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“Oh just wait up, can’t you please?” cried Sarissa Hallet angrily as she tried to keep up herself. Poor Sarissa was hot and very red in the face already. They had set off before dawn and been walking for what seemed like ages. Now, beyond the great Citadel, a sallow morning light was beginning to come fast.

Ahead, Gareth, Sao and the seventeen year old scullion who had first led them to Bouchebold’s kitchens were carrying metal shovels, apparently for the nasty job of collecting Dragon Dung. The scullion, who’s name was Snare, was clearly leading, but Gareth’s triumph in the kitchen and Bouchebold’s evident approval, had at least made him treat the three of them with a little more respect.

The great island Citadel of Pendolis and the hamlets and forges which they had seen when they arrived had dropped behind them, and now they were on foot, in ragged open country, which seemed to stretch for miles around them, although they knew that somewhere it was surrounded by the strange, magical Seer Guard. After the steamy labours of the day before, it was bliss to be outside again.The air was fresh and clean and the grass thick and soft around them, though the green had a strange yellowish hue, while the track they were following was deeply rutted with wagon tracks. Many had been at work in Pendolis, it seemed, with the coming Dragon Wars.

All morning as they walked, and after a night of troubling dreams, Gareth Marks had been thinking of The Lady Mordana in the kitchens and her strange forgotten words of a prophecy. Of evil already being here in Blistag too. She had said something was happening that very day, and that the Seer Guard would soon be breached. What horrors lay outside, from the wraiths, and that terrible Ice Dragon or the Black Warlock himself, Gareth could only guess at. He looked about nervously but now the twelve-year-old was furiously excited to see a real dragon and perhaps the young Dragon Warriors in training too. That is the chance Bouchebold had given him.

Although he was only twelve, Gareth Marks already felt he had a special link to dragons.  His own Godfather had sent him the Very Dangerous Book, after all, if not that strange egg. If he could help it, Gareth didn’t plan to spend too long down in the kitchens, even if he had saved the Bloodberry Souffle. The boys slowed reluctantly and waited for Sarissa Hallet to catch up. They were getting rather irritated but Gareth felt for the bits of book in his pocket and wondered what other useful tips they might give him about this extraordinary world.

“Well thanks, I’m sure,” Sarissa said sourly, as she joined them at a run.

“Why were you dawdling then?” asked Gareth rather coldly. “You kept stopping all morning.”

“I was thinking,” panted Sarissa, “if you must know. About those Dragon Maidens. I think those jewels on their foreheads have something to do with their power. It turned a strange Golden colour when she spoke in the Kitchen. I wish I could do it too.”

The scullion raised an eyebrow and looked scornfully at Sarissa.

“It’s in the blood, fool,” grunted Snare , “and you have to be born a Dragon Maiden. Not for the likes of you, down below with us.”

“Me?” said Sarissa, standing her ground, and trying to look as tall as she could, “I don’t know about your parents, boy, but I’m a Hallet. Of Hertfordshire. So don’t you forget it.”

Gareth Marks suddenly thought with anguish of his father.

“Well I ain’t got any parents,” said Sao Cheung rather mournfully.“I’m an orphan, I guess. Though they say I’m bright, for a kid.”

“And my Dad left home,” admitted Gareth suddenly. “Although I’ve got a Godfather. Pendelion.  Pendelion Pumfrey. You’re lucky your parents are together, at least, Sarissa.”

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