Hanging on for fear of my life’s imminent demise, I used every drop of strength I could muster, blood pulsing through my muscles, straining with effort in the name of survival. My arms wrapped around Tan-y-Mynedd’s thick muscular neck, thighs and heels digging into a scaly armoured body provided me with some illusion of safety. Allowing myself to be cajoled into flying at such great speed aloft in the heavens, riding a dragon, in itself warranted an examination of my sanity. But I had been given no choice in the matter, none at all. Tan-y-Mynedd’s great wings flapped, glided and flipped this way and that, as we flew on through the night. Our destination, the ‘Great Council of Blue Stone’.
The full moon illuminating a dark night sky gave light to all below and the stars above twinkled. Tan-y-Mynedd the Fire-Dragon glided with ease, trapping draughts of air beneath huge wings, tail swishing left then right and back again. With the dip of an appropriate wing tip, gathering speed, he hurtled on. The great Dragon flew in and out of large fluffy clouds, limiting vision to the end of my nose, reminding me of the many times I had been temporarily blinded by a mountain mist. But as he flew on, the clouds dispersed and I could see for miles around, above and below. Peaks of mountains glistened, seemingly so small, far below. Valleys flashed into sight – there, then gone. Rivers wound their courses from source to sea, crisscrossing, twisting, splitting and turning, giving the appearance of an enormous spider’s web guarding the earth so far below.
Tan-y-Mynedd the Fire-Dragon twisted a wing, dipped downwards and flipped his long scaled tail. He glided down through the sky slowly from the heavens in ever-decreasing circles, the mountains, valleys, pastures, lakes and rivers getting closer and closer with every twist of his tail. Suddenly, he turned back on himself, shooting off at an angle level with the ground below. Following a river through a shadowy gorge, flying just above the treeline of the forest, Tan-y-Mynedd the Fire-Dragon soared skilfully ever onwards. The ground below rose and then dipped away again into a deep valley, shrouded by mountains on all sides. The darkness of night began to fade, rose-pink and magenta flecks and flashes streaked across the ever-lightening sky. Dawn lingered in wait upon the horizon.
The great Dragon pulled back both wings, thrust out a proud armoured chest, extended four thick, muscular, scaled legs, flexed talons and swished his tail high. Expelling hot air from both nostrils in clouds of steam, he landed rather less than gracefully on a scree covered mountainside. Scree, rocks, dust and debris flew in all directions. As the dust cloud settled, a morning sun was just beginning to rise, shrouded in streaks of multi-coloured cloud – a landscape in the sky, and painted by wizards.
Scrambling from this ‘steed of the air’, legs shaking like jelly clothing brawn, my feet touching solid ground again, I heaved a sigh of relief. After hanging on to dear life on a dragon’s back for heaven knows how long and also not knowing how far we had come, I had a need to take a deep, deep breath.
Standing perched on a rock while looking down the valley at the lake below, Tan-y-Mynedd the Fire-Dragon pointed with one great wing towards a cave set back in the rock-face and quietly spoke in the ancient language.
“The Great Council of Blue Stone.”
A golden sun rose across the horizon. I stared in wonder at such magnificence lost, and yet immersed, in the glory of this immense universe where all created therein is truly one. An early morning daydream would be an easy indulgence amidst this beauty. Standing high on this scree-covered ledge, I saw mountain ranges, deep craggy valleys and great forests lurking beneath blankets of green. I was looking far into the distance when I was disturbed by a voice from behind.
“Crach, it is time.” Tan-y-Mynedd spoke softly.
Turning at the sound of the Fire Dragon’s voice, I did not immediately see Tan-y-Mynedd as he stood almost invisible, hidden in darkness inside the cave mouth with just the end of his great snout protruding ever so slightly out into the light. Sliding rather clumsily over the scree, I scrambled in silence up to the cave entrance. The great Dragon edged deeper away from the sunlight. Such brightness stung his eyes. Spending life for so many years in the great darkness of those deep subterranean caverns, emerging to fly only at night, had created difficulties for all dragons, not just Tan-y-Mynedd.
There was a moment, not far off in the mists of time, when dragons flew in dark or light, day or night. Wars and hunting had put an end to that. Either battle or bloody-minded cowardly actions in the name of sport had depleted their population considerably, almost to the point of extinction. Eventually all the surviving dragons sought safety deep underground, emerging only in the darkness and safety of night.
The last female dragon was slain by the English over two hundred years ago as she attempted to protect her eggs. She had drawn the murderers as far away from the nest as she could before falling from the sky, punctured by hundreds of arrows. She lay on the ground, her broken body staining the dust crimson when her last breath came, but not before she managed to bite the head clean off an archer when he got too close. This tale was told to me long ago when I was a young apprentice by my old Master, Llwyd ap Crachan Llwyd.
None knew how many dragons survived, but it was known that all were male. The time of the dragon would end one day because of this great travesty and for many, they were already nothing more than folk-lore. Of course, as I said before, dragons do possess the gift of making folk forget they had encountered them. If they do happen to be seen by unwanted eyes, green vapour sneezed from great nostrils always does the trick. But the reality, as plain as the wart on my face, means their beauty will one day be nothing more than a tale to be told around a warm blazing fire at the ‘time between times’.
A rumour had been buzzing amongst wizards and seers across our great land for many years that somewhere a batch of dragon eggs lay hidden deep in the caverns of Ffestiniog. Tan-y-Mynedd and his brothers had long searched for them but to no avail, although admittedly there were still many hidden depths yet to explore. Whilst ever one dragon still lived, there was always a possibility, slim though it may be, that the eggs could be found and thus hatch. Hope always sprung eternal in the heart of a dragon.