The blacksmith may not have been the most experienced magic user, but what he did know usually got the job done. All three of the fighters were out of breath after that last scuffle. It was then when the sword Pyren was wielding effortlessly became apparent to Igneus. “That sword! How did you get that? And how is a weakling like you even wielding it?” he spat, scowling in disgust. Pyren held his sword in his right paw and raised his left paw in front of his face. The blacksmith gasped at the sight of his silver bangle being used by a fur of all people. “My mother entrusted this sword to me. Good thing, too, cause I’m gonna use it to put a hole through your damn chest!” he screamed, running at the dragon alone. “Pyren!” cried Ark, before his father drew his sword from the stone and quickly knocked the blade out of the folf’s paws. The smaller of the two swords was flung to the other end of the enclave, digging itself into the stone floor. Pyren however, was swept off his paws and thrown onto the ground, with Igneus’ personal weapon pointed mere inches from his neck. Ark took wing and rushed to help his brother, but was slashed mercilessly, gouging his left shoulder. In the commotion, Pyren shot two blasts of fire at the unsuspecting blacksmith, blinding him. Pyren reached his sword and regrouped with his wounded brother, who was healing quickly, but not quickly enough.
“Enough of this charade, Arkaeus! Just give me the Book so I can end this damned war, once and for all! Please… I don’t want to kill you... You’re not giving me any other options!” pleaded Igneus, several tears streaming from his eyes. The young dragon, still bleeding from his shoulder was breathing heavily. Pyren clutched his bandaged chest. He had to work through the pain of the broken rib, as Ark didn’t have enough expertise in healing magic to fix it. “Forget it!” shouted Ark, Pyren putting his arm around the dragon’s clean shoulder. “I don’t care if I fell into your trap by taking the relics. Even if that’s true… I met new people along the way… and if I didn’t benefit from them, they sure as hell did!” he shouted. Igneus scoffed. “No matter. The items served their purpose,” he stated. Pyren gritted his teeth. “To murder us all in cold blood?” he growled, still holding his wounded brother. The blacksmith began to circle the two. “After I discovered the Tome of Zarath, my great-grandfather’s life work, I found the spell you used to find your way here. It was easy to find, even among such a vast record of dragon magic and technology. Its original purpose was to harness energy from the surrounding lands, which I found rather peculiar. When I showed it to the Army, they hardly took me seriously. After they granted me a single mage, he and I figured out how to make a few changes, and together we crafted what would become the Extermination Hex. It was an ambitious plan, no doubt. I’m surprised it worked, myself. In order for the spell to fully activate, the areas of concentration needed an energy source to fully activate the spell. Pulling from the Remnant itself was far beyond my ability and biology, so I opted to use a more difficult method. Five enchanted objects spread throughout Fir, with the sixth kept here for safekeeping. 20 years ago, I journeyed Fir in order to plant each relic. One left deep in the Jugal Woods, one near the fur capital, one in the plains of Galde, one buried in the forest below our home, and the last left with you and Iris. Of course, that mercenary stole the ring I left in the plains, but by then, the job was done. Once the land had soaked up enough magical energy, all that needs to happen to activate it is for me to use the catalyst on the original spell. If not for the war lasting so long, I’d have returned for it myself. The Book of Zarath is the only thing between our enemies and total annihilation! Don’t you get it, Arkaeus? This is our only chance! The Dragon Army is out there keeping the furs distracted!” he explained. “I told you to forget it! I’m not going to be an accomplice to the murder of my friends!” said Ark, his wound now fully healed. “That bracelet. That one was one of my own creations. Tch. I never expected a fur of all people would be the one who used it. No matter. What of the Extinguisher and Chain of Two Spirits?” asked Igneus. The brothers gasped. They hadn’t heard the specific names before, but they immediately knew what he was talking about. Pyren threw his paw backward. “They’re with our friends, serving them a million times better than your insane evil plan!” he exclaimed. Igneus brandished his bloodied sword. “I’ve given you enough chances. If you aren’t willing to cooperate, then I will have no other option than to pry the book from your claws by force...” he said, closing his eyes and breathing an audible sigh.
Since the scouting party never returned, and the dragons were fast approaching, the order was given to attack head-on. The war was nothing short of brutality. General Sentes watched as his men and the Dragon Army clashed for the first time in so many years. Hundreds of furs, archers, spearmen, swordsmen, all fierce and ready to fight, going up against tens of massive, winged, and armored dragons. Waves of soldiers collided, sword against sword, spear against magic, claw against shield. The descending dragons scorched the land, the flames taking the lives of several furs. Retaliation came swiftly, with a rain of arrows and ballista fire. The ballistas were quite effective, bringing down many of the flying beasts like flies swatted out of the air. However, that alone was insufficient to win the battle. Armored furs fought valiantly with their dragon counterparts. Swords clashed, balls of fire, ice, and lightning were launched, spears were thrown, and bodies fell. The huge blades and huger blasts of flames consumed many of his men, but Sentes believed they could win. “This is our day. We’ve driven them into the mountains, now it’s time to finish the job. Vele is gone, along with all of its inhabitants, but their spirits live on with us! This is it, beasts! We settle it here!” yelled the stoic old goat, charging along with his men, leading them into the battle with fervor.
The black dragon stormed forth faster than even Sylvi could see. His claws tore through the armor of the unsuspecting soldiers like they were paper-mache. The three furs watched in silence and terror as the dragon they had been searching for annihilated the unprepared scouting party, just as the people of Vele had been days before. “Goddess…. That dragon…. He’s insane!” exclaimed Shard, worriedly. Sylvi clenched her black-furred paw around her dagger. Both her and Emerald were wounded. Fighting for too much longer might not be possible. No. She had to fight. Sylvi was prepared to die for this. The time to fulfill her duty as a dragonslayer had come. Emerald’s head darted from side to side, ignoring the pain from her collarbone. “Sunny… where’s Sunny and Cress?” she exclaimed, panicking. Then a terrifying thought passed her mind. “You monster! You killed them, didn’t you!” she screamed, angrier than she had ever been in her life. Granz ignored her, as he continued to paint the grass red with the soldiers’ blood. Finally, only Kyra was left. “I… I’m not scared of you, beast!” she exclaimed, quickly grabbing one of the spears her men had dropped and holding it in front of her. The dragon merely chuckled and thrusted his claw towards her scaly chest. Emerald and co. gasped as Granz impaled Kyra with nothing but his hand. “You… scum…” she muttered, before the off-pay mercenary removed his claw and discarded the bleeding pangolin. “Now for the side dish….” said Granz, smiling wickedly at the weary furs.
Silence prevailed in the area of Galde the battle was located. Shard’s scarf blew in the strong wind as they stood off against the dragon who mercilessly murdered their previous opponents just moments ago. A determined Sylvi stepped forward, Granz only cracking his scaly knuckles in response. “H-hey, hold on, Sylvi. If we want to stand a chance to beat this guy, we need to work together,” pleaded Emerald, holding a paw out. Sylvi grunted and pointed her dagger at the cat, intimidatingly. Both her and Shard gasped, when the badger spoke up. “I’ll kill him myself. Don’t get in my way,” she demanded, changing tone suddenly. The badger ran forth, teeth and dagger bared, and thrusted her weapon right at his heart. Granz stepped back and backhanded the puny dagger, before Sylvi attacked again, striking faster and faster, but each time either missing or being parried. “Pathetic. That tiny thing won’t even scratch me,” he said, grabbing the badger’s left arm and crushing it. Sylvi tried to resist, but the dragon was right. To her shock, the blade shattered when it hit off his age-hardened scales. Granz discarded the badger and bore his claws at Emerald and Shard. In the heat of the moment, the cat caught the results of the black dragon’s previous two battles. “He’s wounded! Aim for the spots where his scales aren’t protecting him!” she yelled, Shard nodding. Granz gave the two an angry look and charged. Emerald brought her glowing paw up into the air, swinging it back and forth as hard as her arms would let her. Granz stopped in his tracks and skidded, before snatching the sword out of the air. While he was distracted, Shard jumped up and took the offensive, spawning a shield in front of the dragon and rapidly expanding it. “Take this, you scaly scum!” yelled the bat, holding his paws up while the black dragon groaned from being pushed back. It seemed like their efforts were in vain, Granz was pushed back, but he had barely taken any damage at all. “It’s not enough….” muttered Emerald, deprived of her weapon. Suddenly, a young female voice came from behind the three. “Ngh… I’ll make you pay for what you did to Cress!” yelled the voice. Sunny ran in and held both paws out before the winded mercenary. She was angrier than she had ever been before, and her fury fueled her flames. Two massive orbs of spinning flame came out of her paws, and before long, she put them together and the largest column of flame any of them had ever seen was hurled right at the black dragon’s bloodied chest.
Sunny was totally drained from her angry attack, and after a few heavy breaths, she fell to the ground. “Sunny!” yelled Emerald, running to her friend’s side, but as the smoke cleared, it was obvious the job wasn’t done yet. Emerald quickly turned around, only to see a very ticked off Granz. “Grr… that actually hurt a little,” he stated, clutching his large wound. “How..?” asked a bewildered Shard, who in all of his time in Fir, had never seen an attack of that size. The black dragon towered over the bat, and before he could scram, a claw was firmly around his tiny torso. “Agh! Lemme go!” he cried, squirming in the grasp of the mercenary. Granz threw the bat at the now unconscious Sunny, but before Shard impacted her, Emerald threw herself in the way and was knocked over like a bowling pin. All four of the furs were on the ground, and while the dragon was severely wounded at this point, the situation was hopeless. Sylvi struggled to pick herself off the ground. With one knee up and one in the grass, she slowly lifted her black and white-furred body up and off the grassy field. “I...I won’t give up until one of us is dead!” she exclaimed. It was an empty threat, however, as she had already been totally disarmed. Granz turned, leaving his preoccupation of putting an end to the three on the ground. “Aha, it looks like you’ve still got a bit of fight in you,” he said, dripping his cold dragon blood with each step towards the badger. “I spent my whole childhood training for this! I had to see my own brother’s corpse because of you monsters, and I’m not about to let you get away with that! I’ll rip you to pieces with my bare claws if I have to!” yelled Sylvi with great fervor. Emerald didn’t have the strength to get up, however, she did have an idea. The cat frantically dug through her pouch and pulled out the blood red dagger Sylvi had refused before. “My childhood was spent wasting away as I found myself increasingly inadequate at everything I did. A failure in every subject they tried to teach me. I had no special hidden talent to tap into like all my peers did, so my parents decided to throw me away. That’s when I finally found my calling. When I discovered they were abandoning me, I slaughtered them without a second thought. Killing came to me like breathing or walking. It was such a glorious experience. I relished in their blood, just as I’m about to relish in yours!” exclaimed the mercenary, seemingly going delirious from the blood loss. Right when Granz leaped, Emerald moved. “Sylvi, catch!” she yelled, lobbing the Extinguisher her way. Sylvi closed her eyes and exhaled through her nostrils when it landed in her paws, just as cold as it was before. “Brother… I’m sorry I have to use this power to avenge you,” she whispered under her breath, before catching the dagger in her good hand. Granz charged. A glint was in Sylvi’s eye. The two flew towards each other with blinding speed, and in an instant, they both struck true.
The crimson dagger carved its way through nearly half of Granz’s chest. Blood dripped from the cavernous gash, onto his legs, onto the ground, and onto Sylvi’s arm. “I’m dying without a single regret…. Can you say the same?” asked the black dragon, smiling like a madman. Granz’s claw dug through the badger’s chest, with each finger sinking through several inches of her flesh. Sylvi smiled through the pain. “Yeah. I can,” she said. Granz gave a hearty laugh, before the two fell backward in a pool of blood. “Sylvi!” screamed Emerald, who limped as fast as she could to get to the fallen badger. Shard gritted his teeth nervously, and reluctantly slung the unconscious fox’s arm over his shoulder, dragging her along with him. Across from the nearly dead dragonslayer lied the corpse of the mercenary who had laid waste to Sunny’s hometown. “Heh… urp… looks like I finally did it, huh?” said Sylvi, looking up at a terrified Emerald. “Y-you’re gonna be okay… You’re gonna be okay…” quivered the cat, opening her satchel and digging frantically. “Emerald… It’s fine…” said Sylvi, putting a paw on her chest and coughing. “It’s not fine!” cried Emerald, pulling out the gauze she had used on Pyren. Sylvi rolled her eyes as she bled out. “Girl, that’s not gonna fix me,” she laughed. Tears streamed out of Emerald’s vibrant green eyes. “You’re dying! Why in Fir are you laughing?” exclaimed the cat. Shard slowly dropped Sunny’s unconscious body next to Sylvi and Emerald. “She should be alright… She just spent herself with that attack…” muttered Shard, worrying about Sylvi. “That’s good. Make sure to take care of her, Emerald,” she said. “You’re not gonna die! What about your family? You can go back to them now!” exclaimed Emerald. The massive spell wall flared and spiked behind them, painting the grim situation dark purple with its flames. “Yeah, speaking cough of… could you let my family know what happened?” asked Sylvi, coughing up blood. Emerald put her head over the badger’s bloody chest, sobbing. Shard could only watch, scared, but empathetic. He knew exactly how she was feeling. “Yeah… I’ll tell them just how great you were…” cried Emerald. A smile came over Sylvi’s face. Even in her last moments, her words rung true. “Thank you, Emerald. And you too, Shard. I couldn’t have done it without you,” she said, her breathing slowing. “Sylvi...” muttered Emerald, her arms wrapped around the wounded badger. The wind picked up, and suddenly, as if it had lifted her up and taken her, Sylvi was gone.
Ark held open the tome his father had wanted so badly. Granz’s words echoed in his mind. “Using too much of it too fast causes your body to overload with magical energy,” he remembered. The young dragon balled his claw into a fist. “It might destroy my body… but that isn’t important when thousands of lives are on the line! I’ve just got to give it my all, and show this guy that you do not mess with me and my friends!” exclaimed Ark. Igneus lunged towards his son, with Pyren quickly jumping in front of his brother to protect him. “What are you doing, Ark?” he asked, sweating as he tried to hold the blacksmith back. Ark opened his eyes and slammed the Tome shut. “Hold him off for about ten seconds! I need time to orate this spell!” he exclaimed. Pyren nodded and the two jumped back. Igneus growled and brought his blade down on the comparably small folf, nearly pinning him under the massive sword. “Ngh… hurry up, big bro!” exclaimed Pyren. Once more, Ark closed his eyes and began to chant. “Altise fultena alcor etan korageto kalagan….” Pyren broke free from the clash and slashed at the blacksmith’s legs. “Gah!” exclaimed Igneus, retaliating with his own attack. Pyren dove to the ground, narrowly escaping the furious cut. His sword was not so lucky, knocked straight off the side of the mountain. “...latuna igneto kalagan vohrey saht!” finished Ark. Purple static surrounded every part of the young sorcerer's body, and with it, intense pain. “This is everything I’ve got!” he shouted through the Reverb. “I am your father… and the one who will save our species from destruction!” shouted Igneus, bracing himself with his sword in front of him. A massive ball of reckless energy had formed, and from it came a flickering, unstable beam of concentrated Remnant. Igneus scoffed before being hit head-on by the blast. “Aaagh! This… this power!” he shouted, crashing into the wall behind him. “You’re a genocidal maniac...” said Ark, smiling, then swiftly falling to the ground as the Reverb from his unstable spell overtook him.
When the dust settled, it had seemed that the two had won. Their celebration would have been misplaced, as Igneus merely got up, wounded, but very much still able to fight. Burn marks covered his scaly body, cracks appeared in his armor, and the crumbled stone behind the three showed just how much damage he had taken, yet Ark’s all-out attack was in vain. “Damn it… that attack might have killed me if I wasn’t careful,” he said, walking up to his fallen son. Both brothers were lying face down, barely able to move after that stunt. As their doom approached, Ark clutched the tome in his claw. He was prepared to die in order to save a species that wasn’t his own. “This… isn’t over…” he grunted, unable to get up. Ark clawed at the mountainous terrain, before his head fell along with the rest of his body. The battered and bruised Igneus exhaled from his nostrils. “Why must you have forced my claw, my son…? You were such a promising child…. What a waste…” muttered the blacksmith, claw moments away from the lock his key matched: the Tome of Zarath. Pyren struggled to get himself off the ground. “You’re… not gonna… get away with this…” said the seething folf. Igneus sighed, turning away from the book to face Pyren. “Looks like the vermin is still kicking,” he said, coldly. While the blacksmith brandished his blade, Pyren’s power began to rise. The air around his fist ignited, the temperature practically exploding with his fury. “I’m done standing around… I’m done with being stuck in my brother’s shadow… and I’m done with you and your plan to kill my friends!” he screamed, charging gung ho at the gray and red scaled dragon. A swirling mass of flame coalesced around the young folf’s paw. Igneus was taken aback by his sudden increase in strength and bravado. Surprised enough to take one clean hit from Pyren’s blazing fist. “I may not have my sword…. I may not have much power left… but I still have my heart, my soul, and my pride as a fur!” screamed Pyren, driving his fist in the direction of his adversary. The resulting impact not only shook the mountain to its foundation, but all of Fir as well.
Furs and dragons alike stopped their fighting when a massive explosion sound came from off in the distance. The battlefield fell silent as what had just occurred set in for the soldiers. “What the hell just happened?” exclaimed General Sentes. One of the goat’s commanders, a kangaroo, approached him from behind. “Sir! It looks as if someone is launching an attack on the dragons’ home base! Whoever they are, whatever they did, they caused some major damage!” she said. Sentes brushed his hoof over his forehead. “You got that right… goddess damn… they practically took out half the mountain!” he said. Many of the soldier dragons took notice and began panicking. One of the more regal looking soldiers gave the furs a furious glare and ordered his men to retreat. Sentes pointed his sword at them, not ready to let his prey get away. “Get back here, you bastards!” he screamed. The kangaroo in armor stepped up to him and shook her head. “Let’s retreat and tend to our wounded,” she said. Sentes growled at the notion. "Fine. All batallions, fall back! We'll settle this another day..." he said. After that, several medics came from camp and out onto the field as the dragons began retreating. The battlefield began to clear up as both sides carried off their wounded. Emerald, Shard, Cress, and Sunny watched the peaks intently as they waited for their friends to return. Emerald worried incessantly. Sunny cuddled up to Cress, scared after the massive explosion. Shard bit his tongue, knowing something was off. The smoke began to clear from the crater that was the remains of the forge, but the fiery purple barrier still stood tall.
Pyren collapsed to the floor, his all-out punch blowing him away after the explosion rocked the forge area. “Ark… I’m sorry you couldn’t make it out of this…” muttered the folf, putting his head down. His yellow-tipped tail came to rest on the ground as the last of his strength was exhausted. “I’m not… finished… yet...” said a nearby voice. Pyren struggled to bring up in his head. When he saw who it was, he gasped. Igneus, bleeding heavily and nearly dead, limped over to the fallen Tome of Zarath. “How is he still alive?” mumbled Pyren, before falling back down, unable to move. The crippled fire dragon slowly made his way to the item that would finally complete his quest. He took it in his claw and held it in front of him in its full glory. “On my dying breath… I will fulfill my duty… and save my people!” said the wounded blacksmith, reaching into a fold in his ruined armor. With both Ark and Pyren out of the picture, Igneus pulled out his golden key and connected it with the very page that led his sons to him. “With both the Key of Lagmata and the Tome of Zarath united… let the spell be complete…” he muttered. After this, a blaze of violet flames began to overtake all of Fir, sending furs in every corner of the land into panic. Everywhere, from the recent battlefield, to Andea, and even to the capital, Landalsta, eradication descended onto the children of Azalea. General Sentes watched as his men fell, one by one, overcome by the power of the Hex. He too, eventually succumbed to the deadly indigo blaze. Sunny clutched onto her best friend as the painful purple fire tore at their very existence. “What’s... going... on...?” exclaimed Shard, wincing from the burning sensation of being erased. Emerald cried as she gazed up at the mountain crater. “Pyren...” she muttered, before falling over from the pain. “Lyle, what’s happening? Oh, no…. Liza, not you too!” cried Ayli, as the children she had adopted began to die right in front of her very eyes. “Ayli… help us…” muttered Liza, grabbing on to her brother once more for comfort. The Extermination Hex lived up to its promise as it destroyed the very thing Igneus had set out to destroy. Pyren gritted his teeth, unable to do anything while his unaccepting stepfather annihilated him and his friends.
Igneus’ son clinged to life, opening his eyes to the horror of his brother, his friends, and all of Fir crying out and withering away. “No… no… not now...” he muttered, too weak to do anything about it. Ark slammed his fist into the stone floor. “How could I fail again? When everyone was depending on me… When they needed me most... I let them down again…” he said, beginning to cry. The salty brine that was his tears dripped down his grey-scaled muzzle as Ark realized the inevitability of the death of every fur in Fir. That was when one last hope approached. The young dragon looked up at what he presumed would be his father, but was instead a glowing white vixen.
“W-what?” exclaimed the confused dragon. The enigmatic fox stood above him, and graciously offered him a paw. Bewildered, but drained, Ark had no choice but to allow her to help him. When the young dragon was up on his feet, he could see the full extent of what was happening. Time had stopped, his father and fading brother completely immobile, as was the enormous spell wall behind them. The vixen in front of him was emanating an aura like no other being he had ever seen. Markings almost like runes coated her entire body, from her footpaws up to her flowing white hair. “Be grateful, dragon. In all of my existence, I have never once made my presence known to one your kind,” she said to him. Ark squinted. “What’s going on? Who the hell are you?” asked Ark, still tense. The white vixen then bent her knee and kneeled in front of the unsuspecting dragon. “I am Azalea, goddess, and progenitor of all furs. Right now, you are the only one who can save my children,” she explained. “G-goddess? W-what do you need me for? Aren’t you powerful enough to stop the spell yourself?” asked Ark, stunned that a goddess was kneeling before him. Azalea brought herself up and shook her head. “I am afraid that I cannot interfere with the lives of mortals. Speaking to you is the furthest extent of my power. The pact that binds me and your patron god, Razak prevents me from aiding you directly,” she told the young dragon. Ark gasped. “Then… this really is up to me? I can’t do much right now… that last attack took everything out of me… I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. Azalea smiled and brought a paw up to the dragon’s chin. “Are you sure? You’re not suppressing any hidden power, are you….. blood dragon?” she told him, with a quiet chuckle. Ark recoiled, shaking away from the glowing goddess’ soft grasp. “That power… it’s… something else. It felt… wicked. I don’t even know if I can control it...” he muttered, staring down at his bloody claws with insecurity. “Then you’ll let your brother, your friends, and countless others perish?” asked Azalea, knowing what answer she’d get. Ark grunted and turned away. “Hmph. To think you of all people would acknowledge our brotherhood. Alright. I’ll do it, but under one condition,” he stated. “Bartering with a goddess, are we? Well, it appears that I do not have a stake in the matter. What is it you desire, blood dragon?” said the goddess. Ark’s muzzle stretched into a grin. “Talk some sense into that Razak. Tell him to get a grip and realize that this fighting is pointless,” demanded the dragon. “W-what you are asking for is impossible! We’ve been arguing for eons! You expect us to just now reconcile everything?” exclaimed the vixen, a tinge of astonishment in her voice. Ark examined a small wound on his forearm. The blood was still fresh. “Do you want me to save your people or not?” he asked. Azalea sighed, brushing her arm across her forehead like any normal person. “It is a daunting task, for sure, but I will see what I can do,” she stated. As the glowing white vixen made her retreat, she turned her head back at Ark. “As for you…. It is no mistake that you are the one to bridge the gap between our kinds. You have my blessing. I believe in you, Arkaeus,” she said, before disappearing in a twinkle of light.
Time snapped back into place, with Ark barely getting a chance to adjust to his surroundings. “It saddens me, truly. If you had only stayed put, none of this would have ever happened. Everything would have returned to normal when I came back to complete the spell,” mised Igneus, seemingly mourning for the loss of life. Ark growled furiously, picking himself up off the ground with his knee. “W-what? You were incapacitated mere moments ago!” he exclaimed, bewildered at his son’s persistence. “Pyren, Emerald, Sylvi, Sunny, and everyone else…. They’re all counting on me! I won’t give up until my last drop of blood is gone!” he yelled. The blood dragon let out a tendril from his vein and swung its razor sharp edge at his father, narrowly missing. “Hehe… that’s my big brother...” muttered Pyren, still on the ground, burning with the purple fire. Ark slashed again, first diagonally, then horizontally, his attacks only restricted by how he could move his arm. “What is this? How are you doing this?” cried the blacksmith. Ark gritted his teeth and thrusted the blood tendril through his father’s left shoulder. “Give it up. Just forget about this genocide and we can all go home. I don’t want anyone to die today,” said Ark, holding his spike of blood as still as possible. “You think you can kill me? After all this? I’ve already won, Arkaeus! We’ve won! Our species is saved!” he yelled, tearing Ark’s blood out of his shoulder and slamming his sword down onto the young dragon. Ark merely brought his blood back, and instead of coalescing it into a tendril, he formed a protective barrier instead. The blacksmith’s sword bounced off the bubble of red liquid, which burst and reformed into an enormous blade. “This is my full power! The might of a blood dragon!” exclaimed Ark, slicing straight through the mountain rock in front of him, only missing his father by a few inches.
Both father and son clutched their chests, out of breath. Pyren merely watched from the sidelines, powerless to do anything under the searing pain. He had never felt heat before, but this… was something else entirely. “Heh… Looks like I was right after all… you possess such incredible strength, even as a fledgling,” said Igneus. Although the blacksmith was riddled with holes and gashes, his son was nearly crystal clear. “I never would have guessed Iris and I had enough of that blood in us to sire one of the three legendary dragons…” he continued, still breathing heavily. Ark stopped, listening intently. “The prismatic dragon, pinnacle of elemental energy…. The twilight dragon, hiding in the gray area between light and darkness… and you… the blood dragon, with unparalleled regenerative ability,” explained Igneus. The blacksmith stepped forward, intending to intimidate the young dragon standing before him. “That ring you’re wearing… it belonged to a long line of blood dragons… how fitting that it ended up in your claws. Its use has since been lost to history, but the magical energy it possessed was more than enough to fuel the Extermination Hex,” he said. Ark threw his arm backward. “You’re insane! Why do you think total annihilation is the only way?” he exclaimed. “Because it is! Those furs were out there slaughtering our kind right as we spoke! Extermination of the opposition was the only way to ensure our people survive! If you won’t listen to reason… then I have no choice but to kill you,” said Igneus. Stepping over some rubble, the blacksmith held out his claw in front of him and began channeling the Remnant. “Ensare lamenta igneto sahreht!” he shouted, with a golden light encompassing his bloodstained sword.
The blacksmith came full swing with his souped-up sword, swiping furiously at his son. In a panic, Ark formed a blade of his own and blocked the slashes. Each hit pushed the young dragon back, chipping off more and more of his blood-sword, until eventually, it shattered, and Ark started taking the attacks himself. Cuts and gashes littered his scaly body as he tried in vain to escape the frantic attacks his father was dealing out. Igneus darted left and sliced at his son’s arm, severing it in a manner not too dissimilar to Sylvi’s method, but this time, Ark was using his blood powers to their full extent. To his father’s surprise, he reached out with his stump and, before it even touched the ground, reattached his severed hand with a squrik of his bloody tendrils. A blazing dark red aura completely encompassed Ark as he finally accepted his powers. The young dragon raised his arm and sent a barrage of thin blood-spears into the air and at his father. “Kumente protera barari!” shouted Igneus, forming a glowing shield to protect him from his son’s rain of attacks. When the barrier went down, Ark took advantage of the situation. “Take this!” he yelled, impaling the winded blacksmith by redirecting the blood from his still-wet healing arm. When his father tried to retaliate, Ark unified all of his tendrils into one massive lash, deflecting the glowing sword and creating a shockwave that reverberated all throughout Granval. The two dragons clashed, Ark countering blow for blow, each slash, each cut bringing both of them closer to defeat. When they broke clash and threw each other back, Igneus seized the initiative. Instead of attacking Ark, he drove his radiating blade into the ground and threw some rubble into the air. While the young dragon was distracted with the rocks, Igneus slashed straight without looking. “This is the end!” yelled the blacksmith. He presumed his glowing sword would slice his son in half, but instead it bounced off a barrier of crimson red blood. Taking no time at all, Ark morphed his protective shield into a cacophony of sanguine weapons, slashing, striking, and piercing his father with each and every one. “Father or not, I won’t let you do this! For Pyren, Sunny, Emerald, and the sake of every last dying Fur in this world…I will defeat you!” shouted Ark, sending every bit of soul and spirit he had through his bloody tendrils and into the scaled body of his father. One by one, his attacks struck true, each taking its toll on the weakened, aging blacksmith. When it was all over, when it was all said and done, Igneus dropped his fading sword. Deep gashes and cuts covered his body, spelling his inevitable doom. The last thing the blacksmith could manage was limping over to his fledgling son to give him one last remark. “I’m sorry…” he muttered. “I failed you and Iris…Now.. it’s up to you, Ark…. You’re… everything I hoped you be…” said Ark’s father, before going quiet and collapsing in his son’s weak arms. The book and key dropped, and the effects of the spell began to fade. The murderous magical barrier slowly sunk into the earth, and along with it vanished the purple flames from the bodies of the furry residents of Fir. With Igneus’ death, the Extermination Hex was no more.
Sunny came to in Emerald’s lilac furred paws. “H-huh? Miss Emerald?” she said, confused. “Everything’s alright. It’s all over. That black dragon is done for, and the flames are gone too,” explained the cat. Sunny gave a big sigh of relief before her ears perked up. “Oh no! We gotta find Cress!” she exclaimed, struggling to escape Emerald’s grasp. “Calm down, I’m right here,” said Cress, who was lying right next to the two. The fox girl practically leaped from her friend’s arms and hugged her wolfy friend like she’d never see him again. “Hey, hey, watch the ribs!” he cried, laughing through the pain. “I’m so happy you’re okay…” said Sunny, eyes covered in tears. She took her arms off of the wounded wolf and looked around. Shard was watching the two from his spot on the ground, and Emerald gave them a soft smile while they reunited. “Hey…. where’s Sylvi? Did she leave already?” asked Sunny, earnestly. Emerald and Shard’s good mood turned dry as the bad news kicked in. “I’m afraid Sylvi didn’t make it. She sacrificed herself to finish off that dragon,” explained Emerald. She comforted her young friend as she dug her head into her chest and cried. “What are we gonna do now…?” sobbed the large-eared fox. The four stared up at the nearby mountains. “Nothing left to do but wait until those brothers come back,” said Emerald, giving a hearty sigh of relief that everyone was okay.
A tearful Ark set his father’s body down and fell to his knees. “I came all this way…. had this whole journey…. met so many people… just to have to kill you…” he sobbed. A red, still wet line surrounded his arm as it healed. Pyren had fallen unconscious after the flames began to eat at him, but once they had left, he began to regain consciousness. Ark crawled over to his brother, ignoring the fact that his wound wasn’t fully healed yet. “A-Ark? You’re okay?” stuttered Pyren, starting to cry. The young dragon smiled softly through his tears. “Looks like we both made it out okay, huh?” he said. Tears filled the eyes of the orange folf as he tried to hug his draconian brother the best he could. “I thought that spell killed you!” sobbed Pyren, wrapping his paws around the dragon. “Nope. Can’t keep a good blood dragon down,” said Ark, brushing his black hair and smiling honestly. “Is it really over?” asked Pyren, earnestly. “Yeah. We can go back now,” responded Ark. His body was mostly reformed, but getting up was still painful, given he had let out his every bit of his blood power just moments ago. “Why didn’t you tell me you were a blood dragon?” asked Pyren, arm being slung over over the blood dragon’s shoulder as they held each other up. “Truth be told, I was scared of that power. It came to me in my darkest moment, and when it did, I was terrified of it. I didn’t know what to say or how to tell anyone,” explained Ark. The two carried each other over to the lifeless body of their father. Ark sniffled, refraining from tearing up again. “What are you crying for? Everyone is saved!” exclaimed a confused Pyren. “He was stern, determined, and fierce, but I never took him for evil,” said the young dragon. Pyren squinted. “Are you serious? He tried to kill us! And he called me vermin!” said the folf, slightly miffed. Suddenly, a voice came from atop the cliff above them. They were standing in a crater, after all.
“Heeeeeey!” cried an awfully cheerful female voice. Flying down from the path above was Ayli. “You two did it! And it looks like you’re both in one piece, too!” said the red dragon, elated. Right behind her were the lynx twins, disguised as dragons, climbing down the rocks due to their lack of usable wings. “Well, I wasn’t a few moments ago, but I think things turned out alright,” said Ark. “For a second there, I was worried you guys had lost. What happened?” asked Ayli. Ark pointed at the corpse lying feet away. She gasped, and when the giddy twins ran up, she held her claws out to block them. “Liza, Lyle, I want you two to go back to the house,” she demanded, suddenly changing tones. “Aww, I wanted to see the other fur again…” muttered Liza. “You’re no fun, Ayli,” said Lyle. The two wandered back to the cliff, heads hung low, turning their heads only to look at Ark and Pyren and wave. Ayli returned her attention to the defeated blacksmith. “I’m sorry for your loss, Ark,” she said. The blood dragon glanced at his brother and smirked. “It’s no big deal. If I had to choose between that deadbeat father of mine and all the furs in Fir, I think I’d pick the latter,” he explained. Ayli chuckled softly. “Good thing, too. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t keep my promise to Kayah,” she said, looking back at the hazel dragons. “Who?” asked Pyren, confused. “Oh, nothing,” backpedaled Ayli. Ark’s wounds were slowly fading, but Pyren was still banged up pretty badly. “Right, I almost forgot!” she said, pulling a small flask out of an apothecary pouch she was carrying. “I figured you two would be pretty banged up so I brought the strongest thing I could brew. You two can split it if you like,” she said, handing it to Pyren. “W-what is this?” asked the folf, nearly dropping it. “It’s a potion. An expensive one, too,” explained Ayli, almost boasting when she said it. “We don’t have much on us right now. How much is that going to be?” asked Ark, honestly expecting to pay for it. “Oh, no, don’t worry about that. It’s yours,” she responded. Pyren looked up at his brother, who nodded. “Bottoms up!” said the folf, chugging the flask in one gulp.
The orange fur subsequently gagged and nearly vomited. “What the hell? What was in that?” he cried. Ayli stood by smiling, arms crossed, proud of her work. “Take off your bandages,” she said. Pyren’s eye perked up, and when he began unraveling the dirtied white cloth, he found the pain in his chest had all but disappeared. “Whoa,” he said, feeling around his new, fixed up body. While his brother was distracted, Ayli asked Ark if he wanted any, but he shook his head. “I guess we should get going. Thanks for everything, Ayli,” responded the young dragon. Ayli smirked and brushed back her hair. “No problem! Least I can do for the guys who saved all of Fir!” she exclaimed. “Umm… before we leave, don’t you think we should do something about him?” said Pyren, rather solemnly. As his mood dropped, so did the other two’s. “I suppose we should bury him, but there’s no soil here to do it,” responded Ark. “The way we send off our dead is by cremation,” explained Ayli, more familiar with their species’ culture than Ark. The grey and green dragon exhaled through his nose. “Alright, Pyren, I’m going to need your help for this,” he said. Ark took his father’s massive sword and embedded it in the ground behind his unbreathing body. Then, after retrieving the fallen Tome of Zarath, he and his brother began channeling a massive amount of fire. Ark’s spell and Pyren’s Sign would be the final thing to touch their father’s fallen facade. As Igneus’ body burned and was scattered to the wind, Ark tore out the final page where the Extermination Hex hid. “And along with him, his final wish,” he said, before tossing the page into the fire, and both became ash in the wind.
Chapter 13 of Chosen of Fir: Mementos From a Distant Father.