Author's note: This is very late, I'm sorry. This message has changed if you read it when I first uploaded, I'm sorry. My editor was an *insert rude word* and decided to replace some of the names with that of a pokémon. It was easier to just sort the file in word, but me being me, I forgot to copy the note I wrote to you all last time. Blame him. . I'll try and get the next chapter out in better time, but no guarantees.

~DS


Taja stared down at the little creature that was sat at her feet, and it stared right back up at her with bright, emerald coloured eyes. There was no doubting that the expression on its face was one of accomplished mischief what with its long, tapered ears slicked back – the upper half of the left one being completely white Taja noticed – and its mouth pulled back in a devious, sharp toothed grin. A white smudge graced the end of its dark nose as well though there was definitely an uneven purple-blue tint to it.

A snort of laughter from behind had the dragon's ears flicking forwards and Taja spinning around the glare at what, or rather who, she already knew to be the source. The fact that she'd been here less than a day didn't change the fact that she could identify the culprit immediately.

"The look on your face was priceless," Lucio smirked and he got a withering glare in response.

"So glad I could be of some amusement for you," Taja replied sarcastically, but was prevented from saying anything else by the dragon moving from behind her to bound over to Lucio, effectively gaining everyone's attention. Well, everyone apart from Domnall's for his attention remained fixed on his food. Black forefeet lifted from the wooden floor of the kitchen to land in Lucio's lap as the dragon made to snatch for the piece of bread still in his hands, though its attempts to grab the snack were in vain and it got a sharp clip on the nose for its troubles instead. The dragon bawled loudly in response but was cut off by Lucio reprimanding it for both making too much noise, and for snatching.

"Don't you dare give him that bread Lucio!" Chrissy interjected firmly, apparently pre-empting what was about to happen. "He's already stolen a full loaf, the remainder of the meat slices and knocked half of my spices onto the floor before scrubbing them into his coat! He is not to have anything else!" The dragon twisted his head round to look at Chrissy and made a noise that was very similar to a whinging child calling someone a spoil sport and then dropped all four feet back down onto the floor again. Lucio tossed him the piece anyway, and with lightning reactions the dragon caught it and swallowed it in a single snap, before sitting his rump down onto the floor and licking its maw looking pleased, whilst Chrissy looked the exact opposite of pleased.

"Lucio!"

"Oh come on, it was half a slice of bread. He didn't snatch for it that time and he's hungry, let him be."

"That thing's always hungry," Dom interjected from around a mouthful of soup, before going back to his meal.

"That is not the point! He needs to learn that he can't get away with stealing what he wants, when he wants! If you just give him his way, he'll be uncontrollable! Every day, I take my eye off him for 5 minutes and he raids the kitchen!"

"Well then maybe you shouldn't take your eye off him," Lucio replied flippantly, leaning back on his chair and not looking at all bothered that Chrissy seemed to want to slap him.

Taja watched the scene unfold with a cool gaze, now leaning against the doorframe – having checked there was nothing else about to come and surprise her from behind first and trying to decide whether or not this was a particularly common occurrence in this place. She had a funny feeling that, from what she already knew of Lucio, it might well be more often than not. Remarkably, the fact that there was a dragon sat in the middle of the kitchen floor preening a wing didn't bother her that much at all. The dragon was about the size of a large dog at its withers but the feathered wings attached behind the shoulder blades seemed too small for flight yet, though they already had a full set of feathers. A band of white ran along the bottom edge of the entire wing due to the fact that the tip of every feather was bleached white. In the light, glossy green highlights could be seen on the soft black coat. Almost as if he knew he was being watched, the creature stopped preening and tucked the wing back to his side, looking at Taja with an entirely different expression to before. As opposed to one full of mischief and mayhem, this time he was looking at her with an almost curious gaze that seemed to hold any number of questions and spoke of an intelligence hidden behind the emerald eyes.

An ear twitched. In that instant the dragon returned to how Taja had first encountered him as the ears slicked back playfully once again and he dropped into a ready crouch, waiting to pounce. His attention was no longer fixed on the castle maid, but instead on whatever it was that Lucio had been watching when she'd first entered the large kitchen. The black's tail twitched a couple of times before he launched himself across the wooden floor and leapt gleefully on something. There was the sound of a scuffle and a couple of squawks, a thud and then a low hiss before a different dragon trotted into sight. It was the yellow one, the one that had practically mocked the sailors and thus distracted them enough to allow Taja and Lucio a chance to escape the ship. Its wing feathers seemed ruffled, but otherwise it was smooth and sleeker – certainly sleeker than the black dragon. A finer build too, much leggier and not as stocky or chunky though the chest. Graceful was an apt word to describe the dragon, its coat a warm, slightly muted yellow, as it pressed its tapered head against the leg of a chair and sent it flying away from the table with a firm push. Markings the colour of storm clouds graced this one: there was a stripe that ringed its upper jaw halfway down its face, dark grey tipped its ears as well as formed two rings around the top of its right foreleg and one ring around the ankle of its left hind. When it spread its wings a pair of near perfect, overlapping circles was visible on each. With an air of elegance it jumped up onto the chair it had just knocked backwards and turned to place its forefeet near to the centre of table, stretching out its neck and sniffing the large pan of food.

"Rai get down!" Chrissy ordered and the yellow dragon blinked at the woman, before obliging without a fuss. Stretching out and yawning it slid to the ground where it lay leaning against the table leg, copper gaze watching the room as if she were waiting for something.

"She's remarkably quiet tonight," Lucio remarked.

"Only because she was tearing around the place earlier whilst you were out! They can't stay here Lucio; I can't control both of them as well as get everything else done! Any day now they're going to bring this place crashing to the ground between them!"

"Well they've got to stay here as there's no other place for them. It's different for them remember? Who knows how long they spent cooped up in that crate – they'll settle down."

"But settle down when Lucio?" Chrissy sighed exasperatedly. "She's tearing about this place or climbing up things more and more each day, and Bram's figuring out new ways to get into everything. Give him till the end of the week and he'll be going out that front door."

"Where are the others?" Taja asked suddenly after her period of silence. Chrissy jumped slightly, having apparently forgotten the other woman was there and Lucio fixed her with a cool gaze.

"The purple one will never have made it off the ship, we've got Bram and Rai here."

"There were still two more. The brown and the red."

"The brown one didn't make it," Lucio replied with a shrug. "Found it in a back alleyway covered in bites. I think a couple of stray dogs got it or something, and anyone who might have seen it before then won't be saying anything about it," he supplied, answering her question before she'd even asked it, but leaving an ambiguous air as to why those people would be saying nothing. Taja didn't press that matter further, not really wanting to know.

"That still leaves the red one," she pointed out and Lucio looked irritated.

"We're working on that," he answered curtly. Taja didn't even need to say anything, her expression altering to say it all and Lucio scowled at her in response. There was a moment of awkward silence in the room that would likely have stretched on for a lot longer had Bram not trotted back into sight, sat down in the centre of the room, and belched loudly.

"Bram! How many times do I have to tell you not to do that?" Chrissy cried, swatting at him with a cloth. The black dodged easily out of the way with a large grin on his face and backed towards Rai, who'd stood up again by this point. As soon as her fellow was close enough, she flicked her tail out and clipped him around the head, looking amused. She chattered at him and he pounced at her once again, missing for a second time as she stepped smartly out of the way. Lucio gave the pair of them a look before standing up himself and heading for the door.

"I'll be in the study if I'm desperately needed," he informed them as he vanished out into the corridor, right as Bram and Rai started play fighting. Taja watched him leave getting the impression she'd said something she possibly shouldn't have. Well, what did she care? He shouldn't have brought her here in the first place.

"Chrissy said you'd be in here."

Lucio glanced up from the records he was reading, to see Taja standing in the doorway. He gave her a hard look before returning to his reading.

"Isaid I'd be in here," he retorted, placing his finger on the paper and jotting something down on another sheet beside him. "What do you want?" he asked after a moment.

"First off, to know what you're doing."

"And why'd I tell you that?"

"You just wrecked my life: you owe me answers."

Lucio glanced up again and this time he caught the stare Taja was directing at him, her gaze unyielding. He held the stare for a moment, before dropping his eyes back down to the records as he turned the page.

"If you must know, I'm combing the records for traces of that ship."

"That ship?"

"The Ryegrass. The one that had the dragons on it. I want to see where it goes."

"Hah, The Ryegrass," Taja scoffed lightly at the name of the ship.

"What's so funny about it?"

"Hardly sounds intimidating for a Black Market ship."

"What?"

"I'm just saying," Taja replied, moving from the doorway to go and sit back down on the makeshift bed she'd first woken up on.

"What as in: what do you mean Black Market?" Lucio asked, his pale eyes narrowed suspiciously. Flippant comment or not, it seemed strange to be coming from a castle maid. Taja returned his gaze with a blank expression, remaining silent for a moment under his scrutiny.

"Well, my guess is that dragons aren't usually carried about on merchant ships. In fact, aren't they supposed to be extinct? Hence my assumption that it's the Black Market behind this. But you know, I could be wrong. I mean, what could a maid who's worked numerous years for the Lord in control of nearly all trading know about merchant ships and goods trade?" she said sarcastically. Lucio studied her for a moment longer though he didn't press the matter any further. A silence took over, broken only by the occasional scritch of a quill on paper as Lucio took down a few more notes.

"So you the same as them?" Taja asked out of the blue.

"Hmmm?"

"The socialist crap. You believe in all that 'everyone should be equal' rubbish?"

"You don't?" Lucio asked, sounding amused. Taja snorted in response.

"No. People always need a leader, and there's always someone who wants to lead. Always someone wants more power than they have, and if something goes wrong people need someone to blame. It's an idea that only works in theory."

"An idealist world," Lucio finished with a grin. "Yeah, I don't believe in it either. Still, let them chase after whatever impossible goals they want."

"So why'd you stay here?"

"For the fact that it's quite a small group, there's enough work for me."

Taja wasn't convinced she wanted to enquire after his line of work, so she left it at that and things lapsed back into silence again.

"So if you're not socialist, what are you?" Lucio asked as he shut the book he'd been studying with a sigh. There'd been little of use in there, perhaps a few odd references but nothing solid. He placed it down on one side of the desk, atop a few other books that were likely the same type of thing and started scanning through his notes again instead. Taja shrugged and flicked a loose thread from her skirt. Lucio caught the gesture out of the corner of his eye and paused to look at her properly. "You're fine with things the way they are?" he questioned, sounding mildly disbelieving.

"No," was the blunt reply.

"How'd you change things then?"

"Honestly Lucio? I don't care. No matter what you do, it'll not work. Instate a King and it'll be fine so long as the King's good and fair and the power doesn't go to his head – which it will. And what happens when he's replaced? They'll not all be for the good of the people. Have a council or a government, and things will still end up corrupt. They'll start manipulating the idiots that make up most of the public, working things to their own advantage. They'll fight among themselves, they'll fight with others, the people will get cross they're not getting what they want, there'll be an uprising, a rebellion, wars," Taja reeled off. "There are too many people on this continent for things to run peacefully for any length of time.

"Natural cynic are you?" Lucio smirked.

"I'm realistic," Taja replied snappishly, crossing her arms across her chest.

There was a knock on the door, quickly followed by it opening and Chrissy appeared with a cloth bag in hand. She didn't quite shut the door and walked over to where Taja was sat, placing the bag down beside her. The woman eyed it, trying to gauge what was in it and why it was being placed beside her.

"Seeing as you don't have any things of your own here, I thought you'd perhaps need these. You'll also be staying in here until we can sort out somewhere slightly more appropriate for you to sleep I'm afraid. Lucio, out!" she then barked at the man and cut him off before he could protest. "I said out! You've been spending too much time in here, and it's not good for you! Taja needs a chance to rest, and she'll not be able to do that with you working till whatever hour you usually do, and you need rest as well!"

"Yeah Lucio. You can't go finding little red dragons if you're tired now can you?" Taja quipped after snagging the bag and starting to sift through what was in there. Lucio scowled at her and was about to protest when Chrissy marched over and practically hauled him out of the chair and pushed him towards the door.

"Don't start: something tells me you two would keep arguing all night if you were given the chance! Bed and sleep, both of you! I'll call you when breakfast's ready in the morning," Chrissy said firmly, shoving Lucio out the door in front of her and closing it behind her, leaving Taja to stare at it incredulously.

"Since when were you my mother?" she muttered under her breath.