Be careful when your on holiday.
Augustine was enjoying the sunshine and the company of his eager tourist group.
Come rain or shine, he would bring those that were willing to the castle ruins to enjoy the scenery and the history.
He had been doing this for nearly ten years now. It was fast becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world; second only to the now infamous 'sizzlers' tandoori in Clacton on Sea.
Today's group were a keen bunch. There was a family from Arkansas; two sisters from Okinawa; a married couple from Germany and a group of students from Paris.
The questions were flying, the answers were delivered with infectious enthusiasm and the scenery just added to the wonder.
Lush green hills and trees that pierced the sky watched over them as their path snaked this way and that through the leafy countryside.
Eventually, they reached the top of a hill. Standing here offered beautiful views of the land that seemed to stretch out forever.
But, it was the view below that had the group clambering to get at their cameras; sat at the bottom of a basin was a ruined castle from centuries ago.
Trees lined the rim almost all the way around, as if hiding it from view.
Augustine gathered the group.
"Right. You have to be very careful here..." There was a commotion at the back.
"...I say. Thank you. As I was saying, the climb down must be taken at a leisurely pace, no pushing, no running and absolutely no tom foolery of any description." This garnered a few strange looks. "I do not want a repeat of 2012. That said, take in the views, snap until you can snap no more and above all, have fun."
They made their way down the path, carefully, and for the most part, quietly.
They had reached the basin. The sloping hills all around seemed to climb forever. This was a fact that Henrik, a fourth seven year old tax collector from Hamburg attested to as he sat, breathless.
When he did catch his breath, and the rest of the group had parted so he could see, he was greeted by a most splendid sight.
The stone shone in the mid afternoon sun. The remnants of a once magnificent castle still stood, as imposing as if they were whole. Half hewn minarets reached up, gargoyles, weathered by time sneered from above.
The group gasped, sighed and some even clapped as Augustine made his way to the front and bid them follow him.
The closer they got, the more beautiful it seemed. Yakumi, one of the sisters from Japan noted the flying ambulance parked in a field nearby.
Augustine simply explained that they would often park here on their lunch break. It was extremely implausible, but no one questioned it. Some even waved at the crew, who with sandwiches in hand duly waved back.
They were now inside the castle itself. They had passed through the kitchen, the great hall. They had seen the kings chamber and heard many a delightful tale along the way.
They now stood facing a remarkably complete and no less imposing archway which preceded a staircase that headed underground.
Augustine stood at the top.
"Ladies and gentleman," he announced theatrically "Follow me for the grand finale."
More sighing and gushing followed.
Augustine started the descent and the group followed. The stairs wound downwards, the further they went, the more pronounced the echo.
"Mind the last step, it's a tricky one," announced Augustine.
One by one the group filtered into a candle lit cavern. It seemed to go on forever.
"Ladies and gentleman, I give you Barnabus the mighty," Shouted Augustine.
A rustling sound like a hundred pairs of feet on gravel filled the cavern.
Then, without warning a jet of orange flame swooped over their heads.
One by one the silhouettes of huge iron candle holders could be seen as their summits danced with flame.
Eight were lit. Now the group could see what was behind.
It's scaly golden brown skin shimmered in the gloom. It's eyes sparkled green like emeralds. It lit more candles about the cavern. Now the full extent of this mighty beast could be seen.
The group were gobsmacked. Henrik cried out in German, to which Barnabus, his tone commanding and gravelly, answered.
Barnabus stood at least ten feet talk. His tail snaked and curled in front of him. His wings, laden with thorny spines clung to his back.
"Good afternoon Barnabus," Augustus greeted him, as if speaking with an old friend.
Barnabus slightly bowed his long, thin and thorny head. "And a good afternoon to you my dear Augustine.
"And may I extend my greetings to you fine people." His voice was delicious like a narrators and had a touch of Jeremy Irons about it. A fact that Barnabus secretly loved hearing from visitors.
"He sounds like that Jeremy, the acting man," screamed an American
Barnabus turned his way. The man stepped back.
"Do I detect an accent?" The dragon asked.
The group laughed. They had no idea why. It wasn't that what he said was funny. It's just that none of them had met a well spoken ten foot tall dragon before. Lugging seemed the correct response.
Once they had got over their shock, which took at least seven minutes; they were treated to many takes of days of old.
They found Barnabus to be thoroughly charming, and an excellent host. He even happily answered a young Parisienne girls question. "Err..why do you seet on a pile of, how you say, many colour skull?"
The group had a delightful time. The dragon posed for pictures. For an extra fee, he flew a few of them around the basin. They had a lovely time.
It was time to be going. The last of the group tried to hug the giant, which he found amusing, then they all made their way to the staircase, their heads full of wonder.
Augustine started to follow.
Barnabus cleared his throat.
"You've forgotten again, haven't you?" Asked the dragon.
They both laughed. Barnabus held his giant front foot over his face.
"I swear, if your head wasn't screwed on," he joked. "You always forget the arrangement.
Augustine let the last laugh tickle his belly. "I know." He looked at Barnabus, as if trying to work something out. "Which one would you like?"
"Hmmmm," Barnabus pondered. "That Henrik and his wife were delightful."
"Brilliant," said Augustine. "I'll bring them in."
"Thank you old chap," said Barnabus. "
"No problem. I'll see you Wednesday"
"Jolly good...oh, give my love to Wendy and the little ones," said Barnabus.
With that, Augustine hopped up the stairs.
That night, Barnabus dined with Henrik and his wife Natascha and the pile of skulls grew by two.