Chapter 1 - THE SECRET
The dragon’s shadow was everywhere, even though Hadrián was the only one who could sense its presence. The power of Dragal would soon become manifest, but, for those who were not aware of it, it was just another day like any other.
All the pupils in the class were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Miss Ermidas with the marks from the maths exam. They knew, as always, she would enter the classroom two minutes after the bell rang.
Not a second before or afterwards.
The old teacher arrived on time, clutching her folder to her chest. She slowly draped her red cardigan over the back of her chair and, having greeted the children in the room, began to pass the exam papers around the desks.
‘Antón… no comment. We’ll see each other in September, and possibly next year as well.
‘Teresa… you could do a lot better.
‘Breixo… you have to use your head for something other than wearing a cap.
‘Antía… carry on like this. 8 out of 10.
‘Marta… on this occasion I was expecting a lot more than a mere pass.
‘Miguel… well, you scraped through, but that’s better than nothing.’
As the teacher continued walking past the desks, getting closer and closer to the back of the classroom, Hadrián stared out of the window. The rain beat against the windowpanes, but the boy was looking further away, at the façade of the old church of St Peter’s.
He found it where it always was, on the cornice, and smiled when old Dragal winked in a gesture of complicity.
The other pupils, unaware of the stone dragon’s movements, remained in absolute silence, watching their tutor’s every move. Miss Ermidas was also unaware of what was happening and carried on handing out exams until she got to Hadrián’s place.
The teacher then drew to a halt and placed the piece of paper, scribbled on both sides in the boy’s characteristically tiny handwriting, on the desk. In the upper margin, next to the pupil’s name, in red and highlighted by a large circle, appeared a ‘10’ that seemed to Hadrián as big as the world.
‘I still don’t know how you did it… I’m amazed,’ she said.
The boy’s face lit up with a smile that stretched from ear to ear. A ten! Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the silhouette of Dragal moving about on the cornice. Yes, the stone dragon was capable of reading his thoughts and was already informed.
Unable to focus his attention on the class, as soon as the bell rang, Hadrián was the first to get up from his seat, but he couldn’t leave the classroom as quickly as he would have liked. The teacher stopped him in his tracks by placing a hand on his shoulder in a gesture the boy could not avoid.
‘Wait… I want a word with you.’
In seconds, the two of them were alone, face to face, teacher and student.
Miss Ermidas gazed long and hard at the boy, who in recent weeks had shed the look of a lost child he’d had when he arrived at the school at the beginning of the year.
‘I wanted to congratulate you. You did a really nice piece of work this time.’
The teacher had been worried about him all year. The only child of a family torn apart by the accident, he’d come to the school, having moved from another city after his father died. Time is the best medicine to heal the soul’s wounds, thought the teacher.
Hadrián did not reply straight away. To Miss Ermidas it seemed he let his gaze wander out of the window of the classroom, which was open next to him, fixing it for a moment on some indeterminate point. It was just for a moment, and then his face broke into a smile that revealed the brace on his teeth.
‘It’s just… this time I did what you said and studied hard.’
This wasn’t the answer the teacher wanted, but she knew she wasn’t going to get a better one. There wasn’t much else to say so, before letting him go, she gave him some brief encouragement:
‘Carry on like this, you’ll soon find the path you’re looking for.’
Of course I will, thought Hadrián, but he didn’t say anything. He squeezed the hand in his trouser pocket, feeling the strength of his talisman passing through his fingers. He felt the energy in his forearm, his elbow, reaching his shoulder… He let go before it burned too much, smiled at the teacher again and started walking down the corridor, towards the exit, where Mónica was waiting.
Hadrián couldn’t talk to Miss Ermidas about what he already knew, tell her he’d found the path that had opened up for him centuries before and it was in his hands to fulfil the prophecy. Very soon.
Translated from Galician by Jonathan Dunne