Cover made by GoldenGriffiness.
Note: If you read TLOC many years ago and are expecting the less edgy but more cringy, comedy-focused version, you're looking for the Google Drive link on my profile.
Fair warning. I wrote this story when I was 12, rewrote it when I was 13, and spent about 3-5 years trying to rewrite it again on two separate occasions. I failed. This trilogy is a hot mess and it's in quite the frazzled state of randomly rewritten chapters, sudden quality spikes, and so on. This first chapter is the best quality you'll see.
Please don't judge me as an author for any weirdness you encounter while reading this very old series. I know it's cliche, I know a rewrite of TLOS is dumb, and I know Crystal takes a long time to develop more of a personality than "a snarky female version of Spyro".
I was very young when I wrote this. But it was my first fic and it helped me discover my love of writing. This will never be the beautifully written story I always wanted it to be, but Crystal will always hold a place in my heart. And maybe someday I'll reboot it with a less stupid plot.
Thank you for reading my beginning. I hope that it will never end.
Summer of 1E 750
What do you have to live for?
The day betrayed no sign of the impending anguish that would befall the Temple and the little hamlet that made its cozy home in the forest nearby. Nobody would have expected it—in fact, nobody did expect it, expect that their lives were about to be torn apart if not completely ended when night fell.
It was all just too perfect. The blue sky was like a calm lake with no clouds in sight to disturb its beauty; it was just hot enough to be comfortable without being unbearable; and the residents of the village among the tall trees of the forest seemed to go about their day with a bit of a skip in their step. Meanwhile, the Guardians, the few parents of the eggs that lived in the village and not elsewhere like in faraway Warfang, and Ignitus' mate Theresa were gathered at the Temple, watching over the eggs, every single one of them unable to wait until the sound of tiny paws skittering on stone filled the candle-lit halls.
Ignitus entered the small, cozy room as the door slid open before him; just like the rest of the Temple, worn brown and yellow stone made up the walls and floor. The only decoration consisted of four tapestries that adorned the wall, one of the core elements' colours and symbols on each, and a few torches that lit up the room in a fiery glow, setting the shadows dancing. But the main attraction here was the counters, sticking out of the wall, and the rainbow of dragon eggs that were nestled into nests carefully arranged on top of them. And, separate from the others, a pale purple egg that stood proudly on a great pedestal in an alcove in the wall.
The old fire dragon allowed a smile to graze his weathered face, amber eyes brightening just a bit, as he walked past the little eggs. They would be hatching soon; the other Guardians estimated that it would be a week at the most before they were all out.
The Guardian's small smile faded unbidden as he mused over the past. He knew these little unborn lives were his only hope—actually, not just his only hope, the only hope for all the poor souls being terrorized by Malefor's forces. The number of known dragons in the world was dwindling at a couple hundred at most, and at this rate they would be extinct come 760. Ignitus didn't like having to take the eggs from the parents if they wouldn't listen to reason and give them up, but what choice did he have? Malefor knew the prophecy as well as he did and even now ape spies were skulking in the shadows just waiting to find an egg that they could take back to their master. And if that happened...
Well, nobody was safe anymore. Ignitus didn't know all the components needed to open the lock that led to the Dark Master's prison, but he did know that a dragon born in the Year of the Dragon was just one piece of the shattered key. Malefor could not be allowed to have that key under any circumstances.
The kind dragon allowed a smile to slip onto his face again as he approached the great pedestal that held the pale purple egg. Gently, he turned it, exposing the other side to the unusually warm air in this room, then headed back to the other nests to do the same.
As Ignitus left the room, he looked back and allowed his fears to dissipate. They were safe here. Malefor's forces could not know where the eggs were being kept and even if they did, the Guardians were well equipped to fight them. Nothing, nothing would harm these little growing lives, including the life of his and Theresa's own child that lay among them.
Or so he thought.
When the great Guardian returned that night to check on the eggs again, his previous content demeanour was gone, replaced by an air of uncertainty. With Theresa—who had returned after her and the other fighters forced the apes plaguing the city of Darkhollow into a retreat—patrolling the outskirts of the Temple, and the other Guardians off doing other things as well, Ignitus had been left to his own thoughts, and those thoughts were very grim indeed.
His mind wandered to dark futures, examined the most shadowy crevices of what was to come. What if the apes did discover the location of the eggs? What if they attacked and he could not stop them? And, worst what-if of all, what if Malefor got his paws on a dragon egg? What could Ignitus possibly do then?
The future was far more grim than he could ever anticipate.
Ignitus slowly made his ways past the eggs that lay in peaceful silence in their warm nests, stopping once more before the purple egg. The Fire Guardian stared at it blankly. No thoughts crossed his mind, only an inexplicable emotion: a mix of fear of what might happen to the egg, as well as mild surprise—surprise at the thought that the beings within this little egg would one day save the world.
Even as he began to sense that something, something was wrong, just barely detected Volteer's pounding footsteps in the halls that led to this room, and though he didn't know it realized just exactly what was going to happen, he knew in his heart that one day this tiny, helpless, unremarkable egg would save all of those that had fallen under the Dark Master's pitch black shadow. And even as the years after that one terrifying day tiredly wore on and the struggle for his very existence did not cease, even as his mind clouded with doubt, deep inside the old fire dragon never lost hope.
The fiery dragon snapped from his trance, alarmed, as his friend and fellow Guardian Volteer burst through the door. Panting wildly as he tried to regain his breath, the lanky yellow dragon straightened suddenly and gasped out, "The Dark Armies have come!"
It took a few moments for the gravity of this simple statement to sink in. Eyes flashing like the fire he wielded, Ignitus asked, "Where are the others?" He did not panic—experience had taught him that he needed to remain calm, but he could not help the glimmer of fear that rose up in him.
Catching his breath, the fast-talking Electric Guardian hurriedly said, "Cyril is warning the townspeople, a-and Terrador is trying to hold them back."
Volteer didn't answer for a few moments, mustard-coloured eyes scanning over the ground as if it was a book with all the answers. "W-we don't know—but you must hurry! Save them! Terrador can't hold them off for much longer, and I must stay here to protect the eggs."
Ignitus, turning, tried to put his worries to rest. Surely Theresa was with Cyril, or perhaps fighting off the apes. She was fine—she must be fine. Ignitus knew he needed to act fast if he was to save the eggs in time, so he focused on this as best he could as Volteer, slipping back into a panic, headed outside to guard the entrance. The Fire Guardian's eyes scanned over the eggs, but they immediately fell on the pale lavender one, and he knew what he must do. There was no other choice, really. He must put the purple dragon above all others—only he had chance at defeating the Dark Master one day. And though that chance was small, it was all the world had.
The old dragon snatched up the egg, careful to be gentle with it; very precious cargo, it was. Turning and clutching the egg to his chest with one paw, he broke into a run, dashing wordlessly past Volteer as he continued down hall after twisting, turning hall. Eventually he reached the great training room, where his statue lay, looking condescendingly upon all those who passed. Every time Ignitus met it, he closed his eyes and hoped that this time it would be different. But now he didn't have time for that. Ignoring the flashing eyes of the great sandstone statue, he rushed out onto the balcony. There he burst into the air without delay.
He heard them before he saw them. Shrill screeches rippled through the air, grinding against his' skull and making him flinch. Swooping down, Ignitus just barely saw them, their furry bodies shining in what little light the slivers of the moons gave. Dreadwings. The bat-like creatures, with their sharp teeth, long wings with tattered membrane, bulky, furry bodies, and a scream that literally could stop you in your tracks and paralyze you with fear, looked and sounded like something out of a nightmare.
Panic shot through Ignitus when he too saw another figure flying against the strong winds that had just picked up.
He saw her form, barely a silhouette against the pitch black, starless sky, slipping through the air, dodging the swings of Dreadwings and the range of their paralyzing screams. One by one, the great creatures were knocked out of the sky by the grey dragon's blasts of wind. Ignitus glanced at the egg hesitantly and made his choice. Theresa might need help, but it was more important that the purple dragon be brought to safety.
Just as the Guardian began to turn and speed off towards the river, barely visible through the heavy mushroom forest, two screams tore through the air—one the piercing shriek of a Dreadwing and the other the cry of a dragon. Whipping around, Ignitus was just in time to see red ripples of the wavelengths of a Dreadwing's visible cry and something else darting down into the darkness of the forest.
"Theresa!" he screamed over the whipping winds, but Theresa did not respond—paralyzed, she only continued to fall down, down, down into the darkness until she was no longer visible.
The fire Guardian had scarcely travelled three feet in Theresa's direction before, stopping, he gritted his teeth and turned back. He knew very well that he needed to put this first priority—Theresa would want him to. And, too, if he went to help her she would only say she was perfectly alright and chide him for going after her instead. She was fine... Wasn't she?
It didn't matter; Ignitus hated to abandon her, but he couldn't take the chance. Of course Theresa was okay... She had to be okay. So, regretfully, Ignitus pushed it to the back of his mind and continued on to his destination.
It only took another minute or two to reach it; swooping down between the caps of the great mushrooms that fringed it, the old red-orange dragon stopped at the banks of the Silver River—appropriately named, for though in the day the river seemed to be a dazzling gold, at night the gentle waters were bathed in a soft silver glow that shone through right to its dark depths.
The great red dragon glanced back at the Temple, illuminated not by even a single candle in a window, as they had all been blown out by the harsh winds. Ignitus knew needed to hurry; there was little time and Volteer needed him to help defend the other eggs and get them to safety. Looking around, Ignitus found what would hold the wayward egg: the cap of a very young mushroom that, by one mean or another, had died and fallen. Ignitus placed the pale purple egg into the mushroom cap's indented middle; it fit perfectly, almost as if someone had carved it out and placed it there just so it might serve this very use.
Ignitus pushed the makeshift boat into the water; it floated, gently rocking like a cradle, and it took all the will in the Guardian's body to push it out into the river. The waters were calm tonight and the egg would likely find its way to the shore before it hit the rapids. Of course there were also rocks, little waterfalls and other obstacles littered across the river. Perhaps the cap would fall over and the egg would sink to the bottom, the unborn dragons inside dying, or maybe it would make its way through the precarious river only for nobody to ever find it. Ignitus had little hope that the egg would survive, but this was the only way. He stared at the egg as it slowly but surely began to float down the Silver River, carried by the gentle current.
Raising his voice as if the egg could hear it, the Guardian said, "May the ancestors look after you..." He paused, bowing his head. "May they look after us all." Raising it again, he watched as it disappeared behind a bend, watched as his only hope—the world's only hope—slipped away. And then he turned, took the air, and flew away. He did not look back.
When Ignitus arrived at the Temple again, praying to the ancestors that Theresa would be okay without him for the moment, he halted in the hall before the door that led to the egg-keeping room. Volteer wasn't here—but his blood was, as were the charred marks of electricity on the wall, marring the prophecies written on it. Fear jumped into the old Guardian's throat, but he shoved it down. The apes surely could not have gotten past Terrador and Volteer... could they have?
Ignitus, sucking in his breath, breathed a great burst of fire. Only an elemental attack could open the doors—there was no way they could have gotten inside...
The first thing that greeted Ignitus was the sight of Volteer lying on the floor, injured and bleeding and... dead? Panic and despair welled up in Ignitus; Volteer had been his friend ever since he was only a child.
The Fire Guardian realized quickly, though, that Volteer was not dead, merely unconscious; though his breaths were shallow he was still alive. Relieved beyond words, Ignitus scarcely noticed that something was terribly off. Looking up, shock shot through him and he nearly stopped breathing as he stared at the horrible, sickening sight before him that made his stomach curdle. The wizened dragon had seen many terrible things in his life, but this—this was simply the worst of them all.
Ignitus took a few unsteady paces forward, not sure what to do. His head was spinning and despair flooded his mind; his vision blurred and he felt as if he might just drop to the ground and die right then. As the realization of what had just occurred finally sank in, the Guardian's heart dropped. He had failed.
What do you have to live for, when the only life you've ever known comes to a sudden end, when your mate may very well be dead, your child torn from you, and when the bleak future that holds only death, despair, and pain is utterly inescapable?
Even as Ignitus' days turned into nightmares, even when he truly lost everything, and even when he felt as if the only reprieve from this torture would be death, the purple egg that he had saved still gave him something—something that, even in the darkest of days, still lingered in the back of his mind.
Through whatever force of nature, the egg survived. Some might say it was by intervention of the ancestors, guiding the egg to safety; others could believe it was merely fate itself; and still others would think it to be no more than the blind luck that characterized the unborn dragons. Whatever the case, they would soon be somewhere safe, somewhere the ravages of war had not discovered yet.
But as morning dawned over the world, the river set aflame by the sun's light, the egg was only just beginning its journey to respite. Though the river was thankfully calm and mild that day, it made the trip much slower. And the egg was getting closer to the end of that particular part of its life cycle... It would hatch any minute now.
The creatures inside were beginning to stir from their unconscious slumber and awaken to a new life. A new beginning. A beginning spared from the sufferings of war, if only for a little while.
The egg travelled for a long time, though truly it did not go far—an hour or two's walk from the Temple, if that. Still, despite its close proximity to a place that had been swarming with apes only a few hours before, the location was deep in the heart of the Swamp and yet untouched by the war.
When the egg arrived to its final destination, coming to rest on the muddy, sloped shore, it was perhaps midday. An hour before, the only three residents of the area—the dragonflies Flash and Nina, as well as their newborn son Sparx, who was only yet a few hours old—had decided to take a fly to the river to get some fresh air. Now only just arriving, they were greeted with a rather surprising sight; the egg sitting placidly on its cap and rocking gently in the sparkling golden water, the current pushing it to the shore and keeping it from drifting back out again.
The dragonflies felt fear springing up in their minds. The protective mother gripped her sleeping son tighter, but little Sparx would not be disturbed, his soft golden glow only flickering to life for a moment. Despite their fear, curiosity touched them as well. What could possibly be inside this great egg? It was unlike anything either had ever seen...
Even Flash, who had once lived on the mainland with a small colony of dragonflies in the forest, had never seen such a wonder. He had run away, though, escaping the colony's strict laws and harsh punishments; travelling over the ocean he found the small island and, exhausted, decided to find a safe place to rest there.
After wandering into the swamp, he came upon Nina, whose mother, recently passed, had raised her there all her life. Nina did not remember her early childhood, her father's death and her mother's narrow escape from it. All she knew was the Swamp. And neither dragonfly knew what to make of this.
Curiosity seized the pale red dragonfly and she could not help but fly slowly forward, towards the light purple egg.
"Nina, be careful," Flash warned in a low voice, as if talking loudly would cause the egg to spring up like a frogweed and kill them both.
But Flash didn't need to warn Nina; the creatures in the egg, instinct seizing them, began to pound upon the thin shell from the inside, causing the egg to shake and rock violently. Terror gripped the red dragonfly. She flew back to Flash without a word and they both backed away from the egg. But neither of them were willing to run; they wanted too much to see what lay inside this strange egg that had washed down the river and invaded the perfect conformity of their lives.
A large crack split down the middle of the egg, then another and another, and finally, with a loud snap, the shell broke open. Flash and Nina were both astonished at what they saw next—two little dragons who could be no taller than they were, their soft scales a discoloured purple, rolled out of the egg and right up the bank of the river. When they stopped rolling upon reaching the grass, the two twins, confused, just lay there for a moment.
"What—" the shocked Nina breathed, unsure what to even think. "What are they?"
These dragons were simply alien to her; with their small yellow horns and spikes jutting out of their head and back; large, orange, membraned wings; and plated underbellies, they seemed almost like monsters out of a nightmare despite their innocent-looking faces, wide, purple eyes, and helpless infancy. And the very sharp frontal teeth that were clearly visible when they yawned didn't help, despite the flat molars in the back that showed that their species didn't have to slaughter helpless forest creatures to survive, at least.
The stupefied dragonflies watched in utter bewilderment as the two little dragons, despite their own surprise, managed to roll onto their stomachs. Though at first they crawled forward slowly, unsure what to do and where to go in this amazing new world, they began to climb onto their feet. One managed to walk a few steps on unsteady paws, claws digging into the soft soil, before falling back down again.
Blinking, Nina came to, and her new-found maternal instinct kicked in. "What do we do?"
"What you mean, what do we do?" Flash asked, turning to Nina with confusion on his face.
"We can't just leave them there, Flash."
"We don't even know what they are... They could be dangerous. And we can't put Sparx in danger." Glancing at the foreign creatures warily, many grim possibilities passed through his mind. What if they hurt their young son? Or worse?
"What they are are two helpless children... And I'm not going to leave them here to die." Had Nina not been holding Sparx she would have crossed her arms. Though usually a passive dragonfly, she could be very stubborn sometimes. Her expression softened. "Their parents must be around here somewhere. Let's just keep them safe until they come for them."
Flash, glancing at the hatchlings, sighed. She was right; how could he protest? The little things would fall into the river and drown or get eaten by frogweeds if they left them. "Alright, Nina. Just until their parents turn up."
But their parents didn't turn up. Nina would always plead, "Please, Flash—one more week. Their parents will come eventually. Just one more week." A week turned into a month, a month into a year, and by then they had both accepted it. Their parents weren't ever coming. But by that point, honestly, neither of them wanted them to. They had accepted the strange little hatchlings into their hearts and their lives long ago. Both of them dreaded the day they knew would come someday, the day when they had to tell them the truth.
For the moment, though, this worry did not pervade their mind. Now, they were only focused on getting the hatchlings home. Drawing their attention, the two parents coaxed them forward. Interested in these talking bright lights, they once more stood up and stumbled forward, but this time they managed to stay on their feet, and step after step they followed their new family home.
On the way, the female hatchling broke away from her brother, attracted by a new light source. Though Nina continued to lead the other hatchling onward, Flash went after the girl, who had tripped off behind a large mushroom.
Flash found her sitting on the ground, clutching something in her mouth—a small blue crystal. Flash had seen these crystal growths about before, but he'd always ignored them, unsure what they were. Even he, a dragonfly all but disconnected from the arcane, could feel the pulse of magic about them and was wary of the things.
"Come on—" Flash stopped, remembering that she had no name. Pausing, he slowly said, "Crystal..." The name felt right to him; it was unexplainable but it just seemed to suit the girl perfectly. And, too, she seemed to like it; despite the crystal in her mouth she smiled and agreeably followed Flash as he led her back to the group.
Nina agreed with the name; like Flash thought, it simply seemed right for her. As for the boy hatchling, she had an idea of her own.
"Spyro," Nina said, her mother's voice echoing in her mind as she told the young dragonfly stories of her father.
Flash glanced at Nina knowingly, but he nodded. "Spyro and Crystal."
"We'll just call them that until their parents come," Nina said softly, glancing sadly at the smiling hatchlings. Already she felt attached to them, and though she knew she would have to give them up to their real parents, she didn't want them to go.
Spyro and Crystal happily spent that warm night outside under the stars, curled up together under a mushroom, but Flash and Nina needed to find them another place to stay for when they were older. Their nest-house that hung from the branch of a tree was smaller than just one of the hatchlings so obviously they couldn't stay there. It didn't take them long to find a solution—the answer was obvious.
Near their house, there was a small clearing, bare all except for a bit of undergrowth and a single tree. On that tree was an old abandoned treehouse that had been there even when Nina was a child. It seemed safe—though uninhabited, the tough wood had resisted years of rain and wasn't rotted. There were no windows and it was completely bare except for a chest with nothing but a small bag inside and some dusty blankets, but it would suffice when the nights grew crisp and cold and sleeping outside in the humid swamp was not an option.
Now, at midday the next day, Flash and Nina watched with careful eyes as Sparx played with Spyro and Crystal. Little Sparx had just learned to fly on his own an hour ago and he was getting rather tired, but he was having too much fun with his new siblings to stop.
The twins were both careful in their play, which surprised their adoptive parents—who knew these fearsome-looking creatures could be such gentle giants? Even Crystal, who had seemingly lost her gem but was now excited and energized in the manner of a hyper child, always skidded to a stop and skipped slowly when her adoptive brother was near, and was careful not to hit him in the trio's makeshift game.
Crystal and Spyro seemed to like their new home, the dragonflies who were now their family. Even though someday they would wonder about how they could be dragonflies when they looked so different, and even though doubt would creep into their minds and they couldn't help but think perhaps—perhaps this wasn't their family... Deep down, they knew the Swamp was their home; where they belonged and where they would always come back to no matter how far they wandered. For this was their place in the world now.