Chapter Six: A bard or something else?

The discovery was made when Arwel was thirteen. “Dr. Dee and I were working side by side in Dr. Dee’s library,” Arwel said, crossing his long legs and puffing on a pipe. “I was studying my Latin texts, and the doctor was working on an astrological chart for one of the noblemen in Queen Elizabeth’s court. Curious to see what my master was doing, I started to watch Dr. Dee working on the chart. Noticing my interest, Dr. Dee began to explain how he created the chart. As I looked and listened, I began to see things; associations and details that my master was not seeing. It was not long before I was pointing out these nuances in the charts to my master. Dr. Dee was amazed to discover that I seemed to have a “natural gift” for creating astrological charts, and soon I was his apprentice as well as his ward.”

When Dee felt his protégé was ready, Arwel began to perform for Dee’s friends and acquaintances, and the young man was well rewarded for his performances. Then Arwel’s audiences discovered that the young man knew how to create exceptionally detailed astrological charts. Many courtiers hired him to do their charts, and his popularity and wealth increased greatly.  Though Dr. Dee normally defended his place as one of the court favorites with ruthless determination, he did not interfere with Arwel’s ascendancy in the court. Instead, Dr. Dee took pride in the young man’s success, and he bragged about the fact that he had been the one who had “found” Arwel.

“Over time I grew more and more popular, and was handsomely paid for my gifts as an astrologer,” Arwel told me. “My clients gave me gold and jewelry, and one particularly prosperous and generous peer gave me the deed to some land. I was able to build this house on that land.”

Arwel’s extraordinary story should have made me suspicious. After all, who has ever heard of a homeless street brat rising to such heights, and yet I was so enthralled by the tale that I never thought to suspect it. It never occurred to me that Arwel could be a danger to me. I was wrong.

After this first visit to Scorpio House, I was invited back several times. Each time, I discovered new treasures that amazed and delighted me. Most of all, I could not get enough of the books in the library. They were filled with information about people, places, and times that I knew nothing about. I happily spent hours reading in that library, marveling at the stories  and the knowledge that the books contained.

One of my favorites was a book called Theatrum orbis terrarum, which contained maps of the world. Complied by a Dutchman called Abraham Ortelius, the text was in Latin, which I know fairly well, thanks to the efforts of my grandfather. I confess that for once I had little interest in reading the book. Instead, I studied the maps. One of my cousins in Italy created some splendid maps of the lands around the Mediterranean Sea that I saw and admired when I visited Italy, and ever since then I have had a great fondness for maps of all sorts.  This atlas was unique because it included a map that showed the whole world. There every continent, sea, and ocean was, laid out on a piece of paper. It was fascinating to see mountain ranges and rivers, to see that England is a tiny place, and that Wales is but a pimple on the map. When he saw what I was looking at, Arwel told me, with pride, that a Welsh cartographer, Humphrey Llwyd, had provided Ortelius with maps of England and Wales for his Atlas. I did not see fit to tell him that I knew a great deal more about maps and geography than he did. I had actually met Humphrey Llwyd, whom I found to be a most interesting and learned man.

The map showing the land called America left me enthralled. I had heard a great deal about the place because distant relatives lived there, but I never realized that the land was so large. I wondered what manner of place it was. I never imagined then that one day I would see this land for myself.