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Helig's Hollow

MANY ages ago, the fair and fertile tract of country stretching from the Gogarth (better known as the Great Orme) to Bangor, and from Llanfair Fechan to Ynys Seiriol (Puffin Island is another and an uglier name for this sea-girt knoll), was ruled by Helig ab Glannach, and was called Tyno Helig, or Helig's Hollow.

Helig had a daughter, Gwendud: she was as fair as Gwenhwyfar, the wife of Arthur, "when she appeared loveliest at the Offering on the day of the Nativity, or at the feast of Easter," but she had an evil heart, full of wickedness, cruelty and deceit.

She was loved and wooed by the son of one of the barons of Snowdon, and she loved him in return as much as she was capable of loving anyone other than Gwendud, the daughter of Helig. But she would not wed him because he had no golden collar.

Tathal (that was her suitor's name) tried for a long time to win this distinction fairly, but failed. Gwendud would not change her mind, so he determined to procure a collar by foul means.

Rhun, the son of Maelgwn Gwynedd, had led an expedition into Strath Clyde, and after burning and slaying had brought back many prisoners to Caer Rhun, where he held them to ransom. The first captive whose liberty was bought by his kinsmen was a young chieftain who had won a golden collar in the wars against the Picts. Tathal went to him and offered his services as guide. After conducting him through the Perfeddwlad, he treacherously stabbed him and brought back his golden collar. His story was that they had been set upon by a band of robbers, headed by an outlaw noble, whom he had slain in fair fight. Gwendud now consented to wed him, and Helig made a great feast, bidding to it all his own kinsmen and those of the bridegroom.

A harper from Bangor was summoned to make music for the revel. The harper had the gift of second sight, and he asked the cupbearer to tell him if he saw anything out of the common when he went down to the cellar to draw the mead. The night was yet young when the cupbearer came in terror to the harper and said: "A stream of water is flowing into the cellar, and hundreds of little fishes are swimming in it."

"Let us fly for our lives," said the harper. The twain fled through the darkness towards the mountains. They were hardly out of the banqueting hall when they heard the sullen roar of a great flood. Soon they heard shrieks of terror, which made the blood run cold in their veins. Looking back they could dimly see the foam of mighty breakers racing towards them. Soon the water was lapping at their heels, and though they ran until their hearts almost burst within their bodies, they were more than once nearly overwhelmed by the vengeful deluge. At last they reached Rhiwgyfylchi, breathless and exhausted with fatigue, and there, safe from the pursuing waves, they waited for the morning. When the sun rose it disclosed an expanse of rippling water where Helig's Hollow had been. Nor has the sea ever given up its conquest.

Some men of Conway have, while fishing on July days when the water is very calm, seen the ruins of Helig's Palace deep down below the surface, but the sight is unlucky, for every man who has espied the drowned walls and towers has died very soon after.

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