The air was still, contrasting with the intense winds of Galde. Although Ark and Pyren approached the edge of the Range, the atmosphere was nothing like that of the Dragon Boneyard Ark had visited prior. After leaving their friends behind, they had made their way to the foot of the mountains. Ark stopped walking suddenly, startling his brother. “What’s up?” asked Pyren, brushing his light yellow underbelly. “There’s something I need tell you, Pyren. Something I didn’t say to everyone else,” responded the dragon, solemnly. The folf put his paws behind his head. “I’m listening…” he said. “The thing is….” muttered Ark, holding up his claw. When he outstretched his claw, the silver ring became visible. “You got the fourth one!” gasped Pyren. “That’s the problem. I shouldn’t have,” stated Ark. The folf tilted his head. “How come?” he asked. Ark hesitated before answering. “I got it… from that black dragon. And what’s worse is that he’s probably on his way to the battlefield as we speak…” he said. Realizing the danger such an event had in store, Pyren gasped. “Then Emerald and the others are going to gonna have to fight him?” he exclaimed. “And if you couldn’t beat him… Wait… If you lost the fight, why didn’t he kill you? And why’d he give you the ring?” continued the folf, beginning to worry. Ark ignored his brother for a moment to look up towards the mountain peaks. From the bottom, Granval Range was quite intimidating. Even if it was his third visit, it was hard to believe that they used to live up there. “I didn’t want to tell everyone because I didn’t want them to panic. I couldn’t, not in good conscience,” he said. “Well, come on then, spit it out!” exclaimed Pyren, getting rather impatient. The dragon only sighed at his avidity. “This whole time… our dad has been playing us for fools,” he said, gripping his claw in anger. “All of this, the relics, everything. It’s all part of some master plan to get rid of you all entirely,” he said, with a heavy voice. “Me?” gasped the orange folf. “No. You all. As in furs. That’s what this is all about. The hexagram in the book is designed to rid the continent of furs.”
“Whaaaat?” screamed Pyren, taken aback by the grim news. Ark exhaled painfully hearing his brother’s reaction. “Why would he want to do that?” exclaimed the folf. Ark’s head hung low in shame. “Mom and I are the exceptions to the rule. Most dragons hate your kind just as much as most of your kind hates them. I’m sorry. I was just as bewildered as you when I figured it all out,” he said. “If it’s really true that he wants to kill us all, then let’s quit the chit chat and put him in his place!” he cried, his veins filling with anger. The young grey dragon sighed and held out a claw. “It’s not that easy… For one, the only way there is through Korvale, which probably isn’t the best place to show your face around,” he explained. Pyren rolled his eyes. “What? I’ve thought all of this through! I don’t see any easy way out!” exclaimed his brother. “Then maybe you should stop thinking and get to doing,” recommended Pyren. After analyzing the situation for a moment, Ark sighed and nodded. “We’ll figure something out when we get there,” he explained, before beckoning for the folf to climb on to his back. The folf’s face lit up with elation. “Now we’re talking!” he shouted, wrapping his orange paws around his brother’s scaled chest. Ark nearly buckled under the weight of his furred brother. “H-hey, easy there! You’re a lot harder to carry than you look!” he shouted. Pyren grinned comically as the grey dragon took wing and began ascending.
Pyren’s sword dangled in its holster on his back as they moved up the mountain, but hadn’t been the only sign of the perilousness of their journey thus far. “I know I said we weren’t going to do this exact thing we’re doing now, but this is an exception. It’s urgent,” explained Ark, slowly flapping his wings as to gain height. “You just didn’t wanna carry me, didn’t you?” asked Pyren, smugly. “You got that right...” grunted Ark, breathing heavily from the weight of the folf. As they got higher and higher, Pyren raised an eye. “So what exactly is our plan, then?” he asked, curious. “I said it already, we’re going to Korvale,” explained the dragon. “I thought you said it wasn’t on the map. How do you know where it is?” Hesitating, Ark told his brother the truth. “It was on the map. Before I fought that black dragon, I went there, searching for clues. And the truth is… I really wanted to stay there,” he said. Pyren’s muzzle hung open. “You wouldn’t abandon Emerald and I, would you?” he asked, worried. Ark remained silent for a few seconds. “... No, I couldn’t do that. Not to my real family.” said the dragon, hesitantly. They were approaching a flattened area, and close by were signs of magical lamplight. “We’re here,” said Ark.
The colossal wall of purple energy flickered, looming in the distance. The true meaning of its menacing presence was yet unknown to Emerald, Sylvi, Sunny, Cress, and Shard. The young fennec fox was walking alongside the bat, who had eased up to her presence since they got to know each other. “Looks like someone’s made a friend,” said Cress, looking down at the smiling fox. “Uh-huh. Shard’s gone through a lot, just like you and me! Can you believe he’s older than us?” said Sunny, lifting the blue bat up by his wings against his will. “What? That little guy? No way. I’m 19,” said the skeptical wolf. Shard chuckled, closing his eyes and rubbing his head. “Guess you got me there. 18,” he said, to Cress’ surprise. At this point, he was used to being picked up without his consent. It was just one of the disadvantages to being small, so he had learned to stop struggling. Sunny tilted her head. “Wait a sec, if you’re 19, how come the other Cress had those weird drinks? My papa always told me furs shouldn’t drink stuff until they’re adults,” she asked, innocently. Cress looked confused. “That’s what he was doing with my body? Sigh. Well, I guess he could do it because the Magistrate in charge of Andea hasn’t ever said anything about a drinking age. They don’t care about us or anything we do. Nothing except taxes that we don’t pay. I dunno about Vele,” he said, brushing his paw against the silver necklace he was wearing.The three continued to talk as they walked, but next to them was another conversation.
“What? No, I can’t take it back!” exclaimed Sylvi. Sighing at her refusal, Emerald tried to smile but ended up rather unconvincing. She then reached into her satchel and pulled out the crimson-colored knife that Sylvi had given up in the days before. “Come on, Sylvi… we’re probably going to have to fight some dragons, and you’re the only one who knows how to use it,” pleaded the cat. The badger gave a sour frown and wagged her short, gray tail nervously. “I can’t. I told myself I’d never use it again. I want to redeem myself with my own power,” explained Sylvi. Emerald sighed once more and gave up, putting the bloodstained blade away. Before she could look up, however, she heard Sunny’s voice. “Dragons!” cried the young girl. Just off the horizon, coming from the darkened mountains, were over a dozen dragons clad in armor. Dragons of all colors, some wielding weapons, some not, all flying in the direction of Landalsta. “What are we gonna do?” asked Shard, worrying. Sylvi remained calm. “General Sentes’ army should be close. If we can meet up with them, then we’ll have backup,” she explained, obviously prepared. “No, we can’t do that! We have to stop the fighting, not join it!” cried Sunny. The badger was speechless. “But… the dragons..” she muttered. “Sunny’s right. There’s got to be more dragons like Ark. They’re people too, just as much as we are. We can’t take sides,” interrupted Emerald. “Umm, guys?” said Shard. The three turned around to see another dragon, coming from a different direction, but heading for the same location. One look and they knew who he was. His black scales had told them everything. “T-that’s the dragon that destroyed Vele!” shouted Emerald. Shard and Cress were equally surprised. Sunny began to quiver in fear for the first time in days. “He’s heading towards the capital! We’ve got to catch up to him!” exclaimed Sylvi, who began running. Emerald, Shard, and Cress nodded and followed, while Sunny came along reluctantly.
Pyren was instructed to cloak himself in the same cloth Ark had when he had been to Vele. “How the tables have turned…” muttered Ark, commenting on his brother’s predicament. They nervously strolled through the dimly lit Korvale, attracting quite a few looks from passing by dragons, but nothing more. “Hey, uh, what are they gonna do to me if they find out if I’m a fur?” asked Pyren in a quiet voice. Ark frowned and turned his head to analyze his surroundings. “Better not think about it,” he said. From the mountainside town he could see the grasslands from above, and further out he could see the capital. To these people, it must have been a humiliating reminder of their defeat. Across the street was a red scaled female dragon standing at a stall, bartering with another dragon. Other than her, the coast was clear. Ark reached down and unlinked his tome, checking the death mark he had so naively believed was a map. Five of the six nodes had gone dark. The only one left led to just up ahead. “If we can make it to the end of the town we can-” Ark was cut off. “That’s a nice spellbook you have there. What kind of magic do you practice? Restoration? Conjuration?” asked a female voice. Looking up, he saw that same red dragon giving him a coy smile. Ark gritted his teeth and glanced over at his brother, who began to panic. She leaned up to Ark, who stuttered and nearly fell backward. “I hope you realize that disguise isn’t going to fool anyone,” she said, keeping her voice down. Ark gasped. “If you want to last any longer here, then follow me,” whispered the red dragon. She ran off in the opposite direction, yelling, “Come on!” at the bewildered brothers. Ark looked down at Pyren and shrugged, before they followed their unlikely new ally.
As Ark and the cloaked Pyren crept past stalls, the bar Ark had visited, and assorted houses and homes, they trailed behind the confident red dragon. “Don’t let your guard down. It’s very likely this could be a trap,” whispered Ark. Pyren shuddered. “Then why don’t we just scram?” he asked. “I don’t want her to call the guards or something! Better to deal with one dragon than ten,” responded Ark. They continued on their way until they reached a rather ordinary-looking cave. “Come in, quick,” demanded the red dragon. Her orders were followed carefully, and the two brothers entered into a house that was not unlike their own childhood home. The walls of the cave were draped in colorful tapestries, adorned with similar symbols as the ones in Ark’s tome. The furniture was carved from rough, mountainous wood, different from the wood used in Andea and Vele. For both Ark and Pyren, this was almost like a trip through memory lane. “You can take off that rag now,” said the red dragon. She walked over to the table and set down her groceries she had gotten from the dragon at the stall before returning her attention to her guests. “Well? What are you waiting for?” she asked, turning back towards the wary brothers. Pyren looked at his brother one more time for confirmation before reluctantly sliding the cloth off of his orange-furred body, revealing himself, bandages and all. Just as he did it, two hazel dragons entered the room from another part of the cave. A male and female, they were about the age of Pyren and were nearly identical. Twins, perhaps. “Hey, Ayli, the toilet’s…clogged….” said the male, stuttering when he saw Pyren. His sister’s muzzle opened up with elation before she rushed over and started feeling his fur. “Wow, another fur! It’s been so long since we’ve seen one!” she exclaimed, rubbing her claws over the folf, weirding him out. “H-hey, quit it, that hurts!” he exclaimed. As Pyren tried to push away his new admirer’s claws, Ark started his interrogation. “What do you mean, ‘another fur?’” he asked. The male dragon looked down at himself and looked back. “Oh, right, I forgot we don’t look like ourselves right now. Ayli, can you dispel your magic?” he asked. The red dragon, Ayli, grinned and held out her claw. As it became encompassed by magical energy, a brilliant flash of light filled the cave. When Pyren took his arm away from his eyes, what he saw bewildered him. Where the two dragons once stood were two hazel, spotted lynxes, looking just as identical as before.
“Whuh…. You’re… furs?” exclaimed the folf. The male lynx smiled eagerly. “Yup. I’m Lyle, and this is my sister, Liza,” he said. His sister nodded, just as giddy as him. “Hi!” she said, waving at the two astonished brothers. How could this be? Furs being raised by a dragon? Ayli then stepped forward to explain. “I took them under my wing after their older sister died when they were little. It’s a long story,” she told the two. The red scaled dragon paused and looked the two brothers over. “I just know furs and Dragons can coexist! We have to! That’s why I wanted to help you two. I had never seen anyone else in our situation before,” finished the red dragon. Pyren and Ark were utterly flabbergasted. Here they were, standing in the home of someone just like them: dragons and furs living together peacefully. They looked at each other before nodding. “If peace is our desired outcome, then we’re in serious trouble. My father…. the blacksmith Igneus… he’s trying to do something terrible,” said Ark. Ayli gasped. “Igneus? You mean THE Igneus? The dragon who single-clawedly supplies the Dragon Army?” she exclaimed. Ark nodded. “Yeah, and he’s gonna kill us all if we can’t stop him!” exclaimed Pyren, angrily. Lyle and Liza put their paws over their mouths. “W-what do you mean… kill us all?” whimpered Liza, grabbing hold of her brother for comfort. Ark stared at the ground. “The giant spell wall outside is his doing. His plan has been to eliminate the furs this whole time,” he explained, solemnly. Ayli wrapped her arms around the lynxes. “I… I don’t know what to say… What can I do to help?” she asked, concerned. Lyle perked up. “What if you use your illusion magic to make him look like a dragon like you did for us?” he asked. Bringing her head up, Ayli saw Pyren dart his head back and forth. “M-me? A dragon? No way!” he exclaimed, eyes widened. Ark took one glance at his little brother and grinned. “That’s perfect. We should be able to make it through the town unscathed with him disguised,” he said. “Got it,” reaffirmed the red dragon. Ayli stepped forward and started to prepare her magic. “W-wait a minute, I never agreed to anything!” cried the folf, before what looked like ripples in reality overtook his body.
The folf-turned-dragon examined the illusion placed around his body. He didn’t feel different, but he sure as hell looked different. Pyren now looked like a young, orange scaled dragon. He even had wings, despite not being able to use them. Ayli only gave him the appearance of a dragon, after all. “T-this is so weird…” muttered the orange dragon, continuing to inspect all the little details that had been sewn into him. “I’ve always wondered what you might look like had you been a dragon. Sometimes I really wish you were,” explained Ark. Pyren brought his head up. “Huh? How come?” he asked. Ark frowned. “I guess I just wish it was a little easier for us to be brothers,” he said, sighing. Reminiscing, Ayli looked down at the cleanly swept stone floor. “I know how you feel. It’s been so hard for me to take care of these two with the worry that they might be found or hurt hanging around my neck wherever I go. My hope is that someday we can all live together without that worry,” she explained. Ark stepped forward and placed a claw on Ayli’s shoulder. “Thanks for everything. It’s been enlightening seeing someone else in our situation,” said Ark. “You never told us your names!” shouted Liza. Ark then gave another quiet laugh. “Oh, right, hehe, I guess we didn’t,” he said, rubbing his black hair. “I’m Pyren, and he’s Ark,” interjected the orange dragon. Ayli nodded and stepped forward. “I don’t know your story, or who you really are, but it looks like we’re depending on you two,” said the red dragon. “We believe in you!” shouted the lynx twins in unison. Pyren dug a fist into his palm. “Right. You can count on us! We’ll be sure to knock some sense into that old man!” he exclaimed. Ayli closed her eyes and smiled. “Be careful out there,” she said. Ark and Pyren said their goodbyes to the odd trio and crept back towards the exit. Ark turned his head to see the three once more. These people were the future of this world. This was what he was fighting for. Stepping out the door with confidence, the young dragon was ready to face his father.
The sound of marching deafened the countryside as the forces led by General Sentes prepared for battle. The heavily armored goat dug his sword into the grass. “We’re in position. The Dragon Army is en route through this area, so it’s going to be your job to cut them off. Gold Battalion will move left, and Silver will move right. The scouting party will be back soon, so we’ll know what we’re up against. Hitting them from both sides with the ballistas will be the key to winning this battle. Any questions?” he shouted. A rather quiet young fur stepped forward. “What’s gonna happen if they get through?” he asked, nervously fiddling with his spear. The old goat grinned. “They won’t. Only thing between them and the capital is us, so like hell they’re getting through. It’s been far too long since our blades have tasted their blood, making this the day we’re going to show those murderous lizards just what the Royal Landalstan Army is made of!” said Sentes, pulling his sword from the dirt and raising it high. The furs cheered and marched onward, already in formation. The scene was set. Massive purple barrier or not, the furs were ready to defend their territory.
“H-hold on, wait for me!” cried Sunny, as Emerald’s party rushed across the windy plains to catch up to Granz. Emerald raised an eye when she saw that he was flying as if he was wounded, like he had a limp. The finer details didn’t matter. The black dragon was getting away. At the cat’s sides were the cursed wolf, Cress, whom she had trusted to protect Sunny, the badger assassin, Sylvi, whom she had come to an understanding after she had tried to kill her, and the reluctant bat, Shard, who had been through so much, but finally summoned the courage to keep moving. Behind her was the adorable fennec fox, Sunny. The bright and optimistic little girl who kept her going through all this. These were her friends, the people she could count on. Ahead, the black dragon began fading from view. Emerald and her party stopped to catch their breath. “We lost him….” muttered Emerald, breathing heavily. Coming up ahead of them, however, was another sight. A small group of 10 or 12 lightly armored furs, marching across the soon to be war-torn Galde.
The most ornately armored, a ram leading from the front, noticed them rather quickly. “Halt, civilians!” he yelled, shooting the group a glare. “S-soldiers?” said Shard, reliving an unpleasant memory. Sylvi glanced at the rest of the platoon, observing their numbers. Sunny instinctively hid behind Cress. Stepping forward, Emerald tried to reason with the captain. “S-sir, there’s an extremely dangerous dragon on his way to the capital right now, and we have to catch up to him! He’s getting away as we speak!” she quickly explained. The ram frowned, not budging an inch. “Sorry, miss, I’m under orders to detain anyone wandering around on the battlefield while we’re out here scouting,” he said, ignoring her pleading. Stepping forward, the sheep’s polished blue plate mail shined in the light of the sun. “I’m going to have to ask you five to relinquish any weapons that you have on your person and move towards the back,” said the ram, dutifully. At least he was respectful about their arrest. While he pointed a hoof towards the back of the crowd, a sudden screeching erupted from the very same direction. “You! You’re that traitorous cat!” it screamed. Emerald’s eyes widened as she dove to the ground before the murderous pangolin’s blade struck her. It was Kyra, although in a rather unimpressive set of armor.
“Lieutenant Kyra, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” exclaimed the captain. The pangolin was seething. “She… she and her impudent little friend… they’re traitors! They sided with the enemy!” she screeched, breathing heavily. Emerald gasped as Cress helped her up off of the grass. “Captain Alme, this cat helped the dragon we had captured in Vele escape!” she said, scowling viciously, digging her brown claws into the dirt. The air was tense. Alme stared down his men and then Emerald’s party. The soldiers’ spears stood still, awaiting orders from their commanding officer. Before they could be given, however, the pangolin lost her patience. “What are you waiting for?” she demanded. Captain Alme shook his head. “These five are military prisoners. If what you say is true, then Sentes is going to have to deal with them, not us,” said the ram, sternly. This was not the answer Kyra was looking for. While she gave the captain a piece of her mind, Shard snuck towards Emerald. “N-now that they’re distracted, shouldn’t we scram?” he asked in a shaky voice. Emerald ignored the bat with the scarf, still astonished. “How…? I thought the tower collapsed onto her…” muttered the cat. She shook her head and heeded her small friend’s advice. “Let’s get out of here while we still can,” she said, gesturing for the others to follow. However, the sound of clashing metal put a damper on any plans of escape. Kyra’s newly reforged sword struck Captain Alme’s spear, pushing his hooves into the dirt. “Gah…” he muttered, trying to fend her off. The other soldiers took action and surrounded the two. “This is treason, Lieutenant! You’ll be answering to the Magistral Court!” grunted the deer, defending against her rapid slashes. Before anyone could stop the fight, Kyra’s blade pierced the captain’s sternum. He winced once, coughed up a bit of blood, and fell to the ground, motionless. Emerald’s party could only watch in terror.
The pangolin raised her voice. “From now on, I’M your commanding officer! If anyone has any questions, your body is going right next to his!” she yelled. Cress tightened his hold on Sunny. “Good grief…. this lady is insane….” he muttered. Sylvi turned to Emerald. “It doesn’t look like there’s an easy way out of here,” she said. “What are we gonna do?” asked Shard, still nervous. Emerald exhaled through her nose. “Cress, take Sunny away from here,” she asked. Sunny gasped, and ran out from behind the gray-furred wolf. “N-no, don’t worry about me! I-I can fight!” she exclaimed, bravely. Emerald shook her head. “I’m not having you go anywhere near that pangolin,” she said, sternly. Cress nodded and put a paw on Sunny’s shoulder. “Come on. Time’s a-ticking,” he said. The fennec in the blue dress hung her head down before having her cream-furred paw grabbed and dragged off by her wolfy friend. Emerald tilted her head back towards the scouting platoon. Kyra’s intimidation had worked. “I’ve had enough of this demotion. Kill the traitors!” she demanded, pointing her sword right at the cat’s lilac-colored forehead.
Sunny’s paws dug into the unpaved road as she squirmed under the grasp of her protector. “Lemme go! I wanna help them!” she cried, not making any headway. Cress remained stalwart, his necklace dangling as he dragged the fennec fox away from the battlegrounds. “I-I’m sorry, Sunny. I don’t want you to get hurt,” he explained in a voice as confident as he could muster. The young fox bit her lip and pulled away, dropping her glasses in the process. While Sunny reached for her copper-colored glasses and Cress reached for her, they both paused when a drop of blood fell from the sky, right in between the two. “Well, well, well, what do we have here?” said a voice that sent chills down the two fur’s spines. Descending from above was the same shadowy-black dragon that they had been chasing before. Up close, he was as large and terrifying as ever, even with the gaping wound in his side. His smile turned to a grunt as he placed a claw over his bloody gash. “Ngh. Looks like the son of that blacksmith did a lot more damage than I’d have liked,” he muttered. Sunny and Cress observed in pure horror as the black dragon approached them. “No matter. I’m still well enough for an appetizer before the real army gets here!” he exclaimed maniacally.
Granz towered over Cress as he protectively stood in front of Sunny. The black-scaled dragon edged ever closer, smiling insanely, like he was ready to rip the two furs apart at any moment. He charged, claws bared, and was met by Cress grabbing them, struggling to keep him away from his beloved little fox. “Gah… I can’t hold him… he’s insanely strong…” he muttered, as he was overpowered by his larger opponent. “Sunny… get away… while you can…” said the wolf. “No! I won’t leave you! This dragon is the one that destroyed my home!” she exclaimed. By then, Granz was done playing. The dragon threw Cress to the side and laughed. “You’re from that pitiful little town? That’s perfect! Now I can finish the job!” he exclaimed, grabbing the paralyzed girl by the neck. “Sunny!” cried Cress, reaching a paw out from his spot in the dirt. “Ngh…” she muttered, squirming in the grasp of the mercenary. Although it looked bleak for Sunny, she had a rather gross idea that might just work. The trapped fox bit her tongue and readied herself before kicking the black dragon right in his bloody wound. “Ack!” he cried, throwing his captive Fur to the ground.
Night began to fall as Cress picked himself up off of the ground. While Granz recoiled from the blow, the wolf held out a paw to his fallen friend. “Are you okay? Does it hurt anywhere?” he asked with a panicked voice. Sunny shrugged, reassuring her friend that she was okay.. “N-no, I’m alright…” she muttered, rubbing her shoulder. “Damn… It’s worse than I thought..” muttered Granz. He brushed it off and got ready to attack. Sunny gasped and jumped out of the way when the black dragon flew up and lunged at the two. Cress gritted his teeth he narrowly dodged the staggeringly fast black-scaled fist, leaving him once more on the grass. The wolf warily looked back at his friend, before letting out a howl and barring his claws. Cress slashed and swiped with his claws, yet missed every strike as the trained killer that was Granz merely stepped out of the way. “I won’t let you hurt my friend!” screamed Cress, balling his fist and striking Granz square in the head. The black dragon took the punch like it was nothing and retaliated, digging his black claw into Cress’ white-furred stomach. Blown back, the wolf fell to a knee, out of breath. “Ngh… Looks like I’ve got no other choice…” he muttered, reaching for the pendant around his neck. “Cress… what are you doing?” asked Sunny, her voice quivering in fear for her friend. “Sunny… if I lose myself, please make sure get me back, okay?” he told her. The fennec girl gasped when Cress lifted the necklace keeping him stable up and off of his neck.
Although the strange looks had subsided, there was no time to waste. The two dragons rushed by the rest of Korvale: the potion brewery, the enchanter, and several more houses, all lit by magical lamps. The town was sparsely populated, as nearly all the male dragons had disappeared. It makes sense. They were flying towards Landalsta clad in armor. “I hope Emerald and the others are alright… I dunno if they’re gonna be able to do much out there” said a worried Pyren, as they approached the edge of town. Ark looked at his draconic brother and sighed. “Emerald’s a pretty good talker, but even with everyone else, I can’t say for sure. The feud between dragons and furs is a bloody one. I don’t know if anyone can break up that kind of fight,” he explained. Pyren looked down, almost defeated. “What I do know is that the continent-wide extermination hex is a much greater threat at the moment. If we can stop the spell before it happens… we might be able to stop the battle. Your friends will only have to hold the two parties off,” noted Ark, hopeful his plan would work. Pyren nodded and brushed back his frills. “My friends? They’re your friends too, Ark. Quit acting like you’re all alone out here!” he exclaimed, playfully hitting his brother on the back. Ark just bit his tongue. “I dunno. Most furs freak out at the sight of dragons,” he muttered, suddenly feeling rather dejected. Hearing this, Pyren stamped his footpaw on the carved stone floor. “Sunny didn’t freak out! Come on, let’s get this over with and you’ll see how much they’ll like you yourself!” he exclaimed. By the time Pyren finished they had reached a small clearing at the end of town, probably carved out for further development. Either way, it was a miracle of technology that the dragons manage to carve out any of Granval at all. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” acknowledged Ark, beckoning for his brother to get on. Pyren smiled. “You know, I wish I could actually USE these wings,” he exclaimed, climbing onto his brother. “She didn’t actually turn you into a dragon, just made you look like one,” explained Ark. He paused for a moment while Pyren got onto his back. “If you want…. I might be able to do that. The magic is there, I’d only have to figure it out,” muttered the dragon. Pyren tilted his head. “Turn me into a dragon? Umm… I dunno… I kinda like being a fur…” said Pyren. “Just a thought,” noted Ark before taking off.
Just one mountain across from the town was a massive lamplit enclave, with stairs and doorways leading in all directions. It was close, but neither was accessible from the other in case of attack. It didn’t matter much, anyway, given that nobody was stupid enough to lead an attack up the mountain, considering the fact their opponents were winged. “That’s it. That’s the Dragon Army headquarters,” said Ark, descending. After helping his brother off of his back, the grey-scaled dragon unlinked the tome he had been entrusted with as a child. In dragon terms, Ark was still a hatchling. Such is natural for a species that lives for over 150 years. But he wasn’t the same as the Ark from back then. He had doubts, yes, but he was determined. The young dragon exhaled through his nose and opened the ancient spellbook, turning to the deadly page that led him here. Pyren brushed up against him for a peek. “He’s close, Pyren. You ready?” asked the grey dragon. “Of course! I’ll be there for you, no matter what, big bro!” exclaimed the orange dragon. Ark nodded, appreciating his brother’s enthusiasm. The forge was up a stairway to the right, which the two dashed up with no hesitation. The enclave that it led to was brightly lit by the blazing forge that occupied it. A pile of misshapen swords sat next to their forger, a grey-scaled and red-underbellied dragon with a large hammer in claw. When Ark and Pyren approached, their presence became known rather quickly. “Who goes there?” demanded the blacksmith, drawing his sword in preparation. Ark glared at the unfamiliar dragon with vitriol. “You don’t recognize your own son?” he asked, knowing instantly who stood before him.. The blacksmith’s eyes widened in astonishment. “Arkaeus?” he exclaimed.
Igneus sheathed his sword and ran ecstatically towards his son, ignoring Pyren in the process. “I don’t believe it…. It’s really you… How did you find this place?” he stuttered, still bewildered at his son’s sudden appearance. Ark’s scowl hadn’t worn off. He unlinked the spellbook from his pants and held up the Extermination Hex, all six nodes now dimmed. Igneus stopped, his mind subtly switching gears. “....It seems the spell is finally complete, then,” he muttered. The grey and red-scaled dragon turned away from his son as he contemplated. By then Ark had had enough. “What the hell is all this? What were these damn things we chased down in order to get here?” he yelled. Pyren gritted his teeth and stood back. Better to not get involved, he thought. Igneus pleaded with his furious son, saddened at his anger after all of these years. “I didn’t make you do anything! I entrusted you with the Tome of Zarath because I wanted you to be safe! I had no idea you would go after the relics that I had placed!” he responded. He certainly meant what he said, but his attempts to calm Ark down were unconvincing. “If you didn’t want me to come after you, maybe you shouldn’t have left us behind,” said Ark, bitter beyond anything he had ever felt. Hanging his head low, the blacksmith placed his claws on his son’s shoulders. “I’m sorry, Ark. I have a duty to my kin…. There was no better way,” he explained. “A duty to your kin? You mean slaughtering thousands, if not ten thousands of innocent furs? That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” screamed Ark, uncaring at the fact his father had used his shorter name. Igneus stepped back. “Y-you’re not…. friendly with them, are you?” he asked, worriedly. The forge had died down from unuse, but it didn’t arouse the attention of the blacksmith. Ark said nothing at his father’s accusation. “I only do what I must! Our future generations are at stake! If we don’t rid ourselves of this problem… the dragon genealogy might disappear outright!” explained Igneus. “And yet, you’re fine with killing all of those who want nothing but to coexist with you!” responded Ark. Pyren couldn’t imagine what Ark was feeling. He hadn’t ever acted this angry. The dragon-disguised folf was scared, and upset, sure, but to empty out this fury onto a father he had never met…. he shuddered. “Coexist? What the hell are you talking about?” asked Igneus, getting suspicious. He squinted, and finally noticed Pyren standing behind his son, as well as the sword he had slung over his back. “Who is this dragon you’ve brought with you?” demanded the blacksmith, pointing a claw. Ark growled at the comment. “He’s my brother!” he retorted.
Chapter 11 of Chosen of Fir: Mementos From a Distant Father.