Guardians of the Soul | Teen Ink

Guardians of the Soul

March 8, 2012
By Allisa, Columbia, Illinois
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Allisa, Columbia, Illinois
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Favorite Quote:
Love not the ones who follow you on the road of life, but the ones who follow you off the beaten path.

Author's note: My friends and myself have been through a lot. This book is inspired by my dreams of flight and the friendship we all share.

I’d like to say a quick thanks to all the friends that pushed me through this struggle of a story. Without you, nothing would have ever gotten done. A second thanks goes to my parents who have helped me through the writers block that I would constantly get, giving me ideas about where I could go. To all the teachers and staff at my high school who helped me to become the writer I am today. Also, to my boyfriend, Thomas, who gave me hope when I was down and gave me lots of inspiration for this story. But most importantly to you, the reader, for giving me a chance to show what I’m capable of. Many, many thanks! -Allisa S

Some say that school stands for “Seven Crappiest Hours Of Our Lives.” Whether they are right or not depends on the person themselves I assume. With my head resting on my folded arms that lay upon the desk and the sun warming my skin and saving me from the classroom’s overactive air-conditioning, I tried to enjoy the last moments before school let out for Spring Break. Of course that is easier said than done. As a paper airplane whizzed by my head, I then realized that it must be moments before the bell finally rang and the class was taking full opportunity of it. Their voices were loud and arrogant as they gathered in their little gossip groups but I couldn’t have cared less. Neither could the teacher. She sat typing on her computer, either oblivious to the class or careless enough to let them out of control.
I glanced up at the clock and its ever-moving hands; one more minute. Rousing myself out of my trance-like state, I gathered up my books and binders into my arms. As soon as the bell tolled, the class sprang into action and rushed into the halls, eager to escape the school. Me, being the last to file out, merely walked over to my locker, which lay no more than ten feet from my class, and started packing up what I needed over the break. Closing my locker for the last time for two weeks felt good. I didn’t hate school like some people did, but a short vacation sounded pretty good. My friend Kristy and I were going camping for a week out in the Ozark Mountains. I’ve never been there myself, however Kristy and her family have.

I walked out to my car at the very end of the parking lot. Traffic was, of course, backed up. So I was in no hurry to go anywhere. I opened the door and threw my bag into the passenger seat and started the car. To my surprise the radio started blaring and I quickly turned it back down, forgetting that I had turned it up so loud that morning to wake me up. Traffic had let up a little after that, so I took the opportunity and made my way onto the main road in less than a five minute wait. The drive home was a lot easier from there and to my relief I had finally made it home. Pulling into my drive way, I saw that both of my parents were already home from work. Not that it really changed anything. All I had left to do was pack up before Kristy met me around five.
Running inside and up to my room, I threw my backpack onto the floor next to my bed and started packing. Once everything was ready, I took note of everything I had and what I was missing. Everything was in check except for my sleeping bag which was upstairs in the attic somewhere. So up I went. Excitement started getting to me when I realized how anxious I really was. "This was it," I told myself, "this is the first time the parents are actually letting me go on vacation with my friends." I rummaged through old boxes full of holiday decorations. No luck there. Kristy’s car could be heard parking on the side of the street and in moments I could hear my parents greeting her inside. Up the stairs she came until I could hear her below the drop down ladder.

"Hurry up Sky! I want to be there before dark!" My friend Kristy wasn't a patient person, especially when it was her turn to drive. Finally finding it in one of our summer boxes, I climbed back down the ladder. There she stood, hands on her hips, foot tapping impatiently. However, the biggest smile appeared on her face.

"Sorry," I laughed, “I needed to find this thing." I tucked the bag under my arm and we walked outside to her car. Of all the vacation options, Kristy thought it would be best to go camping. I didn't mind, I just thought it scary that she would want to be outside. But reaching the car I saw why the option of camping amused her. Kristy's boyfriend, Kilian, who was more of an outdoors person, was waiting in the passenger seat along with Darius, his best friend. Both of them had Kristy's subs pounding in the back of her Honda Civic. I didn't know they were coming and I looked towards Kristy who just shrugged me off. I trusted Kristy, she and I have been friends for several years and I wasn't going to doubt her now. I put the rest of my stuff in the overcrowded trunk and waved good-bye to my parents. Opening the car door, the loudness of the music was revealed and I climbed into the back seat behind Kristy.

"Ozark Mountains here we come!" Kristy cheered as she put the car into drive. The rest of us smiled and went along with her good mood. For most of the drive I just looked out the window and watched the cities and towns fade away only to be replaced by rolling hills and jagged cliffs. I tuned in and out of their "which is better" arguments. I wasn't really one to jump into conversations; Kristy always called me the by-stander. I know she meant it as a joke, but it still caused a tug in my chest, a hurtful tug. Besides, I considered myself a listener. Some would say I was maybe a counselor, always listening and helping people with their problems, but not me. I'm just a one of a kind person.

A few hours and a few gas stops later, we reached our reserved campsite. It had taken forever to find one that suited all of our needs. Kristy had her electricity for her "beauty needs", Kilian wanted to be closer to the river, and Darius wanted a fire place. Me, I just wanted flat, clean ground to sleep on. As a bonus, it was pretty isolated from the rest of the sites and was surrounded by big shady trees. When we started to unpack though, I noticed that Kristy only had two tents.
"Um, Kristy. Come here for a moment." I motioned her over.
"Yeah Sky?" she had a look of worry on her face, a look a mother would give when her child said that they didn't feel well.
"Where is the guys’ tent?" I felt stupid for asking, but this was supposed to be our vacation, just me and her. I knew that the guys wouldn't share a tent either.
"Guys’ tent? I'm sharing a tent with Kilian." Typical Kristy. That left me and Darius to share a tent together! Leave it up to her to plan things out. I gave her a death glance but walked away before I said anything I would regret. "You need to be a little more adventurous Sky!" She yelled to me as I stormed away.

"What could she possibly be thinking, making me and Darius share a tent? I hardly even knew the guy!" I stormed down to the river and sat down on the rock. She had to know that I was upset with her. There was no way she couldn't have known. It would have been my luck that she was doing this all on purpose. I hardly ever talked, let alone to guys. She was probably trying to make me and Darius hook-up in some sort of scheme she was planning. But that’s just how she is, always in the "know" of things. How she and I were friends I have no idea, she is my complete opposite. I never really cared much for the latest clothing trend or the new hot guy at school, which was all Kristy. Me, I considered myself a loner, a mute. But there was some sort of "click" that happened when she and I talked at school. We totally had nothing in common, but we always had each others' back. Best friends are made for each other like long lost sisters. But this "plan" of hers was not the brightest idea. "I guess I'll just have to suck it up." I told myself. I noticed then how sweaty my palms had gotten from my short panic attack.

I stood up and brushed off my pants. Just as I turned around to head back though, Kilian ran out from behind the bushes out of breath. "Thank goodness!" He about collapsed when he stopped running but quickly regained his balance, "We've been looking everywhere for you." I gave him a confused look, but he told me that after I left, Kristy got really worried and they all went looking for me.

Being stubborn, I told him, "I'm fine and can take care of myself.", and brushed past him. I continued back up the path towards camp, his foot steps could be heard behind me. When I saw Kristy though, I could tell that she had been sobbing. Her eyeliner was smeared, something she never let happen, and her eyes were shadowed in red. She leaped up and ran towards me, crushing me in an apology hug.
"I'm so sorry," she sobbed, "I'll never put you through something like that again!" Now, I felt like crap. She seemed more hurt than I was to begin with.
"It's okay. You and Kilian should be able to share a tent together." She gave me a funny look and managed a small chuckle.

"That’s not why I'm sorry, I'm sorry because I put our friendship in a tight place." she laughed then, "but I can be sorry about the tent plans too." We both laughed because now it all just sounded so stupid. After the dramatic scene of me and Kristy making up, we continued to set up camp. Around nightfall all the tents were up, lamps hung, and dinner made. We gathered around the fire pit as Darius got out the matches.

With one quick strike he had one lit, but before he put it in he simply stated, "Cheers to the first night of our vacation." and tossed it in. It quickly caught the small pile of neatly stacked wood, turning into a small, desolate inferno. We stood in silence for a while, enjoying the presence of one another. Then Kristy and Kilian held hands and she started on the story about how they met, a story that I've heard too many times. It felt awkward, Kilian and Kristy were together and no doubt in love, and Darius glared at me from across the fire like he was trying to say something but something was stopping him. I didn't know who to look at, Kristy or him. Instead I just watched the flames dance around. When they died into smoldering ashes a few hours later, Kilian poured water on them to kill them off and we all headed towards our tents.
"This is the part where it's going to get awkward." Thankfully though, as I found out when I unzipped the tent, Darius and I each had our own side that was separated by a solid plastic, tent material wall. So I basically had my own tent, it was just conjoined with his. I crawled in and changed clothes, thankful that I still had my privacy. My sleeping bag rustled as I crawled into it, glad to be warm again. Listening to the insects that chirped in the night put me in a daze that was not quite sleep. Soon Darius’s breathing could be heard softly seeping from his lungs. The two sounds together put me right to sleep. Fading into a small oblivion, darkness surrounded me but soon a vision or a dream started forming within my conscience. The dream I had was hard to forget because it changed our lives forever.

I was walking along a hiking trail. It climbed high into the peaks of the Ozark Mountains. The higher I went the more my surroundings changed. The trees that were once normal pines became denser and looked ancient in appearance. Air that was once crisp and cool now became think and moist to where it felt hard to breathe. Even the rocks around me changed from shades of gray to a variety of browns. Through the trees I started seeing what looked like the ruins of an ancient building sitting atop a cliff. You could tell instantly they held a thousand secrets. I entered though the rustic gates that were barely hanging onto their hinges, just out of pure curiosity. But it also felt like something was pulling me towards it.
I entered through a huge arch doorway that looked like a giant could fit through. The inside of the ruins still had trees and ferns growing inside, light shone down from what was left of the roof. I entered the main hall which leads me to the foyer of the structure. The tugging feeling suddenly disappeared. That’s when I heard breathing, deep and struggled. Breathing that was slow and shallow. Whatever it was had big lungs, which could only mean a big creature. Screeching, like that of metal against metal, echoed down from one of the halls. I started coughing because the air was filled with smoke and burned my throat.

I was about to turn and leave so I could get some fresh air into my lungs when I saw a flash white. I froze in panic as I realized that it was a creature's tail that I'd seen. I got another glimpse of the creature's hide as it walked behind a few pillars. Its scales were radiant white, so radiant that they seemed to glow. A voice like that of a god's echoed, "Why do you enter my lair small being? Are you here to help me?" I simply nodded my head in agreement because I did not want it to think of me as a threat. A huge scaly head emerged from the shadows in front of me. What really stood out were his electric blue eyes. He was, no doubt, a dragon. Silver horns ran out behind his head and his teeth gleamed a brilliant white.

"I am Sedorn, guardian of the light. I have been sent from the heavens to protect your world. My evil brother, Excavior, walks in darkness and plans to use your planet to strengthen himself, destroying it in the process." My eyes dropped to the ground in shock. He continued to talk however. "Once your planet is withered from the lack of life, Excavior will use his dark arts to unleash his demons upon it, destroying anything that is left behind. He is desperate for domination, but there is one thing stopping him," I looked up into his sapphire eyes. “My life purpose is to save all I can and he knows that I am stronger and wiser than him. Therefore, he draws my strength to replenish what he has lost. I will not last much longer, that is why you are here." He gazed at me, unblinking.

"Me? Why me?" He had to be joking. How could I ever help him, even if I wanted to?

"Your friends have strong, pure hearts, same as yourself. You are not tainted with greed like everyone else. You are my only hope."
I looked at him. He had no doubt in me and I didn’t want to let him down, "What do you want me to do?"

"Find my brother, and bring his heart to me." Did he really just ask me to slay his brother? A dragon? How in the world was I supposed to do that? "You will have help, young one, do not worry about that. I still have enough strength to lend some of my power to you and your friends. But you must hurry, time will be short. Now fly!"

I awoke with a quick blink. The dream was so vivid and realistic I could still hear his voice echoing inside my head. Light from the sun shone straight into my eyes, but it didn't bother me. It felt rather good actually, warm and vibrant. I stood up, or attempted to anyway. Instead, I fell clumsily onto my side with a loud thud that seemed to shake the Earth itself. When I opened my eyes, I saw the last thing I'd ever expect. A dragon, the color of freshly spilled blood, slumbered not 5 feet from me. "What the hell is going on here?" I asked myself. I glanced around only to find two other dragons that were also sleeping soundly in our campsite. One was electric yellow, the other was sapphire blue.

I panicked and ran. Forcing myself upright, I darted onto the trail that leads to the river. Something wasn't right though. My running felt off balanced and uncoordinated. The surrounding forest was a blur of green as I sprinted through it. I managed to reach the river in less than ten seconds. Walking there usually takes me five minutes. Most people would've stopped running when they reached the water's edge, not me. Without hesitation, I darted into the icy water hoping it would bring me to my senses. I stopped about half-way in the river, too tired to move anymore.

The cold water flowed its way around me, smooth and caressing. My mind felt sharp again after a few moments of deep breathing to calm myself. Fish swam by me as they tried to fight the current, bumping into my legs. But when I looked down to try to see them, all confidence was lost once I saw my reflection. A forest green dragon stared back at me. I jumped backwards, startled at what I had just seen. Toppling backwards and accidentally submerging myself into the river, I felt an un-natural sense of relaxation. Righting myself once again, I checked one for time. Sure enough, there it was again. There I was again. "Just perfect. Now I know I'm dreaming!” I stared at the creature who copied me. Silver horns pointed back towards my neck, which was lined with smaller silver spines that lead from my nose to my spaded tail. My wings, long and wide, felt like they were not even there due to their extreme weightlessness. The only thing I could feel of my wings was a muscle that sat right below my shoulders that felt like a brick. But my favorite part was my eyes. Slit like a cat's, they were the same color as my scales. But there was a spark behind them like that of a lion ready to pounce on his prey. The spark of a renewed life and energy.

It felt weird to look at myself, off balance almost. I shook my head to break my thoughts. I need to head back to camp and wake the others up! I ran as fast as my four legs would let me up the trail that leads back to our campsite. It wasn’t exactly easy to do. Running on all fours felt uncomfortable to me and with my huge body mass, the trail was rather small. I couldn't fit past every plant so instead I had to trample over them. Twigs snapped and popped as I ran past them. I knew I was nearing the camp, so I slowed down to a walk. The camp was indeed occupied by three large dragons that slept on demolished tents. One was a startling yellow, another deep blue, and one that was wine red. Now how to break the news to them? This was going to be the most difficult part. How do I wake them up looking the way I do without terrifying them? How to convince them that this wasn’t some nightmare?

I figured that I should wake Kristy first because she would be easier to reason with….hopefully. Looking at all the dragons, I found the one that was placed where she slept, right next to the blue one who I guessed was Kilian. The yellow one I guessed was her. I slinked as close as I could to Kristy without waking her. But I realized the closer I got to her, the more I started to hear voices. Like soft whispers, they rippled across my mind. I could barley comprehend what they were saying until I realized I was listening to Kristy's dreams. 'I can actually read their minds!' I thought to myself, 'How fascinating this was going to be!' She was having a dream about me and her hanging out at the mall. Apparently we were trying to find last minute dresses for a prom dance. 'Prom is still a few months away Kristy, don't worry.' I chuckled at her conscience. "Kristy," I whispered to her mind. "You need to get up. But please, I beg you, don’t freak out." She stirred a bit, but never opened her eyes.

So a little more forcefully, I spoke to her again. Only this time her eyes started to flutter open. "Wha-what is going on? What happened?" Her eyes hadn’t quite focused yet. But when they did, they landed right on me. I could only tell when this happened because her pupils shrank in terror. She let out a huge roar, which sounded more like a scream than anything, as she stood up, stumbling backwards over her tail "Who are you?” she stuttered a bit. “What do you want from me?" she started backing away from me like I was some monster or something (even though I did look the part).
"Kristy, it’s me, Skylar! You have to trust me on this. I know this is all hard to believe, but please don’t freak out.”
"Like shit you are! My best friend just so happens to be human, not some filthy beast!" Ouch, that hurt. I shrugged it off because I knew she didn't understand anything right now.

I couldn't help but laugh, "Kristy, please, listen to me. I’m not going to hurt you. If you don’t want to believe me, fine. I’m not going to push you. But I’m not the only one like this. You’re changed too. Take a look for yourself.” She gave me a dirty look but took my advice anyway. Walking to her car, she used the windows like a mirror. Her jaw literally dropped and she began to sob. She didn't believe it was real, she still thought she was dreaming. "Believe whatever you like. Please, just no more tears." All she did was nod in agreement, still too terrified to talk. Somehow the guys still slept through the whole drama scene. Now it was time to wake them up.

I was still nervous being around Darius, so I thought I'd wake Kilian up first. I tried to get inside his mind but it was like hitting a brick wall. I drew back quickly, surprised by his mental defense. I tried again a little more forceful. This time though I managed to seep a bit of my conscience into his, but not by much. As I struggled with the hold, I spoke, "Kilian! Kilian, come on! Get up!” You'd think he would've been a more difficult person to awaken. Instead, his electric blue eyes flashed open almost immediately. They looked straight into mine, causing a slight stunning moment where I felt I couldn't move. I backed up, unsure of how he would react. Almost like a horse, he stood up by propping up on one knee, then the other, then pushing off the ground until he was finally standing upright. He quickly looked towards the ground, either to avoid looking at me and Kristy or out of dizziness. He stood deathly still.

I would have sworn time stopped if it weren't for Kristy who walked up along the side of me and asked, "Is he alright?”

To be honest, I couldn't tell. And it wasn't until he glanced up at us that I saw pure fear reflecting in his eyes like a lightning storm. That’s when I guess it all clicked for him. In one fluid motion, his head rose up and a threatening roar erupted from deep within him. He charged at us, unaware of who we were. In a split-second, he jumped at me and thrust me onto my back, forcing my lungs to lose its precious supply of air. I used by back legs and the momentum to throw him up over my head. After he was out of my line of vision, I seen a flash of red to my right. Quickly turning my head to see what it was, I found Darius pinning Kilian to the ground. He had one hand shoved into Kilian's throat; the other was stopping Kilian from tearing his face off.

Kristy was screaming at Kilian to stop and listen. I was still in shock, but I should have seen it coming. I should have known he would have reacted the worst. And how Darius managed to keep Kilian down is a mystery to me. Kilian was almost twice the size of him (at least in dragon form). Then, all at once, he just stopped. His hands were no longer trying to slash Darius to pieces and his jaws had quit snapping at his neck. He just seemed to freeze again. You could see that he took a breath, a deep one. With a slight nod, Darius let him up slowly, making sure that he really was fine.

When he got to his feet, he simply looked at me and asked. "What the hell is going on?”

Kilian gave us all looks, so I told him the story. Darius wasn't surprised by any of it. In fact, it seemed like he knew just about everything I did. Kilian took all of the information and put it into deep thought. "So let me get this straight. In your dream you talked with this dragon guy, who gave us magical powers to stop his evil dragon brother from destroying our planet?" He looked at me like I was kidding. But to sum it all up, he was right. He shook his head in disbelief and wandered around our site.
"So what do we do now?" Kristy asked, looking straight at me.
"I don't know yet," I looked around at all of them, their faces troubled and worried, " I guess we'll have to think of something."

Darius stepped forward, "I think I know what we can do." The shadow of a grin spread across his scaly face. We all looked to him. Anything was better than nothing. "We learn our abilities!" The way he said it made it sound like we should know exactly what he was talking about.
And to speak for everyone’s mind, Kristy asked. "What abilities are you talking about?"
"Hello? We're dragons! We can fly and breathe fire and stuff right?" He had a point. But where did we start? None us knew how to do any of that. Darius walked over to the open section of our site, right where the sun poured down through the canopy.
I looked to Kristy, giving her an expression that said, “What is he planning now?” But before she could even begin to answer me, Darius began to flap his wings. “Is he really doing what I think he's trying to do? Tell me he's joking Sky.” The thin membrane made the air vibrate with every beat of his wing. He never really got completely off the ground, just his front feet. The branches around us were in a frenzy of movement as the wind whipped past them. With a final thrust, he managed to get completely off the ground. He hovered in the same spot for a bit, all of us staring in awe, until he dropped ten feet to solid ground. A look of accomplishment covered his face. Did Darius really just fly?

I wanted to try now. Since we could hear each others mind, Darius heard my thought and switched me places. I turned around and faced my friends, each of them giving me a look of confidence, restoring my strength. Rolling the muscles that attached to my wings, I tried finding the right movements. I started with small movements and gradually increased them. Stronger and harder thrusts caused my wings to catch the air like kites, propelling me upward just a bit. It was enough to allow my front feet to be off the ground. I decided to put a little more thrust into it. My wings really caught and next thing I knew I was looking down at everybody. They got smaller and smaller, along with the forest around them.

"Sky, get back down here. Don't get ahead of yourself!" Kristy had always been considered my second mother, but even this was a little much. Ignoring her lecture, I continued upward. The sky seemed endless. Through cotton clouds that left mist on my face, all the way until the air got icy cold and hard to breathe. Finally, when I couldn't go any farther, I hovered and looked around me. The morning stars were still visible, despite the still rising sun. It was like something from a dream or a fairytale. Then, folding my wings alongside my scaly hide, I plummeted. Falling head first toward the earth, I enjoyed the wind rushing past me. I've always wanted to sky-dive, so what better time than now. My eyes began to water due to the harsh wind, but I forced them open. I had to know when the ground was coming. Streaking through the clouds like a comet was the most remarkable sensation. It made you feel unstoppable. Suddenly, the air turned warm again and trees came into view. I spread my wings like a parachute. The rapid decrease in speed made me dizzy for a moment. I flapped my wings in a circular motion to slow me down before I hit ground. I landed at the site not ten feet off from where I started.

Everybody looked at me like they had seen a ghost. "What’s wrong?”
"What’s wrong! Are you insane? We barely know how to fly and your already risking your life on it.” she was defiantly upset with me.

"I'm sorry." I laughed, "But you should have seen it up there!”

"Oh, don’t worry about that! We see everything pretty clearly down here.”

"She’s right you know,” Kilian cut in, "We saw your whole adventure down here, through your mind.” So not only could they read my mind, but see my thoughts too? This just got better!
"I think it was only because we were focused on you." Darius stated. "Like right now, I hear your thoughts. But I can't see what you see unless I put my full attention on you.” He seemed to glare at me, but I know he was trying to focus his thoughts. "See. Now I see myself through your eyes.” He stayed still for a bit, and then slightly rotated his torso. I was wondering what he was doing until he said, "And, man, do I look good!” We all laughed at that just to break the tension between Kristy and I. She seemed to have let it go. I couldn't feel anger coming from her, at least not for the most part.

With my ears still ringing from my free-fall, I traded places with Kilian. It was his turn now. He took his place, planting his feet firmly on the ground. But unlike Darius and me, Kilian was fully hovering in a few beats. He didn't seem too phased by it, in fact he seemed nervous. Within seconds he was back on the ground and switching with Kristy. You could tell she was excited because she pretty much pranced into place. It took her a bit to find the right movements. While the rest of us used strength to fly, Kristy relied on speed. Her movements were fast and short, but easily lifted her of the ground. She hovered there like a yellow butterfly before she landed silently on the soft grass. Finally all too full of herself, she joined the rest of the group.

Due to the excitement and the heat, we all desired a drink. So we walked down the trail to the river in single file, Darius leading. The river water was clean and pure, so we weren't worried about the risks. With our dry throats finally gone and the cool crisp taste of the water still on our tongue, we decided to chill out in the river for a bit. We were all lying down so that we were up to our necks in water. It felt good to finally relax. Especially after all the events that took place recently.

"Is anyone else hungry?" Kilian questioned us. But now that I thought about it, I could have used a quick bite to eat.

Darius was the first to speak up, "I'm starving!"
"But what can we eat like this? I'm surely not eating animals!" Kristy gave us disgusted looks. "And I hope none of you are thinking about it."

"Hell no," Darius laughed, "I am not eating raw meat! What do you think we could do Kilian?"

"Like I should know. Do we still have stuff packed in your car Kristy?"
"A few things, snacks and such. But not anything that would tie us over. And you have to remember our stomachs are twice as big now compared to when we were normal." She had a point. What were we suppose to do now?
"Do you think we'll ever be human again?" I had to ask. The question was resting on my chest too much that it actually started to hurt.

"I would hope so. I can't look like this forever!" We all knew Kristy would make some kind of remark like that. Her appearance was ranked number one in her most important things. She dipped her head under the water and blew a bunch of bubbles. Resurfacing, she looked at me, then up at the sky. "How did it feel up there, so high above the ground?” she asked me. "Did it look how you imagined it to be?”

To be honest, it was hard to describe it. "It felt better and more exhilarating than you could possibly imagine. It was like the Earth never existed and it was only ever you out there, alone. But the best part was feeling that the sky seemed to actually accept me, like the sky and I were one.”
Darius looked at me and laughed, "Maybe it’s because you share the same name!” I splashed water on his face as we all joined in on the joke. That was one thing I loved about my friends, they had a wide sense of humor. Life was never boring around them. When the sun started to set, we headed back to camp to rest in for the night. One by one, the constellations began to pop out. And it wasn't until the last rays of sunlight faded off that something happened that we never expected. We were sitting around the campfire that Darius managed to make using the small flickers of flame he could coax out of his throat. It was Kilian who first noticed it.

"Does anyone feel weird?" We all shook our heads in denial. "It just feels like I have ants crawling around in my stomach.” Kilian wasn't one to fess up when he wasn't feeling good, so we knew something was wrong. But just as we started to walk over to him, we got the same feeling. We all started holding our stomachs. It felt like acid was leaking inside my body. Pain enveloped all of us forcing us to drop to the ground, eyes tight. But just as quick as it had started, it ended. My eyes blinked open bit by bit, scared that the pain was coming back. I glanced over at everyone else, but nearly fainted when I did so. They were human again, all of us were.

I thought that I was surely dreaming. Was it Sedorn doing this? If so, why did he take our powers away? Did we do something wrong? I looked at all my friends, who were examining their long lost skin. Thankfully we were all fully clothed during the transformations. Only one person seemed upset about their loss. Darius stared at his hands like they were alien to him, a small frown on his face. "Are you alright?” I asked him.

"I'm fine. I just feel weaker now being human." He said 'human' as if it were some kind of parasite. It made us all laugh. It did feel weird being human again, almost like half of us were missing. The incomplete feeling made our minds feel shallow. We were so accustomed to our improved form, this one felt empty. With no wings, no horns, no talons, and teeth that felt mostly flat, it made you wonder how man was nature's top hunter.
We took the chance and ate a quick meal. Darius grilled up a couple of hamburgers we had stored in the cooler. He was a master when it came to cooking over an open flame. When our stomachs were finally satisfied, we decided to go to sleep a little early that night. However, with the tents destroyed, we slept in Kristy's car. None of us had any idea what was in store for us tomorrow.

Kristy reclined in her driver's seat, Kilian doing the same thing in the passenger's. Darius and I shared the back seat, propped up against the door panel. After a few times of shifting positions to get comfortable, I managed to drift into a light slumber. Dreams came to me quickly the instant I closed my eyes. I was at Sedorn's ruins again. I walked back into the Main Hall where I first encountered him. The light rained down through the broken ceiling like golden rain and landed upon the cracked marble floor. Sedorn waited in the same spot, his scales as white as ever. He seemed to be waiting for me, watching me as I walked in. His large bulk resting in the warmth of the sun's rays. "Hello Master Sedorn. Did you summon me here?”

"I did. I wished to talk with you. You asked yourself if it was I who took your powers away." I wondered how he knew this, but I didn't ponder on it. "Your powers were not taken away. They still remain with you. Only during the day will your form be that of a dragon. At least until your bodies become use to the change.” How wonderful. Human during the night, dragon by day.

"Why is that Master? Why take away our strength when we need it to defeat your brother?"

"Strength has its limits, young one. Even I am restricted by limits. Do not forget that. You would be foolish to do so."

"Sorry Master. I will never forget that again. But what are we supposed to do? Where are we suppose to go?"

"Easy with the questions," he chuckled, “But first you must fly north, to the land of ice you humans call the Arctic Circle. From there you will follow the Northern Lights. They will lead you straight to a cavern, known to me as Gillarza's Peak. Go inside and you will find somebody who will help you in your next step. But be careful, I can feel Excavior at work on his dark army. They may try to follow you there."

Chills ran down the entire length of my spine. "I'll be sure to remain cautious, as always."

"Good. That will help you in the future."

"Is that all you wished to talk about?"

"For now, yes. You may leave if you wish. But I would suggest one thing first. You may no longer want to be in the car by daylight.” he laughed, "Unless your friend no longer wants it in one piece.” The vision faded as the sky started to become lighter, a thin yellow stripe across the horizon. My view came into focus only to see everyone still sleeping. Daylight could only mean our change was soon to come. Kristy's car would burst open if that happened while we were still inside it. I tapped Kristy's shoulder in order to wake her up. She looked around first, then back at me.

"Is something wrong Sky?"

"It's almost daylight outside. We need to get out of the car before we turn back into dragons." I explained.

"Turn back? You mean that wasn't a one time thing? You've got to be kidding me." she slammed her head back against the head-rest, causing the car to shake slightly. “I guess there's not anything I can do about it...."

"Can you help me wake the guys up?" She nodded in agreement. As I reached over to wake Darius though, she grabbed my arm.

"I have a better idea." a menacing grin appeared. "You might want to cover your ears though." Without hesitating, I did just that. She held her hand over the car's horn, "Ready?" She pressed on it, causing the car to make a high pitched bleep that seemed to echo for miles. Luckily our campsite was majorly isolated. The guys awoke quicker than the speed of light. Kilian, as much as he denies it, made a small sound that sounded like a girl's hiccup. Kristy and I died of laughter as the guys chewed us out. Stumbling out of the car, still laughing, we waited for the sun to rise. The voices of the birds grew louder. The sky grew brighter until the top of the sun peeked out from behind the mountains.

The pain reappeared again, but not as badly as the time before. It still caused us to hold our stomachs, but it wasn't agonizing enough to where we dropped to the ground. Within seconds, I noticed my eyesight change, the colors enhanced and brighter than before. I knew then, the change was complete. I stretched my wings out as far as I could, enjoying the sun as they hit them like solar panels. It was going to take some time to remember that dragons are cold blooded and needed the suns warmth to stay healthy. How are dragons supposed to survive the Arctic tundra? I didn't worry about it too long. If it wasn't possible, Sedorn wouldn't send us there so soon.

We practiced our flying a bit more before we left for good. "What about my car?" Kristy asked me when I told her we had to leave for the Arctic Circle.

"I'm sure Kilian or Darius could carry it to your house by hand. They're both large and strong enough. It's not like your cars a Hummer or anything, it’s a Civic. There’s no way it weighs more than them."

"True. But I'm more worried about their flying. We've only been hovering for the most part. I'm sure flying with a car isn't exactly going to be easy on them."

"They're guys. They can tough it out." Both of us looked up towards them as they strengthened in their basic flying technique. Kilian was attempting to learn how to fly within air currents, which the mountains were full of. When the currents whipped around, changing direction, Kilian would wobble but quickly regain balance. It was something that would be useful to learn for flying over sheets of ice. Darius, on the other hand, was practicing more aerobatic skills. He would fly straight for a bit, and then force his wings forward which would cause him to loop upside down. From there, he would continue to arch his back, completing the circle. He'd then beat his wings to get him upright again. How that would help us, I had no idea. But I wasn't complaining. I'm sure it would be useful one way or another.

Me and Kristy packed the car carefully, trying not to rip or break anything. Knowing they had a long journey ahead of them, the guys had quit their training early. They took a quick ten minute break and then walked over to Kristy's Civic. With the windows down, Kilian was able to reach his claws through both the driver and passenger side door frame, lifting it from the roof. He tested its weight for a bit then nodded his head, signaling the rest of us that he was ready. We bolted from the ground out of eagerness. The journey ahead may be long and grueling, but my friends and I were more than ready to take it on. Or at least that’s what we thought then....

The sky seemed endless as we flew above the clouds to avoid being seen. A warm updraft pushed us along, making flight easy and simple. Kilian lead all of us with Kristy right beside him. You could tell they were talking about something because every once in a while one of them would nod their heads or laugh at something the other said. I didn't eavesdrop, their conversation was their own, not mine. Darius was behind me on my left, deep in thought about something. His eyebrows were low and scrunched together. Something was bothering him. "Is everything okay over there?" He didn't answer. "Darius!"

He finally looked up, "Yeah?"

"I asked if you were okay."

"I'm fine. I was just thinking to myself." He still didn't look focused, but I dropped it. I didn't want to push him thirty minuets into our journey. But before our true journey began we were going to drop Kristy's car off at her house, which luckily we wouldn't reach until nightfall. It was probably around noon now judging by the height of the sun. Every once in a while the clouds would be thin enough to see the land below. It really helped us navigate our way home. When the clouds were too thick, one of us would dive below them to get a glimpse of the surroundings. One thing we had to be cautious of were planes. Like silver dots in the sky, they were hard to see. Once, a jet flew right over us but never stopped or slowed down. We assumed they didn't see us, luckily.
"What would we do if people saw us?" Kristy questioned shortly after the plane was out of sight.

Kilian pondered and replied, "I don't know. Continue on our way I guess. Really, what could they do? Call the cops. Nobody would believe them." He laughed, "Even if they did believe them, we'd be long gone by then."

"I guess so. But we can't fly forever. We have to land sometime because none of us are exactly use to flying long distances like this. As a matter of fact, a break sounds really nice about now." she panted.
Darius glared over at her, "Are you serious? We just left camp!” Kilian looked back at him threateningly, standing up for Kristy.

"If she wants a break, she'll get one! We just need to find an isolated place to land first." He looked right at me. "Would you mind Sky?” I knew he was asking me to dive below the clouds and scan the area, so I agreed to it. I tucked my wings in a little to lower myself below our concealing shield. When I started to see green, I slowed down, careful not to drop any lower than necessary. A few scattered houses and small sub-divisions were below me, followed by a small town less than a mile away. Beyond that laid the perfect spot to land, though. A small wooded area, protected on one side by a small bluff lay slightly to our left. I returned back up to the group to tell them what I'd seen. Kilian remained hovering, considering the best way for us to reach the bluff without raising suspicion. We were all hovering and it wasn't easy to do. Kristy looked beat and drained of all remaining energy. She looked like she could pass out any second now.

It was decided that me and Kristy would go down first, followed by Kilian and Darius. They would follow a couple of minuets behind us just to make the scene not as big of an attraction to by-standers. I let Kristy go ahead of me so I could keep an eye on her and make sure she landed safely. Her dive was weak but she worked with it to straighten it out. The clearing we aimed to land in loomed dead ahead. I waited for her to unfold her wings, but she didn't until the last second. The ground shook below her as she impacted it with full force. I landed beside her and asked if she was okay.

"I'm alright. Just a bit dizzy.” she trembled. Lying down, Kristy and I looked up to see two streaks falling from the sky, one of blue, the other red. Kilian and Darius landed a couple of yards away from us. Kilian carefully placed the car on the ground. Once they landed, Kristy immediately fell asleep.

He then crept up to her and asked me, "Do you think she'll be alright?"

"With a bit of rest she'll be fine. She’s tougher than she looks. I'd give her a bit though, she seemed relentlessly exhausted.” Kilian looked at me and nodded. "Actually, we should all take a moment to rest up, while we have the time to.” The journey was going to take forever at the rate we were going now. I crossed my fingers that our endurance would increase the more we flew, otherwise we could just forget about making the trip in time. This would all be pointless. I gave up arguing with myself and laid my head down for a little shut eye.

Before I knew I had fallen asleep, I was awoken by Kristy. Her color had returned to its normal state and she seemed full of energy again. "Hey sleepy, you ready to get going? Darius is being impatient with me, so I figured we should get moving before he strikes some sort of temper.” My eyes fluttered as they cleared my vision. Darius was waiting by the car. I guessed it was his turn to carry it. Kilian waited beside him, ready to fly again.

"Sure, yeah..... Give me a minuet to stretch though.” I stumbled upright, my muscles sore and tight.

"No hurry. Do what you need to." I arched my back to loosen up my spine, and then the brick-like muscles above my shoulders that I knew were connected to my wings. Those were what actually hurt the most. The flared up in pain but once they were in a relaxed position again the felt somewhat better. I signaled that I was ready and began to beat wind with the thin membrane our wings consisted of. Once we were airborne again, the muscles relaxed even more as they settled into their steady motion. The sun was kissing the horizon, signaling the fact we weren't far from home. In fact, we were above a neighboring town. Kristy's house was towards the outskirts of town. Her parents owned a ranch that raised pure blood quarter horses, perfect horses for riding out on trails. Darius cautiously placed her car near the three car garage to look as if we had just pulled down their driveway. Their garage was actually separated from the house by a couple of yards being closer to the stables than anything. Luckily, the horses were inside and couldn't see us. They would probably cause quite a commotion, causing her parents to come running outside.
The last sliver of sun vanished and we were ourselves once again. "Do you guys want anything to eat? I'm sure my mom is making supper." Kristy offered.
"Do you think they'll mind?" Kilian looked at Kristy. "I'd hate to just barge in there and eat."

"Well, it is my family, so it’s not barging in. Second, my mother always cooks like she's feeding an army. Therefore, there will be plenty for all of us." Kristy turned and pranced towards the house. Yelling over her shoulder she shouted, "Are you guys coming or not?" Kilian and Darius shrugged their shoulders in defeat, and followed her. I laughed at my friends' personalities and followed behind them. Their house was a three story structure complete with white adobe walls. Large sun windows covered spots of the house along with ivy that crept along side them. We neared the house and entered through the three Spanish arch ways that lead to the main doors. Kristy flipped through her keys until she found the right one. With a soft click, the double set of doors had unlocked. She silently swung them inward and stepped in.

The inside was just as beautiful as the outside. We appeared to be in the living room, set with tan, textured walls. The floor was ceramic tile that appeared to be rock, a small fireplace setting an illuminating glow throughout the room, and furniture that appeared to be imported straight from Italy. An aroma of melons and coffee wafted from the nearby kitchen where you could hear her parents in a delicate conversation. "Mom, Dad! We're home early!" Kristy yelled to let them know we were here.

"We're in the kitchen." Kristy walked past the dancing fireplace, towards the kitchen, and entered the room with a gleeful smile.

"Hey, what are you up to?" she asked them.

"I'm just talking with your father. One of our male horses gets to leave for Colorado tomorrow. We both find it exciting that we're getting clients from so far away. But, I guess people like how we run our ranch." she giggled at such happy thoughts. Kristy's mother, Rachel, was defiantly an up-beat person. She never let anything upset her and welcomed everyone into their home as if they were family. Her dad, Richard, was kind but preferred not to speak unless spoken too. He sat at the table, drinking coffee and reading the national newspaper, a man of few words. He was a built man and, in his business like suit, reminded me of the President's personal bodyguards. Her mom glanced over at the rest of us and let loose a brilliant white smile. "And it looks like we company too. Do any of you want something to eat? I made melon wraps if you care to help yourself to them."

Rachel's melon wraps were famous around town and were to die for. She simple chopped their home grown honeydew, watermelon, and cantaloupe into cubes and placed them in hand made whole wheat tortilla shells that was spread with fresh yogurt. Every year she would make them for Kristy's birthday party and not a single one was ever wasted. All of us grabbed a few and settled our rumbling stomachs. Between the four of us, the platter was wiped clean in no time. Sucking the juice off her fingers, Kristy spoke to her parents. "Is it alright if I spent the weekend over at Sky's place?" I looked over at her, confused. But she ignored me and continued to gaze at her parents for an answer.

Her father glanced at her mother for a bit. It actually looked like they were sharing thoughts and reading each others' minds. Finally he just shrugged his shoulders and continued to read his paper. She sighed, but answered, "Its fine with us. But you have to be home by Monday morning. We got a few new arrivals that are coming and we'll need your help getting them settled in."

"That’s fine. I can be home by then." She grabbed her keys and ran up to her room. We said our farewells to Kristy's parents and waited in the living room for her to come back down. When she did, she carried a large winter jacket and gloves. I was shocked. For once, she had a brilliant thought. The Arctic was going to be difficult to survive at night, at least in human form. The Arctic, as of right now, only had one hour of night that we had to cope through. "Bye, Love you guys!" she shouted to her parents.
"Love you too Kristy. Drive safe." Kristy rolled her eyes and smiled. We walked back out through the door, Kristy hopping in her car.
"What are you doing?" Kilian scolded. "I didn’t carry that all the way here for nothing!"

Darius glared at him, "I carried it too, you jerk!" He stepped towards Kilian. I jumped in between them, knowing what was coming. I held both of them off, trying to get them to calm down.

"I'm not taking my car." Kristy said, her nerves not even racked up the tiniest bit. "I'm just putting it in the garage."

Both of the boys completely dropped the argument and cried in unison, "For what?"

"If I put my car away, my parents will assume me and Sky went somewhere while I was over at her house. What they won’t know is that I put it in the garage and I will actually be in the Arctic Circle." She laughed, "They wouldn't believe me even if I did tell them the truth." That made sense but there was one flaw.

And Darius caught it."What if they find your car in the garage? I'm sure they'll go in there while you’re gone."

She smirked, "That’s just why I love my parents. You see, my dad made our garage three different garages. One for his truck, one for my mom's car and one for mine. And each one has its own combination lock, none of which is known to anyone except the owner. Therefore, my parents won't know when my car is gone or when its not." Darius just nodded his head, obviously impressed. You could tell he was also jealous because he never made a smart remark, something he usually does. She punched in a code along side the door. A soft beep could be heard, signaling the code was accepted. As the door slid upward, she pulled her car inside. She exited and, using her remote, locked her car. "Let’s go!" She called as she pressed the button on the wall. The garage started closing as we walked down her driveway. "So where now? We have exactly six hours until daylight."

"Actually, we all need to pack up and get ready for what lies ahead of us. It’s not going to be simple out there." We all looked at each other, shaking our heads. "How about this? We all split up, go home and pack, try to get a little sleep, then meet back up at the park outside of town around 5. Does that sound alright with you guys?" I didn't want to feel pushy, but we really needed to get going and this sounded like the quickest and simplest way to get things done.

Kilian and Darius still had tension between them, so they both just nodded once and looked away. Kristy gave them both dirty looks, "Sounds great Sky." She looked back at me, "Mind if I go with Kilian though?"

"Sure? Why would I say no?"

"Well, if you wanted me to go with you I could. But I figured that you'd be safe with Darius around." she winked at me. My face reddened either out of embarrassment or anger. I couldn't tell which.

"I'll be fine." I could see Darius looking at me from the corner of his eye. "But we should probably start walking. We got a some what of a walk ahead."

"I agree." Kristy spoke to Kilian. "We should get on our way." Her house may have been a ranch, but it wasn't far from our subdivisions. Darius and I lived in a sub-division called Rock Creek that was maybe four miles from Kristy's. Kilian lived in the opposite direction about a mile from where we stood. We parted our own ways. For a while it was silent, but neither of us found it awkward. In fact it was rather relaxing to be away from all of the arguing between the guys.

Finally he spoke up, "What do you think Kristy sees in Kilian?" The sound of frogs chirping sounded in the distance.

"I don't know. They seem really happy together, so I never seem to question it. Kilian is protective of her, something he’s not around other people. Why that is, I have no idea. Maybe he just doesn't want her to be hurt anymore than she already has." Kristy usually has a guy's attention everywhere she went. They would flirt with her and she'd return the favor. But once they would hook up, the guy's always used her for show-and-tell. She didn't want that to be what she was known for. Now that she was with Kilian, she seemed to be happier than she's ever been.

"Pain is a part of life. Everyone needs to know that. People have their hearts broken everyday." Darius looked up at the moon and sighed. "Kilian just gets under my skin."

"Why? He's never done anything to you."

"It's just the way he acts. He thinks nobody can push him, like some kind of shield is around him. It pisses me off."

"Maybe he acts that way so Kristy feels safe with him. Besides, he listens to everything she says and actually cares for her in a way most guys wouldn't.

Darius snorted in disgust, "I would have to disagree with that." He lifted his hand up to stop me from replying, clearly stopping this conversation from continuing. "I'll tell you what I mean later."

A few silent hours later we reached Rock Creek. Darius lived a house down from mine. We walked up to our dark houses, everyone asleep. I slid the door open; my dog lifted his bulky head to see who it was. When he seen it was me, he got up completely. The chocolate lab, Kujo, was only a year and a half old. His thick tail side-swiped the wall as he wagged it, causing a loud thumping noise to echo throughout the entire house. In a hurry to silence it, I grabbed it and forced him to sit. I listened for any sign of movement, but heard nothing except our kitchen clock ticking. I slipped up into my room, hiding in the shadows. I laughed at myself. You got to love ninja moments like this.

Luckily, my room door wasn't shut all the way and I could silently swing it open and step inside. I grabbed the biggest bag I could find and started packing the heaviest clothing I had. Snow jackets, snow pants, a hoodie, waterproof hiking boots, waterproof gloves. Most people would ask why I had all this to begin with. Well my answer to that is the fact that me and my older brother, Rick, use to go out and play paintball every once in a while out in the dead of winter. Hard to believe, I know. But I actually enjoyed the sport. It required endurance, speed, accuracy, and smarts to capture the opponent's flag without being shot. It made me sad when Rick told me he was going to join the Army, but it all made sense to me. I could remember that day perfectly. After supper I sat at my desk, typing poems on my laptop. He knocked on the door and asked to come in. When he did enter, he sat on my bed with an expression that told me he had something important to say. We always talked to each other like we were best friends, so it concerned me when he hesitated. He rubbed his hands together nervously and sighed.
"Have you ever wondered what your purpose was in life?" he asked me while he continued to stare at the floor.

I watched him, worried of what point he was trying to get at. "I guess so." I have thought about it, but I wasn't concerned about it like he was. He was actually on the verge of tears and Rick was never one to cry.

"Well, lately I've been thinking about my future and I've finally come to a conclusion." He looked up at me with watery eyes. "I've decided to join the U.S Army." My heart sank deep inside my chest. He couldn't be serious? "I know it seems pretty sudden but before you say anything let me say this. I'm sticking with this decision and nobodies going to change my mind. In fact, I already registered myself a couple of months ago. I’ve been accepted and everything. I just couldn’t bring myself to tell you."
I respected that. “When do you leave?” The question caught in my throat.
He stood up, pulling me up with him. He gave me a hug I will never forget; a hug of final good-byes. “Tomorrow.” I choked back tears and told myself that it was what he wanted. Why didn’t he tell me sooner?

I continued to pack my equipment, even with these memories flooding my mind. Now I know how he felt. To leave home, not knowing if you’d ever be back, wasn’t an easy thing to do. I was nervous and unsure of what the future held, but I was determined to make the best of it. Had I had finally found my purpose? Only time and fate could answer such a question. I placed all my overstuffed bags in the corner of my room and looked at my clock. It read 11:39. I crawled in bed after I set my phone to go off at 3:15. Before I knew it, I was out. There were no dreams, not even a talk with Sedorn. Just an empty solid black wall of nothingness, which was fine with me. The soft buzzing of my phone startled me from my sleep. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up. This was going to be the last time in a long time I'd be in a bed, so I was hesitant when I got up out of it. I changed into some fresher clothes, and then grabbed my phone and my bags. Sneaking back downstairs, I said good-bye to Kujo. It was harder to say good-bye to him than I thought it'd be. When will I see him next, if I ever get to see him again? At least I could call my parents if things came to look worse. But I had to go. If I didn't leave now, I would never be able to.

Closing the front door behind me, I headed off towards the park, a good ten mile hike from my house. Most of the way there I thought about what Sedorn had told us about his brother. Did he really think we would be able to stop him? What did Excavior look like? How strong was he? But the most important question, where was he? How are we to know he wasn't following us to the Arctic? The more I thought about these questions, the more I realized Sedorn hadn't told us. He was sending us into a war blindfolded! My blood pressure started to rise; my face turning red in fury. Even the ground seemed to tremble with rage. I stopped in my tracks to calm myself before I went any further. But that’s when I noticed the ground really was trembling. Not by much, but it was enough to make you feel off balance and set off a few near by car alarms. It only lasted a few seconds, and then it slowly faded away. When house lights started coming on, I darted. There were a lot of people who knew my parents and they would surely mention to them how they seen me walking down the street late one night. And now was not the time to be caught.

Slowly, the city lights faded into tiny specks on the dark, invisible horizon. The park loomed ahead of me, dark and abandoned. Nobody ever went to this park anymore, not since they built the newer one closer to town. Even the city manager left the park to rust and be overrun by shrubbery. Kristy and Kilian were already waiting under the wooden pavilion, Darius no where to be found. Both of them looked up as I approached them. "Have you heard from Darius yet?"

Kilian shook his head, "Nope. I was about to ask you the same thing." I got my phone out and clicked on his number.

After a couple rings he finally answered. "Yeah?"

"Hey, are you coming or not?"

He paused, "Yeah, whatever. Just give me a freaking minuet!" He then hung up. Why was he choosing to be so stubborn about this?

Kilian gave me a surprised look. "I'm surprised you even got a hold of him. He wouldn't answer to Kristy or my calls. But at least somebody could. I just thought about leaving without him."

Kristy hit him, "You know we can't do that." She looked at me, "Even if it does seem like a great idea."

"I heard that." Darius emerged out of the darkness of night into the small light the pavilion held. He looked dark and possessed due to the pale light and the dark hood he was wearing. Kristy was about to apologize, but before she could even get a word out he held his hand out and stopped her. "It's fine. Just drop it. Are we leaving now or what?"

"Yeah I guess. But we have to wait for dawn first. Does everybody have everything?" Kilian and Kristy nodded; Darius showed me the bag on his back. "Good." I looked at the sky. You could see a bit of light, but not enough to make us transform yet. "We got about a fifteen minuet wait yet, and then we can leave." Almost instantly, Kilian and Kristy continued their conversation. Darius threw his bag down and started blaring heavy music from his IPod, ignoring all of us. I wondered if he was still mad at Kilian, or what his problem was. Something wasn't right, that was for sure. When it came close to time, we walked out from underneath the pavilion and into the open area. With less pain than before, it happened all too quickly. Our bodies were getting more and more use to it. We all grabbed our bags between our teeth and took off without another word, our eyes set on the Northern skies.

A limitless sky, an endless horizon, lost in a sea of clouds we flew over changing landscapes. Kilian and Darius so much as never exchanged a glance or words. Awkward silences and tension pulls made the whole trip seem twice as long and stressful. At nightfall we landed in a small town of Northern Canada by the name of Nakina. We hardly noticed it from our height except for what looked like the one main road. The small village was mainly made of cabins that could be rented to outdoors men who traveled there for sport and game, a perfect place to hide out for the night. Also, it would be safer than camping out in bear territory. We waited until the sun was completely gone before heading into the town. The wind was chilly, but at the same time it was cleaner and easier to breath. "Where do you think we could get a cabin at?" Kristy looked worried about being in a foreign place, even though their family traveled to the Caribbean every year.

"We have to look for guest services first, or any place that could help us out really." After a while we found a office that rented the cabins out. The small wooden structure looked warm and inviting compared to the unknown forest that surrounded the building. The inside was full of maps and gear you could buy. The man, standing behind his desk, stood up and greeted us.

"Welcome travelers! Could I help you by and chance?"

Kilian walked up and introduced himself, "Actually you might be able to. Do you rent out cabins here?" The man's mustache twitched as he smirked.

"Of course. Do you have a specific one in mind?" Kilian shook his head in a no. "Well let’s start by asking how many people do you want per cabin?"

"We'll all be sharing one, so four."

"Okay. Well we have a few choices here. There’s the Grey Trout Lake Cabin, the Ankcorn Lake Cabin, the Sim Lake Cabin...."

"Any will do really..." Kilain interrupted.

The man just simply nodded and typed in his computer. "Alright, I'll just put you in at the Grey Trout Cabin. That'll be $130." Kristy whipped out her credit card without a word. With a simple swipe he handed it back to her and handed Kilian a set of keys off a small rack. The man gave Kilian the directions for the cabin, and then we headed off. The cabin wasn't too far from the office; in fact it was only a mile walk. When we reached it, worry was washed off my shoulders for some reason. Maybe I was worried because we were in Canada without passports and was nervous someone would ask for them. But I couldn't be sure. All I know is that when the cabin came into view, I couldn't wait to go inside. The first room you walk into is the kitchen/living room. Fine wood paneling covered the entire room along with a medium sized table that was also made of wood that sat in the middle of the kitchen. There was only one bathroom, but luckily there were three bedrooms. Kristy and I decided to bunk in one room and let Kilian and Darius each have their own, which was probably a good thing.

Kristy and I sat in our room and unpacked our belongings. "So where do you suppose we'll be going after here?" Kristy spoke as she finished putting her make-up on top of a small dresser.

"To be honest, I really don't know. I was just told that we were supposed to follow the auroras once they come into view. How exactly we're suppose to follow them during the day, I haven't the slightest idea." That’s when I realized something vital. "Of course! Then this all makes sense." Kristy gave me a dumbfounded expression, so I explained my discovery. "The Arctic, at this time, only has a few hours of daylight. Therefore, the lights can be seen most of the time. But I wonder if we'll be dragons during that time....If not, then we'll be in a lot of trouble." I pondered this question for the remainder of the time we unpacked. The silence was a bit awkward, but I was too busy thinking to care. You could hear Kilian turn the television on; Darius open the fridge and them exchanging a few words. At least they weren't giving each other the silent treatment anymore.

When it started getting late, we settled down for bed. It felt like we were wasting a lot of time stopping to rest every night. We should already be in the Arctic by now, but instead we're only half way there. Maybe, if my hypothesis was right, we could fly more when night begins to over take the day. Why were there so many complications? Why couldn't this be a simple task? I asked myself. Because life’s not simple. I sighed and rolled over to face the wooden wall. Then my thoughts began to fade away. I didn't see Sedorn or his ruins at all in my dreams.

Instead, I stood at the base of a massive mountain made out of sharp rocks that were the color of the darkest night. The peak was hidden in a heavy mist so I could not tell how tall the mountain was. Behind me was nothing except a field of hardened lava. Every once in a while a blast of steam would shoot up between the cracks causing a loud hissing noise. Looking back at the mountain, I noticed something. About a hundred feet up, steam rolled out of a large cavern that seemed to be some sort of entrance. I assumed it was an entrance because there were black and red flags hanging next to the cavern walls. Where was I? If I could ever give you any sort of advice, it would be this. Never ask questions you don't want an answer to. As I started to back away from the mysterious site, a tremendous roar echoed out through the cavern. I didn't see what made the sound because I turned and ran, not wanting to find out. But I can tell you one thing. I never wanted to hear it again.

I woke with a startled jump, sweat beading out on my forehead. I threw the covers off and stumbled to the bathroom. I searched for a wash cloth and ran ice cold water onto it. I rang it out a bit and placed it on my forehead to cool me down. Then I ran it around my neck, the coolness calming me down. I closed my eyes and tried relaxing. Why was I so worked up like this? It was just a stupid dream! I heard someone knock lightly on the door. Maybe it was Kristy making sure I was alright. I spoke quietly, "Yeah?"
Only wasn't Kristy, but Darius. He whispered through the wooden door, "Is everything okay?"

It threw me off that he was even worried about any of us. "Yeah, I'm fine." I open the door a bit only to see him, his arm propped up on the door frame; his head resting on his arm.

"You sure? I'm not going to lie, but you look like a mess." He smirked a bit.

"Thank you?" I turned the bathroom light off and opened the door completely. I brush past him and started towards my room. But he caught my arm instead and held me still.

"I'm sorry, I can be a bit of a jerk sometimes. But let me make up for all the times I have been." I turned and looked up at him. Was he actually trying to be nice?"Your color looks a bit flushed. Are you sure you’re okay?"

"I feel fine now. I just had some stupid nightmare."

"You know what would really help? A soda or something to drink at least. Come on, I'll get you something." This was a personality I've never seen Darius have. He wasn't being stubborn or selfish. No, he was actually caring for once. I followed him into the kitchen, scared I was walking into some sort of trap he set up. He opened the fridge, the light illuminating the entire room. Only then did I notice he wasn't wearing a shirt, just a black pair of jeans. His arms were slender and lean, along with his slightly visible abs. I couldn’t help but blush a bit after what I realized what I had just did. He grabbed something, and then closed the fridge. The room returning to its blind state. I could hear him grab a glass out of the cupboard, the clinking of ice against glass, then the gurgling sound of liquid being poured. "Here, drink this. This will help with the shock." I could feel the cool touch of the glass against my hand. Taking it, I held it up to my nose to smell what it was he had given me. "It's only Cola. Nothing to worry about," he laughed a radiant smile that looked twice as bright in the darkness, whitened by the small amount of moonlight that came from the window behind me. I took a small sip and savored it as it ran down my dry throat. "Tastes pretty good, doesn't it?" I drank a bit more until I could feel my mind functioning normally again. "It's the sugar that helps really," he explained. When the glass was gone, he asked if I wanted more. I declined so he took it from my hands and carefully put it in the sink. We both leaned against the counter, too awake now to go back to sleep.

"Thanks,” I told him. It was the only thing I could muster up.

He nodded. “It's okay....really. Just doing my job.”

"And what job would this be?" I just wondered. Why he was acting this way now? Was it because, deep down, he actually did care? Or was it because he was trying to hide something?

“To make sure your okay.” That white smile reappeared again. He paused a moment before he spoke again. "Well, I guess I'm going to head back to my room now. I need some form of rest for the morning." he laughed, his smile visible through the surrounding shadows.

"Yeah, me too. We got a long flight tomorrow."

"Don't remind me." For once, we were actually getting along. I liked talking to him; he was so open to me. We both started walking back to our rooms. My door was before his and I started opening it. Just as it clicked open, however, Darius stopped me again. He turned me around and did something I would have never expected. His lips gently pressed against mine. Even though I was startled by it, I gave in. Every second or so his sweet breath swept across my neck. Only maybe a minuet went by, but it seemed longer than that. I looked up into his eyes, but they seemed as shocked as mine were. "I'm sorry,” he stammered, he face looked hurt, “I don't know wha-" I cut him off there.

"Don't be sorry." I smiled up at him.

He smiled back, "Thank you," he whispered, then walked into his room, seeming to disappearing into it. How did he expect me to sleep now? I closed the door behind me. Kristy was still sound asleep in her bed, her IPod still on. Lying back on my bed, I stared up at the ceiling. My thoughts never ceased and they became restless. I tossed and turned until all our alarm clocks went off, signaling that we needed to get up, get ready and repack everything before dawn broke. The next few hours were chaos. Since the guys had their own rooms, they were able to get dressed in there. But I allowed Kristy to change in our room while I changed in the bathroom. From the lack of sleep, my balance was horribly off key. Three times I nearly slipped on the tiled floor. But after I was finally dressed, hair and teeth brushed, the bathroom nightmare was done.

Since it was a bit cooler here, I put on a long sleeve shirt and hooded sweatshirt, along with a pair of jeans. I stepped out and met everybody in the kitchen. They were all pretty much wearing the same thing, except Kristy still wore a simple t-shirt. I couldn't help but look at Darius and blush a bit. He somehow managed to keep a pretty straight face though.

Walking outside, I was met with a cool, crisp breeze that carried the scent of pine trees and river water. The sensation seemed to rejuvenate my lost energy and lifted my mind of its heavy burdens. The sun emerged over the horizon. Then, in the blink of an eye, our inner beast let itself become visible. With our backpacks in our hands, we were airborne. With massive wing thrusts, the trees all became a blur and turned into one solid landscape. Nobody really spoke this morning and that bothered me. As we changed our direction a bit to head directly North, I noticed Darius had a huge gash running along side his rib cage. "Darius! You’re bleeding!" I shouted up to him. He didn't respond at all. Therefore, I focused my thoughts towards him more forcefully. "Hey, what happened?"

"Nothing happened." he wiped his side with his hand then shook the blood off. Tiny droplets of his blood trailed along the length of his body, then fell towards the ground like a small shower.

"Are you saying this happens all the time?"

"Of course not. Don't kid yourself."

"Then something happened, am I right?" He was hiding something and I knew better than to believe otherwise.

"Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."

"Are you sure? That looks to me like a pretty severe wound."

"I promise." I could sense the truth that flowed through his mind, so I let it go. It wasn't worth fighting with him; he was too stubborn to ever surrender. We flew like geese over the land, never stopping to rest. Rest was hardly even needed anymore. Time was running short as it was, why waste even more of it? The ground below turned into the sea. Its soft teal waves stirred up salt and rocks along the coastline. A constant spray was always in our faces, but it kept us focused.

Kilian was the first to speak after hours of silence, but he brought the news we all wanted to hear. "Guys, we got ice field up ahead!" You could barely see it, a thin, faint line that was almost impossible to see against the icy blue sea. But we finally made it. Good thing too because the sun looked about to set. The amount of sunlight we got was dramatically different than what we started off with at the Ozarks. Night was defiantly a dominate source up here.

When we were finally over the ice, we landed. Carefully, we tested it to make sure the ice would hold all our combined weight. At first, it was hard to move around because we kept slipping. However, once we realized we had to use our claws a bit more to keep ourselves steady, walking was a breeze. Far in the distance, a chain of mountains could be seen. They rose into the heavens like the backbone of the earth. We would have kept flying if it were not for the wind. It started to pick up as it ripped across the flat surface of the ice, picking up snow as if it was dust and throwing it in our faces.
"Sky, are you sure this is the right place?" Kristy looked at me with concern. “I don’t’ see anything that would help us.”
"As long as this is the Arctic, then the answer is yes. And I'm sure it is. We just have to wait for the sun to set and the lights to begin." I felt stupid saying that, like some kind of wizard. It was true however for that was what Sedorn had told me.

"How long do you think that will take?"
"I have no idea. But we will find out tonight though, if not in a few hours." The sun was half way down. It seemed so far away compared to where it was back home. "How about we just stop here until nightfall? That way we're not wasting effort if we are traveling in the wrong direction."

"Sounds good to me." Kristy looked over at Kilian. "What about you? Are you okay with that?" He just nodded and stopped walking. We stood in a circle, each of us shielding the rest from the tormenting wind. It howled and whipped around us like a ghost trying to scare us off. It seemed forever before the sun finally set, even longer with that eerie silence between the four of us. At first, they were like flickers of light, quick as shooting stars and hard to see. However, as the sky grew ever darker, the more visible they became. Floating ribbons of rainbows, they flowed through the sky like ripples of water. They bounced around everywhere and in almost every direction. They did generally flow in one direction except the few moments where, as if from an unreal wind, they swayed somewhere else.

The stunning beauty of it astounded me. "Wow.....Can you guys believe this? Who would have ever thought anything could be so stunning?"

"I have no idea, but we shouldn't stand around for too long. We need to figure out where we need to be going." Kilian looked around for any kind of sign. After a few seconds, we noticed a disturbance in one of the aurora's colorful curtains. An image began to appear, but it was foggy and unclear. It seemed to shutter and cleared up in a few heartbeats though. A dragon appeared, but not a real one. A two dimensional spirit dragon seemed to be flying in place, colors still rippling through it. Glancing at us, it began to fly forward like a fish in a stream through the curtain. "I guess we have our leader then." Kilian began to follow it, us following behind him.
It flew at exactly our walking pace, not rushing us in some sort of hurry. White mountain peaks slowly began to appear in the far off distance. Draped in their white veils of snow, they seemed to rise up from the flat ground as we neared them. I shuddered as they reminded me of the nightmare I had the other night. Without the sunlight raining on us, we could feel our energy start to decrease. Our limbs began to feel shaky, heads fuzzy, and vision blurry. All of us felt this way, except for Darius. I could feel the energy radiate from him, but how was that possible?

Therefore, I mind pushed him, "Hey, are you feeling okay?"

"Yeah, why do you ask? If anything, I should be asking you. You don't look too well again."
"And you look too well..." I argued. "Oh, never mind. Talking to you is like trying to speak to a dog. They look like their listening, but really they're not."

He started shaking his head as he laughed at my frustration. "I do listen. Personally, I feel great. Brilliant almost! But why are you asking?"

"How about because you seem to be glowing, literally. With the sun being down all of our energy is used up faster. So why do you seem to be just fine?"
Shrugging, he answered, "I don't quite know. But would it be weird to say that I can actually feel where the energy is? Most of it is in my head, but there is a vibration I can feel in my chest. It’s like raw energy. Anytime I even start to feel drained, this feeling in my chest increases and starts to burn but I do not feel tired afterwards. That’s why I seem temperamental sometimes. It's not that I'm angry, I'm just in a little pain." He smirked at me to show that he was fine now. I still found it to be weird that only he ever felt this way. Why him? Was there something wrong? Smiling back to let him know that I was not upset anymore, I continued to think. Was there anything strange that I have noticed about me? There was this feeling in my head that made it feel like the earth was pulling me. I figured that just had to with being so large and bulky. Letting that question pass, I thought of something else. My chest felt like there was a boulder sitting inside it. My heart perhaps? On the other hand, something entirely different? Before I could ponder any longer, I realized everyone had stopped walking. Of course I realized this when I nearly ran into Kristy, who was walking ahead of me.
The aurora dragon had stopped by an ice cavern, completely hidden from the rest of the world. Only I would not exactly call it a cavern. It was more like a large ice tunnel that seemed endlessly long, resembling a snake’s home. The dragon then evaporated back into the curtain, leaving us alone once again. "Is this it?" Kristy asked.
"What were you expecting? An ice castle?" Could Darius ever take something serious for once? Kristy stuck her silver forked tongue out at him for the sarcastic comment.

"Knock it off Darius. We have more serious stuff at hand than smart ass comments." Kilian looked down the hole, trying to see if he could spot anything that would have been dangerous. The effort was useless though. It was so dark down there that not even the white snow could be seen more than ten feet ahead of us. "Well, who wants to go into the creepy nightmare cave first?"
"I'll take that offer." Darius pushed past the rest of us and headed inside without the slightest hesitation. He looked back at us while we still stood there. "What are you waiting for? Let’s go." The cave was big enough for us to enter, but it was not comfortable. Occasionally we had to squeeze through a section that was more confined than the others were. I could not tell you how many times I hit my head on giant icicles that hung from the ceiling.

The cave echoed every now and then of Kristy's growling. "Ow! Quit stepping on my tail. That hurts you know." Finally, just when we've had enough of walking blind, it started getting lighter. I could see the shadows of my friends, then their color. It was not until we turned that last bend that I seen where the light was coming from. There ahead of us, was an enormous room. The opening was still completely underground, but the light came from above where the ceiling (at least fifty feet high) was made of an ice sheet that was on the surface. You could see the snow twirling about in the wind. The walls are what stunned me though. Ice in the shades of blue, purple and greens reflected the light into beautiful cool shimmers. Nevertheless, you could somebody lived here. Books the size of coffee tables laid scattered on the floor. A large caldron of bubbling stew seemed to be cooking over, what looked like, an enchanted fire. The fire did not melt the ice nor created any form of smoke.
"Hello? Is there anyone here?" Kilian called out, his voice echoing back through the tunnel. A mound of snow began to move over to our left. A smaller, light blue dragon peeped its head out of the mound and looked at us, snow still falling off its head. It stood up, shook the rest of the snow off it, and stepped towards us. To me it acted like a frightened child, unsure of what to do. Looking each of us in the eye, the dragon went over and started writing in one of the oversized books.
After several minuets, it finally spoke. "Sorry about the silence, fellow travelers. I mean you no harm. I’m just trying to get things straightened out." His voice was high pitched, but elderly and echoed of wisdom. "My name is Hurzar, guardian of the ice. I'm sure Sedorn sent you here, no doubt."
"Yes sir. He sent us here saying you could help us." Kilian watched Hurzar scratch notes with his feathered pen.
"And help I can provide." He studied each of us like a statue in an art museum. Hurzar laughed then, "But it seems to me that you don't understand all your abilities yet."

I cocked my head a bit, "What do you mean by that?"

"Were you aware that each of you is assigned an element?" We all looked at each other, but none of us said anything. Had any of us known this? How did he know that we had anything?
I felt Darius mind push me. "I did. I am not sure how to use it, but I know mine is fire. It burns below my chest like a pool of lava." He looked at me with his ruby colored eyes, a faint smile shadowing his face. "The perfect element for me if I may say so myself." Hurzar fumbled around, looking through books spread out on the floor until he found the one he was looking for. He picked it up in his white talons and laid it on a large desk that was centered in the room, made of ice of course. I barely caught the title before he threw it open to the middle pages. The Origin of Dragon Kind.
He flipped a few pages over and traced the paragraphs with his claw. "Ah, here we are," he looked at Kristy, "You are the Yellow Reaper, warrior of the lightning. You have the ability to summon forth storms and create electricity out of nothing. When one can learn the laws of this power, they may allow ripples of electric current to run along their hide or scales."
"Wow. I could really do all that?" Kristy seemed excited about this new knowledge. "This should be interesting."
Next, Hurzar looked at Kilian. "You are the rare Aquareptilias. Also known as the Wave Runner. You command the element water. With the ability to shape water and control currents, you will eventually learn that you can alter your form to fit your aquatic needs." Mark just gave one simple nod to show that he understood. Hurzar glanced at me and turn a few more pages. "Pamant-balaur. Guardian of the earth. Mountains will rise or crumble in your wake and you can call upon nature to aide you. You can throw boulders with a simple thought. However, your real power is the ability to blend in with the land. You may change your shape and color to match your surroundings and hide from enemies."
"That could come in handy." I laughed.
When Hurzar looked at Darius, he studied him closely. He searched his book until he came to a page. It only had the name and a few details. "I'm sorry my friend. There have been very few like you. Actually, only one like you has ever been seen before and little was known about him." Darius’s color flushed a bit, but he allowed Hurzar to continue. "Rau-Incendiu. The fire dancer. Like most common dragons, this species can breathe fire. Unlike those, they may call for a storm of fire to surround oneself and surrounding enemies, turning them to ash. That is the only information I have."

"May I see?” Hurzar showed him the page that he was reading. Only a short paragraph covered the empty page. Darius looked a little disappointed. “You say there was one other like me. What happen to him, may I ask?"
Hurzar frowned, "Unfortunately, he sided with the wrong cult. He was Excavior’s puppet and it eventually led him to his own death. What exactly happened, nobody knows. But I can promise you that it couldn't have ended easily."
Kilian took in what Hurzar had said, then looked at Darius as if waiting for him to do something. His head dropped as his posture slackened a bit. "Do you know why he sided with Excavior?"
"Not in particular. Some say it was because he was a rare type of dragon. Others think Excavior used his dark magic to take over his mind or perhaps created him himself. However, who is to say. Maybe he just wanted to be seen as evil."

Kilian spoke up, "Did this dragon have a name?"
"Yes, he did. He was originally called Rabik at birth. Over time however, he was considered as Nador. How the name came about is a question I cannot answer. Perhaps he just liked the sound of it better." The stew began to sizzle as it signaled it was done. "Oh, how rude of me. Would any of you care for some Gibackston stew? It’s freshly made!" The brown, bubbling slop did not look to appetizing. The smell of lean meat mixed with a broth wafted into our overpowering nostrils. Despite the unappealing look, it smelled amazing. What used to feel like somewhat full stomachs suddenly felt very empty. I guess he could hear our stomachs longing for the steaming meal because he grabbed what looked like large bowls made of a fine polished wood and filled them to the brim. He handed one to each of us. It seemed like one by one, each of us took a small sip to test its flavor. To describe it was almost impossible besides the fact that it was better than anything I have ever tasted before. Even more so that Rachel’s melon wraps. The previous conversation was dropped, so a new one started. We spoke with Hurzar about what we were told to do and he clarified why we were sent here.
“You see, Excavior doesn’t live on your planet. He can come here, but it’s not where he spends his time very often.”

“Then how are we supposed to stop him?” Kristy asked between sips of her soup.
“Ah, that is the question now, isn’t it?” Hurzar let loose a wizened laugh. “That is what I am for. I have the ability to take you there. But before we even begin to think about that, you obviously need training first.”
“Training?!” Kilian looked up from the ground. “What do you mean, training? Training for what?”
“You don’t think you could take on an entire army in the state your in now, do you? At least not the way you are this instant. I need to train you to control your abilities and maybe some flight maneuvers that could prove useful against The Dark One.”
Darius let out an exaggerated sigh, “He can’t possibly be that bad. I mean, our world is not destroyed, yet. Who’s to say he ever will?”
“He will unless he’s stopped, and stopped soon, I can assure that. I can feel his magic at work and it’s the most powerful spell I’ve ever felt.”
“Excuse me, sir, if I may?” I interrupted Darius before he spoke aloud again. Hurzar rolled his hand in a gesture that allowed me to speak. “What do you mean when you say you can feel his magic? Also, to add to that question, how did you know none of us experimented with own element when we first came here?”

“Well, to explain both questions, I can sense magic or magic’s energy. I myself use magic than most others do. Therefore, I have an overwhelming sense to tell if magic has or hasn’t been used.” It made sense to me. When you are around something long enough, you begin to have stronger feelings for it. Within an hour or so, all of the soup was finished off and the bowls were licked clean.

“Hurzar, that was delicious. What was in that?” Kristy was still savoring the taste while she walked throughout the cavern scanning the titles of all the enormous books.

“You may have not heard of it, but there is a creature that lives under the ice here in the Arctic. The soup was named after it. The Giback is a large monster that looks like a brindle great white shark, but has a temper twice as aggressive and is three times the size. It feeds off the whales around here.”

I would have never of thought that was what we had just eaten. What did matter was that our stomachs were once again satisfied. With a warm stomach and a chance to relax, I could feel my eyelids growing heavy but I forced myself to stay awake. Hurzar surely had more information that he was to tell us eventually. The rest of my friends seemed to mimic my feeling. Their heads bobbed up and down as they started to doze off. Kristy returned at sat back down with the rest of us, eyelids half open.
Hurzar looked at our group and simply said to us all “Try to rest well. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.” Before any of us could really reply, darkness wrapped around me and made reality fade away.

I searched for Sedorn among the empty ruins but couldn’t seem to come across him. You could stroll inside the large structure for hours and still discover new places. I came across a room that looked like an old armory. Old swords and shields were scattered over the floor along with a few pieces of armor that looked like they had been through many battles. One attracted my eye however. It was a large, silver breast plate that symbolized a black and gold griffin on the front. In its grasp he clutched a sword in one talon and a skull in the other. “The Sreson Army.” Sedorn walked into the room looking more majestic than what I remembered. “This building use to be their base for many centuries.”
“Who were they?”
“Very brave men. They fought with true hearts and never gave into uncertainty. They were the finest warriors one could ever ask for. In fact, they managed to wipe out over half of my brother’s army. A feat no other militia would even consider trying.”

I continued to stare at the piece. “I would have been honored to be in their presence. Did any of them survive?”

“Only one. But he was cast out after the battle.”

“What happened?”

“It turns out he was a mercenary for Excavior. He betrayed all of us and led them to their deaths. He’s my brother’s right hand at the moment. He serves up to his master only to share in the power. It’s too bad that he showed magnificent talent and was one of our best warriors. I was proud to have him among my soldiers.”

“Your soldiers? This was your army?”

“I never asked for it. My people looked at me as a leader. My friend, Gregior, he wanted to defend in my honor, so I knighted him. Once Excavior came to be a burden, Gregior suggested that I go on offensive. Close to two-hundred men stood forward to give their lives to serve under me.” Sedorn glanced away into the distance and bowed his head. “I just wish I could have done a better job. I just had too much faith in Gregior. He had never given me reason to doubt his abilities as commander. When I found out what he had done, I didn’t know what to think. I felt a loss for all the young men, then a rage that nearly made me lose control of myself.”

“He betrayed you. Why would he do that?” It didn’t make sense to me. Why would someone betray Sedorn for that monster?

“Simply for power. Excavior came to power quickly and with full force, never hesitating when something threatened him. Gregior, I assume, had his doubts in my abilities. He just wanted to be on the winning side.”

“It sounds to me like he’s a selfish being. Does he lead his army now?”

“I’m afraid so, young one.”

A thought came to my mind. “Do you think he would try to overthrow your brother if he ever gained enough power?”

“What are you trying to say?”

“I’m saying, if Gregior leads Excavior’s army, then what’s stopping him from using the army against Excavior? I doubt one dragon could go against that many enemies.”

“My brother made his own militia. So he can summon and de-summon them as he pleases. But it drains a lot of power out of him and he can only do it so often. That’s his one disadvantage.”

“What exactly does his army consist of?” The question was bugging me, so I had to ask it.

“Mainly two things, however, Excavior has a wild imagination and creates many new creatures. Some he keeps, others are disposed of. Skeletal creatures called Fire Summons. They have the ability to create fire with a simple thought. However they’re not really smart or difficult to kill. They consist in greater numbers. Every once in a while you may come across a Death Cat. Shaped like a mountain lion on steroids, they are quick and a lot smarter than most animals. They have dark purple fur and claws stronger than iron. One problem about them is their size. They are almost as large as you and are difficult to kill. Only your powers and flight would allow you to escape them. Excavior’s highly trained Death Cats will also most likely have armor on too. You must keep that in mind.”

“I will.” The griffin seemed to shimmer as sunlight reflected off of it. “Where is this place exactly? I don’t recognize any of the landscape around here.”

“Actually, this is on a planet diverse from your own. It doesn’t really have a name but I entitle it Messoria. Your Earth is about twice the size of Messoria. Only me and a few harmless creatures call this place home. But it’s suiting enough.” Sedorn smiled at me. “But it’s about time you go back to Hurzar. He has a lot planned for you.”

“Of course. We have an army to conquer.” I joked, but I knew it was going to be true sooner or later.

“I wish you and your friends luck, Sky. Right now, you are my only hope.”

Chilliness ran along my spine when I woke. The ice still reflecting the moonlight, lighting up the cavern to where I found I was alone. Everyone must have been outside. I didn’t understand how we we’re still in dragon form during the night. Maybe Sedorn was allowing us to be like this for training. Perhaps the time zones didn’t affect us. Either way, it was throwing me off. I retraced our path back out onto the ice fields where I saw everyone waiting and discussing something to help the time pass. You could hear the ocean’s waves hitting the ice not far from Hurzar’s den. The moon full and bright enough that the whole field seemed to be lit up. As I neared them, everyone turned to greet me.

“I see you have finally come to join us, Sky. Come, we have much to learn today.” I walked over to the semi-circle around Hurzar. He rubbed his scaly hands together, “Let’s begin. You all know from yesterday that each of you gets to control a single element. Today we’ll find how to control minor magic. We’ll each start with one simple ability. But first you need to learn how to find your element inside of you. I’m sure each of you has felt a heavy weight inside of your chest. That is not a bone, muscle or organ. It’s called your diroxan. The diroxan holds your soul but surrounds it in waves of energy. That very energy can be used to create magic. Like every part of your body, it will grow stronger over time if it’s worked enough, allowing you to increase your magic’s strength.” I could feel my diroxan pulsing energy right now. Almost like the heart beats adrenaline. I took a deep breath to slow its flow. Hurzar looked at me, “I see somebody has found it. The energy can be used for many things. It can assist you in casting your element powers, but it may also be used to replenish strength into your muscles, should you ever become too weak.

“Will the diroxan ever run out of power though?” Kilian gazed deep into Hurzar’s light blue eyes.

“If enough power is used too quickly, it will. But it can replenish itself over time. Also, if you wanted too, you could deposit energy into your diroxan. But be careful when you do this because you never know when an attack may occur and that strength may be of need. The diroxan has no limit to how much power it can embrace, that is why Excavior is so deadly. He has had many years to upsurge his diroxan’s strength. Some even say he could move an entire chain of mountains if he wanted to.” Hurzar looked at every one of us carefully. “Now who would like to volunteer to go first?”

Darius straightened up his posture and stepped forward. “I’ll go.”

“Good. Have you found your diroxan yet?”

“Yes I have.”

“Do you feel the waves of energy that swarm around it?”

“A little,” He focused deep within himself.

“Now focus that energy but concentrate on your element as well. Feed that power and do with it what you want. But start with something simple.” Hurzar stepped back a few feet, unsure of what Darius was going to attempt. Darius’s eyes clamped shut as he focused on his diroxan. His chest rose as he drew in a long breath; the rest of us anxious to see what he’d do. Suddenly, flames erupted from his throat and out into the icy air around us, illuminating the area. Flames in shades of red and orange flickered while he held it for a few seconds. Once his mouth clamped shut, his eyes grew wide with excitement.

“I did it. I breathed fire! Can you guys believe that? Oh man, that was awesome!” He walked back into his spot with the biggest grin of his face. “I challenge any of you to do better than that.”

“I’ll go next then.” Kilian walked up to where Hurzar stood waiting.

“Of course he would.” Darius whispered to me. Since Kilian was controller of water, we walked over to the icy ocean. The water seemed to be black in the night except where the moon highlighted the breakers. Towering icebergs could be seen floating a few hundred yards offshore.

“Now do just as I told your friend. Feel the power and learn to control it.” Within minutes, ripples began to form in the water, forming an odd lump. The lump continued to rise until an orb of water hovered ten feet above the surface. You could see the moon from the other side, a white glow that shimmered as the ripples disoriented its shape. Kilian released his hold on the sphere and watched as it splashed back into the ocean. He continued to watch the water as if he were disappointed.

“You said I had an amphibious form, am I right?” Kilian looked over his shoulder to Hurzar.

“Yes. But you may not have that ability yet.”

“I’m going to try.” Without waiting for a response from any of us, he jumped into the freezing water. He dove straight down, vanishing from sight. With anticipation, we waited for any sign of him. A few minutes later he leaped out from the surface and back onto the ice. It hardly looked like Kilian. Large fins formed where there once were wings and connected all the way to the tip of his tail. Even his feet were webbed. His eyes had a clear lens over them that I assumed had allowed him to see underwater. Once on land, however, the traits he had acquired started to disappear.

“Show off.” Darius let loose a rumble of disapproval inside his throat.

“Jealous?” I laughed. His only response was a roll of the eyes and a quick smirk.
When Kilian rejoined our group, Kristy congratulated him. “Nicely done, Kilian. But now it’s time for a real show.” Kilian smiled as his girlfriend strutted past him, brushing his shoulder along the way. The excitement got to her so she stretched her wings out as if she were rolling her shoulders, taking a deep breath as well. “I’ve already found my diroxan, don’t worry.” Hurzar simply nodded and let her have the spotlight. The atmosphere around us seemed to change the more Kristy concentrated. It felt lively and full of energy. I seen a flash of light run by me from underneath my feet. I thought I was seeing things until I seen it again, ten feet in front of me. Small yellow lights seemed to race beneath the ground, all of them heading towards Kristy. What was she trying to do? More and more light gathered in front of her. The area where she stood glowed. Her eyes flashed open and all the light shot up around her and into the sky in the form of lightning. You could hear the sharp snap as the lightning burned through the atmosphere. Eventually the light faded off and the bolts ceased to fly upward. She stood vibrant, her eyes wide. “That was fun.” She seemed out breath. “And I have a feeling it’s only going to be better as time goes on.” She returned to her awed boyfriend’s side.
“Looks like it’s your turn Sky.” I knew I had to do something, but what? There was no earth around here, just ice and water. Hurzar said something about me being able to camouflage myself using my surroundings. Would I have the ability to do that now though? I stood at the edge of the ice, staring down at the icy water. It lapped up against the almost blue ice on which we all stood. I try to clear my mind and study the colors, textures and shapes around me. There wasn’t much that would allow me to hide, but I had to try something. It was actually really relaxing just trying to clear my mind, but there was just so much stress on it that it took a while to do. I could see the sun starting to rise over the water. A small, glowing orb that provided enough light for me to see how far from land we were.

We were isolated out here. Nothing but icebergs and salt water to look at. Far off, you could see a pod of orcas coming up for air after a long evening hunt. Their large black dorsal fins shadowed in front of the rising sun and mist rose as they exhaled. What I wouldn’t give to be with my family again. Those thoughts weren’t important right now. I needed to focus on the task at hand.

I was wasting my friends’ time trying to do this. Turning around to apologize, I saw that they were all talking with each other. My movement caused them all to look at me with silent expressions. “I’m sorry guys, but I just can’t seem to do anything.”

Kristy spoke first, “What do you mean? Look at yourself Sky! That’s amazing!”

“Defiantly impressive.” Darius’s gentle watch threw me off guard. Why was he such a hard ass around everyone but me? I didn’t understand it. And what was with him back at the cabin?

“I’m confused.” I nodded toward Kristy. “I haven’t done anything.”

She walked over to me and turned me around, then pointed down towards the water with one of her silver talons. “See for yourself.” A wave came in and messed with my reflection, but once that was gone I knew what she meant. My reflection didn’t look like me at all. A white dragon stared back at me. At first I thought it was Sedorn, but this dragon had grey eyes, not blue. It’s scales held a particular pattern that reminded me of the ice. What looked to be dark gray cracks made the ice appear to have scales of its own. Was this me? My form remained the same; just the colors changed. I lost focus and almost instantly my hide returned to its normal emerald color. So it was possible for me to blend in with my surrounds.

Hurzar walked over to me and gave me a pat on my shoulder. “Well done, my earth-bound friend, well done indeed.” As we re-joined the rest of the group, Hurzar headed towards his den. “But now I think it’s time for a bite to eat. Come, join me if you wish.” We all followed him back into the dark tunnel, Darius providing a small amount of light by creating a decollate flame. After a few minutes, we entered the gleaming cavern. Hurzar immediately started preparing something to eat.

Curious, Kilian walked over to join him. “May I help?”
“Of course, of course. See that instrument over there? Can you grab that for me?” Kilian and Hurzar both seemed to have a passion for cooking. They added seasonings and herbs to what looked like a giant fish filet.

While they were busy, Darius pulled me to the side. “I had a lot of fun today, didn’t you?”

I cocked an eyebrow at him. “Yes, I suppose so. It’s not every day you get to do stuff like that.”

He forced a laugh, “I guess you’re right. I thought you did an amazing job today, by the way.”

“Perhaps. But it wasn’t really that spectacular compared to everyone else. I changed color... woo-hoo…..”My sarcasm got the best of me sometimes. I hated it.

“I’m sure you’ll find something sooner or later. It’s not like you have much to work with up here. Bunch of ice and snow. Pretty lame if you ask me.” He looked over at everybody crowding around Hurzar’s crystal kitchen area, then back at me. “You want to go outside for a bit?”

“Sure.” What was this guy up to? “I think we have a while before suppers done.”

“Awesome. Hey guys,” he called to the others, “we’ll be outside for a bit. Call us when suppers finished, okay?”

“Will do.” Kristy continued to watch the two prepare the oversized fish with interested eyes. “Just make sure you two don’t get into too much trouble.” She winked at me, trying to give me a hard time. But I knew she was just joking around. That’s what I loved about her. She was one of the most amazing people to have come into my life and I was proud to call her my best friend. We were always there for each other, through thick or thin and neither of us ever doubted the other. She was more of a sister to me than what my real sister, Nichole, was. Nichole and me use to get along all the time, but her attitude changed the older she got. Right now, however, she was only fourteen, but that doesn’t mean she accepted me for who I was.

Darius and I reached the mouth of the cave in a matter of minutes. The blinding sun loomed overhead. “So what is this all about?” Instinctively, my head cocked to the side with the question.

“What? Can’t I just have some company while I go out to get some fresh air?” That was understandable, except for the fact that we were just out here practicing. He seemed to catch that and quickly replied with, “I just think it’s too cramped down there with all those books and scrolls. Not to count all of us. We’re not exactly small.” That was true. We were about all as tall a giraffe but as large as an elephant, not something you would want to mess with. Hurzar’s place was large, but cramped with all of us inside it. He was a smaller dragon, about half our size, so his place was fit for him. Energized by the sunlight, I wanted to go flying again. Since our minds could interfere with each other, Darius caught what I was thinking. “You want to?” He nodded his head towards the sky. “We could be back before they even knew we were gone.”

I felt hesitant, but something inside of me told me to go with him, and that something won. We both started a light jog to get going. Like an air craft carrier, our distance was limited by the waiting sea. Gaining speed, wind finally caught our flapping wings and suddenly we were airborne and just in time too. I could feel water hit my wings on the last thrust before I was able to rise. Earth disappeared only to be replaced by heaven’s clouds. It was a whole new world up here; one with no boundaries that contained us to limited movement. Up here, we were free. I couldn’t help but let out a shout of excitement. “This is better than I remember.”

“It’s because the other two aren’t with us.” Darius caught up to me and we flew side by side. “They just make everything so tense, especially Kilian.” His faced pressed together with though. “He doesn’t know how to live without following rules. But I guess that’s just how his parent’s raised him. I could care less about what people think of me. I’m me, and no one’s going to change that fact.”

“Kilian really gets under your skin, doesn’t he?”

“You have no idea.”


He sighed. “I use to have a thing for Kristy, but the way they look at each other…..I know I could never top that.” He looked at me. “Go ahead, laugh. It’s hard to believe, I know. I don’t even understand it. Guess I just have to learn to let some things go. She deserves better than me anyway.” He turned himself over so he was flying upside-down and plummeted downward in some sort of loop. I dove after him, seeing his expression. He was in such a deep thought he seemed to forget he was falling. To my relief he righted himself and continued on like nothing happened.

“Kristy is pretty amazing.” My gaze caught his. “But I’m sure there’s another girl out there waiting for you, just give it some time.”

He nodded his head, “I know. I’ve already found her.”

That wasn’t expected. “Who?” I didn’t know that he had a girlfriend considering he never even mentioned her, let alone talk about her. My curiosity peaked.

His eyes glistened as the sun reflected off of them. “You.”

My heart seemed to stop. He could not be serious….there’s no way he liked me that much. Why? Why me? He dove downward again, but instead of falling, he looped around to fly back the way we had come from. I got frustrated again. You do not just say something like that to someone and then leave. I flew out to my left a bit, pushed off the atmosphere with my wings and then pulled off a hard right turn, following him. Over the duration of the time, his speed picked up as if he were trying to run from me. I knew I was not going to be able to catch up, so I mind pushed him. “Darius, where are you going? We already pasted Hurzar’s den.”

“I’m not going back there.”

Panic struck me, “Why not? What’s wrong?”

“Everything! I don’t need training from some old geezer of a dragon. I don’t need Kilian constantly trying to boss me around, treating me like a child. I just want this whole fucking thing to be over! I never asked for any of this!”

My anger just exploded. “And you think we did? We just know how to cope through it. Eventually this will be over, but in the meantime, we are making the best of it. You need to do that too. Otherwise, things are just going to seem tougher.

He stopped and started to hover, still facing away from me. Letting him keep his space, I continued speaking. “Running won’t solve anything. In fact, it will just make things worse.”

He whipped around and gave me the coldest glare. I could have sworn that gaze actually froze my heart. “I’m not running, I’m leaving. Go back to Kilian and Kristy, give Hurzar my regrets, and forget that I ever existed. Please, just do that for me. It’ll make this so much easier.” I could feel my eyes start to water up. This was not the Darius I knew. His bipolar attitude was giving me such a headache; I didn’t know what to think anymore. “Please Sky, for me.” I looked down at the scars along his ribs, still wondering how they got there. He turned away and landed on an icy cliff. I could not let him go like this. I landed beside him and just in time too. We had formed back into our human bodies. The wind suddenly felt harsh without our scales shielding our skin from it.

“Where are you going to go?” I studied him, almost forgetting how attractive he actually was. The wind tasseled his short, spiky hair.

“I can’t tell you. However, know this, I love you. I am doing this to save your life. I cannot tell you how or what I am going to do. We will meet again, this I promise.” His eyes glazed with this sad truth.

“I promise as well then.” My head dropped towards the ground. I couldn’t believe he was leaving us like this. My heart skipped a beat when suddenly he held me against him. He felt so warm and I could feel his heart beat, slow and strong. My forehead rested against his shoulder, my mind nothing but swirls.

“Thank you,” he whispered, “You don’t know what this means to me.” Then he was gone. Gone, just like that. The ice started reforming on my empty skin. I am not sure how, but one second he was there, then in the other, I was left alone. I was terrified to move, but I knew I had to get back to Hurzar’s before I got hypothermia. We were not that far, actually. Just far enough were the entrance was invisible from sight. Walking blind and mentally unconscious, I stumbled into the cave unaware of the darkness taking me through the tunnel. Before I realized what was going on everyone was around me asking me hundreds of questions.

I felt the back of Kristy’s hands on my forehead. “She’s not running a fever yet. Let’s get her over to the hearth so she can warm up.” Looking out for me like she always does, she gave me a concerned face. They placed me next to the enchanted fire. It could not melt the ice that the place was made of but was as warm as a real flame. It was soothing to watch. They kneeled down with me to make sure I was comfortable where I was.

It was not until Kilian spoke that reality hit me. “Where’s Darius at?” Soft sobs managed to climb over my wall of emotional strength. Seeing how I reacted, Kilian stood up. “I’m going out to look for him.”

Despite my unusual silence, I managed to speak a little. “Don’t bother. He left and he’s not coming back any time soon.”
Kilian looked to Kristy for help on how to respond. However, that is just it. It can no longer be fixed. What is done, is done and it was time to move on…. right? The fire danced around the small fireplace, fire that reminded me of the power Darius held. Why did I feel like this? Usually I would have been fine if Darius would have chosen to leave, if not overjoyed. What was so different about it now? A deep sigh helped clear my mind a bit, but not enough to where I would say I felt fine. All I could think about was him. He said we would see each other again, he promised. The main question I had was where did he go? People don’t vanish like that, even if they could turn into dragons. Something was not right.

Kristy put a hand on my shoulder for some moral support then returned to studying The Origin of Dragon Kind. I needed to let him go. I made a promise that I intended to keep. Nevertheless, it was not going to be as easy as I thought it would be. How do you forget someone who made you feel that special? Someone who you could talk to and be yourself for once? I curled up in a ball on the slick floor, ready for some needed sleep. The flames lulled me to sleep like a silent lullaby. His words echoing in my conscience “I love you.”
“Sky……” Someone was poking my shoulder. “Sky…..” My eyes fluttered open, only to see Kristy smiling down at me. “Wake up sleepy. Dinners finally ready.” I assumed we returned to dragon form while I slept because I did not remember falling asleep this way. A fishy aroma filled the cavern only to call my eyes to glance over at one of the wooden tables. What looked to be a king’s feast sat upon it. Fruits and cheeses, meats and sauces, all of it looked so appetizing. What really caught my attention was the large fillet that sat in the very center. Glazed in soft lemon juices, the meat seemed to glimmer with freshness. The whole table looked like something you would in a medieval movie.
Standing up, I looked over at Kilian and Hurzar who stood near the table overlooking their accomplishment. “You guys did all this? That’s amazing.”
“Actually, Kilian cooked most of it.” Hurzar corrected me.
“But where did you find all of this food? We’re in the middle of nowhere.” I laughed at myself because it was true.
“That’s one of the many perks when you dabble in magic.” All too full of himself, Hurzar held his hand out. “Go ahead, eat up. Enjoy it, because it’ll probably be the last decent meal you’ll get to have for a while.” With us being too large for chairs, we each just stood at the table. Kilian used one of his razor-like talons to cut the fish into smaller pieces, handing each of us one. There was so much food that I didn’t know where to begin. I decided to choose a few sides such as an apple, a few slices of cheese, and what looked like a small steak. Hurzar handed us each a dragon sized ceramic cup full of crisp ice water.
Throughout the entire course, flavors seemed to explode in my mouth. I have never tasted anything quite so good in my entire life and all of us could agree on that. Each of us filled our stomachs as much as they would allow for. When the feast was eventually over, most of the table was picked clean. I guess it took a lot to fill a dragon’s stomach; even Hurzar looked too full to move. “What are you going to do with all that wasn’t eaten?” Kilian looked at the left over food almost disappointed that we could not finish it all.
“Usually I try to save some of it by preserving it in the ice, but what I can’t save I feed to the animals around here since food is scarce for everyone.”
That seemed to awe Kristy. “That’s so kind of you Hurzar. Not many people would do that. That really touches my heart.” Hurzar smiled to show that he respected Kristy’s kindness towards him.
“Yes, well, you best rest up. Tomorrow you go to Crimson.”
“Crimson?” I questioned, “Where’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Crimson is a distant planet from this Earth. The name itself comes from the color of the soil there. It’s blood red but very rich in nutrition. In fact, it is so rich that over half the planet is covered by a forest so large it would make you feel no bigger than a muskrat. But be warned, the whole planet is ruled by Excavior Keep eyes out for him or any of his culprits.”
“Sounds like fun.” My sarcasm seemed to be a little too existent in that remark.
“Yes, well, we can worry about that tomorrow. However, before then I have a few things I need to prepare. Sleep well.” Hurzar hobbled over to a separate room, his wizened body slow and sluggish with such a full stomach.
Kristy looked over at me. “I can’t believe we leave tomorrow already. It seems like we just got here yesterday.”
“I know. Its almost too exciting to think we’re going to be on another planet even NASA doesn’t know about.” Kilian’s joy spread through all of us. It was pretty exciting to think about. I couldn’t wait to see a forest so large, of all things. “Do either of you want to go out and do a bit more practicing before we leave?”
“I’ll go. Seems like a good idea considering we may need more fighting skills.” Kristy clawed the ground, leaving four simple scratches in the floor.

I thought about it for a second, not sure what else I could do up here. Maybe I could practice my camouflage skills a bit more. “Sure, I guess I’m game.”

“If only we had something we could practice with. You know, dummies or something. That would really help.”

“Hold on a second.” I turned and walked into the spare room in which Hurzar spent his time. I have never been in there. In fact, none of us has been back here. I was about half the size of the main room, but twice the amount of stuff was crammed inside. Ice shelves full of a variety of beakers and vials were full of different colors. Some bubbled, some steamed, and some seemed to glow. Scrolls showing complex spells and potion recipes covered one entire wall. Hurzar stood over a lab table pouring two of the vials together into one container. Once they fused, it foamed up and seemed to catch fire for a split second. “Hurzar? Can I speak to you for a moment?

“Sure, Sure. Just let me finish this.” Once the other vial was filled, he picked it up, gave it a stir, and then examined it. He gave a smile of satisfaction and put it down. “Yes, can I help you?”

“Maybe. We were going to go practice outside for a bit and we were all wondering if you had something we could focus our elements on, for aiming.”

“Oh, of course. In fact, I could cast a spell and create some false Fire Summons if you would like. That might give you an advantage later on.”

“That’d be great! Thank you.”

“I need no thanks. If anything, I should be the one thanking you. You’re the one Sedorn has chosen to lead your group and you lead them here.”

“Well, actually, we work together as equals. None of us are leading.”

“And it takes a trustful person to allow that. Your friends look up to you. They see you as a strong person and so does Sedorn. You have a pure heart, Sky, and a strong mind. That is the only thing it takes to lead, but not everybody can have that. You should be proud of yourself.”

My chest swelled up with pride. “Still, thank you for everything including your hospitality. You’re a good person yourself.”

“I try to be.” He laughed. “But let’s get back to your training situation. I believe your friends are waiting on you.” Reentering the main room where Kilian and Kristy still waited, Hurzar and I motioned them to follow us out. The tunnel seemed to grow shorter the more we traveled through it. What used to feel like hours of walking soon turned out to be no more than ten minuets or so. The day was bright outside with the sun only being a fourth of the way up. Hurzar stopped in the center of the practice field.

“What is he doing?” Kilian questioned me through mind reading.

“He says he can create some dummies that will resemble the Fire Summons. We can practice on those.” Kilian focused in on Hurzar as he began the spell. Blue light radiated from his torso and beamed onto a few spots on the ground. Those spots began to glow until creatures began to rise from the ice. They were hideous. Like skeletons, every bone could be seen through what looked to be slightly transparent flesh. Eyes that burned like fire stared at us and made us feel instantly panicked. Their mouths looked like gaping holes covered with thick spider’s webs or stretched skin. In addition, they stood in a very menacing stance. Their posture was slightly slouched, but still upright enough that they looked tall. No armor, but they did hold long, thin blades that slightly curved that were clearly made for slicing. However, what would those do against scaled skin that acted as biological armor? Then I saw how they would have been affective. Something dropped down the edge of the blade and it was not until it hit the ground that I could place what it was. Acid. The ice melted as soon as the acid touched it, leaving a small hole in the ice. If that were to touch us, they could get a clear spot to strike a fatal blow.

“Behold the Fire Summon.” Hurzar stepped back and let us examine the species. Kilian seemed to look at it as if it was a leech. All he wanted to do was make sure it ended up dead, even though this one was not technically alive. “I’m going to return inside now and let you be. All I ask is that you don’t exhaust yourself too much.”

“We won’t. This should be a piece of cake.” Kilian was too confident with himself sometimes. As soon as Hurzar was out of sight, they began to sprint towards us. Kristy swiped at the first one and knocked it to the ground beside her. Animated blood poured profusely out of its nearly dismembered arm as it lay squirming on the ground in pure pain. One turned towards Kilian but ended up in midair as Kilian gave it a good head butt. You could hear a loud crack as its spine broke upon impact. The last one headed for me. I turned to my side and used my tail to send it soaring backwards, the spikes on the end penetrating it along the way. When it finally bled to death, three more rose from the ground. Raising their blades, they charged us as well. Kristy was preparing an electric attack. I could feel it. However, this attack was different from her last. Between her horns, a small ball of static was forming. When it finally grew big enough she shot it at all three Summons.

They wriggled on the ground as the paralysis took place. Soon the electricity conducted their skin so much it pretty much fried them. “That’s one way to do it.” I laughed. More and more replacements rose from the ground. Kilian used more of a physical type of combat while Kristy continued to rely on her powers. Ones that Kristy did not manage to kill, Kilian would take care of. I wanted to figure more of my abilities, but stuck with killing ones that strayed from Kilian and Kristy’s area. Finally, an idea clicked in my mind.

While they continued to kill the last two, I went at it. The Summons rose in the same spots every time, so this would work perfectly. I tried to feel the ice and focused on the areas I wanted. Just as I had hoped would happen, giant cracks formed in the ice around that circled spot. They continued to grow until the replacements stood on an isolated island surrounded by a sheer drop of certain death. From there we could pick them off one by one without worrying about them being able to get to us.

A few risky ones tried to jump it and ended up falling into the crevasse. The spell started to wear off after that and when the final one fell, we all felt a sudden boost in confidence. We had done it. Over a couple dozen Summons lay dead on the ground around us, animated blood spreading across the once white snow.

“Nice work everybody. Way to use some teamwork.” Kilian was just glad we had won. Kristy seemed just as excited. When all was said and done, we headed back inside. Hurzar must have been asleep already because the cavern was dimly lit. Each of us curled up in our spots and let sleep welcome us and prepare us for tomorrow.

I ended up in a part of the ruins that I have never been to before. Part of the wall seemed to be cave in, allowing for a fantastic view of the nearby ocean. It was just reaching sunset and the clouds seemed to be shadowed with color. Looking straight down I could see the wall’s remains. The waves crashing into them in a frenzy of salt and foam. The room had remained empty for what looked like many years. The only thing in the room with me was a chest. The same griffon from the breastplate was reveled on the very top of it. I wondered what was in it. Walking towards it, I noticed that it had no lock. I tried to open it but it would not budge. Was I supposed to open it? I tried it again bit I got the same result each time. Perhaps it was sealed by magic. Maybe Sedorn could bust the lock. I left through the one archway that allowed any exit and search for him. It led to another room that made for a turn. I walked through and eventually found myself in a hallway that must have been on the edge of the ruins. It too showed a magnificent view of the surrounding area.

This place seemed too enchanting. Colors here were twice as vibrant and everywhere you looked the scenery astounded you. About half way down the hall, I heard a screeching sound. Looking to see what it was, I saw a red bird flying high above the fortress. Only it resembled no bird I have ever seen before... The red bird swooped down towards the banister the separated the hall from the cliffs’ side; silver talons gripped the rock for balance. The bird’s feathers danced like fire, its eyes black as charcoal. There was only one explanation for it. This bird was a phoenix. It gazed at me as if it too were trying to read my thoughts. The phoenix cried out again and darted back into flight. With the thrust the bird had against the banister, one of its long tail feathers fell onto the ground. The phoenix had returned to the sky and flew off in the distance. Picking up the feather, I noticed how soft it actually was but it was warm to the touch as well. Just then, Sedorn had found me and walked over to my side.

“Ah, there you are young one. I sensed you were in the area." He saw me caressing the feather and gave me a curious look. "The phoenix is a rare creature that is only seen by those with great destinies and this one in particular seems to have chosen you. You should consider yourself a very lucky person.”

“Chosen me? What do you mean?” I had just assumed that the feather was loose.

“Every phoenix gets to choose one soul to bless. When one is blessed by the phoenix, miracles will happen more often. In addition, when danger threatens the blessed soul it is rumored that the phoenix will appear out of nowhere and sacrifices itself to save it. They are very valiant birds if you ask me.” I stood in disbelief, stunned that this phoenix would do all this just for me. “Come, I have something to show you.” Sedorn continued back the way I had come from, back to the room with the chest. He walked up towards it, took a deep breath, and released it on the area where the lock would normally be. A faint click acknowledged us to let us know it was indeed unlocked now.

“How did you do that?”

“Since this once belonged to the Mason Army, they had an enchanter place a spell that could only be unlocked by one of them. Since I lead them, I can unlock it as well.”

“What’s in it that’s so important to them?”

“That’s why this chest is so special. Nobody knows exactly what would be inside.”

“I’m confused. Nobodies opened it before?”

“This chest is only opened when the world is facing a dire crisis. Anything could be inside it. You see, the world practically speaks to us through this box. Whatever is needed to fix the problem will lie inside this chest.”

"Then why is the world in danger if this box can fix everything?"

"It only provides us with the tools. It's up to the wielder whether it's used or not."

“I think I understand now. So let us say part of your castle catches fire. I open the box and there would be a huge fire extinguisher inside.”

He laughed at my pathetic scenario. “It’s possible. Only rare artifacts come from inside. Swords made of enchanted metal, or armor that never cracks. Things like that.”

“That’s amazing.” I gawked at the chest with its gold trimming. “Are we going to open it now?”

“Yes. Let the world help us out and pray that it’s on our side.” He cracked it a bit. A small amount of light poured outside. Finally, he opened it completely. At first, I could not see because the flash of light was so blinding and then my jaw seemed to hit the ground. Both a set of armor and a few weapons, which were of the cleanest silver, sat at the bottom. A concerned look creased Sedorn’s face. “This doesn’t seem to be a good sign.”

“Why’s that? If we’re going to fighting things wouldn’t we need some kind of protection?”

“Armor is fine. However, this kind of armor I have never seen before. Clearly, it is enchanted but it is also made of a metal I have never seen before. Too light for meteor steel, but stronger than ironbark.” He picked up a helmet that was clearly made for a dragon to wear. It would fit perfectly around the skull and part of it curved in around the eyes, allowing for optimum vision, and then back out to protect the jaws. His eyes widened in a surprise that overwhelmed him. “It’s made of Yuaris. I haven’t seen this in almost three millennia.”

“Yuaris? I have never heard of that before. Is that a good thing?”

“Oh, very good. Yuaris is harder than diamond but lighter than carbon. It is also extremely flexible; therefore you won’t have trouble moving.”

“That’s some pretty impressive equipment then. Can I see it?” He went to hand me it, but as soon as I felt the cool metal touch my hand, it disappeared.

“Now that’s new.” At first, I was confused on what he was talking about until I seen that he was looking at the top of my head. I was already wearing the helmet but I could not tell at first because the weight was almost unnoticeable. Why did it worked like that for Sedorn? Now just how do I take this off? I touched it again and it reappeared in my hand. “It looks like it’s only activated by your touch.” He looked back in the chest. “And it looks like there’s plenty of the armor for your friends as well.” He pulled out four sets of helmets, breastplates, chain mail, cuffs, leggings and what looked to be like armor that ran along the length of our tail.

“We’ll only need three of those.” Creases of sadness returned but I forced them away.

“Yes, I know what happened to Darius. Nevertheless, your trust in him seems weak. Why is that?”

“I just don’t understand why he left. We need him with us.”

“Skylar, Darius left with a good intention. He’s going to be helping you out more than you realize.”

“Helping us how?” Sedorn was holding something from me and I wanted to know what it was.

“I cannot tell you, young one, for reasons you won’t understand. But know this; Darius is going to be through a really tough time all for the sake of knowing that you’re going to be safer than him.”

“Why would he do that? There’s no need.” He sighed and reached back into the chest, ending that conversation. Pulling out the weapons now, he laid them next to the armor. The last one was a sheathed sword.
Sliding it out, he examined it, reading the symbols that ran along the top of the blade. “Honor is only granted to those with the purest souls.” He handed it to me. “I believe this is yours.”

Trying to grab the sword with dragon hands was not an easy task. Our hands were much larger and the thumbs did not move as much. It was like holding a knife without thumbs at all. When I did manage to take hold of the sword, I noticed it was not as heavy as it looked. The blade was razor sharp and at the end of the neatly decorated pommel was a beautiful teal gem. Parts of the sword were black, but most of it was silver so reflective, you could practically use it as a mirror. “It’s so wonderful….I can’t even think of words to describe it.”
“The world can think of perfect things, can’t it?” Sedorn chuckled. I looked over at the other weapons. There was a double-edged ax, two long daggers, and another sword that was a bit larger than mine was. All of them resembled one another color wise, including mine.
“How am I supposed to get all this stuff back to Hurzar’s?”
“I’m sure the world will think of something.” He closed the lid to the empty chest and everything faded off.

I woke with a jump not realizing that I had no reason to be startled. Everyone still seemed to be sleeping except for Hurzar. He sat near the entrance staring at a parchment that appeared to be somewhat old. The creases on his face revealed that he was deep in thought. "Is everything alright, you look disturbed."

"I'm fine." Looking up from the paper he continued, "You know Nador use to be a good friend of mine." Small tears began to well up in his eyes, causing them to glisten a little. "I never knew why he found the darkness so intriguing. He always looked to the brighter side of things and was constantly out trying to find a better good for this world. In fact, I still wonder if he is alive sometimes because no one ever found out what happened to him. I wonder this everyday...” then he went back to reading to stop himself from crying. It was hard losing a friend that you have come to love. The feeling of loneliness overwhelms every emotion and any action required too much effort. All you feel like doing is curling up in a corner to bawl your eyes out. I wanted to bring him hope, hope that we will find his best friend.

"While we're gone we could try to find signs of him, but I can't quite promise anything yet. We have a lot we need to do first."

"I'm not going to expect you to do anything." He laughed. "It's not your trouble, why would I ask you to worry about it?" His eyes dropped from the yellowing scroll as thoughts of his friend continued to ravage his mind. “But if you do receive hints about it, please let me know right away. It would be a miracle if we could actually find him."

"We'll do our best Hurzar. I promise, sooner or later, we'll find him." A new spark of life entered his eyes, maybe even his spirit. He took a deep breath and walked back into his part of the cave, placing the parchment on one of the tables. A promise is a promise and I intended to fulfill this one. I thought of Darius and the times we spent together. The ghostly feel of his skin's warmth returned to me and made me shiver. Wishing he were still here, I felt my heart drop because I knew that he was not. I hoped that he would keep his promise that we will see each other again. Depression crept up on my dreaming. I needed him back by my side. He was my other half, without him, I was nothing. Looking over at Kilian and Kristy, I felt happy for them. At least they could be together.

A couple of hours past by until everybody was finally up. Kilian made a small breakfast for us, enough to fill out stomachs for a couple hours. When we finished eating, Hurzar reappeared from his room carrying a few vials of red liquid. “I would like for everyone to step outside for this please.”

“Are we leaving now?” Kristy chased after him as he sped towards the exit.

“Yes…you are. Sky, grab all of your equipment and meet us outside.” I turned to see a large bag waiting for us in the corner, my sword's handle sticking out slightly. It must have appeared there overnight. I wondered if anyone else saw it yet. I picked up the bag in my jaws and hurried to catch up with everybody. Reaching them about half way, I strained my eyes to see the path ahead. Dragons defiantly had better night vision than humans did, but that did not mean I would not hit my head on a stalactite every now and then. I tried to memorize when the exit was coming because it always got me. All that eye straining never worked out when suddenly you were blinded by pure white snow. The sun making it even brighter than normal. We gathered in our usual semi-circle, Hurzar in the middle handing each of us one of the vials.

Kilian sniffed it and winced as the retched odor hit him. “What are we supposed to do with this?”

Hurzar handed the last one to me. “When I tell you to do so, you will drink it.”

“Drink it!? This stuff doesn't exactly look safe to be drinking it.” Kilian looked at Kristy who mimicked his expression of disgust. The liquid resembled that of boiling blood mixed in with some sort of herbal remedy that smelled of carrots and eggs that have been burned. Turning my eyes away from it to avoid losing my breakfast, I watched as Hurzar traced some sort of pattern in the ground with a blue-green ink. Symbols that looked like part of an alien language were traced around in a circle and outlined in orange powder that he sprinkled on the ground afterwards. When a symbol was done, it would start illuminating a teal glow. Then when the circle was complete, the whole thing shot out a light that seemed to reach past the entire atmosphere.

“There, it is finished. Who would like to go first?” Being the leader I was chosen to be, I walked into the center of the circle without saying a word. I dropped the bag in my free hand, the vial in the other. “Alright Sky, when I count to five, drink this potion and make sure that you drink all of it.”

“Understood.” I glanced down at the concoction one last time and wondered what it will taste like.

“One, Two, Three, Four, …....Five!” He whispered something to the sky but I did not catch what it was because as I poured the vial into my mouth the only thing I could think about was the taste of it. The liquid was surprisingly sweet but it burned my throat, literally. Trying not to cough it back up, I continued to choke it down little by little. With the vial now empty, my head started to get fuzzy and everything started to fade off into a black hole. All of my senses were cut off but I was fully conscience. I could not even blink in this nothingness. Is this what death feels like, or depression? Suddenly I could feel something beneath my feet. Soft grass seemed to grow beneath me. Birds chirped above me but I could see nothing yet. A white fog started coming into view until it was all I could see.
Surrounding me, it blocked my newly formed vision from seeing anything else. That’s when I smelled it. Wet wood and decaying leaves along with the smell of fresh rain. The fog started to lift more and more with each second that passed by. Within a minuet, it disappeared completely and left me standing in the middle of a forest. Trees two times larger than the ones back home towered over me, blocking out a sun that seemed almost red. Everywhere you looked there where trees, large prehistoric ferns, a variety of bushes full of ripe berries and vines that seemed to drape everywhere. It was too beautiful to comprehend at once. My senses were so overwhelmed that it made me feel invincible. Now I know what Hurzar meant when he said that the soil was very fertile. Sure enough when I looked down, I could see the blood red soil covered in lush mosses. Maybe that is what was in the vial, the soil. The colors matched perfectly but being here defiantly smelled better.

“Sky?” I turned around to see Kristy stepping over a small creek. Her vision must have only been blurry for a few seconds because she seemed perfectly capable of walking over rocks without stumbling, as I would have done. “This place is so amazing! Do you think this is Crimson?”

“It has to be. Look at the soil, its red.” She nodded her head and took in all the information that I already acknowledged. “Where's Kilian at? Is he here yet?”

“He should be in a few seconds. He was hesitant on drinking it. However, I do not blame him, that stuff was nasty. Tasted like dirt.” She flicked her tongue out, remembering her experience.

“Actually, Kristy, I think it was dirt. The soil here looks just like it, don't you think.”

“Great so I ate dirt. I guess it's time to check that off my To-Do list.” We both had to laugh at that. It was time to cheer things up, pick up the mood, and try to keep Darius off my mind. The task was going to be impossible, but I might as well try.

“What are you two laughing about already? Did I miss something?” Kilian appeared to our left behind a bunch of ferns.

“No. Kristy ate dirt, that’s all.”

“That's my girl.” That cocky smirk appeared on his face when he walked to Kristy's side. “Did it taste good?” She stuck her silver tongue out at him, mocking the fact that he did too. “Anyways, where do you suppose we are?”

“Crimson. I'm almost sure of it. Where else would Hurzar send us?”

“Maybe his voodoo spell malfunctioned and sent us somewhere we weren't meant to go. Who knows?”

“Kilian, come on. Be real here. I trust Hurzar and his magic and you should too. Even if it is a little weird sometimes.” Who knew what else Hurzar could do with his magical abilities. The way I looked at it, Hurzar has never given us a reason not to trust him, so why doubt him now.

“Yeah, I know.” He looked up at the sky. “Do you think we can see earth from here?”

“I don't know, Kilian. And frankly, I do not care. We need to get moving before we run into something dangerous.”

“Sky, that's why I'm here. I'll protect both Kristy and you from anything.” Did he really think that Kristy and I needed bodyguards? God he could get so over confident sometimes it drives me nuts. When Kristy and I were together, the world could not stop us, no matter how hard it would try.

“Yeah, I'd like to watch you try. In fact, I'll pay to see that show.” That shut him up for a bit. I am sure Kristy and I can take care of ourselves.

“Well, where do you suppose we need to go? We have no idea where anything is let alone how to get there.” Kristy did have a point. That's when my nightmare reappeared to my mind. The huge, mountainous volcano full of evil lurked in my thoughts for a while until I realized that was our final destination. That volcano was where Excavior ruled, it had to be.

“We need to find the largest chain of mountains on this planet. That's where we need to go.”

“Mountains? For what?” I explained the whole episode of my nightmare in full detail. During the conclusion, Kristy's mouth almost hit the floor. “So that's where this whole thing is going to end? Inside some random volcano along a chain of mountains on a world twice as large as our own? Sounds easy enough.”

“Well, when you put in like that, it does sound pretty stupid. We have no idea where we even are. So good luck finding the right direction.”

“Kilian, you know I've always had a good sense of direction. Besides, it is not as if we cannot fly around for a bit and learn the landscape that way. Why do you always assume the worst?” I was just about fed up with him and he could tell. Sure, I was just about the same size as he was, a bit smaller, but that does not mean I cannot take him on. Letting the anger flow out of my body, down to my feet and into the soft soil, I started to relax. “First we need to figure out how we can get past these trees before we start thinking about flying. They are thicker but twice as tall, so flying around the trunks of them should not be a problem. It's getting over them that’s going to be giving us a hassle.”

Kristy looked from Kilian to me. “Not if we can fly to where there would be an opening in the canopy. On the other hand, maybe we will find a clearing in the trees where there would be a field or something. We can't know until we find out.” She winked at Kilian. That was pretty much their relationship quote. Their relationship was based on taking risks and dodging danger. Kilian even took Kristy skydiving when she did not even know if she was scared of heights yet. Luckily, she had a blast and was up for a second round. That was just how they were.

“Very true. I guess we are off then. One way or another we'll find a way up.” Thrusting off the ground, I was shocked at how light I felt. Of course, larger planets had less density; therefore, we weighed half as much as we did before. This would defiantly help us out a bit. Kilian, followed by Kristy, also realized this when they too pulled themselves into the weightless air. The trees were spread out plenty, allowing us comfortable flight room. Solid looking bark covered the dark brown wooden trunks, giving the area an uneasy feeling. Why would these trees practically have their own armor? Evolution had to have given it a reason. The atmosphere perhaps? I guessed I would find out eventually. Treetops caste green light everywhere because the sunlight could not quite reach the forest floor, adding to the mystery of this strange place. No sooner than twenty minuets later, the trees started to thin out a bit. A clearing must be up ahead.

"Let's hope so. I feel trapped beneath all of these leaves. I want some free, open sky." She mind pushed me as she looked up through the branches and caught a glimpse of the sun. There, up ahead. A large area of sunlight bathed the ground in warmth allowing for a field of tall wild flowers to grow there. "Oh, how beautiful. Look at all those colors!"

"Yes, they are somewhat eye catching aren't they?" And they were. Reds, blues, yellows, oranges, violets, even grays covered the field in shadows of rainbow. A sweet honeysuckle smell came from them and filled ours noses with the sweet aroma. Without wasting time though, we pushed upward above the tree line before we ran out of space to do it. Shades of green returned to our vision and seemed duller than before due to the clouds that now loomed by the sun casting thick shadows. Flying was so beautiful, especially here. It is almost impossible to describe in words to get the full effect of emotions. The land below us was covered in trees that were all about the same height. Some had dark green leaves, others more of an olive color. Every once in a great while you could catch the silver glimpse of a river winding its way around the bends. Crimson seemed to flow with magic both seen and unseen. After about and hour or so, the trees began to thin out again until we were able to spot an area by the river where we would set up camp. The gravel was easy to land on as I clung to the bag that carried all of our equipment inside it. Only then did they notice it.

"Whoa, Sky, what is that?" They settled down next to me curious about what I carried.

"Sedorn gave it to me. To us, technically." They both gave me funny looks to prove that they still had no idea what I was saying. "Here let me show you." I pulled the strings apart and opened it up. Pulling out the two daggers first, I let them both examine it. "Apparently all of this stuff was given to us by the world and is made of Yuaris, which is the best kind of metal to ever exist...or something like that."

Kristy reached for the daggers in a state of awe. Inches before she actually touched them, the daggers themselves began trembling. Like two magnets, the daggers were pulled to her hands and in the same instant, Kristy turned back into her human form. "Whoa, did you just see that. It was as if they wanted me to grab them. Sort of freaky stuff if you ask me."

"Maybe they were meant for you. They say the weapon chooses its wielder. Or, at least that’s what I've heard." Kilian looked desperately to me. "Which one do you think is mine?" Knowing there were three more weapons in the bag, I narrowed it down to two options since I already knew which sword was mine. His would be either the heavy sword or the ax. Pulling them both out, I let him take his guess. Almost immediately, his eyes landed on the double-edged ax. Touching it, the same thing happened to him. Standing next to Kristy, he began practice swings. The ax defiantly fit his style. I pulled out my sword and returned to my human form as well. So the heavy sword was meant for Darius, huh? I wonder when we will see him again. Shaking my head and returning to reality, I placed the bag on the ground. "There's also armor in there that we need to go through later. But for right now, let's practice a bit more fighting." Gathering along the edge of the river a couple paces away from each other, we waited to see who would make the first move.
This was far different from fighting Fire Summons because you were scared to hurt your friends. However, we trusted each other’s skill enough to where that was not such a major problem. I glanced at Kilian, then to Kristy. It appeared they were not going to make the first move, so I did. I lifted my sword and ran towards Kristy; blade pulled back over my shoulder so that I might be able to pull off a more vertical strike. Nevertheless, she was more than ready. Taking her left-handed dagger, she easily blocked the blow and repelled me back a bit. Then Kilian jumped in the action. While I stumbled back a bit, my right side remained open for a clear shot. Kilian saw the advantage and took it. With a flash of silver, he swung the ax towards my side. With hardly any time to react, I rolled to my side allowing the weapon to strike nothing but rock.

"Not bad." He laughed, "But this has only just started." Out of habit, I tried to mind push him to see what his next move would be. Only then did I remember that I could not do that being in human form. One thing I could read was body posture though. Kilian, due to the weight of the ax, was not able to move as quickly as Kristy and me. Kristy was free to do almost anything, had amazing reflexes and was quick on her feet. A great combo to have daggers as weapons. I was caught in the middle of the two. Granite, the sword was lighter than what it looked like, but it still allowed for limited movement skills.
My one advantage was the fact that my sword was about the length of an arm and a half, therefore my striking distance was greater than either Kilian’s or Kristy's. Kilian's weapon was almost as long as mine was; about an arm's length but his was far deadlier with its weight. The blade's of the ax was twice as thick as my sword. Kristy's daggers were long but they hardly weighed anything. She had to rely on precision and accuracy more that brute force. This time Kristy made her move first, at Kilian of all things. She struck at his torso, faking it, twirled around him to face his back and dealt an actual blow to his shoulder. He yelped and grabbed his shoulder where a small trickle of blood had already started to form. "What was that for?"

"That was for attacking my best friend and to teach you how to defend yourself better." She laughed. "You are only focused on attacking, not defending." He stuck his tongue out to mock her but stopped half way when she pointed her dagger out at him again. A small drop of blood dripped off the mirror-like metal and onto the ground where it splattered into smaller drops.

"Okay, okay. I give in, you win." She gave him a hug when he dropped his weapon in surrender to make up for what she did.

"Here, let me see that wound." I walked over to him to look at the small gash. There was not much penetration, just enough to draw a little blood. "Mesh, you'll live. Just make sure that it doesn't get infected, otherwise that could get pretty nasty."

Kristy looked to me. "We should probably fight in our armor next time, just to make sure nothing worse happens." She was right. We were being reckless about everything lately. "In fact, how about we do that now? We've got time to at least try it all on."

"Yeah, sure. Let me get the bag." Walking back over to the bag, I reached inside. The first thing I grabbed was a breastplate that resembled the one I saw back at the ruins. I handed it to Kilian who held it as if it were a newborn child.

"Wow," he stuttered, "it's magnificent." After him, I handed the next one to Kristy who did not look too excited.

"How are we supposed to put this on?"

"Well, for one, we have to put the chain-mail on first. I thought I felt some in here earlier." Sure enough, as soon as I put my plate on the ground beside me, I reached in and pulled out three sets of chain mail. Tiny silver links intertwined with one another in tight formations that formed a perfectly fitted suit that would easily slide on. After passing them out to everyone, I put mine on. It looked huge as I was putting it on, but as I pulled it over my shoulders, it seemed to form to my body's shape making for a perfect fit. Kilian and Kristy's seemed to fit them really well too whenever they finished putting theirs on. Enchantment again, perhaps? The weight was enough to make it feel heavy but it was oddly comfortable.
Shrugging the rest of it on, I tightened the laces and examined the results. My entire torso down to my waist was protected, except my back where there were straps that helped to tighten the chain mail to a complete fit. However, the breastplate would protect that later. I grabbed mine, slid it up, and over my head, then pulled it down onto my shoulders. For being such strong armor, there was nothing to these. Thin as sheet metal, it felt like there was hardly anything there at all. I staggered forward to grab the bag again. Next to appear where helmets of four varieties. One was a full-face helmet that looked like it belonged back in Greece. The second was a black leather type and did not cover much of the face at all. The other two were male like. Metal spikes ran down the center of both helmets. One had black spikes, the other of metallic blue.

Kilian reached out for the blue one, of course. “Now we're talking. This is some real serious stuff, isn't it? Considering we're getting helmets and everything.”

“I actually don't think I'm going to wear mine until I'm going into dragon form.” She picked out the black leather one and held it in her hands. “Wait, what will happen to our armor when we transform?”

“The armor morphs with us, I've tried it already. At least this helmet does.” I held out the Greek looking one.

“And our weapons?”

“I haven't figured that one out yet.” That was a good question. We could not possibly carry them when we were not human; our hands were too big then.

“Yeah and what's with that?” Kilian looked at me with somewhat of a mean streak. “I thought we were supposed to be dragons during the day and human at night. What happened to that plan?”

“I don't know. I will see if Sedorn can talk tonight and get some explanation on that. I didn't think about asking him earlier.” I thought it had something to do with all of the time changes we have been through lately. Who knows? Maybe I am completely wrong about all of this.

“Well, something better work out. I'm tired of walking around on edge all of the time waiting for it to happen out of nowhere.”

Kristy looked from me to him, “I know what you mean. It is a little frustrating not knowing when it's going to happen.” She continued to look at the helmet she held, almost studying it. “I miss being home already.” Deep inside, we all did and none us of denied it at all.

“Soon enough, Kristy, this will all be over, just you wait and see. We'll be laughing about all of this before we know it.” I am not sure who I was trying to motivate, Kristy or myself. Holding, what would be considered Darius's helmet, made the pit in my stomach reappear with a new force. How long was this lonely, empty feeling going to last? I need to take him off my mind for a bit and give it a rest. There is no point in moping about him twenty-four hours a day. I hated sulking in self-pity all the time...but I really did miss him, more than I missed anyone before. I longed to hear his voice one more time. How pathetic was that? I put both of the helmets back inside the bag.

"Are you done for today?" Kristy slumped her shoulders a bit when she asked me that. "I thought we were going to practice a bit more?"

"I was going to, but I just don't have the motivation to do so right now. You and Kilian can go right ahead; I'll just stay here and set up camp."

She shrugged and grabbed Kilian's shoulder, "Let's go." She looked back at me, "Are you sure you'll be okay here for a bit?" I nodded. "Alright, if you insist. We won't go far, just down the river a bit. I saw a pretty good place to practice there earlier."

"Alright, I'll be here." I gave her a look of reassurance. After smiling back, they turned and left me sitting by myself. Hearing their footsteps fade off, I noticed how eerie the silence was here. There was no noise what so ever, minus the breeze shuffling the leaves. Was there no life on this planet apart from the trees? I stood up and walked to the river. Past the silver ripples and my dancing reflection, I could see a small school of fish seeking shelter in the deeper zones of the river.
Small silver flashes darting here and there, fighting the steady current as they traveled from point to point. I watched them for a couple minuets to pass the time for a bit. Well that answers my question. At least it's something and we're not completely alone here. I looked around for anything else that might be a hiding spot for critters. A toppled tree near the camp provided enough cover for a small mammal the size of a rabbit to hide in. As I neared it, however, something screeched. A bird about the size of a pelican but colored like a scarlet parrot flew right past my head and nearly toppled me over. Flying upwards, it flapped its wings in a great hurry. However, it disappeared under a shadow from something greater.

Claws grabbed the helpless bird in a quick swipe. It let out one last call before the life was extinguished from its body. The beast that grabbed it made my legs tremble. A black, human-like demon held the bird in its fleshy, blood covered hands and gave me a devilish snarl. The demon had no eyes and you could see over half of its skeleton under the tight skin. Wing's twice the size of the demon hid it from view every time it flapped them, like a cape of darkness. Even when its shadow cast over me, I got cold chills almost immediately. Thankfully, it disappeared behind the tops of the trees and continued on its way.
Only when it was gone, the phoenix feather I had tucked between my belt and my jeans started to warm up a little. Not quite hot to the touch, but close to that point. I could sense a presence coming from it, but could not understand what it wanted or what it was trying to say. Slowly it faded off as if going back to sleep. Heart still racing, I stumbled back over to the log I sat on earlier and attempted to calm down a little. What was that? Did Kilian and Kristy see it too? I was not sure if I wanted them to see it. That thing was a nightmare come true. How could a beautiful place like this hold such a devilish nightmare? I hope that we would not run into any more of those. The sound of water splashing around broke my trance of thoughts.

Kristy came into view, a look of fear on her face. "Did you just see that thing?" She pointed towards the sky.

"Yes, and it saw me too. That's not exactly a good thing either."

Kilian caught up with Kristy, still glancing around the sky. "Do you think it'll be back?"

"I don't know. We are new here so it probably did not know what we are. Hopefully it won't mess with us tonight." A moment of hopeful silence passed through all of us. "But we do need to set up camp before night falls or before something comes looking for us."

"Good point." Kilian looked at the backpacks that we all carried. "What are we suppose to use as shelter though?"

"I guess we'll just have to make one using sticks and stuff, leaves and what not."

Giving me a roll of the eyes, Kristy started going through the equipment. "Are you saying we don't have tents or anything?"

"Not unless one of you packed one." Not until she realized our backpacks carried mostly clothes and sleeping bags did she finally give up her search.

"Great, so now we're living in mud huts while being stalked by hell's creatures. Sounds like a blast to me."

Kilian walked over to her and wrapped his caressing arms around her waist. "Cheer up babe; we could just sleep under the stars tonight." A perfect white smile spread across her face, all tension gone. "I'll take that as a yes." He kissed her lightly on the cheek and held her a bit tighter. I watched, glad that they knew what true love was. You could tell just by the way they looked at each other that their love ran deep. Deeper than most even dream about. "Sky, would that be fine with you? We should be fine tonight, as long as we have somebody on watch all the time. You and I could take shifts throughout the night."
"Hmm? No that's fine with me. That saves us time from having to build something." I grabbed my bag and pulled out my bag. Luckily, the gray color of my bag would match the color of the rocks around us. While Kristy and Kilian did the same, I grabbed a few of the larger rocks and created a fire circle out of them, placing them in the center of the triangle our bags formed. As the sun began to set, we started a small fire for a quick meal. Using a bit of teamwork, we managed to catch a few of the fish from the river. Kilian cleaned them and had them roasting over the fire while Kristy and I watched him.
Surprisingly I thought she would have a problem eating them but she acted as if it was part of a normal day. I shrugged it off; happy that was not going to be one our problems. Dark came upon us sooner than we thought it would. Kilian volunteered first shift and would wake me when it would be my turn for watch. After giving Kristy one last kiss, he walked over to the log where he sat down, ready to take on the long night. I settled down and got comfortable, the fire still gave off enough heat to keep us warm. Growing heavier with each passing second, my eyelids finally shut and enclosed me in my personal darkness.

I was beginning to know my way around the ruins by heart. It was laid out like a web, with Sedorn's chamber being the center of it. I walked around knowing that he'd show up sooner or later like he always somehow did. I was on the side that viewed the ocean, I could tell. The moist salty air filled my lungs with each breath. When inside the ruins, however, the air was different. It was sweeter and lighter and perfectly clean. Out here, it just seemed sticky. Finding a section with a hall that lead inside, I took it. I figured I would try to find him inside the chambers. The halls were marble like, but severely crumbled in certain areas. Roots grew out of these spots and dripped down onto the floor where they still continued to grow. Some were large enough I actually had to climb over them. As the temperature grew warmer, I knew I was nearly there. I remembered my first time coming to this magnificent place. I was terrified of getting lost or finding something that would harm me. I chuckled to myself. "Instead I found a dragon and got led into this whole mess.” I came to the last corner but stopped myself. I heard voices, two of them. Was Sedorn talking to someone? I tried to listen closer.

"I know it's going to be hard on you, but understand that this is what's best for her. Soon enough everything can be settled and you may see her once again.” Sedorn's king-like voice echoed clearly as it bounced off the walls.

A quieter voice spoke by a man replied, "But I miss her too much. Why do you need me to do this? Why not have someone else?” The voice sounded familiar but it was too quiet to judge whose it was.

"You are the only one she trusts. I need you to do this. If you don't want to do it for me, do it for her."

A silence crept about for a bit. "Fine, I'll do it. Just watch her for me. I swear if any harm comes about her I will personally hunt you down and kill you.”

"I understand. I will keep to my promise as long as you do.”

A static noise sounded, covering up the voice a bit more. "And tell Sky, that I love her.” Then a loud pop made me jump and gasp a bit. Darius! He was here! I ran out from around the corner but saw only Sedron behind a wall of fading electricity. Once it cleared, Sedron looked at me, his face somewhat sad.

"Where is Darius? Where did he go?”

"I cannot tell you. But know that he left for a bitter cause. One to keep you and your friends safer.”

"Sedorn...please. Please tell me where he is! I'm begging you.” Without knowing I did so, I dropped to my knees, palms on the ground. The floor was colder than I thought it would be.

"Stand, young one, and I will tell you what I can.” Dragging myself upright, I managed to stand despite the invisible weight that had suddenly appeared on my shoulders. His gaze seemed dimmer than normal and his face showed that he was picking out what to say very carefully. "Darius had left you on my behalf. I need him to do a heavy burden for me, one that risks his life if he slips and ignores his position. I chose him because he is the only one that can pull it off. Please hear me out and understand that none of this is easy for me either. I know the pain that both of you are suffering from being separate. I feel it inside me like a heavy weight.”

"I don't understand, Sedorn. How is that so?”

"All four of you carry a part of my soul inside of you allowing me to feel your feelings and vice-versa. Since it's part of the same soul, it allows you to communicate with you friends by thought, as you have already found out. Also, it allows you to come here freely. It's the only way into this realm.”

"But that doesn't explain why Darius was here. Why can't I see him?”

"Darius needs to focus on his work. Knowing that you're on your way to Excavior's mountain fuels Darius's motivation. He agreed to this to keep you safe from danger.”

"Yes, I can understand that somewhat. But what is he doing? That's what I'm trying to find out.”

"I cannot tell you. We've brought this up before. Be patient. That's all you can be.” I gave up arguing. It was hard to win against someone so godly. "I'm not trying to be unfair. But by powers greater than me, I cannot tell you more information than what I've said.”

"No. It should be me who is sorry. I shouldn't have pushed you.”

"I accept your apology, though your sorrow is great. I know that you worry about him every minuet of the day to the point where you just want to ignore everything else out there. Kilian and Kristy need you. You are their leader and they want you to be happy. However, they feel bad that they can't cheer you up. Self moral is low with your group. That is why I feel myself growing weaker as time endlessly goes on.”

"I didn't know that I was doing that to them.” Now I just felt stupid and selfish for putting my friends down.

"Even if it's all an act, be there for them and things will get better. Even I will improve.”

"Anything to make things right again. I will guard you soul. WE will be the guardians of your soul.”

"Well, go forth Guardians of the Soul and find your destiny!”

His voice continued to echo through my thoughts even as I awoke. Surprisingly, it was still dark out. Judging by the glow on the horizon though, it wasn't going to be dark for much longer. Dawn was only about an hour or so away. I rolled over in my sleeping bag to see Kristy still sleeping soundly. Her thoughts cast shadows onto mine. She was dreaming of riding on one of her prized horses. A midnight black mare that they had named Kireina, Japanese for beautiful. And beautiful she was. When I first went to Kristy's house many years ago, Kireina was just a foal. She'd be out in the fields running around chasing dragonflies that wandered from the lake nearby. A carefree spirit that wouldn't stop at anything that would break her ways in life. In fact, Kireina reminded me of Kristy a lot. Seeing Kristy grow up along side her horse made them perfect for each other. They would enter barrel racing tournaments and never place below fourth. Of course everyone there would praise Kristy on how beautifully they performed. Kristy would always reply that it wasn't her that was winning. Kireina was the true champion. It was only rules that required Kristy to be on her back. As I watched Kristy, a smile of satisfaction creased its way across her face as they won yet again.

"She really does love her horse, doesn't she?" Kilian walked over to the smoldering fire and placed a few more pieces of wood onto it.

"I can't say that I blame her. Kireina is like a sister to her. They literally grew up together in more ways than one."

"Ya, I know. I feel sorry that Kireina can't compete any more. She was a true champ out there." I reflected back on last year. Kristy came to school one day in absolute tears. Apparently, Kireina decided to jump the wooden fence and ran all the way to the main road where she was hit by a truck. The driver, distracted by an incoming text, didn't see her. Luckily, Kireina only suffered a broken leg and a few broken ribs. There was enough damage done, though, that she had to be retired from barrel racing. She still lives out on Kristy's ranch were she trots amongst the other horses. In fact, the last I heard, they were actually trying to get her to breed with another star of theirs. But who knows, maybe luck will finally rub off on them. Kristy's dream faded off at last and she returned to a normal sleep.

"So what did you do all night Kilian?"

"Not much really. I watched the fire most of the night. I'm not sure what this wood has in it, but it seems to burn for a really long time. This is the first time I've thrown wood on all night."

"Yes, this world is full of strange things already and we've been here less than twenty-four hours. I can only imagine what's to come."

"Indeed." He sat down between Kristy and me. "I take it Sedorn's not going to break and tell you about Darius. Tough love."

"Reading my thoughts are you." I laughed. "Or was I talking in my sleep?"

He smiled at that one. "No, I was just being nosy. Got bored and wanted to see what was up. I like that name though, Guardians of the Soul. It's catchy. We should keep it."

"Of all the things, that was the only one you’re worried about?" I rolled my eyes in a mocking manor. "You're not concerned that your best friend is out there facing danger trying to protect you from whatever it is that's out there? Just when I finally thought I understood you."

"Guys and girls will never understand each other. That's what makes us different." He pulled out his pocket knife and started to peel what looked like a glowing blue apple.

"Where did you find that?"

"Found it while looking for wood. There's a whole tree full of them not four yards away from were I sit." He pointed back behind him with the blade of the knife. A faint blue light could be seen popping out behind leaves of one nearby tree. "I have no idea if it's edible or not. But I guess we'll find out." He bit into the fruit's blue skin. It was a small bite. He chewed it and was giving it some thought. Once he swallowed, he looked at me. "Not bad. It's a tad bit sweeter than what I was hoping for, but it will have to do."

"What if it's poisonous?"

"I don't taste anything that resembles toxin. I'll wait a bit for any reactions though." He put the fruit down beside him and looked over at Kristy as she started to stir. She sat up hesitantly. Once upright, she looked at Kilian, then at me.

"What are you two talking about? All I heard was something about poison and that was enough to wake me up." I explained the fact that Kilian was eating the foreign fruit. She didn't like that. With a quick glare, she started scorning him. "And what if that ends up killing you? There's no hospital here and you're not leaving me that soon."

Kilian came back with, "And what if I just discovered the most satisfying, healthiest fruit ever to exist? What if it's just the opposite of poisonous? Then what?" He smiled satisfactorily.

She simply replied, "Just be more careful. That is all I'm asking from you." He smiled and kissed her on the top of her head.

The rest of the morning was spent packing up the little amount of stuff we had. Armor was placed inside the bag until we would think we'd need it. The weapons we decided we should carry, not knowing what sort of things lived here. Kilian, not showing any signs of illness, decided that it would be best to pack some of the mysterious fruits incase they were indeed edible. It would be something to eat at least. Once everything was ready to go, I slung the pack over my shoulders and picked up my sword. "We ready to head out?"

"I am. Kristy, what about you?"

"Yeah, I'm good." She grabbed both of her daggers in one hand and double checked that we had everything. All was set including the fire whose pale ashes were left to smolder. We continued to walk in the same direction that we started the previous day, northeast. Each of us wandered about while keeping eyes out for the beast we decided to call the Devour Demon. I could still remember the eyes of the demon we ran into. Those coal black eyes seemed lifeless and dull, yet so full of evil and remorse. I hoped I would never have to see those eyes again. Terrain started becoming more and more rugged with each passing mile. Cliffs jutted out the sides of hills. "This landscape sure changes pretty quickly doesn't it?"

"Indeed." Just a while ago we were walking in surroundings that reminded me of back home, the more flat ground woods. Now it seemed we were right back in the Ozarks. "You have to remember Kristy, this isn't Earth anymore. Things are going to be different here."

"I know, I know. Believe me, I haven't forgotten that." When the sound of rushing water came into hearing range, we all stopped walking at the same time.

"Do you hear that?" Kilian ran past Kristy and me and kept running until the shrubbery hid him from us. Kristy just shrugged and went to catch up with him. Following her, I eventually found them both standing at the edge of a cliff looking down. About fifty five feet down ran a humongous river, wider than any river I've seen back home.

Kristy stared, wide eyed. "Don't tell me we have to cross this!"

Kilian unleashed his wicked smile. "That's exactly what we're going to do."

"And how do you plan on doing that? It'd be different if we weren't human right now. Then we would just fly across, but that's not happening is it?" Without waiting for an answer she quickly added, "No, it's it?" She looked at me like I would know. I just shrugged my shoulders. I had no idea what he had planned. Kilian's eyes closed in a peaceful rest for a few seconds. Then, without warning he just fell sideways into the canyon. "Kilian!" Kristy and I both jumped to grab him, but we were a second to late. He continued to fall with his eyes still closed and the calmest expression on his face. Did he even know he was falling to what would surely be his death? About halfway down, however, Kilian was suddenly gone only to be replaced by a sapphire colored dragon. As soon as the transformation took place, Kilian opened his eyes and glanced up at us, then down at the waiting current. He folded his wings and took the dive head on. Seconds ticked by slowly as if time had stopped. Both Kristy and I waited on edge, adrenaline pulsing through our veins as we waited to see if he was still alive. What we saw caught us by surprise. When he did finally manage to surface, we realized that Kilian had turned into the more amphibious version of his dragon form. But if he was a dragon, shouldn't Kristy and I be dragons as well? Kilian started swimming to the cliff. A cliff that the river must have carved out over what looked to be a million years. He lunged out the water and flew up towards us
"Come on, I'll get us across.”
"Why couldn't you just fly us across? That would be much easier.” Kristy looked terrified to even think about getting in the water.
Kilian must have caught what her mind was really thinking by the expression on his face, a look of hurt. "Come on Kris, you can trust me. You do trust me, don't you?” That quickly changed her mind. She nodded her head in a not-so-motivated way and walked over to him. Sitting between his massive shoulders, she clung to one of the spikes that he had running down his spine. "Besides, there is something I want to show you two. You'll love it.” And with that, he leapt back down into the water. He folded his fin-like wings over Kristy so that she didn't impact the water with overwhelming force. About every forty seconds Kilian would resurface to let Kristy come up for air, and then they would disappear back under the surface. After about ten minuets or so, Kristy finally stepped up onto the shoreline opposite of me. She waved at me and returned the favor.

Now it was my turn. Once Kilian was back on my side of the river I repeated what Kristy had done and placed myself between his shoulders. However, as he walked back to the edge, his muscle movements caused me to sway side to side. Slightly looking over his shoulder, he placed his thoughts on mine. "You ready?”
With a quick nod, my grip tightened instinctively. Then we were air born in a free fall that made my adrenaline rush. There was no turning back now. The waiting water seemed more treacherous the closer we got to it. But before I could think twice, Kilian had me enclosed in his wing cocoon. Deeply, I inhaled a breath and waited. The actual impact was hardly noticed by me. In fact, I hardly felt anything at all. One moment I was falling, the next we were already underwater. When I opened my eyes, though, I could hardly believe what I saw. Since the water was crystal clear I could see yards in every direction. Right in front of me was a beautiful, life size statue of a serpent that looked to be made of marble or granite. Surrounded by a forest of green kelp, it would hardly be noticeable from the surface. The longer I stared at it the more realistic it became. Where did this come from?

"I don't know. But it's beautiful isn't it? I saw it when I dove under and thought I would show you.”

"It looks so real....” I kept waiting for it to swim off, but it didn't. Solid stone, the statue wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. I felt my lungs start to flame up from the lack of oxygen so I motioned for Kilian to take me up. With quick, fluid movements we reached the surface in no time. Kristy leaped up when she saw us coming.

"Isn't it amazing Sky! I didn't want to take my eyes off of it." She laughed and helped me down from Kilian's back before he turned back into his original dragon form instead of his amphibious form.

"I wonder where it came from. That's my big question." Some mysteries will remain unsolved and this looked to be one of them. The question was dropped as we continued along our unset path. Kilian, still somehow in his now normal dragon form, kept easy pace behind Kristy and I as we continued our conversation about the stone serpent. What about it was so amazing? It was just a slab of stone sitting at the bottom of some old river. Our feet crunched over gravel and rock as we headed for more mountainous terrain. My shins and calves burned from the constant uphill, downhill trekking. Sunlight was brighter here but not as intense as it was back at home. Shielding our eyes with our hands in a salute-like style, we tried our best to keep the light from burning our pupils to the point were we wouldn't be able to see at night. We tried to keep the river to our right, but every once in a while we would lose it behind a mountainside only to find it about an hour later.

"How much longer are we going to walk? It seems as if we've been walking for days." Kristy slipped on a patch of loose rocks but regained her balance in a moment's notice. "I can't take this much longer."

"I don't know what the drafts are like up here, but if they aren't too bad I could attempt to fly us a bit further. It would be somewhat faster” Kilian, who had been walking alongside us the entire time, surely doubted his capabilities a bit. However, flying would get us through these mountains quicker. I turned around to face him. "If you think you're up for it. I'm not going to make you do anything your uncomfortable with."

"I'll test the winds first." And with that, he was off. He went off around a face of one of the peaks. With his mind still connected to ours' we knew exactly what he thought. "It's not too bad." He put a lot of emphasis on that sentence. "The only problem I have is trying to figure out which way the winds blowing around each bend. One moment I'm being pushed along, and then next I have to fight the draft. But it shouldn't be a problem. What do you two think?"

Kristy looked right at me. "Do you think it's safe up there?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "I can't say for sure, but we have to find a place to camp before the sun sets." Looking around us at the rugged terrain proved that it would be impossible to camp through here. "I guess it's worth a try."

"I agree. Kilian, if you're positive that you're okay with this, we'll agree to it."

"I'm on my way back." Swerving back from the way he came, he landed in a flurry of wind and dust that came off the rocks. "All aboard!” Laughing at his own humor, he knelt down to allow us up on his back. I slung the pack over my other shoulder before I made my attempt. Standing on his front foot, I managed to lift myself onto his arm and from there I leapt onto his back. Kristy, who followed my climbing method, sat in the same spot that she was in back at the river. That was fine with me. I decided on a spot behind her. I still had a spike to hold onto in case the wind got a little nasty so I should be fine. Once settled, Kilian spread his wings and lifted himself into the sky. This was indeed a faster way of traveling. It would've been even faster yet if we all would've been dragons, but that wasn't under our control. Was it?

Land seemed to pass us by in a blur as Kilian swiveled around the frost covered peaks. While doing so, he somehow managed to find a draft that pushed him right along, therefore conserving his energy. As we rounded a bend, I felt the air immediately change. It became warmer, fresher, and almost humid like. Kristy, Kilian, and I all looked down. The glacier covered rocks, rubble, and snow had all been replaced by a beautiful field of flowers that sent an aroma rushing around in the wind. "Isn't that just breath taking? I'm really beginning to love this planet. Where else could you find such amazing scenery?" Kristy hugged Kilian's scaly neck as she took in the view below us. A sense of passion radiated through Kilian's mind. He slowly lowered us all to the edge of the field causing an array of dancing petals and pollen to dance around us. The magical sensation caused me to shiver. I could feel the earth below me swarm with energy. I jumped off Kilian's back right after he folded his wings; the delicate grasses silenced my landing.

"That whole scene is going to mess up my allergies. I can feel it already.” As if to confirm that fact, Kilian unleashed a sneeze that caused even more pollen to fly into his face. "Yep.” He continued to follow Kristy as she marveled at the variety of flowers around us. Bright red tulips, teal and white roses, pink and white day lilies, and small purple and yellow daisies; they surrounded us. That small tingly feeling we got when we transformed started within my stomach.
Preparing for it, I held my breath and clenched my teeth so I didn't yell. A few seconds passed and no pain enveloped my mind. Nothing at all. I double checked that it occurred at all. Lifting my hand, there were indeed talons instead of fingers. Well that's good. No more pain. looked over at Kristy who had also transformed as she looked at me. There was puzzlement in her eyes but she was glad that the action had occurred. Kristy seems to like being a dragon more and more each day. laughed to myself in bewilderment. That was not something I would have ever thought a couple of days ago. Miles ahead of the field lay a tropical forest, bigger than that of the one we had teleported to. In fact, it was so big that an entire city, skyscrapers and all, could hide within its concealing canopy. The others had noticed it but continue to enjoy the flowers. When their desire for them had finally been fulfilled, they continued over to me where I stood.

Kristy reached my side and shouldered me to catch my wandering attention. "Do you think we should continue on tonight? It's already getting kind of late.” I shifted my gaze towards the waiting heavens were it was darker than what I had last remembered seeing. Was it already that late?

I looked back towards the forest where it stood looming in the far distance. "No, we can camp here if you want to. In fact, that's probably a wise decision considering we don't know what awaits us inside. Something about this forest just doesn't seem right, but I can't place it.”

She looked at me with a shallow concern, "It could be this planet getting to you. I mean, I don't know how your powers fluctuate but I can only imagine what it must feel like to control the earthen element in a foreign place like this.” I took her words into consideration. She was probably right. I haven't had much experience in using my newly found abilities; none of us really got to. "Come on, let's get something to eat and get a little rest, what do you say?” She motioned with her head back where Kilian was attempting to stack wood for a fire. His claws often got caught in the soft wood and they stuck to his hand. I nodded my head in agreement and walked back towards the makeshift camp.

When Kilian finally got the wood situated he looked at it with a new problem. "Now how are we supposed to light it without Darius? None of us can breathe fire.”

"I may not breathe fire, but I can do this. Let's hope it works.” She placed her head closer to the wood and closed her eyes to look as if she were resting. Sparks started racing up her silver horns. In the space between them, the electricity twisted and connected with bright bursts of power. With a little more concentration, she got one of those sparks to land on the wood were in started smoldering. One of the drier pieces finally caught and soon we had our fire. Without the sun to provide the warmth, the fire felt rather nice. Kristy curled up beside Kilian and quickly fell asleep.

Kilian laughed at a thought that he had. "What's so funny?" shook his head, wanting to keep it to himself. "Come on, you can tell me.”

He considered that for a moment and finally gave in. "I just don't see what she sees in me. Do I really deserve somebody so perfect?”

"What is that suppose to mean?" A hint of acid hid behind those words. He wasn't trying to put himself down, was he?

"Why does she stay with me? Does she see something in me that I don't” He looked at her like he had just met her, even though they've been dating for little over a year. "How do you see me, Sky? Tell me how you view me through your eyes.”

That caught me off guard, but I did my best to answer his random questions. "You're very protective, but not overly done so. You're smart and strong and would do anything for her. You are honest, loyal, and trustworthy and you are more than willing to help anybody no matter the risk. Kristy is very lucky to have you.” My eyes dropped away from his gaze to the ground without my acknowledgment. "I couldn't ever see her with anybody else."

He heaved a strong sigh, his gaze lifting mine from the ground. "Those are strong words, truly. I didn't know you viewed me that way. I always saw myself being that awkward brick wall between your friendship with her. But maybe that's just my mind going crazy.” A chuckling sound could be heard from the back of his throat. "I guess as long as she's happy, I'll be happy as well.” His eyes shifted as he gazed her adoringly. Peacefully, she continued her rest and glimpses of her dream reflected that it was a fine one. Kilian looked up at me where I continued to watch the slowing fire. "You miss him, don't you?”

Without a movement, I spoke just barely above a whisper. "I don't know who you're talking about.”

He cocked his head. "Don't fool yourself Skylar. You know exactly who I'm talking about. Darius.” My head snapped up. The fact that he actually used my real name, and not Sky like everyone else usually does, caught my attention rapidly.

"I take it that you know about us.” I knew sooner or later someone would figure it out considering we get to hear each other’s thoughts every now and then.

"It's not that hard to figure out, even without thoughts. You two were out and about every chance that you got. An example was back when we were at Hurzar's cavern. Both of you went flying together and your passion for him was strong enough I could feel it back where we were.” At least he didn't know about what happened back at the cabin. Relief washed over me. Kilian smirked. "Now I do.” Curse this thought reading ability! "Don't worry, I won't tell Kristy. I know she'd keep teasing you about it and I won't put you through that. Trust me on that one.” One of the logs caused a loud snap pop in the fire, sending sparks into the sky. I watched them dance around until they faded out like small fireflies disappearing into the far distance. The flames warmed my face and made my scales tingle. They reminded me of the kiss Darius had given me. His presence almost seemed like it existed within the flickering flames.
I pressed my mind toward the fire, knowing it was pointless, but I tried anyway in a desperate attempt to call for him. Just before I retreated however, I thought I could hear whispering, defiantly from a male’s voice. I paused, trying to figure out what it was saying but I couldn't make it out. The mumbled pronunciations made no sense as they continued to speak to me for a few seconds before they faded away as if they had never existed. My heart pounded within my chest. “Did you hear that?” My voice sounded panicked as I tried to remember anything that it had said.
“Hear what?” He wasn’t sure if I was kidding or if he should’ve been troubled about something. “There wasn’t anything.”
“Those voices.”
Kilian laughed it off like I was joking. “Nice try. But you’re not going to scare me.” His face tightened out of frustration. I didn’t want things to get weirder than what they already were. This quest alone seemed pretty ridiculous and nobody could argue differently. I tried it again but the fire continued to remain in its lonely silence. “Are you sure that you’re feeling okay? According to your skin color, it appears as if you had seen a ghost.” Holding up my hand, I noticed that is was indeed a paler green, almost a mint color. I took a deep breath to calm myself and to return to my natural color. “Or did you do that on purpose?”
“No,” I answered, “That happened accidentally. But I feel fine now, don’t worry.”
Kilian looked at me with curious eyes. “Can you turn any color, or just a few?”
I shrugged my heavy shoulders. “No idea. Name a color, any color. I’ll see if I can pull it off.”
He pondered for a few heart beats. “Try blue. Like the color of my scales.” I studied one individual scale that rested upon his neck. It was a blue so deep that it almost had green and purple inside it too. They looked as if they made from raw sapphire and danced with shimmers cast on him by the fire. This time I could actually feel the pigment within my own scales intensify as they mimicked Kilian’s scales. He allowed me to view myself through his vision and it took me a moment to realize that I was looking at myself. What gave it away was the fact that this dragon was a bit smaller and more slender in build. I was almost exactly like Kilian in appearance. He just stared in disbelief at how well I was able to mimic him. "Do you know what we should do?" laughed. "You should stay like that and pretend to be me. It'll totally throw Kristy off."
"She'll still know it's me. My thoughts can't change.” I corrected him.
"Then just don't think anything. Draw up a total mind blank, she won't know.”
It was a pretty humorous plan. "Fine. Just this once. I want to see how long I can pull it off before she realizes it's me.” He nodded his head, a sly smile forming his expression. After that, conversation pretty much stopped. I curled up into a ball and folded my wing over myself like a biological blanket. Falling asleep under constellations far different than the ones back home, I heard Kilian put out the fire by summoning a small pool of water to form over the flames which sizzled as they were diminished.

I appeared, not at Sedorn's castle, but somewhere entirely different. In fact, I couldn't see at all. One of the negative things of being a human was we didn't have night vision like dragons have.. My arms waved in front of me to feel for anything I would run into. Something brushed my shoulder and I spun around to feel what it was. It was a wall of hard, rugged stone that was also warm to the touch. The air around me burned my throat, making it feel dry and raspy. Was I surrounded by smoke? I choked for air, my lungs burning. I did the worst thing I could have done out of pure panic. I started running blind, which only used the oxygen fasted. With a flash of light, I was running on all fours but I could suddenly breathe. I gasped like a fish that was finally placed back into water after being on land for far too long. Once the dizziness passed, I tried to figure out was going on. I was obviously a dragon again because I could see a lot better. I was in a tunnel made of what looked like black obsidian stone. A voice was pressed into my mind. "Sky, is that you?”
"Darius! Is that you? Where are you, I don't see you?”
"No, don't worry about me! You have to get out of here, now!” His voice was severely weak but clearly rang with ferocity.
Fear crept along my spine. "Not without you. Tell me where you are.” A mental image flashed through my vision. It was a room only lit by a few torches, but from what I could tell it was some sort of torture room. Chains hung from the wall, bones resting below them. Darius looked up at his hands, which were chained to the stone wall above him. He was held prisoner!
"Please leave Sky. I don't want you to end up like I am. I'll be fine, just go before they find you!” The last thing I saw before the connection was dropped was a being that walked towards him. Like a skeletal zombie made out of hardened lava, it lifted a whip and lashed him across his bare stomach. Pain, searing pain, emitted from where the whip had left a fresh gash which dripped with scarlet red blood. Red dots filled his vision. "Sky.....”
Tear formed in the corners of my eyes and ran down my face until they dripped onto the floor. I spun around and started running, unsure if this was even the right way. But I was running for my life. How did this happen?

Tears still ran down my face when I awoke. Night still darkened the sky and Kristy and Kilian were still asleep, curled up around each other. I stood up silently and whispered to Kilian through his dreams. "I going to go for a short walk and clear my mind for a second, okay?”
Without so much as a flinch, he responded. "Be careful.” I returned to my natural color and shape and walked back out into the flowers which reflected the moonlight on their dewy petals. It was like walking through a bunch of tiny solar systems. Emotions over came me, forcing me to stop by a cliff that looked over the river we were following and gaze up at the lonely heavens above. Darius, where are you? question kept repeating in my head, however it always came back unanswered. One tear fell right onto a flower and caused a tiny solar system to be demolished. Must it always be like that? Everything taken over by grief? collapsed onto the ground, my muscled too shaken to support my weight any longer. Trembling, I tried to stand back up. It took more effort than it ever should have. I swayed a bit, but my balance stayed true. "Please,” cried to the sky, "Please allow us to find Darius before it's too late. I need him more than you can possibly imagine.” The only response I got was an icy cold breeze that seemed to freeze my tears where they were. My head dropped and I trudged back to where I had laid before. I forced my eyes closed and for sleep to come. However, the sun appeared through the trees before it ever happened. But I didn't care. We had to continue on with the journey and the sooner we did that, the better.
While they still slept, I decided to do a quick hunt. I know we needed food, and those apple-like fruits wouldn't fill us up while we were like this. Only a human stomach would appreciate it. I threw my wings down and launched myself into the sky. Hopefully something was edible here. With hawk-like precision, I scanned the land below me searching for any signs of movement. The sun had just finished clearing the horizon, lighting the landscape around me with casts of shadows. About ten minutes passed before something caught my eye. A small herd of animals, resembling deer, crept out of a wooded area. They were about the size of horses and both sexes had antlers; females having a smaller set than the males. Something dangerous stirred inside me as my inner predator revealed itself. The thought of actually killing these beautiful creatures made me sick at first, but survival is survival. There's no more explanation for this action.
Using the clouds as cover, I positioned myself behind the herd to stay out of view. Then I dove and hoped that I could manage to catch at least one. Before I even knew what happened, I pulled open my wings to avoid collision with the ground and swooped over them. The herd scrambled once my shadow passed over them. I had missed. cursed at myself then noticed that something warm was running down my foot. I looked under my belly and realized that within my talons was one of the deer. My back claws had grabbed one around the ribs and now it continued to struggle to stay alive. Okay, so I hadn't missed. The deer tried using it's antlers to shred my leg. Luckily my scales prevented that from happening. I circled back to camp and placed the animal down once I confirmed that it was dead. Now it was time to cook it. Walking into the forest a bit, I grabbed a decent amount of wood. The fire from the previous night still released little wisps of smoke. With a little care, I could get a fire going again.
I placed leaves on first to keep the heat were the smoke escaped from and with slow breathing, I managed to get those to catch fire. But I knew that the leaves wouldn't last very long. Next, I placed on the twigs, which I used to get the embers something to feed off of while I placed more wood on. Once the fire was going, I walked over to the deer. My father went white-tail deer hunting every year with his friends and came home with one every so often. So, when I was little he taught me how to field dress them, even though I never really like the idea of it. Now I was thankful that he did. Within minutes, and with the help of my razor sharp talons, I had the whole thing ready to be cooked over the fire.
While the meat cooked, Kilian woke up sniffing the air. "What's that smell? It's making me hungry.” His eyes opened and saw me rotating the meat. "Oh, that explains it. What is it?” I told him the story of the entire night, leaving out the part of me crying. "Man, oh man. Darius, what have you gotten yourself into?” We watched the meat with hungry eyes. "Where do you suppose he is?”
I tried answering that question so many times that I was almost tired of hearing it already. "I don't know. But wherever it is, it's not good. That creature I saw, I'm wondering if that wasn't one of the Fire Summons. It's the only thing I can think up of. That would mean he's held captive by Excavior though and we don't know where he is."
"Maybe. It's something to consider at least.” His eyes slid shut. "Hopefully, he'll be alright. I know he's a strong guy, but everyone has their breaking point. It's just a matter of if the Fire Summons, or whatever they are, find it or not.”
"What are you two blabbering about?” Kristy's head slowly levitated itself off the ground.
"Sky says that Darius had been captured.”
"What? Are you serious? By who?”
"We assume Excavior or his army. Either way, Darius is being held captive and they are torturing him, most likely for answers about us.” Kilian was probably right about that. Otherwise they would have already killed him.
"Oh my goodness.” She looked to me. "I'm so sorry Sky.”
"I'm fine....for now. But we should probably get moving soon. I say we head out after we eat. Which...speaking of, food looks to be done.” I rotated it once more to do a final examination. Pleased with the result, I motioned for them to grab some. We each took our share of the tender meat. Sweet and juicy, it fell right off the bone and tickled our taste buds. The meal was the best one that we had for a while. With stomachs full, we prepared to continue our traveling. Kilian took off, following Kristy. I took one last glance around to see that everything was in check and then grabbed the bag between my jaws. Lunging upward, I was glad to finally be on the move again. Ahead of me, both of them slowed down. Letting me catch up perhaps? Once I reached them, they still kept the slow, constant pace. Worry reflected on their faces, making mine the same. “What’s wrong now? Did you forget something?”
Kilian shushed me. “Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Using my sensitive hearing capability, I tried to tune into any sounds that seemed out of place. Birds sang exotic songs down in the patches of canopies below and rivers carved their way through the planets face further in the distance. However, beyond all that came several, steady beating sounds. The birds fell silent the louder it became. Suddenly, creatures resembling small dragons erupted from their hiding spot in the large forest that lay ahead of us. Brown, leathery skin covered their entire body except a section around their neck and skull which had razor sharp scales. The pack raced towards us with amazing speeds. Their thin, but rather long, wings allowed them to fly at unnatural speeds.
“Ladies, I welcome you to your first battle. Prepare yourselves.” Kilian was more than ready. In fact, he looked excited to take on the challenge. The first one reached Kilian in a ferocious tackle, knocking him backwards. His strength allowed him to easily regain his balance and to send the creature hurtling towards the ground, wings torn by Kilian’s blood stained talons. Kristy protected herself by electrocuting any that neared her. They would fall with smoke curling behind them due to charred flesh and crash into the field of blood covered flowers below. I grabbed one of the creatures by the neck and held it in a choke hold, my hind legs keeping it from being able to struggle. It tried to scream, but no sound could come out. I whipped my tail around and started beating its chest, hoping to break ribs and maybe puncture a lung or two. Once it quit squirming, I released my hold and allowed it to fall, only to move on to the next one. One by one the creatures were exterminated. When the last one flew towards us, it stopped and watched as its brethren met their doom. Letting loose a dreadful cry, it spun around and disappeared back towards the trees.
We all hovered, trying to regain our oxygen supply. “Well, that was fun.” I panted. “What made those things even think they could take us on?”
“They defiantly outnumbered us three to one. I don’t think they knew how well we could actually fight. When they heard us taking flight, they took their chance. That’s what I assume.”
Kristy looked concerned and deep and thought. “You don’t think those were part of Excavior’s army, do you?”
It was possible. Hurzar said that Excavior had a variety of creatures that served under his name. Where these one of them? “Maybe. It would be good to keep that in mind, however.”
“Hopefully, because then I wouldn’t be so worried about how strong they are. I could take those things on all day.”
“There were only twelve, maybe thirteen. I lost count. But who is to say there won’t be hundreds next time? One of them did escape. It could send for reinforcements.”
“Kristy, they’re just stupid animals that attacked us; probably because we entered their territory or something. Let’s not jump to conclusions.” He whipped around and left Kristy and I awestruck by his sudden attitude. emitted from all of us as we continued on our way, bothered by many thoughts.
The birds below resumed their caroling, cheering up the dreary mood just slightly. The forest ahead seemed to grow ahead of us as we neared it. The river we have been following flowed along side us, but in the opposite direction. It seemed to be running away from the forest as if warning us not to enter it, to turn and run away instead. We stopped at the roots of one tree that lay on the edge of the forest. We all gazed ever upwards, necks straining, to gaze up at the leaves that were the size of houses. The sun could hardly penetrate through them and what little could, gave the scene an abnormal amount of green hues. As if I weren’t green enough, the light made me look even greener. Kilian appeared teal, and Kristy was lime green. “How weird is this?” She laughed.
Kilian, still ill-tempered, simply stated, “Come on, we must keep moving. The sooner we’re out of here, he better. In the mean while, keep an eye out for those dragon things. I don’t want those things creeping up on us.”
Kristy focused her thoughts on just me and laughed. “Yes drill sergeant!” nearly burst out laughing. Neither of us we’re going to let Kilian bring our moods down anymore.
“Does he act this way often?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Only when his adrenaline starts going. After that fight we just had, it must still be coursing its way through. Once he’s settled down he will relax. You might as well get used to it.”
I wondered if all guys behaved like that. Could anyone be pumped up and not cranky? I even began to question myself. “Do you want to fly through here, or walk for a bit? There’s plenty of room for both.”
Kilian glanced around, examining the world that lay ahead of us. “We’re flying, at least while we can. Just try to stay at a decent level. Go too high and we risk hitting leaves and branches, but if we fly too low we're flying prey for whatever may waiting inside here.”
“There’s still plenty of room to fly in between the two. We’ll be fine.” This time, I took the lead. I didn’t want to stick around any longer if Kilian was going to keep acting that way. After a short sprint, I managed to get off the ground a little. Putting a little more thrust behind each beat of my wings, I was completely airborne within seconds. Since the trees blocked most of the wind that would otherwise help our flight, it was a bit of an effort to stay in the air, but we had to try to manage through it. The plant life around us seemed to swallow us whole as we all disappeared among the giant leaves and branches. This must be what a bird feels like when it flies from treetop to treetop. The thought amused me.

Sky and I flew throughout the ice-wasteland Hurzar considered home. She looked thrilled to be out again. What she did not know was that I was taking her out to speak in private. I knew we would be changing soon, therefore, I knew the other two could not pry in on our conversation from this distance. Feeling bad about doing this to her, I lost my flight concentration and suddenly dropped from the sky. Precious seconds ticked by while I continued to think and a voice pierced its way through mental defenses. “Do not fail me you worthless child. Control yourself!” Completely unaware that I was nearing my death, I struggled to push the invader away. Sky dove towards me, panic written across her beautiful face. That broke my heart. Finally righting myself, I continued to fly to the point I had picked out earlier, a point upon the land that I would tell her good-bye. She cried out, wondering where we were going. Harsh words, not of my own, lashed out at her from in between my teeth telling her to leave, go back to the cave, and forget about my existence.

Leaving her was probably the stupidest thing I have ever done, and that says a lot considering I was reckless most of my life. However, this needed to be done, one way or another. Sky meant everything to me and I would see no harm done to her. She deserves a better fate than the one that was beginning to unfold. Her words are kind and true; she would take a bullet for her friends without hesitation and gave me feelings, that I still do not quite understand, that made me feel stronger. No one else I have ever met could do the same. Chills ran down my spine as I continued to think about her. I shook it off immediately. My mind needed to be clear so I could do this right. Landing on the bone chillingly cold ice cliff, I could feel the transformation starting up. With my mind my own again, I spilled my heart out to her.

“Where are you going to go?” She lay on the brink of tears.

“I can’t tell you. But know this, I love you. I am doing this to save your life. I cannot tell you how or what I am going to do. We will meet again, this I promise.” least that was what I hoped.

“I promise as well then.” I knew she would come to her senses eventually. It would be better, easier, if she forgot about me. I reached out for her and she grabbed my hand. I pulled her in closely, her skin warm and angel soft despite the life sucking wind that rampaged its way around us and tasseled her shimmering brown hair.

“Thank you. You don’t know what this means to me.” It was all I could muster up without doubting myself into saying something stupid. Glistening hazel eyes stared up at me, reflecting my overcautious gaze in return. The reflection was disturbed as she closed her eyes. A single, silver tear soaked into my shirt, and then everything was replaced by a total, fiery darkness.

She was gone, and I was now alone. “You take too long!” demonic voice echoed in the vast nothingness. “Now, come with me and we shall talk things over at last.” if I were in a tunnel, light from far ahead continued to grow brighter until I was swallowed up inside it.

I found myself at Sedorn’s place. One other time I came here and met the great, radiant dragon. He said he had great plans for me, but would not tell me what they were. He did inform me that the night before we were to leave for Crimson would be the last time that I would see everybody for a while. Now was our confrontation. Walking into his chamber where we greeted one another, he began to explain the process.

“After you say your final farewell, you will be transported. You will not know where you are, but know that this is vital to your success. Excavior will meet you, and perhaps maybe even Gregior. There you will side with Excavior and learn more about him. Excavior will never learn to trust somebody who knew the truth of what was really going on. Therefore, you will be doing this blindfolded.”

“Why do you want me to side with Excavior? That’s treachery!”

“Hurzar told you the story of Nador, the only other Rau-Incendiu to exist, am I correct?”

“Yes, he did.” What was he trying to get at?

“Nador did indeed join Excavior for the joy of sharing in the power. If Excavior sees that another Fire Dancer is willing to help him, he will accept you more easily than he would have otherwise.”
“And what ever happened to Nador? Does he still yet live?”

His face grew solemn. “No. When he realized what Excavior was planning, he tried to leave his side. Excavior didn’t take to kindly to that and ordered Gregior to have him slain on sight.”

“So it’s just Excavior and Gregior that I have to worry about?”

“Yes. Try to fit in and gain their trust. Only then can we get some background information.”

“So to sum everything up, I’m going to be a spy for you?”

“Not just for me, but for your friends as well. They need all the help they can get. And when the time is right, you may rejoin them and fight by their side.” I was unsure if this would work, but I had to do it, for Sky. Sedorn’s head picked up as he was listening to something very closely down the halls. However, he continued speaking. "I know it's going to be hard on you, but understand that this is what's best for her. Soon enough everything can be settled and you may see her once again.”

"But I’ll miss her too much.”

"You are the only one she trusts. I need you to do this. If you don't want to do it for me, do it for her.”

"Fine, I'll do it. Just watch her for me. I swear if any harm comes about her I will personally hunt you down and kill you.” At least try my best to. I kept that thought to myself, not wanting to show that I had lowered my pride.

"I understand. I will keep to my promise as long as you do.” He released his hold on my conscious and I faded away again.
The fire within me burned like acid, red blotches inside my vision grew with the pain, and my mind felt as though dozens of needles were pricking at it. Was this what it felt like to die? I always thought it would be more peaceful as well as reassuring, letting me know that everything would be okay.

“No you fool. You are surely not dying, even if you wish you were. Wake and save me a great deal of time, for my patience is wearing thin enough.” On that note, my eyes began to flicker open. Pain still weakened my body, making every movement a treacherous struggle. “That’s it mortal. Behold your new surroundings and let a new fear strike your helpless soul.” A dim red light barely let me view where I was. Two torches mounted on stonewall were what was providing the light. A barred metal door big enough for giants to fit through lay ahead of me. I tried to move and realized that I could not. I was chained against one of the cold stonewalls to the point where I was immobilized. Great, just great. I glanced around one more time to confirm what I had viewed. Where was I? Moreover, why am I chained up like a prisoner? Rage consumed me. I deserved better than this! Jerking my arms, hoping to free the chains from the wall, I grew sore very quickly. They dropped back down to my side, unwilling to listen to me anymore.

A sinister laugh echoed throughout the room. “Just give up already. For you, escape is impossible.”

“Who’s there? Show yourself you coward! Face me and see if you are truly as evil as you think you are.” The doors flung open and slammed against the walls; rubble fell to the ground in tiny grains of dust. A dragon, as large as Sedorn, stood in the doorway. Metal armor caught the firelight, making it shine as he continued to walk towards me.

Once he was up in my face he whispered, “Oh? Is that right? You have a lot of courage coming here. I admire that.” He looked over at the corner beside me where my sword lay on the ground. A sly smirk and a quick chuckle later he looked back over at me. “Fancy weapon for one so weak. How did you come upon it?”

I yelled at the top of my lungs, my face turning red because of the fury. “I’m not weak!” He looked at me with surprise. Eyes like that of liquid mercury stared at me threateningly and I tried to calm myself. I was not going to get his trust like this. “The sword was given to me by my friends.” It was not a lie and I figured it was better if he did not know that I knew Sedorn.

“Is that right? The swords made of Yuaris metal if I am not mistaken, very rare indeed. Where did they obtain it?”

“I don’t know. What I do know is that it works well for me and it’s deadly when used properly.” He seemed to juggle what I had said and put it into consideration.

“Have you ever used it?”

My tone remained even. “I’ve swung it a couple of times to get the feel for it. Other than that, no I haven’t.”

“What a shame. Swords like these are meant for killing, especially when given to such fine warriors.” He studied me with lingering eyes. Mostly around my arms and neck. I suddenly felt very exposed. “Indeed, you have fine muscle atonement. Arms that would carry a sword well and legs that looked as though you have climbed many mountains. A strong neck signifies that you speak truly and nobly. Overall, a fine young soldier.” Like a shepherd raising his herd, he examined me for my benefits...and flaws. “You’re hands are a bit flimsy, but that can be fixed quite easily with a few exercises. However, your attitude isn’t under my control.” A growl so deep within his chest also released a plume of smoke from his nostrils. “You’re going to have to fix that on your own. Am I understood?”

My eyebrows fixed together as I glared into his endless eyes. “Yes, sir.” Venom leaked within those words, but I could not help it. This was not a soul that I wanted to bow down to.

“Very good.” He turned to walk away but stopped before he reached the doors. “Gregior will see you in a moment. Try not to do anything too stupid while you’re alone. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.” With a bitter laugh, he finally disappeared and the metal doors slammed back into place.

Curses and swears spilled from my mouth. And I was to remain here until Sky and everybody arrived? This is going to be loads of fun. Moments passed by slowly as I stood in the lonely red light. The thick chains that held me in place seemed to grow heavier and they continued to pull at my arms. An eerie silence made every passing second seem twice as long. How was I supposed to remain sane here? The most horrifying thing was not being able to tell how long I had already been here. The room had no windows; therefore, I could not see the sun, making night and day a blur in time that I could not acknowledge. No clocks, no hourglasses...nothing. Now I was yelling at myself for not buying that watch I was going to get two weeks ago. Moreover, I don’t know what ever happened to our phones.

Arguing with myself passed a bit of time. Finally, the doors were pushed open as a dark gray dragon, which I assumed was Gregior, entered the room. Slightly smaller than Excavior, but still slighter taller than me, he walked with a brisk pace over to me. Following him was two of the metallic skeletal creatures, the Fire Summons. Around the bones and under a clear flesh, the body was filled with lava-like fluid. One of them carried a whip over their shoulder, lined with small metal spikes no bigger than wall tacks. Well this is not good. My stomach began to knot up as I realized how serious those spikes would hurt.

“My master claims you to be a strong warrior.” He continued to creep closer. “However, what he claims to be strong and what I claim to be strong is completely different.” He flicked his eyes towards the Summons and jerked his head. Understanding what they were ordered to do, they snapped the whip. The tip of it emitted a loud pop as it was aimed towards me. Missing by a few inches, it cracked the wall beside me.

They are trying to scare me. The question is why. Why were they trying to scare me? For answers or something?
“Let’s see how strong you truly are after they are done with you.” He retreated towards the door. He called over his broad shoulders, “You two know what to do.” The Summon closest to me gave me an evil grin, letting me know that it enjoyed having permission to torture me.
Before they released the whip, thoughts raced through my mind. Skylar; she would be so disappointed in me. For once, I’m scared. I have never been scared before. Never have I felt so weak and helpless either. Warmth, as though from a fire, gave me a small sense of hope. It was almost as though I could still feel her against me. That was when I noticed that I could actually feel her conscience. I cried out her name, as the first lash was unleashed upon my bare skin, leaving a large gash across my chest. She called out my name and asked where I was. I almost told her, but I did not want her to end up like me. "Please leave Sky. I do not want you to end up as I am. I'll be fine, just go before they find you!" I felt her presence start to disappear. Another lash went across my stomach. “Sky...” And with that, she was gone again. Pain throbbed through my body as I tried to endure the endless lashings.

Wind racked the canopy in a flurry of motion. The results were a dance of shadows that played across the ground. We've been flying for a couple of hours now and since then the wind started to pick up. Even though the tress guarded us from most of the damage, flying still felt unstable. "I believe a storm is moving in, a huge one!” The wind made anything hard to hear, making Kristy's thoughts no more than a shadowed voice.

"How bad?” He tilted as gusts threw him slightly sideways.

With our thoughts still connected, I could tell that Kristy's spine tingled with energy. "I can feel the electricity already pulsing through the clouds. It's not going to be pretty.”

I strained my energy outwards to sense what my surroundings felt like. A few of the smaller trees bent over due to the storm's ferocity like they were no more than mere branches. Animals hid in they're dens, ready to wait it out. The question was how long the storm would be. Without any success, I tried to glance upwards to see the sky's condition. The only thing I saw that gave me any observation was the lack of light that shone through the leave. Everything was so dark that human eyes would not have been able to see at all except when the lightning flashed through the sky. Dragon's had such detailed vision that I was jealous of them. Not a thing I passed went unnoticed. Veins inside the umbrella-like leaves stood out with a definition that would have gone unacknowledged with vision less delicate. Bark on the skyscraper trees were full of hidden crevasses that acted like small rivers, leading the rainwater gently down the tree itself. I continued to make such observations until Kilain flooded my mind.

“Skylar, hold up a second.” pulled to my left and spun around to face them. I hadn't realized how far ahead I was of them. They were struggling to stay in flight several yards back. Both of them were buffeted by quick bursts of wind that gusted upward from further down below were wind had slipped around the trunks. Why don't I have problems flying like they do? Now that I was stopped I could feel the wind's tormenting pressure. Nearly sweeping me up, I quickly counteracted the force with a flap to steady myself. “Sorry,” He said catching up, “I just didn't want you getting too far ahead in case we decide to walk.” A gust pushed him into Kristy who nearly tumbled to the ground.

“How do you fly so quickly in this wind?” She gave me a look of obvious questioning.

“I don't know. I haven't had any problems flying, but staying still like this I do. Other than that, I don't really have answers to that.”

Kilian looked down at the ground for a second, then heaved a sigh. “Do you two just want to walk for a little bit?”

“That sounds better than flying, that's for sure.” Kristy looked at me for my answer.

To answer her, I nodded. “Sure, that’s fine with me.” Each of us tucked in our wings and plummeted towards the forest floor. Our limbs heaved a sigh of reliefe as the ground took away all the pressure.The ground was so thick with moss that it felt like we were walking on sponge cake.

Kristy realized this instantly after I did. “Oh how soft. This should be a comfortable walk.” She would put pressure on a section of moss and lift up her paw. Where she had placed it, the moss left a perfect indentation of her track. I didn’t want to ruin Kristy’s excitment by telling her that moss can also cover up giant holes or gaps in the ground. We would have to tred carefully in order to avoid falling or tripping on one of those spots. Also, the moss preserved our tracks. That was most definatly not a good thing. That would make easy to follow for anyone trying to find us. Not good if you were being threatend by an entire army of foul creatures.

Kilian looked up at the flashing sky; a concerened look of his face. “Quiet guys. Just for a second.” Kristy and I both froze in place. The sky, barely visible through the towering trees, appeared normal. Flashes of lightning lit up the sky, thunder made the air tremble, and rain pelted the ground. There was nothing out of the ordinary.

“What is it?” Kristy whispered to him.

He continued to gaze ever upwards. “Nothing. It must have been my imagination.” Something was still bothering him, but he appeared to let it go. He glanced back at us for a few seconds. “Let’s keep moving. I don’t want to be around here much longer.” And with a quick step, he resumed the walk that he wanted to take instead of flying. Personally, I could have kept flying and perhaps scouted the area for what ever was bother Kilian. However, nothing seemed off key to me. Maybe he was just threatened by the storm and that was making him overly cautious.
I didn’t want to take the chanse. “ I’m going to go scout ahead. You two go on without me for a bit. I’ll return within ten to twenty minutes, give or take what resistance I’ll have against the storm.”
“Becareful Sky. Something obviously bothered Kilian, something bad. I just don’t want to have to come looking for you. Okay?” I knew what her concerns were and I took them into account. I’d ask her to come along, but if something did happen to me it would most likely affect her too. She was better off with Kilian anyway. He was stronger and more observant than either of us for sure. Therefore, safer to be around than me. Not that I was thinking I was useless. Keen eyesight and supreme hearing were my dominate traits. Along with my camoflauge of course. But this job was one of the kind that ended in unknown results, making it a job easier done by one person only.
I cast my thoughts to both of them. “Keep in touch in case anything tragic should befall me.”
“Of course.” Kristy smiled like she wouldn’t do anything less. With that, I sprinted onto a nearby log where I launched myself off of it and took flight. The cool air didn’t allow me to simple float upwards, instead it kept trying to push me back down. Determined, I heaved myself towards the treetops that never seemed to grow any closer to me. The more I flew, the further away they actually seemed. Dancing my way around branches and leaves made it take twice as long as it normally would to reach the height that I was currently in. Kristy and Kilian were still visible, but only as little colored specks among the constant gree background. A few leaves got in my way, making the pass impossible. However, when torn to pieces by razor-like talons, the way would quickly clear and I would carry on my way. Breaking the tree line, I looked around for anything out of the ordinary. Nothing so far, except for the large amount of lightning that continually struck around me. A funny comment came to my head. “Keep your element under control Kristy and quit trying to kill me already. Give it up.”
She laughed, “It’s out of control. Sorry. Not my problem.”
Then a thought occured to me. “Why can’t you control it? It lightning.”
“I know.” she replyed. “I’ve tryed to stop it, or even calm it down for that matter. But there’s something weird about it. Something foreign to me that I don’t quiet understand. That or I’m just not strong enough to do anything about it.” A silent hum came about me as I thought about what she said. Foreign? What on earth did she mean by that? I continued to fly while I thought about the possible answers to that question. Wind knocked me back and forth. Each time I uprighted myself again. Eyes scanning the terrain in repeating motions, looking for anything un-natural. With every beat of my wings, part of my peripheral vision was blocked by the thin membrane. It actually got quiet annoying, especally when you were trying to look around.
I knew my time was running short and I didn’t like leaving my friends too far behind. I stopped to turn around when something caught my eye. Freezing, I scanned the area in which my attention was caught. Was it my wing perhaps that I had seen? Just before continued on, a gleam of silver shone below the trees slightly to my right side. Recklessly, I cast my thoughts downward to see if it was any kind of animal. “Why hello. I wasn’t expecting to see you!” Charging out of the branches was a monserous, silver scaled dragon larger than I have ever seen. Armor gleamed with the dancing reflections of the lightning. Jaw now agasp, it let loose a roar that could have been mistaken for thunder. I panicked and turned to flee, quickly. There was no way I could take on a dragon that size by myself. I needed Kilian and Kristy with me. NOW! “Aww...don’t run away like that. That just upsets me. Do you want to see me upset?” His voice was now taughting me.
Still fleeing for my life I answered back. “Who are you?! What do you want from me?!”
“Why do you ask that question? You already know my name.” Names raced through my head. Names of friends, family, teachers, famous celebrities, presidents. Panic cast my thoughts in directions that were pointless. “Kristy! Kilian! Where are you?” I cried out to them, but nobody answered. In fact, the only presense I felt was the dragon pursuing me. Not my friends, not the animals that scurried across the ground below me. Nothing. I was completly alone up here. Tears burned my eyes and ran down my face until they freefell from my cheek. What do I do? What do I do?
A softer voice melted over my mind like butter over warm food. The panic vanished, only to be replaced by hope. Darius? “Don’t run! He’ll catch up with you that way.” Turning my head, I seen that he was right. The dragon was no more than twenty meters behind me, as opposed the the fifty or so when I first sighted him. “You’re gong to have to fight him off!”
“What! Are you kidding me?! There’s no way I can do that. There was to be something else I can do.”
“No, there really isn’t. Trust me on this.” If there was anything that Darius was, it was trustful. To deny him that would simply devestate him. Nor did I want to be captured or killed.
Dread weeped over me before I spoke. “This better work.” I swerved around, pushing off the thick atmosphere, facing the dragon head on. Suprise masked the expression of my opponent. I guess he wasn’t expecting that move. Using the same spinning motion, I whipped my tail around and smacked him upside the temple of his skull. The movement had worked as planned. Blood dripped down the end of my spiked tail. Roaring erupted behind me and he too had spun around and was coming at me with a second charge. This time I held my ground. Our heavy bodies impacted each other, driving the wind from my lungs. He definatly had the upperhand when it came to weight, and therefore strength by crushing me.
My claws scratched at him, but his scales were too thick to do any real damage. I tried to bite at his neck while we tummbled around in the sky, but the armor he wore prevented that too. Countless times he managed to draw blood from me by ripping past a scale or two. He ripped out a chunk of flesh from one of my arms, but the pain went unnoticed. I tried over and over again to do something. But nothing seemed to be working. One of his talons ripped down my spine. A startling amount of pain seared around the vicious wound. A cry erupted from within my chest until it became a roar. I can’t take much more of this. He’s too strong.
“Pretend to fall, then when the trees hide you from him, fly straight towards the ground. By the time he gets below the trees, I want you to lie on the ground like you impacted it. Pretend to be dead, and he’ll assume it. Also, hide your thoughts. Think of nothing....absolutly nothing. Do you understand?” Fake death? That was his plan. Another bite to my arm confrimed that was the only chanse that I had. Rolling my eyes back into my skull, I let loose of the muscles that controled my wing movements. Going completly limp, I fell sideways. Evey fiber in my being told me to catch myself before it was too late. Instinct almost took over, but in the long run, I won. Leaves whipped past me and then my eyes snapped open.
Righting myself, I used the momentum and spirled alongside a tree until the ground neared. Colliding with the earth was not my actual intention. Like a parachute, my wings settled me down gently. I plopped on the ground and did my best to appear like I was dead. Controling my breathing movements was the hardest part. My lungs begged for more air than I was allowing them. Denying them, however, they started to burn in frustration. With eyes slightly parted, I could barely see him hovering above me. His head whipped from left to right searching for me on the ground below him. I slammed my eyelids shut and tried to clear my mind of every single thought. Harder than I thought it was, I simpley attempted to focus on my breathing. Then shoved that thought away. Thankfully just in time too. Finding me, he tried to speaking with his thoughts but I had to ingore them. Any movment or thought of mind would trigger the death I was trying to fake.
He dropped to the ground beside me and rolled my limp corpse over. He bought the sceme and snarled in frustration. “What a waste of my time.” Then he laughed, “If these are the warriors Sedorn has sent, then my brother is surely doomed.” Leaving me behind, he launched back throught the trees and disappeared out of sight. I waited a few moments before I even thought about moving. It wasn’t until I realized that I was laying on something that was poking into my back, that I started to move. The bottomless bag was still shouldered on my back, carrying our weapons and armor. “That would have been usefull ten or so minutes ago.” My temper started riseing again and I knew that I needed to control it. It’s not like I could have reached it anyway. I looked around me and knew that there was a good distance between my friends and I. “Now I need to find them.” I reached out with my mind and only caught a whisper of them maybe three miles from here. “Why could I hear them now? Why not earlier?” So many unanswered questions came up then. Knowing I couldn’t answer them myself, I stored them in the back of my mind along with all the other ones I had from earlier. I looked around for any sign of the silver, armored dragon. None existed, so I carried on my way.
Kristy and Kilian’s thoughts became louder with each passing mile that I sprinted. Their thoughts also reflected that they had turned back into their human forms. Mud packed my hands and feet to the point that running required twice the amount of energy. Leaping over logs and rocks the size of rhinos, determination kept me going. When finally close enough, I could understand what they were thinking. I froze in place. It wasn’t just Kristy and Kilian. It was also the dragon who had chased me.
“Please....please just let her go! I beg you.” Kilian begged the dragon.
“Kilian, just stay with Skylar. I’ll be fine. I just don’t want you to get hurt!” Kristy, pinned against one of the trees, was being threatend by the dragon. Kilian, helpless in his human form, could do nothing about it. She tried desperatly to keep Kilian safer than what he was getting himself into. Claiming that she would be fine, she knew it was a lie. Hopefully a lie that would keep him safe.
“No! I will not let her go! And for your information, your friend in already dead. I killed her about ten minuets ago.” He bragged about what he thinks had happened and a wicked smile smeared it’s way across his scaley face. Dropping to his knees, Kilian knew he was defeated. “As for you, little princess,” his piercing eyes turned back to Kristy, “ you will be taken back to Excavior. I’m sure he could do something useful with you.” Wrapping his hand around her, he took off. Kristy cried out for help, her voice fading into the distance. Kilian pounded the ground with one simple punch, rage covering his face with red fury. His chest heaved as he wept for his lost love. I waited for a few seconds before I emerged from behind the ferns I hid in.
He spun around, ready to attack anything within range. Arm still raised, he saw it was me. “Sky?!” He dropped his hand. “I thought he said you were dead!” Then he glared at me while he threw his hands out to his sides. “Why didn’t you help me stop him!?”
“He’s too strong. I had already challenged him before.” Then Kilian noticed the wounds covering my arms and torso. What he couldn’t see was the massive scratch that burned down my back.
“Did you ever think we could over power him together?”
“Kilian, you’re in human form! What good will that do?” His his jaws clacked together as he clamped them shut.
His gaze dropped and sorrow washed the anger off his face. “I should have done better. He took her away from me and I could have stopped him if I hadn’t let my guard down for that one second.” He choked on soft sobs that emitted from his emotions. “Now she’s gone,....forever.”
I didn’t want him to feel like this. Knowing what it felt like to think that you’ve lost someone for all of eternity, I knew his pain. Dairus, however, promised to return. No one knew what was going to happen to Kristy. “We’ll find her, Kilian.” I wrapped a warm wing around his being. “I promise you that. We’ll find her, no matter what may stand in our way.” The words rang out of my head and I knew that they were true. Unsure how or when, but they were words that echoed with a fabualous truth. “I don’t care if we have to fight that dragon again and Excavior as well. Both Kristy and Darius well be safe once we find them.”
“Nador.” I didn’t quite understand why he said that. Kilian looked at me and said it again. “He said his name was Nador.”

“What do you mean you killed her?”

“I saw her on the ground, dead. I did not mean for it to happen! She fell!”

“I thought I was in control here! Not you Nador!”

“I apologize, master Excavior. I truly do. Please hear the words I am saying though. It was like she purposely killed herself.”

“Purposely killed herself? Are you listening to the words you are saying?” Excavior ran a hand over his scaly head trying to sooth the massive headache he now had. “We needed her to persuade the young man, Darius, into helping us. Without her, he wouldn’t even consider it.”

“It was your idea to make him think that she was in danger!” Nador quickly clamped his mouth shut as he realized that he had just offended the most powerful being on this planet.

Excavior’s eyes seethed with rage. “And it was your stupidity that got her killed! Besides, we now have the other girl.”

“And a feisty one she is too, master. She clawed and cursed at me the entire way here. I think she actually caused some permanent damage to my wrist here.” Nador pointed to a section on his wrist where the scales were chipped and scratched.

“Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?” Excavior glared at the cowering dragon in front of him. “If you are, then I’m sorely disappointed in you.” Nador’s eyes dropped in shame, along with his ego. Wanting to carry-on with the task, Excavior shooed Nador away. “Go fetch me the young woman.” He paused with a menacing glare, “And try not to kill her too.”

“Your wish is my command, my glorious lord.” Disappearing through the doors at the end of Excavior’s grand hall, he let out a sigh. His lord terrified him. Excavior was a magnificent leader, but his temper was short and easily triggered. Claws clacking on the cold, black marble floor, he headed on his way to the keep. He passed several Summons on his way there and they stared at him with vengeance. Nador knew they served the king, not him. However, they knew that as well and looked at Nador as if he was a pest. Looking up from the grinder, where the Summoner was sharpening his blade, he motioned for Nador to stop. The Summon, examining his blade one last time was satisfied with his work and stopped the grinder. Gripping the blade with terrifying force, he walked towards Nador.

Bubbling sounds came from within the creature’s throat, along with a few clicks. “I’m sorry,” Nador apologized, “I don’t speak your language. You should know that by now.” With a silent hiss, the creature walked away. “I hate those things.” Nador thought to himself. “Why do they have to be so rude?” Then he laughed, “And so ugly?”
Shaking his head and still laughing at his pathetic humor, he continued on his way. Tunnels were everywhere within the volcano and if you did not know your way around, then you would surely get lost within seconds. Nador, remembering his first time here, could imagine what the woman thought of it. Only she was a prisoner, not a guest as he was back then. That would only intensify the fear.

Arriving at the armored door, he spoke the password to the two heavily armed guards. Summons, of course, but they wore armor fit for them, so their lava-like skin did not melt the metal. Lifting their heavy spears, they reluctantly let Nador through. Pushing with his massive shoulder, Nador swung the barred door open. A single ray of sunshine crept through a crevasse within the mountain’s side. The young woman, still chained to the wall, was trying to enjoy the warmth. “Perhaps to relax herself” Nador assumed. Even when the door banged closed she did not wake. Nador cleared his throat, hoping to catch her attention.

“I’m not going to tell you anything. So you might as well leave now.”

“Humph. Did I say I was going to ask you anything?” Nador did not understand why she had to be so difficult. He had just followed orders by capturing her. However, she would not understand, would she?

She opened one eye to confront him in a peaceful way. “Then what do you want with me.”

Nador was barely able to hold his tongue back. “I don’t want anything to do with you. Orders told me to bring you here and I did. Ask that same question to the great lord Excavior and you might get a whole different answer!” Nador stopped himself from going any further than that. “Now, if you would excuse me. I need you to come with me to speak with him.” She did not argue with that, to Nador’s relief. When he undid the cuffs, she quickly went to rub them. Perfect red imprints circled her wrists where the cuffs had rubbed against her skin. He gave her a moment to tend to her wounds. “Come on. We need to get going. Walk ahead of me and the guards will escort you to great hall.” Then he narrowed his vision so that she would know he was serious. “And don’t try to get funny. Guards surround this place along with beasts that you would not stand a chance against.”

“Whatever.” She threw up a hand at Nador’s face. He did not know what that meant in the human language, so he ignored it. There was no point in troubling himself over it.
He thought to himself, “Probably some human thing that means to lead or carry on.” They walked back to the hall in which Excavior ruled the land. The further they walked the more tense the woman became. “It is good that she truly does fear us. Although,” Nador raised an eyebrow, “I do have to admire her courage. Her friend is dead, another now walks the land alone, and the other boy abandoned the group and disappeared. However, if she does not know that Darius now works for Excavior, she will find out soon enough.” The escorts, given permission, could enter and exit the hall without orders. They swung the door open and filed quickly in front of their master. Nador nudged the captive forward with his nose when she stopped to hesitate. “Keep moving. There’s no turning back now.”
Excavior rose to full height at the sight of the beautiful being who cowered in front of him. He always pictured her being more of the average human. Short and dull, with no expression on their face. How is it possible for her to be of the same species? “Well, well, well.” He chuckled. “Why the troubled look, beautiful? I’m not here to hurt you.”
Troubled at what Excavior had just said, she gave him a disgusted look. “Tell me what I’m here for! Now!” Kristy did not want them thinking that she was weak, because she was not. Fear, however, would make that seem true.
Shocked at the sudden demanding force, he was speechless. No human he has seen before was that courageous. “I’m just here to talk. Is that such a problem?” Innocence was not one of Excavior’s lead roles, and she seen right through it. When she did not speak, Excavior sighed. “I greatly apologize for any misconceives you’ve had while here. I told Nador here to treat you with great respect. But he doesn’t like to listen to me apparently.” Nador was hurt that his master would put all the negativity on him. However, he knew, from experiences in the past not to deny the lord’s words for his own good. “Can I offer you a drink? On the other hand, perhaps a bite to eat. You must be ravished from all that commotion earlier.”
“Save all your pleasantries for someone who would actually appreciate it.” She spat. “I know that my friends are alright and that they’ll come to rescue me. So don’t waste your time on me.”
Excavior suddenly became furious. Lunging from the spot on which he stood, he leapt in front of her face. “Do not push me beyond limits in which I do not want to go. You would be wise to remember this from now on.”
“I’m sorry,” she whined sarcastically, “But I’m afraid I’m not going to be here long enough to remember that.” A sly smile spread across her face. Hot air flamed out of Excavior’s nostrils and onto her face as he struggled to contain his flaring temper.
Nador was struggling too, but only to keep from laughing. His hand whipped up to his mouth to hide the smile that came so unexpectedly. However, it was quickly wiped away when his master punched the ground next to the young woman, screaming, “I will not be tolerated like this! Nador,” He turned to his follower, “Take her back to the dungeons. Lock her up tight and make sure no one feed her for two days. Maybe then she’ll learn to cooperate.”
Kristy knew it was going to be a long road ahead of her. When Nador motioned for her to exit back out the doors, she did not resist. Excavior remained where he stood, too frustrated to move. Just before she walked out the door, she turned back to look at him. Only she saw two figures. Excavior, chest still heaving, glared at her. Behind him, though, she saw a gleaming red dragon emerging from the shadows in the back of the room. “Darius?” she whispered to herself. Nador pushed her along and out the door to continue their excruciating journey back to the dungeons.
Once they were out of sight, Excavior sighed again. “She is one tough nut to crack,” he spoke to himself. At least he thought it was himself.
“She’s not usually like that, you know?” He turned his neck to see Darius standing behind him, half hidden in a shadow. “In fact, she’s pretty docile. Tough, but still docile.”

“Still, she should not test my authority. Everyone should know that by now.”

“I couldn’t agree more, my lord. However, it seems she was just standing up for herself. I give her credit for her courage.”

Excavior slid his tongue out from between his jaws and seethed for a moment, then realized that Darius was right. Although, he was not going to admit it. “Send orders to release the Death Cats. It’s about time this whole thing ends.”

“Death Cats, sir?” Excavior had forgotten that Darius was still new to everything around here.

“Bottom level, near the torture room, there’s a hallway that leads to the area near the mountain’s exit. You cannot miss the smell, so follow it. It will lead you towards the cats. They are big, shadowy in color, and full of teeth. Tell the keeper there I want them roaming around the dense forest, near Lake Sato. That is my guess on where they will end up emerging.”

“Right away sir. Your wishes are my command.”
When he too left the room, Excavior thought to himself. “Why does the world try to resist my power, my control? Nobody seems to think my ideas are genius and noteworthy. Why is that? Am I too harsh?” A deep chuckle erupted from his throat. “Too harsh, there’s no such thing. There is control over your land and control over your spectators. That is it. Nothing more from it.” Moving back to his warm spot on the hard volcanic floor, he laid down to rest his stirring mind. “It takes authority to run a proper domain like this one. Authority earned by control.” He slid his weary eyelids shut, “And a bit of harshness.” His mind soon slipped into the oblivion of sleep. The darkness soothed his mind, but it quickly became disrupted. A bright light blinded him and in that blind state, a roar shook his mind. The light began to fade to Excavior’s thanks. In the last light, however, bright turquoise eyes stared right into his soul. Sedorn! Those eyes were too unique to be anyone else’s. Rage returned to his mind as he flung himself awake. “I can’t even sleep without being threatened! Is there anywhere I can get peace of mind?” Nothing came to his mind, so he lay there, struggling to stay awake.
Moments passed and Excavior only became more irritated. Darius entered the doorway with a unique expression on his now human face. It looked to be between a mix of confusion and fear. “Sir,” he spoke quietly, “May I ask you a question?”
“Isn’t that a question right there?” Excavior snapped.
“My apologizes, great lord.” Darius remained there, unsure if he should continue.
“Very well, what question do you have for me?” He picked up his heavy, weary head to look up at Darius.
“Those creatures, plus the Summons, follow your orders, correct?”
“Yes.” Puzzled on where Darius was going, his interest was peaked.
“Not to offend you in any way, but why do they follow you?”
Excavior knew why the young man was curious. Not many beings controlled several creatures at one time. “The Summons are part of a tribe that lived here before anybody else, including me. When I emerged from this planet, they thought of me as a god. They worshipped me, brought me gifts made of pure gold. This armor I’m wearing,” Excavior tilted his head to point out the silvery, gleaming helmet that rested upon him, “This armor is the finest one to ever exist. They made it for me and only then did I realize their smithing capabilities. Therefore, I put them to work. They follow my orders and made the finest weapons and armor for the army I now control.”
“What about the Death Cats?”
“The Death Cats still roam this land freely. Some of them were caught in traps set up to catch scouts from an opposing army, which I am relived to say that they no longer exist. One of my Summons ran to me and announced his find. We brought them both in and studied them. Finding and reveling their potential to kill in the blink of an eye, we decided to put them to use good as well. Somewhat how you humans trained wolves so long ago and now call them dogs. We did the same with the Death Cats.”
Darius took the information in for later use. “Any other things I should look out for?”
Excavior paused for a moment to think. “Well, there is the Devour Demon. Those are nasty brutes, but they are my treasures. Do you know why they are called that?”
“Devour Demons?” Darius shrugged. “Do they eat a lot?”
The lord chuckled at his humor. “I wish they ate a lot. You see, the Devour Demon eats the souls of creatures or people it has killed. The magnificent part about that is they bring that soul to me where I then store it or consume it myself. Therefore I become stronger than I was previously.” He grinned at Darius. “Smart thinking on my part.”
“Is that also why you’ve lived for so many years?”
“Part of it, yes. And the fact that I was born to equal out my brother.” The dark lord unknowingly snarled. “I’m sure you’ve heard of my brother, Sedorn.” Peripheral vision allowed him to see Darius nod. “Born from a star they say. Master of light and lord of godly heavens. Scales that gleam with radiance and eyes that reflect the color of celestial blue.” Excavior gave a chocking sound. “Oh please. What rubbish is that? He is everything that I am not. Except the fact that we’re both dragons, eh?”
Darius, unsure what to say, stood there at let the lord rant. He continued about how Sedorn could not catch a cow if he tried to. Insults were thrown left and right but still Excavior did not stop. It was not until his stomach growled that he stopped his childish fit. “Well, I think it’s about time we head down to the meat hall. Shall we?” Darius followed him like a dark shadow, restraining himself from erupting on the king for speaking of Sedorn in such ways. Therefore, he cleared his mind and pictured the stress flowing through his limbs like roots and transferring it to the ground on which he walked. It seemed to work. Partially.

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