my eyes became heavy. The crowd slowly disappeared from the edges of my vision and now all I could see was Myrddin as he started to push me towards the pond. I could barely stand and I staggered, stumbled and then fell to my knees on the water's edge. I knew at that moment that I was about to die, it felt as if I were drowning on dry land.
Then just as I felt that I could last no longer, Myrddin kicked me in the small of my back and sent me sprawling into the muddy water. "You must fill the bag with roots and only then will the spell wear off!" he half laughed, half shouted.
I splashed head first into the pond still gasping for air and my lungs quickly filled with the stagnant, slimy disgusting water. But then the most amazing thing happened; gradually I realised that the suffocating feeling was slipping away and I could actually breath. After a couple of minutes of being half submerged, my head cleared and the pain had left my chest. I pushed my head up and out of the water and struggled to get to my feet due to the weight of the still attached sack. My head had barely been out of the water for a few seconds when the awful feeling of breathlessness returned.
"You are an idiot Gwayne," Myrddin roared with laughter. "Get back into the pond and you will be able to breath water. Fill the sack and you must get out quickly, because you will once again need air."
So I had little choice other than to do as my master had ordered. I didn't know how long I had been down there, but I must have spent many hours clawing at the muddy bottom, pulling out the reeds by their roots, but always being careful not to damage them. When the bag was nearly full I tried to find my way to the shallower water near the edge of the pond. I popped my head out of the water quickly and was surprised to find that it was night-time; the bright sunshine having been replaced by a brightly glowing full moon. I resumed my task and ripped up the last few reeds that I needed to fill the sack. Myrddin was right, for as soon as it was full I was overcome by a new feeling of drowning, a true feeling as I was now actually drowning.
I stood tall and scrambled out of the water, coughing violently for several minutes before my breathing returned to normal, much to my relief. I was lying on my back thinking that as long as I live, nothing as awful or frightening could ever befall me again, but then a terrible storm came up from nowhere. Suddenly everything was in pitch darkness except for Castell y Mynydd, which was illuminated by a single shaft of moonlight. Every fire and light within the castle was extinguished by the howling wind and the lashing rain. The waters in the pond began to bubble and boil and the ground began to shake.
I saw Myrddin rushing by, saving himself by turning into a hawk as he fled, and he flew away before the kingdom sank into the earth. Everything began to spin around violently in the same way as water gets sucked into a whirlpool. Then a mountain rose up above the spot where the kingdom had been just a minute before. Orange flames suddenly, but dimly illuminated the whole land.
Everything changed that day and has been the same ever since. Fifteen hundred years spent in the largest cave imaginable waiting and hoping for someone to break Finndragon's Curse. And I still have a large sack, full of the roots of all those filthy reeds!