The site of Galde’s first battle was yet wet with the blood of its combatants, but still managed to be eerie with its faint glow. A full moon hung above everyone, it’s enigmatic presence made obvious by its light. “What are you waiting for, get them, you mongrels!” Kyra screamed at the unmoving soldiers. After the battalion's delayed reaction, the whole scene erupted into chaos. Emerald had expected this to go similar to her encounter in the guard tower at Vele, but a wrench was thrown in that plan when one soldier dashed faster than her eyes could see, raising up his sword to strike Sylvi. “Gah!” she cried out, quickly unsheathing her knives and pinning the blade between them. “T-these guys aren’t amateurs, they know how to use their Signs!” cried Emerald, turning her head from side to side. It made sense, this was the Royal Army, after all. The best of the best should be expected to know as much. “Emerald!” shouted Shard, projecting a blue shield to protect her from a burst of lightning from the paw of another soldier. The cat gasped for air, struggling to get her bearings in the midst of the clash. Paws still electrified, the soldier charged at Emerald with lance held forward, ready to pin her. The cat was quick to dodge, but her psychic powers wouldn’t prevent her from being tripped and flung to the ground, lance pointed at her neck. Sylvi turned toward another soldier and gritted her teeth in anxiousness. Another sword was sent her way, which she quickly parried and dropped, thrusting her knife at a weak spot in the Fur’s armor. Shard, on the other hand, was totally frozen in the midst of the battle. As Emerald was about to be lanced by the soldier, he saw something else in the terrifying scene. “Seles…..?” he muttered, reliving a past nightmare. The bat dropped his wings and put his paws on his head in panic. Emerald quickly rolled over, narrowly avoiding the sharp point of the spear, then used her Sign to snatch a nearby soldier’s weapon right out of their paws. “Never thought I’d end up a swordswoman…” she mumbled, holding the sword telekinetically. While quite a few were able to dodge the levitating blade, several unsuspecting soldiers were struck by its glowing blade. Through Sylvi and Emerald’s work, nearly half of the soldiers had been incapacitated or worse. Shard, however, was still engrossed in his flashback. As the remaining soldiers surrounded the three, Emerald and Sylvi were forced back to back. “Ngh… this doesn’t look good…” said Sylvi, breathing heavily. Emerald was just as tired as her badger acquaintance, and the keeling bat that sat next to them wasn’t doing much better.
On the other side of the battlefield, Cress’ transformation was already underway. The wispy tangles of miasma wrapped their way around his body, their strangle changing him once more into the violent shadowy wolf he once was. “Cress, no!” cried Sunny, snatching the dragon pendant from the ground and running to his side in a vain effort to halt her friend’s terrifying shift. “G-get away from me!” he shouted, flailing in the twilight between his two selves. “Heh. Looks like that wolf isn’t all that he seemed. I should be able to have a good bit of fun with him, then…” muttered Granz, cracking his knuckles and keeping check on his wound. His patience had started to run dry and his lust for Fur blood had only grown. “I’ll rip you limb from limb!” he screeched, stepping forward to put the finishing touches on his appetizer. The fox girl was terrified, sure, but her moral compass gave her no other choice but to stand and protect her friend. “I won’t let you hurt him!” she yelled, igniting her paws. “Stupid girl! Don’t you realize your friend there will kill you too if you get closer?” he told her, grinning with malicious confidence. “No! Cress is my friend! He promised he would protect me, so there’s no way he’d turn on me!” she shouted, continuing to defend her transforming friend by shooting two large rows of fire from her blazing paws. “Gah…” the dragon muttered as he was pushed back by the column of flame. When he took his arm away from his eyes, the wolf standing behind Sunny had completed his metamorphosis. “Damn it… back here again? I swear to the goddess… I’ll tear whoever keeps doing this to fucking pieces if it’s the last thing I do!” screamed Cress, absolutely furious with the situation he had found himself in. Of course, the first thing he laid eyes upon was Granz, in all of his black-scaled glory. “You’re wide open!” yelled Granz, taking wing and baring his claws. Before he could turn the two into mincemeat, however, Cress let out a bloodcurdling howl and dove into the unsuspecting dragon. “Raaaagh!” the wolf screamed, taking one swipe at Granz before being thrown off. “Gah…” muttered the dragon, bringing his claw away from his now bloodily scarred chest. The shadowy wolf was just getting started. “Keep your filthy claws off of her!” he howled, a hint of his former self resurfacing as he charged at the black dragon with the same killing intent.
In his blind rage, the cursed wolf had nearly gone feral as he pounced on the dragon mercenary. Cress used the leverage to his advantage, mercilessly slashing at the dragon’s chest and. showing no signs of even the slightest restraint. His bloodstained claws dug through Granz’ scales, tearing them out one by one as he viciously assaulted the black dragon. “That’s enough!” he yelled, throwing the furious wolf off of him and breathing a massive cone of flame. The surroundings were alight, Sunny had been knocked to the ground, but Cress wasn’t done just yet. The black wolf once again came at his opponent, fangs bared, fists balled. Even weakened, Granz was still putting up the best fight his body could give. The two traded blows, Granz punching Cress, Cress punching Granz, until eventually the fight came to a conclusion. The black dragon blocked his strike, and the wolf was met with a cold-blooded fist to the stomach. Then another. And another. Sunny had just barely awoken when the wicked mercenary’s foot was placed on her ashen friend’s ribs. Granz wiped the blood off of his face. “You put up a better fight then I’d have thought. I’d congratulate you if I wasn’t about to kill you,” he said, crushing the wolf’s ribs. Cress screamed in pain before blacking out from its intensity. “Cress!” yelled Sunny, who charged headfirst through the flames. However, right before the mercenary snuffed out Cress’ life, he turned his head and sniffed. “Aha! They’re finally here! Enough with this distraction, it’s time for the main course!” exclaimed Granz, elated, before taking off in the direction Sunny had come from.
The forge stood still for a moment, silent, save for the crackles of the cooling coals “H-he’s… what? Iris… she had another child?” asked Igneus. Ark gritted his teeth and pointed an open claw at his brother. “A-Ark? What are you doing?” asked the orange dragon, as Ark began to orate a spell. “Nazeh fultena claden nareme solais!” he chanted, releasing the same energy as Ayli had when she dispelled her illusions. The light blinded the now confused Igneus and slowly wiped away the magic covering Pyren’s body. “W-what?” exclaimed the blacksmith, taking his grey-scaled arm away from his face. Once the energy dissipated, Pyren’s true form was revealed. Standing next to Ark was an orange-furred folf with a yellow underbelly and dark orange accents on his paws and tail. Bandages were wrapped around his chest to cover up the broken rib he had gotten while fighting. “Gah, an intruder!” shouted Igneus, drawing his blade and leaping at Pyren. Ark gritted his teeth and cast another spell: a pillar of stone that deflected his father’s blade. “What in Fir are you doing!” exclaimed the angered yet fearful blacksmith. “Pyren is my brother! There’s no way in hell am I letting you hurt him!” retaliated his son. Ark’s father was totally flabbergasted. “He’s… your brother…? No… I don’t believe this….” he muttered.
Pyren had enough of standing on the sidelines. “I might be adopted, but that doesn’t make me any less of a brother to him! We might as well be related by blood, that’s how close we are!” he exclaimed. “Adopted…? How… how could Iris do that…? To take in one of those vile creatures as one of her own… it’s madness!” said Igneus, stepping back from his son. Ark bore his teeth in his rage. “How? Because she had a heart! Because she realized that dragons and furs have no reason to fight each other!” he screamed. Igneus gasped. “No reason to fight? Naievity! You haven’t experienced the horrors that I have!” responded Ark’s father. “You’re wrong! I saw the boneyard at the foot of the mountain. I witnessed it myself. Tens, if not hundreds of slaughtered dragons. Yet I still believe in a future that we can share! It doesn’t have to be that way!” explained Ark, fury simmering down. Igneus began to tear up.“My son… what has happened to you… in all these years… you’ve become one of them,” he muttered, eyes pointed down, blackened to the two brothers. The forge in the background had finally cooled off, the bright light it once emitted reducing to a faint glow. The blacksmith turned away from his two sons. “I’m no leader, no hero. I’m nothing but a simple blacksmith. Even so, my duty is to my people. All of this is for them. For Iris. For you. Give me the Tome of Zarath. Now,” he demanded, wiping away any evidence he had been saddened. His demeanor shifted quickly. It was apparent that he had let go of something. “So you can murder my brother and my friends? Fat chance,” responded Ark, cockily. The blacksmith exhaled from his nostrils and stepped forward. Once more, Igneus drew his blade. “Fine. We’ll do this the hard way,” he said.
Ark leaped back, dodging a quick slash from his father. When the young dragon landed, he retaliated with two bursts of flame, each moving in opposite directions. Before Igneus could pick a direction to dodge, the two blasts closed in on him, detonating on contact. “I’m right behind you, big bro!” shouted Pyren, jumping headfirst into the fireball. The folf drew his blade and landed clashing blades with his unwilling father. Of course, the dragon’s strength overwhelmed the folf, throwing him backward, his paws sliding on the polished stone floor. Pyren glanced at his brother. “Together?” he asked. “Together,” said Ark, nodding. When the calm yet fierce Igneus took to his claws, sword blazing, Ark and Pyren fought just as they had said: together. Each sword slash he threw at them was parried, one after another, first by Pyren’s sword, then by a slash of ice or fire, then by the other, again and again, the two working in perfect unison like never before. Ark and Pyren were a storm, knocking the blacksmith further with each parry. “How can a mere Fur and a hatchling be this strong?” exclaimed Igneus, being pushed for the very first time. In all his years of combat, with furs, with beasts, and even with other dragons, he had never seen two fighters battle in such a beautiful union. Every strike was filled with such fury and determination, each sending sparks of fire or ice in all directions. Igneus ceased his assault and drove his massive, dragon-sized sword into the ground, and chanted a spell of his own. “Moronei eritusa korageto!” he shouted, sending out a shockwave that threw the brothers off opposite directions.
Sunny turned her head as the dragon that nearly killed her best friend took off, but quickly turned back to the crushed and maimed wolf. His black fur took on an almost maroon color from how much blood he had lost. “Cress….” cried the fennec fox, taking off her now wet glasses. She sobbed and sobbed over his unmoving body, figuring he must have been dead after that brutal battle. “Nooooo! Please don’t be gone… Please...” she cried. Looking around, she saw the two-headed pendant still lying in the scorched grass where she had dropped it. Sunny moped her way over and retrieved it, before once again placing it around her friend’s neck. She didn’t expect anything to happen, but when Cress started to change back, it caught her attention. The gray-furred wolf coughed out some blood and opened his eyes slowly, still in pain from having his rib cage crushed. “S-Sunny?” he asked. “C-Cress?” she mirrored, amazed he was still alive. “I feel like I’ve been here before…” he muttered, putting a paw on his head. “You’re alive!” exclaimed the blue-dressed fox, elated. She put her copper glasses back on and wrapped her arms around him, crying tears of joy. “AAAAGH!” screamed the wolf, crying out in pain from his chest. “O-oh, sorry… I forgot you were hurt….” she muttered embarrassedly. “Where did the dragon go?” asked Cress, struggling to get up. He put one leg up and winced in pain before putting his head back down and giving up. “He’s gone… I think he’s going towards Miss Emerald and the others,” she explained. “I hate to put you in danger…. but… they might need your help!” he exclaimed, realizing they’d be between pinned two enemies instead of one. Sunny gasped. “No! I have to stay here with you! What if you-” she yelled, being cut off. “I’ll be fine! Make sure our friends are okay!” demanded Cress. Sunny reluctantly rose to her footpaws. “You don’t look fine…” she muttered with a saddened face. The tan-furred fox knew what she had to do. After looking down at Cress one more time, she took off in the other direction, leaving her incapacitated friend lying on the blackened grass.
Shard thought he had confronted his fears, but when push came to shove, he broke. Seeing his friend about to be lanced…. It brought back a terrifying memory. He sat on the ground, having a panic attack while Emerald and Sylvi struggled to keep the remaining soldiers at bay. “I can’t do it… I can’t! I’m just gonna screw it up and get us all killed!” cried the bat, his blue scarf becoming soaked in his tears. Emerald used her psychic sword to block one spear, but two more came in their place. One soldier slammed his weapon into the ground, using his Sign to cause a massive shockwave. “Whoa!” yelled the two girls, both tripping over Shard and falling into the grass. “Shard, we’re gonna need your help!” yelled Sylvi, lying on the grass, about to be lanced. Shard hands were over his head as he shivered in terror, the memory of Seles being killed replaying in his mind over and over again. “No… no!” he screamed. “Shard! Are you going to let your friends die? Is… is that what Seles would want you to do?” shouted Emerald, frantically thinking of what to say. It was then when Shard finally came to his senses. “Emerald… I...” he muttered, not knowing what to say. Something awoke deep inside of him, the power he had been suppressing due to his failure to use it. “Nobody has to end up like Seles ever again! I WON’T LET THAT FATE BEFALL ANYONE ELSE!” yelled the bat, holding his paws outward and creating an enormous blue energy shield and blasting away all of the surrounding soldiers.
Most of the furs had been struck dizzy by the blast, struggling to get up after Shard’s shield attack. Emerald’s face grew a big smile and she plucked the little bat off his footpaws in a hug. “Hmph. That’s a bit more like it,” said Sylvi. “Ngh… hehe…” laughed Shard while being squeezed by Emerald. The lilac-furred cat’s smile quickly dropped when she noticed Kyra picking herself up off the ground. “Don’t think I’m done with you vermin just yet!” she yelled in her screechy voice. She came in swinging, Emerald barely having time to react to the pangolin’s new sword. “Not today!” exclaimed the bat, putting out a shield to protect his friend. Kyra growled in anger, banging her blade on the shield over and over. Shard grinned. “Heh he, you might as well quit trying! My shield is impenetrable!” bragged Shard. Kyra’s strikes kept coming, her arms propelled by rage. Eventually, Shard’s barrier began to crack, and to the bat’s surprise, it shattered, knocking the two to the ground. Right before the furious pangolin could skewer the two, Sylvi flew in, kicking Kyra in the head and saving her allies.
Kyra was thrown into the dirt, back to the ground. While Emerald handed a paw to Shard to help him up, Sylvi took the offensive. “You’re through!” she yelled, drawing her dual knives and attacking. The badger slashed with incredible speed, her Sign of the Swift empowering each blow. The pangolin brought up her sword, blocking several of the strikes, but it wasn’t enough. “You’re not getting in the way of my familial duty!” yelled Sylvi, driving her blades into Kyra’s rough, scale plated flesh. The mutinous lieutenant coughed up a glob of blood and clenched her jaw, slicing Sylvi across the arm and knocking one of her knives out of her paw. Both girls held a paw over their wounds, breathing heavily after the scuffle. Emerald and Shard quickly came up from behind in order to back Sylvi up. The bloodied pangolin was seething. “First, I was defeated by mere children like you and left at the brink of death…. It was nothing less than humiliation. When they found me…. I was a failure… I wasn’t worthy of my title! I won’t forget... I swear by Azalea’s name, as long as I breathe, I’ll hunt you and your orange accomplice down, cat!” she yelled, a burst of adrenaline fueling her assault on the three. Emerald and co. were forced to scatter as Kyra came in swinging. Emerald shoved an unsuspecting Shard to the ground so he wouldn’t be impaled, but in the process, Kyra was able to hit her target. Crimson blood dripped down from her collarbone, staining her lush, lavender fur. “Ack….” mumbled the cat, dashing back and searching her surroundings. Emerald was able to retrieve another sword, but as she looked, she noticed the soldiers were starting to regain consciousness. “Damn… we don’t have much time…” she whispered under her breath. Sylvi turned to her, single dagger still in hand. “We need to come at her together and force her to combat both of us at the same time,” explained the badger. “Right,” confirmed Emerald, twirling her glowing sword in midair. Shard was still on the ground from being shoved. “H-hey, what the heck are you two doing?” he asked, confused. “Now!” shouted Sylvi, the two rushing the pangolin. They came in from both directions, Emerald’s distance advantage and Sylvi’s speed advantage taking Kyra by surprise. The two furs wedged her blade between theirs, and swiftly disarmed her. However, the two had no time to admire their handiwork, as the fallen soldiers were no longer fallen. Right when Shard, Emerald, and Sylvi were about to be skewered by the Royal Landalstan Army’s elite soldiers, a booming voice came from above, attracting the attention of everyone there. “Ahahahahaha! The day has finally come for Granz to taste the blood of war once more!”
Chapter 12 of Chosen of Fir: Mementos From a Distant Father.