Albrecht wiped his greying beard on his sleeve. "Gods dammit! The Mother of Dragons!" He coughed again. "Boy. Prepare our gear, we must leave as soon as possible."
"Sire? The 'Mother of Dragons'?"
"I recognise the description. This is an elder dragon that the guild has been trying to slay for centuries. It is a duty reserved for the experienced members of the guild."
"Like yourself sire?"
"Aye lad. Now run along and prepare. We must move quickly. This one is rarely down from its mountain in the North. Although I must wonder, boy, why is it so far south?"
"Sir Albrecht! Sire! A message from the Order!"
Albrecht rolled his eyes and sighed. He put down the polishing cloth and the pauldron he'd been working on.
"What is it now, boy?" He lifted a nearby goblet of wine.
"A dragon! A dragon has roosted in a monastery in the foothills. A messenger from the Order of Masterful Sepulchre arrived this morning."
Albrecht rolled his eyes again. "Probably another lizard and not a dragon."
"The messenger described it. Huge he said, black as night with enormous purple wings."
Wine sprayed across the boys face as Albrecht coughed and spluttered loudly.
"She could always throw-up on him."
Kralla looked sharply at Skaran and they both shuddered simultaneously.
"Aye. Maybe not. That would not be a nice way to go."
"Skaran, keep thoughts like that to yourself please. Lest I have to tie your mouth shut."
"Sorry big cat. My mouth gets away from me sometimes."
"Hmmm... I had noticed." She smirked, and then looked across to Barnabas helping the monks load the animals. "I think we might have to hold Barnabas back initially. He's likely to get himself hurt if we don't."
"Aye lass. I've got rope at the ready."
"I'll give the slayer a few more seconds than that. They do have flame-proof armour, and the guild's tactics are renowned. But like you said, Amethyst is a wily old lady. I don't know. She might just blast him into ash the moment he goes through the door." Said Kralla thoughtfully.
"She's not very well though. There might be a lot o'smoke and no fire."
Kralla put down her sword and slid it into its sheath. "Good point. She's not well." Kralla pulled her other sword from its sheath and started sharpening it. "We might have to step in."
"I suspect you might very well learn some new swear words rat."
"Oh, I don't know about that missy." He grinned. "But maybe I can loan master Tamryn some new ones!"
"So... If you were a betting rat... Fast or slow?"
Skaran scratched his chin and looked thoughtful. "Dunno. I'm all for the big showy stuff, but she's a wily old lizard. She won't let'im go, that's fer certain. He'd likely bring back reinforcements..."
"... I think there'll be a bit o'bluster, a big flash'n it'll be all over in a few seconds."
"So quick then?"
Barnabas got up and started walking back towards the monastery.
"Oh!" Shouted Skaran after him. "If they're not taking it with them, can you check to see if they've got any loo roll and soap they don't mind letting us have? We're running low and things are gonna get real smoky and ashy round here soon."
Barnabas rolled his eyes, and shouted back over his shoulder. "I'll ask!"
Skaran sniggered and Kralla glanced across at him. "What's amused you rat?"
"Heh, just thinkin' about what you said about what master Tamryn's gonna say when he gets back to baked ruins."
Barnabas sat down on the far end of the log Kralla was sitting on. "Do you really think that we should just stand by?"
Kralla huffed. "We'd only get in the way. If you really want to do something useful you'd better go help the monks pack up." She pointed at the side of the monastery where some horses and pack lizards were being gathered. "That idiot abbot of yours brought this on himself and your brethren. The least you could do is rub it in his nose. I can't wait till Tamryn gets back. He's gonna be so pissed!"
Kralla went back to sharpening her sword, as Skaran went over to Barnabas and patted him on the chest. "Sit down fox, relax. We're going to need to be able to move around quickly when the show starts."
"Yeah! Should be a good one too. Old scaly looks like she's got the nadgers to take care of a slayer quickly, but it still might get a little toasty."
Barnabas looked down at the rat. "Have you seen a dragon battle then?"
Skaran laughed out loud. "O'Course not! I should imagine not many have and lived to tell the tale!"
"So what do we do?" Huffed Barnabas.
"Let the dragon take care of it." Kralla started polishing the blade on her lap.
"But... The dragon slayers guild!"
Kralla looked up. "Barnabas. If you hadn't noticed, she is an old dragon."
"Then we must do something!"
Kralla laughed out loud. "Fox, you betray your naivety. Ask yourself the question. How is Amethyst such an old dragon?"
Barnabas gave her a bemused look. "Because she's avoided the dragon slayers?"
"No. It's because she's probably one of the most feared dragons in this world. Experience, knowledge and likely the wiles to use them."
Kralla looked up from her sword, the whetstone halfway along its length. "Why are you huffing and puffing Fox?"
Barnabas took a moment to catch his breath.
"The abbot has sent a message to the dragon slayer guild about Amethyst."
Skaran's head snapped round. "He what!?"
Barnabas looked around, confused. "Where is master Tellerick and William?"
Kralla's whetstone slished the rest of the way down the shining blade, making it ring. "He went on ahead to take the boy home. The only people who know he's the augury are us and the dragon. Security in obscurity master Tellerick called it."
Barnabas looked back at Amethyst. "Now that is a neat trick. How many people have you caught out with that?"
"Far too many." She said, smugly. "Now go away, I've got a headache and I'm knackered."
Barnabas nodded and pushed the barn door closed.
On his way back to the others, a small mouse in a monks habit tugged at his coat.
"Master Barnabas? Please, wait a moment?"
"What is it, brother?"
"Master Barnabas, the abbot has sent word to the dragon slayers guild about the... er... dragon."
"He's done what!?"
"He sent brother Carmichael to town on the horse."
"Alright!" Bellowed Amethyst from within the barn. Barnabas peered around the door, his mind boggled as he did-so. The stone floor was layered, at least two feet deep, with gold coins.
"I don't see any precious gems." He said quietly.
"I like a soft bed. None of those silly stones that some dragons like. Also no pots, pans or other large items. They're lumpy as anything."
"I've never seen so much..."
"Don't be getting any ideas." She pointed to the edge of the pile. "Take one outside."
Barnabas took a coin through the door. It quickly turned to stone.
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?"