The smell of freshly baked goods permeated Andea’s busy streets. “Wow… that smells amazing…” muttered Sunny, getting a good waft of the buttery scent. “The bakers must have just finished their morning batch,” explained Cress. Sunny ran up to the bakery window, leaving the wolf in the dust. Cress was nearly hit by a passing by cart carrying crops trying to catch up to his young friend. “Do you think they made any sweet bread?” asked the eager fennec fox. “Well, yeah, but don't you think we should try to find that friend of yours?” he responded, nudging her in the direction he wanted her to go. Sunny gasped with joy. “Can we get some? Please?” she begged. Cress looked away for a second and decided. “O-okay, I guess we could...” he responded, opening the wooden door and entering. Sunny zoomed past him, up to the counter, giddy as ever. She pulled out a small pouch from her dress and handed a single coin to the fur at the counter. The wolf shrugged and reached into his pocket to pay for his. He noticed the amount of money he had was significantly less than the amount he had yesterday, but he was used to it by now. The fur at the counter then reached down and handed Cress two pieces of lightly colored bread. Thanking the baker nervously, the wolf dragged Sunny, who was still basking in the buttery scents out of the building. Once they were back in the street, he handed the piece of sweet bread to his small friend, and before he knew it, she had already begun chomping it down. Cress sighed but smiled softly at the happy fox girl chewing her treat. Looking around, the wolf noticed all the passing by faces walking down the street. “H-hey… shouldn’t we get going? I’m getting a bit antsy out here in public..” he muttered nervously. Sunny stopped chewing, closed her eyes, and swallowed. “I’m sorry… It's just that I haven't had anything nice to eat since… since…” she muttered, beginning to tear up. Cress held a paw out with worry. “I-I didn't mean to…” he muttered, disappointed in himself. Now they were both dejected. Cress slowed his breathing and calmed down. “Come on. Let's go find some supplies,” he recommended. Sunny stayed put, still sniffling. Cress sighed. “I'm sorry for making you so unhappy,” he said, repentant. “D-don't be sad. It's not your fault! I just… remembered something, that's all. Cheer up! You got some bread for yourself, too, right?” said Sunny. Cress held up the sweet bread still in its wrapping. He looked down at Sunny, and could only smile at her enduring kindness. The wolf opened his muzzle wide and took a huge bite from the sticky, sweet bread. It was nothing short of delicious.
Walking out of the store with a backpack full of supplies, Cress and Sunny were ready for adventure. Or at least they would be, if they had any sense of direction. “You're telling me that you have no idea where they went?” asked Cress. “No… I’m sorry...” muttered the fennec fox, twiddling her paw fingers. Cress groaned. “I'm never going to be a normal wolf at this rate…” he sighed, putting his head down. Sunny frowned slightly in disapproval. “Let's ask people if they've seen them!” she said, grabbing him by the mane and pushing him into the busy street. “H-hey, wait a minute!” he cried, panicking at his presence out in public. “Umm… have you seen a…” he asked a passing by mouse in a robe, before turning around and whispering to Sunny. “What are your friends, again?” he asked. “A pink cat and an orange folf,” she whispered. He turned back to the slightly startled young mouse and repeated what she had told him. The mouse put a paw up to his muzzle and looked up. “Not as far as I can remember. Sorry about that,” he said, walking away and continuing on his day. Sunny shrugged before rapidly carting Cress to another interrogation victim. “H-have you seen a pink cat and an orange folf around here lately?” he was forced to ask a rather tall collie lady. “Oh, yeah, I saw them, like, a few hours ago,” she responded. “Did you happen to hear where they were going?” asked Sunny, giddy with anticipation. “They said something about the capital, but that’s all I heard,” said the dog. Sunny gasped. “Thank you so much, miss!” she exclaimed. She quickly grabbed the wolf’s paw and began running towards the town gate.
“Did you hear that?” she asked Cress, as they began heading away from the town. “Yeah. The capital, right?” he asked, confirming. “Uh-huh,” responded Sunny. Cress brushed his mane with a paw as the fennec fox stared up at the blue sky. “Now that you mention it, I haven’t been to the capital since I was a kit. Papa used to go there on business trips sometimes, but it’s been so long... This is all so new to me,” she said. The wolf tilted his head. “Where are you from, Sunny?” he asked her. The fox girl looked down, saddened. “I’m from Vele...” she muttered. “Vele? That’s quite a ways away. What brought you and your friends to Andea?” asked Cress. Sunny stopped in the middle of the dirt path and whimpered. The wolf jumped at the sudden stop. “Vele’s... gone…” muttered Sunny. Cress squinted. Gone?” he asked. “A dragon flew in, and... now everyone is gone…” she said, dejected. “That’s horrible!” exclaimed the wolf. “What about your family?” Sunny closed her eyes and shook her head. “My friends and I came here so I would have a safe place to stay...” muttered the fennec fox. Cress frowned. “I had no idea…” he muttered, putting a paw on her shoulder. He looked off into the distance and came to a conclusion. “From here on out, I’m gonna protect you,” stated the wolf, holding a fist to his fluffy chest. “Huh?” asked Sunny, looking up at him. “I’ll make sure you’re safe, no matter where we go. It’s my promise to you,” finished Cress, wrapping his paws around the young girl. Sunny’s sorrows melted away under the comforting embrace of her new friend.
They hiked until about sundown, past Andea’s farms, and into Galde. Reaching a small clearing in the plain, the two yawned and collapsed on the ground, ready to sleep. Sunny stared at the sky for a minute before realizing something. “I-It's almost sundown! What’s gonna happen if you transform?” she asked, panicking. Cress pulled a small glass vial out of his pant pocket. It was filled with a purplish bubbling liquid. “This should knock me out until morning. I’ll still change... but, don’t worry! I’ll be unconscious.” Sunny gasped. “K-knock you out? Is that gonna hurt?” she exclaimed, expressing her worries. “It tastes pretty bitter...but other than that it’s not too bad... Could… could you take care of my body while I’m out?” he said, shaking the vial and uncorking it. “It’s hard to get my paws on this stuff… I only have enough for two nights...” muttered the wolf, before gulping and reluctantly swallowing about half of the nasty herbal tonic. Cress then began to lurch, before yawning and falling over, unconscious. A shiver ran down the fennec fox’s spine as the unconscious Cress gave off a faint black aura before transforming into his shadowy nighttime form. “I-it’s him…” she muttered. Sunny lied down on the ground a good two feet from the creature who had touched her in such a… pervasive manner the night before. “Mister Cress... are you really in there…?” she mumbled, before shaking her head. “Go to sleep, Sunny…” she whispered to herself, before putting her head down and taking her glasses off to go to sleep.
As the folf and cat continued the trek to Landalsta, Pyren hummed a calming tune he had learned from his mother, while Emerald began fretting. “You worrying about Sunny?” he asked her, as she stared off into the distant fields. “I don’t want to...but...I just can’t help it! What if she gets lost? Or hurt? Did we really do the right thing by leaving her there?” she said, turning toward her boyfriend and panicking. “She’ll be alright. I think it was a fine enough idea. Better there than out here with wild monsters on the prowl,” said Pyren. “I guess you’re right...” muttered Emerald. “I should stop worrying. She’s not the same scared little girl I met in Vele. Let’s focus on finding Ark,” she said. The cat ran her paw through Pyren’s soft fur. His face turned red as he smiled. “I really did miss you when you were a plush, Pyren. I was out of my mind earlier. I totally like you better like this,” she told him. “Heh heh, I sure didn’t need to miss you,” he responded, and they both laughed.
The two continued to joke and have fun as they trotted along the dirt path they had taken once before. After several hours, night had begun to descend upon Fir, with the glow of the moon shining above the two partners. Emerald gave a quiet yawn, with her folfy friend placing a paw on her shoulder and snuggling up to her. Unbeknownst to them both… they were being pursued. A small, nimble creature had crept up behind them, and quickly leaped toward Pyren and latched onto his neck. “Alright, Orange Guy, you and Kitty over there better drop everything you’ve got!” it yelled in a rather cute, unmenacing voice. Unbeknownst to it, however, the psychic cat was not too pleased with her boyfriend being held hostage. “Waaaah!” it cried, being lifted off of Pyren’s back and into the air. Held in place by Emerald’s powers, the short, blue bat squirmed and cried out as he struggled to escape. “Lemme go!” he shouted, giving Emerald the most scornful look he could muster. “And why should I do that?” responded Emerald, peeved. The bat’s face changed from a scowl to an awkward smile. Pyren rubbed the area where he had been grabbed. “Ow!” he cried, brushing over a small wound in his shoulder that he hadn’t noticed in the commotion. “He bit me!” exclaimed the folf. The bat gave a nervous laugh at the now extremely ticked off Pyren. “You've got some explaining to do,” she stated, sternly. Scarf fluttering in the wind, the bat sighed. “I’m not sorry or anything. I do what I have to do to get around,” he stated. Emerald tightened her grip. “Okay, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” he exclaimed. The cat smiled and loosened her grip. “I’m a scavenger. I live out here,” he said, a quiet bitterness in his voice. Pyren’s anger died down. “You live here alone? How do you get by like that?” he asked curiously. The bat rolled his eyes. “You saw it yourself,” he said, referring to his attempted robbery. “Still, it’d be easier if she was still around….” muttered the bat. Emerald and Pyren raised an eye. “Nevermind. I’m Shard. Nice to meet you, I guess?” he said sarcastically, expecting punishment. Emerald then ceased glowing put him down. “H-huh?” asked Shard, confused. “Why’d you let me go?” “You don’t seem like such a bad guy,” she explained. The bat’s eyes widened. “You’re... forgiving me?” he said, tilting his head. Pyren smirked. “It’s not like you did anything that bad, anyways...” said Pyren, biting his tongue as he brushed over his bite wound. “Besides…” muttered Emerald, getting closer and lifting the bat off of his feet. “You’re adorable!” exclaimed the cat, taking Shard and hugging him tightly
Once again, Shard was trapped. This time he just sighed and let it happen. Not that he could do anything about it in the first place. Emerald hugged and hugged before giving him one last squeeze and setting the bat back down on the ground. The folf chuckled as his girlfriend spoke up. “Well, we better get going,” she said, beckoning for Pyren. They said their goodbyes and turned to leave. The two were about three steps away before they heard “W-wait!” The now saddened bat looked down at the dirt. “N-nevermind… It's probably best I forget about it,” he said. Emerald stepped up to Shard. “You sure seem awfully lonely out here. Do you wanna come with us?” she offered. Shard sighed again. His cocky attitude was all but gone at this point. “N-no…. I… I don’t want to make the same mistake twice... “ he muttered. Pyren’s face dropped. “Aww, come on! I bet you'd be a great partner!” he exclaimed. The bat shook his head twice and turned to walk away. Before he could go, however, Shard found his wing grabbed and himself dragged back by the folf. “H-hey! What the heck do you think you’re doing!” he yelled, regaining a bit of his snark. “You're coming whether you like it or not!” stated Pyren, smugly. The bat was getting tired of sighing. “Alright, alright... I’ll go with you guys… just put me down! I’m not a toy!” Pyren grinned. “You sure look and sound like one!” he said, jokingly. Shard growled. “I’m probably older than both of you!” he yelled. Pyren leaned his head down to Shard. “Oh yeah? How old are you? 11? 12?” he asked, confidently. “I’m 18!” responded the angry blue bat. Pyren looked over at Emerald, who shrugged, just as bewildered as he was. “Well, it doesn’t matter how old you are, I’ll bet we'll be close friends in no time!” she explained, rubbing his head cheerfully. Shard gave a small groan as the cat petted him.
Ark stared down the black dragon, who had begun circling around him. His bloodthirsty grin exhumed killing intent. Ark quickly dodged to the side as Granz swiped at him viciously with his claws. He retaliated by casting a flurry of frost and flame at Granz. “Igneto latiste vernarum vohrey saht!” he shouted. Ice spikes tore into the grass, fire scorched the earth, yet the black dragon ripped through the magic like it was dust in the wind. “You’ll have to do better than sparks and snowflakes!” he exclaimed, charging at Ark with his claw extended. It was clear he had done this many, many times before. Ark sidestepped the slow punch, which carried Granz forward enough for him to have an opening. A summoned bolt of lightning struck the dragon, singing his hair but not much else. “Damn...” cursed Ark. The grass was ablaze from the lightning, its scarlet flames flickering in the shadow of the mountains. In the corner of his eye, a glimmer came from one of his opponent’s claws. Ark quickly jumped back, avoiding two quick swipes, and ducked to avoid a third. On Granz’s claw was the silver ring, not too much unlike the bangle and pendant before. While he was distracted, Granz managed to gouge the young dragon’s shoulder with a fourth strike. Ark winced in pain as his thick, red blood seeped down his shoulder. Ignoring the pain, Ark used the burning grass to his advantage. “I’m gonna have to steal your fire thing, Pyren,” he said, swirling the fire around Grantz. The torrent of flame grew to become a whirlwind, and then a cyclone. Granz didn’t struggle in the slightest under the pressure of the flames. When he brushed the fire out of his way, however, he was met with a glistening ice spike through the chest. “Gotcha,” retorted Ark, grinning. “Tch,” grunted Granz, pulling the icicle out like a splinter. Unlike him, Ark’s wound had already begun to regenerate. Granz took notice. “How has that wound on your shoulder already healed?” he questioned, holding a claw out. Ark looked to the side. “I don’t know. I’ve always been able to recover from injuries quickly,” he responded. Granz smiled wickedly. “I think that’s a little more than quickly, boy. No matter. Just because you can heal doesn’t mean you can’t feel pain.”
Before he knew it, Ark was on the ground. One swift blow to the head was all it took. Granz then stomped over to the fallen dragon and pressed his claw on his chest. Ark cried out in pain as his ribs were crushed under the weight of his foe. “Why are you really here, boy? Do you fight for justice, as you claim? Or do you seek something else?” he said, cackling. A drop of blood from Granz’s gaping wound dripped onto Ark’s face. Granz then proceeded to crush his victim’s arms. He felt each and every bone splinter, crack, and shatter. Nothing short of agony was what Ark experienced. He lay on the ground, beaten and bloodied, as his body repaired itself, bone by bone. In that brief moment of suffering, he realized what he was really fighting for. “You’re... right. I came here to make up for the fact that I failed… I failed, and I assumed that killing you would make up for that...” he muttered between coughs. “Pitiful. All this talk of ‘innocent lives.’ All this talk about justice. All for nothing. You could never hope to beat me with that pathetic resolve of yours,” said Granz. Ark looked up into the black dragon’s cold yellow eyes. “What makes you different? Why do you fight?” he asked, shaking. “It’s exhilarating. The feeling of battle is like that of no other. To feel your opponent’s power and will clash against your own. To relish in their defeated, despairing face after you strike them down... That is why I fight,” explained Granz The nearly broken young dragon struggled to stand up once more to face his enemy. “The screams of those pitiful furs in that town were music to my ears. I could have been born for no other reason!” exclaimed the black dragon, wiping the dripping blood from his chest. Ark’s eyes reflected the flames standing behind his enemy. His breathing steadied. “I can’t erase my failures. I have to live with them. That much I know. But that doesn’t mean I can’t end this here and now! Someone like you… someone who kills simply for the fun of it… Someone who takes pleasure from murdering innocents…. can’t be allowed to keep on killing! I don't care if I’m strong enough… Sylvi, Sunny, and all the people of Vele…. They’re all counting on me! That's why… That’s why I’ll keep fighting!” exclaimed Ark, spirit rejuvenated.
A torrent of elements overwhelmed Granz. Scorching flames. Freezing cold. Bellowing winds. Crackling lightning. Ark stood with a strong grip on his tome and his claws dug into the ground. “Don’t count me out just yet, Granz! I haven’t even shown you half of what I’m capable of!” he exclaimed. The young dragon was filled with vim and vigor. He had never used this much magic at once. His confidence had been bolstered as he began to put pressure on the black dragon and push him back. Granz was forced to go on the defensive as elemental spell after elemental spell struck him, bruising and battering his scaled body. Ark’s full fury, everything he had in him was coming out in this torrent of fire, ice, and thunder. As he gained the upper hand, as he finally began to push Granz back, a crackling of purple lightning and an intense pain came over the young dragon. Granz’s scowl reverted to his cocky grin as he broke free from the torrent and lunged at Ark. Ark tried to take to the air, but was grabbed by the arm, still paralyzed from the pain. “Ack!” he grunted, as Granz threw him to the ground, as well as knocking his tome away. Granz looked down upon Ark. “Looks like you got a little carried away there. Better be careful, that Reverb bites,” he spat out, condescendingly. Ark got up and brushed the sweat off of his forehead, still recovering. “Reverb?” he asked, body still aching. “Don’t you have any idea where that power you’re borrowing comes from?” asked Granz. The young dragon slowly crept over to where his tome had fallen, saying nothing to his enemy. The black dragon was wounded, yet he still vastly outclassed him. “When the ancient gods created our world, they left something behind. A Remnant, if you will. We dragons merely channel that power. Using too much of it too fast causes your body to overload with magical energy,” explained Granz. “Why are you telling me all this?” asked Ark. The black dragon smirked. “Ignorance is a terrible thing, especially among us dragons. Better to die as a dragon than as a fur.”
Ark rushed to reclaim his spellbook but was interrupted by the hulking black dragon’s blast of flame. Thinking quickly, the Ark used his wing to generate a gust of wind, distracting Granz in the process. He wasted no expenses and gave the black dragon the hardest punch his weakened arms would let him give. Ark readied to strike him again, but was pushed away by Granz’s massive claw.“Gah… A thorn in my side, just like dear old daddy,” he said, scornfully, wiping a bit of blood from his snout. Although Granz was still more powerful than Ark, it was clear that he had tired. “Just what is it between you two?” questioned Ark. “He’s a fool. An idealist. Bastard thinks he can end all this in one fell swoop. What’s the fun in that?” responded Granz. The black dragon exhaled another blinding burst of flame, with Ark crossing his empty arms in defense. Granz took advantage of this and dashed forward with killing eyes. Bracing himself, Ark locked claws with the larger dragon. “Ngh…” he muttered, as he struggled to hold his obviously stronger opponent. With his drained strength and the wound, coupled with the Reverb, the two dragons were nearly evenly matched. “Whatever Igneus plans to do… I doubt it will work,” said Granz, eyes glancing down to the ring on his claw. Ark took notice. “These relics… The spell in the book… All this death and destruction…. Can he really end it all?” he questioned. Granz took over the situation and threw him into a crumbling ribcage. Ark began to breathe heavily. His arms and claws were bloodied. As he lay in the pile of crushed bone, as Granz began to approach him, as everything in his world began to fall apart… something awoke inside of him. The blood on his claws began to boil... Ark found that he could control it. The blood coating his beaten body coalesced. He held out his palm and it condensed into a sphere. “W-what is this?” he said, shaking. Ark was able to twist and contort the oozing mass of his own blood. He lay in shock as he discovered and explored his new ability. Granz’s demeanor, on the other claw, had shifted. For the first time, he had shown surprise. “I don’t believe it. How did that blacksmith manage to sire….this? How did Igneus manage to sire a blood dragon?” he exclaimed. “A blood dragon? T-that's what I am?” asked Ark, bewildered.
Chapter 8 of Chosen of Fir: Mementos From a Distant Father.