People ask how and when it all began. It is highly doubtful that anyone really knows; not one-hundred percent, hand on their hearts, betting their lives on it sure. All that is known with any kind of certainty is what the sacred texts of the Ddraig Llyfr tell us. According to Taliesin chapter 1, verses 1-4:
“Ac yr oedd pelen dân mawr yn awyr y nos,
Ac Yddraigfawr gwneud ei hun yn hysbys i ddynoliaeth.
Roedd hi'n ddiwrnod hyfryd, a'r dyn dathlu,
Ac yn dathlu y wraig, a'r plentyn dathlu.”
“And there was a great fireball in the night sky,
And Yddraigfawr made herself known to mankind.
It was a glorious day; and the man celebrated,
And the woman celebrated, and the child celebrated.”
“Son have a seat.” Those four small, simple words which radically changed Thomas’ life were spoken by his father to him on May 14th 1995. He was six years old at the time, and his dad looked like a giant; that was nearly nine years ago.
He dropped the biggest bombshell imaginable on Thomas that day. That was the day the six year old boy was told that dragons are real; and by real that is really real, as in actually really real. The boy was then told that he was not allowed to tell anyone about them; that it was a secret not to be shared. He was told that his family, as well as other families, are a part of some kind of secret society which has been keeping the existance of dragons hidden from the world for centuries.
“We now commit the body of James Maximillian Llewellyn to the ground. Earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust.” The priest’s words brought Thomas out of his childhood memory.
He walked over to the gravesite and picked up a handful of earth. He looked down at his father’s coffin with tears in his eyes. “I will never forget you dad.” He slowly allowed the earth to fall from his closed fist onto the coffin.
He felt an arm round his neck. He turned and looked into Alexander Munroe’s eyes, and gave a small smile. “God, I’m going to miss him so much Alex.”
“I have a good idea how you feel. He was much more of a father to me than my own dad ever was.” With everything Alex and Thomas had been through over the years, with all the secrets they had shared, Thomas had kept one thing from Alex. It was the one thing in all the world Thomas wanted to share, but it was also the one thing in all the world that Thomas couldn’t share.
The two of them were closer than brothers, and as Alex had just said, Thomas’ father was more of a dad than his own one ever had been or ever would be; but Thomas knew the laws better than anyone, save perhaps those on the Council. There was no way he could ever tell Alex about his deepest secret, but he so badly wanted to share it; it felt like such a betrayal keeping it hidden. Thomas had even researched the entire legal codices of the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau looking for some kind of loophole or precedent that would allow him to share his secret with Alex, but after checking through all eighteen thousand laws and God alone knows how many thousands of by-laws, legal arguments and council rulings there was nothing; not even a hint at a way to tell Alex and still operate within the law.
“Alex, I’m going on a trip tomorrow. I’ll only be gone a couple of days. It’s a personal matter, and I have to go alone. I’ll see you on Tuesday.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t tell you. I really wish I could.”
Alex knew that if Thomas couldn’t tell him about it must be something very personal, so he didn’t push it.
Thomas returned home. As the only living relative, the responsibility for disposal of his father’s personal effects fell to him. There was also the matter of certain secret effects of his father’s; most notable of which was his personal copy of the Ddraig Llyfr.
Thomas went into into his father’s bedroom, and found his Ddraig Llyfr and his Yddraigfawr pendant he had been given upon being named as Ceidwadwy. Thomas started a fire and sat and pondered. He thought about life, death, his father, the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau, his father. He let out a deep sigh, and tossed his father’s copy of the Ddraig Llyfr into the fire. As he watched it burn and char he thought about what the future would hold.
As the day turned to night, Thomas extinguished the fire and collected the ash which was all that remained of the sacred text. He placed half of the ash in one small box, and the remainder in a second box.
The next morning he placed his father’s pendant around his neck for safe keeping and headed into the Chilterns. Thomas arrived at the Ashridge Estate mid-morning. He headed to a section of woodland and was suddenly stopped by a very large bearded man.
“You are trespassing. You must leave this area immediately.”
The sixteen year old Thomas looked up at the six foot tall giant in front of him, and trembled with fear.
“I . . . I . . .”
The man noticed the pendant as the sun glinted off it.
“Forgive me. I did not realise you were a follower. Though you seem very young to own such an honour as the one you are wearing.”
Thomas was momentarily startled. “It was my father’s. He passed away a few days ago, and the funeral was yesterday. I am here to perform his final ritual.”
“My condolences. My name is Jason. Please follow me.”
Thomas followed Jason into a nearby cave. They reached what appeared to be a deadend when the rockface slid back revealing a secret passage.
“The steps are slippery, be careful.”
Listening to Jason’s warning, Thomas took a hold of the handrail and carefully followed him down a long flight of stairs.
When he reached the bottom, he saw a carved statue of Yddraigfawr. It was a depiction of her arrival in the world as described in the book of Taliesin; it showed her in all her splendour. It was, coincidentally, Thomas’ favourite scene from the Ddraig Llyfr.
Thomas paused in front of the statue and said a silent prayer before continuing on his way. He reached the inner sanctum; the final resting place of Yddraigfawr. He removed one of the small boxes of ash from his pocket and placed it next to one of thousands of similar boxes which occupied the same vault as the enormous skeletal remains of the creature who had come to be revered as a demi-god. Thomas cried yet again for his recently departed father, but could not remain in the presence of Yddraigfawr for long as he had another stop off to make, and another box to see safely delivered.
He started the long journey to the tiny village of Llanbedr in north western Wales. He arrived late in the evening, so he checked into a small hotel.
The next morning he went to pay a visit to the resident cleric.
“Yes, can I help you?” Surprisingly, the cleric did not have the typical accent associated with the northern Welsh, but instead he spoke with an Irish accent.
“Forgive me for disturbing you so early. My name is Thomas and I have travelled from London to perform the final ritual for my father.”
“I’m sorry, you must have me confused with someone else. I do not understand what you are talking about.” The cleric was about to close the door, when Thomas showed him the pendant. “Your father must have been someone of great significance for him to carry a Ddraig-Calon.”
“He was Ceidwadwy.”
“You are the son of James Maximillian. You have my deepest sympathies. I was present at your father’s investiture. I will take you on the journey to the Mynydd Pen-y-Fal.”
Thomas and the cleric travelled to the sacred shrine deep in the Pen-y-Fal. Thomas placed the box of ash in the vault reserved for Ceidwadwy and lighting a candle, said a final prayer for his father. Just as he was leaving, he was stopped by another cleric.
“Yes, I am Thomas Llewellyn.”
“I have been asked to give you this.” The cleric handed Thomas a parchment envelope. Thomas opened it and read the letter inside, then re-read it twice more to ensure he was really reading what it said. It was a summons from the Inner Council of the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau, and there was a big surprise for Thomas.
He followed the cleric to the chambers of the Council, and of course, there was the obligatory Yddraigfawr statue at the entrance to the chambers.
“Thomas, you know why you have been summoned here?”
“I do, and I thank the Council for this great honour.”
“Your family has served this Council since its inception, and they have always served with honour and distinction. In spite of your young age, and the fact that you have not yet come of age either in the eyes of this council or under the law of the United Kingdom of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, I am proud to announce that by special decree of the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau you will receive your birthright.
“Let the records show that on this date, Friday April 16th in the Year of Our Lord 2004, the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau bestows the honour, the rights, the responsibilities, and the title of Ceidwadwy upon Thomas Taliesin Llewellyn. First Servant, will you do the honours please.”
The high priest approached Thomas. It never ceases to amaze people how active and healthy the high priest of Yddraigfawr is for someone of his age; he is at least eighty-five years old, though according to rumour he is approaching one hundred. He was dressed in full ceremonial robes consisting of a black gown, which trailed along the floor, with an emblem on the front comprising a large red dragon on a field of green. He was also wearing the sash of his office; made from bright purple silk with his various titles and honours sewn on to it at intervals. Upon his bald and wrinkled head sat the Ddraig-Choronbleth, which is made from silver, with a small platinum dragon at the front, in which two small ruby chips are embedded for its eyes. He was also carrying his staff of office; a bronze staff with the head of a dragon and this had two very large rubies for its eyes.
“Kneel.” Even though he was smiling and spoke with a very gentle voice and soft Welsh accent, there was absolutely no doubt in Thomas’ mind that it was a command. He knelt in front of the high priest, and he said a prayer over Thomas. Unfortunately, Thomas did not know or understand the words the priest spoke, for they were spoken in the ancient language; only the most senior of the council members are permitted to learn this language.
Thomas of course knew the history of the language. All those who serve the order are taught about it, and Thomas’ father had imparted what information he was permitted to Thomas. A language, which outside scholars say, died out sometime between five and ten thousand years ago and was not a written language. Bless those scholars, if only they could hear the priests speaking the language and see the numerous texts that the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau has that are written in it. Though Thomas’ father was the first person to freely admit that he was impressed with scholar’s attempts at reconstructing the ancient language based on modern day daughter languages, some of their reconstructions were scarily accurate. As a result, the council has been forced to place spies in the academic world. If outsiders were to learn the ancient language, even if only a few words, they will begin to make discoveries which men have died for and men have killed to protect for three millennia. There are secrets, which the world is just not ready to know; there are secrets, which the world will never be ready to know.
The priest began speaking in English, which broke Thomas’ reverie. “In the name of Yddraigfawr, I anoint thee Thomas Taliesin Llewellyn as Ceidwadwy.” He touched him on the left shoulder with his dragon-staff, and then kissed Thomas on the forehead. “Rise, my child.”
The newest and, according to archival records, the youngest ever Ceidwadwy stood up, and the head of the council approached him. “Thomas, you are now one of the Inner Council and I welcome you. You are the one hundred and twelfth person to hold this honoured title, and the twenty-seventh in your own family.” As the council leader said the words ‘Inner Council’, Thomas suddenly realised that he would now be allowed to learn the ancient language; why that meant so much to him he didn’t know, but it did.
With the formalities over and done with, the council session was dismissed and its members went about their business. The head of the council, Giles Wynstanley, asked Thomas to join him for his evening meal.
Giles Carruthers Wynstanley the Third was unusually young to be leading the council, having only recently celebrated his thirty eighth birthday - his predecessor was sixty four when she was named as head of the council, and the one before her was seventy one. He is English by birth, but had spent most of his youth abroad and moved to the Mynydd Pen-Y-Fal sanctuary seven years ago. He had attended high school in Geneva, colleges in Stockholm and Melbourne, and universities in both Prague and Barcelona. He holds undergraduate honours degrees in classical studies, modern history, and politics; post-graduate masters degrees in history and Egyptology; a PhD in comparative religions, and he is currently studying for his second PhD, this one in Celtic mythology. He is also fluent in twelve modern languages and nine ancient languages, ten if you include the ancient language of the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau.
“Thomas, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk to you before your training proper begins. There are numerous things you need to know and learn, but we will take them one step at a time; after all your own father’s initial training lasted nearly one full year. There has been more and more emphasis placed upon the knowledge, as opposed to the skills, of the individual, as the role of Ceidwadwy has changed over the centuries. That is one of the main reasons why I was able to persuade the council to grant you your birthright.”
“How has the role changed? My father told me what he could; what little he was allowed to tell me, since I was still a minor.”
“In the beginning, in fact even up until five hundred years ago, there were literally hundreds of dragons, with dozens of eggs to be cared for. The Ceidwadwy was more like a dragon farmer, than a true protector of the eggs; after all a mother dragon was a most formidable creature when her offspring were threatened. However, as the stories of the existence of dragons and false rumours of their malice and evil spread across what is today called Europe, fear and panic was rife and it spread like wildfire. Whilst the general populous typically scoffed at such stories (‘Flying sea serpents that breathe fire indeed!’), monarchs, clergy and even army generals were more than ready to believe the worst. There were more than a few serious attempts made at capturing or killing dragons; there were also several major battle campaigns led against the dragons with the stated intention of the wholesale slaughter of the species. So as you can imagine, in the old days the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau, and the role of the Ceidwadwy in particular, was quite militaristic; he or she was expected to be well versed in numerous forms of both armed and unarmed combat.
“Today however, the dragons are all but extinct. There was a mass extinction of the species sometime in the 1600s, but the reason or reasons for it are unknown. There have been guesses and suppositions as to the cause but nothing concrete; the most logical argument postulated thus far is that the dragons were unusually susceptible to the Bubonic Plague, and it was the Great Plague that hit Britain during the 1660s that was the primary cause of their extinction.”
“How come there are only guesses? Why does nobody know for certain?”
“It seems that the council, and our clerics at the time, were more concerned with their own survival and that of the dragons’ eggs, than with documenting any evidence of the extinction. You also need to remember that the mass extinction occurred around the same time as the discovery of the tomb of Yddraigfawr; I’m quite sure that they were more than a little preoccupied with the excavation of the tomb, and the documentation of their findings. However, the lack of documented evidence of the extinction has left us with far more questions than answers.
“The egg you are holding is all that remains of probably the most majestic creatures that ever inhabited, or will ever inhabit, this planet. Thankfully, the general populous has long since relegated the dragon to the realms of mythology, and so the military threat that once existed has all but disappeared. Now with just the one egg left of an entire species, our order is now far more concerned with preserving our history and our knowledge. It was your father’s responsibility to protect this egg at all costs. Now that you are Ceidwadwy, that responsibility is yours.”
“What do I do if it starts hatching?”
“Don’t worry Thomas, it won’t. That egg is only about a hundred years old. It won’t hatch on you, or the next Ceidwadwy, or probably even the three who follow. The dragon remains in the egg, in its larval form, for at least two hundred and fifty years. There has not been a hatching in living memory.” Giles looked across the table at Thomas, and sensed that the boy who had not yet turned sixteen had something on his mind. “I know that everything I have told you is a lot to take in, but you’ll do fine.”
“It’s not that. Not exactly.”
“What do mean?”
“My dad had my mum to lean on for years, and after her death he was able to share some of his concerns with me. I have no kith or kin to speak of –”
“You are worried about where you will live?”
Thomas shook his head. “That has already been taken care of. My best friend Alex Munroe’s mum has said she will take me in and I can live with her until I am old enough to live on my own. And that’s where my problem is.”
“I think I understand. You will be living with these people, yet constantly keeping a secret from them. However, it is a secret which you are well aware you must keep.”
“I know. I had hoped to find a way to at least be able to tell Alex, if not his mum. He and I have become so close over the years. We’ve told each other everything, and we’ve never kept secrets from each other, except this one teensy-weensy dragon-related secret. I even went through the entire legal archives to see if there was a way to be able to tell him. I couldn’t even tell him where I am or what I am doing here. We had just buried my dad and all I could tell him was I had to go away for a few days.”
“You really must feel like you need to share this secret, but as you surely must know the secret can only be shared with your immediate family?”
“I know. It’s just that this feels such a monumental responsibility for a fifteen year old to take on without the support of those closest him.”
While Thomas and Giles were having their dinner and their conversation, the First Servant of Yddraigfawr was in his chambers dealing with correspondence from his respective First Servants in The Isle of Man and Brittany. They were both requesting to come and view the original Ddraig Llyfr, in order that they would be able to compare their respective Manx and Breton texts with the original.
The problem with the Ddraig Llyfr is the same problem with many religious texts – it had been handed down by word of mouth for generations until it was finally put into writing. The Ddraig Llyfr has also been translated and re-translated and re-translated so many times into so many different languages, nobody can be one hundred percent sure of the truth anymore. The only copy left of the Ddraig Llyfr in the ancient language is kept in a maximum-security vault in the Pen-Y-Fal sanctuary under armed guard. The original hasn’t been looked upon in two hundred years, let alone read from.
It is only by written permission of the First Servant of Pen-Y-Fal that the original can be viewed, and in spite of him receiving several requests a year to view the text, the First Servant had always refused to grant permission. However, with the dragons all but gone, the First Servant had noticed the fragmentation among the Celtic sects widening. He had seen even the most devout followers of the old ways renouncing the dragon, their children were no longer told the old stories or the old ways, and so he had reluctantly decided to grant permission for the viewing in the hope of preserving the cult of dragons.
The rise of the modern day Brythonic and Goidelic Celtic languages (the births of which are estimated to have started around 600 BC), saw the first serious fracturing of the order of the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau. The problem arose because the various Celtic orders translated the Ddraig Llyfr into their own language from each other’s version as opposed to from the original. The Welsh had initially translated their version from the original, so was probably the most accurate modern language version; though even their version has been translated through Primitive Welsh, Old Welsh, Middle Welsh, and then in the mid 1500s into Modern Welsh. However, the Manx version is translated from the Cornish, which was based on their translation from the Cumbric (a now extinct language), which was based on the Old Welsh, and in Heaven’s name quite where the Breton version was translated from is anyone’s guess; they don’t even know themselves.
The Ddraig Llyfr, in its original form, is written in a language called Proto-Indo-European (which the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau terms ‘the ancient language’; though the reasons how this came about are lost in the sands of time, especially since there are languages that are older than Proto-Indo-European that the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau uses). The language was spoken from what is today France to as far east as India and Pakistan, to as far north as the Baltic countries. It ultimately gave rise to those modern day Celtic languages such as Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Irish Gaelic, and Breton, as well as numerous modern day Baltic, Middle Eastern and Asian languages. Although Proto-Indo-European, as a language in its own right, has been suggested to be as much as twelve thousand years old, the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau scholars have actually placed the estimate of its origins at nearer six thousand years ago. However, they do have the huge advantage of having vast reams of writings both in the original Celtic languages and those languages which pre-date the modern languages, and where those texts are also accurately dated, it has allowed the order to track the evolution and the ancestry of their own languages. The world’s linguists would sell their souls to the devil if they could only get to see a glimpse of what is stored in just the Pen-Y-Fal archives.
Since this was the first time he had ever granted permission for the original Ddraig Llyfr to be viewed, he also sent letters of invitation to the First Servants of the other Celtic sects. The original Ddraig Llyfr came to be housed at the Pen-Y-Fal sanctuary since it has always been passed from father to son; however, the current First Servant has no children, so what will happen to the sacred text upon his passing is unknown, as there is no precedent of a First Servant being childless.
After a quick rethink the First Servant decided to extend his invitation to the other dragon sects scattered around Europe. Although the other sects do not worship Yddraigfawr (as she is a pure Celtic demi-god), they do have their own dragon mythologies and deities; the Greeks have Typhon; the Hungarians have Sárkány; the Albanians have Dragua.
“Alex, what’s up?”
“It’s Thomas. I’m really worried about him, mum. He’s only just buried our . . . his dad, and he runs off to God knows where, to do God alone knows what, on some secret errand that he can’t or won’t tell even me about. I just thought we were closer than that. We’ve shared so much with each other, we’ve told each other everything. I just thought . . . .”
“Honey, you talk about him keeping something secret from you, but you’re also keeping a secret from him.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve never kept anything from him, he’s my closest friend.”
“I’m talking about the fact that you’re in love with him.” The bluntness of his mother’s statement surprised him. He had never told her that he was gay or how he truly felt about Thomas.
“Mum . . . how . . . how long have you known? How have you known?”
“I’ve suspected since you were about twelve. It’s hard to put into words. It’s the way you look at him sometimes, the way how you light up when you see him. I was waiting for you to tell me yourself, but I can see how this is tearing you apart.”
“I love him mum, so much that sometimes it hurts. But what hurts more is I know he’ll never love me. He loves me like a friend, like a brother, but not in the way I want him to.”
Discuss the story here
“What is that!” yelled the small child, pointing up into the night sky.
The head of the village looked up and had to shield his eyes from the glare; it appeared as though the sky was on fire. Then he saw it! It was huge, some kind of monster blotting out the moon; like the old tales of the demons that used to walk the Earth. It had a long snout from which bright orange flames were issuing, and a long tail, which ended in barbs. The creature was a chartreuse colour and appeared to be covered in scales. It was truly ferocious looking; in his fear, Altarn could not help but compare it to the stories he had heard of the Lernaean Hydra1 or the Afanc of Llyn yr Afanc2.
The creature flew over the village at a low altitude, and the inhabitants fled in abject terror as they felt the draft created as the creature passed over them; a few even felt its wingtips grazing their hair. The creature had a wingspan almost as wide as its entire body was long, yet bizarrely the villagers could see the full moon through its wings; presumably, the skin (assuming that this creature had skin) was pulled so taut at the wings that it was semi-transparent.
The creature made two more circuits over the village before finally landing just outside the perimeter fence, and it curled up around itself and fell asleep.
The village elders called an emergency meeting to discuss what to do about this creature.
“How can we possibly protect our village from that thing?” said Altarn, leader of the village clergy.
“I don’t know. But I would have thought if it were going to destroy our village it would have done so already,” said Olvarn, the head of the village council.
“Are you suggesting that that . . . that . . . whatever it is, is docile! Have you seen it! It’s monstrous! In the name of the great god Toranos3, it breaths fire!”
“Calm down my friend. At your age, it does not do you good to overexcite yourself. Besides, we need calm and rational minds to be able to work out how to handle this situation.”
Olvarn turned to the village protector and said, “Mornas, I think we need to keep a close eye on both the creature and those in our village. I suggest we temporarily house everyone in the village hall. It is large enough to accommodate the entire village, and we can see from it in all directions.”
“I agree, Olvarn. I’ll put your request into effect as soon as this meeting is over. We may also want to consider sending a scout party to the creature while it sleeps; try to collect some information on it.”
“What else do we need to know! The creature is evil and must be destroyed!”
“For the head of the clergy, for a religious man, an enlightened man, a man of the gods, you seem remarkably intent upon the annihilation of this creature.”
“It is an abomination! Given the choice between saving us and saving it, I will choose to save us every time. It is clearly a servant of one of the dark ones!”
“You base that purely on its physical appearance?”
“We all know what the evil gods look like. That creature is clearly one of their servants.”
The meeting of the elders continued into the early hours. As soon as the meeting had adjourned, Mornas moved from house to house gathering up the inhabitants of the village and began the process of re-housing them in the village hall.
The entire village, which was inhabited by a mere eighty-three souls, was huddled inside the village hall. The adults trembled in fear at the unknown threat, which was laying not thirty feet outside the village perimeter.
The children of the village, all eleven of them, were clustered together chatting excitedly. They were wondering where the creature had come from, what it was, if it was a blessing or a curse upon the village. They were scared, but since they had not yet come of age and therefore had not yet been indoctrinated into the religious order, they simply saw this huge beast as yet another one of the creator’s beings; they had not yet been taught about the evil the world holds or about the demons of the underworld.
The villagers finally fell asleep as the dawn approached; everybody that is, with the exception of Olvarn and Altarn. They continued to discuss how to handle the creature; Olvarn as level-headed as before and Altarn, worryingly to Olvarn, as hostile as ever.
By the time the sun had reached its zenith, the villagers were awake and had begun their day. Even though they tried to keep themselves busy, they found themselves constantly looking at the creature asleep outside their village.
By dusk, the villagers were bordering on hysteria. There had been talk of simply packing up all of their belongings and fleeing, some had spent the entire day in prayer beseeching the gods for deliverance from this creature, and a few had even talked about arming themselves with whatever happened to be close at hand, and either they would destroy the creature or die trying.
The large chartreuse-coloured creature slumbered on; its sleep undisturbed by the growing animosity, paranoia and fear around it. It dreamed of stories and deeds long forgotten, and it dreamed of ancient times and of the ancient gods, for this creature was as old as they come. It had lived through the sinking of Atlantis, the building of the first Babylonian temple dedicated to Ishtar, the founding of the great city of Sumer, the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Pharaoh Narmer, and the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza.
The villagers had all returned to the hall before nightfall, following the advice of Mornas, the village protector. Mornas had also set up a defence team, whose job it was to stand guard and protect the hall and the other villagers at all costs.
It was another restless night. Some of the villagers were staring out of the openings at the beast, watching it for any indication that it might attack. The children were also staring at it, however they were more interested in looking at a creature they had never seen or even heard of before.
On the morning of the third day of the creature’s arrival, the council had decided that they could no longer stand by and wait for the worst to happen.
Olvarn and Altarn had taken charge of a small scout party and began moving in on the creature. The creature had remained in a peaceful slumber ever since it had first appeared above the village two nights previously.
“Look at it Altarn. How can you believe that majestic creature is evil?”
“I have seen the gods. I commune with them on a daily basis. I know the face of the evil ones.”
The creature opened it eyes and slowly raised its head, almost as though it had heard Altarn’s comments and was insulted by them.
Olvarn held his hands out in front of his body, hoping to convey to the creature that he had no hostile intentions towards it. The creature watched Olvarn as he slowly approached one step at a time.
The creature looked at Olvarn; the fear coming off of him was almost palpable. Olvarn’s outstretched hands trembled as he neared the creature, and it was only at this close range that he truly realised the size of this behemoth.
The creature reared on its hind legs, unfurled its wings, and let out the roar of roars; the noise could be heard on the other side of the village. The walls and doors of nearby huts rattled, the perimeter fence collapsed under the concussive force of the roar and Olvarn cowered on the ground, believing he was staring at the instrument of his death.
The creature settled on all fours and looked directly at Olvarn.
“I warned you Olvarn,” said Altarn. “Defence team, stand by.”
“Ignore that, defence team,” Olvarn countermanded, “hold your positions.”
Altarn looked on in horror as the creature lowered itself to look Olvarn directly in the eyes. Olvarn prepared himself for the inevitable; whilst Altarn invoked the names of every deity he had ever heard of, beseeching them to protect Olvarn.
“Yes, I understand,” Olvarn said.
“Olvarn!” Altarn yelled.
“Altarn, there is nothing to fear. I hear it.”
“What do you hear?”
“I can hear her thoughts, her feelings . . . as though she were speaking aloud.”
“What do you mean ‘her’?”
“This creature is female. She tells me her name is Yddraigfawr.” As Olvarn spoke her name, she rubbed her snout against his face. “Her species is something called a dragon. I can feel her calmness and serenity, yet I also get this overwhelming feeling of magic and protection coming off her. Come closer Altarn.”
Altarn, in all his years, had never been as nervous as he was. He approached the dragon, calling herself Yddraigfawr, as timidly as he remembered approaching his mother when he had misbehaved during his childhood.
As soon as he was within twenty feet, he dropped to his knees. “I can hear her.” He crossed his arms over his chest and bowed to her. “I have never felt the gods like I can I can feel this one. I have never felt such love and compassion coming from one being.”
The news of the dragon’s love rapidly spread throughout the village. There was dancing, feasting and merriment for seven days and seven nights. The adults carved statues and children crafted jewellery in her honour.
One child in the village, a young girl called Awen who was the daughter of a pig farmer, created an amulet that the dragon loved so much, the little girl decided to call it Ddraig-Calon; the Heart of the Dragon. Awen had no way of knowing that her amulet design would survive into the twenty-first century and that it would become one of the most sacred symbols of the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau; the symbol of the Ceidwadwy.
The benevolence of Yddraigfawr spread throughout the Celtic world, and she quickly became the protectoress of not only one small village in the Gower Peninsula, but of a people. Her name was venerated by all who knew her love and compassion. Shrines sprung up throughout the Celtic world, and she was quickly elevated to the status of a demi-god.
1: The Lernaean Hydra (the offspring of Typhon “The Father of all Monsters” and Echidna “The Mother of all Monsters”) was a water beast of ancient Greek mythology that was said to have more heads than painters could paint (though it is generally accepted that the number of heads was nine). For each head that was severed, it would grow two new ones, and was said to have a breath so poisonous it could kill, even its wake was said to be lethal. It was the second of Heracles’ twelve labours to kill her (Heracles is identified with Hercules in Roman mythology). Once she was slaughtered, she was placed in the heavens as the constellation Hydra.
2: Afanc (pronounced A-vank) also spelled Addanc (pronounced Ath-ank) is a lake demon of Welsh mythology – which some have equated to The Loch Ness Monster of Scotland. It was said to live in Llyn yr Afanc, a lake near modern day Betws-y-Coed that was named after the creature. He is part of the Celtic flood myth (similar to the story in Judaism/Christianity of Noah). He is portrayed as a giant/God/faery depending upon the version told (he has also been portrayed as a dragon). It is believed he was once worshipped as a deity, however recent mythological scholarship has reduced him to an evil faery or demi-god. In modern times in Wales, the word afanc is used to describe any evil fresh water-dwelling faery.
3: Toranos is the reconstructed ancient form of the name Taranis that would have been in use at this time. Taranis was the Celtic god of thunder and he was one of the supra-regional deities, meaning he was worshipped by multiple tribes – he was worshipped in Gaul, The British Isles and as far away as Bulgaria. His name is the etymology of the modern day Welsh word taran, which means thunder.
“Thomas, what you have just read is an extract from one version of the story of the arrival of Yddraigfawr; the Welsh version. It is one of the most secretive documents in our archives; if the full story ever saw the light of day, it has the potential to cause the complete collapse of our order. For the past two centuries, the very existence of this document has been denied by everyone who has knowledge of it. In recent times, we have severely limited access to this document. Only three people these days are permitted to even know of its existence: the First Servant which at the moment is me, the head of the council, and the Ceidwadwy; actually, this is the first time it has been read in nearly thirty years.
“The other Celtic orders have their own similar story, but each varies in one small detail, that being that Yddraigfawr first appears in a village in their own region. In the Irish version she appeared near modern day Waterford, in the Manx version she appeared near modern day Douglas, in the Scottish version she appeared near modern day Thurso, and so on. Each of the other sects has the same deniability policy we do, for the exact same reasons we do.
“You need to understand that as First Servant I only care, as have all First Servants before me, that Yddraigfawr, and those dragons who followed her, appeared to the Celtic people. For the most part we have enjoyed three thousand years of harmony, brotherhood and love, a love which she inspired and nurtured. This story, and the equivalent stories, were written by playwrights in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Yddraigfawr’s remains were found in 1642 AD, which confirmed the belief held by some that she was not really a deity, but a real live flesh and blood creature. That discovery spurned a large volume of literature, primarily downplaying her spiritual role. There were a few who, with misguided intentions, wrote literature such as the story you have just read which tried to reinforce the spiritual belief in her and the dragons. However at the time this and the other stories were written it only served to reopen some of the old wounds among the councils; consequently they were buried in archives.”
“First Servant, forgive me for interrupting, but what difference does it make where Yddraigfawr first appeared? As you say, surely all that matters is the love she has spread?”
“To those who choose to follow her message of love, nobody does care where she first appeared. When she was worshipped as a deity, the specific location of her appearance wasn’t a point felt worthy of being debated over; hence, why the Ddraig Llyfr, in all of its incarnations, at no point mentions the location of her arrival by name. The problem is, once she was proven to be flesh and blood, suddenly the location of her appearance became of paramount importance to some; the discovery of her tomb proved to be yet another fractionation point in our history.
“You see, once her remains were found, her status as demi-god disappeared practically overnight. She was no longer seen as the protector of an entire people, for reasons that have never been explained it was felt she appeared to one sect; the one sect she favoured over the others. The historians of the time had a field day sifting through archival documents trying to find the exact location she appeared in, archival documents which are now kept under lock and key. The thing was the documents only provided tiny clues, and clues which are open to such wide interpretation.”
“So it’s like trying to find Atlantis. All the researchers and archaeologists and stuff are coming up with such wildly different locations because the clues suggest different locations depending on how they are interpreted?”
“You said the discovery of her tomb was ‘yet another fractionation point in our history’, just how many fractionations points have there been?”
“We have seen three major events which have fractured our order since the appearance of the dragons. The first was around 2600 years ago when the Celtic nations began developing their own languages from the language that scholars call proto-Celtic, and consequently that was when the various sects were created. So we all went from speaking one common language to suddenly having almost a dozen different languages. You need to realise that in the Celtic speaking areas of the time the population was only about a hundred thousand people or so, with only three or four thousand of those being followers.”
“I see. With such a small population speaking perhaps a dozen different languages which perhaps their neighbours no longer understood, I can only imagine the effect it had on alliances. People may begin to feel that their neighbours are talking about them and people could say things in front of others who don’t understand their language with near impunity.”
“As hard as it is to understand Thomas, that event probably did far more harm to our order than any other event that happened. The second major event happened around 1360 AD. Following the earlier establishment of the varying sects each with their own council, it was felt that there needed to be a joint council; a United Nations of sorts. It was established around 105 BC and it ran smoothly for about a hundred and fifty years. However, certain . . . events . . . transpired which were not supported fully by the joint council. It would seem that orders were being issued in secret and actions were being taken to circumvent the authority of the joint council.
“It all began around 60 AD when a few of the sects issued orders for troops to be sent to Ynys Mon (Anglesey) to help defend against the Roman attacks, which did successfully help to hold back the Roman conquest of Wales by about seventeen years, but ultimately cost the Draig-Cyfrinachau a large portion of its military force. The rest of the joint council knew that sending the troops would only delay the inevitable, which explained their opposition. When they saw the numbers of casualties an investigation was ordered, but since everything had been issued in secrecy, there was no documented evidence to be found.
“Then unsanctioned military strikes were ordered against William the Conqueror in the late 1070s; probably by the Manx and Cumbric sects, but we’ll never really know. This of course infuriated the Breton sect who were ardent supporters of William at the time. Eventually what is referred to as ‘an unpardonable transgression’ happened and it ripped the joint council apart.”
“What was it that happened First Servant? It must have been something huge to result in such a falling out.”
“The records do not indicate; all reference to it is simply as ‘an unpardonable transgression’. There have been a number of theories over the years, but given that it occurred around 1360 AD most of the theories point to it having something to do with the hundred years war; a very complex situation for the sects to deal with. You see Thomas, The Hundred Years War was between France and England, but occurred at a time when Scotland supported France and vice versa. Therefore, there obviously would have been plenty for the various sects to have differed and argued over. The whole situation was overcomplicated by the fact the Duke of Brittany at the time was an ally of England.”
“But First Servant for something to happen to cause the collapse of the joint council . . . .”
“Probably something we’ll never know. As I said, many of the things going on were done in complete secrecy so there were no written records. One of the things I hope is that with all the time that has elapsed, we have reached a point where we can allow bygones to be bygones.”
“So the discovery of Yddraigfawr’s tomb was the third event.”
“Yes, but it wasn’t just the discovery of the tomb, that was just the tip of what turned out to be a very ugly iceberg. Even though she had finally been proven to be flesh and blood, the primary purpose of our order remained what it had been since our inception, to conceal the existence of dragons from the masses. There were a number of highly questionable acts committed over the years to keep her tomb hidden, even once the last dragon died in 1842 AD. Some of these acts were sanctioned by all sects; however, some of the more extreme acts were not. Although the joint council had long since been dissolved by this time, the various sects still tried to get along, and tried to get certain gung-ho council members to listen to reason.
“Yddraigfawr and the other dragons came to be viewed in a similar way that saints are viewed in Christianity, as real live people who play an important role in religion but are not worshipped as deities. The Ddraig Llyfr was written at a time when she was viewed as a demi-god so it reads a lot like a religious text. Although we still keep it, refer to it, and read from it, it has become more of a matter of historical interest; the same is also true of my role. When the role of First Servant was created two and a half thousand years ago, it was to serve as a high priest of sorts, these days we are more like a university professor or museum curator.”
A knock on the door pre-empted Thomas’ next question.
“Enter,” said the First Servant.
“Forgive the interruption but there is a matter requiring your urgent attention.”
“Thomas, remain here. We still have much to discuss.” The First Servant left without even waiting for an acknowledgement from Thomas.
Thomas, although mature for his age, was still only a fifteen year old boy, and as with most fifteen year olds, curiosity slowly began to get the better of him. He started to walk around the First Servant’s office, looking at the all the folders, files and books. He came across a folder that was inscribed with “Cyngor Llygaid yn Unig / Council Eyes Only”, and was covered in dust – it looked as though it hadn’t been read in decades, perhaps even in centuries; it was then, that Thomas noticed many of the documents on that shelf were similarly inscribed. He supposed it was only natural for the council to want to keep certain things secret, but there were so many files, folders and books carrying the inscription, he began to wonder not only what he didn’t know, but also what his late father may have known and never told him.
Before he could stop himself, Thomas had opened one of the files. What he read on the first page made his blood run cold.
Alexander Munroe was up in his room, sitting on his bed. He had just spent the last hour and a half revising for his upcoming exams, which were due to start in about six weeks time. However, while he was revising, his mind had been elsewhere.
Instead of absorbing the details of the events of the Second Defenestration of Prague and the lead up to the Thirty Years War, he had spent the entire ninety minutes wondering what was happening with Thomas; wondering where he was and what he was doing, and wondering why Thomas was unable or unwilling to tell him what was going on. He re-read what he had written the night before.
Dear diary, me again.
Thomas has only been away for two days now and I all ready miss him like crazy. Why, oh why, have I never been able to tell him how I feel about him? He must know how I feel; God knows I’ve dropped enough hints over the past three years – about the only thing I haven’t done is lick his tonsils (and I have oh so often thought about doing just that so many times before, but just never quite plucked up enough courage). But why can’t I just come out and tell him? We’ve been through so much and shared so much over the years. I’ve never felt like this about anyone. It sounds so corny, but he is the last thing I think about before I go to sleep and he is the first thing I think about when I wake up, he is the sun in my day and the moon in my night. Where are you, Thomas? Where are you, my heart? What are you doing? Why do you keep this thing from me, as I have kept this from you? Have I been so wrong to not simply come out and tell you how I really feel? My heart hurts with you not here. Jesus H Christ I must have it really bad! I’m starting to sound like a bloody Dame Barbara Cartland novel! I want to see him, to feel him, to cover him in kisses and to wrap him in my arms. My Thomas, wherever you are, I love you, and will always love you.
How am I am supposed to concentrate on revising for my exams when Thomas is running around God Alone Knows Where, doing God Alone Knows What. I can remember nothing at all of the four hours I spent reading my notes on A Midsummer Night’s Dream earlier today. I know I read through them because I’ve scrawled some additional notes in the margins, but I have no recollection of it. All I can remember from those four hours is thinking about Thomas and replaying memories of some of things we did together when we were younger. Like that time Thomas had to get his stomach pumped after eating horse chestnuts thinking they were ordinary chestnuts and he got alkaloid poisoning. There was the time when I got stung on my butt by a hornet that I’d somehow sat on and Thomas was laughing and talking about how he was going to have to suck the poison out. One of my favourites though was the time we went trick or treating with Nancy and Katie when we twelve, and the four of us went as Abba (with Nancy and Katie as Benny and Bjorn, and Thomas and me as Agneta and Anni-Frid). I can’t remember how I managed to get Thomas to don that long blonde wig and put on all that glittery make-up, but I remember it took him a week to finally get it all off. Looking back, I think that was when I started falling in love with him.
Reading back over his diary entry, Alex came to the realisation of just how deeply his love for Thomas ran. He knew that it wasn’t just a silly crush or an infatuation. Although, like Thomas, he was only fifteen, Alex knew he was head over heels in love. It was that take your breath away, sitting on top of the world, tingling from head to toe, heart pounding, blood pounding in your ears, nothing bad will ever happen, kind of feeling. He only had to look at the photo of him and Thomas taken at Windsor Castle last year that he kept on his bedside table to get that feeling and his heart would ache. He picked up a pen and began writing.
Dear diary, twice in as many days! I must be suffering.
I had a dream about Thomas last night. It sounds odd but I don’t really dream about him very often – the last time was about four months ago. It was so vivid and felt so real, it was my first wet dream in four years. I just can’t imagine telling mum that I’d had a wet dream at my age so I threw the evidence out in the trash. I’ll die of embarrassment if she ever finds out. I don’t know why, but I feel so guilty over this dream; it’s like I’ve taken advantage of my best friend or something. I know I’m not responsible for my dreams, or for what my dream self does (which is a really good job, otherwise I’d be in oh so much trouble), but I can’t help feeling the way I do. There was nothing in my dream that I’ve never thought about doing to Thomas or doing with Thomas, but just having that fantasy played out so vividly – I don’t think I’m old enough to be watching material like that, let alone dreaming about it. I could smell his apple-scented shampoo, I could feel his skin on mine, I could feel his breath when we kissed, I could taste his . . . . I have never, never, never had a dream like that before! But if the dream was that good, then being with him and having a real relationship with Thomas must be a hundred, no a thousand, times better! I’ve finally decided to tell Thomas how I feel, I have to tell him. I am so in love with him. I can’t keep doing this to myself. If he rejects me, I’ll be heartbroken, but at least I’ll know. At least I’ll know, and I can finally stop driving myself crazy. But I just hope he says he’ll be with me. Heavenly Father, I know I’m not exactly the most devout Christian going, and I know I don’t go to church and stuff as much as I should, but please let Thomas love me. Please let him feel for me just a fraction of what I feel for him.
Alex always writes in his diary whenever he has something on his mind, and this mystery with Thomas was really playing on his mind. Alex had allowed Thomas to go off to wherever he is unchallenged, partly because he didn’t want to cause scene after the funeral but even more so because he trusted Thomas so much that he knew Thomas had to have a very good reason for keeping this duty secret. That didn’t mean though that Alex wouldn’t worry about Thomas, and worry he did. He had all kinds of dark visions, imagining Thomas in all kinds of danger, facing all manner of ills. Alex never once, not even his wildest imaginings, did he even come close to what was happening to Thomas.
“Alex honey. You’re going to be late for that study group thing if you don’t hurry up.”
“OK mum. I’ll be there in a sec, I’m just getting my stuff together.” Alex put his diary away, packed his revision books in his bag and went downstairs.
“Alex! What about lunch?” his mum yelled.
Alex was just about out the front door so he yelled back over his shoulder, “I’ll grab something at Nancy’s. Love you mum.”
Thomas re-read the telegram, which served as the first page of the folder he had opened, and could not believe what he was reading. He knew that things had happened in the past, acts that had been committed in the Council’s name. He had been told of dark deeds that had been perpetrated in order to protect the Council and the dragons. But this! This wasn’t in the past, and it wasn’t done to protect any living dragons. He knew that what had happened would have been deemed necessary according to the Council, but this was too damned close to home for his liking. This was too shocking for him to wrap his brain around.
To: Council Leader Elizabeth Mary Tollin
From: Ceidwadwy Bryn Jones
Date: The twenty first day, of the month of March, in the Year of Our Lord 1922
As ordered by the Council, I have followed the party of eight archaeologists now for three days and they have just found the second marker to her final resting place. I have now followed them up in to the Chilterns about twenty miles to the west of London. It’s hard to believe that even though the hills are covered in snow, I know exactly where I am; it is as though through the grace of Yddraigfawr that I can see the land beneath the snow.
Professor Gillian Childs has already begun decryption attempts and her intelligence is of such a high level that I fear she will understand the marker within a matter of days. The first marker was in an obscure variant of one of the extinct languages and she decoded that marker in only three days.
These archaeologists are too close to discovering the tomb for my liking. By the time you read this telegram I will all ready have carried out the final edict as our laws demand of me; as they have demanded of Ceidwadwy before me and as they may well demand of Ceidwadwy yet to come. The bodies of these eight will never be found, and I will ensure that there is no evidence that they were ever even here.
For my actions this day, I beg for the forgiveness of Yddraigfawr.
Thomas’ head was still reeling after reading the telegram composed his great-grandfather. He never imagined that he would ever be able to say that he knew someone personally who had committed murder, let alone being able to say that about one of his own family. Thomas began wondering about what his father may have done in the name of the Council. Had he ever killed someone? Had he killed several someones? Had he made people disappear? Was his father really the sweet, honest, carefree man he remembered? Or was his father some kind of cold-hearted assassin, who used to fake nicey-nicey with him?
Thomas then began thinking about the personal implications in his great-grandfather’s telegram ‘as they may well demand of Ceidwadwy yet to come’. Would he ever be asked to carry out ‘the final edict’? Thomas knew he could never and would never commit murder. No sir. Not in any way, shape or form. But, then he figured his great-grandfather had probably taken the exact same standpoint in the beginning. He wondered what event could have possibly caused his great-grandfather to become cold enough to be able to commit murder, and if he himself would ever become that cold. In that moment, he wished with all his heart that Alex was there with him. He needed Alex more now than he had even needed him at the funeral, and Thomas felt Alex’s absence.
In spite of his shock, Thomas continued to read the documents stored in the folder . He thought that the telegram had been deplorable, but that was nothing compared to rest of what was in that folder.
It had been an unusually cold March and the land was covered in nearly eight inches of snow. The snow had started falling shortly before noon on the sixteenth and had fallen pretty much constantly for the past forty eight hours.
Bryn Jones had just arrived in London. He had received orders from the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau to follow a team of archaeologists whose recent activities had been escalated to the Council.
Professor Gillian Childs had been under observation by one of the Council’s academic spies for a little over a year and a half. She had been showing an unusual interest in the ancient Celtic languages of late, far beyond that required in her work on attempts at reconstructing the Proto-Indo-European language; work which had begun with Sir William Jones and Gaston-Laurent Coeurdoux in the eighteenth century. The work she had been doing on the reconstruction had been observed closely, and whilst her work is amazing and partially accurate, prior to now there had been nothing which had warranted concern or action from the Council.
However, her recent interests have lead to her being placed under much closer observation. She had lead several archaeological digs around Northern Scotland, including one rather large dig on the Isle of Skye in September of last year. She found numerous relics, artefacts and hundreds of coins; but it was one particular relic that attracted the attention of the Council. She had found The First Marker.
The First Marker is a four feet tall stone statue of the god Taranis, and it contains the first clue to the location of the tomb of Yddraigfawr. The Council had issued orders two hundred and twelve years ago for this statue to be destroyed, but it seemed as though somebody had decided to defy those orders.
The Council’s spy was initially unconcerned over the discovery, after all the Marker is covered in text in the Pictish language. However, instead of being written in the Roman alphabet as one would expect with Pictish, it is written in a coded version of the Ogham alphabet; a very easy cipher to crack for a follower, even more so since these kinds of codes feature prominently in children’s games. However, for someone with no knowledge of either, the text would be virtually impossible to crack; after all, the Pictish language has not been spoken aloud in about a thousand years and only a few scholars have any significant knowledge of the Ogham alphabet.
Professor Childs at first didn’t realise what she had found. The statue remained in a display case in a museum for about six months, being admired by the public for its beauty and ornate inscriptions. It was only after a chance visit by an Ogham scholar that she began to realise that she may well have made the archaeological find of the century, perhaps even the millennium.
Fortunately for the Council, though rather unfortunately for Professor Childs, one of the people she recruited to her research project was Jason Talides, one the Council’s many academic spies.
The project team consisted of twelve linguistics experts, and Jason was astonished when Professor Childs and the team had successfully decrypted the Marker in only sixty seven hours. It was far from a perfect translation, but it quickly became apparent that an imperfect translation was more than enough to zero in on the location of The Second Marker.
Report #10012 – Decryption of the writing from stone statue artefact Childs/Skye/#100/92
Date – Twelfth of March, 1922
After a gruelling sixty seven hours of work by the entire team on the decryption of the inscriptions with little to no sleep, we have successfully deciphered the writings on the statue.
Since the inscription is written in the Ogham alphabet the team and I naturally assumed that the text was going to be in Old Irish, but after a few wrong turns we realised it had to be Pictish. Nobody, not even our Ogham expert has ever heard of Pictish being written in this alphabet.
We are working under the assumption that this was done to attempt to confuse anyone who tried to translate it. Whatever lies at the end of this, must be truly remarkable for someone to have gone to these lengths.
There are several words which do not make any sense: Udraigfowd, Keidoadwy and Quavrinachau. I presume they are proper names of some description or another, but they do not seem to correspond to any known Celtic words or names that any members of the team have heard of. The rest of text makes a reference to a tomb or a cavern somewhere in the Chilterns, just to the west of London, where this Udraigfowr lives or resides. Three of the team who have a background in mathematics are working on narrowing down the precise area.
However, I don’t think our translation is completely accurate as some of the translated words yielded uncommon spellings for Celtic words that we are very familiar with. Therefore, I believe that “Udraigfowr”, “Keidoadwy” and “Quavrinachau” may not be the true spellings of these names – perhaps that is why I cannot find a name match in our linguistics records.
I am not sure what to expect when we arrive in the Chilterns, but we will leave in three days time. That should allow us enough time to get everything together. I will limit the expedition to myself plus seven others.
A copy of the full translation has been stored in file Childs/Skye/#100, along with a copy of the original text.
To: Council Leader Elizabeth Mary Tollin
From: Agent Jason Talides
Date: The twelfth day, of the month of March, in the Year of Our Lord 1922
The situation is growing is dim. It has only taken them three days to decrypt the Marker, even with my numerous attempts at sabotage. I have however been successful in keeping the proper names a partial secret; a very small success, in what has otherwise been an unmitigated disaster. They have been incorrectly translated as “Udraigfowd”, “Keidoadwy” and “Quavrinachau” instead of “Yddraigfawr”, “Ceidwadwy” and “Cyfrinachau”.
If Professor Childs is successful in discovering The Second Marker, she could become the greatest threat to the Council in the past thousand years.
Her and her team are due to arrive in London on the eighteenth of this month. My advice to the Council is to send the Ceidwadwy to monitor the situation, and to place the Yddraigfawr sanctuary on alert. We may possibly have to face the reality that the Final Edict may need to be carried out.
May the grace of Yddraigfawr protect us.
Bryn Jones had received Professor Child’s physical description from the Council, and he had picked up her trail easily enough; after all, an archaeological expeditionary team of eight scientists laden with equipment arriving in a snow covered London isn’t exactly a quiet affair. Professor Childs was five feet six, forty three years old, and prematurely going gray; however Bryn thought that the description provided by Agent Talides did not do her justice; to him Gillian Childs was nothing short of gorgeous.
To: Council Leader Elizabeth Mary Tollin
From: Ceidwadwy Bryn Jones
Date: The eighteenth day, of the month of March, in the Year of Our Lord 1922
I have had a confirmed sighting of Professor Childs and her team. They are due to leave for the Chilterns later on this afternoon. I will observe from a distance for now.
May the grace and benevolence of Yddraigfawr smile upon the success of this mission.
Bryn followed Professor Childs and her team to the Baker Street station. He descended the steps onto the platform, and observed her from a distance. The wait for the Metropolitan Railways train to Verney Junction station was brief, and Bryn boarded the same first class carriage as Professor Childs and her team, and took a seat at the opposite end of the carriage. Bryn concealed himself behind a broadsheet newspaper and settled in for the journey.
The journey out into the Chilterns was a rather uneventful hour and twenty minutes. The train slowly wound its way through Middlesex, up into Hertfordshire, and on into Buckinghamshire. Apart from making protracted stops at Sandy Lodge, Chorley Wood & Chenies, and Amersham & Chesham Bois, where the freezing cold wind and occasional dusting of snow would find its way into the train, the journey was quite comfortable
The train arrived at Wendover station just before three o’clock in the afternoon. Professor Childs and her team went to the B&B they had reserved rooms in, and Bryn moved into the hills to set about erecting his tent close to the final resting place of Yddraigfawr.
Once his tent was set up, he proceeded to the nearby shrine. He was greeted by the docent on duty and was escorted to the sacred alter, from where he could see the large skeletal remains of the cornerstone of his society.
After saying The Evening Ritual, he informed the guard to be on the lookout for the archaeologists over the coming days.
“Of course, Ceidwadwy. We have been on alert for twenty four hours having already been notified by the Council, but what action am I expected to take? I am a member of the clerical order, I am not a warrior.”
“You will defend the sanctuary as previous docents have; with your heart, your strength, and if necessary your life. Now please tell me that someone here had the sense to follow the Council’s orders and that The Second Marker was destroyed?”
“No such order regarding The Second Marker was ever issued. It was felt that with the destruction of The First Marker, it would not matter if The Second Marker was destroyed or not.”
“Complete bloody lunacy! The First Marker was never destroyed!”
The docent paled and collapsed into a nearby chair. “Wh-at? Then we have a serious problem.”
“No shit we have a serious problem! We’ve got a team of archaeologists who are going to be crawling all over these hills with a God damned microscope, trying to find this tomb. They decrypted The First Marker in three days and now you’re telling me that The Second Marker is in one piece! I’ll say we have a serious bloody problem!”
“It’s more serious than you think. The two markers serve as more than just a simple map to this tomb. This sanctuary is protected by ancient magic; magic which we no longer fully understand. Somehow, only a true believer is allowed to enter this tomb. In the past, non-believers have violated this sanctuary and the spirit of Yddraigfawr had seen the evil in their hearts, she knew they were unbelievers and she struck them down. We have no understanding of how; there is nothing in any of the ancient texts which explains this magic.
“You see, the two marker stones are imbued with that same magic. In ancient times, whenever outsiders were initiated into the order they were brought before Yddraigfawr, and they carried with them the two marker stones as a sign of their faith in, and their allegiance to, her. When the two marker stones are joined together, their magic will protect the bearer’s true heart from being seen; they will be able to enter this tomb and our other sanctuaries with impunity.”
“Jesus Christ! What the hell are you lot playing at! Do you think that the Council issues orders for sheer damned hell of it! When the Council tells you to jump, you ask how high and how many times! If I ever find out you or anybody else has defied an order from the Council I will personally make that individual pay.”
The snow had continued to fall all afternoon and evening. By the time Bryn left Yddraigfawr’s tomb, the temperature had dropped below freezing and his breath was visible as he exhaled. Although he had not emotionally calmed down one iota since losing his temper with the docent an hour ago, the chill night air was beginning to help him regain his composure.
He settled into his tent for the night, ate what passed as supper, and fell into a light slumber. Bryn had never been a deep sleeper; in fact, it was joked that he slept with one eye open.
Bryn followed the archaeology team closely for the next three days.
To: Council Leader Elizabeth Mary Tollin
From: Ceidwadwy Bryn Jones
Date: The nineteenth day, of the month of March, in the Year of Our Lord 1922
The docent here at Yddraigfawr’s tomb has informed me that The Second Marker remains intact. He has claimed that the Council did not issue orders to have the Second Marker destroyed; I do not know whether to believe him or not.
I had thought the Council to be more diligent, I would suggest a thorough review of orders issued by the Council of the time to ensure that there was total compliance with orders issued. I realise this review will need to wait until the current crisis has been resolved, but it should be tabled to the next Council session.
The mystic powers he has told me that these two stones contain is shocking. I have read nothing of this in the Council’s archives, so I don’t know whether his claims are factual, or if they the stuff of myths and legends handed down by the priesthood. Though I have seen much in my thirty eight years as Ceidwadwy, so cannot simply dismiss his claims. Do these Markers really grant the bearer’s heart protection from being read by the spirit of Yddraigfawr? I hope not.
The archaeology team have been mapping out the local area, but in spite of them conducting an extensive search, they have not located The Second Marker.
The situation continues to be monitored.
May the grace and benevolence of Yddraigfawr smile upon the success of this mission.
To: Agent Jason Talides
From: Ceidwadwy Bryn Jones
Date: The nineteenth day, of the month of March, in the Year of Our Lord 1922
Professor Childs and her team remain under close observation. You have performed your duties well in alerting us to the situation.
She will not succeed in her sacrilege.
To: Council Leader Elizabeth Mary Tollin
From: Ceidwadwy Bryn Jones
Date: The twentieth day, of the month of March, in the Year of Our Lord 1922
The weather here is becoming a serious concern. The snow stopped briefly late last night, however it resumed a few hours ago with a vengeance. I have never seen the weather this bad, and I fear this to be a dark omen from Yddraigfawr.
The archaeology team have extended the size of the ground in their search for The Second Marker; they are now searching as far away as Great Missenden and Stoke Mandeville.
It seems that Professor Childs translation from The First Marker may well have been inaccurate enough to save us; God I hope so.
May the grace and benevolence of Yddraigfawr smile upon the success of this mission.
To: Thomas Jones
From: Bryn Jones
Date: The twentieth day, of the month of March, in the Year of Our Lord 1922
My eldest son, I must apologise for missing your birthday. Today represents your first step towards becoming a man; today you turn thirteen.
I would give anything to be with you this day, but where I have been sent, and what I must do, I have to believe is for the benefit of our way of life.
No matter what happens this day, no matter what I do this day, no matter what you hear about what happens, I ask that you remember one thing. I love you with as much love as any father has ever given to his child.
I hope to be with you before the end of this month, and with Yddraigfawr as my witness, I promise you my son, with all that I am, that I will make amends for missing this most important of days.
My love and my thoughts are with you as always
The afternoon of the twenty first finally saw the end of the snowfall. The Chilterns had been subjected to one hundred and fifteen hours of near constant snowfall; forty three inches of snowfall in five days. Bryn Jones had been awake since five o’clock, and after performing The Morning Ritual resumed his pursuit of Professor Childs and her team.
Bryn heard a loud yell from a nearby thicket. “Professor Childs! I’ve found something!”
From his position, he could tell it was another statue, but he was too far away to identify it. It may have been an ordinary statue that had been located after all there were literally thousands of these statues scattered all over the British Isles. Bryn could not make a move until he was sure it was The Second Marker; intolerable mistakes had been made in the past, mistakes which Bryn had pledged on the lives of his children he would not repeat.
“Let me have look.” Dr Marcon handed the statue to Professor Childs. “I think we’ve found what we have been looking for. See here . . . the writing in the Ogham alphabet.”
“Yes, Professor. Though I don’t recognise the god-form.”
“I can’t be sure, but it looks like Cailleach; a Celtic goddess primarily worshipped in Ireland and Scotland. She is the only Celtic deity I can think of who appears like this; as a cloaked figure similar to how we anthropomorphise Death.”
As soon as he heard the names “Cailleach” and “Ogham”, Bryn knew that The Second Marker had been discovered. He had a brief flashback to his childhood and being told about the Toron-Galar1 Stone which was the original symbol of the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau and a source of great power. Without needing to see the statue up close for himself, he knew that Professor Childs had to be correct; The Second Marker would indeed be a statue of the goddess Cailleach.
Bryn knew he was now faced with the most difficult decision, not just of his time as Ceidwadwy but of his entire life. However, the decision had of course already been made for him. It had been made on that fateful rainy September day; back when Alexandrina Victoria was still on the throne of the United Kingdom not yet having celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, and William Ewart Gladstone served as her prime minister; back when a much younger Bryn Jones had pledged to serve the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau as Ceidwadwy.
Bryn immediately despatched a telegram to the Council informing them of Professor Child’s discovery. He also returned to Yddraigfawr’s tomb and informed the duty docent.
“What do you plan to do about it, Ceidwadwy?”
“What our laws require me to do.”
“You cannot seriously mean the Final Edict! Surely, there are other possibilities? Are you not jumping the gun? Perhaps these people will not be able to decipher The Second Marker?”
“Professor Childs deciphered The First Marker in under three days. The cipher on The Second Marker is not as complex and so she and her team could well be here tomorrow. Do you really want to take that chance?”
“I just think it to be a little extreme. We’ve simply held these kinds of people in one of our sanctuaries until they have died naturally in the past. Can we not do that here?”
“If it was just Professor Childs on her own, then perhaps. However, there are eight of them. How would you propose we abduct eight people without having a small army?”
“I just don’t like the idea of murder.”
“I can sympathise, I don’t like it any more than you do, but needs must when the Devil drives. I will need to be able to dispose of the bodies, and ideas?”
“If it were only one person, I would suggest leaving them on the hillside and it would be assumed they died of hyperthermia. But given that there is a group of them, the only way to ensure they are not found would be to bury them here in the sanctuary. The Chilterns are regularly subjected to archaeological investigation by both professionals and amateurs, and so there would be a high risk of a mass grave being found.”
“That is an idea I find detestable. How dare you have the temerity to suggest such sacrilege!”
“It would not be sacrilege. There is a small section deep within this tomb known as ‘Mae Pwll y Cablwr’, which means ‘The Pit of the Blasphemer’. It has not been used in almost seventy years, but it has served as a burial place for those the Council did not wish to be found. I do not even know who on the Council remembers its existence.”
“I have never been told of this by the Council, but since it has not been used in so long I suppose this is one of place s the Council has tried to forget about. How many are buried there, docent?”
“I do not know. This tomb has stood here for two hundred and eighty years and the ‘The Pit of the Blasphemer’ contains a small dedication dating from two hundred and twelve years ago. So in all this time, given some of the things the Council has done during this time period, there could be thousands of skeletons back there.”
“Make preparations to have eight more added to that tally. I shall return around midnight.”
The docent was shocked at Bryn’s cavalier way of saying he was going off to kill eight people and telling the docent he will be an accomplice before, to and after the fact. The docent was far from stupid; he knew of things that had been done in the name of Yddraigfawr over the millennia. His own father had told him of atrocities he had borne witness to, and of atrocities he had helped to cover up. However, the docent believed that now we were in the twentieth century there would be no more killings, no more covering up killings, no more absolute allegiance to Yddraigfawr; looks like he was mistaken.
Bryn decided to wait until nightfall to act; after all mass murder in broad daylight is likely to draw unwanted attention.
He had kept the team under surveillance for the rest of the day and into the early evening. Even though Bryn knew the entire archaeology team would be dead before the next morning, he was still Ceidwadwy; the Council would expect a full report from him concerning Professor Child’s achievements and a full report the Council would receive.
He overheard conversation after conversation among the team and it became clear that they were about to crack the cipher on The Second Marker. Bryn began to find a new found respect for Professor Childs; after all she had only had The Second Marker for a little over six hours and she was about to crack a two thousand year old code in a language she had never heard spoken aloud before written in an alphabet she never knew existed until a month ago. There were those on the Council who took longer to break some of the ancient codes; even today there still remain dozens of encrypted folios which the Council has not been able to decipher. Material which perhaps hold the deepest secrets of the early Councils; material which perhaps hold the truth about the origin of dragons; material which perhaps even answer that age old question which has plagued the various sects for three thousand years, “Where did Yddraigfawr first appear?”. And here was Bryn, Ceidwadwy, sworn protector of the dragons, their eggs, and the Council, about to take the life of the very person who might just be able to crack those ancient ciphers. Even though he was a devout follower and was well aware of his duty in this matter, the irony of the situation was not lost on him. He was even considering including this observation in his final report the Council; though if he did that then it may very well be his final report the Council.
“Professor Childs, look at this.”
“What is it Mike?”
“Well, this is a statue of a goddess who was primarily worshipped in Scotland and Ireland, it is written in that Ogham alphabet, but the language is being decrypted as Breton. You realise what this implies Professor?”
“I do. Perhaps the similarities among the Celtic languages and Celtic religions run far deeper than a simple shared parent tongue and shared cultural heritage. Perhaps the relationships between the various regions of the Celtic world were far closer in the first millennium AD than our historical records indicate. Perhaps even the writing of the Breton language in an Irish alphabet suggests some kind of formal relationship between these two Celtic peoples.”
“Exactly. Also don’t forget that we found the language on that first statue was Pictish. I’d be amazed if this kind of relationship was limited to these three Celtic groups. I wonder if there was actually some kind of United Nations or something among the various Celtic nations?”
Professor Childs giggled at Mike’s suggestion. “Oh, Mike. You really are priceless. A United Celtic Nations. It does have a nice feel to it, but I seriously doubt it. After all, there would be archaeological evidence of such a formalised relationship wouldn’t there?”
“Perhaps. But bear in mind that we have only just unearthed these two statues which have remained buried for who knows how long. Pictish has been extinct for a thousand years and I seriously doubt anybody has written anything using the Ogham alphabet this side of Charlemagne. What if most of the evidence has simply become lost over time?”
Bryn had heard enough. Professor Childs and this ‘Mike’ she was talking to were beginning to have ideas about things they had no business having ideas about. This conversation only served to reinforce Bryn’s resolve to carry out The Final Edict.
When he set out on this mission he knew that he may be called upon to eliminate the threat to Yddraigfawr, and so he had come prepared.
When he saw the team were preparing their evening meal, he waited for his opening and it finally came. He snuck over to the now unguarded cooking pot and emptied a vial into the stew.
The liquid in the vial was a poison as old as Yddraigfawr Herself. It was called Mae Gwaed y Calon, The Blood of The Heart; supposedly distilled from the blood which had flowed through the hearts of dragons. It was the most poisonous substance known to the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau (if not to the whole of mankind), and it had the huge advantage of being odourless, colourless, tasteless and was undetectable at post mortem by any known methods; the perfect assassination weapon. This poison was relatively slow acting taking about fifteen minutes to kill, but once poisoned, every victim will succumb to its effects as there is no known antidote; and the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau have certainly not devoted any time or resources to developing one.
Bryn sat back in the shadows and watched as the archaeology team under Professor Childs enjoyed their evening meal together. He began calculating how much longer they would take to die as each new symptom became evident.
First came the dry mouth. ‘Twelve minutes to go,’ Bryn thought to himself.
Next came the muscle weakness. ‘Ten minutes to go.’ Bryn watched as the team collapsed, no longer able to stand.
Then the nausea kicked in, and Bryn could hear the dry retching. ‘Eight minutes to go’.
The stomach pains started as he heard the moans and groans coming from the camp. ‘Six minutes to go.’
He knew when the fever had started because he could hear the team complaining about the heat, and from his vantage point he could also see them sweating. "Four minutes left," Bryn said to himself in a barely audible whisper.
When he saw the convulsions start he knew the team only had two minutes left to live. At this point Bryn left his hidey-hole and entered the camp. He made his way over to Professor Childs.
“Professor Childs, my name is Bryn Jones. You and your team have stumbled upon a secret that has been kept hidden for over three millennia.” Gillian Childs lifted her head to the voice, but was unable to speak. “Professor, do not try to speak, just listen. You and your team are dying, and I reckon you have about ninety seconds left. I wanted to let you know what you and your team die for this day, why our great Council has decreed you and your kind are to die. You seen Professor, dragons are real creatures. I am their keeper and the protector of the last remaining dragon egg in existence.”
Professor Child’s eyes were wide, but whether that was from the poison that was slowly killing her, slowly boiling her internal organs as her temperature passed the 105 oF mark, or whether it was from she had just been told Bryn did not know. “Your colleague, Mike I believe his name is, was entirely correct in what he said earlier. There was once a unified Council with representatives from all of the Celtic nations. There is so much more I wish I could tell you, but unfortunately our time is up.”
As Gillian Childs starting taking her final few breaths on this Earth she heard the voice with the Welsh accent saying a prayer for her. The prayer he said for her was based around Psalm 25. It was the traditional prayer used by members of the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau to honour someone who had died for the cause, for a martyr; this was the first time it had ever been said for someone who would be deemed a heretic.
“Heavenly Father, please accept the soul of Professor Gillian Annabelle Rosalyn Childs into Thy tender merciful care. Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up the soul of Gillian Childs. O my God, I trust in Thee to protect her for evermore. Remember not the sins nor the transgressions of Gillian Childs in her youth. According to Thy mercy, remember your faithful servant Gillian Childs. Remember, O Lord, Thy tender mercies and Thy loving kindnesses. The eyes of Gillian Childs are ever toward Thee, O Lord. In the name of Professor Gillian Annabelle Rosalyn Childs I beseech Thee O Heavenly Father, grant this request. In the name of Your most humble servant Bryn Morgan Jones, I beseech Thee O Heavenly Father, grant this request. Grant the soul of the dearly departed Gillian Annabelle Rosalyn Childs a place in Your Kingdom, and a seat at Your table. Amen.”
Story note 1: Toron-Galar is formed from two words. “Toron” which is a contraction of the name “Toronos” (the Celtic god of thunder), and “Galar” which is the Gaelic word for disease (Cailleach was the Celtic goddess of disease and plague)
“Jesus fucking Christ, Jesus fucking Christ” Thomas whispered to himself. The blood had drained from his face and he felt nauseous.
“Thomas, what are you reading?” The First Servant had re-entered the office without Thomas hearing.
“This!” Thomas threw the folio over to the First Servant.
The First Servant glanced at the front and realised exact what Thomas had just read. “Oh Thomas, I’m so sorry. Nobody should have to find out something like this on their own. I had planned on telling you, but I wanted to prepare you first.”
“How the fuck do you prepare someone to hear shit like this! Jesus Christ, this fucking shit is warped! How the fuck could he do that!”
“Thomas, have a seat and try to calm down. I know what you have just read is very upsetting, but if you calm down I will explain what happened in more detail.”
Thomas sat down and took a few deep breaths; that was all it took for his emotional dam to break and he began weeping. “Forgive me First Servant. I had no right to address you in that manner.”
“There is nothing to forgive, Thomas. Your outburst, whilst colourful, is understandable.” The First Servant then went over to Thomas and did something he hadn’t done in years, he hugged Thomas.
Thomas slowly regained his composure, dried his eyes, and blew his nose.
“Feel better now Thomas?”
“A little, thank you.”
The First Servant poured Thomas a glass of water from the pitcher on the table. “There is a lot that happened following Bryn Jones’ actions on that day that is not contained in the folio. When he returned to the Pen-Y-Fal sanctuary and informed the Council about what had happened, they were sickened. The Council members demanded that an immediate inquiry be held, and since it carried the unanimous support of the other council members, Council Leader Elizabeth Tollin had no choice, but to acquiesce.
“The investigations revealed a disturbing side to Bryn Jones’ personality. It was discovered he suffered from severe mental health issues, the least of which were acute paranoia and extreme xenophobia. There was also some debate as to whether these were caused or exacerbated by the time he spent in the army serving during The Boer War, and The First World; he had joined the army with his two brothers at the age of thirteen in the early 1890s. He lost his first brother at the Battle of Belmont in 1899, and the other brother died during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. It was also determined that as a result of his mental health issues he had taken the religious aspect of our order, as an absolute doctrine, and anybody who didn’t believe the same thing deserved to die.”
“Dear God, I have never heard anything so fucked up in my life,” Thomas said.
“I know Thomas. Further investigations showed that both Jason Talides and Elizabeth Tollin had been complicit in many of his activities, and had actually preyed on his mental health issues, making him more pliable and willing to carry out commands. Once the full facts had come out, both Bryn Jones and Elizabeth Tollin were arrested for their crimes; Jason Talides took his own life rather than face the judgement of the Council. Obviously, we could turn none of them over to the police, but we charged Bryn with eight counts of premeditated murder and he was held in a mental health facility, where he died fourteen years later.”
“Dear Christ in Heaven.”
“I appreciate he was your great-grandfather, Thomas, and I’m sorry to be telling you these things. This was why I wanted to try and prepare you first.”
“I’ll be all right. What about the leader of the Council?”
“Elizabeth Tollin’s crimes were much more severe. She was charged with perverting our laws, concealing evidence from the Council, conspiracy to commit murder, plotting and planning murder, being an accessory before the fact, being an accessory after the fact, perverting the course of justice and half a dozen other crimes.”
“What happened to her, First Servant?”
“She was executed for her crimes.”
“Fucking hell! How could the Council stoop to her level?”
“You need to remember Thomas, the Chiltern Massacre as it became known, occurred in 1922. At that time, under the laws of His Majesty’s Government of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, she had done more than enough to warrant the death sentence. Once the actions of Bryn Jones and Mary Tollin had been made known to the other sects, they were repulsed and they demanded the right to try her saying we couldn’t be trusted to render a true and honest verdict. However, once the guilty verdicts were announced, the other sects demanded that we adhere to the laws of our country as a sign of contrition; it was actually the first thing all of the Councils had agreed on in nearly three hundred years.
“Once the trial was over, the Council realised that it was necessary to do something, anything, for the families of Bryn’s victims. We ensured the skeletal remains of the entire expeditionary team were discovered, and they each received a funeral in accordance with their respective religious observances. Also by that time, we had managed to have a loyal Council member appointed as curator of the museum that the team had worked in. We informed the families that the museum ensured all of its employees had a life insurance policy with a value of £3000.”
“That’s not much for a human life, First Servant.”
“Again you forget Thomas, this was 1923. The £3000 that went to each of the families is today worth around £120000. We also arranged for a wing in the museum to be renamed in memory of Professor Childs. We were fortunate, that much of this went under the radar of both the media and the academic communities, largely because Tutankhamen’s tomb had been discovered a few months previous and stories still dominated the media.”
“How come none of this is the folio? Just having the folio as it is implies that the Council was complicit and even supported their actions.”
“The folios kept in here only contain the facts of events. But I keep them close to remind me of the dangers of a belief becoming a rigid, unforgiving doctrine. They remind me of mistakes past, mistakes which I hope I, nor you, nor this Council ever repeats. As an order, we have slowly lost the religious aspect of our beliefs and my last wish as First Servant is to see the religious aspect die out completely.”
Thomas was shocked by the First Servant’s statement. “How can you, the First Servant, say that?”
“Thomas, when Yddraigfawr first appeared the Celtic nation worshipped the old deities, and so it was only natural she would be viewed as a religious icon. Slowly, with the decline of the old religions, the advent of Christianity, the discovery of the earthly remains of Yddraigfawr, the religious aspect of our order slowly diminished. As I told you earlier, my role has become much more like that of a museum curator. I don’t think there is a single member, on any of the councils, who is not a member of one faith or another. I was baptised Church of England, I know you and your parents were baptised Catholic, we have several members who follow Judaism; I doubt there is a single follower left who strictly follows our religion.”
“But if our religion died out, what would be left? I’m not saying I’ve been a devout follower, after all, as you said, I was raised a Catholic, but we have followed those observances which did not conflict with our religious beliefs in Jesus and in God.”
“What would be left Thomas is precisely what we should be following; a simple message of love, compassion, and caring. But it grows late, time to turn in, I think.”
“Agreed. Sleep well, First Servant.”
“You too, Thomas. I will see you in the morning.”
“Are you OK, Alex?”
“I don’t know, Mum. I just got this feeling all of a sudden, like someone was walking over my grave.”
“Come on, it’s getting late. Off to bed. You’ve got to be up early tomorrow, if you plan to meet Nancy at the library at eight.”
“Night Mum.” Alex kissed him mum goodnight and went to bed.
Before he fell asleep, he pulled his diary out. He re-read his entry from that morning, and then began writing.
April 12th – additional entry
I managed not to think about Thomas for nearly two hours today. I managed to focus on the revision we did, and I actually manage to remember the material we looked at. I do miss Thomas, but I’ve survived for three days without him, so there’s hope for me. Right?
Discuss the story here
“Alex, telephone for you.”
“Thanks, Mum. Hello?”
“Alex, hi it’s Thomas.”
Those four small words sent Alex’s heart fluttering.
“Alex? You there?”
“I’m here, sw . . . so when you coming back?” Alex blushed as he realised he had come to within a hair’s width of calling Thomas ‘sweetie’. Part of him desperately wanted to just say ‘Get your sweet buns back here now so I can ravage you’, but he was managing to contain himself.
There was a brief pause at the other end of the line. Had Thomas picked up on what Alex had almost said? He couldn’t have, after all it was only a slight slip. “I’ll be home about nine o’clock tonight. I’ve got a few more things to do here, but I’ll ring when I’m leaving.”
“How come I haven’t heard from you sooner?” Alex hoped that Thomas couldn’t hear the desperate loneliness in his tone. Thomas had now been gone for just over a week, and Alex truly felt as though a part of himself was missing; he could see the hole in his heart where Thomas usually resided.
Again, there was a brief pause. “Erm . . . Well . . . Since we’re in the middle of nowhere here, the mobile reception is awful. I’ve had to journey into town to get any kind of reception, but I wanted to talk to you to let you know I’ll be home soon.”
“How have you been?”
“I’ve been OK; there have been a few shocks . . . but apart from that not bad.”
Alex knew there was more to this than Thomas was telling him. He could hear the sadness in Thomas’ voice, and Alex knew it was more than just due to his father’s passing. “Look, could you ask your mum if she could pick me up at Euston station. My train gets in just after half past eight.”
Thomas heard a whispered conversation on the other end of the line. “Of course, Mum will pick you up. She said ‘How could she say no to her son?’”
“Tell her thanks. See you soon Alex.”
“See you soon, Thomas.” As soon as both boys had hung up, Alex whispered into the telephone “See you soon, my sweetheart,” and flushed a deep crimson.
“How did it go Thomas?”
“It went well, First Servant. I’ve really missed Alex and I want to thank you for allowing me to ring him, and let him know I’ll be home soon. I could tell he’s really missed me too.”
“You have been here for a week now Thomas, and you have seen much, and you have learned much. There is still so much for you to learn, so much for you to see, but to learn and see everything we have, would take a lifetime.
“As I said to you a few days ago, I want you to take the true spirit of Yddraigfawr with you when you leave here; I want you to take her love and her compassion and her understanding. I beg you not to repeat the mistakes of our past.”
“I won’t, I promise you that.” Thomas let out a deep sigh.
“You are still concerned about keeping this from your friend and his mother?”
“I am. I know I must keep this secret, but I will be honest with you First Servant, I do not know if my heart will allow me to deceive those I hold dear. Alex’s mum just called me her son, how can I betray the love she is offering?” Thomas allowed a tear to fall, as his emotions overcame him.
“Thomas, I offer you a ray of hope. I have researched the archives after our talk the other day. There is indeed a way for you to be able to tell Alex, and eventually his mother, about who you are, and about us. It was never explicitly spelled out in our codices, as this event was never anticipated, which probably explains why you never saw it during your own researches. However, as bizarre as it sounds, it was the actions of Bryn Jones which ultimately allowed for this to happen. I suppose one small amount of happiness may come from his evil.”
Over the next hour and a half, the First Servant proceeded to tell Thomas about what he had discovered. During the discussion Thomas went from being despondent, to being hopeful, to being pleased and finally to feeling totally ecstatic. At the end of their discussion, he lost all sense of decorum and wrapped the First Servant in a deep hug, and thanked him for all he had done.
“It was my pleasure Thomas. I only ask one favour?”
Thomas, realising he was still constricted around the aged First Servant, quickly released him. “I’m sorry, First Servant. I don’t know what came over me. I promise not to do that again.”
“That is quite all right, young man. However, that was not that favour. I ask that if you decide to go through with this, that when the time comes, you allow me to perform the ritual.”
“You have my word First Servant.”
“Now, the time grows late. We have one final stop to make before you leave.”
The pair slowly walked deep into the catacombs, passing effigy after effigy of Ceidwadwy, First Servants and council members who had served with honour.
“I’ve never been down here before,” said Thomas.
“Very few have. Only the First Servant and Ceidwadwy are permitted down here. It is where you shall finally receive that which you are now responsible for.”
As they entered a large chamber, they passed by a life-sized marble statue of Yddraigfawr, reared up on her two hind legs, with her wings unfurled, and sporting two large rubies for eyes. Thomas and the First Servant said the ritual prayer of thanks for her showing the Celts the path to happiness and love. There was a large altar in the centre of the room, with a purple cloth covering it, candles at both ends, and a very ornate centrepiece holding a multi-coloured egg.
“Thomas, in times past, there was a long drawn out ritual for this event. However, I wish to see an end to such nonsense. So as I did with your father, so shall I do with you.”
The First Servant approached the altar, and lifted an egg, about half the size of an ostrich’s egg. Thomas had seen this egg before, as until recently, it had been his father’s responsibility to watch over and protect. The egg was an unusual mix of colour for a dragon’s egg with patches of green, blue, red and yellow; typically they would be one colour (either green or blue) with a mottled pattern of either purple or orange; dependent upon the species.
“Thomas Taliesin Llewellyn, the one hundred and twelfth Ceidwadwy, I bestow unto thee the last remaining dragon egg. You are to guard this egg with your life and your honour.” The First Servant placed the egg inside a box made from pewter, which had been lined with purple velvet. He locked the box and handed it and the key over to Thomas. “Thomas Taliesin Llewellyn, you are now truly Ceidwadwy. May Yddraigfawr’s love and guidance, be a shining star on your path. You have a question, I can see it.”
“I was just wondering about the colouring of the egg. I have seen the egg before, and so was aware of its unusual colouration for a dragon’s egg. My question is why the colouring is so different from the eggs I have seen in our books?”
“Thomas, you have never seen an egg this early in its cycle. All dragons’ eggs have this type of colouring during the first one hundred and fifty years of the cycle. Once the larva reaches the second stage of growth, the egg will change colouration into the more familiar patterns you have seen, sometime between one hundred sixty and one hundred ninety years after having been laid. It is that colouration change which in ages past allowed us to guesstimate the age of a dragon’s egg, and hence allow for a reasonable formation of a hatching date.”
“That was how you knew the egg would not hatch during my lifetime.”
“Partially. However, in recent times a much more accurate record of egg-laying has been kept, especially now that the dragon are all but extinct; so we know the precise date and time of day that this egg was hatched. And unless this egg contains two larvae as we all hope, then we are looking at the last ever dragon egg.”
“That would mean their extinction First Servant.”
“It would indeed Thomas, the extinction of a great race. But come Thomas, you have a train to catch. Let us not dwell upon such sad tidings before you depart”
Thomas collected his bag at the entrance to the sanctuary, said goodbye to everyone and made his way to the village at Llanbedr, where would be catching the Arriva Wales train as far as Wolverhampton. The train was on time, and Thomas sat back and prepared himself for the long three and half hour journey – most of which would be through the Welsh countryside. About half-way to Wolverhampton, as the train sat in Machynlleth station, Thomas curled up in his very uncomfortable seat, and dozed off. He slept for the remainder of his journey and almost missed his stop, but the conductor on the train remembered he was getting off at Wolverhampton, so woke Thomas to inform his the train was arriving at his station.
Thomas had about a half hour wait for his train to Euston, so he grabbed a coffee and a danish, and waited. The Virgin train pulled onto the platform about ten minutes before it was due to depart, and Thomas boarded; very thankful he had booked a first class seat, after his uncomfortable three and half hours riding from Llanbedr in cattle class.
As soon as the train left Wolverhampton station, the Virgin Trains staff started coming around handing out snacks and drinks. The journey was just under two hours, but since Thomas felt so comfortable and was constantly plied with coffee, the two hours flew by and before he knew it, the train was arriving in London Euston.
Alex’s mum was waiting by the side entrance of the station as agreed since it was always quieter than the main entrance, and as soon as Thomas saw her, he ran into her arms and hugged her.
“I’ve missed you Thomas.”
“I’ve missed you too.”
“Come on, there’s somebody at home who has missed you more than I did, and is waiting to see you.”
Thomas’ heart began beating faster as he thought of Alex, and of what the First Servant had told him. How could Thomas even begin to have such a discussion with Alex; it was insane, it was completely ridiculous. Thomas had been running through conversations for the past six hours and they all end up with Alex either saying he never wanted to see Thomas again, or Alex becoming physically violent and then saying he never wanted to see Thomas again. Alex had never physically attacked anyone or anything in his life, so quite why the Alex in his mind was so dangerous, Thomas didn’t know. Perhaps, he was simply trying to scare himself into knowing if he truly wanted to proceed with the ritual or not, to know if he really wanted tell Alex the truth and risk everything that came with it. For telling Alex everything, would change their relationship in ways Thomas couldn’t even calculate; Alex would become privy to probably the best kept secret known to mankind. Alex would see the darkness and the horrors that Thomas has come to know, and he was so afraid that Alex would judge him based on what those who came before him had done.
They pulled up in front of the house a little before nine o’clock and Alex came running out to greet Thomas. He hugged Thomas so tightly he might have cracked a rib or two.
“Oh, Thomas. I have missed you so much.”
“And I have missed you Alex.”
“Come on you two, I’ll have dinner ready in about half an hour. Thomas I want you to put your bag in Alex’s room for now as I haven’t had a chance to make up the spare room.”
Alex and Thomas went up to his room to put Thomas’ stuff away.
“Thomas there is something I need to tell you.”
“And there is something I need to tell you, Alex.”
“Thomas, let me go first. I need to tell you this before I chicken out, like I have done before, on so many occasions.”
“OK, Alex, I can wait. Go ahead.”
Alex took a deep breath and thought to himself ‘Oh God, I can’t believe I’m about to do this I must be insane’. “Thomas, we’ve been friends for more years than I can remember, and I know we’ve always told each other everything, but I’ve kept something from you. I don’t know why I have; I’ve just been so scared to tell you.”
“It’s all right Alex, take a deep breath. Nothing can be as bad you think it is.” Thomas then thought to himself, ‘Yeah right. If you think you’ve got something to tell, just wait until you find out about my little bombshell. Trust me; nothing you can tell me is even going to come close’.
“Thomas . . . Thomas . . . .”
“Alex, just tell me. Please.”
“Thomas, I’m gay.”
Thomas’ mouth fell wide open and the shock was evident.
“Thomas, I’m gay, and what’s more, I’m in love with you.”
“Huh. You’re what?” More shock on Thomas’ part. His head started reeling, flashing back on all those things that seemed innocuous at the time, all suddenly having double meanings.
“I’m in love with you, Thomas.”
Thomas just sat in stunned silence. Alex could feel his heart ripping in two, his emotional turmoil over the past week became too much, and he started sobbing. He knew that he had just made the biggest mistake of his life and there was no way for him to undo the damage.
Alex, still crying, got up off the bed and went to leave; he needed to escape from the embarrassment.
Alex ignored Thomas and made a grab for the handle to his bedroom door.
Alex felt a hand on his arm, trying to turn him around, but he shrugged it off.
“Alexander, look at me.”
Alex turned around at hearing Thomas use his full name; he had always been Alex to Thomas, he had never once been called Alexander; until now.
Alex refused to look Thomas in the face; he didn’t want Thomas to know he was still crying. “Thomas, just let me be.”
Thomas placed a hand under Alex’s chin, and lifted it up to face him; the look on Alex’s face was heartbreaking. “Oh Alex, come here.”
Thomas wrapped his arms around Alex, and Alex’s emotional dam, which until now was just about holding, finally burst. Alex’s tears flowed as Thomas held him, while quietly crying his own river. Time passed, Thomas had no idea how long, when he heard Alex’s breathing slow and realised he had cried himself asleep. Thomas laid him in his bed, covered him with the blanket, and kissed him on the forehead.
Thomas was sitting on the bed, looking down at Alex, and was just brushing a stray lock of hair out of Alex’s closed eyes, when he heard a knock on the bedroom door. He looked up just as Alex’s mum entered. She saw Alex asleep in the bed and the look on Thomas’ face, and had a pretty good idea what must have happened.
“Dinner’s ready Thomas.”
“I don’t want to leave him Joanne.”
“Come on Thomas, you need to eat, and I’ll keep Alex’s dinner warm for him.”
Thomas reluctantly went into the dining room and sat down. Joanne had prepared roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, roast parsnips and carrots. Although he was hungry and hadn’t eaten properly since breakfast early that morning, he only picked at his plate.
Joanne saw this and asked, “What’s up Thomas?”
“I . . . erm . . . I didn’t handle a situation with Alex particularly well.”
“So, I take it that he told you?”
“Told me what?”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about Thomas.”
“You mean you know that he is gay?”
“Of course I know Thomas, a mother knows these things; though I like to think I also know you really well Thomas. I can’t imagine you’d have a problem with Alexander being gay.”
“I don’t. It just . . . it really threw me when he told me that . . . told me that . . . shit, I can’t even say it! He told me he’s in love with me.” He realised there was no sign of surprise on Joanne’s face.
“Yeah, I knew that as well Thomas.”
“All I had to do was see the way he looks at you, Thomas. We’ve also discussed it a few times over the past week. I don’t think you realise just how bad he’s got it.”
Thomas’ head was reeling. Not only was he dealing with the fact that Alex had told him he was in love with him, he was now sitting at the dinner table casually discussing it with Alex’s mum.
“I really blew it Joanne. That look on Alex’s face after he told me, God that look will haunt me. I mean, I just sat there, with my mouth open, I didn’t respond at all. I never even saw this coming. How could I have not seen it?”
“Thomas honey, you’re being too hard on yourself. You never noticed it, because you obviously never looked for it. You never saw it coming, again because I don’t think you were looking for it. If you’ve never thought about Alex that way, then of course this is going to be shock. But you need to talk to him, and you need to be honest with him. You need to put any sense of embarrassment about another boy being in love with you aside, you need to ignore your discomfort at your best friend being in love with you, and you need to be honest and open with him.”
They heard the upstairs toilet flush, meaning Alex had to have woken up. “Go on Thomas, now is a good a time as any.”
Thomas had a thousand conversations running through his head; quite how he was going to deal with this, he had no idea. He knocked on the door to Alex’s bedroom.
“Come in.” Thomas slowly opened the door and went in.
“Why’d you knock? This your room for tonight as well.”
“I didn’t want to just barge in. We need to talk, but first I wanted to say I’m so sorry for the way I reacted earlier.”
“I know I dropped a couple of bombshells on you. You have nothing to apologise for.”
“Alex, I need to you to know that my reaction was not to you telling me that you are gay. You need to understand I don’t care if you are gay, straight, bi-sexual or whatever; who you choose to love has nothing to do with who you are as a person. You are a kind and gentle person, who I have felt honoured to call a friend. We’ve both been there for each other at our happiest moments, but we’ve also been there for each other through our deepest pits of despair. I don’t know how I would have survived after my mum died from pancreatic cancer five years ago without you.”
“Then you have a problem with how I feel about you Tomas. Thanks a fucking bunch for that.”
“Oh, Alex.” Thomas sat down on the bed next to him, took Alex’s hands in his own, and looked down at their hands held together. “I was surprised when you told me, because I’d never even thought about you like that.”
“What are you saying?”
“What I’m saying Alex is that I’m gay as well. I never thought about you like that, not that I didn’t want to, but I wouldn’t let myself. You need to understand I didn’t want to complicate our friendship by even thinking about going down this route; your friendship means more than anything to me. I would never want to do anything to risk losing your friendship.”
“Thomas you don’t need to tell me a load of lies to try and placate me. You’re no more gay than I am straight!”
“Then perhaps this will convince you.” Thomas placed his hands on Alex’s face and leaned in. He slowly licked Alex’s lips, rubbed their noses together, and then kissed him tenderly on the lips.
Thomas could feel Alex trying to suppress a tiny grin as the corners of Alex’s mouth turned up during their kiss, and thought he could hear a quiet moan.
“Thomas, that’s not going to convince me.” But the huge grin on Alex’s face told Thomas a completely different story.
“Then I’ll just have to try something else.” Thomas placed a hand on the back of Alex’s neck and pulled him in for another kiss. After giving Alex another gentle kiss on the lips, Thomas forced his tongue into Alex’s mouth, and pulled Alex down on top of him. The pair swapped saliva, their hormones raged and time ceased to have any meaning; each gave everything of themselves over to the other in that kiss. Thomas ran his fingers through Alex’s hair and then slowly worked his hands down Alex’s back.
Alex forced his tongue into Thomas’ mouth as they duelled for supremacy, and he grabbed two handfuls of Thomas’ thick jet black hair. Alex felt Thomas’ hands getting lower and lower, until he felt them slip inside the waistband of the tracksuit leggings he was wearing, and then inside the waistband of his boxers. Alex was so surprised as Thomas took a firm hold of each of his butt cheeks, but he couldn’t help responding to Thomas’ advances. He could feel Thomas’ erection grinding into his own and -
Thomas couldn’t believe he was being this bold, this sexually aggressive, not just with another boy, but for Christ’s sake this was Alex. It was that simple realisation which forced him to reign himself in and prevent himself going any further.
Thomas pulled his hands out of Alex’s underwear, and pulled away from their kiss. He was panting heavily, the blood was still pumping, and his endorphins were still flooding his brain.
“Alex, we have to stop.”
“Thomas, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, Alex. But I don’t want us to do it like this. I don’t want us to rush blind into this . . . whatever you want to call it. This is why I said earlier I tried not to fall for you; I don’t want to ruin our friendship.”
“Thomas, I want this. You have no idea how much I want this, and how much I want this from you.”
“Alex, you said you loved me. Do you really love me? With all your heart?”
“Yes, I do Thomas. I am so deeply in love with you, this last week without you has been hell on Earth. I need you, like I’ve never needed you before.”
“Then tell me this. Do you want us to be tender with each other, to make love to each other and to share our passion and our hearts with each other? Or do you just want me to bend you over and fuck you? Because right here, right now, if we carry on that’s all this is going to be. Right here and right now, my dick and not my heart, is running the show.”
“Thomas, I love you. I want you to love me, and of course I want our time together to be filled with love and passion, I want to be able to feel your love for me when we are together. You’re right, we need to stop this. We need to wait until we can do this in the way we both want to do this.”
“I’ll be honest with you Alex, I don’t know if I love you or not. What I do know, is that I care more deeply for you than for anyone in my life. I can see myself falling in love with you, but I don’t want to rush this. I’d much rather take my time, whether it be six months, a year or however long, and make sure we both know that is what we really want and what really feel for each other is love. If you can’t agree to take it that slowly with me, then let’s call it quits right now.”
“Thomas. I’ll . . . no we’ll . . . we’ll take this as slowly as we need to. I know you want to take your time, to allow us to properly explore our feelings, to make sure we really do love each, and you have no idea how much that means to me.”
“Alex, there is another reason why I’ve tried not falling for you. My life is complicated. There is a secret I have kept from you for as long as I’ve known you.”
“Come on Thomas, you know you can tell me anything.”
“I know Alex. Believe me I wish I could simply tell you, but I can’t. There is a way for me to be able to tell you. I want you to keep an open mind about what I’m about to tell you.” Thomas proceeded to tell Alex about the ritual he and the First Servant had discussed.
“So you need us to undergo this ritual so you can tell me this secret of yours? But you can’t tell me why this ritual. I’ve heard about similar rituals and they are from cults and stuff.”
“Alex, I promise you that I would never do anything to harm you. You need to decide if you are willing to undergo the ritual or not. All I can tell you, is that if you knew what my secret was, you wouldn’t hesitate about the ritual. But I can’t make this decision for you. I know all I’m giving you to go on is my promise, but you need to decide if my promise is good enough for you.”
Without hesitation Alex said, “Yes. Yes, I’ll undergo the ritual. When?”
“I’ll need to make some arrangements, but probably the day after tomorrow.”
“First Servant, I have read your petition, and I must say that the Council has reservations. As you are aware there has not been a Bonding Ritual in nearly a hundred years, but of course that is not a particular concern to us. What is a concern to us is that you have requested to perform the Bonding Ritual not only on a gay couple, but on a gay couple who have not even reached the age of consent. The Council finds this troubling, and shows a serious lack of judgement on your part.”
“Members of the Council, what right do I have to refuse a couple in love my blessing of their union?”
“You have the right when it does not conform to our laws, First Servant. The laws governing the Bonding Ritual are clear; the ritual is between a man and woman. The law clearly spells that out, and leaves no room for interpretation.”
“There is a greater law in place here! The law of Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland!” The First Servant, for being an elderly man who is kind and gentle and who always has a smile, can vent anger and frustration with the force of a volcanic eruption. “Following the Chiltern Massacre, this Council was forced to acknowledge and obey those laws! It led to the review and revision of many of our antiquated laws. Under United Kingdom laws today, discrimination based on sexual identity and sexual preference is illegal. Gay couples are now allowed to enter into civil partnerships, gays can serve openly in the armed forces, and the appearance of a gay scene in a film no longer gets that film an adult rating. By this Council denying my request, you are in violation not only of those laws, but of basic human decency!”
“First Servant your point is well made, however you are forgetting one vital piece of information. Under neither our laws, nor the laws of the United Kingdom, is Thomas permitted to engage in a civil partnership as he is only fifteen years old; he will need to wait until he is at least eighteen years old.”
“Council members, you know as well I do, that the Bonding Ritual is not a ceremony of marriage, but a ceremony of pledging of one person to spend their life with another. The bonding is no different than an engagement, and under UK laws there is no minimum age at which a couple may get engaged.”
The Council briefly deliberated on the First Servant’s petition. There were a lot of hushed vocalisations, lots of arm waving, and lots of notes being passed back and forth. After almost half an hour of deliberations the First Servant was summoned back.
“First Servant, the Council has decided to grant you permission to perform the Bonding Ritual. Let the record further show that on this date, as a result of today’s deliberations, a motion was made in chambers to incorporate all current United Kingdom equality laws into our legal framework. The motion was passed unanimously on a 19-0 vote with no abstentions.”
“I thank the Council for its wisdom in this matter and I am sure this news will be greeted warmly on all fronts. I would like to take my leave of this Council as I have many preparations to make if I am to leave today.”
“You have our leave First Servant. Would you please pass our blessings along to Thomas when you see him?”
“Of course.” The First Servant exited the chambers and retreated to his private study.
Journal entry April 17th
I have successfully argued for me to be allowed to perform the Bonding Ritual. The Council have also made a surprising concession, one I did not see coming, regarding equality laws. I have seen much in my eighty six years on this planet, but the one thing that has been a constant is segregation and persecution. There has always been one group of people, at one time or another, in one place or another, who have struggled to obtain even the most basic of rights. With the amount of bloodshed and the number of deaths over the past hundred years of protesting, why is it still so hard to get equal rights for people?
I would have hoped by now we would have learned enough from our mistakes. I should simply have been able to say ‘OK, here are two boys who care about each other and I want to perform their bonding’, and have the Council say ‘Yeah, sounds great, save me a seat’, not having to submit a bloody fifty page petition and then having to beat them about the head with it for three hours.
The First Servant’s journey to London was uneventful and he arrived late in the afternoon.
Thomas opened the door. “First Servant, welcome. Please, won’t you come in.”
“Thank you Thomas. How much have you told Alex and his mum?”
“I have told them that there are things I want to tell them about me and about my family, but I am not allowed to share it outside of my family. I have explained about the Bonding Ritual and what it will mean for Alex and I. I have also told them that it is an ancient Celtic tradition and a tradition I wish to honour.
“I think Alex’s mum is more concerned about this than Alex; she keeps asking why this ritual is necessary, if I’m in some kind of cult and why you need to come to perform this ritual. You know it’s kind of hard to answer those questions when I’m not allowed to tell them anything. I have however, managed to convince them that the ritual is required and that I would do nothing that would harm Alex.”
Thomas escorted the First Servant into the dining room where the ritual was top take place.
“First Servant, this is Alex and his mum, Joanne.”
“A pleasure to meet you both. I’m sure it would be more pleasurable if it were not under quite such bizarre circumstances.”
After a round of “hello’s” and “how do you do’s”, they sat down over coffee and got to know each other a little better prior to the ritual taking place.
As midnight approached, Thomas and Alex stood in front of the First Servant, with Joanne on Alex’s right hand side.
“Thomas, Alex, please join your left hands. Now, normally this ritual would be conducted in Welsh, but for obvious reasons I shall perform it in English. First is the exchange of pledges.
“Thomas Taliesin Llewellyn, do you pledge to stand by this boy for all time?”
“I so pledge.”
“Thomas Taliesin Llewellyn, do you pledge to love and cherish this boy for all time?”
“I so pledge.”
“Thomas Taliesin Llewellyn, do you pledge to protect this boy from all of the world’s evils for all time?”
“I so pledge.”
“Alexander Michael Tobias Munroe, do you pledge to stand by this boy for all time?”
“I so pledge.”
“Alexander Michael Tobias Munroe, do you pledge to love and cherish this boy for all time?”
“I so pledge.”
“Alexander Michael Tobias Munroe, do you pledge to protect this boy from all of the world’s evils for all time?”
“I so pledge.”
The First Servant then removed four pieces of silk, each about three feet in length, from a box and placed them on the table next him.
“Who gives Alexander to the boy he loves?”
“I, Joanne Munroe, mother of Alexander, give him to the boy he loves.”
“Who gives Thomas to the boy he loves?”
“I, Joanne Munroe, guardian of Thomas, give him to the boy he loves.”
“Now to perform the Bonding Ritual itself.” The First Servant picked up the green piece of silk. “The green represents life, it represents the forest and the trees, it represents the birth of all things and it is the very essence of Nature herself.” The First Servant slowly wrapped the green piece of silk around their joined hands. “In the name of life, I bind Thomas and Alexander to the pledges that they each have made.”
Thomas and Alex looked at each other and said, “Heart to thee. Soul to thee. Body to thee. For ever and always.”
The First Servant then picked up the red piece of silk. “The red represents the blood which flows through the hearts of all living things. It is the ultimate symbol of love and passion.” The First Servant slowly wrapped the red piece of silk around their joined hands. “In the name of love and passion, I bind Thomas and Alexander to the pledges that they each have made.”
Thomas and Alex looked at each other and said, “Heart to thee. Soul to thee. Body to thee. For ever and always.”
The First Servant picked up the black piece of silk. “The black represents death. Not just physical death, but the transition of all things from what was to what is, and from what is to what will be” The First Servant slowly wrapped the black piece of silk around their joined hands. “In the name of death, I bind Thomas and Alexander to the pledges that they each have made.”
Thomas and Alex looked at each other and said, “Heart to thee. Soul to thee. Body to thee. For ever and always.”
The First Servant picked up the final piece of silk, which was multi-coloured. “The multiple colours represent the universe in all of its diversity. It teaches us to embrace all things, no matter how different they are. It reminds us that ours is truly a world of many colours and many flavours, and it is only with all of the colours and all of the flavours blending together, that our world becomes harmonious and we can find love and acceptance.” The First Servant slowly wrapped the multi-coloured piece of silk around their joined hands. “In the name of diversity and acceptance, I bind Thomas and Alexander to the pledges that they each have made.”
Thomas and Alex looked at each other and said, “Heart to thee. Soul to thee. Body to thee. For ever and always.”
“I have bound Thomas and Alexander to their pledges in accordance with the old ways. These bindings have not been tied, so that neither is restricted by the other, and the bonding of Thomas and Alexander is only enforced by both their wills. In the name of the Munroe family line, and in the name of the Llewellyn family line, and in the names of all of the gods and goddesses, I declare that they are bonded for all time. What I have bonded this day let no mortal creature tear asunder.”
Thomas and Alex kissed each other passionately. The First Servant, for having been raised in a very conservative family in the Rhondda, was remarkably open minded and felt honoured to have performed the Bonding Ritual for these two boys.
“Since these ceremonies are correctly accompanied by the eating of cake and the drinking of alcohol I have something in my bag.” The First Servant pulled out a coconut and jam sponge cake and a bottle of champagne. “It’s nothing fancy, but it’s the best I could come up with on short notice.”
“First Servant, you are very thoughtful, and I thank you for your generosity. Without your help, none of this would have been possible.”
While Joanne cut up the cake and opened the bottle of champagne, the First Servant began removing the silken binds, which symbolised Thomas and Alex’s commitment to each other, and handed them to them.
“It is tradition for you to keep these. I also have a small gift for you.” The First Servant handed them a small wooden box with a dragon on the lid. “It’s called a pledge box. The idea is that you will keep items in here that remind you of the pledge you have made today; starting with the silken binds. You can keep photographs, holiday souvenirs, presents, jewellery, or whatever in here; anything that reminds you of your love for each other and your commitments to each other.
“Since this ritual is dying out among our order, you two may well the last to be bonded with this ceremony. I wanted to wish you all the love and all the happiness in the world, and may your love for each other grow each day.”
The next morning Alex woke up and went downstairs to the kitchen. Thomas was already up; in fact, he had been up for over an hour trying to work out how to tell Alex about him and his family.
“Good morning Alex.”
“It’s a very good morning. So you gonna spill or what?”
“Let’s wait until Joanne gets up first. I’d rather just do this the once.”
Five minutes later Alex’s mum walked into the kitchen. ‘Here goes nothing’ Thomas thought to himself.
“As you know, there is something I have been keeping secret. There is so much to tell you but it all basically boils down to one thing.”
“Thomas, what is it?” Alex asked.
“Dragons are real.”
“What?” Alex let out a half laugh.
“Alex, I’m being serious.”
“Well of course dragons are real. There are komodo dragons and bearded dragons; it’s not such a big secret.”
“Not those kind of dragons. I mean like St George and the Dragon; I mean flying fire-breathing magical dragons.”
“You are joking?”
“Nope Alex, I’m not.”
Thomas proceeded to tell Alex and Joanne the story of the coming of Yddraigfawr.
“So nobody knows where this dragon appeared?”
“No, the sacred text doesn’t give a specific location. Those in the –”
“There’s a sacred text!”
“Yes, Alex. You have to remember when she first appeared the old gods were still being worshipped, and the only way to explain who and what she was, was by building up this theology around her.” Thomas then pulled out his own copy of the Ddraig Llyfr.
“What’s that Thomas?” asked Alex.
“That is our sacred text. It’s my copy of it, here have a look.” Thomas handed it to Alex, who then passed it to his mum. “This is the English language translation.”
“How many languages is it translated in?”
“It was only among the Celtic nations that Yddraigfawr, and her later theology, flourished. An English language translation only became necessary after the decline in the number of native speakers. There is the original which is written in Proto-Indo-European, there is a translation in each of the modern day Celtic languages, and then there are surviving copies in old language forms and extinct Celtic languages; so I guess that it is probably in about seventy different language forms.”
“I’ve heard of Proto-Indo-European. I was watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel about it. Supposedly it was some kind of single language spoken across Europe and Asia, but they said that it was a spoken language, that it was never written.”
“That’s exactly right Alex, though it did exist as a written language; it’s just that none of the writings survive in the public domain. We have about five thousand texts written in that language in our archives. We’ll get a chance to see the archives in a couple of days, but there are a few stops we need to make first.” Thomas decided not to mention the Council’s ongoing sabotage of academic works on the reconstruction of this language; he didn’t want to start in with the negatives just yet, there would be plenty of time for that later.
Joanne had finished leafing through the Ddraig Llyfr and asked, “So you’re saying she’s some kind of god?”
“In the beginning she was Joanne, but over time the way she is viewed has changed dramatically. Her status as any kind of god pretty much disappeared after 1642.”
“What happened in 1642?”
Thomas was looking very carefully at both Alex and Joanne, wanting to gauge their reaction. “Her skeletal remains were found.”
“Wow! They actually found a dragon skeleton. How the hell has this been kept quiet?” Alex asked
“Her remains were found by members of the order, not by scientists or academics; and you have to remember this was just prior to the outbreak of the Great Plague. The sanctuary where her remains are is kept under very close guard and is protected twenty four hours a day.”
“Wait a minute. Are you telling me that her remains are on display? In some kind of museum? Can we go see?”
“It is not a museum. It is one of our most sacred places. A part of my father rests there now.”
“Thomas, I didn’t mean to insult you or upset you. This is just a lot to take in.”
“I know Alex. There is just so much I have to show you and tell you about. I won’t lie to you guys; there is some very dark stuff in our past. We have done things over the centuries to keep the dragons protected that many, including myself and my dad, would call, and have called, unforgivable. Let me show you this before I continue.” Thomas placed the box on the table and opened it.
“What is it?” Joanne asked.
“What you are looking at, is the last remnant of a great species. This is the last dragon egg in existence, and the dragon inside is the last of its kind.”
“It’s beautiful, Thomas. What will you do when it hatches? I mean I think having a dragon in the middle of London would be a little hard to keep hidden.”
“The egg will not hatch during my lifetime Joanne. It will probably hatch in about a hundred and twenty years time.”
“Wait a minute Thomas; I’ve seen this box before.”
“You have Alex. It used to sit on the shelf above the fireplace at my old house. You see my dad was the keeper before me. For generations my family has been the keeper of the eggs.”
“But if this is the last egg, and the dragon inside is the last dragon, then that means . . . .”
“Yes Alex. It means that we are looking the extinction of a species and an end of the line for the Ceidwadwy.” Thomas went on to explain about the Ceidwadwy and their role; but he omitted the militaristic stories and the conflicts they fought in.
“I can take you to see the skeleton of Yddraigfawr this afternoon. There are certain protocols which must be followed, but I’ll advise you of them on the way.”
“So where is this sanctuary Thomas?”
“Believe it or not Joanne, it’s in the Chilterns.”
“You’re joking? Those hills are crawling with walkers, campers, tourists and a thousand other people. How do you keep the sanctuary hidden?”
“Joanne, it’s not as though we’ve built some kind of huge cathedral or monument in the middle of the Chilterns. The sanctuary is carved into one of the caves, and we keep the entrance concealed. Before we enter the sanctuary there is a small shrine we will need to stop off at first. I told you there were dark things in our past and the shrine is the result of one of those things.” Thomas slowly told Joanne and Alex about Bryn Jones and the Chiltern Massacre. Once he finished he could tell they were shocked.
“Dear God!” said Joanne.
“That is just . . . I have no words, Thomas.”
“I can understand how you feel Alex. I was told last week and I’m still having problems coming to terms with it. Anyway, the shrine is a memorial to the expedition team who were killed. When a new Ceidwadwy is invested, he is supposed to make an offering at the shrine, as a way of asking forgiveness.”
They finished breakfast and got themselves ready to make the journey to Wendover.
They arrived at Wendover station just before noon and walked to the nearby sanctuary.
As they approached, a large, burly man appeared, but he immediately recognised Thomas from his last visit. “Ceidwadwy, we have been expecting you. You must be Alex,” he said, extending a hand the size of bear’s paw.
“Yes,” Alex said, taking the proffered paw and saw his own hand disappear. “This is my mum, Joanne.”
“Greetings to you all. Alex and Thomas, congratulations on your bonding. I hope you two have a long, happy life together.”
“Thank you,” said Thomas.
They walked into the sanctuary, and just inside was a small grotto. Thomas entered, followed closely by Alex and Joanne.
There was an altar in the middle of the grotto, with a statue in the centre which had an inscription underneath in Welsh.
“What does that say, Thomas?” asked Alex pointing to the inscription.
“It says ‘Erected in memory of Professor Gillian Childs and her team’.” Thomas laid his ‘tribute’ on the altar, which consisted of a wreath and a solitary violet.
“I can understand the wreath Thomas, but why the violet?”
“It’s simple Alex; violets were Professor Child’s favourite flower. Alex, since we are bonded, you are required to join me in this prayer. Joanne, you can either join in or not. We are here to honour the memory of Gillian Childs and those who died with her on that dreaded day. We pray, not to Yddraigfawr or to any of the ancient gods, but we pray to our god; the god of Christianity. Can I ask that you bow your heads.”
Thomas then said his prayer in Welsh (I will provide you with the English translation), “Heavenly Father, I pray for forgiveness for what happened that day, and I pray that Gillian Childs and her team are nestled in the bosom of Your kingdom. I pray that you continue to watch over their families, as we have done. By Your grace, we have learned from what happened that day. I pray that You grant Professor Childs and her team the resurrection that You have promised us all. I pray that when the time comes, I and my kin are granted admittance to Your kingdom. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of The Holy Ghost. Amen.”
“Amen,” Alex and Joanne echoed simultaneously.
“I don’t know what you said Thomas, but it sounded beautiful,” Alex said. So, Thomas told them, in English, what he had said.
“How often do you come here and say that prayer?” Joanne asked.
“The Ceidwadwy comes here within one month of his investiture to say the prayer and that is the only time he or she is required to come here to say the prayer; after that, one of the docents here will continue to say the prayer on a daily basis. The only other times I would be required to say the prayer myself in future are either when I visit the sanctuary or, if I am lucky, on one of the Chwarterblynedd.”
“On the what?” asked Alex.
“Oh sorry, it means quarter years. The quarter years are the twenty-fifth, fiftieth, and seventy-fifth anniversaries of an individual’s investiture to The Inner Council. Both my father and grandfather celebrated their first Chwarterblynedd, but it’s been many generations since somebody celebrated their second.”
“I would have thought the more modern people would have reached fifty years as opposed to the older generations who had a much lower life expectancy.”
“You are right Alex, but with a longer life span combined with a much more peaceful existence, means that those on The Inner Council die at a much older age; that meant that those who replaced them are older. So, owing to the age at which people join the Council, many of them die after forty or forty five years of service, meaning they just fall short of their second Chwarterblynedd. It’s not unusual these days for a new Inner Council investee to be thirty five or forty years old; so they would have to live to be eighty or ninety years old to celebrate their second Chwarterblynedd; what happened in my case was a rarity. My dad’s death was unexpected and he was still very young; we thought I’d have finished university and had a few years in the real world before I would even have to think about being called to service. Before my investiture, the youngest inductee in the last hundred and fifty years was twenty six years old. I’m the first real candidate with any chance of living to see their third Chwarterblynedd this side of The Wars of the Roses.”
“Has any ever celebrated their third Chwart . . . anniversary thing,” Joanne finished, laughing over her stumble on the Welsh.
“It’s all right Joanne, you’ve got a long time to practice getting your Welsh right. To answer your question, according to the archives there was only one person who lived to see her Chwarterblynedd. Her name was Branwen and she lived in the third century AD; she was only a child of six when she was invested as First Servant.”
“How could somebody so young become First Servant?”
“Well Alex, according to our historical archives she was invested while the previous First Servant, her aunt, was still alive; so she was a kind of co-First Servant. Records indicate that her aunt was seriously ill, and although she was expected to live a number of years, she was unable to carry out many of her religious functions. Branwen, as her sole heir, was the natural choice for the next First Servant, but it was necessary that she be fully instructed and prepared for what the role of First Servant entailed. As it transpired, Branwen’s aunt survived for another twenty four years before eventually succumbing to her condition.”
“If her aunt was that ill, why wasn’t she simply removed as First Servant?”
“For the same reason you can’t simply remove Queen Elizabeth the Second if she became unwell. The positions within the Inner Council are for life. The only ways out are either through death or by voluntarily stepping down; which is almost unheard of.”
They followed the docent into a grotto just before the grand temple. There was another altar, this one with a statue of Yddraigfawr on it. Thomas said a brief prayer, and then turned to the docent and said, “I ask for the presentation of the Marker Stones for my family.”
The docent retrieved two small ornate boxes from underneath the altar, “Step forward please.”
Alex and his mum stepped up to the altar. The docent removed the statue of Taranis and said, “To Alex, the one who is bonded to Thomas, and to Joanne, the one who has pledged to watch over Thomas, I present the First Marker.”
Since Thomas had already told Joanne and Alex what he had planned to do, he had instructed them on what to do during the ceremony. Alex took hold of the First Marker and bowed slightly to it and then it handed it to his mum who did the same thing before returning it t the docent.
The docent then removed the statue of Cailleach and said, “To Alex, the one who is bonded to Thomas, and to Joanne, the one who has pledged to watch over Thomas, I present the Second Marker.”
Alex took hold of the Second Marker and bowed slightly to it and then he handed it to his mum who did the same thing before returning it to the docent.
“The Marker Stones will shield you from the magic that protects this sanctuary. Carry one of the Marker Stones each when you enter the inner shrine.” The docent handed the statue of Taranis to Alex and the statue of Cailleach to Joanne.
Although neither of them really believed in the magic, and to be honest Thomas wasn’t entirely sure if he believed in it all either, they chose to respect the traditions; just as Thomas always had.
“Alex, Joanne. Allow me to introduce you to Yddraigfawr.”
Alex and Joanne were amazed when they saw the skeleton; it filled the cavern, they could see the thin bones which showed where her wings would have been, and they could feel the magic coming off of it in waves. Thomas saw the look of total shock on the faces of Alex and Joanne and had to stifle a laugh.
“I had no idea she would be so big Thomas,” Joanne said in barely a whisper.
“Well now you can understand why she was seen as being a goddess when she first appeared.”
After they had spent a few minutes looking at the great skeleton, Thomas said, “Follow me. I want to show you something.” They followed Thomas down onto the floor of the shrine and approached the bony remains. They stopped about twenty feet away, and Thomas said, “Here. This is what I wanted to show you. Remember after my dad’s funeral I went away for a few days? Well this was my first stop. This box here contains half of the ashes from his copy of the Ddraig Llyfr; all of these boxes contain ashes from Ddraig Llyfr belonging to Ceidwadwy, First Servants and other Council members going back to the mid 1600s when this tomb was first discovered.”
“So where is the other half of the ashes?”
“They are kept at our sanctuary in Wales. We’ll go there tomorrow as it takes a while to reach there.”