Sunny gasped and sputtered, wheezing with tiredness from fighting for a straight hour. “Mister Cress…” she muttered, as she stood over the unconscious, unwaking wolf. Her paws were alight with a bright flame, contrasting with the dark, deadly sky. The young fox shook with fear, staring her foe down and whimpering. Across from her and her sleeping friend was a snarling lupine beast, as vicious as it was hard to kill. It steadily circled her, smelling out her fear. Without warning, the furry creature, jumping at her with great fury. “Agh!” she grunted, being sliced on the arm with a claw. When it followed up with a second pounce, she panicked and held out her burning paws to protect her. The scared, adrenaline filled fennec opened her eyes to see the massive burns she had managed to inflict. She slowly started to back up while it licked its wounds, still intending to make her a meal. The bestial creature bore its teeth and growled, taking one last lick and approaching Sunny cautiously. In her darkest, direst hour, the grey-furred fist of her friend bashed the monster over the head, rendering it unconscious. “Mister Cress!” cried Sunny, running up to her tensed wolfy friend.
“T-that was really cool!” exclaimed Sunny, wrapping her arms around Cress. “Hehe… Fighting’s not exactly my strong suit, buuut... I couldn’t exactly let that thing hurt you, could I?” he muttered, blushing. “Were you fighting that thing all alone?” he questioned. Sunny looked down, then up at Cress. “Uh huh..” mumbled the fox. “You’re a lot braver than me… I could barely muster up the courage to attack...” he responded, scratching head through his long, spiky hair. “Really? I was terrified… If you listened closely… you could probably hear me whimpering...” she said, shrugging with her cheeks now rosy red. “I guess we’re both nervous wrecks,” noted Cress, chuckling awkwardly. Sunny joined in and rubbed her muzzle against him, nuzzling her friend warmly. The wolf smiled softly and placed his paw on her to comfort her.. Unlike him, her upper body was clothed, but he could still get slight hints of her soft, tan fur. “H-hey, Sunny… do you really trust me?” he asked, nervous as to her answer. “Of course! You and I are best friends now,” she told him. He looked away, and back down to Sunny. “Thanks. I.... didn’t think anyone would ever trust me. Not after they learn about the other me, at least...” he muttered unconfidently. The fennec fox gave the saddened wolf a big hug to cheer him up. He smiled. “Come on. Let’s go find your friends,” he said, calmly. Sunny giggled. “Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll be your friends too, soon enough!” she exclaimed, hopeful for her friend. “I sure hope so… Thanks for sticking up for me, Sunny...” he muttered, beginning to tear up.
After a bit more walking, the cat, bat, and folf finally approached the smoldering ruins of Vele, this time prepared for the grim and morose scenery. Fallen buildings had been burned black, pillagers had taken anything that was worth anything, and survivors long vacated and given shelter. “W-what is this place?” said a shocked Shard. Emerald gritted her teeth. Pyren held a sorrowful expression. “G-guys?” said Shard. Pyren lost his cockiness. “It’s hard, isn’t it, Emerald? To see it all again…” muttered Pyren. She sniffled. “Is this really where we’re heading? Is this the kind of world Ark went into?” she questioned. Shard lowered an eye. “H-hey! First you’re all over me, and now you’re ignoring me? What’s the big deal?” he said, annoyed. The two furs looked solemnly up at the bat who was flapping his wings to gain a bit of extra height in the air. “This town was destroyed and its citizens killed by a black-scaled dragon. One of our friends was the lone survivor,” said Emerald, grim and serious as could be. “A dragon…” muttered Shard, still baffled. He looked down at his blue-colored paws. “Where have I been all these years….?” Pyren’s ear perked up. “What are you talking about?” he asked. Shard panicked. “N-nothing! I was just talking to myself,” he asserted. Just then, a few remaining pillagers spotted them from their spot in a nearby house. “W-we’ve been seen!” exclaimed Pyren. “Seen?” meeped Shard, freaking out. “By who?” asked Emerald. “Looks like thieves,” he explained, reaching back for his sword. “You can help too, right Shard?” said Emerald. Shard gave a nervous expression. “Shard?” she repeated. No response. The bat was paralyzed by fear by the time the cloaked furs had reached them.
Ark let his blood flow unrestrained, forming a long, crimson tendril. It was as red as it was wet and pulsated with his very heartbeat. Granz snarled. “I’d have thought that your kind was long dead,” he scoffed. Ark ignored him, taking interest in experimenting with his newfound power. He lashed his tendril of blood like a whip, shattering a piece of fallen bone with a crack. “It’s incredible… I feel so… powerful!” he exclaimed, excitement swelling through him. The blood dragon retracted his blood tendril back into his veins and stared at his claws, bewildered at his ability. Granz took notice and began to circle Ark. “Does your father know what you are? Does he know what he bore?” he questioned. Ark looked up and returned to his former attitude. “No. Well, maybe. I’ve never met him. My mother said he left right after I was born,” he told Granz. The black dragon’s eyes lit up. “Ah, I get it now… You’re searching for dear old daddy, aren't you?” mocked Granz, snickering. Ark frowned disapprovingly. “What’s it to you?” he exclaimed, getting defensive. The black dragon roared with laughter. “This is perfect! I won’t have to raise a finger!” he laughed. “What the hell are you talking about?” demanded Ark. Granz put on a confident grin. “Either you’ll stop him for me… or you’ll fail and have to witness the death all your furry friends!” he exclaimed, laughing maniacally.
Pyren jumped in front of the vulnerable bat and clashed blades with an battleaxe wielding bandit. “You made a bad move coming here, buddy!” he exclaimed, spitting through his hood. They broke struggle, allowing the bandit following through with a heavy swing. The folf stood his ground and parried the axe with his massive dragon blade, sending the axe out of his the bandit’s paws and into Emerald’s psychic grasp. The cat gave her boyfriend a wink before flinging the heavy blade at another bandit, hitting and throwing him into a pile of fallen timbers. Relishing in the small victory, Emerald found herself tripped by another looter, this one female and wielding a curved sword. She growled menacingly as she was preparing to impale the cat with her sword, but was unexpectedly blocked by a chunk of glowing wood from a resourceful Emerald. Pyren charged at the crook staring his girlfriend down, kicking her down into the dirt and away from his beloved. As the chaos ensued, Shard fell to the ground, landing on his rump. Once again he stared at his paws. His new friends were fighting valiantly while he lay on the ground, losing his mind. “Why… why’d this hafta happen to me...” muttered the bat. He had long forgotten his snarky facade. “I can’t do it… not without her...” Shard was almost in tears. The fighting continued all around him. “Hey, Shard, we could use a little help here!” yelled Pyren, throwing a fireball at the ground as a distraction. Shard barely registered the folf’s words. His anxiety had completely overtaken him. The fretting bat was totally unaware of the bandit who had reclaimed his axe sneaking up on him. By the time he had noticed, it was too late: the axe-wielding thief was mere moments away from slicing him in two. Shard gasped in terror at the sight of the brazen bandit, closing his eyes and squeaking before a foundation stone hit the hooded hoodlum square in the head. Emerald threw more pieces of debris, fending off the approaching looters, while Pyren parried blades and followed up with strikes of his own. Soon enough, all of the bandits were out cold. Pyren and Emerald breathed sighs of relief, fist bumping each other as reward for the hard work. “T-that’s the last of them...” muttered Pyren, out of breath. Almost as if out of nowhere. Emerald was struck by the paw of another cloaked figure, one hidden from all the others, and soon found herself on the ground with a knife to her throat. “C-crap...” she muttered, dumbstruck at the stealthiness of her assailant. The cloaked figure tightened her grip on her blade, but took one look at Emerald and hastily retracted it. “E-Emerald?” exclaimed the figure, bringing a pair of black paws up to her hood and putting it down. Emerald gasped at the sight of the ‘bandit’ “S-Sylvi?” she exclaimed.
“W-what are you doing here?” asked Sylvi, sheathing her weapon embarrassedly.. Emerald started to pick herself up off the ground, but was swiftly offered an apologetic paw from Sylvi. “I should ask you the same question! What were you doing hanging out with a bunch of thugs like these?” she exclaimed, upset that her acquaintance had associated herself with hooligans. Sylvi looked down and tugged on her paw fur nervously. “Well… ever since I forsook my familial duty, I've been on my own,” she told Emerald with an unconfident voice. “They kicked you out?” exclaimed the cat, shocked at the lack of love from her family. Sylvi sighed, but didn’t answer the rhetorical question. “Where's your plush friend and the dragon?” she asked, quietly changing the subject. Emerald then glanced over at the now non-plushified Pyren, who was trying to comfort Shard. “Shard? Shard! Are you doin alright?” The bat was still panicking, head darting from side to side worryingly. “A-are they gone?” he stuttered. Pyren gave the bat a curious look. “Yeah, they’re gone. What the heck came over you?” he asked, rubbing the blue-furred bat on the back. Shard looked down at the ground disappointedly. “I dunno… I guess it was just a memory I didn’t wanna relive,” he explained. After a peek at the cat’s two friends, Sylvi turned back toward Emerald. “He’s back to normal?” she asked her, figuring the folf was the former plush. “Yeah. It was a bit of a pain, but I finally got my boyfriend back,” responded Emerald, giving a sigh of relief, despite it happening days prior. Sylvi’s eyes then darted back to the rubble of the town that had previously been there. “That’s good. I’m glad to see that at least someone’s life is improving. What are you two doing here, anyways? And where’s that dragon who was with you?” she questioned, seemingly curious as to her cat friend’s goings. “That’s just it. Pyren and I are going to the capital to look for him,” responded Emerald. Sylvi raised an eye after hearing what the cat had said. “Landalsta? I’d be careful if I were you,” she said. “Why? Did something happen?” responded Emerald, ears perking up. Pyren had been listening in, but after a little coaxing, Shard joined in, sitting on the folf’s shoulder with a pouty face. “Well, the thing is… I asked where your dragon friend was for a reason. Landalstan forces are preparing to defend the city.”
Ark stood on the cold grass, the pieces aligning in his head. “That spell in the book… all these pieces we’ve been collecting… was all for killing furs?” he muttered with heavy breath. “I’m amazed at your ignorance up to this point. You’ve had this book, and you didn’t know what was going on right under your nose?” said Granz, picking up Ark’s fallen tome. He turned to the page with the hexagram. “A powerful, ancient hex, thought to be lost to history. The bastard figured he could use it to completely eradicate all of our pitiful, furry foes. It’s incredible he could even translate the old texts, given that it’s out of his field. I’d call the man a genius if I didn’t hate his guts as I do...”
Ark’s sudden increase in potential meant nothing in the light of this realization. The world fell away as his vision began to blur and his heart began to beat faster. “You mean… that all this time… my dad was….?” he muttered, bewildered at the evil his father had been planning the whole time. His breathing sped up, his mind raced, and his very being became compromised. How could this happen? His own father couldn’t be like Granz said he was, could he? If so…. what would happen to Pyren and his friends? Before Ark could get a grip on the situation, Granz rammed his black-scaled fist into the young dragon’s stomach, bringing him down in a single blow. “It was a pure stroke of luck that I met you! Once Igneus is out of the picture, the fur army will be easy picking for me! With our soldiers already heading for the capital…. Oh, it’s almost too good to be true!” he laughed, overjoyed. The young dragon collapsed in pain and anguish, while Granz flew off, heading off towards the soon-to-be war front. Ark was powerless to stop him. Even with his newfound strength, he was totally powerless to avenge Sunny.
The day had passed, and once more it was nearing sundown. The light grew ever so oranger in the distance, and Fir’s only sun slowly began its descent. “I still have a bit of my potion left, so we should be safe for another day or so,” noted Cress. Sunny heard him, but was busy staring off into space. “It feels like we have such a long way to go. I don’t know if I could ever catch up to Miss Emerald...” she mumbled, glumly. The lightly colored wolf then edged up beside her. “Don’t worry. l bet we'll find them soon,” he said, comforting her. Sunny gave her wolfy friend a soft smile. “Yeah...” she said, going along with him. The two had finally stopped and settled down for the night. Cress sat down and looked up at the fading sky. “I can't help but wonder if the other me has it just as bad,” he noted, looking up at Sunny. She tilted her head confusedly. “Really? He’s done so many bad things!” she asked. “Yeah, but... He's just like me. Only gets to live half his life. He's probably never even seen the sun, or the sky, or any of it,” Cress continued, rather insightful. Sunny’s mouth opened in surprise. “Now that I think about It, that sounds terrible!” she exclaimed. “I've always wanted to just look up and see the stars…” muttered Cress. The wolf laid back and chuckled. “It’s such a simple thing… but it really is my biggest wish…” Sunny sat down next to him, remembering her night stargazing with Emerald. “M-maybe you and I could go out to look at the stars one day. Y-you know, together?” she told him, blushing a little through a stutter. “I'd give anything for that... For the chance to experience nighttime for the first time with a friend. Maybe someday, Sunny. Maybe someday.” The two friends smiled together and prepared for bed. Cress gulped down the rest of his tonic while Sunny yawned and took off her glasses. This time, however, Sunny snuggled up to the darker, scarier Cress. As the fennec fox ran her paw through the black and grey wolf’s soft fur, she drifted off to sleep, knowing that her friend would keep her safe, no matter what.
In the many hours since Sunny and Cress had woken up and resumed their journey, Sunny realized just how much she had warmed up to him. The sight up ahead, on the other paw, was anything but warm. Fir’s spring evening was cool and calming, but the mood couldn’t be any gloomier as the two approached the scorched town of Vele. “What’s wrong?” asked Cress, noting her sorrowful face. “It’s my first time back...” she said, trying to hold back tears. The wolf scanned the environment, sniffing the air around the wasteland to get a feel. “Just what is this place?” he asked his friend, confused. “This is my home...” she grimly responded, shedding a few tears. Cress gasped. “This is where you lived? This is Vele?” he exclaimed, panicking for a moment, before putting his paw on Sunny’s shoulder. “I really miss my Papa sometimes… I don’t know what to do… I don’t know how to make these feelings go away..” she muttered, pressing her muzzle into Cress’ side. Cress was torn up inside by her story. “Goddess… You really have gone through just as much suffering as I have…” Sunny looked up, trying as hard as she could to cheer up. “Well… I lost my old life, but… I got a new one in return! Miss Emerald has been like a big sister to me, and.. and you and I have done so much together already. I’m sure my papa would be happy for me!” she exclaimed, gripping her paws in confidence. However, just from the corner of her eye, she noticed four figures standing in the rubble-covered town center. “There’s someone here!” she exclaimed, letting go of her friend’s grey-furred chest. “D-do you want to check it out?” asked Cress, unsure of both of their abilities. “Umm… maybe we could get directions?” responded Sunny, joining him in his sentiment. Cress reluctantly followed the fennec fox down to the crumbled town gate Ark had been arrested at. He stuck a paw into his pant pocket and checked his dwindling potion. “We’re cutting it close…” he muttered, looking up at the faint evening sky.
“I’m not exactly sure, but I’m suspecting there are some dragons on their way now,” the badger told Emerald. The cat glanced away, overtaken by another thought. “It all makes sense now… You being hired to kill Ark… Us being stopped at the front gates… The dragon destroying the town… Ark’s drive to go after him….” she muttered. “And what about you? This whole thing is going down and you’re standing around scavenging through burnt-down buildings and trying to rob people?” she exclaimed angrily, darting back up to stare Sylvi in the eyes. “I-it’s not that easy! My parents disowned me! Being all alone like this… What else am I supposed to do?” yelled the badger in response. Emerald put her paw on Sylvi’ shoulder. “My parents couldn’t afford to support a child. They had to get rid of me. I was just like you. All alone. Only younger, and much weaker. I slept in the cold, lived off the land, and made it back to civilization. You’re no different,” she said, consoling her faint friend. Sylvi remained silent. She looked down, and back up again to see her acquaintance eye to eye. “I’m going to head to the city. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life a failure,” she said, finally speaking up. Emerald smiled and looked back at Pyren, who was speaking to Shard. “Find that dragon brother of his, won’t you,” Sylvi told Emerald, smirking and giving her a friendly punch on the shoulder. “Yeah. We’ll be sure to,” responded the cat. Sylvi began to walk off, but after turning around, she said, “Thank you, Emerald. I owe you one.” before making her way out of the ruined town. Pyren hopped up from his position on the ground. “That was Sylvi! What was she doing here?” he questioned. “Just passing through,” said Emerald, grinning and giving the badger a light wave.
The two then turned to stare down at the still shaking bat. “You should have told us you were so afraid of fighting!” explained Emerald, telling him like a concerned parent would. “I-I know… I thought I could fight, but I just couldn’t shake it off...” he muttered, rubbing his head with a wing. “You could have been killed!” she told him. Shard sighed. “I-I’m sorry...” he muttered, looking down at his dark blue shorts. “What was it you were so caught up on?” asked a curious Pyren. The bat shook its head. “N-no! I-I can't involve you with my problems….” he said, getting defensive. Pyren and Emerald looked at each other. “If it was enough to make you this broken mess, then I think you should tell us,” said Emerald, matter-of-factly. “Yeah! Let us help you out!” exclaimed Pyren. Shard looked up at both of them dejectedly. They could tell Shard was really hurt. His brash behavior was covering up a sorrowful, regretful inside. Shard tensed up. “I…..I just can't. I'm not gonna force my problems onto you…” he said. “I should just leave. All I am is a burden. You two are probably better off without me.” Shard gave the two one last sad look and turned to start to fly away. His bat wings gave him little lift, but still allowed him to escape the folf and cat. “W-wait, Shard!” yelled Emerald. “You can't just leave!” yelled Pyren, them both chasing after their bat friend.
Chapter 9 of Chosen of Fir: Mementos From a Distant Father.