Chapter Ten:

Evening Lake and the Frozen Altars

Spyro could see the end of the portal just ahead of him. He quickened his pace and soon found he had exited the portal. A strange, breezy feeling came over him, but it soon vanished when he finally beheld the third Homeworld of the Forgotten Realms.

The sun hung very low in the red-orange sky, and that was almost always how it stayed.

Though there were times where it would change, it was because of this that the Homeworld had received half of its name.

He looked over and found the very familiar half-submerged castle that stood in the center of the azure lake that gave the Homeworld the second half of its name. He stared at it for a few moments before feeling a paw on his shoulder.

Turning his head to the right, he found Cynder, with Sunburn and Sonic Boom next to her.

"So, this is Evening Lake?" Cynder said. "Better-looking than I imagined. Though, for some reason, the look of everything makes me a bit tired."

Spyro laughed.

"Yeah, I know that feeling," he said. "I have to admit that this is my least-favorite of the Homeworlds in the Forgotten Realms. But it does have one of my favorite locations, so there's that. Hopefully that's where we'll have to go, and not…" His voice trailed off as he beheld something a small distance away from them. "What in the heck is that?"

Another tower stood about twenty feet away from the lake, and Spyro did not know how it had come to be, as he had never seen it before during his time here.

"Something's not right," he finally concluded.

"Well, I think we've known that since we started on this journey, right?" Slam Bam said from behind him. "Especially since you brought that thing along with you."

There was a dark laugh that followed that remark, and Spyro felt anger rising within him.

He began to turn around, but Cynder placed her left paw on his right shoulder again.

"Don't," she said. "You'll only make things worse."

Spyro sighed and nodded at her.

He was glad she was his conscience, as he was sure he would make many more rash decisions if he didn't have her to help him.

That was one of the main reasons he loved her and had vowed to spend the rest of his life with her.

"The problem is, I've never seen that tower before, and I'm starting to wonder how it came to be or why it's there to begin with," Spyro announced to the Skylanders. "But there is one thing I can tell you that counts as good news: This is where the portal to Charmed Ridge is. But we can't go through it just like I commonly did when the Sorceress was around. I think we've stumbled onto something we'll have to take care of before we get over to Charmed Ridge. I hate that, but there's no way we can just leave something like this standing if it's not supposed to be there."

"So, how do we take it down? It's not a bad plan, but I still don't fully understand what we do," Cynder said.

Spyro realized he hadn't truly thought the plan through, and now he wondered what they should actually do next. He felt as though he was becoming a fool in the eyes of those who did not fully support him, and that, in his opinion, was extremely problematic.

Before he could say anything more to them, however, a voice carried down towards them from the top of the castle, causing Spyro to look up.

"Spyro, how good to see you again! And you've brought guests!"

When he looked up, Spyro saw the Yeti he'd been hoping to find: Bentley.

At least seven-and-a-half-feet-tall, with white fur, yellow eyes, and black hands and feet, along with two curved horns protruding from the top of his skull, Bentley was definitely an intimidating figure.

Bentley jumped from the top of the castle, plunged into the serene blue waters of the lake, and surfaced a moment later. He crawled onto the ground and stood to his feet.

"How may I help my good friend? Or, better yet, maybe you can help me by telling me who all these visitors are. I've received some of your letters, so I can assume these are the Skylanders, but I've never really known their names."

"Well, this is Cynder, my mate," Spyro began. He saw Bentley's yellow eyes widen at this. "Then there's Sunburn, Sonic Boom, Trigger Happy, and Gill Grunt, and…well, right now, Bentley, this isn't a good time to talk about this. I'm sure you know why we're here."

"I certainly do," the Yeti said. "And let me just say, congratulations on the marriage. Your mate truly is beautiful." Spyro looked over after Bentley had said this and saw Cynder smiling brightly. "Now, you're right, I'm just so used to exchanging pleasantries before everything else, but I know this is not the time for that. Anyway…yes, I know of the situation in Charmed Ridge and how that Shadow Golem has now taken over the castle and imprisoned Princess Ami. As a result of that, I also understand well that we do not have much time before we have to set out. But I know that this Shadow Golem has also found an army, though I'm not sure how. They patrol different areas of the Ridge, making going through the portal itself suicide. As a result, we must find another way in. It won't be easy, but it'll be worth it in the end."

Spyro nodded. "Which portal do you think we should go through, then?"

"I'd say the Frozen Altars," Bentley said.

As soon as Spyro heard this, he shook his head. "Are you sure? I don't think that's such a good idea," he said.

"Is there something wrong with that?" Bentley asked.

"It's just…Cynder has a problem with cold," Spyro said. "She has little to no body heat, and so she's going to have a problem within the Frozen Altars. Is there any way we could go through another portal?"

"Unfortunately, no. With the portals being watched as closely as they are, we'll have to go through the Frozen Altars, then my home, and then Fireworks Factory, before finally reaching Charmed Ridge. Trust me, I wouldn't want to go through all of it, but we don't have much of a choice, old friend."

Spyro sighed. He felt Cynder's paw on his left shoulder, and he looked over to her.

"It's okay," she assured him. "It will cause me trouble, but I'll be fine. Let's just go through and finish this."

Despite how hard it was, Spyro finally nodded, then looked back up to Bentley.

"Okay, we'll do it," he said. Suddenly, he saw a look of worry upon Bentley's face. "Hey, is something wrong?"

Bentley took a little bit to answer. It looked as though there was something truly bothering him.

"Well," he said, "there is a problem, and while I didn't want to mention it at first because of how much you're already dealing with, I might as well go ahead and tell you. There are some other Yetis within my Realm, and…they've been causing me some major trouble. There's something much different about them. It's almost as if they've been enhanced."

Spyro thought about this.

From what he had heard about the Shadow Golem, it wouldn't have surprised him if they had been imbued with some of his energy in exchange for working for him.

He quickly relayed this possible information to Bentley. "But I don't understand," he said. "How is that possible?"

"There are times where I'm still asking myself that question," Spyro answered. "But we can't waste time. The more time we spend here, the less time we'll have to take this Shadow Golem down. We'll help you, but one thing I need to know is if you're with me."

"I most certainly am," Bentley said. He held out a large hand, and Spyro slapped it with his front right paw.

"So, how do we get to the Frozen Altars?" Cynder asked.

"Well, that's another problem," Spyro said. He looked behind her at the other Skylanders. "I hope, those of you with fur and feathers, that you don't mind getting wet!"

"What do you mean?" Slam Bam demanded. "Why would we have to worry about getting wet? Aren't all of these portals around us?"

"No," Bentley said. "They're all underwater. Trust me, it's not the most fun, but for what it is that we are currently doing, it's also not the worst thing to go through. Now, come on! We don't have anymore time we can waste!"

He jumped into the water without any hesitation.

The splash hit a few of the Skylanders, including Sonic Boom and Sunburn.

"Well, that was pleasant," Sunburn said in a joking way. Then he looked to Spyro. "Is it time?"

"Yes."

As soon as Spyro spoke those words, he jumped into the water. Cynder followed suit.

As soon as she had jumped into the water, she found it a good temperature, one that she would love to take the time to swim in.

But she knew that would not be able to happen, as she had to commit herself to what really mattered.

The first thing she noticed was the presence of the shipwreck below her, as well as the sticks that stood before the entrance of a cave that seemed to be sparking.

She remembered what Spyro had told her of the Fireworks Factory, and she guessed that was where the main entrance to that Realm was.

Following Spyro, whom she found swimming through the waters with ease, she realized Bentley was nowhere in sight. Then she saw the portal they were planning on going through. There was an ornate look to it that drew her towards it.

Spyro reached the portal, and he turned around to watch as she neared him. He smiled, and then waited for her to join him.

As soon as she had reached him, the two of them entered the portal.

Sunburn and Sonic Boom did the same, but the difference was that Sonic Boom had to hurry, as she was starting to lose air.

Unlike Dragons, or Hybrids with Dragon blood within their DNA, Griffins were unable to breathe underwater forever. Sonic Boom wished she could, as she very much loved swimming.

She shook that from her mind as she finally reached the portal.

She looked back to Sunburn, who was right behind her. As soon as he reached her, they intertwined their paws and went straight through the portal, hoping that when they reached the other side, everything would be totally fine.

The next feeling the two of them felt was something akin to being sucked down a drain.

While the truth was that neither of them had ever experienced something such as that, they believed this would be the feeling if that were to happen.

The sky around them was a bluish color, with some pink and violet also appearing, and there were snowcapped peaks and clouds also visible around them.

A light appeared at the end of the portal, and both looked at each other as it approached.

As the two of them were experiencing this, Spyro and Cynder had reached dry ground, standing within a cave with a lit fire in the middle of it. Bentley had gone outside to check where they were, and possibly, to see everything that was going on.

Spyro looked around, surprised at where they had landed, as it was not a location he was used to.

When he had first come to this Realm, he had been out in the open.

Why had things changed in such a way?

"Something the matter, Spyro?" Bentley asked as he appeared from outside. He had evidently seen the confusion upon Spyro's face.

"I don't remember being in this cave when I first came here," Spyro said.

"Well, that would be because things have changed," Bentley replied. "Ever since that Shadow Golem came about, we had to try and hide some of the secrets of the Forgotten Realms, and though it was not at all easy, I think we did a good job. This cave would confuse many, since you would expect to be out in the open. Not to mention, we aren't too far from the wilds of the Frozen Altars. It will be a long hike to get to the main area and the next portal, but I do think we'll be able to do it in record time!"

When the Yeti had finished, Spyro looked over to Cynder, who looked to be amused by Bentley's long-winded explanation.

Sunburn and Sonic Boom soon appeared out of the portal behind them, and the two of them shook off their feathers.

"Well, that was an interesting experience," Sunburn said. He looked around the cave. "So, this is the entrance to the Frozen Altars?"

"Well, not exactly," Spyro said, "but we don't have the time for the explanation. We need to get moving if we're to stop Zelophehad from taking over the Forgotten Realms."

As soon as he had spoken, the rest of the Skylanders began appearing, all of them drying themselves near the fire before returning to where they had stood when they first appeared.

Spyro told everyone what needed to happen, as well as the fact it was quite cold outside. He looked over to Cynder when he had finished.

"Make sure to stay close to me," he said.

"I'll help, too," Sonic Boom volunteered.

They moved forward, exiting the cave. As they left, Bentley took a moment to extinguish the fire, then joined Spyro up at the front.

"I hope this all works out, don't you?" he said.

"I know it will," Spyro said.

"Your faith still hasn't been shaken by all that has happened?" Bentley asked.

"I've gone through a lot over the years, Bentley," Spyro said. "I know this could be one of those experiences where something I least expect occurs, but I've gone through enough where I have an idea we won't be getting too much else that we've never seen before. To be honest, when I first met you, I though I would never experience someone like you again. I thought you were quite weird at first, even. But as time went on, I began to understand you better than I'd ever thought possible. The one I still don't fully understand, though, has to be Agent 9."

"Who can understand him?" Bentley said. "Not even the one who created him, the Professor, understands what he created. Speaking of which, have you seen him of late? Or any of those he had with him?"

"As far as I know, he, Elora, and Hunter are back in Avalar," Spyro answered. "The next time I'll see them is something I'm not sure of."

As they conversed, Spyro was holding Cynder tightly, a wing draped over her, and Sonic Boom stood on Cynder's right side, her wing draped over her, as well.

They were going through the snow currently, and Spyro was certain Cynder was beginning to feel the extreme cold all around them.

"I did hear, though, that you and Elora had a thing for each other," Bentley suddenly announced.

As soon as he heard this, Spyro nearly stopped in his tracks. He had to keep moving, though, since he wanted to get Cynder through this tundra before she froze.

As a result, his shock at what Bentley had said remained on his face only. He still wasn't sure what he could possibly say, as he did not know that anyone would bring that subject up.

"Look," he said, "I don't really want to talk about that. Let's just say that Elora and I were good friends, and things began to move too quickly for me. I don't think of her as anything else but a friend. Now, is it possible that we can get off that subject?"

Bentley looked at him with a bit of surprise. Then he looked to Cynder, and Spyro watched as he seemed to understand why Spyro did not want to speak about it.

"I see," he said. "Well, I am very sorry. I thought I might try to help you, but I realize I am actually making things a little worse."

As she heard this, Cynder could not help but smile. While she was Spyro's mate, she understood that he must have had a few other loves before she had come into his life, and to hear more about how he and Elora had been involved in some way amused her.

Spyro looked to her.

"I'm sorry about that," he said.

"Don't be," she assured him. "I thought it was kind of funny."

"Really?" he said. "I thought you would be angry or something."

"Why in the heck would I be angry? You must have had s-someone th-that you were involved with, r-r-right?"

As she spoke, Spyro saw that she was beginning to shiver more than before. "Are you doing okay?"

"Kind of," she answered. "I'm j-just k-k-kind of f-freezing."

Spyro got closer to her, hoping to warm her more.

"Well, fret not, old friend," Bentley said, "for we are not far from where the Altars that give this Realm its name are located! We should be there within another hour or so!"

Spyro nodded.

A bit behind them, Slam Bam and his cronies were talking about what they had overheard with Spyro and Bentley.

"So, he had another fling," Slam Bam said. "I'm surprised the freak doesn't leave him for betraying her like that. I guess she likes relationships that won't work out in the end."

He, Bash, Warnado, and Camo laughed at this, until a sudden voice stopped them.

"You know," Hex said from just behind them, "I would think you'd want to be able to have children one day. If you don't stop, that chance will be removed completely. Even if I don't truly understand how friendship works, I know that Cynder is one of my greatest friends, and I will not have someone such as yourself besmirching her when she cannot even defend herself because of how cold she is! So, are we clear?"

The threat from Hex had caused Slam Bam to stare in front of him in great shock.

He nearly pressed his legs together to protect himself. Looking over to his cronies, he found all of them were just as shocked as he was, though slightly less so, most likely.

As soon as she had finished with them, Hex floated past them and situated herself nearer to Cynder, right next to Stealth Elf. "You did a good job back there," Stealth Elf said. "I don't think they'll be forgetting something like that for a long time."

"I know."

Stealth Elf knew Hex was not one to carry a conversation with, unless you were Cynder or Spyro, and so she did not try to carry the conversation on. Looking to her left, she found Sunburn was next to her. "I was wondering," she said as they continued to trudge through the snow, "are you and Sonic Boom officially in a relationship?"

"Yes," Sunburn said. "In fact, I think I might try to take the relationship further. That's why I came closer to you rather than being up there by her. I wanted to speak with you to see if you think that's the best idea."

"I think it would be amazing for the two of you to tie the knot," Stealth Elf said. "I would happily be involved with the lifemate ceremony."

"Thank you."

"Would you have Spyro as your best man?"

"Yeah, he seems to be the only one truly suitable for the job. I have other friends, but none of them are quite as great as him. And Cynder will almost certainly be Sonic Boom's. So, it would be a complete reversal of their lifemate ceremony."

"It would be a great honor to attend such a wondrous occasion," Hex said. The way she spoke these words in her usual deadpan style (which, even when being threatening, like with Slam Bam, always seemed to be present) almost made Sunburn chuckle, but he knew that would ruin the moment, so he restrained himself from doing so. "Do you know if there is a date secured for it, however?"

"That would be one of the problems, of course," he said. "The planning part won't be too difficult, but there's also the matter of finding the right moment to propose. You know what I'm saying?"

"Yes," Stealth Elf said. "I'll do my best to find the perfect time, just as Spyro was able to find his perfect moment for Cynder. Of course, I also felt it might have been a little too early, but then again, what do I know? I've never been the best at planning things of that sort. The only plans I have right now are those that have to do with taking down this Shadow Golem and avenging all those that died that night because of him and the Heretic Jewel."

After finishing, she looked over and found that Sunburn was looking at her with a little concern. "Uh…sorry."

"Don't be," he assured her. "You have reasons to be angry towards him, and I have no reason to stop that kind of anger from being released. If you ask me, what you're doing is completely right. Just make sure that vengeance doesn't consume you. I've never seen any friends of mine fall to that, and I hope to keep it that way."

"I'll do my best."

Sunburn nodded and smiled.

Then he looked forward and continued to think about Sonic Boom and just how he would propose to her. As he thought, he moved away from Hex and Stealth Elf and rejoined Sonic Boom at the front.

Spyro's mind was on Cynder at that moment, but as he continued to worry about keeping her warm, a flash of fire caught his eye.

He looked upward and saw it flash again. He wondered what the source of the fire was, and it had something to do with their current mission.

"What the heck is that?" he asked Bentley.

"That's where we're supposed to be going," Bentley said. "Which means that could be someone from the Outpost. We need to hurry." He looked back at Spyro, then looked to Cynder. "Do you think you would be able to fly over and see what's happening, and the rest of us will then come and find you there at the Outpost?"

"I don't know," Spyro said. He saw that Cynder was shivering worse, despite the heat being given off by himself and by Sonic Boom. "I don't know if Cynder will be able to handle that." He turned his attention to the love of his life. "Are you capable of that?"

"I-I'm n-n-not sure," she said. "B-but what I w-w-would l-like is t-to g-get out of this s-s-s-snow."

Spyro nodded, then turned his attention back to Bentley.

"I think we'll do that, just so we can find out exactly what's happening up there. If there's any trouble, then I'll come back. I'll see, of course, if I can't help Cynder get warm while that happens."

"Understood. Let's just hope it isn't something serious. The last time my home was in danger, I also had to deal with that Yeti my brother angered. Let's pray to God that never happens again, because I really, really hated that challenge."

Spyro looked back to Cynder, who slowly moved out of his and Sonic Boom's embrace.

Her shivering increased as she opened her wings, but soon she was airborne, and she began flying towards the peak.

She realized as she flew that the peak looked almost like an altar one would find in a church, which she supposed was what gave the Realm its name.

Around her, there were also very many bare trees, and in the distance, she could see strange structures erected around another mountain. Having heard Spyro's stories of the Forgotten Realms, she realized that was where he had been during the main part of his adventures here.

"You doing okay?" Spyro called. She looked over and found that he was above five to seven feet away from her. Due to the cold, all she could do was nod. Spyro nodded back, a smile on his face.

Looking forward, Cynder focused on making it to the peak as fast as she possibly could.

When they did finally reach it, Cynder's shivering was steadily increasing, which she had not thought possible. Spyro soon landed near her.

"Hey," he said, holding her nearer to him. "Do you need me to make you a fire?"

"Th-that would b-b-be n-nice," she answered.

The sound of footsteps approached them, and both looked to the left to find a smaller version of Bentley.

"Bartholomew?" Spyro said.

"Oh, hey, Spyro!" the smaller Yeti said in a voice that, while higher and squeakier than Bentley's, was still very similar. "It's been quite some time! Who's that with you?"

"This is Cynder, my mate," Spyro said. "Were you the one that sent up the flash of fire?"

"Yep, and let's just say, I think I might have gotten myself into a bit of a pickle," Bartholomew continued. "I think Bentley is really going to hate me for what I've caused, but hey, it could be worse. Anyway, do you remember that Yeti that Bentley fought to protect me?"

"You didn't get into trouble with him, did you?" Spyro said in an exasperated way.

"Well, not exactly. But it would be better if you get Bentley to come over here before I tell you the rest of the story. I would like to tell it all to you now, but that wouldn't be the best idea without him here. Let's just hope he doesn't get angry at me again."

Spyro sighed. "Is it possible you could light a fire for Cynder while I go and tell your brother?" he asked. "She has an extreme aversion to cold, and it would be good if you could help her out."

"Yep! I can do that!" Bartholomew replied.

Spyro opened his wings and flew off, giving Cynder one last look before doing so. When he was gone, Cynder watched as Bartholomew quickly ran over to a pile of wood and brought some over to her.

"Are you able to help with the fire?" Bartholomew asked when he had arranged it for her. In response, Cynder breathed a bolt of Electricity onto it. When she had finished, the wood had become lit. The suddenness of this caused Bartholomew to jump. "Well, I guess you can."

"Let's just say," Cynder said a few moments later after feeling her body begin to warm up, "I really hate the cold."

"Oh, yeah, I get that," Bartholomew said. "Of course, I'm also a Yeti, and even though I can deal with it, there are times where I've wondered if I should move to another Realm, like Fireworks Factory." He paused for about a minute before resuming his incessant chatter. As she had dealt with those such as him before, Cynder did not find it the worst thing. "So, how exactly did Spyro and you become mates? I met him a while back, and he didn't seem so interested in love."

"Well, when we met, there was a different kind of circumstance," Cynder explained. "It happened about a year after he met all of you. He told me the stories of his previous adventures, including the Dragon Realms, Avalar, and here in the Forgotten Realms. I must say, I never thought I would get the chance to actually be here. It's not exactly how I pictured it would be from Spyro's explanations, but that's not to say it isn't good."

"Honestly, if you want to say how bad it is around here, I won't be offended. I've heard far worse from some of our visitors. There was this annoying bear that came about just before and during Spyro's first journey here, and he is definitely the worst of the worst."

"Moneybags?" As a result of Spyro's talk of his adventures, Cynder had definitely learned of the infamous bear that swindled many out of their gems and other collectibles, and she had hoped she would never be forced to meet someone as greedy as he. "Don't you mean 'was'? I mean, Spyro drove him out, didn't he?"

"I wish, but unfortunately, he's remained here in the Forgotten Realms, and it's one of the worst things. Bentley succeeded in getting him away from the Outpost, but that doesn't mean everything worked out the way it should." Bartholomew sighed. "The way things have happened are not the way we hoped they would go. The fact that Shadow Golem took over Charmed Ridge has made things so much more dangerous. If Moneybags is going to try to profit off this, then he'll become even worse than he already is. And to be honest, I have no idea how something like that is even remotely possible!"

"Why would he try to profit off this awful turn of events?" Cynder inquired. "That would be one of the worst things possible! To even try something like that would be career suicide, if you ask me! I still can't even imagine how you could think that's the best idea for your business, or however you would call it."

"It's Moneybags, so what would you expect?" Bartholomew said. "Even though you haven't met him, I'm sure Spyro gave you a good enough idea of just how bad he can be. Did he tell you how he flamed him good on the bum and got all his gems back?" The younger Yeti leaned back and laughed a little. "Oh, how I wish I could have seen that!"

Cynder smiled, too, though she did not find herself laughing. It wasn't that she didn't want to, it was just that she was still recovering from the extreme cold she had experienced down below.

"Why exactly are you so cold, if you don't mind my asking?" Bartholomew said.

"I lost my body heat," Cynder said. "It would be a long story if I were to try to tell you the whole thing, and if I were to attempt it, then we'd still be here when they arrive, and their arrival would interrupt us. I don't want that to happen, so it's better if I don't try to explain it to you."

"I get that." Bartholomew nodded.

Despite him saying so, Cynder could tell there was a part of the younger Yeti that wanted to know. Interestingly enough, there was a part of her that wanted to tell him.

But she knew she couldn't. If she were to tell him, then there was the possibility he would inadvertently tell some of the other Skylanders, and she most certainly did not want that. She found her strength and warmth had mostly returned, and she could not help but be extremely grateful for this, not only to the fire, but also Bartholomew.

"You know, there is something that I'm able to tell about you just from your eyes," Bartholomew said after a few more minutes.

"What's that?" Cynder asked, though there was a great deal of apprehension within her.

"You're someone who, despite going through a lot, you've also been able to overcome a lot, and because of that, I think you and Spyro are made for each other."

The words heartened her greatly, and she smiled.

Meanwhile, Spyro was flying back to the other Skylanders and Bentley. When he reached them, they had been able to come farther, about two hundred feet from the cliff.

He landed in front of them and looked right at Bentley. "The signals came from Bartholomew. He said there was a Yeti who had gotten a group of snowmen together. According to what he said, this Yeti was the same one you took on here a while back."

"Not again!" Bentley growled. "Of course it had to be that condemned Yeti! That hairless freak is in need of a major beating!"

"I'm surprised he's still around, though," Spyro said. "I thought he would have returned to Colossus. But I guess all that matters now is that we get over there before anything bad can happen in your home."

"How can we get all the way up there, though?" Slam Bam demanded from somewhere behind Bentley. "That thing looks impossible to scale!"

"That's what I thought years ago, as well," Bentley said. "But some of the inhabitants of the Realm went into a cleft in the rock and created stairs that we can use to get up there. Let's just hope it doesn't take too long, because it is, admittedly, high."

"Well, that'll be annoying," Slam Bam said beneath his breath.

Spyro saw Bentley turn around and look for the source of Slam Bam's voice. When he found him, Bentley moved towards him. Spyro only accompanied him so that he could help him if Slam Bam tried something.

"What exactly are you?" Bentley asked.

"I'm a Yeti, like you," Slam Bam replied.

"You don't look like one," Bentley said.

"Yeah, I know," Slam Bam said. "The kind in Skylands are much different, as far as I know. I come from the Empire of Ice there. We don't have much fur, but we somehow remain warm while we're there."

"Hm, that's great," Bentley said. "Now, if you don't mind, please shut up. I already have had to deal with some of the worst people that have questioned me throughout my life, including the Yeti that we're going to have to deal with in my home. If you're not going to help us, then you as well stay out of our way! Understand?"

Slam Bam opened his mouth to say something as Bentley walked away, but Spyro glared at him until he finally shut his mouth. The amount of times Spyro had been forced to tell him off for the words he had spoken, not only towards Cynder, but also to others, were beginning to catch up, and Spyro was becoming exasperated by it.

Once they had finished there, Spyro and Bentley resumed their positions at the front of the Skylanders. Spyro turned back to them once they had done so. "We're going to that cleft, and once we get up there and find Cynder and Bartholomew, then we'll be ready to go to the Outpost. It shouldn't be too much longer before we find some time to rest."

When he turned back around, Spyro looked to Bentley, whose expression was very similar to Spyro's at that moment. From that, Spyro guessed he was thinking the exact same thing. In truth, Spyro had no idea when they would be able to rest next. He knew many of the Skylanders were exhausted, and some probably needed some kind of rest, but when there was so much happening, rest wasn't something they could always count on.

I realize I might have lied to them, he thought as they continued forward. I realize that we can't afford to rest, especially when Zelophehad sits on the throne in Charmed Ridge! We need to get there and stop him before he ruins everything! Ami and Azrael have been good friends of mine for a while, and to learn Azrael suffered at the hands of Zelophehad just makes me want to take down the Shadow Golem even more! I know I shouldn't be thinking of vengeance, but I can't help it. Of course, if anyone deserves any kind of justice, it's definitely Stealth Elf. I'll make sure I can do all I can to deliver that to her.

It didn't take much longer after he had retreated from his thoughts for them to reach the face of the cliff. The cleft was there in front of them, and Bentley led the way into it. He had to squeeze due to his larger frame, and Spyro realized some of the Skylanders, including Slam Bam, would have to do the same thing, which meant there could be trouble. But in the end, it'll be worth it, Spyro thought.

Once within the cleft, Spyro found that it was an easy fit for him. At the same time, as he watched others like Slam Bam and Bash try to get through, despite the fact they could, it was difficult.

On the other side, Spyro found Bentley waiting for them at the base of the stairs built into the mountain.

"Here we are," he said. "Now we can continue on our way without anymore trouble! Who's ready for this?"

Spyro heard Sonic Boom say from behind him, "This is going to be real killer on my paws."

Looking at the steps and the sheer number of the grey slabs that went all the way up, Spyro could not help but agree. All of them looked to be very steep, and he had to swallow and focus on all the good that would come out of the ascent.

He would open his wings and fly up, but he felt it would not be good to leave everyone else behind. While he had left them at one point to help Cynder, that had been for a far more different reason. Almost every other Skylander was able to deal with cold temperatures unlike her, and Spyro realized that if he had not gone and helped her like that, then she might have frozen right there by his side.

Now, as he looked up the steps, he wished he had been able to rest more before the Skylanders had begun their true journey through the Forgotten Realms.

Before Bentley took the first step, Spyro said to him, "Is it possible I can take a moment or two to catch my breath?"

"Of course," Bentley said. "The long trek has gotten to you, I'm guessing."

Spyro nodded. It technically wasn't a lie, but of course, there was some guilt within him.

When Spyro was finished, he nodded at Bentley, who took the first step. This was followed by the second, and then by the third. Then a rapid ascent followed. Spyro prepared himself to do the same, though he was not sure what shape or condition he would be in by the time he had finished. All the same, it was for a good cause.

He took his first step onto the stone, then the second, and then the third. While the rest of his ascent was not as fast as Bentley's, it was still well-paced. He was not too far behind his old friend, with Bentley only about ten feet ahead of him. Looking behind himself, Spyro saw Sunburn and Sonic Boom were around the same from him.

"How are things going?" Sunburn asked Sonic Boom. His mind was still on the idea of proposing to her, especially what the right time would be. He had an idea, but it would not be taking place here in the Forgotten Realms.

"Good, but I wish they were going better," Sonic Boom said. "I hope things will be over soon. That's not to say that I want to rush this rescue we're attempting, but the more I hear about him, the more that I want to help take down this Shadow Golem."

"You're not alone in that," Sunburn said. "The quicker, the better. And when you do things quicker, then we won't have to worry about as many casualties. We just need to make sure that going quicker does not cause us to lose focus on the things that truly matter."

"I agree there."

Sonic Boom did not say much more than that, and Sunburn felt a little disappointed. He had hoped she would mention something about how much she loved him. Then again, there is the possibility that I'm rushing things, he thought. I nearly destroyed my own advice with my thoughts. Once again, while being quicker is better, it is better to be quick while not losing the idea or ideas of what matters most.

It was about another fifteen to twenty minutes before they finally reached the top. Once there, Spyro felt his legs were wobbling. He concentrated, and after allowing some of his energy there, the wobble was gone.

He looked up, having looked at his feet and the steps throughout most of the ascent, and found Cynder lying in front of the fire, with Bartholomew near her.

"So, you got into trouble with that Yeti again, did you?" Bentley said. "Oh, Barth, how could you—"

"Well, it's not exactly as you think, big bro!" Bartholomew said. "You'll need to see for yourself before you can say anything about it to me, okay? Just hear me out, and all will be fine once you do. Got it?" Bentley sighed, but he nodded. "Okay, well, I can't tell your what's going on here, because I'm not sure who else is listening." Bartholomew looked to Spyro. "Oh, yeah, Cynder's great, bro. I made sure to keep her company and help her. And by the way, hello, everyone!"

His energy, Spyro noticed, was something many of the Skylanders, exhausted from their long trek in the snow and the ascent to the top of the mountain, did not make many of them feel better.

"All right, then, Bartholomew, it's better if you quit talking," Bentley said. "Not all of us are in the best shape or moods to have to deal with you. I can deal with you, that's for sure, but when others are forced through that torture—sorry, I mean reward—then it's like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get. So, are we ready to get out of here, and then go home?"

"Hey, Bentley, is it possible I can talk with you real quick?" Spyro asked.

"Of course," Bentley said. "Let's go ahead!"

Spyro motioned to Cynder that she needed to be with them when he spoke with Bentley, and she got up from the fire and walked over to where Spyro stood with Bentley a little bit away from the others.

"I wouldn't be surprised if some of the others can still hear us over here, but that's not really a problem right now," Spyro said. "Look, what we need more than anything is a way to take down whatever forces might be in the Outpost as quickly as possible. I'm not saying I don't want to be there, but I would prefer to get to Charmed Ridge as fast as we possibly can. There isn't much time for us to wait, wouldn't you agree?"

"Of course," Bentley whispered in the best way he could. It wasn't technically a whisper, being more of a lower version of his real voice, but Spyro supposed it worked. "I was really praying we wouldn't have to deal with too much in my Realm, either, but it seems Bartholomew has made things a little bit harder on us." He looked to Cynder. "By the way, how did things go with you and him when you were up here?"

"Good, but that's not really as important in this conversation," she said.

"No, it's not. Sorry about that."

"If we can just go in," Spyro continued, acting as though he hadn't heard the last part of Bentley's monologue or the response Cynder had given it, "and take down those that are there without your permission, and then move on, I think we should be good. I would love to rest, but that seems almost like a fantasy now. I can't even remember the last time we were able to rest."

"I get that," Bentley said. "I'd love to give you rest, but I don't think that's the best idea, especially in this situation. But do you think you'll be able to take on all this mess even without sleep?"

"I think we can," Spyro said, "but it can't just be us. We're going to need some help from some other friends, if you know what I mean."

"I get you." Bentley nodded just to add an extra layer to his understanding, as Spyro understood it. "After this business in the Outpost is done, I'll send Bartholomew to find the others. Will it just be them?"

"Them, and any other forces that they can get to come together," Spyro said.

"That would be a great number of people. At the same time, I hope it will be enough against Zelophehad," Cynder said. "From what we've been told by Stealth Elf, as well as the fact he possesses the Heretic Jewel, worries me quite a bit."

"It worries me, too," Spyro admitted, though a part of him did not want to admit that to even her. "But I think it'll be enough. I think, in the end, we just need to have faith."

The both of them nodded.

"Okay," Spyro then said after about a minute had passed. "It's time that we get moving. Where's the next portal, exactly?"

"In another cleft, right over there," Bentley said. "You should see it. It's there in the back, to the left."

Spyro followed Bentley's instructions, and once he saw the cleft, he saw there was something very different about that spot.

"Looks like it's the place," he said.

"Yeah, had to squeeze out just to get here," Bartholomew said, hopping over. "Is it time?"

"Yes."

Spyro turned to everyone else.

"We're going through this portal, which will take us to the Outpost. That is where Bentley lives, and that is where we will find what is most likely the penultimate portal. It will not be long after that for us to get to Charmed Ridge. At the same time, we're going to need to hurry. So, I need some help to get this rock out of the way so we can go through this cleft and end up in the Outpost."

It was Bentley and Slam Bam that came to his aid. When the rock was out of the way, Spyro looked into the cleft, which was now in full view.

Staring at it, he saw there were parts of it that were sparkling.

He swallowed, then looked to Bentley. The Yeti nodded at him.

He looked to Cynder who did the same, but the one thing she added that Bentley had not was a smile.

Spyro looked again at the cleft, and then hurled himself into it.