The army of the dead has been defeated and the black cauldron destroyed so what’s left to be done? Send Eilonwy to learn how to be a lady, of course. And so another adventure in The Chronicles of Prydain begins.
“I want to be recognized!” Eilonwy cried. “I want to be me!”
Eilonwy is not rotten, but she’s no lady either. She seems to have become a bit of tomboy so the enchanter Dallben sends her off to the Isle of Mona to be refined by Queen Teleria, though Eilonwy doesn’t see why refinement is needed. Taran and Gurgi accompany her on her journey overseas on the clumsy Prince Rhun’s ship.
The journey was horrible for Taran. Not only was he battling his feelings about Eilonwy’s leaving, but he often found himself at the receiving end of the prince’s clumsiness, which became more of a nuisance once they reached their destination. After being introduced to the king and queen, Taran and Gurgi are reunited with Fflewddur Fflam, who got bored of being king and went back to being a bard, for the time. He also meets Gwydion, who has disguised himself as a shoemaker while he inquires of Achren of the Spiral Castle, who’s still at large and a danger to Eilonwy.
Taran’s adventures continue in The Black Cauldron, the second installment of Lloyd Alexander’s the Chronicles of Prydain series. In The Book of Three, first of the series, we learn of Arawn’s fearsome, undead warriors—the cauldron-born—that are brewed from the belly of his huge, black cauldron. Now, in The Black Cauldron it is up to Taran and friends, along with some new companions, to destroy the cauldron and prevent Arawn from growing his army.
It’s hard to tell how much time has transpired between the events in the first novel and the beginning of this one but I assume it is a few months. After returning to their respective abodes (Eilonwy and Gurgi remained at Caer Dallben with Taran), they are rounded up by Prince Gwydion to embark on a quest to steal and destroy the black cauldron. Along with Taran and his friends, Gwydion calls upon various warriors and kings from across the land to congregate at Caer Dallben for a council before embarking on the quest.
They travel to Annuvin, Arawn’s lair in the north, where they believe the cauldron is housed. Taran makes some new friends on the journey such as the poetic Adaon, who is both a warrior and a bard, while gaining the ire of others, specifically Ellidyr, a lowly prince from a small kingdom. While Doli and Fflewddur accompany Gwydion and his company in infiltrating Annuvin, Taran remains without the fortress with Adaon and Ellidyr, serving as rear guard. The plan goes smoothly except there is no cauldron steal. Plus, Eilonwy and Gurgi, who were both left behind at Caer Dallben, pop up unexpectedly and the groups—both front and rear guards—are attacked by Arawn’s ferocious Huntsmen. It’s an unfortunate situation but with Adaon and Doli’s help, Taran and his party are able to escape the Huntsmen and seek refuge at a Fair Folk waypost. They had to part from Gwydion’s party while escaping the Huntsmen.