Chapter One: Across the Great Sea Owain ap Gruffydd was arguably the greatest Welsh ruler before Llywelyn Fawr. He ruled the comparatively small Princedom of Gwynedd, but he used it as a power base to wage a decades-long defensive war against the English under Henri II. But it's not him we're going to talk about. Owain's son Hywel ap Owain was one of the greatest Welsh poets of all time. His rhymes were said to have brought even the hardest men to tears. But it's not him we're going to talk about. Instead, we're going to talk about Madoc, Owain's whack-job son. Madoc was, by all contemporary and modern standards, insane. He was given to talking into the air, throwing himself into nearby objects at random and spending days reading alone, in silence, in the dark. He was a bastard, which meant that this combination of insanity and illegitimacy would normally have made him a political non-entity. But when Owain died in 1170, he was regarded as a natural son (read bastard) of the late king, and as such was extremely dangerous. And so as his four eldest brothers did their damnedest to kill each other, Hywel was willing to do almost anything to get any potential claimant out of Gwynedd. And so, when in early May Madoc approached him and asked for a ship to attempt to retrace Saint Brendan's voyage to the blessed isles, he agreed. And so, on 17 May 1170, a small cog, the Artur, crewed by twenty-one plus Madoc put out to sea from Llandrilogh in Rhos. Madoc sailed south along the European coast, believing that the quickest way to the Blessed Isles would be to circle around the bottom of the Earth. Sometime in early July he passed the Canary Islands and continued south. However, at Cape Bojador he encountered violent seas and was forced to turn north. From there he sailed into the Canary Islands and father, seeking a way around the storms of the Cape. However, the winds were at his back and he decided to continue on into the west. On 11 August 1170, a lookout on the Artur spotted a small patch of green on the horizon. The ship slowly drifted towards the coast as the wind fell out of its sails. It seemed as if they were going to land on a beach, but the wind picked up again and blew the Artur into a bay between two islands before it fell away again. Madoc grew impatient and jumped off the front of the stricken ship, splashing ashore onto a small patch of rocks. The wind picked up and the ship blew back towards the south-east, running aground in a flat, sandy cove. A boat was sent to pick up Madoc, and he and his crew spent the night on the beach. Over the next few days they penetrated the interior, finding it deserted. However, they did find a mound of consumed oyster shells, leading them to hack down a stand of trees behind the dunes and build a stockade amongst the dune grass. They subsided off of the plentiful oysters and seabirds for months, until the barley they had planted inland allowed them to make bread. In April 1171, after finding the winter much more temperate than back in Gwynedd, Madoc and a dozen of his men returned to the ship and set sail for home to seek more settlers, leaving six behind in the stockade, now named Tir Brindena.