The ground rushed below Spyro. His world spun and faded in and out of focus. Cold wind rushed over his body and stung his eyes. He opened his mouth to speak but only released a glob of blood. He heard a muffled curse from the dragon who was carrying him. The purple dragon felt himself being shifted around on the dragon's back as they tried to wipe the blood off their shoulder. Spyro closed his eyes and returned to the darkness of unconsciousness.
"It has been far too long since we last heard from Spyro and Cynder." Hunter shook his head.
"I agree." Terrador sighed. "The young guardians have not reported back either."
"Do you think something has happened?" Volteer asked worriedly.
"I only expected them to be gone no more than a week, maybe two at the most." Hunter scratched his head in frustration.
"Suppose Spyro found something at Dante's Freezer," Cyril muttered darkly. "Before they left, Spyro seemed rather disturbed about something. Perhaps those wretched wolves were planning something diabolical and our young dragons were caught in the middle of it."
"Yes, that would make sense." Volteer nodded anxiously. "They may have engaged the enemy at Dante's Freezer or have been captured by them or..." The lightning guardian's voice trailed off as the sound of wing beats reached their ears. The guardians and cheetah warrior turned their heads to see a large fiery red dragon followed by a small cavalry of elders coming in for a landing on the temple's uppermost platform.
"Infernus!" Terrador jerked his head back in surprise. "What brings you here?"
"How is the Eastern City?" Cyril added more formally. "Have you been able to rebuild since the attack?"
The elder huffed and caught his breath. "We have. But we still have several problems concerning the disappearance of our younger black dragon population."
"We heard." Terrador nodded. "Flame mentioned it to us when he and Spyro returned with the other guardians."
"Has anything been done to by the young guardians to find our missing youngsters?" Another large fire breather asked.
"We were actually in the midst of discussing that situation." Hunter spoke up staring up at the dragon elder. "It's been over a month since we've seen Spyro and the other guardians. They left to investigate some possible wolf activities at Dante's Freezer and we haven't heard from them since."
"Have you sent any search parties out for them?" Infernus asked after a moment's hesitation.
The cheetah nodded; the troubled expression clear on his face. "That we have. My people have sent out our falcons to search the land for them."
"Any word yet?" Infernus's claws dug into the floor as he anticipated the cheetah's answer. To his dismay Hunter shook his head.
"There hasn't been any sighting of them." Infernus's shoulders slumped slightly. He knew it was dangerous to be a guardian at times when darkness threatened the land and that there was the possibility the young dragons would be killed protecting their world. But Flame was still his grandson and their family bonds would always hold strong for the elder. Hunter sensed the elder's disappointment and placed his hands on his hips. "There haven't been any signs of the young ones themselves. But according to the falcons there has been sufficient evidence to suggest they're still alive out there."
"How so?" The fire elder tilted his head sideways inquisitively.
"The lands beyond Dante's Freezer show several signs of heavy fighting. Burned forests from fire dragons and many patches of woods leveled by an earth dragon have been spotted. There has also been a report of an entire wolf village being destroyed by a possible cave in."
"Of course they've just been reported sightings," Cyril broke in. "We have yet to make any sort of actual contact with the young ones."
"I see." Infernus lowered his head slightly.
Feeling the tension in the room begin to rise, Hunter turned towards the stairs leading to the lower levels of the city. "I think it is best that I take my leave here." He said over his shoulder. "I will go and search for Spyro and the others. Perhaps it is also time my people returned to their homes in Avalar as well."
"Very well friend." Terrador bobbed his bulky head. "We will wait for you to return when you find them."
"Good luck, and may the ancestors watch over you." Infernus spoke with an air of sadness.
The cheetah nodded. "Do you have a message you would like me to deliver our guardian of fire?"
Infernus thought for a moment before shaking his head. "Just make sure they're safe."
"Will that be all?" Hunter asked, raising a skeptical eye brow. The elder nodded. He had plenty to say to his grandson but felt it would be best to wait until the two were face to face again. "Very well." Hunter pulled his hood over his head and secured his bow and arrows. "I will take my leave. We will keep you posted as much as we can." Before the elders could say anything more the cheetah started down the steps.
At the base of the stairs, Chief Prowlus was waiting with arms crossed.
"So how did it go Hunter?" He asked sternly.
"Nothing we don't already know." Hunter shook his head sadly.
"Will we continue looking for the purple dragon and his friends?"
"I gave the guardians my word that we would assist in the search for Spyro and his friends."
"I see." Prowlus nodded. He was more concerned about his people than the dragons, but he knew that his people owed a lot to Spyro and that looking for him was the least they could do. "Very well." Prowlus stood upright and they descended the stairs to ground level. "I will have half our falcons on constant watch intervals until we get any reports of finding them. I'll have seven of our scouts scour the lands so we may track them down easier."
"Your help is much appreciated, friend." Hunter placed a thankful hand on his chief's shoulder. "You've changed over the past couple years."
"I realize that I was wrong to judge Spyro and to hold a grudge against Cynder, especially after she brought the world from the brink of destruction. I suppose that this is just a way of paying them back."
"They would appreciate it." Hunter nodded. As the cheetah tribe entered the main courtyard, the moles stood ready and waiting for them. Hunter bobbed his head slightly and the guards opened the massive gates. Slowly but surely, the cheetahs filed out of the city, looking around at the vast horizon before them. It was the first time they had been outside the city wall since their arrival. Many of the warriors looked tense as they surveyed the land around them. They tightened their grip on their weapons and their ears flattened slightly as they sniffed the air, expecting to find the scent of a nearby enemy.
"I should go," Hunter announced when he and Prowlus exited the city. "I wish you safe passage on your way home Prowlus."
"Just be careful wherever you may decide to go." The chieftain nodded gruffly.
"I will." Hunter waved and turned towards the north east. He took the cool air that surrounded the city walls into his lungs and sighed. Without further delay he took off running, appearing to be nothing but a red and yellow blur across the plains.
From the cover of the trees, hundreds of yellow eyes watched the cheetahs exit the dragon city of Warfang. The wolves lay hunched down in the bushes as the line of felines spread out in front of them. The mutants all licked their chops and did their best not to fidget anxiously; they wanted blood and they wanted it bad.
"Settle down you fools!" And rash voice growled. "We didn't come here for your amusement!"
The mutant warriors settled down after a couple of whimpers. The Southern Wolf Pack was far more disciplined than their cousins to the north; when their Alpha ordered them to do something they did it without hesitation or argument.
The Alpha stalked up next to the young black dragon hunkered down in the bushes.
"So, what is your plan, Master?" He asked calmly.
Liun only glared in disgust at the felines exiting the city gates. His sides were still scorched from lava burns and he wore the scars that had plagued his body from the fortress collapsing on top of him. The young black dragon only had a mind for revenge but Malefor had other plans.
"You will get your revenge in time, young dragon," The Dark Master whispered within his mind. "But for now you must stay focused if you wish to get what you desire."
"I understand," Liun replied aloud, catching the patient Alpha's attention. Liun was about to address him when something caught his eye. From out of the group of felines sprinted a lone warrior. He donned a faded crimson cloak and carried a bow along with a slew of arrows across his shoulder.
The black dragon's eyes narrowed suspiciously when the scout warrior disappeared into the forest. The Alpha wolf followed the dark dragon's evil stare but remained silent; he was not in the position to talk openly right now.
"Scraunch," Liun whispered darkly without breaking his stare.
"Yes master?" The Alpha was immediately down on one knee with his head bowed.
"Keep your head up," Liun ordered harshly without raising his voice. "Did you see that cheetah scout break away from the rest of his tribe?"
"Yes," the Alpha wolf nodded.
"I want you to send your next in command and half of our forces after him." Liun glanced at the wolf out of the corner of his eye. "I have a sneaking suspicion he may be going to seek out Spyro and Cynder, wherever they have taken refuge."
"It shall be done." The wolf bobbed his head and swished his tail three times. Immediately another large wolf crept up to them. The wolf's fur was copper-colored with a long black streak running from the top of his nose and down his back.
"I want you to track him for the time being," Liun continued in a hushed voice. He gave a sudden wince of pain as Malefor's conscience began to emerge again. Black shadows spread out from around Liun's feet and spread through the darkness of the forest. The wolves didn't so much as twitch a hair from the sudden dispersal of energy.
Malefor looked at Scraunch with grave yellow eyes. "Make sure that your warriors remain unnoticed at all times. I suspect that feline is the sole reason Spyro and Cynder survived the catastrophe at the Well of Souls. If he found them then, he surely is capable of it now. Do I make myself clear?"
"Crystal clear." Scraunch bowed his head again before backing away with the rest of his pack. He turned to the red wolf and pulled him aside to speak in hushed tones. "Listen to me, and listen well Tuerto." Scraunch narrowed his yellow eyes at his subordinate. "You and our brothers are to follow that warrior and keep him in your sights at all times. But under no circumstances are you to let him spot you! Is that clear?"
"I understand." Tuerto nodded obediently.
"You are not to attack him until he has located for you the purple dragon and his friends. When you have found them, eliminate them. And be thorough about it! I don't want anyone in my pack making the same foolish mistakes that imbecile Snarl from the Northern pack made! I will not tolerate failure from wolf or dragon for any reason! Is that understood?"
"As you wish." Tuerto nodded with a couple vigorous sweeps of his tail. Just behind them they heard a sudden rustle in the bushes. Every head turned, including Liun's. The sounds of footsteps could be heard fading away and several of the wolves growled suspiciously. Tuerto raised his hand and pointed it like a spear in the direction of the disturbance. He flicked his fingers four times and four of the mutant wolves slipped into the forest in response to his silent command.
When they had disappeared from view, he turned back to his Alpha. Scraunch nodded, seeing that his second-in-command understood what was expected of him. The Alpha turned back to the dark dragon and nodded. Liun only turned back to the city as the last of the refugees exited the city. It would be night in just a few hours. And then they would make their move.