Disclaimer: RedDragonX does not own, will never own, though he wishes on occasion he really did own: Spyro the Dragon. All characters relating to or known to take part in the video game series are the property (unfortunately), of Activision. I do, however, own all characters of my own creation and any other asinine conceptions I might concoct within the insane asylum that is sometimes my imagination.

Chapter 11:


"Do you really think that was necessary? She wasn't acting completely irrational after all-"

"I've had just about enough of your insistent whining, Perrath! How many times must I be forced to explain this!

"Not enough apparently … this isn't something I expected … from you … "

The perturbed drake gave a hefty sigh - moments of serenity fruiting within his hardened gaze. "I understand why you're upset, I really do, but this is not the time to get overly sentimental. We're too close now .. "

The draken defiantly stepped in front of her surrogate father, eyes steeled to purpose. "Are you truly willing to sacrifice your dignity and sense of compassion for this endeavor?"

"This is not just any common mission-"

"It wasn't right, Xalanth, and you know it! She at least deserved a rationale explanation rather then a bruised snout! That's not even considering what comes later!"

The younger dragon was surprising her mentor, his lids slowly starting to gleam as she hissed in his direction. However, this emotional outburst wouldn't deter him.

"She was insubordinate from the beginning. It's bad enough knowing exactly where she came from and what her purpose here truly is. We have one of Marcus's puppets in our midst and now you're deciding to let your feelings override the logic I've so painstakingly taught you!"

The tone of his voice made her quiver to the bone. Xalanth was a potentially terrifying sight if roused to such levels of frustration, but she couldn't help but speak her mind on all that had transpired the last few days. Everything seemed to be spiraling beyond her emotional understanding, and it felt completely course.

"You taught me to never let my base thinking devolve into irrational and inexplicable results … and yet you've continued to practice the exact opposite!"

Xalanth hissed at her, his wings spreading and pushing outward to appear more intimidating. The twilight sky behind his frame caused a massive shadow to spread forth, engulfing her body in inky darkness.

"Everything I've done, and everything I've yet to do has always been with purpose! Never once have I taken unwarranted action unless it so served the Empire. You refuse to see clearly you foolish girl! I alone know the truth behind that which lies beyond! I have stood at the precipice of the great maelstrom and seen what awaits all and any who are foolish enough to deny our destiny!"

Perrath stepped backward alarmingly, eyes misted over as she stifled a grimace. Xalanth's wings began to lower as the once collected drake's face bore the mask of anarchy. It frightened her beyond all comprehension.

A deep exhale escaped his nostrils, bronzed orbs closing as he relaxed. The draken remained silent and still. Not seconds later, the now calm and controlled Legate regained proper bearing. Xalanth stared down at her, noticing the downtrodden and sullen appearance given way by a lowered snout. To think he would ever scare her. Regretfully, doing what was truly necessary came at a steep price.

His paw reached out, slowly sliding against her neck with a soothing touch. She flinched, albeit slightly, causing the older drake to frown at the realization of his actions moments earlier.

"Perrath … "

She gave no response, but the agonizing solemnity of his words soothed her heart. His touch slowly shifted upwards, and he found it difficult not to imagine the ease in which the razor sharp edge was capable of opening her throat. That would be the centuries of military conflicts breaking to the forefront of his thoughts.

Her snout was lifting, and not through any action of her own. Soon enough, her misted orbs locked with his gaze; appearance of which being one of sorrow and regret. She couldn't help but choke back the coming onslaught of tears that were simmering beneath the surface, and before she could react - large wings enveloped her and embraced the draken tightly.

The sound of his heartbeat was more then evident, her head settling softly against his powerful chest. Xalanth took a deep breath of his own as he felt the closest thing he'd ever had to a family burrow against his scales. Every now and then, this felt like the only care in the world. Could he really convince himself of that fallacy? He'd been trying for longer then he could recall. The answer was always the same.

"I'm sorry … please forgive me."

His words comforted her, but her eyes remained wide open - seemingly keeping watch for the beast that was still stirring within his breast.

"You're all I have, Perrath … I only want to keep you safe. To give back. Give you something in return for the horrors you've witnessed. I do this all for you … and for Praxus."

That last word made her grimace, though she did well to hide it against his troubling embrace. Her wings remained tucked against her flanks, though her neck and head brushed against him in comforting desire. Was it nothing more then a lie what they shared? She hoped with all her heart that wasn't the case.

"I don't dislike the Optio … I truly hope that she can come to embrace the truth behind our cause - what we desire to accomplish here. I have no choice but to treat her as equal threat so long as Marcus has root in her mind."

Perrath sniffled to herself, pushing both wing knuckles against the large drake's torso, signaling him that she desired reprieve. He hummed slightly as his wings retreated, allowing her lithe frame access to the open world once more.

"She's a good person … she doesn't deserve such a horrible fate."

"Many out there do not, but we're never truly in control of what we might desire."

"If … if she refuses-"

"She won't."

Perrath sighed in annoyance, one paw wiping the edge of her snout. "How can you be so sure? She's not exactly in the most receptive mood after your display."

Xalanth tilted his head and allowed his eyes to do the talking, the draken's gaze falling downward before another downtrodden breath of realization echoed forth.

"What are you going to do?" asked Perrath sadly. She already knew the answer, but she couldn't help but ask anyways.

The drake lifted himself to his paws and turned to face the horizon, the city skyline constant as ever from within the confines of the office. Elysium itself never found rest – millions of dragons inhabiting the heart of the Empire serving as her endless fuel.

"I'm going to make her an offer she can't refuse. Nothing drastic about it."

"I still find it difficult to believe her convictions will be so lightly abandoned."

Xalanth chuckled confidently, gazing toward the distant Senate House. "Indeed, but convictions are easily altered depending on the pieces in play."

Perrath couldn't help but feel unease at his answer. Whatever he was planning, odds were that it was tragic upon final delivery.

"Speaking of which, I think it's time we got a final answer. I take it she's just outside?" asked the Legate, neck twisting oddly.

Perrath nodded nervously. "Yes, she's being detained by Centurion Vox."

Xalanth acted, spinning his frame quickly and taking position behind his desk. "Very well, send her in. The time has come to end this farce."

She sighed and proceeded down the steps, tail sliding limply along the metal floor. She couldn't bring herself to speak, settling instead to compress a small panel beside the entryway. The automatic door slid upwards smoothly, granting access to the Centurion and his security detail.

Perrath stood back alertly as the heavily armored drake ushered Razeth in. The exposed draken hissed in response, her frame completely bare, armor having been removed after her detainment. Vox was further escorted by two of the Avocati - one being the all too familiar Unit 941.

The armored officer stifled a slight growl, not being use to such close proximity with the detestable cyborgs. Xalanth's gaze fell upon the group, the Avocati pair moving to either side of the chamber as the Centurion cleared his voice.

"Sir, the prisoner by your request."

"Thank you, Centurion, you're dismissed."

The drake let his maw hang begrudgingly before finding his bearing, clearly annoyed at such a command. "As you wish Legate, Hail Praxus!"

Perrath watched as he turned tail and quickly departed, the electronic door hissing shut in his wake. She turned towards Xalanth, the Legate not wearing any armor himself, thus appearing much more amicable. Could have fooled her just minutes before.

Razeth growled to herself, the growing bruise on the left side of her snout growing far more evident. The rest of her limbs appeared well muscled and deadly to purpose, and Perrath took note of several scars that she could only assume were a result from heavy close combat.

"I appreciate you at least sending something living to subdue me this time." she growled, vision darting between the two cyborgs. Xalanth smirked heavily before sliding beside his desk.

"Please Razeth, join me if you would."

Perrath blinked and observed the electric green draken's response, Razeth's limbs twitching in annoyance and tail curling upwards rapidly. A loud hiss was her only verbal reply.

"Please - spare me any further dramatics. No matter what your answer is tonight, Praxus will continue to live on. Indulge an aging drake and let us at least have civil discussion." retorted Xalanth.

Razeth's snout turned sideways, her sharp eyes catching sight of Perrath using her peripherals. Even though it wasn't direct, the torn draken could feel the sting of venom within this exchange.

After many uncomfortable seconds, the captive draken began stepping forward, her paws carrying her up the steps leading to the Legate's position. The drake made no movements saving those from his sockets, eyes following each step before his wing elegantly extended out towards the city beyond the containing glass.

"You know this world, Razeth. You've shed your blood already in glory to Praxus. You have seen the corruption and death that now stifles our growth. You of all dragons should understand what we plan to create."

She moved to his flank, honey orbs gazing outwards at the bustling megacity before them. "Of course I have. I've only been in the Legion for two years, and already I can feel our sins tearing away at my heart. This is not a life one should willingly choose for themselves. I certainly didn't expect to be privy to the atrocities Praxus has committed. I truly believed that all those …. decisions were made for the right reasons. For the betterment of us all."

Xalanth hummed quietly, his own demeanor remaining steadfast. "Then why did you choose to fight back? To deny her?"

"Simple. To make a difference, to prove others wrong. Because the entire world told me I couldn't."

He chortled deeply, finding immense resolve within her statement. "That is as good a reason as any, but do tell me: What difference have you made? What have you learned? Why do you fight that which you've sworn to represent?"

Razeth sneered softly, head turning towards the Legate. "I was taught … no … we were all taught from the moment of our birth that there is no greater glory then that of Praxus. We were told of the glorious accomplishments and miracles that were performed by our deity himself so many countless years past. No greater champion of power and humility every lived! The only fault was that he could not live long enough to gift the entire world with his vision."

"Of course, and that hasn't changed."

"I beg to differ. I joined the Legion expecting to right wrongs. Fight against those that would bring us to our knees. To defend those too weak to protect themselves! Instead what have I seen? Murder, rape, looting and hubris. We have invaded countless lands and sown the salts upon their fields … and not because they opposed what we represented … but because they were given no other choice!"

Xalanth turned towards her, brow furrowing with oncoming intensity. "Those who refuse his glory will be shown the light."

"So because they desired to live life for themselves they deserved agonizing deaths?!"

"They are granted quick release."

"What manner of creature can possibly accept such a decisive deliverance in morbidity? Dragons are powerful, but even we have our limits!"

"Limits? You couldn't be more wrong," he growled before turning tail and proceeding along the reflective barrier. "Our entire existence is based upon achieving our potential. Striving to ever prove to lesser species just what we're capable of. Their lives are a gift born from our own grace!"

"You're wrong. All we've done … and all Praxus has done – is bring about the ruination of our Age. One that began with such hope … "

Xalanth flared again, eyes filling with callousness. "Oh yes … and where are they now?! Where is this great 'Alliance' they strove to establish? I see no such institution! I see no such beliefs! Whatever it was – it has long since been snuffed out. Lost and forgotten - more then likely struck down by Praxus and the Burning Legion themselves!"

She stood quietly, stubbornly refusing to abandon her values. "If that was ever the truth … then he's nothing more then a bloodied tyrant."

"How dare you!"

Perrath breathed suddenly as the Legate moved to strike Razeth again, his large paw bending back to gather force. Raz only narrowed her eyes, ready to accept the coming violence.

The blow never came, and one eye forced itself open to see the furious commander controlling his urges. She could see how badly he wanted to give in, the thought of physically abusing her clearly sating some sick pleasure.


Both dragons turned to take notice of Perrath at the base of the steps; iron gaze locked upon her surrogate father. "I think that's more then enough. It's quite clear that she is unwilling to accept what must be."

The vision of fury that oozed off his scales began melting away, and as quickly as it came, it had dispersed. The graphite elder gathered himself and snorted towards Razeth, chest puffing in desire to re-establish superiority.

"True enough, Perrath. I trust that you've made the appropriate arrangements?"

The lithe draken nodded, abandoning any emotional attachments at this point in the fear that she'd do something rash. "Yes, my instruments are on stand by. All I need is your go ahead."

The Legate returned to his usual post overlooking Elysium, tail coiling behind him. Razeth took a shuddered breath, glancing back and forth between the pair. A rapid flood of confusion began leaking into her senses, breathing intensifying.

Xalanth took another breath, Perrath at this side by this point, her gaze locked on the young Optio. The grim feeling was beginning to manifest as outright terror.

"No … no you can't … "

The Legate's snout snapped toward her, a cruel smirk starting to formulate. "As I've told you before, Razeth, regardless of your answer - your full cooperation shall be secured. We have great need for you. I know that you will come to embrace the light and guidance of Praxus within your heart."

Perrath reached over to an electronic dispenser that was attached to her side, the small contraption hissing before producing forth a small syringe. Razeth's eyes went wide, the setting sun bathing the entire chamber in an unusually cruel cascade of orange hues.

"I suggest you hold still Raz … this will only take-"

She yelped as the vial was knocked from her paw, the syringe landing at the far side of the chamber. Her sore paw begged attention, but her shocked face was too busy locating her rapidly moving counterpart.

"You're as delusional as he is if you think I'm giving up that easily!" she snarled before rotating her frame rapidly, her athletic tail slamming against the weaker draken's chest, forcing her back against Xalanth with surprising force. The large drake recoiled some, though his paws cushioned Perrath's fall.

Razeth hissed and filled her limbs with concentrated energy, already detecting the oncoming vibrations from the cyborg sentries. Her wild eyes filled with malice – tips of her claws starting to drip sickly green fluids.

The first Avocati came upon her rapidly, red eyes focusing in on specified vital points that were no doubt programmed the moment she'd arrived. She smirked and drew her paw forward, swiping the air in front of the mechanical dragon in apparent miss. This was her intention, however, as the acidic concentrations seeping from her claws spread across the air, finding the target with ease.

She watched in satisfaction as the twisted creature began writhing in confusion, the scales still remaining on its snout slowly starting to peel away, leaving various puddles of simmering flesh in several pools along the floor. She caught sight of the numerous wires and gears that were now observable thanks to the acid, sparks flying forth as the cyborg collapsed, the fluids having descended upon its CPU and rendering it helpless.

The remaining Avocati planted itself on the floor beside its disfigured companion, Razeth's eyes widening as two small protrusions extended outward from its cranium. Her legs propelled her forward, claws digging into the metal flooring as the creature took aim – red eyes narrowing as various targeting formulas began configuring. A laser sight followed her every movement, encouraging Raz to double time her strides.

Her acidic claws easily allowed her to find traction against the pure metal, and the high pitched humming of an oncoming heat ray caused further alterations to her trajectory.

The Avocati's eyesight followed after her, trying to guide the focused beam on target. Razeth inhaled as she leapt upwards in an impressive display of strength, twisting her body around and grappling onto the ceiling above them.

Xalanth frowned and turned his vision upwards – lifting Perrath with his paws, the draken rubbing her sore chest cavity. Razeth eyed the pair and made a rapid dash for the door, acidic sludge dripping from the ceiling with every motion. She had to escape before the Legate took direct action.

The door hissed open again, the Centurion coming to bare, two dragon legionaries nipping at his heels. "Legate! I heard the commotion … what's-"

He roared in surprised as the heated laser cut through the air before them, lowering his frame just in time to avoid the wild, deadly beam. One of his companions was not so lucky, his yelps bursting forth as the concentrated energy ray sliced across his snout, splitting scales with disgusting ease and causing him to crumple against the floor in a heated mess.

Razeth dropped from above, taking quick note of the steam rising from the unfortunate conscript. The remaining Avocati bounded toward her savagely, Xalanth also descending from his perch with a great leap, his landing causing the various fixed decorations about the room to vibrate.

She huffed before slamming her forearm against the remaining legionaries chest, the unprepared drake falling back in shock. The force from hitting the armor directly caused her limb to swell, but the adrenaline pumping within her blood forced her onward.

Turning tail, she bounded into the hallway, using the wall to her advantage as she burst down the passage. She could hear the cyborg behind her, the emotionless agent easily keeping pace by virtue of various unnatural enhancements. Whoever came up with their design had to be both brilliant and psychotic.

Snarling to herself, she continued leaving a trail of corrosive acid in her wake, attempting to fool her pursuer into making a fatal step. Unfortunately, she was only gonna get away with that trick once. Avocati had many despicable advantages that came with being machines, one being the ability to adapt to any known strategies.

She decided instead on something else. Drawing upon her reserves, she took a deep breath, the nauseous kindling of various deadly gases and fluids swelling within her throat almost making her double over. Even for one of her kind it wasn't the most pleasant experience. Slowing her pace, she could also hear the thunderous crash of armor, the Centurion and newly arrived sentries giving chase even further back.

The Avocati's red eye focused in closely, taking note of the targets slowing pace. This was certainly an unorthodox strategy within the database, but an opportunity was now evident. Charging the heat beam once again, the entity prepared to enact a disabling blow, only to be taken by surprise as the draken turned to face it directly.

"Adapt to this one … " she huffed before arching her neck, putrid gasses escaping her snout before shoving her body forward, maw opening wide and divulging a massive orb of simmering properties. The smell filling the air could only be described as rancid, though the cyborg wouldn't be privy to such a lifelike concern.

Razeth only smirked before sliding her tongue along her fangs, frame once more bounding down the hallway, the orb of corrosive fluids bouncing along the reflective floor, causing the Black Robe to skid to a halt in automatic response. The Centurion came to a rapid halt behind the cyborg, unleashing commanding barks to his subordinates as he noticed the oncoming deadly blob.

"Three … two … and one!" muttered Razeth between huffs of breath, smiling to herself as the boiling orb exploded behind her, massive amounts of toxic chemicals splattering against the walls, the Avocati steps away only staring in surprise before being enveloped by the oncoming wave of sludge.

Vox snarled and lifted his forearm in defense, the electronic apparatus on his wrist buzzing to life with little time to spare, a massive energy shield emanating before the group and protecting them from the same fate as the cyborg. The fluids slammed against the barrier, but quickly melted away as the environmental containment system took effect.

They observed as the gases were drained away, vanishing within several vents positioned every few meters along the hallway ceiling. The walls and floor were not so fortunate, the corrosive explosion having created a twisted labyrinth of molted metal before them. All that remained of the Avocati was a steaming pile of bones – along with several biological contraptions that survived the event.

The huffing draken rounded another turn, having reached the end of the mile long hallway and encountering a massive doorway but a short distance away. If she remembered correctly, this led to the departure terminal. Smirking in confidence, she trotted forward and gazed at the adjacent terminal.

She took note of the fact that no alarms had been activated, but she pushed the thought aside in favor of finding means of escape. Her armor and equipment had been stripped from her earlier – so her calling for help was out the question. Even if she'd managed to do so, odds figured that they wouldn't do anything about it in order to maintain safe neutrality.

Catching her breath, she gazed at the panel and shrugged, pressing her paw against the diagnostic identification receptor . She held her breath as the computer worked, scanning her paw and falling silent for a brief moment. Her eyes widened as a green light blinked to life, the door beginning to skid open much to her shocked delight.

"Wow … I can't believe that worked. I thought for sure they would have removed my credentials." she gasped to herself before a large shadow eclipsed her body. Razeth slumped against the ground in despair as a familiar graphite drake stepped through the opening, his flanks accompanied by four more Avocati.

"There was no real need. Your chances of escape were set at zero no matter what your clearance. I'm afraid that this game is now over, Razeth. The time has come to embrace your fate.

"Go screw yourself! You can go to hell … and take your brainwashed scum suckers with you!" screamed Razeth before she made to pounce, her limbs exploding with rage and pent up aggression. Xalanth made no move to address the threat, and she quickly found out why.

A stinging sensation burst from her flank, a light yelp spurting from her snout. She didn't know what just happened. The rage vanished, her energy drained, and her brain was quickly becoming an insensible blur of tumultuous thoughts. Forcing her neck to turn, she focused in on a syringe that was currently being drained rapidly into her unwilling nervous system.

Razeth trembled and stammered to herself, eyes and ears unable to sense the growing throng of Legionaries and Avocati closing in. All sense and purpose melted away, her joints beginning to crumple as her dilated eyes focused in on the only image left. Perrath stood next to her, soft eyes filled with purpose and acceptance.

"You … you …"

That was all she could manage before her frame fell limp to the floor with a thud, Perrath careful to remove the syringe as she fell away. Xalanth exhaled before issuing a nod to the Black Robes, the group quickly moving into position and securing the insubordinate subject.

"Take her directly to Perrath's facility. It's time for some much needed re-education." commanded Xalanth, the cyborgs wasting no beats as they carried out the order.

Perrath watched quietly as the scene began returning to normal, the Legate having already ordered Vox and his guards away, leaving the duo alone before the massive doorway. She returned the used syringe into her electronic pouch, Xalanth motioning for her to accompany him.

"How long do you think it will take?" he asked firmly.

"For what you require? Not long, give me a few hours. Since it's not a full procedure that greatly simplifies the process."

"Good, I want to take advantage of the window they've offered us. Has her beacon remained in place?"

Perrath blinked and nodded, the two rounding back towards his office, using a private elevator to reach it as opposed to the melted passageway. "Yes, and they're still receiving it. Nothing should look any different to them."

"Excellent. I'd say it's time to get a leg up on the competition."

The drake entered the now eerily quiet office, taking note of the still simmering pawprints left on the floor and ceiling. An exasperated sigh broke from Xalanth's breast.

"Get in contact with Baasik as well. I just had this place renovated … this is most inconvenient." grunted Xalanth while proceeding towards his desk. Perrath remained at his side, nodding at the nonchalant command.

"I'm sure he will be most compliant. We certainly don't want this place to appear noticeably different. Might scare off our guest before the trap is sprung."

He half-smirked before reaching outwards, the skyline now dark as the neon glow of the cityscape began taking precedence over twilight rays. He grasped a parchment, lifting it upwards and frowning in despair.

"It's a shame … I spent several hours trying to perfect it. Can't believe I have to start from scratch."

"Only a slight blemish, perhaps you can work it into the atmosphere?" whispered Perrath.

He hummed and shook his head, rubbing his chin in contemplation. "No, every painting needs to be as I have seen it … and needless to say, this one has taken on a life of its own."

"But a setback. We can always learn more through persistence and challenges."

Xalanth smirked, bronze orbs focused in on the smeared coloration. "We most certainly can my dear Perrath, and then-some."

Cynder lifted the leather strap upwards, dipping her neck forward and allowing it to slide down against her scales. The secured contents within were right to complain, as her actions gave way to the obvious reality of her mood.

"Of all the dragons … I can't believe you supported this. The last thing I want to do is go mingle with an entire species hell bent on skinning me alive."

Spyro felt a small twinge of sweat, his gaze turning from their open doorway. Cynder was never one to to be shy in making her thoughts known. Least of all when he was around to receive them.

"Please, Cyn, you have to realize that we lack any comfortable options at this point."

She huffed and turned on him, her right paw grasping a sharpened file, a weak smile attempting to placate her threats.

"Don't start with that Spyro. You know how dangerous it could be to have me out there mingling with other races. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that I could turn a head or two … perhaps even convince the odd naysayer, but that doesn't change the fact that it's downright illogical."

"The Guardians don't seem to think so."

"Of course they don't," she snapped in agitation, her frame brushing past him quickly, tail slapping one of his paws. "They are simply weighing the pros and cons … and Terrador knows that my being part of the Council is causing immense friction. Having me out of the way for awhile isn't such a bad solution for them."

Spyro frowned and shook his numb paw, violet eyes turning upwards in thought, his mate continuing to rummage through various cabinets and shelves in preparation for her departure.

"Well, think of it this way then: this will be your best chance to finally break through to them. To prove that you're truly ready and inclined to let the past be past."

"I've been trying that for years now! What makes you think this will end any different! Remember the treaty I helped broker with Zuberi? Or perhaps the protest incident at Ochre Canyon? If I hadn't intervened then the lions and cheetahs would be at each other's throats!"

Spyro firmly nodded, content to let her vent at this point. "Of course, all the more reason why you should go. Terrador-"

"Terrador is just using this as another test. You know as well as I that he trusts me the least out of all of them, hell … even Cyril – Cyril – feels better around me then he does."

Spyro sighed and dared to move closer, stopping short as her tail flicked at him yet again. "That's not … completely true. His way of thinking is just … more pragmatic."

She scoffed and tossed a book over her shoulder, the purple flinching some as it made contract with the stone floor. "Hey … take it easy. I like that tome-"

Cynder hissed quietly and turned on a dime, her neck arching as she glared at her shrinking mate. "Don't chide me, Spyro, not now."

His gaze hardened before he straightened his back, knowing full well that this situation would be requiring a more formal approach.

"Look, Cynder, I know this was sudden and out of your comfort zone, but you have to accept the facts. Yes, it's true enough that not everyone will accept you or even trust you. Odds are very good they will never come to grips with the past, but the time is now to refocus your true purpose. The time has come to remind them what you truly represent, and that means showing Terrador as well."

She made a move to rebuke, her maw opening in haste before she was silenced by a wave from his paw. "No Cyn, the years of blind anger and wallowing is over. You think you're the only one this has been difficult for? We've all had to do and say things we may never truly mean. All for the sake of preserving the dream we now fight for. Things will never be perfect, but they don't have to be. All that matters is that you can come to terms with what you truly feel and believe is right in your heart. Aspire to be all you can be … and make your vision a reality. The rest will follow in due time."

She made no movements and stood in slight awe from his direct assault, her wings lowering as she made a mental note of just how childish she'd been acting. Leave it to one as naive as Spyro to knock some sense into her, but he'd always held back such awe inspiring moments of willpower for the times it was needed most.

His gaze softened some, his forehead leaning in and bumping against her own playfully. She huffed before returning the gesture in kind. "Prove it to him. Prove it to all of them. You have the experience and control to see this through … I know you do."

Jaded orbs opened wide, mixing with his gaze before she shook her head and giggled. "Moments like that always remind me, Spyro, that you should be this assertive more often."

He smirked and licked her cheek. "What fun would that be? I fully admit, one of my guilty pleasures is seeing you on the rampage."

Another laugh escaped her before a firm grunt chiseled the moment away. Both dragons turning to see Terrador standing just outside their doorway. He was already prepared for the journey ahead, both his flanks supporting large supply packs; another bundle resting on his lower back clearly cradling pieces of armor.

"Are you prepared, Cynder?"

Spyro shared another look with his mate, her eyes rummaging about on several areas of the room before issuing a nod.

"As ready as I'll ever be … I hope the climate isn't as inhospitable as I remember."

The younger dragons proceeded into the hallway, Terrador's bulky frame shifting to allow them precedence.

"We will have a chance to rest and resupply in full when we reach the pass."

Both Cynder and Spyro's eyes perked up at the revelation, her frame going rigid for but the briefest of moments before her motor instincts kicked in, deciding it was best to ignore that fact for the time being.

"So then … you'll be stopping at Torid Towers?" queried Spyro in haste, causing his mate's frown to deepen.

"Correct, it's best if we knock out two wyverns with one moon rock. It's been quite some time since we've received a report from Tovah, so I believe it's best if we check in on the situation there. Since we'll be heading north anyways, it would be the responsible course of action to take."

"Pfft …. I'm sure she's been as responsible and well mannered as she's ever been. Still not sure why you allowed the Council to give her charge of the fortress." chided Cynder with venomous sarcasm.

The Elder Guardian rumbled as the trio proceeded down the passage, the twilight glow of the sunset rapidly giving way to another splendid Summer evening.

"She has her issues, as we all do, Cynder, but her mind is well purposed to the task. Volteer taught her well."

She remained unconvinced, Spyro sliding one of his wings against her flank to soothe such troubled waters. Having to mingle with Tovah again was something she'd never expected to endure again.

"I figure, we can reach the Towers in three days at full flight … five if we take a detour to visit the Canyon."

She grimaced once more, the reality of just what he was doing starting to dawn at her. Once it was all over, she'd have to ensure all of them that political tours were not her preference.

"If that's what you feel is best. I suppose with all the conflicting reports we've been receiving from Mole Country that our duty is made obvious."

The muscled drake nodded, her words giving him hope that she would at least accept her place in what was to come. Spyro walked just behind her, though his gaze was often distracted by the multitude of salutes and compliments he was receiving from Alliance members.

It wasn't long before they found themselves exiting the Western Tower, the grounds still humming with excitement, a soft breeze tumbling across the foliage in accompaniment with the shadows.

"Don't think you're off the hook either, Spyro. While I'm gone, I fully expect you to keep an eye on the others. Maintain vigilance and adjudicate when necessary. Please ensure that Volteer isn't abusing the apothecary surplus as well … Ancestors knows he's bound to cause a volatile chemical reaction at some point."

Spyro chuckled and placed one paw over his chest. "No promises, but I swear I'll do what I can. If I think it's gonna ruin my complexion I'm sending Scorch instead."

"Fair enough." responded Terrador with his own humored tone.

Cynder turned her head slightly to eye her mate with feigned authority. "Don't forget: No flying for at least another week. Can't have you grounded any longer then you need to be … and I don't want Ember visiting our quarters ever again."

He smirked and tilted his head. "Of course not, darling. Wouldn't dream of it."

"Uh huh … "

Terradon's wing joints cracked with soreness, the young drake taking a deep breath as he gazed up at the immense barrier before them. Arus was in similar condition, though he appeared far more at ease then his unusual companion.

The walls stretching upwards before them had to be at least fifty feet high, and the gates themselves were massive; heavily adorned with various carvings and scriptures that any aspiring sculptor would be envious of.

He could have sworn that several barely viewable faces had peaked over the ramparts, clearly observing with advisable caution. Terradon took in another wave of fresh air, though the distinct difference between the odors here in the city and those at the Temple made him shirk.

"So then … this is Warfang." said Arus with a wondrous tone, eyes wide and brimming with excitement. Terradon couldn't help be happy for his embracing approach, but it was rather ill placed given the situation at present.

"Yep, this is it. The Dragon City. Well … perhaps it's more appropriate to say the Alliance City. Most of the known species all had a say in restoring her to former glory, so it's only right that she serve as testament to all of their efforts."

Arus beamed and moved closer to the gates, his umber companion quickly reaching out and grasping his shoulder. An evident flinch burst through his muscles, and for but a moment, Terradon thought he'd made a fatal mistake.

"What's wrong?" asked the eager drake.

Terradon sighed before pointing upwards, Arus following suit and examining the ramparts more intensely. It didn't take long to notice at least half a dozen mechanical contraptions pointed directly at his position, wicked barbs capping off elongated shafts within.

"Oh … I see."

The Sub-Guardian quickly stepped in front of his beleaguered friend, intent on heading off a potentially ugly incident.

"Stay behind me. I'll take care of this."

Arus looked up once more, observing cautiously as the sophisticated ballista constructs following his every movement. Terradon approached the sealed gate, the Celestial Moons having broken the horizon and graced the shadowed land with cleansing light.

The earth drake cleared his throat before raising one paw, rapping it firmly against the metal plating. Arus could barely hear rapid shuffling and even some stifled murmurs. The sound of heavy bolts freely ringing out before a small slit appeared before him.

Terradon offered a friendly smile and made sure to puff his chest, causing his Alliance insignia to appear more prominent against his neck. A shifty pair of eyes inspected him, the stare relaxing as the inevitable conclusion came to pass. It then fell upon Arus, sharp intensity returning immediately.

"You are expected Sub-Guardian, but, I don't believe this … fugitive … is allowed access to Warfang."

Terradon's shoulders slumped some, maw opening wide but finding himself interrupted yet again, though this time from behind.

"I was informed that Warfang is neutral ground, no matter what my status to your Alliance." rebuked Arus sharply.

The eyes narrowed before rolling rapidly. "That is something you are free to take up with the Magistrate. Seeing as how he's a renowned member of the Alliance Council, I highly doubt he'll want a convict within his walls."

"You are well informed my friend, the situation does require his attention. Would you be willing to deliver a message to Guardian Zacharah and inform him of our arrival. We will at least give him the opportunity to judge my friend for himself."

The hidden gatekeeper inspected Arus once more, and audible groan of approval escaping her before the slit closed, Terradon smirking in triumph as he turned to Arus.

"Well, that went better then expected. You have no idea how grumpy she can be."

Arus shook his head and eyed the ballistas once more, their fatal ammunition still targeted upon his hide. "No kidding, you could have at least asked for her to call off the firing squad."

The ecstatic drake laughed nervously before patting Arus on the shoulder happily. "Worry not, I have no doubt that Zacharah will see reason. He's always been very approachable and understanding. You should be able to find a life for yourself here in the city. At the very least, you'll be pointed in the right direction."

Arus groaned and began to grind his teeth, wondering just how long they would be forced to wait. Terradon took note of his displeasure and frowned in realization, remembering his current duties.

"I'd wager it shouldn't be more then an hour … but you might want to get comfortable regardless. I'm regretful to say that I can't remain with you. I must proceed to the Academy and report to Flame. He'll be eager to hear more about what's happened the last few days, and perhaps he'll get a chance to meet you after this unfortunate business is concluded."

Arus huffed and rested on his haunches, noticing several dragons departing the city by way of flight. "Will he be eager for vengeance against me as well? Everyone so far seems pretty well connected to Spyro, I wouldn't be surprised if every resident within the city is out for my blood."

Terradon shook his head, wings spreading and membrane stretching. "I wouldn't worry about that, I've never met a drake more dedicated to his convictions then Flame … except for Zacharah, perhaps. At least, that's what I've heard."

The shadow scaled drake raised an eyeridge, licking his chops. "You've never met him?"

"Only briefly, quite some time ago when he was summoned to the Temple. He certainly emanates a unique aura – as I'm sure you'll learn for yourself."

Arus crossed his front limbs and snickered. "I suppose so, well in that case, I wish you well Terradon. I appreciate everything you've done for me. I can only hope to return the favor one day."

Terradon beamed and nodded in return, one of his wings sliding forward and offering one of his wing knuckles. Arus smiled and extended his own knuckle in friendship, the two bony joints tapping together in mutual gratitude.

"I look forward to it, Arus. Do us a favor and stay out of trouble. I don't want to be responsible for taking you down."

"You can only try."

The two drakes shared a laugh, Terradon withdrawing his wing moments later and offering one last nod , the sudden grinding of ill used metal catching his attention.

They both gazed towards the massive gateway, the edges of which splitting away from their normal positioning as they were forced outward. Arus quickly lifted his stance, Terradon tilting his head in curiosity.

"Huh … that was faster then I expected."

Arus hummed in agreement, continuing to observe as the steel reinforced boundary edged closer. Before he could get a good look at the sights within, a massive throng of grouped individuals began pouring forth from the breach.

The two drakes stepped aside quickly, dozens upon dozens of cheetahs, moles, lions and even some wolves made their escapes from the bowels of the massive acropolis. Various carts and wagons of supplies followed after, and Arus could have sworn that one of them was unintentionally leaving a rich trail of golden coins in its wake.

Terradon noticed this as well, and was quick to begin searching for the gate warden, eager to report the fluke. Arus was too lost in closer inspection of all these creatures, never before having been privy to so many new entities. At least in the time that he could actually remember.

His paws shuffled constantly as he avoided various travelers, getting the odd look every now and then, but nothing he could truly define as hostile. The only one constantly eyeing his direction was a gruff looking draken currently standing vigil at the opened passage. He could only assume that she was the owner of the intense glares from earlier, and he had to be honest, she had quite a deep voice for a female.

An unusually firm bump got his attention, his wings spreading in a defensive manner, causing several nearby wayfarers to curse at him in annoyance. They fell on deaf ears, as Arus himself was now locked in an intense staring contest with a much larger drake.

"Arus, I assume?"

His sapphire eyes widened surprisingly, wings folding back against his scales before snorting a retort.

"If I am?"

The drake chuckled and raised one paw across his chest, nodding his larger frame forward. "My, where are my manners. Please forgive the surprise, I've been most eager to meet you."

"Have you now? Well, I suppose I'm honored in a way … but I'm waiting for someone important."

The drake tilted his head and blinked. "Oh? Well who might that be? I know just about everyone within Warfang. Perhaps I can help."

Arus only huffed as travelers continued to slide past them, eager to get about their business. "Not sure, some kind of entitled noble that will more or less decide my worthiness at a single glance. My experiences thus far don't give me much hope for a positive interaction."

The drake released a laugh before gazing towards the ajar gate, several of the passing individuals offering nods of compliance in his direction. Arus lifted a brow and cleared his throat, not quite sure why he was being addressed.

"Anyways, how do you know my name? I find it hard to believe that this is purely coincidental-"

"Magistrate! Good to see you again."

Arus turned his gaze to find Terradon approaching the two, eyes locked on the larger drake. The moonlight bounced upon his indigo hued scales, giving off the appearance of a cloaked entity.

"Terradon? By the Celestial Moons I haven't seen you in … how long has it been?"

The umber drake chuckled and rubbed his snout. "Nearly two years by my estimation your excellency, certainly too long."

"I agree. You've grown quite adequately since then, I trust your grandfather is well?"

Terradon blinked and found some estimate of strangeness from the statement, but nevertheless remained professional. "He is certainly well. I'm sure he would appreciate a visit from you at the Temple. The Council could certainly make use of your wisdom and knowledge in these uncertain times.

The drake's expression became more neutral, his paws shifting towards Arus slightly. "I'm sure they would, however, that is now Crastor's responsibility. I have my paws full managing this growing melting pot."

Terradon found himself at a loss for words, and only nodded in understanding before addressing Arus. "My friend, this is Guardian Zacharah, Magistrate of Warfang."

Arus stood slightly dumbstruck, but he would be lying if he admitted he was totally surprised. "I …I see. Please forgive my bluntness. I had no idea-"

"Think nothing of it. Trust me, I've been told far worse." snickered Zacharah before focusing in on the newcomer, Arus standing firm as he found himself being probed.

Terradon clicked his fangs together, deciding it best to remove himself from the equation. "Well Magistrate, I shall be at the Academy for the coming weeks, I hope to speak with you again soon."

Zacharah didn't even seem to hear him, eyes still locked on Arus with a growing intensity of curious thoughts. Terradon shifted and found himself conflicted on whether or not he should repeat himself.

"So, you're staying?" asked the Magistrate quite suddenly.

The question surprised him, and he found himself quickly growing quizzical of the Guardian's aloof nature. "Yes? For some weeks … if that meets with your approval of course."

Zacharah hummed and blinked quickly, mind working on overdrive. "That's acceptable, Sub-Guardian. I shall send a runner if I have need of you. Good evening to you."

Terradon opened his maw to speak, but chose otherwise given the Magistrate's words. Looking towards Arus, he only offered a flimsy smile before quickly turning tail and making for the crevice formed by the opened gate, vanishing within the throng still pouring forth.

"What is it you're seeking?"

Arus tilted his head sideways, the Magistrate's question being adsorbed in turn.

"To make my own way."

"Why should I trust you within the walls of my city?"

"Can you truly say you trust any one of these strangers more?"

"I don't know many of these strangers to be accused of murder and banished from official Alliance property. They are but leaves in the wind."

"Then I suppose that's all we are as well. What makes us any different from them?"

"Ahhh you don't see," spoke Zacharah at a hushed tone, his body moving around Arus elegantly. "You can't see … or you choose not to. Which is it?"

"I refuse to hold myself in such high regard."

"Self professed guilt then? Misplaced virtues of selflessness?"

"A simple matter of perspective."

"So, I see. You find them more or less your equal. Think they have the ability to control the stars and rewrite history."

"No, to think such things is to suffer from delusions of grandeur – to fall into a self made trap of illusions and contradictions. The moment one loses sight of what it means to be humble is the moment you've slit your own throat … in my opinion."

Zacharah eye's narrowed, the throng around them slowly starting to subside. "Whether you wish to avoid the trap or set it, all paths lead to the same destiny. Our kind will always carry this burden. Embracing it is the first step to achieving inner peace."

Arus released a haughty laugh, surprising the larger drake as he smirked in amusement. This was truly everything he'd hoped for and more.

"Inner peace? I suppose if that's how you wish to brand it, then so be it. We could go in circles for hours about the moral objectivity of our species, but to do so would bear no fruit. I but humbly ask that you find it within your heart to allow this banished drake the right to his own sense of peace."

Zacharah lifted his snout, the collar around his neck glinting in the moonlight, the full badge of office reflecting the glow. He smiled and moved past the runed drake, tail coiling constantly.

"Well then, Arus, I can honestly say that no true murderer … at least a halfway intelligent one, would think of himself as equal to those below our station. No, they are driven by desperation and an unhinged sense of self-glorification … though I've been wrong before."

Arus took a deep breath, eyes not leaving the Magistrate's back. The indigo drake remained still for a time, seemingly investigating the darkened forests miles away.

"Very well. You here by have the noted approval of my office to enter Warfang, and seek whatever comforts she may yet offer you."

Arus felt a heavy weight disperse within his stomach, the knot in his throat also coming loose as he exhaled. "Thank you, Magistrate."

"Please, call me Zacharah. Feel free to inform my Knights if you are mistreated or inappropriately disregarded in any way."

The shadowy drake nodded curtly, paws carrying him past the dignified official, meeting his gaze one last time. "I'll be sure to do that … and thank you, truly."

Zacharah motioned his head toward the gates, clearly urging him forward. Arus wasted no time, sapphire orbs eager to explore just what awaited beyond. The same draken from before still stood watch; shifty eyes probing him with renewed urgency.

"And Arus, remember the terms of your banishment. Do not approach the Academy grounds. To do so would put you at risk, and we can't have that now can we?"

He blinked and stifled a cough, eyes wandering absently. "Yes … of course Magi —I mean, Zacharah."

A firm nod followed before the young drake vanished beyond the cracked gateway, the sentry following him soon after.

Zacharah stood alone in the darkness now, the constant noises of Warfang being dimmed by the massive walls. Crickets chirped and fireflies weaved across the moonlit skies, the silent Magistrate content to enjoy the serenity afforded him for a time.

Cerulean eyes narrowed as a continuous onslaught of machinations reverberated within the fortress of his cranium. His head turned albeit slightly, a deep shadow cast on the stone wall nearby twitching wildly.

"Keep your eyes on him. If he makes any move towards Drago Academy – well then – use your imagination."

A/N: Another update for this holiday season, I'm certainly gonna do my best to get this on a monthly update schedule, really not much excuse for me not to outside of general energy and time. Hope anyone reading enjoys as things are gonna start to pick up quite a bit. Here is to a much better upcoming 2021.

My Characters: Arus, Terradon, Razeth, Xalanth, Perrath, Zacharah, Vox