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.
“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.