Thirty thousand feet high in an aeroplane on his way back to England from Switzerland, thirteen-year-old Samuel Richard Rambles peered out of the small oval window next to his seat and he worried again about what would happen when he got back to Dragamas.
He had tried to convince himself it was all a bad dream. Over the summer holiday, Sir Ragnarok had told Sammy many, many, times that he had done the right thing out of the two terrible choices. But Sammy kept running the scene through his head, wondering if he could have done anything differently.
What if Dixie hadn’t come with them to the den? What if he, Sammy, hadn’t found the Angel of ‘El Horidore? What if they had managed to overpower Alfie Agrock? What if Sir Ragnarok and Commander Altair had arrived earlier? What if? What if?
It made his head hurt and Sammy shut his eyes. But all he could see was Alfie Agrock holding the knife to Dixie’s face, her bright green eyes full of tears, telling him not to give Alfie Agrock the Angel of ‘El Horidore. She was telling him to keep the special Angel whistle, the whistle that would call all dragons, safe from the evil Dwarf, the same Dwarf Sammy had found out was the “A” in the Shape, the people who wanted to kill all the dragons and steal their draconite.
In his mind’s eye, Sammy could see the shimmering blue-green draconite gemstone, the precious stone stored inside a dragon’s brain which enables the dragon to breathe fire, to fly and perform magic. Without its draconite, a dragon would die instantly.
Sammy remembered how Sir Ragnarok had told him the Shape wanted all the draconite in the world so they could rebuild the Stone Cross and how this would give the Shape power over earth, air, fire and water. It would give them immortality and invincibility. Something that could never be allowed to happen again. He scrunched his eyes up tightly, wishing he could go back and change things. Put wrongs to right.
When he opened his eyes a few minutes later, he could see tiny buildings out of the oval aeroplane window. An announcement from the Captain informed the passengers they were flying over Northern France and that there would be some turbulence in the next few minutes.
‘Are you all right babe?’
Sammy looked away from the window and shook himself. Louise Manning, the blonde air stewardess his mother had asked to check up on him every fifteen minutes from take-off, was leaning over the back of his seat.
‘Are you sure you’re all right babe?’ asked Louise, flashing a gleaming smile at him. ‘You were miles away!’
Sammy looked out of the aeroplane window and shuddered. The Captain had just told them about some bumpy bits and they were still several thousand feet in the air. He looked nervously at the aeroplane wings but they seemed to be fine and still attached to the aeroplane.
Sammy nodded, even though he felt really sick inside. He was feeling a bit airsick from the long aeroplane flight and a bit homesick as he was already missing his parents and his one-year-old baby sister Eliza.
But most of all, he was feeling sick with worry about what he would face when he got back to school.
Would Dixie be there? Would Sir Ragnarok have caught Alfie Agrock? Would all the dragons in the world have been summoned to the school?
As the plane lurched in the sky, Sammy looked up at the air hostess Louise Manning and nodded again.
‘I’ll be ok,’ said Sammy, more bravely than he felt.
‘That’s good babe.’ Louise smiled with her perfect teeth gleaming in her dark tanned face. ‘It won’t be long now until we land. Is anyone meeting you from the airport, babe?’
Sammy shook his head. ‘I’m supposed to get my stuff and find a taxi. Then the taxi will take me to my school.’
‘What, by yourself babe?’ asked Louise. ‘Didn’t your parents organise a taxi for you?’
Sammy shook his head again. ‘Nope. I have to do it myself. My Dad wants me to learn how to do things like that. It can’t be that difficult, can it?’
‘We’ll see about that,’ said Louise matter of factly and she flounced off towards the stewards’ cabin, her blonde ponytail swishing behind her.
Louise returned about five minutes later, flashing her dazzling white smile at Sammy.
‘I’ve been given an extended break before my next flight,’ Louise grinned at him. ‘How about we get a bite to eat and I’ll help you find your taxi? We can get a burger and chips or whatever you want.’
‘That would be very kind,’ said Sammy in his politest voice, and thought his father would have been proud. Charles Rambles frequently told Sammy that good manners would get him anything he wanted.
‘Then it’s settled babe,’ beamed Louise. ‘You know, you remind me of my son. He’s a right tearaway. He’s always on about some dragon nonsense!’
Sammy pricked up his ears. It was the first time anyone had mentioned “dragons” in nearly ten weeks since he had left Dragamas School for Dragon Charming.
His face fell as he remembered that because the summer term had ended abruptly early there would still be some exams he had to pass to guarantee his place in the fourth year, his penultimate year at the school. He crossed his fingers, hoping Dixie would be there to meet him.
‘We will be landing in thirty minutes,’ the Captain’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker. ‘Please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts.’
‘Your son talks about dragons?’ asked Sammy in surprise.
Louise pressed a finger to her lips and helped Sammy fasten his seatbelt. As she pulled the belt tight, Sammy felt his wooden staff with his onyx, ruby and amber gemstones press against his chest.
Over the summer, Sammy had spent hours trying to perfect techniques with his staff, practicing various manoeuvres, creating fire and casting different coloured sparks using the gemstones he had been given in each year he had been at Dragamas.
‘There you go babe,’ said Louise, checking the seat belt was fastened securely. ‘We’ll be back on the ground before you know it,’ she added and disappeared down the gangway to attend to the other passengers.
‘We get sapphire gemstones this year,’ Sammy muttered to no one in particular.
The elderly couple in the seats next to him shuddered in their sleep. They hadn’t said anything other than “hello” at the start of the flight. After turning up their noses as Sammy sat down with his crisps, cola and Dragonball Weekly magazine, they had hidden themselves under their newspapers and started snoring, occasionally hurrumphing in their sleep.
Sammy finished reading the last pages of his Dragonball Weekly magazine and gripped the arms of his seat, bracing himself as the plane came into land. He needn’t have bothered as the plane landed on the runway as lightly as a feather.
When Sammy opened his eyes, the elderly couple were already at the front of the plane, shaking the hands of the stewards and stewardesses.
Sammy stood up and stretched his arms and legs. He picked up his magazine and checked his coat pocket to make sure he still had his passport and travel papers. He made his way to the front of the plane where Louise was waiting for him.
‘Are you ready babe?’ grinned Louise. ‘I asked the Captain to get them to take your luggage off first. Staff privileges,’ she winked at him and tapped her badge that read “Louise Manning, Senior In-Flight Air Stewardess”, with the orange plane logo in the background.
‘Thank you,’ said Sammy, secretly glad the flight was over. He hoped he could manage to eat a burger and chips without throwing up.
Sammy was impressed when Louise’s staff privileges got them through the express passport controls and out into the staff café in record time.
Louise found two empty chairs in a quiet corner of the café and handed Sammy a menu full of tasty options to choose from. Almost as soon as they sat down, a waiter came to the table.
‘Hi Jack,’ said Louise, ‘I’ll have the pasta salad, a slice of chocolate cake and a lemonade please,’ she announced to the waiter whilst reaching for her purse. ‘What would you like Sammy babe?’
‘Just cola, please,’ said Sammy, not daring to call Louise “babe” in the same infuriating but flattering way she did it to him. She’s got a son my age, he grinned to himself.
Jack wrote down the order and Louise got up to use the self-service drinks machine.
‘One pound eighty each!’ said Louise as she returned with an orange plastic tray carrying the two drinks.
Sammy took out his wallet and counted out the coins.
‘Oh, you don’t need to pay babe,’ said Louise, brushing his hand with the coins away. ‘It’s just the last time I bought a drink in the staff café it was thirty-five pence. You wouldn’t get it in a can from the express stall for that price any more. I usually bring my own sandwiches and eat them on the plane.’
Sammy nodded and sipped his cola. When Louise’s pasta salad and slice of chocolate cake drizzled in chocolate sauce arrived, he wished he had ordered some food.
Louise snapped the plastic fork away from the lid and started eating her pasta. ‘Now, we’ve got your bags, your drink, just need to find your taxi and I need to be back for my next flight,’ she recounted the items like a shopping list hardly pausing for breath. ‘Then I’m on the next flight to Egypt. We fly right over the pyramids. You’d love the pyramids babe, they’re amazing, especially at night. Have you ever been to Egypt babe?’
Sammy shook his head, amazed at Louise’s ability to talk and eat continuously. ‘I’ve seen other pyramids.’
‘In books babe?’ asked Louise, pausing to drink her lemonade in one gulp.
‘No, not in books,’ said Sammy. ‘I’ve been inside a pyramid too!’ he added, hoping he sounded impressive.
‘Ooh babe, was it scary? Just they’re supposed to be cursed, aren’t they babe? Can’t say I fancy being cursed with bad things happening to you.’
Without pausing for breath, Louise wrapped up the chocolate cake in orange and purple serviettes and handed the parcel to Sammy.
‘I thought you might like this to keep you going on the motorway babe. It’s about two hundred miles isn’t it, to get to this school of yours babe?’
Sammy nodded. ‘I guess so,’ he said, even though he wasn’t really sure how far away Dragamas was from the airport.
Louise laughed. ‘By the time you’re back at school, I’ll be in Egypt, funny world babe, anyway I’d best get you to the taxi rank. I’ll see if my Steve’s on. He’ll get you there safely.’
‘Thanks,’ said Sammy, putting the cake in his coat pocket. ‘Are you sure I can’t pay for this?’
‘No way babe,’ Louise held up a wadge of crisp twenty pound notes that Sammy thought were probably from his mother. ‘This more than covers it and you’ve been a pleasure to look after babe.’ Louise flashed him another gleaming smile.
Sammy grinned and pointed to a piece of green pasta stuck between her front teeth.
‘Thanks babe,’ said Louise, removing the pasta. ‘Let’s get you and your luggage to my Steve.’
Sammy picked up his grey suitcase with his initials sewn in green letters in the top corner and wheeled it to the taxi rank. He had to walk at a quick pace to keep up with Louise, who, despite wearing incredibly high heels, was walking as fast as he could walk in his trainers.
They went through the revolving door leading out of the airport. Sammy shivered as the cool air hit him but there was no time to stop as Louise whisked him along the concrete path to the taxi rank.
There was a long line of cars parked next to a bright yellow sign with the word “Taxi” written in black letters. All of the cars had their engines running and the drivers were ready to set off as soon as new passengers arrived.
Louise marched to the third taxi in the row and tapped on the window. Instantly a man dressed in a black suit leaped out of the car and gave Louise a lingering embrace.
‘Hello babe,’ said the taxi driver.
‘Hi babe,’ said Louise, breaking away from the man. She turned to Sammy and flashed a gleaming smile. ‘Sammy, this is my Steve,’ she said proudly.
Sammy looked at Steve. He was a tall, good looking man with twinkling brown eyes, light brown hair, broad shoulders and a cheeky smile that didn’t really go with his smart suit and polished shoes.
Steve held out his hand. ‘Pleased to meet you Sammy. I’m Louise’s husband and chauffeur. Let’s get your suitcase loaded up.’
Sammy shook hands with Steve and grinned. He got into the back of the taxi, looking forward to the drive back to Dragamas.
Steve gave Louise another long romantic embrace that made her late for her next flight. She had to be prised away from him by two security guards who had been sent looking for her.
Louise was still blowing Steve kisses as she disappeared back up the path towards the airport. Her high heels clicked on the concrete and she waved violently at her husband, promising him she would be home soon.
‘Never get married to an air stewardess,’ advised Steve, accepting the twenty pound notes Sammy held out of the window and lugging Sammy’s heavy grey suitcase into the boot of his green Vauxhall Vectra. ‘One minute you’re the best thing since sliced bread and the next minute she’s going off to look after some Pharaoh, gallivanting halfway across the world. Now, where are we going Sammy?’
Sammy handed Steve the Dragamas business card, the same card his father had been given by Sir Lok Ragnarok four years ago. Even though the card was scuffed with age, it had all the directions on the back.
‘South West it is then,’ said Steve, grinning at Sammy. ‘Buckle up, you’re in for a long ride.’