Prologue - The Welsh Coast 1325
The little boy ran through the fields of barley after the dog. He was clutching a package of bread and cheese wrapped in a cloth and shouting to the dog to slow down. Pausing to catch his breath he gave a shrill whistle and the dog stopped immediately and turned back towards him.
“That's better!” he panted watching the dog run in a circle around him, his long pink tongue hanging out and his bright eyes on the boy. He had watched his father control the dogs with whistles to work the sheep and learned to control them this way.
“Right! Now let's find Tad!” He ran on through the barley, the dog now at his side, and out into the short scrub grass at the top of the cliffs where the sheep grazed. Running along the clifftop, the sheep scattering before him and the dog, he saw the shepherd in the distance raise a hand and wave to him........
Some while later the boy lay on his back looking up at the wide arch of blue sky above him and chewing on the crust of barley bread his father had given him. The dog lay beside him on the short wind blown grass, one eye on the sheep. His father had been called back to the barley fields and left him to watch the flock. His eyes were almost closing when the dog suddenly picked up his head and began to growl softly, his ears pricked.
“What is it Bran?” he asked, sitting up and looking around. “I don't see anything.”
The dog was on his feet now, his head low, nose pointing towards the cliffs. The boy got up carefully and began to crawl through the longer grass to the cliff edge. He could feel it himself now. A rumbling, seeming to come from deep within the ground beneath him as though the very earth itself was shuddering. He crept to the very edge of the cliff and peered cautiously over. At first he saw nothing but the scatter of limestone rocks at the base of the cliff and the broad expanse of sand before it. And then he saw it. Almost directly below him emerging from a gap in the rocks was......something. The head of some animal, but bigger, far bigger than any animal the boy had ever seen before, even the huge coursers ridden by the Baron's knights. The ears were wrong for a horse, bigger and more curved like great horns and the skin was covered in deep red scales. The head turned slightly to look along the line of the cliffs and, when satisfied that the beach was empty, the animal emerged fully.
The boy watched, holding his breath as the great body, two enormous wings folded along its back, moved out onto the sand, a long scaly tail trailing after it. He laid an arm over the dog, holding him down but this didn't seem to be necessary. Bran lay flattened to the earth, his eyes fixed on the creature, silent.
“It's a dragon Bran” he whispered, entranced. “A real dragon! No-one will ever believe this!”
The dragon moved out onto the beach and shook itself like a great dog, sand flying in all directions. It stretched out its broad wings and raised its head. The boy watched as the wings swept downwards and the dragon leapt up into the air. For just a moment it was level with the clifftop where he lay concealed in the long grass and then it was soaring up into the air. The great wings flapped once, powering the dragon out over the sea and then there was a flash of bright light and when the boy opened his eyes it was gone.
For a moment he wondered if he had really seen it but then he felt the dog stir under his hand and shake itself, standing up and staring out over the sea and he knew that Bran had seen it too. He returned to the spot on the cliffs many times for many years afterwards, but the dragon never returned.