(© TrinetteReed Fotolia)
Some more from the third draft of Dragon Line. Patrick meets with Llinos and her father – his saviours from Llanfair Caereinion, Powys:
© OWEN LAW 2011
The jolting of the camper van suddenly caused Patrick to come to. For once, he’d dreamed of something pleasant so it seemed. He felt thankful for that, given the previous disturbing night. Looking out from underneath the blanket, he checked to see whether it was truly reality or just another cruel trick of the mind. Yes. He was in the back of a camper van and on a fairly comfortable bed-cum-sofa with a soft pillow under his head. Furthermore, sat on the seat opposite with her legs pulled up to her chest, feet on the aging upholstery, was his Angel of Mercy facing in the direction of the camper cab. Deep brown eyes gleamed alluringly in the light seeping through from the front. Flowing dark hair reached down the back of a faded brown and grey hooded anorak. Sweet, pale skin, a display of irristable beauty. With elbows rested on the top of her knees, hands and arms embracing her shoulders, the ‘Angel’ hummed a tune that seemed familiar but which Patrick couldn’t quite place.
Grunting and wincing as he tried to get up onto his forearms, Patrick hoped that he could find some way of talking without embarrassing himself. He’d heard Welsh being spoken, but reckoned she must be able to speak English too. He just wasn’t sure if he could say anything at all, although he wanted dearly to find some words. So that he could thank her, at the very least.
Instantly, his movement distracted the ‘Angel’ from her trance-like state. She turned to her left side, placing her feet on the floor before laying a soft, pale white hand on his left shoulder.
‘Oh, you’re awake, my love! How are you feeling?’
She looked directly into his eyes, making it even more difficult to speak. The words just wouldn’t come out.
‘I assume you’re English, yes? Dych chi’n siarad Cymraeg? Do you speak Welsh?’
Patrick tried to stammer out a little of the pidgeon Welsh he knew – out of politeness – but gave up.
He cleared his throat
‘Ohh, don’t worry. Both me and my Tad speak English, its just that Welsh is our first language.’
She turned her head towards the cab.
‘Tad, he’s come round!’
‘Da iawn’ came the reply in Welsh. ‘<How’s he feeling?>’
‘<Not sure. He seems a little better!>’
She turned back to the transfixed Patrick.
‘Are you okay now?’
Patrick managed a small smile and a nod, even though he was still groggy.
‘A little better. Thank you so much!’
‘Here, would you like some water? You must still be thirsty! When you were delerious before, I was giving you quite a bit to drink. But I think you’re very dehydrated. Do you want some more?’
Patrick smiled and nodded again. He’d probably been hypoglaecaemic and lost a lot of salt as well, but water was still good enough.
A kindly look on her face, the female picked up a small metal water bottle from by the side of her, unscrewed the cap and offered the opening to Patrick, holding it for him whilst he took several gulps of water. The metal of the flask had kept the water cool, and the woman must have kept it out of the sun. It was a welcome relief. Patrick indicated that he’d had enough with a grateful blink of his eyes and she took the bottle away, replacing the cap. She must be in her mid-twenties, so Patrick thought. Ten years younger than him. She could have been no more than a teenager when the Catastrophe struck.
‘So!’ she said enquiringly as she placed the bottle on the floor again. ‘What’s your name then? That’s if you still feel okay to speak?’
‘I feel a lot better thanks.’
Patrick couldn’t help a boyish smile, in spite of the possible age difference between them.
‘My name’s Patrick.’
‘Hi Patrick!’ she beamed. ‘I’m Llinos.’
‘What a beautiful name!’ he replied, losing himself in a haze of wonder with his Welsh Angel.
‘Diolch. This is my father, Meurig.’
She beckoned towards the cab as Meurig briefly looked over his left shoulder through the gap, relieving his right hand from the reins to briefly acknowledge Patrick.
‘And where have you come from, Patrick?’ she enquired, now inquisitive to the origins of their new guest.
Patrick awkwardly pushed himself up into a sitting position on the long seat, moving his back to rest against the wall of the camper. He winced slightly from muscular strain.
‘Oh, are you okay?’
Llinos briefly placed her hand onto the blanket over Patrick’s forearm, giving it a gentle squeeze.
‘I’m fine, fine. Thankyou, you’ve been very kind!’ he replied with a grateful smile. In response, she raised her eybrows and looked briefly down at the floor, like a shy schoolgirl. Patrick thought it fair that he should give her some explanation.
‘I was in the service of Lord Hodnet, at the fort of Bury Walls in Shropshire.’
He coughed involuntarily.
‘You were a soldier?’
‘Yeah…yes, that’s right! I was captured after the Ironsides attacked our fort, but I managed to escape.’
Llinos looked shocked.
‘I thought you were from your clothing!’ she replied quickly. ‘I did wonder if you were one of them. You know, the Ironsides! Maybe a deserter or something? How..how did you manage to get away?’
‘A bomb attack on our convoy. A roadside IED. At a place called Preston Gubbals.’
Patrick’s voice began to break up, as the memories of the previous day’s trauma came flooding back. He looked downwards despairingly.
‘I think they were Islamics, I don’t really know…Anyway, I managed to get away and make my way here.’
Meurig cut in from the cab at the front.
‘You’ve come a long way, boy! You’re lucky not to have been recaptured!’
‘Yes’ Llinos added. ‘The Ironsides have taken Welshpool. You’re really lucky they didn’t find you!’
‘I know. I kept out of their way and kept going. I know the area.’
Patrick looked up, directly into Llinos’ eyes again.
‘And where are you both from?’
‘From Llanfair Caereinion…’ she replied with a hint of sadness in her voice. ‘We wanted to escape before they came to take our land. All these people in the convoy are doing the same.’
Now, it was Patrick’s turn to feel concern.
Llinos paused and looked to the floor with an unhappy expression. Her father cut in once more.
‘We’re off to Llanberis in North Wales. We’ve got relations there. The further away the better, so I reckon!’
‘Yes, I don’t blame you.’
Patrick could see why they were leaving, he wouldn’t want to stay either.
‘Well, things got a bit too much with the Ironsides advancing. We’ve been putting up with the Muslims in the hills for years now, but with that lot turning up as well….!’
Llinos looked up and directly towards Patrick.
‘You think it was them who attacked your prisoner convoy?’
Patrick shrugged his shoulders.
‘I couldn’t say, but its the sort of thing they do.’
She quickly adopted a frown.
‘They’ve been taking things from us for ages! Nobody wanted them there but no-one could do anything to make them leave. His Lordship couldn’t do anything!’
‘More like wouldn’t!’ commented Meurig scornfully.
‘And now…’ she continued. ‘They bring this on us!’
‘Chances are, Cariad…’ Meurig interjected in a philosophical tone ‘…that the Ironsides would have come here anyway. It was only a matter of time!’
Patrick nodded in agreement. They were expansionist, intent on spreading Cromwell’s puritanical message everywhere in a dispossessed country.
Llinos felt concerned upon hearing of Patrick’s misadventures, but decided to ask no further questions about his experience. She changed the subject.
‘So, where were you heading to before you almost killed yourself?’
Patrick smiled at the irony in her voice, but her face remained deadly serious.
‘I was thinking of heading to Machynlleth. I did have an old friend there, if he’s still alive! He used to work at the old Centre for Alternative Technology.’
Meurig spoke up again from his cab.
‘Well, we’ve just passed Dinas Mawddwy, so that might be little out of your way now! But I can drop you off here if you still want to go!’
Llinos was indignant.
‘He’s in no fit state to be left!’ she scolded.
She turned to face Patrick and looked him in the eye.
‘You could come with us to Llanberis and stay there for a while. You could always go to Mac when you’re better and its a little safer!’
Patrick smiled once more. That was a very kind offer. She was the first one to show him any kindness whatsoever in a long while.
‘Only one problem your forgetting, Cariad’ said Meurig flatly. ‘The Dragons!’
Llinos rounded on Meurig again, turning towards him scornfully.
‘To hell with them! We’ll sort something out!’
Patrick suddenly felt concerned again, a hint of uneasiness betrayed in his voice as he shifted in his bed.
‘They’re the local militia group’ she replied assertively. ‘They can be a bit awkward, but I’m sure we’ll think of something!’
Suddenly, this took the gloss off it for him. Not yet more grief!
‘Aye, well, we’ll see!’ said Meurig dispassionately. ‘But you’re welcome to join us, Patrick, all the same!’
Partrick was still worried.
‘Do you think they might see me as a threat of some sort?’ he asked, turning his head towards the cab.
‘No knowing what they’ll think! We’ll see when we get there.’
Meurig agitated the reins in order to induce the horses to pick up speed a little. They were beginning to approach the steep incline that led up from Dinas towards Dolgellau, so the animals would need a bit of a boost to proceed. They’d no doubt have to stop for rests and time was of the essence.
‘Please, I think it’d be better for you!’
Llinos had an almost pleading look on her face.
Patrick nodded and smiled broadly.
‘I’d be honoured!’