"We can rest here for tonight," Nitrus announced as he and Captain Cytros brought the flight of dragons down to the ground. "Everyone rest up; we move out at dawn." The order was answered with silent head bobs as the dragon warriors went about making themselves comfortable for the night. It would not be easy for many who donned large amounts of heavy armor. Most of the dragons broke away to get a drink at the river nearby. Certo took a quick couple mouthfuls alongside Crona before turning back to camp to set up a resting spot for them.
As she drank greedily, Crona felt a presence come up behind her. Her spines stood erect and she stopped time long enough for her to glance over her shoulder. When she saw who it was she gave an irritated hiss, letting time continue its course.
"Have you seen yet what I've been talking about?" Cryus asked. "Certo may be the victim in your eyes but to the rest of us, he has just forced us to wage war."
"He didn't do anything." Crona snorted, sending the few remaining droplets that clung to her face flying. "It was not Certo's choice to form an army; it was that of all of us. If anyone wished to object they were not being held back from doing so."
"When they are pressured by you and him, no one can speak their minds!"
"That's not true at all young dragon." Crona and Cryus turned to see they had attracted the attention of a couple nearby sentries. "If anything, Crona has been the insightful one, giving us choices to choose for ourselves. If you took the time to get to know her better, you would see that she takes time to think about the big picture. Not just the here and now."
Cryus gave the guards an angry stare as they walked back to the campground. When he turned back, Crona shoved past him. "Where are you going? We're not done talking."
"You might not be, but I am," Crona growled. "There's nothing to talk about."
"Yes there is," Cryus shot back. He stepped on her tail spade to keep her from walking away another step.
"Get off!" Crona snarled, her eyes seeming to light up with a power that sent a bolt of fear through the water dragon's body, even for a split second.
"There is nothing just or right about what is going on right now and you can stop it. All you have to
"And there's nothing just or right about you lying to me about Certo. You never talked to him that first day like you claimed. I believed you. I trusted you. I hated him because of you."
"You think he would have listened even if i had?"
"Most likely not, but that doesn't change the fact that you lied to me."
Cryus paused. She had him cornered with no way for him to rationalize his way out. His eyes fell towards her tail spade. In the moonlight he could just barely make out the tooth marks embedded in her skin. A wave of heat swept over him and his gaze snapped up to meet her fierce, angry eyes.
"You and I will not be talking any time soon, if ever again, Cryus," She glared at him and the glow of the moons seemed to intensify in her eyes. "As far as I'm concerned, you are no better than Volcanus and Tectonica."
Those words hit the water dragon full force, as if she were slamming her entire weight into him. Cryus's paw lifted off of Crona's spade. She gave it a quick flip, spattering a few mud spots onto his chest before turning away in a disgusted huff.
The guardian watched her walk away until she disappeared into the crowd of dragon bodies. After a tense moment he let out a heavy gasp, unaware he had been barely breathing the entire time. His body suddenly felt cold and hot all over. His head began swimming and he staggered into the river before plunging into its depths.
When Crona found Certo, he was already curled up on a pile of dead leaves. He raised a wing, inviting her to bed down beside him. Crona lay down on the pile and scooted as close as she could to the black dragon; he was surprisingly warm in this chilly, open air. She let out a depressed sigh as Certo brought his wing to cover her body. Even though she had her best friend beside her, she still uncomfortably anxious. It was a feeling she had not felt since she and Certo had started getting along; like when she had started to believe things were making sense, they would suddenly fall apart.
Certo stared at her in the moonlight, watching her eyelids slowly droop until they were shut. After a few minutes, he nudged his cheek alongside hers, grazing her soft scales with his horns. "I'll be right next to you if you need me," He whispered, sensing her fatigue.
"I know," she whispered back, a faint smile pulling at the edges of her mouth. "Thanks."
Certo gave a soft growl and nudged her once more before closing his eyes for the night.
The next three days dragged on as the flight of dragons traveled across the countryside. Everyone flew in moderate silence, knowing what lay ahead, but unsure of what to expect. The nights were spent noisily rolling about, bumping into one another in their restless sleep. When they were on the move Kia and the few air dragons available took the lead position of the formation. With their ability to control the current of the wind, their distance nearly doubled with less lag holding the formation back.
By the middle of the fourth day, Crona was beginning to feel her anxiety catch up with her.
"Aren't you the one to always tell me to calm down?" Certo pointed out, breaking away from the formation so they could speak in private.
"I know," Crona admitted, slightly irritated with him for pointing out her hypocritical behavior. "But in all honesty, I'd never heard of Titanus until I came to this time. I have no idea how this is going to end Certo, or how it should end."
"Why don't you relax and figure it out that way? You're always one to point out that a clear mind is what gets you through any situation."
Crona ground her teeth, continuing to give him a disgruntled stare. Normally she would have expected any other dragon to give a complacent grin. No such expression spread across Certo's face; he was dead serious about the situation at hand. Looking at him now, Crona realized that his expression had not changed since they had left the city. Her own attitude grew more serious and she nodded once.
Up ahead, Kia began to shift uneasily as the air dragons switched positions. The air was growing warmer and the clouds overhead were getting darker. She broke from the group and took up position back beside Nitrus.
"Have you noticed as well?" The ice dragon's eyes seemed to reflect the darkness of the looming clouds overhead.
"Yes, it's getting warmer." Kia growled, the sound carrying through the passing wind current. "It's unnatural at this time of year."
"We're getting closer," Voltrus muttered darkly. "It's just like when we found him before." He glanced to his side at Mateo who was flying alongside him. The young ice dragon wore steel armor, polished to a glossy shine. The armored dragon would not leave Voltrus's side during the time the sentries were suiting up for battle. Certo's words had been burned into his mind, and would remain with him until his time ran out. He had been determined to be of use to those who were willing to fight, but seeing the grey clouds overhead once more instilled a strong sense of doubt. There was no way that he or Voltrus had been able to explain what they saw. All they knew was that it would take the effort of every available dragon to deal with the situation.
"What can we expect next lieutenant?" Nitrus shot the sentry a quick, yet stone cold stare out of the corner of his eye. Before Voltrus could answer, his eyes lifted to the sky overhead.
"We're almost there," He snarled, his voice rumbling in the back of his throat.
"How can you be sure?" Kia squinted into the distance. The mountains rose up over the horizon and the clouds only seemed to grow darker beyond.
"Trust me, Master Kia, when I say it only gets worse."
It was another couple hours until the dragoness was able to understand the sentry's words. The dragons watched as the ground beneath them turned from the once rich green of their home to black, rock and dirt, burned to a crisp.
"Dear ancestors." Nitrus gasped and his eyes grew wide in horror.
All around, the earth was scorched black. The trees were now dead heaps of petrified wood. Any underbrush that had once been there was nothing more than a pile of charred remains on the landscape. Nothing moved as far as the eye could see. The wind itself was barely enough to disturb the burned earth.
"How could anyone have done this?" Amp shook his head. Deep down he felt the icy fingers of fear poking at his heart, making him wish he were back home in Terra's embrace. He banked slightly towards Mateo who seemed to be lost in his own private thoughts. "Did Titanus really do
Mateo only responded with a glance out of the corner of his eye. He could not bring himself to answer the guardian.
"Voltrus, how far are we away from finding Titanus?" Cytros asked, clearly not in any mood to have the lightning dragon dodge a direct answer this time.
"I would say no more than a day's travel at this point." The lieutenant answered despondently. "
"In that case I suggest we rest for the day," Nitrus sighed, already feeling morally drained. "If we are close to finding Titanus, and if we truly need a force this size to bring him in
"I'm sorry, Master Nitrus," Voltrus apologized. "I wish I was of more use to you, but there's just no way any one dragon could understand or even comprehend what it was we discovered. Even my scouts and I still have trouble grasping the fact that we need so much support just for one dragon."
"I hope that for your honor's sake, lieutenant, that this one dragon truly requires all this effort." Voltrus was silent and hung his head almost shamefully.
"Master Nitrus, in all respect, I do not like Voltrus's recent reports or unacceptable reasoning either. But i have also put my complete faith and trust in him to know what he is doing in the field. But until we solve this issue, I recommend we put aside our judgments."
Nitrus eyed the fire dragon for several minutes. A private conversation seemed to be passing between them as they continued on. "Very well." Nitrus nodded. "Captain, I trust you will take responsibility for your subordinates as well. Until tomorrow, let us rest as much as we can." He turned to Kia who nodded before flying to the front of the formation. The guardian gave a quick flick of her tails and dove towards the ground. The flight of dragons followed closely, descending towards the burned hills below. A murmur of discomfort spread throughout the ranks as the dragons came to land on the hard ground.
The moment Crona's paws touched the ground she gave a cringe as she watched her paws turn dark with soot. Certo landed beside her, but did not pay much mind to the soot that covered his paws. "How could one dragon do all this?" Certo shook his head. "I know I was
well, bad when
"How could Titanus do all this?" Crona whimpered. "I knew he was bad but i didn't think he was this bad." Without thinking she reached up to rub her forehead and ended up leaving a black smudge across her white scales. The dragoness gave a light groan because of her absentmindedness.
Seeing this, Certo leaned over and used the ball of his wing's wrist to rub off the black cinders. Crona blushed slightly but was too tired to care much beyond that. She leaned her head against Certo's chest and tried to listen to his heartbeat. The black dragon normally would have been embarrassed by the gesture; but right now she needed him, and he would have to be strong for her.
"We'll make it together." He whispered again, hoping that his earlier words would settle the white dragoness's nerves. The black dragon inhaled and blew up a cloud of soot off the ground. Crona flinched, expecting the flakes to cover her and Certo. Instead, he gave a quick flap of his wings and sent the cloud away from the camp ground. "At least lay down so you can rest."
Crona sighed. "I'll try." She was tired from all the flying, however the uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach would not make falling asleep any easy task. She lay down beside him, allowing him to curl his tail around her, minding his deadly blade. The dragoness put her head next to Certo's and stared into his eyes. He looked so serious, but still calm; not like his normally rash-behaving self. His stare was blank and Crona began to wonder what he was thinking about. The black dragon's eyelids started to fall, slowly at first, and before long he was sound asleep.
"How is it you can sleep so easily when so much is going on around you?" She thought to herself. Crona began noticing the jaggedness of the scars across his face. The one across his forehead was noticeable but not as deep as the one across his snout and over his right eye. "I suppose after all you've been through, you're used to it, sleeping with no real notion what may happen to you next." She raised her wing and drew one of her barbs along the scar over his eye. Certo curled his lip in his sleep, but did not wake. Another sigh whistled from between her teeth as she draped her wing over his back. Again, his lip curled and he curled into a tighter ball around her.
Crona did not realize until now, that perhaps Certo really was protective of her because of the unlikely friendship they shared. Every time the apes had attacked, or Titanus had approached her, he was there beside her, ready to help her if she so needed. And now Titanus was willing to make a deal with Neros in order to get Certo out of the way for good; and all just to get at her. She did not notice that she had tears swelling up around the rims of her eyes until her vision began to blur. She rubbed her face, making sure not to get any soot in her eyes and washed the tears away.
"I wish I could make your suffering just disappear," She whimpered, pulling the black dragon closer to her. She was growing more tired by the second and her eyelids started to droop as well. "I wish we could make each other's suffering just disappear."
A loud sneeze roused Crona from her sleep. A gust of warm wind blew over her and she felt dust brush against her hide. An irritated groan escaped from Certo as snorted several times, trying to relieve the burning feeling in his nostrils. Crona opened her eyes and yawned. A small dust cloud tickled her nose and she gave a sharp sneeze.
"Ugh! My ancestors!" She exclaimed, suddenly crinkling her muzzle at the burning irritation. She gave a few more quick snorts to blow the dust out and wipe her nose. It was then she got her first look at the landscape. What had once been dark and barren earth was now covered in a light grey blanket. Her first impression was that it had snowed during the night. But snow never looked this dirty; nor was it this warm during the snowy season.
Certo seemed to read her expression. "That's not snow."
"No it's not," she agreed. "It's ash."
The black dragon fell silent, staring at her, watching her complexion to see if it would change. When it did not, he turned to look at the mountains in the distance with a scowl on his face.
All around, dragons were waking up as more and more sentries continued to pace about. They were looking rather anxious and Crona could tell by the way their armor rattled with their strides. In the distance she could see dragons flying to and from the mountains, pausing to hover in the air before returning to the camp or flying back towards the range. A lot of the dragons were still asleep; the reserves who were not accustomed to waking at early hours of the day. The few sentries that passed barely made any sign showing any sort of recognition to the young dragons.
"What's going on?" Crona asked, stretching herself out and popping her vertebrae. She shook herself, sending flakes of ash everywhere. Certo gave another snort and blew the specks away to avoid more fits of sneezing.
Certo's scowl grew darker. "The earth dragons have been up for at least a few hours. From what I've been able to gather, there have been reports that something is disturbing the earth. I haven't heard if they have found the cause of the disturbance yet. I've only been up for an hour myself."
Crona watched as the sentries continued to pace and glide about the sky, wavering slightly before jerking back upright as if they had been startled by something no one could see. "It looks like whatever it is has everyone pretty spooked." She turned her head to glance at him sideways. "What sort of disturbances have they been feeling?"
The black dragon shrugged. "All I've heard was reports of tremors and mild shaking of the ground. But I can't feel anything."
"Well you're not an earth dragon, Certo. I doubt that you could unless the force was significant enough."
"I was referring to what I can do," He snapped, only enticing a slight grin at the corner of her mouth. Seeing this, his temper subsided. "I haven't sensed anything unusual in the air. I figure if the ground is shaking then there must be some sort of disturbance in the air around us."
"One moment, let me try something." Crona sat up straight and closed her eyes to concentrate. If she could tap into the fidgety earth magic of the blue mist, she may be able to detect the source of the dragons' worries with more ease.
Beside her, Certo watched, impatiently tapping his tail blade against the charred ground. Crona's brow furrowed and a frown spread across her muzzle. She curled her lip as she tried concentrating harder on the blue mist. The earth element had always been the hardest for her to control, much less find but it had never been this difficult. "Why is this not working?" She hissed to herself. "I can't find it anywhere." In her mind's eye, all she could see was the magic elements residing within the dragons around them, as well as the crimson entity that was her friend beside her.
A startled gasp escaped from her maw as she jolted in place. Her eyes snapped wide open and her mouth hung slack as she stared into Certo's eyes.
"What? What is it? What's wrong?" Seeing the way her eyes seemed to waver in fright was making his own nerves begin to give out on him.
" She gasped, her breathing suddenly beginning to speed up.
"What is? What's gone?" Certo exclaimed, getting to his feet.
"The blue mist." The black dragon cocked his head curiously, not understanding what she was referring to. "The blue mist! It's the magical energy that flows through our world!" Crona closed her eyes to concentrate again; maybe she had not tried hard enough the first time. After another failed attempt she looked back up at him. "It's completely gone! It's been burned away with everything else here!"
Certo was beginning to get annoyed with her explanation. "So what does that mean?"
"That's the thing!" Crona snapped. "I don't know!" Certo recoiled from her sudden outburst and Crona hung her head in despair. "I just don't know." She dug her talons into the hard ground, grinding up chunks between her digits. "This is bad Certo. Really, really bad."
Certo shook his head and curled his lip in frustration. "Crona, I'm sorry. But you need to settle down! I don't understand what you're trying to say!"
The white dragoness turned her snout up to him and pressed her nose to his. "Magic is everywhere Certo, no matter how much or little! But this entire area is completely barren! It' not natural! I haven't seen any area this depleted of magic since you
Sudden shouts interrupted the dragoness's hysteria. Both looked up to see the dragons closer towards the mountain range take flight. Overhead, sentries shot like armored projectiles, shouting orders to those on the ground beneath them.
"Everyone move! Now! In the air! On the double!"
"What's going on?" Crona shouted as the group of sentries rushed past them. All around, the dragons who were already awake hurried to get airborne or wake those who were still asleep. A strong wind rushed across the campground along with a flurry of wings. Certo and Crona groaned in agony as the ash blew into their faces.
The dragons who had been scaling the mountain side dove from their ledges and walls, plummeting straight towards the ground far below. Their armor was too heavy for a stationary take-off so high up. Just as they spread their wings to catch the wind a loud crack rattled the air. Certo groaned as the sound hurt his ears. He cringed and lowered his head to the ground. Crona was about to turn to him when another crack ripped across the hills. Rocks began to fall from the mountain, crashing into ledges and slamming into dragons unlucky enough to be in the path of the oncoming rockslide. The sounds of desperate cries cut through the air as the crippled sentries fell to their deaths.
"Oh my gosh," Crona gasped. She could see the fissure rip up through the side of the mountain and the range begin to crumble into dust. Overhead the sky became thick with black clouds, no longer just ash, but jet-black smoke seemed to billow up from behind the mountain range.
"Crona! Certo! Move it!" Ampus shouted as he came to hover overhead.
No sooner had the words left the guardian's mouth than the mountainside exploded outward, sending boulders and rocks shrouded in blue fire flying across the horizon.
"Incoming!" A sentry shouted, now fully awake and leaping into the air. Loud whistles cut through the air as the flaming rocks came crashing to the ground.
All around, the grounded dragons scrambled to get out of the way. The rocks crushed several nearby sentries on impact. Others were knocked to the ground crippled from the blows before being smashed into the hard earth.
"Certo move!" Crona shouted, spreading her wings and springing off the ground
"I'm right behind you!" He shouted, blowing a strong gust beneath her wings to propel her higher. He leaped up himself and beat his wings hard. Crona squeaked and backwinged as a flaming boulder cut across her flight path.
"Behind you!" An earth dragon shouted. He fired a blast of green energy from his jaws, destroying the large rock that threatened to crush the young dragoness. Crona screamed as the debris pelted her back, but left her unharmed. She turned and glanced over her shoulder to see Certo right behind her; as he said he would be.
A burning chunk of granite hit the ground with crushing impact before bouncing back up at Certo. Crona bared her teeth before freezing time in its place. She dove towards her friend and pressed her tail spade to his nose. "Hurry!" She ordered. The black dragon clamped down onto her tail with his jaws and followed closer. The young chronicler released time and watched as the slab of stone rushed past, before crumbling to a halt.
Behind them, an angry roar thundered through the air. The dragons all cried out in pain as their ear drums pulsed from the booming noise. When the rumble had died away, the dragons stared at what had once been a towering mountain, which now lay in ruins across the landscape.
"By the ancestors." An ice sentry gasped in astonishment.
"Certo." Crona squeaked, hovering closer to her friend. Her throat suddenly felt dry and her breathing was becoming even more forced.
"No way." Amp shook his head.
"No wonder Voltrus could not explain to us what he saw." Nitrus muttered to Cytros. Both males were dusty from the falling debris and stared in stupefaction at the towering behemoth over their heads as he emerged from the cloud of smoke, blue flames licking at the rims of his mouth.
Titanus towered over the dragons of the city with eyes that had turned to feral-like slits. His body had literally grown to the size of the mountain itself, his scales, which had been armored before, now thicker and harder than stone. The horns that lined his face and body could have easily been the size of a dragon pavilion for five adult dragons. Titanus took a step forward as if moving in slow motion. Once his foot hit the ground, the earth cracked and a geyser of lava erupted from the burned lands. The fire-breather did not seem affected in the slightest. His paws were already covered in solidified volcanic rock which cracked and re-solidified with each passing step.
"What in the ancients names has that dragon been doing?" Kia exclaimed as she moved away from a passing leg.
All at once Titanus stopped. His eyes scanned the sky as the dragon guard stared in horror at him. It was then his sinister orange eyes fell upon Crona. The white dragoness felt her blood turn to water and she moved closer to Certo, trying not to bump his wings. Seeing the black dragon beside her made the mutated monster curl his lips, revealing yellow teeth.
"Uh oh," Amp swallowed hard.
Titanus's chest began to swell with air as he inhaled deeply. The dragon guard glanced uneasily at one another, perplexed by what he was doing. Once Titanus had all the air he wanted, he gave a sharp hiss. Certo's body suddenly lit up with karma and he broke away from Crona.
The white dragoness's cry was immediately engulfed by the explosion of Titanus's vocal chords. Certo flew as far ahead of the sentries as he could, sucking in as much air as possible. Just before the shockwave hit, the black dragon thrust his head forwards releasing his own sonic blast. The power of the air dragon's attack clashed with the vibrations from the monster's roar before being overpowered. The wind howled and Certo was thrown back by the sudden hurricane-like force.
Certo beat his wings wildly, trying to turn himself upright. His entire head spun sickeningly. His vision blurred for a moment and it took him a moment to get his bearings straight. Once his vision cleared he could see the monstrosity taking in another deep breath, this time a blue light emanating from the back of his throat.
Crona noticed as well. "Everyone scatter!" She shouted and dove towards the ground. The dragons flew in every direction, bumping into one another, hissing angrily for the other not paying attention to where they were going. "Oh no," Crona wheezed.
Another bellowing cry erupted from Titanus's lungs and a beam of fiery blue energy cut across the horizon. Certo beat his wings hard, shooting straight up into the sky. Below him, the dragons of the guard burned away, leaving only clouds of ash and droplets of melted metal. Seeing the sight set off a rage deep inside the young dragon he had never felt before. He banked towards the side and away from the other dragons. Titanus followed, his deadly breath attack cutting deep wounds into the landscape. The ground burned with white hot, liquid rock as the black dragon tried to stay ahead of his enemy's fiery breath.
"He's going after Certo!" Kia cried.
"Everyone, attack!" Cytros yelled at the top of his lungs, spewing a raging fireball. The remaining guards gathered below the range of Titanus's breath attacks and fired a unified volley of ice and fireballs. Overhead, the thunder rumbled in the clouds before arching down to strike the blue dragon on the back of his neck. The fire-breather snarled in irritation and closed his jaws. His head tilted to the side to fix the dragons and the guardians with an evil eye. Seeing Kia and Nitrus only seemed to anger the beast further. He began to inhale, as flames leaped from his mouth.
A sonic roar struck the fire breather in the cheek, barely making him twitch his head in response. Every head turned as Certo charged forward at top speed. Titanus opened his mouth to snarl as the black dragon shot past him. The sound never left his mouth as Certo sucked the wind right out of his throat. The black dragon banked hard, shooting around the side of the dragon's thick neck and back around to the front.
Certo's breathing became slower as he did another lap around Titanus's head. He would have to concentrate a lot if his idea was going to work. With each pass he would inhale slowly, drawing more and more air from the fire-breather's lungs. Titanus was almost immediately feeling the effects of the lack of oxygen. His eyes began to roll back in his head and he began to cough harshly.
"Again!" Cytros ordered, and another volley of elements followed. Titanus growled as the fireballs and icy spears struck his hide. The energy blasts from the earth dragons did little to affect him as did the bolts from the lightning dragons.
After the sixth lap, Certo broke away as the breath attacks exploded against Tetanus's body. The wind continued to blow in a tornado-like fashion about the blue dragon's head, sucking away any oxygen he needed to use his signature element. Certo's scars blazed bright and his bad eye burned with anger.
"I won't let you hurt anyone else ever again," He growled to himself. His jaws opened wide as a charged bolt of karma formed at the back of his mouth.
"Certo don't!" Crona screamed, seeing what he was about to do.
All of a sudden a roar echoed overhead and blue fire washed through the darkened clouds. Every head turned to see a blue dragon burst from the cover of the smoke and dive right for Certo. The black dragon gave a startled squawk and banked to the side as Volcanus slashed at him with his long claws. For a dragon of his age, he was certainly much faster than anyone could have predicted.
"Volcanus?" Cytros gasped in surprise. "How on earth did he escape from
Another roar came from the clouds overhead. Certo turned his attention away from the former fire guardian just in time to get hit with the crushing force of an earth dragoness's earth missile. The bolt of karma went off course, shooting off to the southwest, before exploding in brilliant flash of light.
Tectonica charged after Certo as he fell towards the ground below. The young dragon was trying to recover from her surprise attack as she closed the gap between them. Certo opened his wings, slowing his fall but giving Tectonica the chance she needed to get close to him. The earth dragoness shrouded herself in eerie green energy before grabbing Certo in her talons. He snarled and clawed at her to let him go. His futile attempts only made her laugh.
"I've been waiting to do this ever since I laid eyes on you." Tectonica brought her tail club up before bringing it crashing down on top of Certo. The black dragon did not so much as utter a cry as he plummeted to his certain death.
Just as he was about to hit the scorching hot earth, Crona grabbed him and the two tumbled across the ground. The white dragoness had been caught off guard herself by the sudden appearance of Volcanus and Tectonica and had nearly watched her best friend fall to his death right in front of her.
"Certo!" She cried, trying to rouse him awake. "Certo can you hear me? Certo!" No response came from the black dragon. Crona squeezed her eyes shut and grit her teeth in anger, before turning a heated glare towards the two former guardians. Volcanus only stared back at her blankly, as if nothing had happened, while Tectonica wore a deeply satisfied smile on her muzzle. Crona felt her body temperature rise and a deep feeling of hate swell up from inside her. A blue, mist-like aura began to surround her as her muscles flexed and her rage increased. "You two
are always harassing Certo." She hissed, not caring if they heard her or not. "Why can't you just leave him alone!"
"Volcanus! Tectonica! Stop where you are!" Cytros bellowed furiously. "Lieutenant, arrest them!"
"With pleasure!" Voltrus growled and moved in with several other guards closing in behind him.
"I don't think so," Tectonica hissed. She whirled on Voltrus and struck him across the face with her tail club. The lightning dragon fell back, lucky enough to be caught by his fellow dragon squad-mates before he could fall to the ground.
"We are not here to pass judgment on the feral one," Volcanus responded, turning his orange eyes on his grandson. "We are here to aid in disciplining my own kin. And no lowly feral will be the one to do so."
"You have a funny way of displaying your intentions." Cytros leered at the blue dragon. He was thankful that Crona had been there to catch Certo. "But as I've said before, we don't need your help."
By now Titanus was beginning to get his second wind back and a low growl of annoyance resonated in his throat.
"Captain, do you know why the blue fire-breathers are so special?" Volcanus asked in an annoyingly calm voice. "We have the ability to absorb flames, even our own into our bodies, thus increasing our power and in turn our size. That is why my bloodlines have been so much greater in size than any other dragon."
"So you're giving us an explanation as to possibly how your grandson decided to grow to be an oversized, scaly blueberry?" Kia demanded.
"I am saying, Master Kia, that the only way to defeat us blue fire-breathers is to use fire with fire. We cannot grow unless we have food to metabolize our growth. If we try to use too much energy and not enough growth, we run the risk of making ourselves
well, let's just say we need a suitable vessel to house our energy."
"So you're saying the only way to stop your delinquent grandson is to overload him with his own medicine." Cytros bared his teeth and fixed the blue dragon with a piercing glare.
"That is exactly what I am saying." Volcanus bobbed his head. "Now have your troops do anything they can to distract him. I promise you they won't be able to do much, but anything will help at this point."
"Funny you should say that." Kia narrowed her eyes at him. "We had a lot more help until you decided to
"We will deal with him and Certo later!" Nitrus snarled, startling the wind dragoness. "Right now our priority is to stop Titanus."
"I'm glad you see it my way for once." Volcanus cocked a slight smirk as he turned towards his towering grandson. "Have the fire breathers form three groups. We will attack him in rapid succession!"
Titanus bellowed, causing the dragons to cringe from the pounding vibrations in their heads. Volcanus unleashed a fireball into his grandson's open mouth. The blast exploded and Titanus howled in pain as a chunk of his upper jaw was burned away. The beast turned his head down and fixed Volcanus with a perplexed stare.
The guards held their breath, expecting Volcanus to be snatched up in Titanus's jaws at any moment.
"You must cease this at once, Titanus," The former guardian ordered, in a calm tone. "This has gone on long enough and you have much to answer for. I do not like that feral any more than you, but your actions have led to hundreds of deaths of our own kind. I will not allow my kind to suffer at the hands of another dragon." Down on the ground, the dragons who had managed to somehow still be alive after being nearly crushed to death, called out for the help of their fellow squad-mates. Several of the dragons broke away from the formation to aid them.
Titanus's eyes followed them and his eyes fell on the white dragoness. "Crona." He muttered, his voice feeling like an earthquake. His pupils narrowed and Volcanus's eyes widened.
"You shall not go on any more!"
Titanus opened his mouth again, this time inhaling another breath for a massive fire blast. Volcanus fired another fireball into the back of his throat. The attack did not stop the blast from coming, but the explosion caused Titanus to jerk his head straight towards the ground. The wave of blue fire billowed over the ground, boiling away earth and wounded dragons until there was nothing more than a lake of molten rock.
Cytros roared, seeing his wounded comrades murdered before his eyes. He rushed straight for Titanus with his claws extended. The giant spotted him and turned, thrusting his head to ram straight into the fire guard. Cytros felt the wind rush out of him and dug his claws into the thick skin of the teenaged dragon.
"Attack!" Nitrus ordered and led a charge on Titanus. The fire dragons that followed him opened their jaws wide and fired a heavy volley of fire balls. Cytros detached from Titanus's face just in time to dodge them. Titanus snarled angrily as the breath attacks scorched the side of his face, turning his scales black. "Evade!" Nitrus called and dove down with the formation following close behind him. Titanus snapped at the dragons, narrowly missing the ones bringing up the rear.
"Form on me!" Cytros called as he climbed higher into the sky. More sentries followed after him and prepared to strike as Volcanus launched another ball of fire, charring Titanus's nostrils. The instant Titanus turned his attention away, Cytros dove for the back of his head with his squad close on his trail. The captain drew in a deep breath and unleashed a super-heated wave of fire down Titanus's neck. The sentries followed, adding their own breath attacks, leaving only the ice dragons to trail along spitting spikes of ice into the thick armored scales.
Titanus let loose another agonized cry and shook his body, trying to relieve the burning on the back of his neck. Nitrus took the chance to attack once more. He and several other ice dragons launched a volley of jagged icicles into the blue dragon's muzzle. The skin around Titanus's eyes and nostrils was significantly softer and the fire-breather bellowed in pain. Another blast from the fireballs rocked his head, inciting another thunderous roar to stun the smaller dragons.
"Follow me!" Kia shouted as she shook the dizzying feeling from her head. The dragons who were able to recover the quickest took off after her as she made a straight run for Titanus's head. The blue dragon growled and opened his mouth as flames began to rise from the back of his throat. Kia stopped to hover, inhaling deeply while exhaling at the same time. The flames in Titanus's throat began to flicker like dying candles as the oxygen levels began to deplete. The sentries took the opening and hit the giant with another wave of breath attacks. A loud moan was all Titanus could utter as he began to stagger from the hit.
"Again!" Cytros hollered and sucked in a deep breath.
"Altogether!" Nitrus shouted. The sky thundered with the battle cries of dragons. In one massive volley, they unleashed their elements upon the towering monster, striking him from all sides. Titanus wailed as the combined forces rocked him off his feet. He fell as if in slow motion, crushing more of the mountain range and cracking the earth wide open in the process.
Crona cringed and huddled closer to Certo's body, holding her wing up to shield them from the cloud of dust and ash that blew over them. Voltrus spotted her and turned to one of his subordinates. "I want you to watch after Crona and Certo. Do not let anything happen to them."
"Understood," The ice dragon nodded and dove towards the white dragoness. Once he landed in front of her, Crona peeked out from behind her wing. "Are you alright?"
"I-I'm fine," She stammered, holding Certo closer to her. The guard sighed, thankfully. A low moan echoed across the land and every head turned to stare at the downed dragon. The fallen behemoth groaned and one of his eyes cracked open. His armored skin was charred and smoking still, filling the air with the smell of burned flesh.
"Is he down for good?" Nitrus asked, moving closer to Volcanus. The sentries moved to surround the former guardians should Nitrus give the order to arrest them again. Tectonica hissed at them but Volcanus kept his eyes focused on his grandson.
"Is it over?" Crona stared in disbelief at Titanus who was slowly starting to regain his senses. The sentry who had been sent to guard her stared at the sight in silence, body tensed for if he needed to turn and protect the young dragons with his life.
The ice dragon was so focused on Titanus that he never saw the chained blade flying at him until it plunged into his throat. The male dragon jolted from the impact, his mouth opening wide as if to cry out, but only releasing a gargled noise. Crona gasped in terror as she watched the sentry fall before her, blood spurting from its neck. She tried to utter some sort of cry, but fear prevented her from sounding an alarm.
"We'll take care of Certo from here." Crona turned her head as a powerful tail swing caught her upside the head. The white dragoness crumbled to the ground with a startled squawk. Her vision blurred as she stared out at the world around her. The dragons hadn't noticed her as they were all preoccupied with Titanus. A paw set down beside her and Crona's eyes rolled up to see a pair of ruby red eyes staring back down at her. Blood trickled down the side of her head and down her neck. How had she not seen this attack coming?
Neros seemed to sense her anxiety and turned to his scout leader. "Do it. But I want her alive." The ape waddled over until he was staring straight down at her. Crona's heart began to pound against her chest.
The ape gave a toothy grin, seeing the fear in her eyes. "Sleep," he chuckled. He raised a fist and brought it crashing down on her head. Crona's world suddenly went black with a sickening crack. The ape lifted his fist, and licked the blood off his knuckles. Crona lay motionless on her side, her mouth gaping open in frozen agony as blood trickled from the open wounds on her head. The ape pressed two fingers to her throat and nodded to Neros who smiled in satisfaction.
The sound of snarling grabbed the albino's attention and he turned to see three of the other apes swatting at each other for who got to kill the black dragon.
"Stand aside!" Neros ordered, instantly ending the squabble. The apes backed away as Neros walked over and stared down at his twin. Blood trickled from Certo's nose and the corner of his mouth. The albino raised his tail blade, contemplating his next course of action. He glanced over his shoulder as the lead scout bound Crona up and slung her over his shoulder. "I'll keep you alive for now. Just in case I need to give your girlfriend a bit more motivation."
The apes watched as Neros slowly pressed his tail blade into Certo's shoulder, cutting a deep wound, trying to spill as much blood as possible. As the blood trickled down his brother's forelimb, Neros held his blade out, catching as much blood as he could, covering the tip of his tail in it. Once he was satisfied, he turned to look back over his shoulder. "Let's go. Now."
Titanus's gaze fell upon the albino dragon and his group of apes as they began slipping away. Seeing the feral dragon escaping with his prize snapped him out of his daze in a matter of seconds. A furious growl rumbled inside his body as he began to move again.
"Everyone get ready!" Nitrus bellowed as the fire-breather began to rise. Titanus slammed a heavy paw into the ground, pushing himself up off the mountains sending another spire of molten rock into the air. High overhead, the city dragons could feel the intense heat from the spout and back-winged away.
Once Titanus was on his stomach, he bared his teeth and let loose another roar. "Attack!" Voltrus shouted. The deep voices of the dragons echoed throughout the air as another wave of breath attacks bombarded the monster. Titanus turned a hate-filled eye on his assailants and whirled on them. The dragons of the city scattered as Titanus lunged for them, snatching up several in the process.
"Everyone, evade!" Kia shouted as Titanus began to take in another breath. A cloud of blue fire blew from his mouth, incinerating another group of dragons, unlucky enough to be in the way. Kia cried out in horror as their ashes fell began to blow away in the wind. Their remains suddenly changed direction as Titanus began inhaling them as well as the fire from the molten geyser.
The dragons watched as Titanus seemed to glow in response to the new energy added to his already tremendous amount of power. Blue tufts of fire spurted from his nostrils, sending another hot gust through the air.
Another fireball hit Titanus as Volcanus and Tectonica rushed in to intercept him. Titanus snarled and snapped at his grandfather, missing him as he dove below his jaw line. Tectonica banked high towards the sky before shrouding herself in green, earthy energy. The dragoness curled into a ball before dropping down on top of Titanus's head, briefly getting his attention away from Volcanus and the others. Titanus, annoyed by the distraction, turned his head to the sky and fired a blast of fire. Tectonica continued to cover herself in protective energy, but Titanus's breath was proving to be too hot for her to handle. At the last possible second, she broke away from the stream of fire, her hide smoking from the intense heat. Titanus made another snap for her. Just as his jaws were about to close around the earth dragoness, the sentries launched another volley, knocking the deadly teeth away from Tectonica. Now thoroughly irritated, Titanus whirled on them, breathing a blast of white-hot flames at the guards. The armored dragons banked out of the way, but not without receiving serious burns. Nitrus watched as the wounded dragons struggled to stay airborne, fighting against the pain from their second degree burns.
Volcanus roared and charged Titanus, latching onto his face and breathing a wave of fire into a concentrated area on his sensitive facial scales. Titanus snarled in pain, shaking his head to throw off his grandfather. He raised a paw to swat the fire dragon away, but Volcanus evaded the swipe. Titanus turned on him, snapping down hard, his muscle heavy jaws clapping together and sending a gust of hot air to throw Volcanus off balance.
As Volcanus fought to remain airborne, Titanus inhaled, readying another fire ball. Right as he was about to unleash his breath, Kia dropped in front of Volcanus, and began to inhale while simultaneously exhaling again. Titanus let loose another wave of fire, engulfing the two dragons. Nitrus hollered for his fellow guardian, his voice being drowned out by the roaring flames. All at once, the flames began to warp and disperse as Kia continued to manipulate the air in order to snuff out the flames.
Seeing this caused Titanus to narrow his eyes at her and put more power into his breath attack. Kia immediately noticed and began to panic. She could not hold this position more than a few more seconds. Little by little her breathing began to slow, allowing the flames to overwhelm her.
"Out of the way!" Volcanus ordered, shoving her aside, breaking her concentration. The air guardian screamed as the flames threatened to burn her alive. Several tongues of fire leaped out at her, burning the thin, transparent membrane between her wing digits. Nitrus dove towards her as she fell out of the sky. Volcanus breathed another burst of flames, deflecting the main force of his grandson's attack. Nitrus caught the air dragoness just as she was about to hit the ground, and the two tumbled head over heels, knocking up large chunks of dirt and rock along the burning earth.
"Nitrus!" Amp shouted from beside Cytros. Until now he had done a fairly good job of staying close to the captain and avoiding any sort of direct hit from the fire-breathing monster.
The ice guardian picked himself up off the ground and grunted in pain. One of his wings was broken and hanging limp at his side, clearly dislocated. Kia on the other hand was in far worse shape. She too had a broken wing, but her bone now stuck out through the skin, allowing her to bleed openly. Her scales in various places had been melted together, and the wing membrane was badly burned. The smell itself was enough to cause Nitrus's nose to crinkle in disgust.
I tried." The dragoness wheezed, feeling the exhaustion overwhelming her.
"Rest now. You've done your part. Thank you," Nitrus whispered back, draping his good wing over her head to shield her view from the raging fight overhead.
"Captain!" Volcanus hollered, catching Cytros's attention. "You and the others retreat for now. I will handle this personally!"
"That's what I'm afraid of," Cytros growled. "No deal Volcanus! We aren't going anywhere!"
"It is not your destiny to die here Captain!" Volcanus snarled. "It is my destiny to bring an end to this, once and for all."
"Oh, so suddenly you decide that we're worth helping after all?" Amp shouted angrily. Titanus bellowed and lunged for them again.
"It has been my destiny from the beginning!" Volcanus answered after striking his grandson with another fireball. "Master Oracle has shown me time and again, that I am to destroy my own! It has been my destiny from the beginning!" Amp recoiled as if he had been slapped across the face. The fire-breather could not have been more serious about anything before in his life. Volcanus turned fiery-orange eyes on his grandson and glared. "Ever since you were born I have dreaded this day. But if dragons are to unite as one, then there is no place for our kind amongst them."
"Volcanus you can't be serious!" Cytros protested. "Think about it! It's destiny you're talking about! Not your fate! You can choose your own path!" Another massive paw rushed past them, knocking them off balance for a few moments.
"Destiny has more than one path, Captain. I have chosen my path. I tried to use that feral as a way of getting out of this. But instead it only led me straight to what I had always feared I must do." He fired another fireball at his kin's snout, bringing stinging tears to his eyes. Volcanus turned to glance over his shoulder at Cytros. "Now you must leave!" I will bring an end to this, for it is what I am destined to do!"
Cytros did not have time to pause, for Titanus was readying himself to strike again. "Come Ampus!" He ordered.
"What? We're leaving them?" Amp gasped.
"Yes, now move it!" The fire guard snapped, silencing the young dragon. "Everyone retreat!" Cytros did not need to repeat himself. Every remaining dragon gathered up their wounded comrades and followed after Cytros and Amp as the fled the battleground.
"It is time, grandson," Volcanus growled, staring the titan in the face. "Tectonica, you may wish to leave as well."
"I am not going anywhere," She snorted. "I have stayed by your side this entire time and I will die with you if I so please."
Volcanus was surprised by her determined words, but respectfully nodded.
Titanus opened his mouth and the two dragons launched their breath attacks into the back of his throat. Titanus nearly choked on his own flames as another of Tectonica's earth bullets struck his tonsils. Volcanus blew another chunk out of the roof of his mouth with another fireball before diving out of the way of another paw. The old dragon was beginning to slow down. Never had he been forced to exert this much energy at once.
Tectonica rushed in and latched onto Titanus's face. He let out an irritated growl when the earth dragoness struck him in the eye with her clubbed tail. Titanus shook his head as flames spewed wildly from his gaping maw. Volcanus inhaled as deeply as he could, absorbing the flames within his own body. The spectating dragons all watched in astonishment as the former guardian began to glow like the fires that burned across the land.
"Hold him!" Volcanus bellowed. "Make him breathe more!" Tectonica dove towards the ground, becoming engulfed by earthy energy. She plunged into the ground with a loud crack, sending a plume of molten rock up behind her. A moment later she shot up out of the ground again on the opposite side of Titanus, another spire of fire and lava trailing behind her. She fired another earth missile into Titanus's face and dove back down as his jaws snapped just behind her. Again she punched another hole in the earth, causing more lava to rise up from the ground.
Down on the ground, Nitrus struggled to gather Kia up onto his back as the liquid rock rushed towards them. Cytros and Voltrus both came in for a landing, Cytros supporting the ice guardian while Voltrus gently hefted the air dragoness onto his back.
"Watch out!" Nitrus shouted, breathing a concentrated burst of ice to slow down the river of lava streaming towards them. A loud hiss and a cloud of blistering hot steam rose up from the ground as the two sentries fought to get airborne.
Kia lifted her head to watch as the lava consumed the landscape. It was then her eyes fell upon two dragons lying on the ground. "Stop!" She shouted suddenly, squirming on Voltrus's back. "We have two still down there!"
The lightning guard glanced down and made a silent curse to himself. The sentry he had sent to guard Certo and Crona lay dead in a dried puddle of his own blood while Certo lay bleeding a few yards away from him. "Azurite!" Voltrus shouted.
"He's gone sir!" Another ice dragon shouted. A severe burn on his right forelimb caused him to tuck his arm to his chest.
"Then Arcane, I need you to retrieve Certo and Iscerus! Now go!"
"Yes sir!" The male dove without so much as a salute. In a matter of seconds, he was on the ground. It took a moment to forcibly lift the dead sentry in all his armor off the ground, but once he had the body situated he began to beat his wings to get the air underneath him.
"Hurry!" Kia shouted desperately as the lava drew closer. Arcane managed to get off the ground enough to hover and make a grab for Certo with his hind legs. He missed and dropped the young dragon to the ground. He made one more attempt as the lava closed in on him, this time snatching Certo up with his tail and hurling him into the air. Arcane then beat his wings and grabbed the black dragon in his jaws as he took off into the air. "Thank goodness." Kia breathed a sigh of relief as she watched the guard climb back into the sky to join the formation. Acrane's tail tip had been burned to a crisp when he made a dive for Certo, and now had to refrain from crushing the young male between his teeth as the pain rushed up his spine.
Behind them, Tectonica managed to punch a considerable amount of holes in the ground, but constantly exposing herself to molten rock was beginning to take its toll on her. Her once green scales were now charred black with ash and second-degree burns. The dragoness's wings were badly burned, and barely allowing her to stay aloft anymore. Her lungs were filled with smoke and ash, making it harder for her to get her wind back and her lack of oxygen was causing her vision to blur.
Titanus took advantage of her weakness and lunged for her again. This time Tectonica was too slow to react. She beat her wings to get away but Titanus's jaws clamped down on her lower torso, crushing her bones between his gigantic teeth. A scream of pain and terror filled the air as Titanus began to shake her, hoping to tear her apart.
A blue fireball exploded against Titanus's muzzle once more and his grip on her loosened. Tectonica fell from his jaws, blood spilling from her lower body and open mouth. Volcanus watched helplessly as she stared out at him, blankly. Time seemed to slow down as she plummeted towards the lava surrounding Titanus's feet.
have failed you," Tectonica whispered in her mind. Her body began to radiate with energy one more. She had one last chance to aid the fire guardian, and she would take it.
Volcanus watched as Tectonica's body plunged into the lava, a stunned expression on his face. The other dragons all stared in silent wide-eyed shock as they steadily backed away from the battleground. Titanus turned his fiery glare on his grandfather whose body was steaming from all the fire he had absorbed into his body.
All of a sudden the earth shook. A brilliant green light burst from beneath the lava and Titanus felt the ground beneath his feet give way. The blue dragon plunged into the molten earth with a startled cry. The lava splashed high into the air and Volcanus seized the opportunity Tectonica's final effort had presented him with. The blue fire-breather beat his wings, sending waves of fiery energy into the lava. The molten rock began to spiral about, catching TItanus in what looked like a burning hot whirlpool. The lava spun higher into the air, as the giant thrashed about, trying to get free from the trap. He flapped his wings, but he was so heavy that they were of no use to him.
The lava was beginning to cool the higher it went. The dragons gasped as they watched the volcanic rock solidify, slowly covering the beastly titan, leaving only his furious cry to echo from the spout of the volcanic mountain.
"Is it over?" Voltrus asked, astonished at what he had just witnessed.
Before anyone could answer, a muffled roar came from inside the mountain. The peak began white hot before being blown off in a spout of blue flames.
"Everyone move!" Cytros ordered as more flaming rock began to rain across the countryside.
Volcanus hovered over the open mouth of the mountain, watching as his infuriated grandson blew spouts of flame into the air as he struggled to free himself from his prison. He took in a deep breath as he prepared for his final assault. "Destiny be damned," He muttered. "So much was unforetold." He looked up at the black clouds overhead. "Master Oracle never mentioned a white dragoness in his prophecies." The blue fire-breather took in one final breath and dove towards the opening in the hollow mountain. Titanus bellowed and spewed another wave of fire only to have his grandfather absorb the flames once more. The fire guardian cringed as his energy reached its limit.
Before his grandson could prepare another breath attack, Volcanus shot down into his throat. Inside it was hot and muggy, and almost no air could be inhaled. Volcanus choked on the smoke and stench that filled his own lungs. "Destiny be damned." He repeated as he closed his eyes and curled into a fetal pose. He could hear another rush of air being drawn in and the heat from deep inside his grandson's chest rising up to meet him. Volcanus opened his eyes to see the blue glow of flames coming up to consume him for good.
With one final roar, the fire guardian exploded with all the remaining energy he had left in a single massive fury blast. The light shot straight into the sky and Titanus felt the extreme pressure build up inside his chest. He tried to cry out in pain but the two forces inside him combusted sending a fiery streak of flames bursting from the back of his throat in through the clouds of ash overhead. The sky became ablaze with light and a moment later another deafening explosion blew apart the mountaintop before more molten lava shot into the air.
"Dear ancestors," Cytros gasped as he watched the lava continue spraying into the clouds. The city guard had to dodge and weave in and out of the falling globs of liquid. Everything was silent except for the roar of the volcano.
"I think Volcanus actually did it," Kia murmured in shock at the sight before her.
"But at such a price," Nitrus thought to himself. He was glad to have been able to bring down the menace that was Titanus, but the events of that day would forever leave a bitter stain in his memory.