OFF: Man! It took FOREVER for me to be inspired enough to continue! In fact, it took me enough time for the final game to be actually revealed and announced!

Oh well... hopefully, the next updates won't take nearly as long.

So, well, here is the loooooong over-due next chapter. I hope you'll enjoy it!

See you!

Chapter 1: Doubt

Where there is no Life, there is no hope. Such is what says those who see Life. But for the very last Life... is there hope?

"Hey! I can see the exit!" said Sparx, breaking the silence.

How long did they walk? Hours? Days? It's crazy how gigantic the Mountain of Malefor was. In a way, the purple dragon wondered why he didn't notice that the first time he went through it but then, he had been busy fighting for his life, facing vicious traps and a nearly endless legion of guards.

"Well, about time!" continued Sparx, smirking. "I was getting sick of the creepy green glowing ruined tunnels and all of the..."

All three of them stopped and their eyes widened.

Total silence, not one of them talking. They just stood by the exit, staring at the sight that the blinding light of dawn brought them. Sparx's smirk disappeared while Spyro just stood there. If this had been a cartoon, his jaw would have hit the floor... and not in the good way. Cynder, her, found nothing to say and to do and as such, like the others, remained silent.

"Wha... what happened here?" Spyro finally broke the silence, the horror and confusion obvious in his voice. A horrible feeling... the same that the other two were feeling too.

The sun had barely begun to rise above the mountains in the horizon and yet, due to the lack of clouds, the light shone with blinding intensity, coloring the lands golden and white.

As far as the eye can see, the world was nothing but a wasteland devoid of any life, vegetal and animal. No ruins and water either. All that there was was the endless expenses of rock and sand and the eternal wind, blowing endlessly through the wastelands like a requiem of sorts...

"This place... it's..." Sparx couldn't complete his sentence and just shook his head. "Yeah, Malefor was creepy before but it used to be creepy swamplands filled with creepy life-forms... not... not..."

Cynder closed her eyes a moment... "The winds... you can almost hear the cries of those who fell here." she opened her eyes again, the glowing green glow scanning the endless expenses of nothingness. "Graves. It feels like a graveyard..."

Hesitantly, Spyro stepped out of the tunnel and into the daylight. The light shined upon him, coloring him just as golden and white as everything around him. The light was so blinding... he shielded his eyes with one paw and it was only after a moment that he got used to it and even then, he looked down, the sun in his face.

Following closely, his friends. All of them were silent, grim expressions on their faces...

"Well, the Chronicler sure wasn't joking when he said this place would be plunged into darkness... although I expected it to be a bit more, you know, filled with apes and less of a creepy sun-soaked graveyard thingy?" said Sparx, once again breaking the uneasy silence.

"If we don't do anything, then all of the world will become like this, Spyro." that was Cynder, now standing a bit ahead of the purple dragon and staring into his eyes. "There isn't much time..."

Spyro scanned the surroundings again, the infernally loud wind blowing endlessly... and then, he nodded.

Despite the infernal silence, despite the grim emptiness, despite the wind, the three moved on. The sand and the rocks... it all felt as if it had been heated to the point of being lava, hurting the two hatchlings' paws and yet, they barely felt it.

This... is the doing of the dark power. Something has assaulted this place... something malevolent and powerful. They must stop it. There is no alternative. It is their fate...

The journey leading outside of the region of Malefor seemed to take forever, unaffected by neither time nor space. No matter how much they walked, no matter how far they made it, the horizon always seemed to be at the same distance, the sun of dawn never moving from its position... almost as if time itself had stopped, the laws of physics no longer applying.

No one said anything. The very world had taken on an ethereal form before them, everything after awakening seeming so... unreal, as if they had never truly awakened.

Questions hunted the three. But although their thoughts were usually different, common questions hunted all three.

Who woke them up? Why? What destroyed this place? Why?

... is there anyone left beyond the horizon? Do those they love still live?

... how long did they sleep?

Silence and emptiness. The world lies barren before them, lifeless...

More walking in the lonely wastelands, the howling wind as their only companion.

... and then, Sparx rose an eyebrow.

More moving around, more nothingness... and then, it happened again.

"Hey guys? Is it me or did something move?" said Sparx aloud, a bit perplexed.

The three stopped.

Spyro and Cynder looked around. Nothing. Just the howling of the wind and the sand. Seeing nothing, the purple dragon turned to his adoptive brother.

"There's nothing here. You must have imagined it."

And then, the female saw it. A slight glimpse of light for a moment...

"Spyro. He's right. There's someone here and I have a bad feeling about this..." she said, slowly lowering her body as she took on a battle stance, her instincts beginning to rise.

She felt... horrified. For some reason, a nameless fear had rose within her soul, one she recognized all too well and yet, was also so unfamiliar. And then, finally, they appeared.

Countless figures, their skins torn apart, their rotten, decaying organs almost all gone, their shapes skeletal and as pale as death... for they were death.

She knew them all too well. Within the Well of Souls, within the gate that led to the Dark Realm...

She remember how it had felt. She would never forget it, no matter how much she tried. No efforts, no struggle, no scream, no tears could wash away this memory, one that clawed at her soul from within. She had always remembered his face when he chained her above the pit, when he opened the cursed gate and plunged her into it...

To the apes, it had been nothing but green energy but to her, it had been a nightmare.

She could remember the moans filling the air, the whispers, the sobbing. Devoid of emotion, devoid of life. Thousands of hands, the flesh decaying from the bony fingers, stretching from within the depths and grabbing into her. She remembered how it had hurt, how much suffering and fear she had felt. The souls of the dead... the souls of the damned.

She remembered the nightmare, how they teared her out of her body and dragged her down. How she had felt the cold yet burning sensation of the green, unnatural, hellish flames upon her.

But more than anything else, she had felt the flame claw at her and burn down everything within her that once made her a dragon. Her powers were drained and the Darkness filled her, its emptiness washing over her feeble mortal feelings like a tidal wave.

In the end, she had become like them... one of the damned. And although the mystic chains prevented her soul from being dragged all the way to the point of no return, she had felt, and knew, that she had already died.

... and now, the horrific reminder was before her. In a way, she was already dead. They had sacrificed her so she would be the queen of the Dark Master and regardless of what Spyro did to her, she now felt it within her.

The dead souls... they were here and she felt their call into her heart.

It didn't matter if she thought she was innocent, if they told her she was innocent. The chains had only delayed what was now her fate. She was one of them. She would become what she is meant to be. She would be consumed.

... but then, isn't she dead already? To give in to the Darkness would only spare her pain. To dive into the flames, to allow the dead to break her body, to let go of all life left in her body. It would be a relief... and a part of her, the dead one, longed for this.

Spyro was afraid. So was Sparx. Yet both of them stared into the eyes of the dead in defiance.

Spyro... he trembled and she now realized the call in his heart. He, too, had been touched by the Darkness. He, too, was plunged into the Darkness. He, too, felt the grasp of the dead and the power of Darkness.

Yet, he had resisted.

... and so had she.

She was not sure how long ago it was but just before they went to sleep, she had thrown herself into the dead. She had attempted to save him... and did save him.

Why? Why did she knock him out of the beam when she knew he would be tainted like her? That his soul was already belonging to the Darkness the second the grasp of the Dark Realm touched him?

They are both dead... yet they fought.

Even Sparx... he who was frozen like them, he who was bathed in Spyro's now corrupt power.


... and as she saw the emptiness in their eyes, she was reminded why.

It was not important that the lot of them were damned and already dead, claimed by the Darkness. The Darkness had not claimed all of their souls yet. As long as those feelings within her heart and those memories will haunt her, as long as they will feel worry for each others, as long as they will be drawn together and feel the warmth of blood on their bodies and unbearable pain as the dead attempt to claim their lives, then they will fight. As long as there is something the Darkness hasn't claimed within them, they will fight it.

The dead stretched their hands, dragging themselves toward the three. The moans of the damned filled the air.

Fury filled Cynder's eyes and she beat her wings, flailing her tail around, rage filling her heart.

"I may be destined to fall but that doesn't mean I like you! Get lost!" she roared.

The sudden outburst of anger surprised the male dragon and the dragonfly. They, unlike her, did not understand, they did not feel the Darkness as much as her, they who hadn't lived in the shadows for so long. But they understood and felt the call to battle and they would fight. Those things seeked to claim them... they wouldn't let them! Not without a fight!

And then, as the hordes of monstrous figures surrounded the small group, a horrific scream shook the very earth, the horrifying shapes lashing forward, their faces deformed grotesquely into expressions that were more like that of screams than that of a creature about to bite.

The three did not allow the damned to tear them to pieces.

The purple dragon greeted the unholy hordes with a headbutt, sending the assaulting monstrosity flying upward. The dragon then flapped his wings, flying after the creatures before slamming his claws into the rotten, hardened flesh of the monster. With every hit, the dragon drawn blood and caused the monster to scream in pain.

Its brethrens, totally ignoring the fate of the being Spyro was tearing apart, stretched to snatch their victims, their arms extending like disgusting tentacles, large blood-covered claws emerging from the finger tips. None of the horrors could touch Spyro however as the purple dragon spun in mid-air, covering the sky-bound monster with fiery liquid before double-kicking the horror back into the horde, the terrifying figure now turned into a large fiery projectile. The impact sent sand and body parts flying about, the screams of pain and anger of the dead filling the air.

Cynder did not take kindly to the enemy coming to reclaim her either. While Spyro took to the air, Cynder remained firmly set in place before the monsters. She was not afraid. They could fight? So could she. With a roar, the female dragon flung her tail with tremendous speed and strength, slamming it straight into the face of an incoming horror, tearing half of its face apart before the can opener-shaped blade at the end of her tail locked into the cracked skull below. Kicking into the ground, Cynder lifted her lower body off the ground and then did a quick backflip, slamming the being into the ground. Far from ending it there, Cynder took advantage of the momentum and spun her body around quickly, tearing the creature apart as she grinded it into the ground while using it as an unwilling mace, slamming it into the other monsters and gathering them into a large sphere before letting go, sending a gigantic chunk of dead flesh flying.

Sparx couldn't help but fly out of reach, watching as all those events were unfolding. The monsters attacked in unusually large numbers, even compared to the apes. For every of those horrors that the two dragons returned where they belonged, three to five more appeared and the assault was constant, figures coming from the horizon in near endless numbers.

Fear begun to rise after several minutes, the dragons tiring while the monstrous figures continued their assault endlessly, tirelessly. How come there were so many of them? Why here? What were those anyway?

No! They cannot allow despair to grip them! Even though Spyro doesn't have his powers anymore, he cannot allow those beings to do this to them! They remembered the Chronicler's words... Spyro is the Dragon of Prophecy. He will not fall. Not here, not now.

They continued to fight, fending off wave after wave, continuing on no matter how hopeless the situation seemed to be.

And finally, as suddenly as the figures had appeared, the enemy stopped coming. As Spyro and Cynder both sent flying the last of the figures, the two looked around frantically only to realize that they were alone.

The two panted for a few more seconds and finally, a feeling of intense relief coming to them, collapsed.

"L-looks like we drove off the last of them..." said Spyro, breaking the silence.

"Man, what were those things? I mean... the Dark Master and Gaul thrown a lot of stuff our way but I don't think I ever saw stuff like, those THINGS, before." said Sparx, not sure what to think of the situation he had just witnessed.

Cynder thought this over, now that they were gone and that the feeling they inspired upon her was gone. Why did they cause those thoughts within her? Why did they inspire her with such feelings toward herself, Spyro, and them? Why were they so familiar? She was sure she had never seen things such as these before. Yes, she admitted they had given her flashes of when she had been forcefully mutated into her adult, corrupt self but still...

... that had been so very silly. That was this kind of weakness that had got her into trouble in the first place. It was because she allowed random monsters to play upon her fear and guilt that Gaul could manipulate her once more and that Spyro almost got himself killed. She always brooded over how she had caused such pain and yet, she caused so much more pain by ignoring everyone and seeking to exile herself.

Spyro, Sparx, and the Guardians... she was no longer alone. She had not fought the monsters alone, she had to get that out of her mind for it was simply not true. Spyro had been there. He had always been there. When she had been possessed, he freed her and when she had been about to get what she thought she had deserved, he forgave her so easily and saved her life. He shown her so much and even in her insistence at blaming herself and running from him, he pursued her... and even to the Well of Souls.

It was hard. She could still feel the guilt and the fear. She knew it was her fault... but if she couldn't forgive herself, then at least she would have to live for him. By seeking death and retribution for what she did, she only brought them further pain. It's hard to accept but... she will have to bear the pain. She couldn't be selfish. It was the only way. She would live even if she couldn't forgive herself...

Those monsters, she had never seen them before. They were not souls from the Dark Realm. They were nothing but a new brand of horror that exploited one's fears.

Feeling confidence fill her heart, the black dragon got up. "I have no idea but all that I know is that if they are a sign of what is coming, we should hurry. If we do not hurry, there might be no one left to save by the time we arrive."

Fear, doubt... those filled the eyes of her allies but after a long moment of silence, the two figured out that she was right and nodded, confidence coming to them as well. Spyro walked to her side, staring at her...

"You are right. We should keep moving. Let's go."

As he walked forward, she couldn't help but wonder. No matter how much fear he faced, no matter how bad the situation, he never stopped, never truly hesitated. All that was needed was a few words from a friend and he would continue his journey as if nothing had happened, not a single force able to keep him down for long.

Maybe... she can learn from him.

She will not run from him anymore. She shall move by his side. The end of his path... she feared what Fate had prepared for him. She knew that destiny wasn't kind... yet, Spyro brought hope everywhere he went. He could even save her, no matter how doomed she should have been. She will walk with him on this path and see what lies at its end. She shall never abandon him again. Never.

"HEY! Wait for me!" called Sparx, trailing behind the dragons.