Notes: Yeah, I know…now I have almost too much 'in progress', but I hit writer's block on the others and got a sudden idea for another story. This Alphia fic will be a bit different than my others. I'm not sure exactly of the genre of this but I think it fits more into the fantasy/adventure category. Yes, there will be romance but it won't be till further down the line.

Ideas for various parts of this story steam from other fics I have read. I've read numerous fics related to Albel's solo ending. I can not think of all of them so I want to give a general thanks to those who have inspired me. Sorry if I can't remember the specific fic or author, I read a lot. So, if any part of this reminds you of your fic let me know and I'll add recognition if it's one I've read (which is very likely). Right now the only author I can think of who was among those to inspire this is keeki with her fic 'A Light in the Darkness'.

And just for the record, I wasn't going to post this. I wanted to update/finish up something else first, but there's just no inspiration right now and I think this one's really interesting and adds that 'something different' that Alphia fics seem to have. Plus, I've already got the next three chapters wrote – I'll just wait to post them when I can edit them.

Flashbacks in italics

Dreams will be in –italics with dashes-

Indirect speech (telepathy of sorts) –in dashes-

Burnt Flowers

Part One

Nel: An old legend says people used to live in these mountains.

Maria: With the dragons?

Fayt: They probably had some way of communicating with them.

-o-

Of those who roamed the lands, there was a tribe who lived in harmony with the dragons. They were the rulers of the world whose rein ended 600 years ago. The tranquility of paradise was lost to a war. It was a war which pitted good against evil.

Many legends surround the tribe whose glory was lost and whose history was skewed. Some scholars hypothesize that the Dranclan Tribe was the cause of their own fall. It is fact that they possessed a greater knowledge of runology than any could wish to posses. Probably more than any should posses.

Few texts have been unearthed about the Dranclan. What is known is little. They lived with the dragons in a society build on that friendship. Their runology was increased because of the common thread in their bloodline that linked them to the dragons. In a sense, the people of the Dranclan carried in them the blood of a dragon.

Paradise was a way of life until The Lost Ones waged war for dominance. The Lost Ones were once members of the Dranclan that sought only power. They were controlled by their greed. The Chief saw the evils of their plans and set to stop them at all cost.

The cost had been the extinction of the tribe. Humans and dragons drifted apart until the ability to communicate had been lost. The events which took place in that war were too lost. No record was found to help historians. It is a mystery. No one knows more than that of the Dranclan Tribe.

Only one clue was left behind. On a stone tablet in the heart of a long forgotten ruin rests a transcript.

By the punishment of one, another shall reveal the way. Once of freedom, a soul will unwillingly take the life of the final heir. By the blood a river will form and liberate the dark. Hope rest with the gate keeper and the key. They alone have the way to snuff out the dark and restore the light.

The one to open the door may be the only hope to aid in evil's fall. Should the key see what is within, the doors to hell will be shut forever. Should the key fail, the gate keeper will fall to the temptation of dark and all life will face a peril unmatched.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Sophia tapped her fingers a few times on the desk. Chewing on her bottom lip; she allowed her face to become askew. The screen in front of her seemed to taunt her. She stared at the problem almost unblinking. It was nothing more than a single math problem.

Of course it was a whole paragraph long and would required five different equations to complete…but it was only one problem. It was the one thing that stood between her and her finished homework. She began to wonder, as she had often, why she had insisted on going straight into college instead of taking some time off.

The answer was clear. She missed everyone too much and needed something to distract her.

"Fiddlesticks!" she exclaimed slamming the lid down to close the small computer. Her scowl gave way to a smile as she giggled. Ever since she had heard the said phrase it never ceased to amuse her. For that reason she used it to lighten her own mood.

Standing up she did a series of stretches before turning toward the door. Perhaps a small break would help? A snack and a glass of milk – or better yet, coffee. Yes, that was what she needed.

She treaded across the room; shaking her left leg as she went to help the blood flow. She stopped at her door when the framed photo caught her eye. It was a photo she cherished; featuring all the friends she had made and left only a few months ago. Behind the glass at her finger tips she was frozen in time, back on Elicoor with them all. In this picture she never had to leave them. The fond memories of that day left a smile on her lips.

"Come on," Fayt pleaded with Albel. "Just one and then you can leave."

Albel simply frowned as he crossed his arms over his chest and refused to budge.

Fayt sent a helpless look to the group.

"Sophia?" Maria whispered in her ear. "Perhaps you can help?"

"Huh? Me?" Sophia whispered back. "You think so?"

Maria nodded. "Albel's being stubborn again. He seems to listen to you whether you notice or not."

Sophia smiled slightly. She had noticed but it only confused her. Understanding the man was something she wondered if was ever possible. "I'll try."

She moved slowly to the pair and flashed Fayt a warm smile. He returned her silent question with a nod of approval.

Being sure to make her presence known, she noisily approached Albel and slipped her arm through his. She met his glare with a simple smile.

"It won't take long. Promise. It's so we can always remember this day."

He grunted at her but made no effort to fight her gentle tug back to the group. Once everyone was in place, Marietta took the picture.

She ran her fingers over the glass tenderly. In the picture she still had her arm in his. At the time she wanted to be sure he wouldn't back out. Looking back at the photo, for what had to be the thousandth time, she once again caught the slightest hint of a smile on his face. Sometimes she would get lost just staring at that smile; trying to interpret it.

The familiar hypnotic motion had just taken hold of her when her communicator snapped her back to reality. She grabbed the device hastily; recognizing Fayt's ring.

He was still on Elicoor and his calls were not as frequent as she would like. Sometimes she was used as a way for members of the group to make contact with each other. Thanks to her connection gene, any of the group could contact her despite the distance between them. Elicoor was too far from Earth for even the newest of technologies to allow any contact with a simple communicator.

Determined not to feel like a freak, Sophia accepted her ability as a gift and not a reminder of how different she was from everyone else.

"Hello," she answered cheerfully. She hoped he had called to talk to her and not to get in touch with Cliff again.

"Sophia…" his voice was weak. She could hear him choke back a sob.

She adjusted the settings to display so she could see him. His hair was a mess and there were bags under his eyes. She could tell he had been crying and had slept very little. Something was seriously wrong; she knew it instantaneously.

"Fayt? What's wrong? Talk to me."

"We were up all night… There was nothing we could do…" His voice trailed off as his mouth continued to move.

She swallowed hard refusing to lose control over herself. Seeing Fayt as he was nearly sent her into a frenzy of tears. Her mind immediately turned to Nel. The last time she had talked to him, he was accompanying Nel on a mission.

"Is it Nel?" Her voice started strong but ended in a squeak. She flinched at the expected response.

He shook his head. "N-no. It's Al-bel."

His statement sent her into a mild state of shock. The last person she expected to get a call about was Albel. He had always seemed so indestructible to her.

"Albel? Fayt, what happened to him?"

Fayt chocked back another sob and shook his head lightly. "Call Cliff… get everyone to Elicoor. I-I…"

"Okay Fayt. I'll call Cliff and we'll talk about this when we get there."

He gave her a thankful nod through his melancholy expression and ended the communication.

Sophia couldn't do anything but stare blankly at the screen. She wanted to know what was going on. She almost screamed at the inanimate device. She couldn't help but to feel the need to know about Albel.

Whatever was going on, it wasn't good. For Fayt to be in that kind of state it would have to mean Albel was – no, she didn't want to think about it. She didn't want to call Cliff. Suddenly, she didn't want to know anything.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

His head hurt. It was nothing new – it had hurt for days. He supposed it was due to hunger. They only gave him enough to keep him alive; nothing more. He couldn't fathom why he was kept alive and at the moment he didn't care.

He didn't care about anything.

Occasionally he heard them talk. Sometimes they taunted him. He would only catch a word here and there. His world had stopped making sense. Words spoken had no meaning to him. They were words he knew. The language was his own but their meaning escaped him. It had stopped bothering him. Nothing bothered him. He had become an empty shell and he didn't fight it. Not anymore.

He had fought at first. He had fought hard. Regardless, he lost.

Sitting on the floor, his eyes never left the ground between his legs. What little life had once dwelled behind his irises was dulled over. Death would be a welcome release.

A shadow crossed over the stone floor which held his gaze. He didn't flinch. It was the prince of them. He came often to check on him for some reason he couldn't understand. The prince never said a word. Every time before he just stood there for minutes before trudging away.

This time he spoke.

"It would seem things are closer to my liking."

He didn't respond. Sitting still he was the perfect personification of a statue.

The prince spoke again. "The way to free my people is closer to my control. And you…you are simply my tool. My, my. I doubt you have any clue as to your mother's heritage. But of course, your kind has always been dimwitted. Nothing more than cattle."

The prince finished his speech with a soft purr.

He barely noticed the prince's shadow as it moved away. Once again he was alone in silence. Once again he didn't care.

He doubted he would ever care again.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

She packed lightly. Her mind swarmed around thoughts of anything not related to the trip she was about to take. She wanted to think about anything besides Elicoor.

She had a bad feeling about this. Trying not to dwell on her gut instinct, she threw a few select garments into her bag. One dress, two pairs of pants, three shirts (one long sleeve and two sleeveless), socks, two pairs of shoes (one to match the dress, the other to accommodate travel by foot), and the bare necessities to keeping up her hygiene. She scanned her room one last time for anything else she may need. Her eyes stopped their wandering when she spotted the photo hung carefully on the wall.

The photo wasn't big, but she had felt hanging it by the door added to the significance of it. After a small deliberation, she snatched it off the wall and packed it carefully between the folds of clothes. She closed bag and sat it by the door to her room.

With that done she showered and dressed. She thought it only appropriate to don her battle garb for a return trip to Elicoor. It was comfortable and designed for combat. She hoped she wouldn't have to fight again; but despite the fact the outfit was used for battle – it held many fond memories. She needed those memories.

With a few quick key strokes, she sent her homework to her professor along with a note stating there was a family emergency she had to tend to. She had already talked to her parents and directed her professor to send them any questions he might have.

With everything set, she hung her bag over her shoulder. Adjusting her staff to accommodate the load, she set out. The house was quiet as always. Humans were creatures of habit. As soon as things had settled down after Luther's attack, her parents had resumed their normal life style of indulging in their careers. She didn't blame them, but it was lonely none the less.

For the first time in months the walls around her seemed to close in. Taking the steps two at a time, she made it downstairs just seconds before her communicator rung. This time the ring belonged to Cliff.

She detached the device from her belt and opened it. "Yeah?"

"We're in position to transport you onboard. Everything set to go."

Sophia glanced around at the walls of the silent house. "Yeah. I'm ready."

Before she could blink she was onboard the Eagle II. Unlike its predecessor, it was larger and more along the size of the Diplo.

"Welcome aboard, Sophia. We have a chair for you right there."

Sophia smiled at Mirage as she sat in the chair indicated. Without a word, Mirage set the Eagle II into gravitic warp.

"So," Cliff said turning in his chair to face Sophia. "All you know is something's up with Albel, huh?"

Sophia nodded. "That's it."

"Can't say I ever liked the guy much; but that's not to say I wanted something to happen to him."

Sophia remained silent as she listened to Cliff. It was at that moment she understood that her two comrades in the ship felt the same way she did. No one was really looking forward to this trip.

Most of the trip was spent in silence. For the first few hours Cliff chatted off an on. After a while Sophia reclined her chair and decided on a nap.

-She sat quietly on the bridge outside of Arias. The breeze floated lazily through her hair, causing her bangs to lightly tickle her face. She didn't bother to brush her hair away as she watched the scattered clouds drift by.-

-In the distance over the water lightning crashed. A storm moved in suddenly as perky white clouds were chased away for swollen grey clouds. Sophia sat straight up, expecting the rain to come at any moment. But it didn't. Instead the sun dimmed and the once bright day took on the mask of night.-

-It was dark. Too dark to be night. She jumped off the bridge and turned to the town. Nothing; she could see nothing but black. She took a small step forward; clutching her fist to her chest. The once gentle breeze had died. The air had once felt fresh, but that was replaced with a stagnant scent. Suddenly she knew she wasn't outside anymore.-

-"That's it," a soothing, unfamiliar voice called out to her. "This way. Just a bit further, dear."-

-She paused, catching her breath. The voice was alluring but laced with evil undertones. It was seductive yet frightening.-

-"Why do you hesitate, dear? Come this way. I'll let no harm come to you. You are precious to me."-

-She shook her head slowly. "No," she replied softly.-

-"Do not fear me. I need you."-

-Her heart began to pump until she could feel her pulse in her throat. The fear that had her sunk to her gut. "No!"-

-"You will obey!" His voice was no longer alluring. It was repelling, and sent chills down her spine. "If you will not come to me, then I will come to you."

"NO!"

Sophia jerked upright in her chair. Her breaths came out raged and sharp. A single bead of sweat found its way down her temple. She was unable to focus her vision for a few seconds.

"Sophia?"

She turned to Cliff and swallowed. "It…it was just a bad dream."

"Okay," he said softly nodding his head. "Well, we're almost there."

She massaged her temple with her fingers. "Good." She was ready to get out of the chair. She wanted to walk and stretch, but that would be impossible until they landed.

"We'll be landing close to Arias. We just got word that Maria landed only an hour ago."

"Well, the first thing I want when we land is a drink."

Cliff gave her an odd look that caused her to giggle. "No, I mean water. Not that kind of drink." She forced a smile. For some reason at that moment 'that kind of drink' didn't seem like such a bad idea.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Elena studied the transparent orb as it flickered. She paced the floor in loose circles; her eyes never drifting from the crystal. Within the sphere, dim colors swirled like smoke faintly under a surface of glass. A knock at her door was the only thing that tore her trance from the object.

"Yes, come in," she called to the door. She spoke with no trace of the apprehension that infested her gut.

The door opened to reveal Evia. He entered the room quietly. On his heels was Aqua; as she was never far from her father's side.

"Elena, your note sounded urgent." His voice rolled eloquently from his lips. Despite the new life he had chosen, his noble heritage would always show.

"Yes, it would seem that the time we feared is closing in on us. The Envisage Orb has signaled the beginning of the end."

Evia approached the orb and scrutinized it. "Aqua? What do you see here?"

The young girl sauntered from behind him and to the table. Lifting up on her toes, she peered at the orb roughly the size of her own head. Her large innocent eyes stared curiously at the unformed images that danced within the orb's casing.

"It looks like a man. He's a prince, but a very bad prince. I think he wants to slay the dragons."

Elena knelt down at the girl's side and patted her back encouragingly. "Do you see anything else?"

The girl squinted and leaned in closer. "Oh, I see someone else. It's a girl. She's in trouble."

Evia leaned on the table and exchanged glances between the orb and his daughter. "A girl? Could she be somehow connected to the Dranclan Tribe?"

Aqua shook her head and looked up at her father. "Nope. She's not able to talk to the dragons. She's just a girl…but there's something different about her that makes her special."

Elena smacked her lips together. She rose and made her way to the bookshelf on the near wall. She didn't need to search to find the books she sought. Plucking them down one by one, she pilled them in her arm. Once she had all the volumes she required, she plodded back to the table. "We should set out immediately. Cornelius is currently in Peterny. We'll seek him out first. After that we will travel to Airyglyph and find Osman."

Evia scooped Aqua up into his arms. "We will go ready ourselves."

"No," Elena shot back almost too quickly; causing Aqua to flinch and burry her face in her father's neck. "You must stay here. As far as we can tell, Aqua is to one day inherit the throne."

Evia chuckled. "I'm fully aware of that. But, it is the same ability she has to be heir that will also aid us in our journey. I doubt that Aquaria herself would be in any position to accompany us. We'll need someone who can see the images. Right now Aqua is the only one. Besides, what good would it do to protect her if the kingdom she may rule one day is destroyed?"

Elena nodded reluctantly. "Very well. Go pack. I'll have a carriage ready to leave within the hour."

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

(A/N) For the purposes of this story I made Aqua to be around the age of 6. I'm not sure of her age in the game but I needed her to be a young girl here. I also took the liberty of creating a new historic event for Elicoor. Details on that will be provided in later chapters.

The next chapter is much more exciting. It'll be out sometime early next week.