The flickering light from the lanterns woke Crona from her deep slumber. She groaned as she tried to turn away from the distracting flickering against her eyelids. The dragoness curled to the side and tried to hide her face in the crook of Certo's arm as she usually did when the sun woke her before she was ready. She felt the cold chill of a body next to her, instead of the familiar warmth of her friend. Crona's eyelids lifted to see a grey dragoness resting beside her, just beginning to drift off to sleep. Once she recognized the face, her head lifted off the pillows and she gave her friend a curious look.
"Terra? What are you doing here?"
The ice dragoness twitched slightly, already having been aware of Crona's stirring. She gave a sleepy yawn and stretched her long neck out, pooping her vertebrae in the process. "Watching over you. Certo said you sleep better when someone is there with you. So I was elected to be your nest buddy. At least until Certo is out?"
Crona raised a brow. "Out? Out of where?"
Terra sighed and lowered her head onto her front paws. "Certo's being held in detention at the moment. He apparently got in trouble for going to rescue you when you went missing."
"He did? But
how? I don't understand how he could be held in detention for that."
"My father had said he could not afford to send out any dragons to search for you because it would put the rest of the guard in danger." Terra explained, clearly reciting what had been explained to her by either Amp or Nitrus. "They expected him to leave on his own and search for you, but soon discovered he had brought Mateo along, seeing as how he knew where to find the apes, and eventually you. Captain Cytros ended up sending Lieutenant Voltrus and some sentries out to help but
"It was not under good circumstances." Crona frowned, not entirely pleased with the situation she had woken up to. Terra nodded and the white dragoness sighed. "So I'm going to guess Certo is currently being 'detained' in the dungeon below the guardian temple?" Terra nodded. "Then I'm going to go have a word with him myself."
"Are you sure you're up to something like that? Especially after just waking up?"
"I feel fine, really." Crona bobbed her head. She rose to her feet and stretched her wings out, feeling the immense tension that had built up in her muscles. Flying right now would not be pleasant even if it meant getting around quicker.
Crona's blue eyes drifted down to look at the black egg in the nest of blankets. "How's she doing?"
Terra smiled, gently nudging the egg. "Mom says she's doing very well. She's been going to visit Certo each afternoon to let him know that she is alright. I think it's put his worries at ease, even if it is temporary."
"No doubt." Crona thought to herself. "If you wouldn't mind watching her for a short while longer
"No need to ask." Terra waved her wing dismissively. "I'm happy to help you and Certo in any way possible." Crona paused, fixing her friend with a suspicious stare. The ice dragoness giggled softly upon seeing her reaction. "Strictly speaking from a friendship standpoint. Now go on. I'm sure he's waiting for you."
"Thank you." Crona gave a slight bob of her head before leaving.
Outside the air was chilly in the late afternoon sun. Shadows had already spread across the city, making the wind even colder than before. Crona shuddered as she walked stiffly though the streets, nodding at the passing dragons who were on their way home. Something about the city was different, though she could not quite but a claw on it. It seemed so much quieter, almost to the point where she felt alone. When she arrived at the guardian's temple no guards stood at the entrance as she had come to expect. Surprised by this she crept inside cautiously, taking care to move silently down the hall.
Voices could be heard in the conference chamber ahead. "Should we have the inauguration now or after the winter months have passed?" The sound of Kia's voice struck a familiar note in Crona's ears.
"Perhaps they should be held sooner rather than later." Cytros replied. "After the crushing blow Titanus dealt us, our fellow dragons could use the moral boost."
"That is true." Stratus's voice acknowledged his friend's choice. "However, as you have said, we have lost much recently. Maybe it would be out of courtesy and respect for the fallen that we wait and give the families time to mourn." Nitrus gave a subtle murmur, knowing full well that both dragons brought up a good point.
"Maybe we could use another opinion." Sin spoke up, catching their attention. "What do you think Crona?" Every head turned towards the great doors of the conference chamber as the white dragoness emerged from her hiding spot. She gave an annoyed look at the oracle before glancing around the circle of eyes.
"How are you feeling?" Nitrus asked, in a rather stale tone. He was not too amused at the idea of her listening in on them without an invitation.
"Well enough." The dragoness replied with a bow. "What's going on that I should be asked to provide another opinion?"
"We have been deliberating about what to do about Volcanus and Tectonica." Kia replied. Instinctively, Crona's spines flattened slightly and a hiss resonated in her throat. "They're gone." Kia spoke up, raising a paw to calm the young female. "You don't need to worry about them any longer."
The raspy noise disappeared and Crona's brows jumped. "Gone? As in banished? Or
"They both sacrificed themselves to subdue Titanus." Cytros replied. "He's not dead, but he has been buried away beneath what is now an active volcano. And as long as he stays there, he won't be any threat to us." Crona found herself dumbstruck as she stared at her talons. She could hardly believe that the two guardians were actually gone now. How could they have made such a sacrifice when they had been so ruthless to one of their own kind?
The white dragoness grit her teeth in anger and frustration, not knowing whether to pity or hate them. "This currently brings us t a dilemma." Nitrus continued. "In their their deaths, we are now short three guardians."
"Three?" Crona looked around the faces at Kia, Amp, Nitrus, Stratus and Cytros. "W-where's Cryus?"
unfortunately relinquished his title as guardian." Nitrus sighed. "He and Certo had a bit of an altercation and afterwards he felt that it was too much trouble to deal with one who he feels should not be allowed to reside amongst our ranks."
"Arrogant jerk." Crona muttered under her breath.
"So we are currently searching for a replacement for him. But we have also chosen two prime candidates to replace Volcanus and Tectonica." Nitrus glanced at the librarian and fire guard.
Crona's eyes widened. "You're both becoming guardians?" She gaped in awe at them, almost in disbelief. Though she could have hardly picked anyone better to fill the positions being granted to them. Both dragons nodded, proudly if not slightly humbled. "I
I'm happy for both of you." Crona stammered. "I'm sure you'll do us
The guardians all looked at one another. Crona's voice had taken a sudden sorrowful tone. "Is something wrong?" Nitrus asked, peering inquisitively at her.
"No, no. Not at all." Crona lied, shaking her head. "I'm just surprised is all. It's quite a shock but I don't mean that in a bad way at all." She eyed them all hoping that they bought into her excuse. It was then that she noticed Kia and Nitrus's broken wings; Kia's being in the most severe condition with a dense ice caste around it and badly burned membrane. Crona would have been surprised if she ever flew again. Nitrus's deltoid was swollen but covered in sapling leaves to give him some relief. Cytros and Amp were clean of any injuries but still looked rather worn out.
"So what would you say young Crona?" Stratus asked gently. "Should we make our announcement now or at the end of the winter solstice?"
" Crona stopped to think. She did not feel pressured, but the guardians had brought up a good point about the pros and cons of announcing Cytros and Stratus's advancement in their social order. It would give the dragons more moral, but at the same time she felt as if it would be like telling them to not grieve over their lost loved ones. "I vote that we
you wait for the announcement." She finally stated. "In honor of those who have fallen."
"Very well then." Nitrus nodded, solemnly acknowledging her reasoning. "We will grieve this solstice and honor our lost brethren. Come springtime, we will start a new. A new age for draconic kind. We will begin rebuilding our society in a stronger more unified order. We must make sure that in the thousand years to come, we must act as a family. All of us. If we are to survive, it will be imperative." The guardian's icy eyes swept around the room. "Are we all in agreement?"
No verbal answer was received; only saddened nods followed by a long silence. Crona continued to stare at her feet. She was glad Nitrus was taking charge in such a time where hardship was everywhere, but deep down she could not help but feel for him, having to take on such a role as this, being the ranking guardian. Her only hope was that he would not follow the same path as Volcanus.
Sensing the dragoness's discomfort, Kia rose to her feet and stepped off her pedestal. "Crona I'd like you to come with me." She glanced over her shoulder at the others. "If you'll excuse us." The air dragoness limped down the corridor with Crona keeping in close stride. "I know why you're here, and I want you to know that what we did was not an easy choice." Crona remained silent. "We all care deeply for you and Certo, and we are grateful for what you two have done for us as a society. But at the same time, we cannot let reckless acts such as that go unnoticed or unpunished if they were in violation of orders, or endangerment of another innocent life."
"I'm well aware." Crona answered, not lifting her head to the guardian. "I'm certain Certo is aware of this as well."
"Indeed he is." Kia replied. "Nitrus knew he could not stop him from searching you out when you went missing. But the fact that Mateo went with him changed his opinion entirely. If Certo had come back with you and Mateo had not followed him, then he most likely would not have been punished. But because Nitrus had to send out sentries who were already not in the best fighting shape, he had to jeopardize the overall safety of our forces. And that put us all in a nasty position."
"I already understand." Crona repeated, more forcefully this time. She was well aware of how strict the dragon military would become over the years due to her parents direct involvement. Though at the same time she had to keep her secret hidden still from the guardian, so she bit her tongue and continued following around the side of the temple.
Kia frowned, but understood that if she sugar-coated the reality of the situation for her former student, she would only be aggravating their relationship. The air dragoness came before the two sentries standing guard at the entrance who nodded respectfully to both females. The guardian looked down at Crona with a rather anxious expression on her face. "Would you like some time alone with him?"
Crona paused for a second before nodding. There would be topics that she and Certo would need to discuss in private. Kia bobbed her head and the guards stepped out of the way, allowing Crona to descend the stairwell. As she walked by she noticed the severe burns on their tails, and hind legs beneath their armor, more signs that the dragon guard had been severely crippled by Titanus.
Down in the dungeon it was much warmer despite the minimal torch light. No other guards were around, much to Crona's surprise. Large holes filled the walls where earth bullets had punched into the stone; signs of Tectonica's infiltration to break out the late guardian of fire. As she walked to the back of the small cell block, her eyes fell upon the mangled metal bars that had once held Volcanus prisoner. It was the only cell in the dungeon making Crona question whether her friend was even here anymore.
"Certo?" Her whisper woke the black dragon from his light slumber. Crona's heart fluttered when he seemed to emerge from out of the shadows like a jet-black entity. "Thank goodness you're okay." She looked him over, remembering his deep shoulder wound from before. It would not fully heal for at least a couple of weeks, but she could identify Thundra's medicinal work, putting her worries to rest.
Certo stared at her for a moment, before glancing past her to see if they were being watched. What he did next nearly knocked the dragoness off her feet. Certo stepped past the melted metal bars that should have been his prison door and nuzzled his cheek against hers. Crona's face suddenly felt hot and her heart slammed against her chest wall. "We need to talk." He murmured stepping back into the cell and laying down on his stomach.
Taking the hint, Crona got her mind settled and put time on a temporary hold. The gesture had been something Certo had never done to her before; not with so much emotion hidden behind it. As she lay down on her belly as well, she could see past his eyes that he had been changed deep inside. Her capture had left him traumatized. He no longer carried himself like the aggressive protector he once was. His wings drooped almost sadly at his sides, like they weighed too much to keep properly tucked in.
"How are you feeling right now?" His eyes seemed to pierce into her soul, searching for any sign of her trying to hide her true feelings.
"I'm okay for the time being."
" Crona squinted at him curiously, not certain what he was referring to. Certo held his paw up up, facing it towards her. He made a circular motion with his arm and Crona bobbed her head in understanding.
"I think I've recovered enough." She replied. "Why do you want to know?"
Certo's eyes drifted down to his paws for a long time before lifting back to meet hers. "We are going to get you back home."
Crona jerked back as if she had been slapped in the face. "W-what? Where is this coming from? Weren't we already working on that?"
"Crona, I want you to listen to me." Certo sighed, his voice sending a chill up her spine. "I know we were already working on that plan
but after what just happened
we really need to bite down hard and get you to safety."
The young chronicler almost would have laughed in his face if she did not take him more seriously. "Certo I'm fine. I'm back here, safe and sound and I have you here to help me should I need it."
"That's not good enough." The young male shook his head. "Neros almost succeeded in getting you to do just what he wanted. That was far too close a call. Even more than I'm comfortable with. We have to devote all our efforts now to finding a way to get you home."
"What about the city?" The dragoness protested. "The army can't stand up to any attack right now. If Neros were to launch a strike against the city, we'd be wiped out for sure."
"They can handle things themselves right now." Certo shot back. "Besides, after what you did, I'm sure the apes are going to need to time to recover themselves as well. We have time, but how much I have no idea. Which is why we need to get start right this instant!" His last sentence echoed in the dungeon startling her for a brief second. After a moment he settled down and lay his head on his paws. He had nothing more to say. Not while he was to be confined here.
"How long must you stay here?" Crona asked after a long silent tension passed between them.
"At least three more days." Certo muttered. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and fixed her with his scarred eye. "In that time I want you to keep looking for a way out of here."
The white dragoness's heart sank. Certo was completely steadfast on sending her home where his twin could no longer get at her, meaning that she had no hope of changing his mind about the situation. Mentally defeated, she released her hold on time. For a long time, neither spoke, just stared blankly at one another, lost in their own thoughts.
After an hour passed, Crona spoke up. "You were really worried weren't you." Certo did not respond. He remained as solid as a rock, only his sides moving as he sucked in deep breaths through his nostrils. The only time he had felt such cold, intense fear before was that fateful night the apes invaded his home. He wished to be able to express his feelings, but right now he needed to be strong, for both of them. Their bond had grown so close that it would already be near impossible to sever it. Crona did not deserve to be tasked with breaking such a fond friendship, so the black dragon put it on himself.
Seeing that he was too deep in thought to talk, the young dragoness got up to leave. As she reached the bottom of the stairs Certo lifted his head. "Crona." She stopped and glanced back at where he lay, hardly able to see him at all in the darkness. "If you have to leave, don't worry about saying goodbye."
Crona's eyes widened and her heart twisted into a knot. She could barely believe what he had just said. Hurtful words had passed between them before but nothing that struck the heart this hard. Tears began to swell up in her eyes yet she clenched her teeth, not willing to cry in front of him. She turned to hurry up the stairs and away from the temple. Behind her, Certo felt his own heart create a lump in his throat. He settled back down into the darkness and closed his eyes, hoping that sleep would help withhold his own tears.
What on earth was Certo thinking? How dare he ask something so heartless from her. She had no doubt he was concerned for her safety, but why the sudden coldness? It was like his old self had returned, even more hollow and lost than before.
Crona's thoughts blurred in her mind as she trudged up the hill towards the library. Books were what she needed. They always helped her forget about her troubles, even if it was only for a short time. She stormed into the library, taking no time to look up to see if anyone was around. All over, earth dragons moved rubble being taken from the shelter being constructed. Crona stopped time, not wishing to converse with anyone at the moment and disappeared into the back of the library. Verona had kept her notes and books stashed in a private corner, out of the way of any clumsy feet. Once she was alone, she let the noise continue in the front rooms, and sat down to return to her work.
There was nothing else for her to do other than try and solve her problem of being stuck in this time period. Certo had been right, despite the harshness of his voice; the city guard would be taking time to recover. She hated it when he was right, especially about situations as serious as this. The feeling of being torn between her love for her father, and her loyalty to her friend was eating her up inside. Why did things have to turn out this way? She never planned on making friends once she had discovered what had happened for this exact reason.
"If you have to leave, don't worry about saying goodbye." That sentence continued to repeat itself in her head, making her madder each time. Crona knew full well that she would have to cut Certo out of her life, and she knew that he was aware of this as well.
"But that doesn't mean we can't say goodbye to each other." She whispered crossly. It did not matter what Certo said, or what he wanted. Crona was determined to leave him on good terms; not arguing like they always did. It would be hard, but she would make it a farewell that she would never regret.
The white dragoness continued to look over her notes, and she found a couple of dust-covered scrolls she had not gathered before. Curiously she opened them after checking to see if anyone was watching. Crona spent several minutes looking over the words, already captivated in the scrolls contents. Had she missed these beforehand or had someone found them while she was away? Most likely the second; but who? It did not matter right now. These were the first documents on magic she had ever laid eyes on since being sent back.
Crona's head lifted and her muscles twitched as she thought about getting up. She wanted to go back to Certo and fill him in on her recent discovery; but that would have been childish, to go telling someone something meaningless when nothing had been done with it. He probably did not even want to see her right now. It was probably for the better; she needed to concentrate. The young chronicler got out her ink wells and writing tools and opened her notes.
Hours passed and Crona blazed through each scroll at least five times. She worked fast the first round through, leaving the next four times to fine tune her notes more. By the first day she had completed four whole rolls of paper after just reading through the first book. She continued working tirelessly, only stopping to suddenly fall asleep for a couple hours before waking and jumping back into her project. Periodically, Verona would poke her head in to check on her, pleased that she was making meticulous use of the scrolls she had left her as a surprise.
The ice dragoness had stumbled across the two scrolls while supervising the young dragons as they helped sort through the archives. In actuality, she should have sent them to the vault or at least informed Stratus about their appearance. However, seeing these rare scrolls captivated her, filling her with a desire to share the knowledge. Though Crona was the only one she could truly see being the most appreciative of suck works, and therefore slipped them into her pile of books she had stacked before leaving with the guards.
Seeing the young dragoness furiously writing down notes put a smile on the librarian's muzzle. She slowly slipped away, returning to the contraction crew, busily digging in the back chamber. The earth dragons nodded politely as they pushed and pulled the large chunks of rock and bags of debris across the floor. Verona sighed sadly as she looked down at the marble floor, now covered in dirt, small rocks and scratches from the dragging stones. The once quiet library had been transformed into what could have easily looked like the remains of the dragon academy; all within the space of a month. "And all because of one young dragon," she murmured to herself.
She had not seen Certo in many weeks; not since Tectonica's assassination attempt. Her mind began to wonder as she reflected back to when she had first met the young male. As she paced she happened to glance over at one of the pillars supporting the upper level of the library. A small crack could be seen across the marble column where Stratus had been knocked into it. The air dragon certainly possessed a gift of a strong power, capable of taking on the numerous larger dragons who had once been so against him. Even now she felt a sense of admiration towards the black dragon for not misusing it. Verona could hardly name any other dragon trustworthy of such power, especially to one so young and mentally fragile. Though it was not just Certo but Crona as well, despite the faces she put on to hide it. Only once or twice had Verona been able to take a glimpse at the pain the white dragoness held inside. With each moment she saw her, she wished she could do, or at least say, something that would help ease that pain. But because Crona kept most information about herself secret, Verona was unable to come up with the right words to say or actions to comfort her.
"Perhaps it is best that she has Certo." The ice dragoness thought as she stepped into the open sun of the mid-afternoon. Thinking of the odd couple put a smile on the librarian's face.
The day was clear but still chilly. Fall was late but would be hitting hard into the winter months shortly. Her pale blue scales rattled slightly as she sniffed the air. It was going to be a cold winter season, and a long one at that. It would be only a couple of short weeks until the first storms would hit. A sense of urgency seemed to swell up inside her, and she returned to the library. The roof would have to be finished before then and there was still much work to be done.
A gentle breeze blew against Crona's neck. The dragoness stirred in her sleep but did now wake.
The white dragoness was standing on a small rocky ledge, just outside a cave. The spot almost reminded her of Certo's old home; but that place was long gone now. Before her the valley of avlar opened up across the horizon. The sky had gentle clouds floating across its expanse. Birds and insects zipped between trees and flowers, and smoke rose from the villages in the distance. The Silver River glistened like metal in the warm sunlight, almost blinding her in the process. But the beauty of the landscape was not what mattered most to her.
"I'm home." She gasped, and excited smile spread across her muzzle.
Again the breeze was felt against her neck. Crona closed her eyes momentarily as she turned her head. A familiar scent carried in the wind, and when she opened her eyes, she found herself staring into a pair of blue and crimson eyes.
"Certo?" The dragoness mumbled groggily. She blinked several times before rubbing the sleep from her eyes with the back of a talon. Crona glanced around to see she was back in the library surrounded by her scrolls and books. It was morning with the first rays of sun sneaking in through the windows. "W-what are you doing here? I thought you still had three days left before release?"
The black dragon titled his head sideways. "It's been three days."
Crona's brows jumped and she turned to look for her calendar. When she did not immediately see it, she began to mess through her papers, leaving Certo to stare at her skeptically. The dragoness nearly knocked her ink well onto her notes from her clumsy shuffling. When she finally found her personal calendar she let out an astonished sigh; Certo was not joking around. "I'm sorry Certo. I should have been paying more attention and been there for you when you were released."
The young male shook his head. "Your place is here for now Crona. Finding a way to get you home is the only thing that matters any more."
"That's not true." Crona mumbled, barely letting the air dragon pick up her words. "I
I don't want to work so hard that I forget about the ones who matter most to me." She raised her eyes to meet his blank stare. "You and my father together. i care about you both."
Certo stared at her for another minute before turning to the scattered papers about the floor, and began picking them up. "Come on. we've got work to do."
"Yeah," Crona replied with a dejected sigh. She should not have been surprised. But deep in her heart she could not help but feel slightly rejected. However, the hard steadfast look in Certo's eyes would not allow her to dwell on the subject for much longer.
"Has there been anything useful to help us out?" Certo asked as he gathered up three of Crona's note sheets between his front digits.
"A lot actually." Crona perked up, her spines standing nearly erect with eagerness. She ushered Certo closer as she organized her notes. "So I think Verona found a couple books on magic that have really helped my theories a lot. You see, magic is always present in the world around us. it a natural part of our world so it has to be present, even if it is in smaller amounts in certain regions. For example, the territory that the apes call their home has very little magic flowing through it, whereas us dragons live where there's a rich abundance of magic all around us."
"Any particular reason why that is?" Certo asked, trying to sound like he could tell what she was talking about. She had only explained how her powers worked in brief, private moments but had never truly gotten in-depth about them.
"I have a couple theories on that." Crona replied with a hint of excitement in her voice. "Originally I thought it was because the apes are unable to use the elements of the world around them. But then I got to realizing that just because they don't use elemental magic like we do, doesn't mean that their environment doesn't rely on it."
Certo's lips scrunched slightly as he tried to revision the forest. Most of the plants and fauna there were either dead or well on their way there. "So how could anything thrive in that environment?"
Crona did her best to hide her eager grin; it had been too long since she had been able to explain anything this in depth to anyone. "Think of it this way Certo. The apes are like a parasite that feeds off its host. They're naturally glutenous so take whatever they want until there's nothing left before moving on. Their environment is so sick that it can't replenish itself."
"Or if it starts to then they just rip it apart before it can get going again." Certo grumbled, ruffling his wings in irritation.
"Exactly." The white dragoness nodded. "So what i'm thinking of, is getting a few more notes taken and then go find a place where the magic flows at its strongest."
"So you can concentrate everything you have to that one spot?" The black dragon raised a brow, suddenly not to sure about what the young chronicler was getting at.
"And to think i didn't even have to say it aloud." Crona chuckled, giving Certo a haughty smirk.
The air dragon ignored her remark. "Do you really think that's a good idea?" Even you've said before that controlling the blue mist is extremely taxiing on your body as well as your mind."
"I've already taken that into account." She grabbed a piece of scrap paper and a small brush. Taking the hint, Certo glanced back over his shoulder to see if any outside eyes were watching. He opened his wings half way, creating a leathery curtain to hide the white dragoness. "Thank you." Crona smiled and lifted the brush , allowing it to hover in front of her talons. "You see, the blue mist has a natural flow to it. If I try and take control of it it fights me. Much like your karma, if you try and force it, it takes a negative toll on you. I got to thinking that if I can coax it into moving the way I need it to, rather than forcing it, i won't be as exhausted afterwards."
"Okay, so you're going to ask it to work with you and you won't get so pushy with it."
"Precisely." Crona bobbed her head. "It has to be a joint effort. A little give and a little take from each side."
"But are you sure it will work? We can't just rely on your theories every time. We need to make sure it will work."
"Certo, will you relax?" Crona sighed, tilting her head at him. "If anything was meant to be certain then we wouldn't have to be worrying about me getting home in the first place. Am I right."
"I suppose." A low growl gurgled in the back of his throat.
"Just trust me on this. We can make this work."
"I guess I don't have a choice."
"It'll be fine Certo. I promise."
"Alright, alright. I'll trust you."
"There you go, that's the spirit." Crona giggled. "Think positive for once in your life." The black dragon only rolled his eyes and gave a short snort. The white dragoness continued to smile as she returned to her notes. "And I'm not pushy."
Much to Certo's irritation and impatience, Crona did not finish her notes before the day was done. In fact it took another half day before she felt satisfied enough with her research to make a first attempt at her project. By then Certo's patience was nearing its end; the only force keeping him from snapping at her and ordering her to hurry up was the fact that he knew nothing about what she was doing. much of the time he spent pacing around, only stopping to stare at the dragoness as she worked without losing pace. He tried to sleep, but his restlessness kept him awake. When he attempted to eat, his worry kept him from swallowing more than a couple bites; despite his growling stomach.
When Crona finally woke him the following morning he felt as if he had been waiting for years for her to speak. As they made their way away from the city, Certo began to wonder how in depth Crona needed to be with her notes. When she worked she seemed to have no sense of time or notice anyone around her. On the surface he was glad to see her working hard, but felt pained that he was unable to aid her in any way.
"We'll try this spot." Crona announced after stopping for what felt like the fifteenth time that day. "It's got the most concentrated amount of magic we'll need."
"So how are you going to supposedly ask or coax the blue mist to cooperate? Ask it nicely?"
"Har har." Crona scoffed. "It's all about balance Certo. Positive and negative, push and pull. They have to be even or everything is thrown out of alignment. much like you and
"Neros. I get it. His karma and mine need to balance out."
"I'm sorry. I should have thought before I spoke."
"Yeah you should have."
"Don't dwell on it. C'mon. We've got work to do."
Crona did not argue. She cleared a patch on the forest floor clear of the fallen leaves of the late fall. Certo sat several feet away, as per were the dragoness's instructions earlier on, holding onto her scrolls which were wrapped carefully in a leather pouch.
The young chronicler composed herself and took in a deep breath before closing her eyes. All around she could feel the gentle breeze amongst the trees. She began to concentrate on the magic of the blue mist, seeing its presence before her in her mind. Once it became more clear, she reached out slowly towards it. The mist seemed to react and swirled away from her slightly. Remaining calm, Crona waved her paw ever so slightly as if she were twirling the wind around her paw. The mist again reacted to her movement, this time spiraling in synch with her own movements.
To the side Certo watched in utter silence. The intense stare he had would have been enough to break a mountain in half. All of his attention was focused on the dragoness, waving her paw in the air. A sudden flash of blue appeared and he dared to blink. A moment later, the flash came again, lingering longer this time. The longer Crona continued to medicate, the longer the flashes of blue mist would last until a fully visible cloud of magic engulfed her paw. Certo's mouth fell open as he took in the sight before him as the magical energy continued to mass around Crona's paw.
Crona felt a weight within her body as she tried to continue swiveling her paw. The blue mist was beginning to fight back, wanting to return to its free-flowing state. "Just a little more." She thought to herself. "Please, help me." The blue mist seemed to pulse in response to her silent plea and she felt the pressure around her body increase. The force around her forelimb sent a shock through her body, causing her to yelp in pain, breaking her concentration. The distraction caused the magic to suddenly combust.
A loud bang sent the creatures nearby scattering noisily. Certo coughed as dust choked his lungs and fanned the air with his wings, clearing the area. When everything had settled, Crona was nowhere to be seen. The black dragon felt his heart skip a beat as he looked around for her. "Crona?" He called, quickly getting to his feet. "Crona!"
A soft groan came from the underbrush several yards away. Lying on her side, Crona blinked several times, dazed from the sudden burst of energy. She could hear the muffled voice of the black dragon as he tried to get a verbal answer out of her as he helped her onto her feet. After squeezing her eyes tightly shut and breathing gently, the ringing in her ears disappeared and her hearing returned to normal.
"Crona, are you alright?" The worry written all over his face.
"Y-yeah. Just a lil dizzy I suppose." She replied. Crona shook her head, trying to rid herself of her dizziness. "That was rather unexpected if I do say so myself."
Certo gave a disgusted snort, sending up a burst of leaves and dirt. "You don't say. I thought you had it all planned out. Maybe you didn't ask nicely enough."
Crona glared at him. "Shut up. I would love to see you do better. But quite frankly, you can't; so I won't waste my time."
The black dragon glowered at her as she got up and shook herself. "So what went wrong then?"
"I'm not certain," Crona shook her head, pressing her paw pads against her head, feeling for bumps. "I think I may have gotten a bit too forceful. I'm so used to forcing the magic to bend to my will because it's been in situations where its power is immediately needed."
"So you're saying you need to get over your basic instincts and relax when you do this?"
"I guess so." Crona sighed. "I think I'd better take it a bit slower for now." She lifted her eyes to meet his. "I don't think I want to return home, blown to bits." Certo narrowed his eyes at her and curled his lip; clearly unamused by the remark. Crona ignored him and repositioned herself to try again. Certo backed away again, but stayed closer should she get blown back again.
Again, the dragoness closed her eyes and lifted a paw, concentrating on the world around her. The blue mist was still just as abundant as before. Slowly, she started waving her paw in small circles, visualizing a portal in her mind forming before her. She slowed her breathing down as the mist began to gather around her digits. Her heart rate was increasing, making her realize that she had to remain calm in order to succeed in her experiment. However, rather than forcing herself to slow her heart rate down, she increased the speed of her paw moving to keep up with the rapid pounding in her chest. She realized her mistake too late and the blue mist warped before combusting again.
Certo cringed as he saw Crona get thrown back again into the underbrush. He had expected this process to take time but, the way things were turning out, it would only be a matter of time before theirs ran out.
Crona gave an exhausted groan as she collapsed onto the floor in her makeshift study. Her entire body ached. She was covered in bruises from being blown backwards all day, each time the blue mist combusted. She had not expected to lose her concentration so much during this process and now it was proving to be just as irritating as it was tirering.
"Are you going to be alright?" Certo asked, craning his head down to nudge her slightly.
"I think so. Maybe after I get some rest we can start again tomorrow."
Certo was silent for a long time as he set her notes off to the side. He continually glanced over his shoulder at her, wanting to speak to her, but unable to find the right words to say. He knew she needed rest but his anxiety had been getting to him all day.
Sensing the tension in the air, Crona raised her eyes to the black dragon. "You should probably go back to Kia's for now." She suggested. "You haven't seen Pip in a long time and I'm sure she could use her uncle's company."
The black dragon stared for a moment before bobbing his head, and turning to leave. It was a Crona way of saying that he should get some rest as well, and that she was not his only priority.
"You're not my only concern." Certo muttered as he left the library, stepping into the darkness of the city. "But you're my main one for the time being."
He trudged down the streets towards the residence of the air guardian. Rather than taking the back entrance to the balcony as he normally would have, he entered through the front door, making his presence known to the pale green dragoness.
"Certo. Welcome back." The guardian greeted, somewhat cheerfully. It was then she noticed he was alone. "Where's Crona? Did you two have another argument?"
"No." Certo shook his head. "She'll be staying at the library for a little while."
"Still doing research on magic I see."
The young male lifted his head. "How do you know what she's doing?"
The dragoness's expression grew serious. "I heard from Verona that Crona was asking before we left to track down Titanus." Her eyes narrowed at the black dragon. "Certo I want you to know that what you two are doing can be very dangerous and if word ever got out to the rest of the city, you both could be banished for attempting to research magic without going through the proper process. The study of magic is a highly respected practice and is only chosen for the most promising dragons after graduating from the academy."
Certo felt his body grow hot with anger. He wished he could tell the guardians about Crona's situation so they would understand; but a promise was a promise. He would have to work with minimal assistance in order to get Crona home. "Thank you for the warning." He mumbled and turned to leave.
"Certo." The black dragon stopped and glanced back with his blue eye. "I'm letting you know that I still value you both as my students. If it were up to me I would allow you to do whatever you needed to. But the guardians have to act as one, not just individuals."
"I understand." Certo nodded. "We'll make it together. We always have, and that won't be changing any time soon."
"I know. Just be careful. Don't go toying around in Volcanus's study or anything like that. I don't want the guards coming in to catch you stealing information."
Certo dug his claws into the floor slightly, but resisted the urge to lash out in verbal defense. Instead he nodded and continued to the back room, leaving Kia to stare at his tail as it disappeared behind the curtain.
Once in the room, Certo stepped lightly into the nest of sheets which had been greatly increased due to the cold weather. He would have to thank Thundra later on; but right now he too needed to sleep. The young male coiled himself around Pip's egg and rubbed his horns against the shell. In a matter of minutes he was fast asleep.
When day finally came, Certo woke to hearing voices in the hallway and the patter of small footsteps coming his way. A tiny head poked out from behind the curtain and stopped. Maya stared at Certo for a moment before squealing with delight. The young lightning dragoness bounded over to his side and flopped down beside him, aggressively nuzzling his shoulder with deep affection. Certo could only stare down at her, wondering what would become of her one day. He could wish with all his might for her to not be affected by the oncoming war, but it was well out of his power to make such a wish come true.
"Glad to see you're able to visit your niece again." Thundra spoke up, appearing in the doorway. "Maya's been taking excellent care of her while you've been away."
"Thank you." Certo bobbed his head, feeling the guilt and shame of neglecting his last remaining family member. "I will owe you a lot for this. It's just
I've been trying to help Crona
"It's alright for now Certo." Thundra whispered, lowering her head towards him. She gave him a comforting nudge with her snout, causing his cheeks to flush slightly. "Just don't forget about her completely alright."
I won't." He stammered. "Once I'm done with Crona
I'll promise to take care of my
"You can stop right there." Kia spoke up, coming in beside Thundra. "We know what you mean, and I for one do not feel revenge is going to be in your benefit."
"I wasn't talking about Neros."
"Not directly. But we know you well enough to see that you still think about him with each minute that passes."
"Wouldn't you if your own sibling murdered you family? Took everything from you?"
"We've all lost something in this war Certo." Kia continued. "It's not just you. It's all of us."
"Which is why I need to help Crona right now." The black dragon announced as he rose up off the cushions.
"What are both of you doing?" Thundra asked curiously as she began her daily inspection of Pip's egg.
"I can't say." Certo shook his head. "But right now, as much as I want to be here
" He glanced at Maya who sat like a scaled guard dog beside the egg. "I have a promise I need to keep to Crona, and I'm obligated to put her before everything else right now."
"I hope you don't regret this later on." Kia sighed, her voice ruffling the papers in the room. "It's important for a dragonet to have its caretakers close by while still incubating."
Certo could only stare sadly at his niece's shell before turning away in self-loathing. He climbed onto the balcony railing and took to the air, heading towards the library. The chilly morning air sent a shiver down his spine. Overhead, the clouds were dense with moisture; signs of a coming storm. In his gut, Certo was feeling an ominous sense of dread build up. If Crona did not find a way to create another time portal home, then the next time Neros attacked, he would spare no expense trying to seize her for himself.
When he reached the library, the earth dragons were already busily moving away the rocks and debris from the newly carved out shelter. The rocks and slabs of stone were being pilled into carts and towed towards the city walls where the sentries would use the rubble to reinforce the barrier. The workers paid little attention to him as he entered the building. Crona was back in her study, looking over her notes intuitively, searching for any information she may have missed before.
For several minutes, Certo stood waiting patiently at the chamber entrance. When Crona paid no attention to him, he gave a sharp exhale, causing her papers to ruffle in her face.
The dragoness looked up, surprised at the sudden breeze inside. "Certo! I was just about to go get you."
"Sure you were." He responded dryly, "are you ready to go?"
"Yeah, let's give this another shot. I've got a little better idea on what to do this time."
"Then let's hope we make some serious progress then." The black dragon grabbed her harness while she loaded it with her notes and writing tools. "Are we going to the same spot as yesterday?"
"I think it would be the best place for now until we need to find another practicing ground." Certo only shrugged and followed her outside, and into the mid-morning sky. "I think I need to place myself in a different mental state than what I was doing before." Crona explained as they flew along. "I think what I was doing before was still just trying to force the blue mist to do what I wanted, rather than relaxing myself and getting into a calm state of mind. You see, what I noticed is that the mist flows freely and smoothly, and I think that in order to connect with it better, I need to imitate it in a way. Maybe magic reacts more to similar sources rather than the latter." The only response from the black dragon was a nearly inaudible mumble. Crona glanced over to see his eyes glazed over in deep thought. "Certo, are you alright? What's on your mind?"
Certo glanced up for a split second before averting his eyes from hers. "Nothing."
The chronicler banked sharply, placing herself in front of him, nearly causing a mid-air collision between them. "I know that look Certo. Something has gotten to you and if I know you, which I do, you're going to dwell on it until something else supersedes it."
"It's alright Crona. You don't need to worry."
"I know I don't need to, but I still do." Crona looked pleadingly into his eyes. "Come on Certo. We don't have much time left between us. I don't want to go home wondering if there was any other way I could have helped you while I was here."
Certo could not bring himself to break contact from her gaze. With a heavy sigh, he drifted down to the ground with the dragoness close behind. "Last night Kia was saying that she knows what we're up to with the trying to gather information on magic and what not. And she was warning me that if anyone else were to find out that we were trying to research on our own, we'd most likely be banished."
"Master Kia said that?" Crona nearly squeaked in surprise, never dreaming of the guardian being capable of saying such a thing to someone she cared for like Certo.
The black dragon nodded. "She was saying that because we don't have specific permission to research magic, we are going against the rules of the city."
Crona hung her head, feeling the pressure weighing down on her shoulders. What other way was there to get home? She needed materials to research and did not have the time needed to wait to obtain them. At the same time, she wished to respect those who had been like family to her for the past several months. Now she was beginning to wonder if she would ever make it home.
After a long silence she raised her head to speak. "Was there anything else she said to you?"
Certo shook his head. "Just that she was keeping it quiet because it's us. But she pretty much wants us to stay away from the vault
and Volcanus's study for some reason."
Crona raised a skeptical brow and her scales rattled slightly. "Volcanus's study?"
"That's what she said."
"Certo that's it!" Crona squawked, causing the black dragon to jump. "Volcanus's study!"
"What do you mean?"
"Kia said to 'stay out of Volcanus's study' right? That means he has books on magic there."
"So what it means, is I have more material to look through and references I can use!" Crona was nearly bursting with excitement at the thought of being able to study more."
"Didn't I just say that we were told 'not' to go rummaging around his study?"
"Certo, I think Kia was giving us a hint on where to find our research material."
"Are you sure about that?" The black dragon narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously. Something about her overexcitement made him feel extra weary; possibly due to the fact that her awareness would completely disappear when delving into her notes.
"Yes." Crona nodded confidently. "And if not, then some rules were meant to be broken; especially if it's for the greater good."
"I guess you're right." Certo shrugged. "But even still, don't you think you should practice for part of the day and see if your
theories are right or not?"
Crona thought about that for a fraction of a second. "No. I'd prefer to perfect my notes rather than blowing myself up every ten minutes for an entire day. Now come on." She ordered, walking several paces past him towards the city. Crona took to the air and beat her wings hard, gaining as much speed and altitude as she could to get back to the city. Certo scrambled to catch up, but found difficulty in keeping pace with the numerous scrolls weighing him down; a carrier job he was not used to by any means.
It was nearly midday when they finally reached the city again. The streets were nowhere near as packed as they normally were. With the cold season coming on, dragons were doing more hunting away from the city, stocking up on supplies for when they were unable to leave their homes. The first stop the two made was to the residential quarters that had once belonged to Volcanus and his grandson. Inside the pavilion, the air smelled cold and stale, like nothing had been living there for months on end. A faint scent of ash hung in the air, but nothing more.
"Wait here." Crona whispered, should anyone be inside. Before Certo could answer, she froze time and entered into the back rooms. The main chamber was definitely larger than the ones of the other guardians; possibly due to the size of the residents who lived there. The only two chambers that were clean were the bed rooms for Volcanus and one, with less papers strewn about, for Titanus. The late guardian certainly had not been particular about keeping his studies organized. Crona began rummaging through the mess of scrolls and loose papers, skimming their contents; no sense wasting time if the material would not be helpful to their cause.
As she continued to look through the texts, Crona began finding notes from Volcanus's personal diaries; most of which had been torn from their bindings and crumpled on the floor. Her heart rate began to increase as she read the memoirs from the mangled sheets. Personal thoughts on her being in the city as well as hateful feelings towards Certo, plans to have him alienated and deported from the city, all eventually leading up to a desperate attempt to kill him in order to restore the fire dragon to his position as senior guardian. According to the notes, Volcanus was well aware that Certo would be in direct conflict with Nitrus and his family. But it was his disdain for Certo that drove him to be the guardian that he was.
"He knew the entire time." Crona muttered to herself, suddenly feeling numb. "But even still
" She shook her disgusted thoughts out of her head and continued her search. Hours would have passed before she was done. What little she found, she wrapped up within her notes inside the pouches Certo carried. Time resumed its course and Certo blinked as if waking up from a deep sleep.
"Did you find anything?" He asked, having a fairly good idea what she had been up to.
"What we can use I have on you already." Crona thrust her snout towards his pouches. "Come on, let's keep looking for more. Maybe there's something inside the main temple." Both youngsters continued on in silence as they trudged down the hill towards the central plaza. All the while Crona would continually make side glances at Certo. It really was not fair that he was feared and despised by so many; all over a single superstitious prophecy.
Upon reaching the temple of the guardians, Certo stopped by the water fountain and sat down. "I'm guessing I should wait here."
"No, you don't have to." Crona shook her head. "I think I'd prefer to have you inside with me."
The black dragon stared blankly for a moment before shrugging and following after her. Inside it was considerably warmer, and both dragons were thankful to be rid of the chill. Certo and Crona padded softly down the halls, Crona taking the lead and checking the chambers to see if anyone was around. Much to their surprise, the temple was empty.
"I'm not sure if that's a good sign or a bad one." Certo muttered, when Crona brought it to his attention.
"Well if it means we have a better chance of finding what we need without interruptions or me having to freeze time for extended amounts of time, then I will take the blessing where I can."
The couple finally came to Volcanus's private chamber which was much more cleanly in comparison to his living quarters. The walls were lined with neatly ordered book shelves, and two tables sat on each side of his reading pedestal; one for unread material, the other for finished work. This was where Crona started her search. The cushion was very comfortable, and she immediately relaxed into the fabric. Certo stood by and watched as she used her telekinesis to lift a book from the unread pile to bring it in front of her face. A movement to his side caused Certo to jolt slightly as he turned to see the dragoness's notebook, ink well and writing brush lift out of their carrying pouch. Crona's brush dipped itself into the ink and began to scribble on a fresh sheet of paper.
"I assume you found something?" Certo asked, taking a few steps towards the cushion. The chronicler did not answer; only continued to write. Certo sighed and grumbled to himself as he walked back to the doorway and lay down to rest. This would take several hours knowing her. He closed his eyes and drifted off into what was a light sleep at first, but soon became far deeper than that.
All around, Certo could see nothing but dark clouds hanging over the horizon. He stood at the peak of a mountain, standing on the edge of a cliff that overlooked a vast plain stretching on for miles. The sounds of screams, bellows and cries for blood echoed from the battleground miles away. Dragons clashed with thousands of blood-lusting apes. The barbarians wielded larger, metallic weapons, and donned new armor made from forged metals, rather than their crude armor made from their surroundings.
The dragon army was pushing the ape forces back, tearing the closest ones to pieces, and exterminating the others with their breath attacks. Four elder dragons led the assault, one ice, one fire, one lightning, one earth. All showed their age in their aggressive, yet highly skilled fighting styles. The combinations of the different elements were proving to be far too much for the apes as they scrambled to fight back and retreat at the same time. Towards the rear of the apes stood a towering baboon with a horned helmet and a missing eye, replaced with an eerie green gem. He wielded a staff with a similar gem embedded into its elaborate design.
The ape king growled irritated and slammed the butt of his staff into the ground. A pulse of neon-green energy burst from the gem in the staff and swept over the land. As if being given an order, everything stopped and stood still. The sounds of violence, the fighting, the moving; everything stood as if frozen. All of a sudden the ground beneath Certo's feet began to shake. He tried to move but he was frozen in place, unable to retreat from what was coming. The mountain cracked and lava began to spurt from the open wound. Thick black smoke filled the sky, sending ash and embers to rain down on those below. Another violent tremor shook the mountain range and a pillar of molten rock burst skyward.
From out of the blast she appeared; a towering black dragoness with wickedly curved horns raking back from her head. Metal braces latched onto her neck, ankles and tail, which were tipped in a hook-like blade. The dragoness let out a furious bellow, shaking the skies themselves. Her aqua green eyes leered down and seemed to lock onto Certo's. Never had he seen a creature so graceful looking, yet terrifying at the same time; and yet, so familiar.
A low growl rumbled in the dragoness's throat and she swiveled her long neck towards the dragon army. Thunder burst from the back of her throat as a sonic roar ripped through the air. Down on the ground, the dragon army stood in shock. The impact from the sonic blast sent bodies and weapons tumbling across the hard ground and Certo let out an astonished gasp. It was his family's signature attack.
"Certo," a voice seemed to call to him. The black dragon looked up to see the black dragoness staring back at him over her shoulder. "Come on Certo. Let's go."
"Certo I said let's go!" Crona's voice now coming from her mouth. "Wake up!"
"Hm?" The black dragon lifted his head and opened his eyes, looking rather groggy.
"I've been trying to wake you for five minutes." Crona grumbled, looking rather annoyed. "I have everything I need for now, so we can get going."
"Wh-what? Already? It's only been a few minutes."
Crona blinked once, then gave an irritated huff, cocking her head sideways. "Certo it's been over ten hours."
"What!?" The world suddenly stopped and quickly Crona clamped a paw over his muzzle.
"Keep it down!" She hissed. "We're supposed to be keeping a low profile in here just in case."
"Why in the world didn't you wake me up?" He demanded, still keeping his voice low, despite no one being able to hear them.
Crona only shook her head. "It doesn't matter now. We have what we need. Now let's get going before someone finds us." She started past him, her notes already in neat order to review once she returned to her makeshift study. Certo watched her leave the chamber and looked back around the room. If there had been a mess, it certainly did not show. The young dragoness was doing a thorough job on making sure she made it look like the place had been untouched. The black dragon sighed and followed after her. Once outside and away from prying eyes, Crona released her hold on time, allowing them to breathe finally. Neither realized that they were barely breathing as they walked in between the few guards that patrolled the streets.
"So what now?" Certo asked, looking at the crescent moons in the sky. The two moons cast a cold blue glow across the city, and the reflected light from the clouds made him realize how cold it really was.
"I'm going to go review my notes and clean them up a bit." The dragoness announced, glancing back at her papers, carefully tucked into her harness. "You should probably get back and make sure Pip is still doing well. You don't want her to get too cold."
"Do you want any help though?" Certo asked looking as sincere as possible in the darkened alley.
"No, I don't think I need any." Crona almost chuckled out loud at his pointless offer. "But thanks for being considerate enough to ask."
"Then I'll walk you back at least. I don't want to chance anything happening to you
"Certo, stop worrying so much. I'll be fine." Crona waved a dismissive paw, ignoring the rather uncharacteristically pleading tone in his voice. "Go take care of Pip and I'll check back with you when I'm done."
Certo stood frozen for a moment, numb to any sort of feeling or emotion. After the initial stab of pain had passed, he bobbed his head and turned to walk away. Crona watched him leave, noticing the way his spines drooped and his tail dragged against the ground. All at once it donned on her what he had been wanting to do and her eyes widened in sudden realization.
"Certo wait!" She called once he had disappeared behind the first bend. She bounded after him and rounded to corner only to find an empty street. Crona squinted into the shadows, hoping to see a glimmer of moonlight reflecting off his glossy black scales, but he had vanished into the night. The white dragoness hung her head and turned to march in shame up the hill towards the library. "Good job Crona." She scolded herself. "He's willing to spend a few more precious minutes with you and now you are being the idiot."
She walked up to the main entrance of the library and paused to look up at the nearly finished reconstructed building. She could have all the knowledge in the world; in fact, all she really ever seemed to want, was to know the answers to life itself. "But what is life when you're alone." She muttered musingly. A feeling of self-loathing swept over her. Why did she get so absorbed into her reading? Why was it she held knowledge over friendship with someone she had never felt closer to in all her existences? Was it better that she start letting him go now so it would not hurt as much later? What a stupid thought. Even if it took all the time in the world she could never fully forget about him.
Crona looked down at her larger than average paws and drummed her talons on the ground. "Even when this body expires and I'm born again
" A sharp exhale escaped between her teeth. She turned around abruptly, ready to march herself down to the residence of the guardian of air, and curl up beside the black dragon. However, a subtle movement in the shadows stopped her in her tracks. The flash of moonlight against glossy scales and a mercury tail blade, before melting into the darkness between the buildings. The white dragoness stood frozen, shocked and almost dumbfounded by what she had seen. Then, a smile spread across her snout.
"Thank you." She whispered into the wind, hoping the entity would hear her. She waited another minute, feeling the breeze against her sides, before slipping inside, away from the cold.