They heard the clank of full plate on horseback before they saw the dragon slayer. Albrecht came around the corner and into full view; resplendent in his polished and dragon-fire proof armour.
"Where is the dragon!?" He bellowed.
Kralla put a firm paw on Barnabas's shoulder as he started snarling. "Don't make me do something you'll regret Barnabas. Amethyst is ready for him remember."
"Doesn't mean I have to like it." He growled under his breath.
"I don't either, but you'd best heed the warning of a dragon."
Tellerick got up from the table and pointed to the barn.
"When he arrives, send him in. I'm not going anywhere anytime soon." Amethyst turned to go.
"Oh, I organised the things on your list by the way." Piped Tellerick. "There'll be some barrels arriving the day after tomorrow."
"Many thanks Master Tellerick. My cold won't appreciate it, but I certainly will." She looked over her shoulder at Barnabas. "Don't interfere fox. I mean it! I've got this covered. If you want to do something, kindly ask the Abbot not to do it again or there will be consequences. Understood?"
Barnabas nodded. "I'll have a talk with him about it shortly."
"Achoo!" Suddenly the table was engulfed in thick, black, smoke. "Sorry!" Rumbled Amethyst, before coughing some more and sniffing loudly.
The others coughed and looked up.
"So... That idiot of an Abbot sent for a dragon slayer. I'm trying not to laugh because my chest is aching like buggery." Amethyst sniggered loudly.
"Aren't you worried?!"
Amethyst looked weary. "Nope. I've been dealing with these guys for centuries. Got a, er, little trick for dealing with them." She winked at Barnabas.
"Trick? They're dragon slayers! We can stop them before they get to you!"
"Fox. Stay put. And watch a pro."
"What do you mean? She's probably right?!" Asked Barnabas as he approached the table holding a pitcher of wine. Tellerick turned to him.
"Barnabas, sit down. I think that we need to have a chat."
"What? About someone coming here with the express purpose of slaying Amethyst? Don't be ridiculous! We have to stop them!" He slammed the pitcher down on the table, wine sloshed violently inside.
"Barnabas, Amethyst is an old dragon!"
Tellerick sighed heavily. "She old because she's probably seen most of the slayer guild die. They're not just known for their victories, but their mortality rate!"
Tellerick sighed. "It's like we're just stumbling from one disaster to another. What is it now?"
"The Abbot sent for a dragon slayer to kill Amethyst. I believe that there may be one in town." Kralla growled, before taking a bite out of the Turkey leg she was holding. Most of it disappeared.
"Well it's only a day's ride from here. When did the messenger leave?"
"Not long after you did."
"That means he'll be here soon."
"I know. Barnabas wants to fight them. I've said no, let the dragon deal with them."
"She's an old dragon. You're probably right."
Tellerick sat down; and grabbing a plate, started to fill it with food from the table.
"William isn't with you Master Tellerick?" Asked Kralla.
"No. I thought it best to leave him with his father. He needs his family right now more than he needs us. He needs to be grounded by them."
"He has a lot of power, doesn't he."
Tellerick nodded. "I understand now why we've been drafted by fate to be at his side. He has yet to come into his own. We need to prepare him for whatever is coming..."
"About that... There's a problem brewing..."
Kralla waved from the bench, a leg of turkey in her other hand as Tellerick came around the bend in the road.
"Hail!" She shouted, before turning to Skaran. "Best go get Barnabas."
"He was headed for more wine, so he's probably in the cellar." Skaran got up from the bench and headed towards the main building.
Tellerick approached the table and sat down. "And how is everyone?"
"Well as can be. The dragon still has her cold. You should hear her snoring at night!" Kralla rolled her eyes. "We set up camp over towards the woods, she is... loud."
Albrecht mounted his horse. Behind them, a mule carried his plate armour and other gear. His page boy mounted his pony and brought it alongside Sir Albrecht's massive shire horse. He beckoned to the boy.
"Boy. You cannot come with me."
"But sire! I must!"
"Not this one Fred." He patted the boy's shoulder. "This one is a wily beast, and very old. It's bested so many before me, and I won't underestimate it. The last thing I want is for you to get in the way."
"I want you to return to the guild. Let them know."
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.