Author's Note: Thanks again for reading this story and providing feedback. I plan on making a sequel soon, so be on the lookout.
Two days had passed after the talent show. Even though it was a one-time event, it was a glorious one, worth experiencing. The students chatted at length about the performances and the excitement of it all. Of those conversations, some were about Cynder. Her dance routine had certainly caught the eyes of other students. They would smile and wave at her whenever they saw her and the sight warmed Spyro's heart.
He was ecstatic for his best friend and mate. The other teenage dragons seemed to see her in a new light now too. She didn't seem like the cold-hearted, blood-thirsty dragon that she had been in the distant past. They showed more openness to her. However, Spyro knew that some would still hold spiteful feelings toward her because of her former role as the Dark Master's puppet.
Down the brown-stone corridor, he walked with Cynder at his side. He was grinning from horn to horn. His tail curled around hers and squeezed it several times. Affection shone in his amethyst eyes. In response to his gestures, she nipped at his neck with a playful smile on her face. Something about her smile and nip made his heart fluttered in his chest. It also stirred the blood in his body, forcing it to surge through his veins. As they neared the end of the hall, Cynder tilted her head at him.
"Are you still thinking about the talent show?" Cynder asked.
Spyro nodded. "You were amazing out there! I didn't know you could dance. Where did you learn those moves?"
"I can't tell you." Cynder giggled. "That's my little secret."
"Come on. I just want to know. I promise not to tell anyone."
He licked her cheek affectionately. Maybe flattery will get her to tell me, Spyro thought with a smug smile.
"My darkest beauty, please tell me. Did I ever tell you how luminous your black scales look or how enticing your scent is?"
Cynder blushed a bit as he licked her cheek again and nipped her snout. He nibbled at her neck in addition to butter her up. But the black dragoness merely stared at him.
I've got you now.
"That's very sweet of you, but I'm still not telling," she replied, batting his cheek. "It was a nice attempt though."
Damn, so close yet so far, Spyro muttered silently. It was a worth a shot. Sighing in defeat, he continued to walk through the hallway and decided to drop the subject.
He led her into a classroom. It was filled with several thick gray-stone slabs, a book shelf, and a chalk board. Resting atop of the makeshift tables were scrolls and bowls filled with black ink. The other students sat behind the stone slabs, waiting for class to start. Quickly, they took their seats at a slab with Digit, Jinx, and Faerie.
Sitting behind his own slab was Volteer. As always, the Dragon Elder appeared alert and eager to teach the students a lesson. For as long as Spyro had known the Dragon Elder, he had much to explain about whether it was history, science, health, or any other intriguing subject that came to his lightning-quick mind. The ancient yellow dragon bid his time. He took several long minutes to prepare for class, taking roll of all the students, glancing over his personal notes and papers, and clearing his throat to get the classes attention.
When he was ready, Volteer launched into his daily lecture. His lips moved quickly with each word spoken. Whirling around to face the empty black chalk board, the elder dragon retrieved a stick of white chalk and wrote on the board. As he wrote on the board, Volteer talked in his usual winded voice.
"Today's lesson will be that of the history of the Dragon Temple. This subject is one of grave importance, and I want you all to listen closely. I trust that each of you have studied this subject thoroughly. During this lecture, I will be asking questions, and I expect you all to be honest."
Consequently, a collective groan filled the air. Volteer ignored the reaction and chuckled.
"It is a fib, students. After the lesson, I shall quiz on the material. Remember, final exams are coming soon, and you want to pass them if you wish to graduate. Now let us begin."
For two hours, Volteer explained the history of the Dragon Temple in great detail. Spyro found many bits of information interesting since he trained here. There were some things he didn't know and others that were simply common knowledge. Volteer told him about the builders of the temple, the temple's true purpose, the creation of the Dojo, and the first Dragon Elders that dwelled within the Dragon Temple.
Spyro leaned forward in his seat, scratching notes on a piece of parchment at a furious pace. Not only was the subject of interest, but the thought of not being able to graduate frightened him. He could slay gremlins, goblins, imps, and demons with his elements, fly through the air at incredible speeds, and fight extremely well with different fighting techniques, but he worried about failing classes. Like the Stigma, the fear gnawed at his mind. He needed to pass the final exams and be at his best.
I won't fail, he told himself firmly. I won't let it happen.
When the lesson was finished, Volteer turned around. He smiled at the students.
"Now it is time to test what you have learned. When I call on you, try to answer the question. Let us start with you, Onyx."
A lean black dragon sitting at a slab across from Spyro started. He sat up straight and started at the board. Then, he scratched at the back of his head and nodded nervously.
"Sure thing," Onyx murmured.
"Good. Who were the very first Dragon Elders?" Volteer asked.
Narrowing his crimson eyes, the young dragon concentrated in thought. Spyro considered speaking up because he knew the answer, but he kept still and quiet. After minutes of thinking, Onyx smiled in triumph.
"The first Dragon Elders are Kamu, Isadora, Galgrom, and Ulorok," Onyx replied.
"Excellent job, Onyx," Volteer replied, nodding with approval. "Can you tell us what element each elder is master of?"
"Well, let's see…Kamu is the master of fire. Isadora is the master of ice. Galgrom is the master of earth, and Ulorok is the master of electricity, right?"
"Correct. They have helped dragons master the elements for years. They have passed down their wisdom and expertise to their pupils."
Volteer smiled brightly at the words he had spoken, eyes shining with tears of joy. Then, he began to call on the students, asking them questions. Some knew the material well and responded with confidence, some guessed at what they failed to understand, and some took longer to answer, thinking their questions through.
Spyro grew more nervous from Volteer's quizzing. He knew he was going to be asked to answer a question. He understood what he had learned, mostly. But he worried about making a fool of himself in front of the entire class. When Volteer finally called on him, Spyro took a deep breath and listened closely.
"What is the true purpose of the Dragon Temple?" Volteer asked.
The question was simple enough. He found it easy to answer, but with dozens of eyes trained on him, Spyro paused for a moment to think. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead.
"The true purpose of the Dragon Temple is to train dragons in the ways of combat and elements," Spyro blurted out.
Volteer was silent and still for a moment. He raised a brow at the young purple dragon's response, waiting to hear more. Spyro hoped that it was the correct answer, the one Volteer was expecting, but the Electric Elder merely shook his head in reply.
"That is incorrect. The true purpose is not simply to train dragons, but to preserve the old ways and serve the world at large. That is the correct answer."
Damn it, Spyro swore under his breath and put his head on his desk. He felt embarrassed for saying the wrong thing as laughter resonated through the very classroom.
Despite his mistake, he was satisfied with progress in the other three classes of Elements, Fighting and Survival, and Aerial Tactics. He felt relieved that he was finished with his classes and decided to visit Arcanel in his bedroom.
Arcanel hadn't been in any classes since the talent show was over. In fact, he had been quarantined to his room, sleeping and muttering to himself. He even had trembling fits. When Spyro found Arcanel's room, he knocked on the door. For a moment, no one replied. He knocked a second time but not as loud. Consequently, the door creaked open to reveal Faerie standing inside. She gave him a soft smile and returned to Arcanel's bedside. Spyro returned the smile, closed the door, and then walked over to the bed.
Arcanel lay under the bed covers, curled into a little ball. He looked pathetic and weak under the thick sheets, trembling and muttering. His scales shone with some of its normal silver sheen. But there were still shades of white on the tips, and fragments broke off here and there whenever he shifted his body. There were bags under his eyes, and a trail of droll hung from his lower lip.
His body shivered with each minute as if a cold breeze wounded him. He gave sharp jerks and twists in his slumber, face contorted in agony and misery. Spyro wanted to heal Arcanel, to remove the pain that the Stigma inflicted, but he was powerless to stop the parasite. Only the Dragon Bane could kill it and cure his friend.
Looking up at Faerie, he saw that she was on the verge of tears. Gloominess shone on her delicate face and in her golden eyes. Her butterfly wings flitted behind her back. Spyro knew she loved and cared for Arcanel. She would even die for him if the chance presented itself. She wanted nothing more than to see him alive and well. Slowly, Spyro reached out and patted her paw to comfort her.
"Arcanel will pull through," he said. "I just know it."
Faerie sniffed and simply nodded.
"As long as you and the others are here to care for him, he will get better," Spyro continued, pulling his paw away. He didn't want to send the wrong message. "We'll be here to help Arcanel recover too. I promise."
Faerie nodded again and smiled at him. "Thanks, Spyro."
"Don't mention it."
He turned to look down at Arcanel. The young dragon muttered in his deep slumber. His breathing was shallow and irregular. In a sense, Spyro couldn't bear to lose Arcanel. The wish-granting dragon reminded him of Ignitus, who perished in the Belt of Fire. He'd be damned if he would lose another friend to death.
As the days steadily ticked by, Arcanel remained bedridden and weak. The healing process was lethargic, but signs showed that his health started to improve. Of course, the young silver dragon had coughing fits and painful headaches now and again. In addition, there was moments where Arcanel woke up from dreams screaming and thrashing upon his bed.
Spyro noticed the apprehensive, weary looks that the young dragon had. He tried to pay them no mind, but the mere glimpse caused him to wince and shake his head. He couldn't begin to imagine what it felt like to have such a parasite inside his own body.
As he left Arcanel's room, he walked down the hall towards the courtyard to think. A breath of fresh air will do me some good, he told himself sighing. He needed to have some peace and quiet, but one familiar character wouldn't let that happen. A speck of yellow light floated towards him from the other end of the corridor. When it drew closer, Spyro realized who it was.
"How's it going purple boy? I haven't seen you in a while." The golden dragonfly chuckled.
"Yeah, it has been a while, and I'm good," Spyro replied, happy to see his brother again. "I've been busy with classes and checking up on Arcanel."
"He's the one granting wishes, right?"
"I hope he gets better," Sparx said. "Everyone seems so depressed and worried. What does a dragonfly have to do to spice things up? Fly smack-dab into a wall? Wear a frilly dress?"
Spyro laughed. "That would surely cheer everyone up, and I can you in a dress. It would suit you."
"Just like all that baby fat suits you," Sparx shot back.
Again with the fat jokes, Spyro groaned. It's definitely great to have the old Sparx back.
"Anyway…What have you been up to Sparx?"
"Oh, just the usual, assisting the old geezers with grading papers and making the final exams and plans for graduation," he replied.
A cold spike of fear stabbed at Spyro as he heard the words "final exams." More than anything, he was afraid to fail them.
"When are the final exams?"
"In the next two days," Sparx replied.
Sweet Ancestors, I'm dead, Spyro thought, eyes widening.