A science fiction adventure set in Afghanistan in 2005. Major Tom Mason is seriously injured by an explosion in Badakhshan, close to the Afghan/Pakistan border. He is put back together in a top secret wing of the Plymouth Special Naval Hospital, Derriford . He is upgraded and enhanced ready for some very special assignments back in Afghanistan after all UK troops were supposed to have left.
This is a tense thriller as well as science fiction with some gripping, nail-biting moments and a climatic ending.
Available (hopefully) autumn/fall 2023. I’ll keep you all posted.
My next book is to be called ‘After Acts’, a semi-ficticious account of Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey.
Joseph R Mason is my pen name and birth name – see https://josephmasonauthor.com/about for an explaination. Cover picture is illustrative only and may change upon publication.
This is Chapter One or the Introduction, and this is where the story begins…
(This is an update of a previous article)
Before we start on Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey, let us first look at the book it is a continuation of, The Acts of the Apostles.
The Acts of the Apostles is a genre of Early Christian literature, recounting the lives and works of the apostles of Jesus. The Acts are important for many reasons, one of them being the concept of apostolic succession.
The canonical Acts of the Apostles
Only one work in this genre is included in the New Testament canon, entitled the Acts of the Apostles, sometimes called the Book of Acts or simply Acts, and primarily concerns the activities of the Apostles Peter, John, and Paul. Paul converts to Christianity in chapter 9 and becomes the main character. It is presumably the second part of a two-part work, the Canonical Gospel of Luke being the first part, with both works being addressed to Theophilus, and sharing a similar style. Almost all scholars believe that they were written by the same person.
The book narrates how the resurrected Jesus makes the apostles his witnesses, and instructs them to convert all peoples to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Through the Holy Spirit, God then empowers the apostles in their missionary work, with the ability to perform miracles such as healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead, while spreading Jesus’ gospel. Problems such as anti-Christian persecutions, and conflicts about whether converts should first become Jews before they can become Christians, are overcome.
The Book of Acts was probably written around the year 80 or 85 CE. It is not so much concerned with historical accuracy as it is with furthering a particular theology from a certain religious point of view.
The early church did not include any other books within the genre in the Christian Bible. These documents are considered apocryphal by all churches. They tend to be later, legendary accounts about the twelve apostles written in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. The books normally do not claim to be written by apostles but are anonymous, and thus they are not considered pseudepigrapha and forgeries. Unlike the canonical Book of Acts, they focus on the exploits of individual apostles.
As a genre, the Apocryphal Acts tend to feature travels, dangers, controversies, deliverances, thwarted sexual trysts, and miraculous demonstrations of the power of God within an episodic narrative. They bear a resemblance to the five surviving ancient Greek novels and the two surviving ancient Roman novels in Latin (The Golden Ass and the Satyricon). The overarching theme in these popular pagan romances is that heterosexual marital love is the basis for social peace and prosperity. The general plot of these novels is that a man and a woman from the upper classes fall in love, but become tragically separated before they can consummate their sexual love until the very end of the story, overcoming various hardships before being reunited. The Christian Apocryphal Acts turn these characteristics on their heads, however: the wealth and beauty of this world are to be despised, and any sexual activity is condemned as impure, in favour of love for God and preparation for the coming heavenly afterlife.
Five of the non-canonical acts have survived almost completely, namely the Acts of John, Peter, Paul, Andrew, and Thomas. A large number of other narratives only exist in fragmentary form.
List of Acts
The following list is comprehensive, but not exhaustive.
Acts of Andrew, c. 180 CE in Greek, reconstructed from Greek, Latin, Coptic and Armenian fragments.
In the New Testament, the book of Acts and some of the epistles inform of the Apostle Paul’s story and his three exceptional missionary journeys. But the story ends suddenly and is incomplete. There is some proof that Paul had a fourth missionary journey and most probably did reach Spain and even Portugal. Some texts even say he reached Britain, (see The Lost Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles also known as the Sonnini Manuscript), here it suggests that Paul preached on Lud Mount, now known as Ludgate Hill; however, there is little proof of this idea. These episodes are not properly documented, however, there is much evidence of this in the New Testament and in different historic writings (Eusebius of Caesarea, who mentions Paul forty-eight times in his writings, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, one of the apocryphal writings, Clement (AD 95), Peter (AD 60), Ignatius, Polycarp, Pamphilius, and many other late first, second, and third century writers); plus of course the writings of the Septuagint, (the seventy-book model of the Bible).
According to the book of Acts, Paul embarked on three missionary journeys, which are well documented in the New Testament. Following these journeys, he was under house arrest in Caesarea for a couple of years. First Paul was held by Felix, who probably kept him captive in the hope that he might receive money from him. (Acts 24:26 NIV …at the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him). When Paul introduced his case to Agrippa II two years later, Agrippa declared, “This man could have been set free if had he not appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32).
From there Paul was to be transported under the care of Julius, a Roman Centurion, using several ships to get to Rome. He was shipwrecked off the coast of Malta. Eventually, he made it to Rome where he spent another couple of years under house arrest in Rome awaiting an audience or trial with Emperor Nero. After Paul arrived in Rome, he observed that Jewish leaders there had not been made aware of his case (Acts 28:17-21). This suggests that no one had yet come from Jerusalem to present the accusations towards Paul. If the case was therefore no longer to be prosecuted, then possibilities are it would have been dismissed. That is the place the book of Acts ends; however, it is not the end of Paul or the end of the story. It is not revealed why Paul’s friend and fellow apostle Luke, the most credible source of the book of Acts, selected to stop where he did and failed to reveal the outcomes of the trial. Although Luke was a fellow prisoner with Paul, we know his writings did not end abruptly because he died in jail. According to ancient sources, Luke was martyred at age 84 in the Greek city of Thebes, so obviously lived on for many years after leaving Paul in Rome. We additionally do not possess a sequel to the book. However, there is robustly biblical and historic proof that Paul was acquitted at his trial and had at least one other significant missionary journey, if not two, before his final martyrdom in Rome.
There are many biblical and historic indicators floating around that allow us to reconstruct some of what came about afterwards with a little contrived storyline. The reconstruction of his route told here may be fictional, however, it is based on plenty of facts, a lot of historical writings and references, plus a sprinkling of half-truths. Whereas all the biblical and historic activities listed are in all probability true, we have little real knowledge of the timeline or order in which these events take place. We will, however, arrange the timings in what is viewed as the most reasonable order and the most probable timeline.
Something we are certain about is the beginning, which takes place after the conclusion of the book of Acts. Firstly, Paul was presented to Emperor Nero at some time during his period of arrest in Rome. God had after all promised Paul in a vision following his shipwreck off the coast of Malta that he would show up before Caesar. (Acts 27 verses 23 and 24 – Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”)
Following his hearing, at which, no doubt Paul preached the Gospel to Nero and anyone else who was there, Paul was set free.
Several strains of reasoning help the conclusion that Paul was acquitted at his trial in Rome. First, those who accused Paul, as described in Acts, lacked evidence and meaning, the little evidence they did have was often contradictory and confused. When Paul was tried earlier before the procurator Felix in Caesarea, three accusations had been made (Acts 24:5-6):
Paul had been the reason for riots all over the (known) world.
Paul was the leader of an heretic Jewish sect.
Paul had brought Gentiles and Greeks into the Temple of God in Jerusalem contrary to Jewish law, therefore, in their eyes, desecrating the Temple.
(Acts 21:28 “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.”)
Roman courts tended to exhibit little interest in religious matters as in the second charge, believing that the Jews could and should sort out their religious affairs and that such a charge is outside of the jurisdiction or interest of Rome.
In Corinth, the proconsul Gallio had already found that similar accusations towards Paul were unfounded and unproven (see Acts 18:12-16).
The last charge against Paul had been made by some Jews from Asia Minor, but they did not show up to testify before Pro-Consul Felix (Acts 24:19). Additionally, there had been no witnesses present at his initial trial in Caesarea to testify against him.
You see Paul looking forward to his release in Philemon 22, and in Philippians 1:19–26. The early church historian Eusebius, writing about AD 325 supported this with his declaration that Paul’s martyrdom was not at the time described in the book of Acts. (Eusebius of Caesarea circa. 260(ish) – 30 May 339), also known as Eusebius Pamphili. He was at once a Greek historian of Christianity and a Christian essayist. In about AD 314 he became the bishop of Caesarea Maritima in the Roman province of Syria Palaestina. Together with Pamphilus, he was once a pupil of the biblical canon and is considered one of the most influential Christian writers in the course of late antiquity).
Paul had decided to go to Philemon (Philemon 22). But in view that Colossae is to the east of Rome and Spain to the west, and given that we have evidence to believe that Paul travelled to Spain after Rome, it might be that Paul determined to forgo the trip Philemon until after he had visited Spain.
Maybe Paul did travel to Spain. Such a missionary journey was in his mind when he wrote his letter to the Romans five or six years earlier (Romans 15:22–29). Clement, writing around 95 AD in Rome, tells us that after Paul “had preached in the East and in the West, he won the genuine glory for his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the West” (see 1 Clement 5.5–7). The “farthest limits of the West” in a Roman’s mind might be Britain or Gaul (France), but usually, a first-century Roman would be thinking of Spain. Would a renowned church historian in Rome, writing just 30 years after Paul’s death in Rome have made a historic mistake about Paul’s trip to Spain? It is more probable from the standpoint of historiography to expect that Paul did journey to Spain and minister there. (See also the Acts of Peter and the Muratorian Fragment, both written late in the second century, where they tell of Paul’s journey to Spain). We cannot of course be certain, but it was in Paul’s plan to visit there (Romans 15:23-29 NIV. But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you,  I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey thereafter I have enjoyed your company for a while.  Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there.  For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem.  They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.  So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.  I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.) In the first century, Spain is only four, but possibly as many as ten days by ship from Rome, Paul most likely stayed some time in Spain preaching and teaching.
Perhaps on his return from Spain, Paul sailed to Crete the place he engaged in ministry alongside Titus. When Paul departed Crete, he left Titus to appoint elders in the cities that held believing communities, some of which have been probably planted via Paul and Titus (Titus 1:5). The order of activities after this becomes increasingly difficult. It is thought by many that after Crete, Paul travelled to Ephesus the place Timothy was once serving. During Paul’s time in Ephesus, the following incidents occurred:
1) Paul encountered opposition from Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tim 4:14)
2) He confronted a large-scale falling out with believers in Asia, which includes Phygelus and Hermogenes (2 Timothy 1:15) and ‘The Acts of Paul and Thecla’.
3) he obtained assistance and encouragement from Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:18),
4) he entreated Timothy to stay in Ephesus to right false doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3).
It may additionally be that Paul also had the intention to go to Philemon in Colossae (Philemon 22). At this point, there is no way to know. After this, we assume the whole thing happened in pretty fast succession except for any lengthy stays in any of the places he visited. Paul left Ephesus with the intention of journeying to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3). But before Paul travelled to Macedonia, he wanted to go to Miletus for some reason, so he (walked? took a ship?) south with Trophimus to the close by port of Miletus. His companion and fellow traveller, Trophimus, unfortunately, grew to become too ill to journey anymore (2 Timothy 4:20 NIV Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus)
Paul for that reason left Trophimus back in Miletus when he booked passage (I’m assuming Paul travelled by sea) on a ship heading north towards Macedonia. The ship would have stopped at Troas, so Paul left some belongings there with Carpus, such as his cloak and books (2 Timothy 4:13 NIVWhen you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.).
Since Paul left his cloak, we may also infer that it used to be summer or nearing summer. We know nearly nothing about his time in Macedonia, but, as with his visit there during his third missionary journey, he probably worked his way via Macedonia, ministering and journeying with believers in locations such as Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, and finally made his way down to Corinth.
Somewhere, alongside the experiences he had both in Macedonia and Achaia, he began planning for the winter months in the warmer area of Nicopolis on the west coast of Achaia (Titus 3:12 NIV As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there). Paul wrote a letter to Titus, and possibly his first letter to Timothy whilst making plans to winter in Nicopolis. Corinth would have been the perfect region to ship a letter to Crete (Titus) and a letter to Ephesus (1 Timothy), so I bet these letters have been despatched from Corinth. Paul despatched Artemas or Tychicus to relieve Titus on Crete, it has been suggested that Paul was once hoping for Titus to be with him throughout the colder months in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12).
Paul left Erastus in Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus stayed in Corinth…); Erastus used to be from Corinth, (see Romans 16:23) and Paul then headed north and west towards Nicopolis, where he hoped Titus would meet him.
Now, we don’t have any real evidence that this is where Paul was arrested. If the order of things after Crete are moved around on the timeline above (and even the placement of Crete on the timeline is no longer certain), Paul might have been arrested in any of the following: Ephesus, Troas, one of the cities of Macedonia, or Nicopolis. A good guestimate is Nicopolis in view that it comes at a time when many different facts are pulled together. If he was arrested quickly after he arrived at Nicopolis, just as the winter weather was moving in, this would explain how Paul found himself in jail in winter in Rome (2 Timothy 4:13 NIV When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments; – and 2 Timothy 4:21 NIV Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters).
Thus ends Paul’s fourth missionary journey. Included in the trip is a mission to Spain, ministry on the island of Crete, ministry in Ephesus, stops at Miletus, Troas, and quite many cities in Macedonia, Corinth, and probably Nicopolis.
What about after Paul’s remaining arrest? After Paul’s arrest, he was once taken to Rome and imprisoned, now not in a residence as at some stage in his former internment, but probably in the infamous, dark, and cold Mamertine Prison around the time that Nero commenced to unleash a horrific wave of persecution in opposition to Christians in the Roman Empire. During his time in prison, Paul was visited by Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-17 NIV May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.  On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me.) deserted by several other Christians as he faced trial (2 Timothy 4:16 NIV At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.), and completely abandoned by Demas, Cresens and even Titus, (2 Timothy 4:10 NIV …for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Cresens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.), nevertheless, by hook or by crook, Paul found a way to write the 2nd letter to Timothy (2 Timothy). Paul was aided by Doctor Luke, who sought to attend to his needs (2 Timothy 4:11 NIV Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry).
Paul is believed to have been beheaded instead of being thrown to the wild beasts or killed in some different inhumane way because he was a Roman citizen by birth.
The Acts of the Apostles Chapter 29
The Bible gives a fairly complete account of the life of St. Paul; his conversion, his missionary journeys, and his martyrdom in Rome. But there is a period of time, approximately six years, of which the Bible remains silent. This would be the period after his trial and acquittal in Rome and before his return to Rome to cast his fate with his many converts. These were his Christian brethren who were being put to death by the thousands during the reign of Emperor Nero.
It would be reasonable to assume that during this period, Paul visited Spain as he had planned (Rom. 15:28) and perhaps re-visited some of the churches in Asia Minor. But, Paul had expressed a desire to preach the Gospel to those to whom the name of Christ was not known. There can be no question that Paul had heard of the “Tin Islands” because the Romans had already conquered the greater part of Britain. The Apostle could have met many in Rome and elsewhere who had been there, either as traders or with the Roman army. Having journeyed so near to Britain as Spain and Gaul, it is altogether reasonable to suppose that Paul would have made the short voyage across the English Channel.
The Sonnini Manuscript, better known as the “Long Lost Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles” contains the account of Paul’s journey in Spain and Britain. The document, purporting to be the concluding portion of the “Acts of the Apostles”, covers a portion of the period after Paul’s two years enforced residence in Rome, in his own hired house. It is written in the style of the Acts and reads like a continuation.
It was found interleaved in a copy of “Sonnini’s Travels in Turkey and Greece”, and was purchased at the sale of the library and effects of the late Right Honourable Sir John Newport, Bart., in Ireland. Sir John’s family arms were engraved on the cover of the book. It had been in his possession for over thirty years. With the book was a document from the Sultan of Turkey, granting to C.S. Sonnini permission to travel in all parts of the Ottoman dominions. C. S. Sonnini translated the document from the original Greek manuscript found in the Archives at Constantinople, and presented to him by the Sultan Abdoul Achmet.
Points in favor of the authenticity of the manuscript are:
1. Its being preserved in the Archives of Constantinople.
2. It has all the appearances of being of an ancient date.
3. It is written in Greek, and in the manner of the Acts.
4. The places and peoples mentioned are called by their ancient Roman names.
5. Its Scriptural brevity and conception of the Divine purpose and plan.
6. Its Gospel-like character is dignified and spiritual.
7. Its prophetic expressions are in a Biblical style.
8. Its ending in the word “amen.” (The Biblical Acts of the Apostles and the Book of James are the only two New Testament Books not ending in “amen.” This has lead some Bible scholars to believe they are incomplete in their present form).
The following is the contents of the title page of Sonnini’s work, in which the English translation of the document was found: “Travels in Turkey and Greece undertaken by order of Louis XVI, and with the authority of the Ottoman Court, by Sonnini, member of several scientific or literary societies of the Society of Agriculture of Paris, and of the Observers of Men.”
The following is the English translation of the Manuscript, the authenticity of which cannot be vouched for.
1 And Paul, full of the blessings of Christ, and abounding in the spirit, departed out of Rome, determining to go into Spain, for he had a long time proposed to journey thither ward, and was minded also to go from thence to Britain.
2 For he had heard in Phoenicia that certain of the children of Israel, about the time of the Assyrian captivity, had escaped by sea to “The Isles afar off” as spoken be the Prophet Esdras, and called by the Romans – Britain.
3 And the Lord commanded the gospel to be preached far hence to the Gentiles, and to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.
4 And no man hindered Paul; for he testified boldly of Jesus before the tribunes and among the people; and he took with him cetain of the brethren which abode with him at Rome, and they took shipping at Ostrium and having the winds fair, were brought safely into a haven of Spain.
5 And much people were gathered together from the towns and villages, and the hill country; for they had heard of the conversion to the Apostles, and the many miracles which he had wrought.
6 And Paul preached mightily in Spain, and great multitudes believed and were converted, for they perceived he was an apostle sent from God.
7 And they departed out of Spain, and Paul and his company finding a ship in Armorica sailing unto Britain, they were therein, and passing along the south Coast, they reached a port called Raphinus.
8 Now when it was voiced abroad that the Apostle had landed on their coast, great multitudes of the inhabitants met him, and they treated Paul courteously and he entered in at the east gate of their city, and lodged in the house of an Hebrew and one of his own nation.
9 And on the morrow he came and stood upon Mount Lud and the people thronged at the gate, and assembled in the Broadway, and he preached Christ unto them, and they believed the Word and the testimony of Jesus.
10 And at even the Holy Ghost fell upon Paul, and he prophesied, saying, Behold in the last days the God of Peace shall dwell in the cities, and the inhabitants thereof shall be numbered: and in the seventh numbering of the people, their eyes shall be opened, and the glory of their inheritance shine forth before them. The nations shall come up to worship on the mount the testifieth of the patience and long suffering of a servant of the Lord.
11 And in the latter days new tidings of the Gospel shall issue forth out of Jerusalem, and the hearts of the people shall rejoice, and behold, fountains shall be opened, and there shall be no more plague.
12 In those days there shall be wars and rumors of war; and a king shall rise up, and his sword, shall be for the healing of the nations, and his peacemaking shall abide, and the glory of his kingdom a wonder among princes.
13 And it came to pass that certain of the Druids came unto Paul privately, and showed by their rites and ceremonies they were descended from the Jews which escaped from bondage in the land of Egypt, and the apostle believed these things, and he gave them the kiss of peace.
14 And Paul abode in his lodgings three months confirming in the faith and preaching Christ continually.
15 And after these things Paul and his brethren departed from Raphinus and sailed unto Atium in Gaul.
16 And Paul preached in the Roman garrison and among the people, exhorting all men to repent and confess their sins.
17 And there came to him certain of the Belgae to inquire of him of the new doctrine, and of the man Jesus; And Paul opened his heart unto them and told them all things that had befallen him, howbeit, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; and they departed pondering among themselves upon the things which they had heard.
18 And after much preaching and toil, Paul and his fellow laborers passed into Helvetia, and came to Mount Pontius Pilate, where he who condemned the Lord Jesus dashed himself down headlong, and so miserably perished.
19 Immediately a torrent gushed out of the mountain and washed his body, broken in pieces, into a lake.
20 And Paul stretched forth his hands upon the water, and prayed unto the Lord, saying O Lord God, give a sign unto all nations that here Pontius Pilate which condemned thine only-begotten son, plunged down headlong into the pit.
21 And while Paul was yet speaking, behold, there came a great earthquake, and the face of the waters was changed, and the form of the lake like unto the Son of Man hanging in an agony upon the Cross.
22 And a voice came out of heaven saying, Even Pilate hath escaped the wrath to come for he washed his hands before the multitude at the blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus
23 When, therefore, Paul and those that were with him saw the earthquake, and heard the voice of the angel, they glorified God, they were mightily strengthened in the spirit.
24 And they journeyed and came to Mount Julius where stood two pillars, one on the right hand and one on the left hand, erected by Caesar Augustus.
25 And Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, stood up between the two pillars, saying, Men and brethren these stones which ye see this day shall testify of my journey hence; and verily I say, they shall remain until the outpouring of the spirit upon all nations, neither shall the way be hindered throughout all generations.
26 And they went forth and came unto Illtricum, intending to go by Macedonia into Asia, and grace was found in all the churches, and they prospered and had peace. Amen.
The Fourth Missionary Journey: What Happened to Paul after Acts? By Kenneth Berding.
Thecla’s story is one of many in the Apocryphal Acts which portray women giving up riches and sexual activity to follow the Apostles. Thecla was an aristocratic woman who, despite great opposition, upon hearing the preaching of Paul, renounces her family and her fiancé to follow him. She eventually becomes a missionary and lives out her life teaching the gospel and performing signs and wonders. This is a contemporary English interpretation which is easy to read and understand.
Thomas was thirteen. He didn’t believe in magic; he thought that dragons were only in fairy tales, and he didn’t believe in wizards either, it was the 21st century after all. His father had left when he was only two weeks old and taken his two-year-old brother Jonathan with him, so he had never met his father or seen his brother except through baby eyes. Now Thomas was a typical thirteen-year-old, full of angst, rebellion, defiance, and a mistrust of adults, especially men.
However, in the space of a few hours one weekend, he went into a cave which was not there, met a sixty-foot Purple Dragon called Howel, who spoke with a very posh full-on Oxford accent, met a wizard called Flintock, the son of a tribal chief of the Yoruba peoples from Benin, in West Africa, a hideous beast called a trygall, with scales like a fish, flaming red hair and terrible looking teeth, and he had seen real magic performed before his eyes. Apart from all that, it was a normal weekend.
He had arrived in the land of Trymyll, a mythical and magical land in a slightly different dimension to planet Earth as we know it.
A few weeks on and he had been reunited with his father and brother. His father, Llewellyn the Brave, was an immensely powerful wizard, his brother, who despite being an acolyte for over ten years, was not. However, together, Tom and his brother Jonathan soon became very accomplished wizards, and now have their very own dragons, Bevon, a fine Red Dragon who was partnered with Jonathan and Ren, a magnificent Golden Dragon partnered with Thomas. And, just in case you didn’t know, Golden Dragons are the most magical creatures that ever existed and Red Dragons are very magical, fiercely loyal, and formidable warrior dragons.
Jon is feisty and always up for a fight, so his Red Dragon Bevon suited him well. By contrast, Tom is a healer and restorer and always tries to find a non-violent way out of trouble, both he and Ren have amazing and powerful mind-bending powers, they can see into the depths of most people’s minds and subtly bend them to do their will when required. Working as a team, Tom and Jon are nigh on invincible, working on their own inevitably led to trouble or disaster. But they are young, only thirteen and fifteen, so they are bound to get into trouble sometimes.
They have just battled with an unknown and enormously powerful dark wizard who calls himself ‘The Master’. He has been defeated but not eliminated. After the battle, in which three high elders were lost, it is revealed that Flintock the Elder has a deep secret. He divulged this to Llewellyn, but not to the boys. He thinks they are too young and immature to handle the truth.
We left the last book, Thomas, Wizard’s Son, with the news that Llewellyn and the boys are going back to Wales to visit their home and the boys’ mother.
If you are new to the Tales of Trymyll series, then there is a use full extra chapter at the end of the book which is worth reading now, The Land of Trymyll will give you an insightful overview of Trymyll and some of the main characters. It is worth reading before you start on the main story, but not compulsory!
Chapter 1 – Home again.
Four people stepped out of a cave halfway up the mountain at the back of a village in Wales. No one else could see the cave, mainly because it wasn’t there. They were dressed in the clothes of the twenty first century, jeans and tee-shirts, boots and jackets, their ‘wizard clothes’ had been magically transformed at the cave entrance in Trymyll ready for their return.
There were Llewellyn, Flintock, Jonathan, Thomas and a small Jack Russel dog called Howl. Howl was really a sixty-foot Purple Dragon called Howel, but he appeared as a dog so as not to draw attention to himself. He did, however, consider this to be a most demeaning and incongruous guise, and was always in a particularly bad mood when in doggy mode. Jonathan carried a cockerel, the alternate metamorphosis of a Red Dragon and Tom had a sparrow hawk sitting on his shoulder, who was, of course, Ren, his magnificent Golden Dragon. Jonathan slightly resented the others, a dog easily merges into the reality of normal, a sparrow hawk, whilst not a common bird to have as a pet, still looked a whole lot cooler than a cockerel, not an easy pet to wander around with in rural Wales.
For those who have not studied dragons, they are in the main very magical, intelligent, and wise. All dragons have an alternative shape which they can change into when required. For Purple Dragons, this is a small dog, not unlike a Jack Russel, for Red Dragons, it is a hen or cockerel, according to their gender, and for Golden Dragons; the most magical of all dragons, it is normally a sparrow hawk. However, being so magical, they can take on whatever shape they wish, even appear as a human if they so desire.
They stopped at the cave entrance and looked across at the valley and the mountain beyond. The air was different here, it had an industrial smell, a mix of rusty iron, diesel fumes and coal. The mines closed years ago, but still, the stench hung in the air. To all except Flintock, it still smelt like home, so they breathed it in like it was a new rose on a summer’s day.
Yes, they were now ‘home’. This is where Llewellyn’s wife Gwen lived, in a small looking miner’s cottage at the end of a terrace of cottages on the edge of the village. The boys were excited. The last time Tom had seen his mum, she was in a wheelchair, ‘crippled by life’ she used to say, with an oxygen bottle fastened to the frame to help her breathe.
Tom ran on ahead into the house, and fell into his mothers’ arms, tears running down his face, he hadn’t seen her for eight months and had missed her terribly.
“Ma, ma, we’re home!” he sobbed, “all of us, dad, Jon and Flintock as well.”
His mum hugged him and kissed him dearly on the top of his head. Next, it was Jon’s turn, he was not as sentimental as Tom, so his greeting was a little more restrained but no less warm. Finally, their dad arrived. He flung his arms around Gwen, lifted her clear off the ground and spun her round in a deep embrace.
“Sorry it’s been so long; we have had big problems in Trymyll so we couldn’t get away. All sorted now, a lot of it by the boys, they’ve made me immensely proud.”
After a decent interval of a few minutes, Flintock came in, he also embraced Gwen, “Well, look at you Gwen, you’re looking so well now. No wheelchair, no oxygen.”
“Well, a miraculous cure came over me as soon as young Tom was gone, must have been him that brought me down!”
They all laughed. They all knew it was part of what Howel called, ‘the deception’.
“Oh, and thanks for your deposits, I found them in the garden. You know I don’t need any more gold, I have more than a lifetimes supply, several times over,” Gwen said addressing Llewellyn.
“That wasn’t me,” said Llewellyn, “We’ll tell you all about it later, but the gold came from Jon and Tom’s dragons, allow me to introduce them.”
Ren apparated to Tom’s shoulder, “This is Ren,” said Tom, “he’s a magnificent Golden Dragon, the most magical of all dragons.”
“And this is Bevon,” said Jon, “an equally awesome Red Dragon, a proper battle dragon.”
“Oh dear, where can we keep them? They can’t stay in that form for long, they’ll get a cramp,” Gwen laughed.
“Oh, don’t mind me,” said Howel, “they have been like that for about twenty minutes, I had to stay in this shameful guise for two whole months.”
“Oh! Hello Howel, come and cuddle mummy then.”
“No,” was the prompt and bad-tempered reply from the small white, black, and tan Jack Russel dog, who, to demonstrate his foul mood, cocked his rear leg up and peed on the table leg.
Llewellyn stepped in, “Don’t worry, Ren will apparate all three away to the mountains where they can’t be seen, they’ll be fine.”
“Right, in that case, I’ll get the kettle on, you must all be thirsty. And I’ve baked a batch of crystallised ginger rock cakes as well because I know how much you like them. But make it soon, I don’t want the other two pooping on my carpet!”
“But how did you know we were coming?” inquired Tom.
Gwen just tapped the side of her nose as if to say, “that’s for me to know.”
“I sent a message last night so your mum would know we were coming,” Llewellyn said by way of explanation, but without explaining how you get a message from Trymyll to Wales.
Ren spoke directly into Tom’s mind. “If you need us, just call me in the normal way and we three will return in an instant.”
“Thanks, Ren,” thought Tom, “but we should be okay here, after all, this is my home, or at least it used to be, I’m not quite sure where home is nowadays.”
Bevon also said his telepathic goodbyes to Jonathan and the three dragons then disappeared, reappearing in a well forested part of the mountains a couple of valleys away.
The others then sat in the cottage talking for a while. Once Flintock had had his tea and cake he announced, “I’ll be off then; I’m going to visit my people to see what’s happening with them. I’ve heard some bad reports. I’ll see you all in about a week.”
“Stay safe my friend,” Llewellyn said.
They said their goodbyes, Flintock gave Llewellyn a hug, and then Gwen, Jon, and Tom, then he disappeared as well.
Flintock was the son of a tribal chief of the Yoruba peoples from Benin in West Africa. His tribal name was Funsan Njau Osei, he was taken to Trymyll as a boy because his natural and latent magic powers frightened his people. He was brought there by his great-uncle, Faraji Mwita Osei, a hidden wizard.
Now Gwen, of course, knew all about wizards, you can’t be married to one for nearly twenty years without finding out about them, so the three dragons and Flintock all vanishing did not phase her at all.
Chapter 2 – Bunter the Bully.
“Well Jon, you got your Wizard’s Robes yet?” his mum asked.
“Oh yes, and Tom as well, we’re both quite good at magic now,” he said as modestly as he could.
“Tom as well? But he’s only been gone a few months.”
Llewellyn intervened, “They are both powerful, talented, and gifted wizards now. They were made wizards by the Elder following some very impressive adventures which I’m sure they will tell you all about over supper. Now, you two, why don’t you go down to the village? School finishes in a few minutes, Tom, you could go and make your peace with Mrs Glyn. Jon, you tag along, and we can all catch up later. And no magic!”
“We know that da,” they replied, “I’ll catch up with me mates as well and I’ll introduce Jon to chocolate,” Tom answered, and with that, Llewellyn and Gwen were left alone.
They arrived at the school, a grey, uninteresting building, designed by the uninspired, built by the indifferent and finished to unimpress. Unopenable double glazing set in dark concrete slabs with spray paint graffiti as far as an arm could reach. A coal black flat roof sat upon the building, this piled high with snow in the winter, leaked whenever it thawed or rained, making the top floor classrooms incredibly cold in winter, and heated them to an unbearable and stifling heat in the summer.
It was a few minutes before school ended for the half-term week. Tom and Jon arrived at Mrs Glyn’s class just as the bell rang. There then followed a tsunami of teenagers out from every classroom, all hastening for the exit and freedom from the tyrannical overlords they called teachers. The smell of body odour, sweat, and hormonal teenagers lingered long after they had left the building.
“Hello Mrs Glyn, can we come in?”
“My word, young Tom, how are you? How’s life in Cardiff? Which school are you at there? How’s your dad?” The questions flowed out so quickly; Tom didn’t have time to say a word.
“Well, I’m good thanks, this is my brother Jon.”
“Oh my, he looks just like you! But taller.”
“Cardiff’s great,” he lied, “but we don’t go to a school there, we are privately tutored,” he said, almost telling the truth.
“Well, I hope your maths is a lot better now, you missed a very important test the day after you left.”
“Oh, it’s much better now thank you.”
“Well, quickly tell me what’s the square root of 169?”
“Thirteen” he replied without thinking, “and 169 squared is 28,561, and while we’re on the subject, the square root of 13 is 3.606,” using, of course, the wisdom of the wand, not his brain.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed, quite shocked, “You have improved. But what about your Welsh? You could hardly speak a word last time we met.”
“Mae fy iaith Gymraeg yn dod ymlaen yn eithaf da mewn gwirionedd, diolch.” Tom replied with his best Welsh accent. (My Welsh language is coming on quite well actually, thank you.)
Again, he didn’t actually know the language, but the wand had fed him the correct words, intonation, and accent.
“Oh my, oh my!” Mrs Glyn exclaimed.
“That’s partly why I’m here,” he said sheepishly, “I want to apologise for my rebellious attitude and behaviour when I was in your class, I know now, that although you were hard on me, it was because you really cared, and wanted me to do well. I’m sorry I didn’t realise it at the time. So, I want to both apologise and say thank you.”
“Well, well,” she said, a little tear in her eye, “thirty-seven years in teaching and no one has ever come back and said that to me, I’m quite overwhelmed, thank you very much. How have you had this most pleasant change of attitude if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Well, I’ve had a bit of counselling, and that made me understand a lot about myself and my psychological makeup,” he fibbed, not even knowing what he even meant. He could hardly tell her that a Golden Dragon told him. She would think he found out at the local Chinese takeaway.
Tom surprised himself by moving forward and giving her a hug, which she accepted graciously. She smelled quite pleasant compared to the kids in school, she was wearing a sweet cologne and did not smell of lavender water like most old ladies!
“And no one’s ever done that before either, so thank you very much again,” tears now flowing readily down her plump rosy cheeks.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
“Tears of happiness, tears of joy,” she said.
“Well, thanks again for all you did, and sorry again,” Tom repeated, he then touched her hand tenderly and left.
They were almost out of the building when Jon said….
“What was that all about? Yuk!”
“Ren showed me things I never imagined when we had our meeting of minds, he took me right through my childhood back to when I was just born. But also, he made me see things from a different perspective, including Mrs Glyn, who I always thought hated all kids and especially me, but Ren made me see that she loves kids, she’s dedicated her life to improving them and making them better. That’s why I had to go and see her.”
“Well, perhaps you should have taken her a dozen red roses or a crock of your gold as well.” Jon teased.
“Come on, let’s go down the town.”
The school was set at the top of the slope, behind it were great slag heaps of unwanted earth and coal, now well planted with trees and shrubs to avoid any landslips. They walked down towards the town. On the way down, they came across Bunter and his little gang of bullies. He was called Bunter, though not to his face, because he was, as they say, quite heavy for his height.
“Well, look at what the cats dragged back into town? If it’s not Jones the ginger wimp and, by the looks of it, his equally wimpy and long-lost brother.”
Tom and Jon stopped dead. At first, they didn’t quite know what to do or say. They could hardly run away, that would look bad, but they couldn’t fight them either, there were too many of them.
They both had their wands, they never left them. Tom made his wand appear, but up his coat sleeve so the little gang could not see it. He held his crystal and stared at the boys. He sent out an aura of fear into Bunter, so powerful was the fear and trepidation that Bunter burst into tears and messed his pants all at the same time. His little gang just roared with laughter at the bully as he ran away, red-faced and sobbing, a smelly brown mess running from his trouser legs and plopping on the pavement.
Jon and Tom then just walked away. Smiling.
“What did you do then?” asked Jon.
“Just filled him with fear and dread so powerful that he messed his pants.”
“He won’t like it; he won’t let us get away with it. I know all about bullies, he’ll try to get us back.”
“Get away with what? We didn’t do anything that anyone would know about. He just pooped himself, hardly our fault. Nothing to do with me I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Tom said laughing, they both laughed.
Then Tom stopped. They were outside ‘The Tuck Shop’. The village’s little sweet shop newsagents and general store.
“Come on, I’ll buy you some chocolate, it’s a taste so good, you may just die of pleasure!”
“Afternoon Mr Evans,” said Tom, “can we have a couple of bars of your finest milk chocolate please?”
“Hello young Thomas, glad to see you’re back, this must be your big brother, my mind’s gone blank, what’s your name?”
“Oh yes, I remember now, not that we ever met, but your mum spoke of you often. You two back to stay?”
“No,” said Jon taking over the conversation, “Just here for a week or so and then back to Cardiff again.”
“Your mum misses you two, can’t be easy for her not seeing her boys for so long.”
The boys didn’t want to pursue the conversation, so Jon finished with, “Well we’re here now, mum wants us both to have a better education than the local school can provide, so she sent us to Cardiff to be with our dad. But we promise to visit a lot more often now.”
Mr Evans was nice, but nosey, always wanting to know other people’s business, the village didn’t need a local newspaper, not with Mr Evans in the shop.
“Shame about your mum and dad splitting up, such a pity,” Mr Evans said, trying to dig for gossip.
“They never split up, dad works away and gets back when he can, he’s got a very important job, so it’s not easy to get back all the time, they never have split up and never will,” Tom said with some force and anger. Mr Evans decided it was time to stop digging.
They removed themselves to the park. Jon had never seen a park before as such things do not exist in Trymyll. So, he’d never sat on a swing, been down a slide or on a round-about, “Oh, so this is the famous park, where the Saturday night ritual of chips and a burger happens.”
“The very one,” Tom said, almost with pride, “we’ll come down here tomorrow night and get some chips. You’ll see, it’s life itself, it’s an event.”
“And, if I remember correctly, chocolate is better than life.”
“Yup, sure thing, here, try some.”
Jon carefully unwrapped the blue paper from the bar and then gently took off the silver foil from around the chocolate bar.
“So, according to the wrapper, there’s a glass and a half of milk in every bar. How’d they do that then?”
“No idea, just take a bite and let it melt on your tongue.”
Jon took two squares of chocolate and popped them into his mouth. The chocolate slowly melted sending a rush of extreme pleasure through his entire body, every hair stood on end and every nerve in his body tingled with pleasure, he had goosebumps on his goosebumps.
“Mmmmmm, Mmmmm. Oh, my goodness, that is so good, I’ve never tasted anything like it. Mmmmm.”
Chocolate ran down his chin and onto his tee-shirt. He pushed it back up his chin and back into his mouth, not wishing to miss even a fraction and then tucked into the rest of the bar.
“Well, chips had better be good, because that was indescribable!”
“It’s not the chips, it’s the ritual.”
Once they had eaten the chocolate, they headed back to the cottage. It was a small cottage on the outside, officially it had two bedrooms upstairs, two rooms downstairs, just a front room and a kitchen with an outside toilet in the garden. To the passer by, that’s exactly how it looked, but on the inside, it looked slightly larger, upstairs there were four bedrooms and two bathrooms, one en-suite, downstairs there was a good-sized lounge, a dining room, study, kitchen come breakfast room, utility room and a toilet on the inside; produced using hammerspace a magic non-reality where something is bigger on the inside than on the outside.
Jon excitedly told his parents about his chocolate experience, telling it as if they had never heard of chocolate before.
“Oh, and sorry about the chocolate stains on my tee-shirt.”
“No worry, I’ll soon get that stain out. Anything else you want to tell us about?” mum asked.
“No,” they both said cautiously.
“Well,” said Llewellyn, “it’s just that we have heard reports of a confrontation in the village between two ginger-haired boys and a gang of youths which ended in their leader, Bunter, I believe he is called, crying like a baby, and pooping his pants. Do either of you know anything about that?”
“Well,” said Tom, “we only talked, no one saw us doing anything, my wand was up my sleeve and out of sight.”
“I thought I told you no magic.”
“Anyway, how did you find out?”
“Your mother has a fire in the grate, so I was watching you two to make sure you came to no harm. Nice trick though. Very discrete, no harm was done and no one any the wiser. So, well done boys. I don’t like bullies, never have, never will. Now, no more magic! Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes da,” the boys said in a resigned sort of voice.
“Well boys, it’s nearly supper time, I hope you still have appetites after your chocolate fest,” mum said with a smile, “I know it’s Friday, but I’ve done a full Sunday roast for us all. So, let’s go eat.”
Tom had missed his mums’ roast dinners, so this was special. A nice leg of Welsh lamb, crispy, crunchy roast potatoes, roast parsnip, carrots, and peas. This was followed by spotted dick and custard, Toms’ favourite.
Over dinner, the boys spoke excitedly about their adventures in Trymyll, missing out on all the bits which put them in any danger. They talked about dragons, some of the troubles they had with Llewel the Loser. Arvel Mordecai and the Golden Dragons he had captured and some of the story of how they released them, missing out the bit about there being three dangerous Blue Dragons involved. They told of their dragons, how Jon and Bevan had got to know each other and the fun they had in the quarries, the fight they had had with twenty, no, at least thirty of the fiercest Blue Dragons you ever did see, but Bevon had seen them all off. Tom told of his encounter with Ren, how there had been a meeting of minds and how he saw right back to when he first opened his eyes and saw his father cut the cord, and how he even saw Ren breaking out of his egg through Ren’s eyes. He even told of how he saw his dad and brother leave when he was a few days old, choking up a bit as he told it. They both told of the battle with the Master, how their dragons had been so brave in the fight but missing exactly how they were involved so as not to frighten their mother. They talked well into the evening until it was eventually time to turn in for the night.
“Right, cocoa all round, then it’s off to bed. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve put you two in the back bedroom with twin beds, but please don’t sit up there talking all night, we want to have a full day tomorrow,” Gwen said.
The next morning, they were all up and down for breakfast before seven o’clock. Over breakfast, dad had a few things to say.
“Right, listen up. As you know, I was the Health and Safety Manager at the mine for many years. In case anyone asks what I do now, tell them I am now working for the ministry, Department of the Environment that is, I’m a consultant in Health and Safety. You told me yesterday that Mrs Glyn thinks you have home tutors coming in, having such a good job will explain how we can afford it. Now some good news, your mum and I spoke about it at length after you went up last night, when we return to Trymyll next week, your mum is coming with us. Her funds, as we call them, are being professionally managed, and will continue to supply those in need in her absence. Any questions? No? Great. Now let’s get on with Saturday. What do you boys want to do?”
“What?” Tom said excitedly, “You’re coming with us? That will be fantastic. Will you be okay though? Trymyll is a magical world, you will be what they call a phobl, you’ll have no magic.”
“Oh, don’t you worry about me, I have three strapping wizards to look after me, and Flinty as well most of the time, I’ll be fine,” his mum replied.
“You sure?” Tom added.
“Of course, I am. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” she added.
“So, where are we going?” Llewellyn asked again.
“What about the zoo? Jon’s never been to a zoo. How about a day at Folly Farm?” Tom suggested.
“Okay, all agreed, we’ll go to Folly Farm. But we must get the bus there, and again, no apparating and no magic please!”
“But that will take ages,” whined Tom.
“I know it will, but we can apparate back if we are sure no one’s watching,” his dad said, “Check the bus timetable on the interweb thingy.” Llewellyn hadn’t quite got the language of computers yet; he was a bit of a Luddite and didn’t understand them.
Five minutes later Tom was back, “It’s a seven-hour journey, five of which we will be walking!”
“Okay, plan B, we’ll get a taxi.”
“But that will be expensive!” their mum interjected.
“I think we have enough, you are after all the richest women in Wales.”
“Well, I won’t be for long if you keep getting us taxis everywhere.”
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