As Skaran fell over backwards, bemoaning his fate, a horse bolted past. On its back the terrified monk from before. Skaran pushed himself up onto his elbows. "Now where is he buggering off to I wonder?"
The others watched as the horse, and rider, disappeared into the distance...
Barnabas watched Amethyst as she brushed the floor with her tail. Huge plumes of dust, and old bedding, flew out of the huge doors to the stone barn.
"Shoo fox. Stand outside, and wait. I need to set my bed." Forewarned he left quickly, followed by the sound of metal on stone.
Skaran tossed the giant ruby back to Kralla. "Missy, I may be a pack-rat, but I have a family. The old bat paid you, not me."
Tellerick and Kralla looked at one another and laughed in unison. "Wot?" Said Skaran.
"You're as wrapped up in this as the rest of us Rat!" Growled Kralla mirthfully. "You really think that you're not bound to young Will?" She laughed again. "Tell him Master Tellerick."
"She's right Skaran. We were bound together by the Oracle from the moment we entered the cave. Our fates entwined, by our world itself!"
"Gaagh!" Groaned Skaran.
Kralla pinched the bridge of her nose tightly and sighed herself. "I wasn't planning on sticking around after we returned Master Tellerick. I was on my way to the Clarrianne Plateau. I only took your job because I needed a little extra cash."
"Madam Whitesnow. I think that the Oracle has dented all our plans."
"You can say that again Master Tellerick." Said Skaran. "Although, you have to admit Kralla. The old bat does pay well."
Kralla picked a ruby and eyed it. "That she does Skaran." And tossed it over to the rat.
"Bloody hell that's a nice gem."
As Amethyst disappeared behind the monastery, Kralla turned to Tellerick. "How in the Goddesses name did we end up with a dragon?"
"It seems that the fates have conspired to keep us moving along this path. I know that Will here is simply standing in the eye of the storm, everything swirling around him..."
Skaran sat down on his pack. "So, are you saying that staying close to your boy is the safest place to be Master Tellerick?"
Tellerick sighed heavily. "Will is the Augury. Great change is coming, and often that leads to great strife. War might be inevitable."
Amethyst got up and leaned over the monk standing next to Barnabas. "Right then! Where's my room?" The monk looked along Amethyst's muzzle and into her eyes, terror gripping his insides.
"Spit it out, man!"
The monk started to shake uncontrollably as Barnabas bowed. "Allow me to show you Mistress Amethyst." He nodded at the monk, and then in the direction of the monastery. The monk bowed and then streaked across the grounds and through the giant doors to illusory safety.
Amethyst ambled behind Barnabas. "You have a nice place here fox."
"Thank you mistress Amethyst. Greatly appreciated."
Kralla looked at her cupped paws full of large gems. A couple of rubies, three diamonds, emeralds, sapphires. Amethyst leaned in closely.
"Don't get any ideas. I ain't made of money tigress. But the boy is under my wing now and he needs a good set of claws by his side. I know a pro when I see one princess, even if she is dossing about in the low lands."
At the sound of the word princess, Kralla's pupils widened and she looked sharply at the dragon. Again, Amethyst winked. This time knowingly, before turning away and sneezing once again.
Amethyst looked around. "Nice enough place you have here fox. Any chance of a barn I can sleep in?"
Barnabas whispered in the ear of an increasingly horrified monk. "There is a stone annex that's used for wintering the animals. Will that be alright?"
"So long as it's clean, that'll do. I'll do my own bedding." She looked down at Will. "That's lesson number one boy. If you have trouble sleeping, bring your own pillow." She winked at him. "And you, tiger."
"That's Kralla thank you."
Amethyst reached into her pouch and pulled out a handful of gems. "Your retainer."
"Why is that not good? Beyond what the Oracle told us about the last time the Augury appeared."
Amethyst sighed heavily, then coughed again. "Because as the first dragon to meet the Augury, I now have to attend him." She thumped the ground. "Hell and damnation! Why couldn't it have been Audrey? She loves this kind of thing! Bloody cold." She grumbled.
"So you will be staying with us?"
Amethyst rolled her eyes. "Yes. But don't expect me to pull your bony arses out of the fire when it comes to it. I'm here for the boy alright?"
Amethyst sat on her rump and wiped her nose yet again. "So, master Tellerick, before I lose my voice. What did the Oracle have to say for herself?"
"Well mistress Amethyst, the Oracle said that Will is the Augury."
Amethyst burst into a fit of coughing and sneezing, emitting fire and smoke that lit the late afternoon sky and blanketed the ground in foul-smelling soot; forcing everyone to rush to the monastery for cover.
Managing to calm down, the dragon signalled it was safe for Tellerick to approach. "He's the Augury? Oh, bloody hellfire. That's not good." She croaked.
A few hours later Amethyst settled onto the ground next to the monastery, where Barnabas had to quickly run to and tell them not to gather weapons.
"Blimey. Weeks of trekkin' over in a blink." Said Skaran. "You should do a taxi service missy. Earn a fortune!"
Amethyst blew her nose messily. "I'm not a taxi. That was..." She sneezed into the sky, emitting an enormous gout of blue flame. "Bleurgh! That was payment, rat. And you need to lose weight!"
Skaran looked down and patted his paunch. "I'm no dwarf missy dragon, but I can quaff with the best!"
Outside, the dragon was hanging its head over the side of the plateau.
"Ahem! Madam? We have your list!" Said Tellerick loudly. The dragons head rose up from below, and Amethyst wiped her mouth.
"Sorry." She looked down over the edge, then quickly looked away. "Erm, I'm afraid I've been a bit ill. You shouldn't go back the way you came." She reached out and took the list, reading it quickly. "Hmm... You said you could help with some of these?"
"Madam, I'm sure we can."
"Then I shall give you a lift down the mountain as payment. Hop on!"
William looked at the ground. "I don't know how to do that."
Tellerick smiled. "And I do not have a clue how to teach you about prognostication either! I'm hoping that there is someone close by who will be able to though. I will carry on teaching you the basics; the standard magic's. But nothing the Oracle says should be taken lightly. Do you remember what she said about the whispers of Amethyst?" Will nodded. "I think that she meant our dragon friend outside. So we should hurry out and give Madam Amethyst her shopping list back don't you think?"
As they left the Oracle behind them, Will pulled on Tellericks' robe. "Master? What's an Augury?"
Tellerick smiled. "Most people would say that it is a tool for poking holes in things. But there's an obscure meaning that reaches far back into the past. I'm reasonably sure the Oracle means that one, and not the tool reference." He stopped, turned and knelt in front of William.
"An Augury is a person who can tell the future from the flights of the birds in the sky. And they are, very, special people indeed."
"And I am an Augury?"
"Yes. You are."
"But, but you're the Oracle! You tell futures and things!" Spluttered Skaran.
She smiled. "Time is full of eddies, ripples and currents. It is not immutable, it is as water in a river. The appearance of the Augury blinds me." She looked back at William. "Your fate is what you make of it. Follow the teachings of Master Tellerick. Listen closely to the whispers of Amethyst, and be patient with Master Barnabas." He nodded. "Good. Trust your friends William. They will always be there for you." She stepped back. "I also believe Mistress Amethyst needs her shopping list filled out?"
"War?" Said Skaran and Kralla at the same time.
The Oracle stood. "The Augury is not a precursor of war, but of great changes in your world." She looked at Tellerick. "Change is inevitable Master Tellerick. The augury you have brought before me is young. He does not yet understand his role in your future events."
Tellerick bowed his head. "But you do. Don't you."
"And you know that I cannot tell you, even though I am considered an Oracle by your world. The appearance of the Augury is a sign of great change. Change that is fluid in time."
William knelt in front of the oracle, who sighed heavily. "That time has come again." She looked up at Tellerick. "You have brought the Augury before me because you do not recognise him."
It was Barnabas' turn to raise an eyebrow. "Wait, I know that..." He frowned, trying to remember where he'd seen the name before. "Augury..." If he had been human he would have paled, instead, the fur on the back of his neck bristled and stood on-end. "The sundering of the species. The Augury was the one who predicted the war of all ages, observing the birds."
Kralla raised her eyebrows. "It's a woman?!"
Tellerick patted her arm. "It can be whatever it wants to be." He stepped forward. "Oracle, I have brought someone for your opinion."
"REALLY HUMAN TELLERICK? AN OPINION? THAT IS NOT LIKE YOU."
Barnabas and Skaran sniggered at the back. "Girl's got sass." Said Skaran.
Tellerick gestured to William, as the image knelt on the worn stone floor becoming more solid as it did so. She beckoned.
"Come, young William." She held out her hand, her voice now less booming and coming from the Oracle herself instead of the air surrounding the group.
Skaran nudged Barnabas as they walked towards the Aspect. "Is it my imagination, or does that look like a Chabbarat gambling dice?" Barnabas looked down at his companion.
"You mean die. Dice is more than one."
"Yeah, yeah. I know the singular, but no-one uses it. I'm not imagining it though am I?"
"No Skaran. You're not. it does look like one, except it's the size of a melon and glowing purple."
"Wonder why that is."
"IT IS BECAUSE I AM THE CONVERGENCE POINT OF TWENTY UNIVERSES RAT CALLED SKARAN." Before them, the ghostly image of a woman appeared.
Along the worn walls of the fissure came a warm smell of cloves and other spices on a warm breeze that flowed outwards.
"Smells like mid-winters feast in here!" Sniggered Skaran. "Better than the usual mouldy old smell."
The fissure widened out into a large cavern. Scattered around the entrance were a few small tents, their occupants the source of the smells.
At the far end of the cavern, glowing softly was the aspect of the Oracle. Faintly visible in the dim light were crystal-like lines in the air, converging on the flat surface of the purple polygon.
Skaran squinted at the gloom of the fissure. "I know human eyes aren't all that great in the dark Master Tellerick. Shall I get you a torch?"
Tellerick smiled, before casting a tiny glow-spell above them all. "No need Skaran. I've got this one handled."
The warm yellow light from the glowing sphere filled the cave with shadows. Perhaps more than their own.
"You are all welcome to join us. It may be something you would want to do anyway. The Oracle will likely invite you in, so you may as well come along as well." He strode forward.