A/N: Alright, I'm sorry. xD That wasn't two weeks. But in fairness, I rewrote this damn chapter three times, hence why it took so long. But there's really only one way I can describe this chapter: padded with fluff. Totally not worth all the trouble it gave me. I'm sorry. xD We'll get back to more important stuff next chapter (at Warfang!). Meanwhile, enjoy the fluff.

You might know this story for it's Classic Spyro references. But can you spot the Skylanders reference? Don't throw rocks at me, please. It's only small. xD


39.

The roar of the waterfall echoed throughout the forest with a sound like thunder. Spyro shivered at the peak of a rocky outcropping as the spray peppered his scales. He looked over the lake that Elora had taken them to, watching as his friends paddled in the water and ducked under the falls. The glow of countless lightning bugs illuminated the forest in gold, and their tiny reflections glittered on the surface of the lake.

"Are you going for a swim?" Elora asked as she stepped up beside him.

Spyro hesitated. It had been only a little while since Cynder and the others had made it safely to the Grotto, and he hadn't yet spoken to Chief Korrin about the reason for their visit in the first place. The chief had insisted they rest and get cleaned up first, despite Spyro's protests. With the insistence of almost everyone else—except for Saffron and Nadi, who had opted to stay behind and keep watch over the still unconscious Roku—Elora had led them along a short forest path to the falls.

Now Spyro stood alone, watching as everyone else enjoyed themselves, and wishing he didn't feel so tense. Even Sparx was down there, floating on a huge curved leaf as though it was a boat crafted just for him. Spyro watched on, half envious, half impatient, and waited for the time when he could at last do what Ignitus had asked of him.

"You still awake there?" Elora's hand waved in front of his face, and Spyro stepped back.

"Sorry," he said, shaking his head. "I was thinking."

Elora jabbed a finger at the end of his snout, smirking. "You should turn that thinking into swimming. You're filthy!"

Spyro glanced down at himself; his scales were indeed streaked with mud and traces of leaf-litter. A swim would do him good. As he glanced down again, he spotted Cynder floating with her wings out beside Ember, and the rest of his reluctance melted away. Before he could say anything, however, Elora's hand slapped him between the wings with enough force to make him cough.

"Go on, then! Everyone back at the Grotto is waiting for dinner, and you're making them wait longer. I'm not taking a muddy dragon to a clan-wide feast. Shoo!"

Spyro gave her his most reproachful look, but the twinkle of her almond-shaped eyes caused his mouth to twitch into a smile. There was something inherently friendly about her heart-shaped face. "Alright, but only because it's hot."

Trying to hide his grin, Spyro turned and padded down the narrow rocky path to the base of the falls. The stone was wet and slippery near the bottom, and he treaded carefully to avoid the accident that Zannak had suffered only minutes before. Luckily the water had been there to catch him, and he'd come up laughing with only a few scrapes to show from his trip.

"Finally joining us, high and mighty?!" Cynder yelled as Spyro reached the edge of the lake.

He grinned bashfully and stepped into the shallows, only to shiver as the cold water touched his scales. Cynder laughed as he quickly withdrew his paw, and he shot her a playful glare.

"Get over yourself, lizard-liver!" Flame yelled from across the lake. "It's not that cold!"

Spyro grimaced and didn't bother replying. He eyed the shallows for a moment before an idea caught him, and he started to back up. When he felt he was far enough away from the edge of the lake, he braced himself and broke into a run. His paws slipped on the damp stone and he half expected to lose balance entirely, but his claws found traction and he leapt from the rocks with a great push of his hind legs. He snapped out his wings and soared over the lake, riding the momentum of his brief run, until gravity kicked in and tipped him towards the water.

He hit the lakewith a splash that engulfed him entirely, filling every sense he had with water. An icy cold embrace took hold as he dived below the surface, keeping his eyes tightly shut and holding his breath. As his claws found hard ground, Spyro pushed off and rocketed back up into the open air. He took a great breath as his head breached the water, shaking droplets in all directions. It was still cold, but his body started to adjust as he began to paddle his legs.

"Jeez, Spyro, what's the deal? My own brother is trying to capsize me!" Sparx bobbed up and down with the waves that spread from around Spyro, glaring. He clung to the side of his leaf-vessel as though it was about to tip him out, but it seemed to be steadying itself despite his worries.

"Sorry, Sparx." Spyro grinned and paddled around to face Cynder, who was swimming up to him.

There was something attractive about the way the water glistened on her dark scales, and he couldn't help leaning forward to nuzzle her as she approached. She returned the nuzzle without a word, and Spyro could hear Sparx making gagging noises nearby. When he pulled back, feeling a little sheepish, he saw Sparx using his hand as a paddle to manoeuvre his leaf-boat away.

"If you're going to be all gooey lovey mushy crap, leaf me out of this!" he called over his shoulder. He patted his leaf-boat and drifted away on the water, chuckling to himself.

Spyro rolled his eyes. "Typical Sparx."

"I think he's getting a little less unbearable." Cynder smirked and Spyro felt her tail brush against his beneath the water. "Maybe."

Spyro grinned and turned his head to meet her eyes. The water didn't feel so cold now; on the contrary, it was pleasantly refreshing after the afternoon he'd spent wandering in the heat of the forest. He could already feel the layers of mud peeling away with the water.

"So what's wrong?" Cynder asked. "And don't try to fool me. I saw that look on your face while you were watching us. What's got you so on edge?"

"Noth…" The word died on his lips in the face of Cynder's deadpan stare. Spyro smiled sheepishly. "Alright, I guess I'm just a bit impatient. It took us way too long to get here, and now that we're finally here, nothing is happening. Ignitus told us to make haste! And all we're doing is swimming around instead of doing what we came here to do."

Cynder snorted and swept her paw out of the water, sending a barrage of droplets into Spyro's face. He ducked with a yelp as the cold water peppered his scales, and looked up again to find Cynder grinning at him. She padded a little closer, mischief in her eyes. "Relax, Spyro. They'll still be there when we get out. We've got a whole evening to ask them what they know. And in the meantime…"

Too late, Spyro realised what was coming. He tried to turn around and flee, but he was less used to manoeuvring in the water and only managed to turn his back to Cynder before her attack struck him over the head. A wall of water splashed over him, and he jerked forward with a gasp as Cynder's laugh filled the air.

"Cynder!" He wheeled around, blinking water from his eyes, but she was already paddling away.

"Catch me if you can, hero boy!" she called over her shoulder before diving below the surface. The tip of her bladed tail flicked mockingly at him as she disappeared into the water.

Half grinning, half scowling, Spyro dived after her. As the water engulfed him completely, he convinced himself to open his eyes and was momentarily surprised that he found no discomfort in doing so. The world around him was a blur of dark blue and brown, perforated by pale golden streaks of light from the lightning bugs above the water. Narrowing his eyes, Spyro turned his head slowly from side to side.

A dark shape darted past him, and he spun around in alarm, bubbles escaping from his mouth. Water tickled his throat and he scrambled back to the surface, coughing furiously when his head broke through into the open air. By the time he recovered, he realised someone was laughing.

"You're not a fish!" Zannak yelled from underneath the falls, their roar almost drowning him out. "Dragons can't breathe water!"

Spyro grimaced and turned to give a retort, but something rocketed out of the water beside him and sent a wave crashing over his head for the second time. He almost sank below the surface but forced himself up again, taking in a huge gasp of air. Cynder's laugh sounded nearby and he whirled around, unable to keep the grin from his face.

"Got you." She winked and paddled a little closer, her eyes still shining with mischief.

"Alright," Spyro said, shaking his head and not meeting her eyes. "You got me. I surrender."

Cynder gave a quiet chuckle as he watched her paddle closer out of the corner of his eye. "That was too easy. Sure you're not being easy on me, purple b—!"

She gave a short yelp as Spyro planted his paw on the top of her head and dunked her under the water. He released her less than a second later, and she emerged coughing and spluttering, murder in her eyes. Spyro's grin wavered; maybe that hadn't been such a good idea after all. He paddled around awkwardly and tried to swim away, but Cynder's weight fell on top of him and forced him below the surface.

Spyro took a great gulp of water in shock and scrambled to resurface in a panic, coughing and grimacing. Cynder treaded the water beside him, a smug look on her face as Spyro snorted water from his nostrils. He tried to glare, but his traitorous mouth twitched and curled into a smile instead.

"Truce?" Cynder asked, spreading her wings across the water to help her stay afloat.

"Truce," he agreed, pawing water from his eye. "You're too quick for me anyway."

"I need at least one advantage over you, Mr Saviour of the World." She paddled closer and tapped the end of his snout with the tip of a claw.

Spyro smiled and touched his muzzle to hers briefly. "I think you've got more than that."

She leaned forward and nuzzled away the water on his cheek. He felt her breath on his scales as she laughed softly. "Looks like I've trained you well."

They spent the next half hour floating lazily in the lake, until Spyro felt like his scales were starting to shrivel up. Eventually, he convinced everyone else to get out of the water, and Elora to climb down from the top of the waterfall—he wasn't even sure how she'd managed to climb up there. She clambered down with a lithe grace that Spyro couldn't help but admire, and directed them to a patch of moss where they could dry off.

Feeling refreshed and slightly less exhausted than before, Spyro and the others followed Elora back along the path that they had taken to the falls. When they reached the centre of the Grotto, it was even more packed with fauns than it had been when they'd left. A huge wooden pot had been placed beside the shrine, and it was easily as tall as Chief Korrin. Lightning bugs darted around the treetops, bathing the crowd of hundreds of fauns in pale gold. As Spyro and his friends stepped into view, a great hush fell where countless chattering voices had filled the air moments before.

Spyro froze as hundreds of eyes turned upon him, and was suddenly glad for the swim at the falls. At least his scales were clean. An awkward moment of silence passed, and then Elora put her hands on her hips. "What are you all staring for? Where's your manners?!"

It seemed as though a ripple passed through the ranks as every faun clapped an arm across their chest, and hundreds of voices called at once, "Welcome, dragons!"

It was a wonder the roaring welcome hadn't knocked the fruits from the branches. Spyro stood feeling windswept for a moment, then Cynder nudged his shoulder and he raised a wing. He tried to grin, despite the countless faces staring back at him. "Um… Hi."

"Eloquent," said Cynder in his ear. He could almost hear the grin in her voice. As she stepped forward slightly, her voice rang out over the Grotto. "It is our honour to be here! Thank you for accepting us into your home!"

Spyro stared at her incredulously as she turned her grin on him. Shaking his head, he followed Elora through a narrow gap in the crowd towards the centre, where Chief Korrin stood beside the massive pot. Fauns waved and smiled as they passed, and some even reached out to touch him, as though to convince themselves that he was real. A tiny faun no bigger than a hatchling brushed her hand against his leg and immediately backed away again, her eyes wide with wonder.

Spyro tried to offer her a smile, but lost her in the crowd within seconds as he was ushered along from behind. By the time he reached the inner circle where Chief Korrin was waiting, he was feeling decidedly frazzled but a little less self-conscious than before. His friends spread out around him but Cynder stayed close to his side, for which he was grateful.

"You made it!" Korrin exclaimed, spreading his arms wide as he approached. "I thought you'd gone and drowned them, Elora."

"At least I didn't try to suffocate them under hundreds of overenthusiastic fauns." Elora folded her arms across her chest and gave her father a fierce look.

He grinned unabashedly. "Oh, you know what they're like. There hasn't been dragons here in eons! Let them have their fun."

"As long as their 'fun' doesn't involve smothering our guests."

"Well they all seem to have gotten through unharmed and unsmothered." Korrin's eyes twinkled underneath his heavy red eyebrows.

"Besides," Sparx cut in, polishing his chest with his knuckles and trying to look important, "we're pretty used to getting smothered by adoring fans. Am I right?"

He turned to the crowd and spread his arms, waving both hands in the air before blowing kisses to the fauns. Spyro stared, unsure whether to be amused or exasperated. He supposed he should have expected it. Cynder made an odd noise that sounded as though she was trying to hold back laughter.

"There, no problem at all," Korrin said, his face smug.

Spyro exchanged a grin with Cynder before taking a glance around the clearing. In every direction he could see only fauns and more fauns, gathered against the backdrop of huge trees. But though most of his friends were standing around him, there was no sign of a certain three dragons. Spyro glanced at the tree where he'd seen them last and then looked up at Korrin.

"My other friends, are they…?"

"Oh fiddlesticks, almost forgot." Korrin scratched at his impressive beard and looked towards his tree. "That friend of yours—Roku, I believe I was told? Yes, him. He's still unconscious, and the other two refused to leave his side. Satin is with them for now, but we can go see them if you'd—!"

"No need, uncle," said a voice, and the crowd parted to admit a familiar bare-chested faun into the inner clearing. Satin beamed at them as he stepped aside to allow Saffron and Nadi through, walking closer together than normal and looking suspiciously like they were holding tails.

Spyro smiled with relief and walked over to greet them. "How's Roku?"

"He's still asleep and will be for a while yet," Saffron said, glancing sideways at Nadi. Her eyes seemed to twinkle. "But he'll be fine. Satin got us cleaned up, so we thought we might as well come out for dinner."

Only then did Spyro realise that, despite their absence during the trip to the falls, both dragons were free from the filth of the forest that had covered them earlier. Saffron's scales seemed to shine like topaz, and Nadi looked nothing short of a polished bronze statue. He was stiff enough, too, and there was something about the look on his face that bothered Spyro for a reason he couldn't place.

"That's good to hear," Cynder said, stepping up beside him. "I think we were all a little worried when you told us what happened."

Saffron grimaced and pressed a little closer to Nadi, and he seemed to yield slightly at her touch. Spyro briefly wondered if he should ask about them, but Korrin's voice cut him off before he'd fully processed that thought.

"So, we're all here." He clapped his hands together loudly, and Spyro turned with a start. "Let's begin before these fauns start a riot!"

Spyro hoped he was joking, but the noise of the crowd did seem to be getting louder. As Korrin turned back to face the giant wooden pot beside the shrine, he suddenly remembered why he'd been on edge earlier. "Wait, I still have to ask…!"

"There'll be time, Spyro," Elora cut in. "Let's just enjoy the feast for now."

Reluctant though he was to agree, Spyro conceded and fell silent. Cynder pressed against his side, and he glanced sideways at her. Her eyes seemed to say 'everything is fine' and he knew all she wanted was to relax and enjoy the night. It had been far too long since they'd been able to do anything of the sort, after all.

A sigh escaped his muzzle, and he turned to his friends. Ember and Flame were gazing around at the crowd of fauns, and though Ember waved and smiled at them, Spyro could see the exhaustion in her stance. Zannak was sitting down, the grin on his face looking more tired than enthusiastic, and Lumis seemed mildly uncomfortable under the eyes of so many fauns. Kazan was looking hard at Saffron and Nadi, his expression unreadable but the dark patches under his eyes all too visible.

A night to relax would do them all good.

It was only then that he realised Chief Korrin was trying, and failing, to call for attention. When only a few of the closer fauns stopped chatting, Korrin muttered something under his breath and took a large wooden club from his belt. He drew it back and swung it forward in almost the same motion, and Spyro winced as it struck the side of the huge wooden vessel with a loud, echoing thok.

"Silence!" Chief Korrin roared.

The clamour of conversation eased into silence, and another great hush fell upon the Grotto. Spyro felt the back of his neck prickle; it was as though the anticipation of the crowd was hanging like mist in the air. He almost wanted to hold his breath.

"Tonight," Korrin began, his voice filling the clearing without effort, "we are among guests. It is our privilege, as fauns of the Grotto, to play host to a species not seen in Enrin since the days of our ancestors. They've travelled far to meet with us, and I hope to speak for all of us when I say we plan to make the most of this opportunity. Tonight, our home is theirs. With the utmost warmth, we welcome Spyro and the dragons of Warfang to Gaea's Grotto."

A growing roar filled the clearing, and it took Spyro a moment to realise it was applause. He smiled uncertainly, a little embarrassed, and looked around at the countless faces pointed towards him. It was certainly intimidating and yet, in a way, welcoming. A heartbeat later, Spyro wondered if he should have publicly thanked Korrin and the fauns. But the chief was already speaking again.

"There will be plenty of time to speak with our guests, but for now let us feast before we all wither away like weeds! Elora, Satin, if you please."

The two fauns nodded and gathered up the small piles of duskfruits that had been placed in the moss beside the shrine. Spyro hadn't noticed them before, and he watched with interest as Elora and Satin tossed them one by one into the huge wooden pot. Deep splashing sounds told him the vessel was filled with some kind of liquid, but the rest of his thoughts were dashed when he saw what was beginning to happen.

Lightning bugs from all around the branches were edging towards the pot, apparently drawn there by the duskfruits. Some hovered about the opening, but seemed unwilling or incapable of entering whatever liquid was inside. The rest attached themselves to the sides of the vessel, appearing in such great numbers that they covered it entirely like a blanket of glowing yellow. Then, to Spyro's shock and wonder, they began to vibrate.

They shook and trembled so hard that the pot itself began to shudder, albeit it only slightly. Spyro almost jumped when he felt the wave of heat emitting from the buzzing lightning bugs, and it grew hotter with every passing second. With a deep roaring sound, the liquid inside the pot began to bubble, and steam rose from its surface towards the trees.

Spyro gaped as the lightning bugs began to peel away from the side of the pot and rise with the steam. They darted into and around it, like hatchlings playing a game of tag, and Spyro watched them until they disappeared into the canopy. With the buzzing sound of the bugs gone, only the gentle bubbling of the massive pot filled the clearing.

Chief Korrin cleared his throat. "Dig in!"

A cheer rose in the crowd, and Spyro jumped. He looked around to find everyone else was started to sit down, and quickly took a seat in the moss beside Cynder. Around him, the Grotto seemed to come to life. Fauns stepped forward with little wooden bowls in their hands, accepting portions of some sort of brownish stew from the pot via a small plug on its side. Elora soon supplied Spyro and the other dragons with the same, and Spyro stared at the bowl's contents dubiously.

He wasn't convinced when Elora told him it was made from roots and tubers of the forest and promised that he'd like it. Fortunately, his scepticism was proved unfounded and he discovered that, though not as good as fresh meat, it wasn't too bad after all. At least it was warm and filled his grumbling stomach. Even Sparx had his own bowl, though he only drained the broth and left the chunks of root matter untouched.

It took a long time to supply stew to all of the fauns, and Spyro had long since finished his by the time the last faun stepped away from the pot. Feeling warm, clean and full of food, Spyro thought he wouldn't mind falling asleep there on the moss beside Cynder. His wing was over her back like a blanket, holding in the pleasant warmth between them, and she was close enough that their scales were pressed together.

Sparx eventually descended onto his head and gave a loud yawn that Spyro caught seconds later. He groaned and rubbed his tired eyes, trying to ward off the temptation of sleep. The thought of the Magic Crafters still niggled at the back of his mind; until he had at least asked the question, he couldn't allow himself to rest.

He glanced down at Cynder to find her head resting on his shoulder and her eyes closed. She seemed to sense his gaze; a second later, she opened her eyes and raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"Nothing," Spyro said quickly. "I was just…"

He trailed off, looking towards Chief Korrin, who was sitting back with his empty bowl in his lap and talking quietly with Elora. Cynder seemed to understand immediately.

"Go on, then," she said, nudging his shoulder. "Might as well get it over and done with if you're so bothered."

Feeling a little sheepish, Spyro coughed quietly to get the fauns' attention. Neither Korrin nor Elora seemed to have heard him over the buzz of conversation around them. Spyro hesitated, and a snort came from the top of his head.

"Come on, bro, that's not how you do it," said Sparx. He raised his voice until it was almost a yell. "Oi! Goat-girl!"

Elora shot him a glare almost instantly. "What do you want, buzzy?"

Spyro felt Sparx tap the top of his head. "Not me. This guy."

"Hmm?" Elora's eyes shifted down to Spyro's, curiosity replacing ire. "Something up, Spyro?"

"I just wanted to ask about—I mean…" Spyro hesitated again. Everything he wanted to say suddenly sounded awkward in his head, and he couldn't figure out how to ask what he wanted. Chief Korrin was also listening now, and it took Spyro a moment to shake his nerves away.

"Look," he finally said, "the reason we're here is because we need information. Do you know anything about a tribe of dragons called the Magic Crafters?"

Though the buzz of conversation continued uninterrupted around them, it seemed as though a sudden hush had fallen upon the inner circle. Spyro realised with a start that every one of his friends was suddenly alert and listening. Flame had sat up from his slumped position against Ember's shoulder, and even Zannak had stopped chattering incessantly to anyone who would listen, every last shred of attention fixed on Spyro and the fauns.

Spyro held his breath. This was the moment of truth. The information they'd sought ever since leaving the White Isle was at last within reach. He wouldn't know what to do if his question couldn't be answered. The fauns had to know something; they just had to.

"Magic Crafters?" Chief Korrin echoed within seconds, his eyebrows shooting up towards his hair. A grin spread across his face. "Well, how's that. The first dragons to enter the Grotto in hundreds of years come seeking the last dragons who were here that long ago."

It took Spyro a moment to understand what he'd said, but when he did, sudden excitement bubbled up inside him. "So you do know about them? What can you tell us?!"

"That depends," Korrin said slowly, his hand moving up to his beard. "What do you want to know?"

Spyro opened his mouth to say 'everything', but paused, wondering if that was entirely the truth. After a moment he settled on, "Can you tell us what happened to them after they left Enrin? Where they went?"

Korrin's hand abandoned his beard slowly, and it was as though he was looking through Spyro rather than at him. "I could… But that would be boring and anticlimactic after such a trying day, wouldn't it? I've got a better idea."

"A better idea?" Cynder echoed, arching an eyebrow.

"There's a whole story behind what you're asking," said Korrin. "One that's been told over and over again throughout the generations. Wouldn't you like to hear it?"

Spyro exchanged a surprised glance with Cynder and then looked back at Korrin. "We…we would."

A story? He'd been expecting a short answer, perhaps a brief explanation of what had happened so long ago, not a whole story. But he wasn't about to protest. It was a warm night among friends; a good storytelling seemed like just the thing.

Korrin beamed so wide that Spyro could see every one of his teeth. Then he stood up, straightened his tunic, and announced, 'Well, it's best we get this rowdy crowd's attention. They'll want to hear it too!"

He cleared his throat and took a deep breath, as though preparing to yell—but then he met Elora's eyes and seemed to think better of it. Muttering something under his breath, he took out the wooden club that had gone back into his belt, and swung it once more against the giant wooden pot. It made an even louder, hollow sound this time that seemed to echo all around the clearing. Conversation ebbed as hundreds of fauns turned their faces towards the inner circle.

"Good evening again, fauns and satyrs!" Chief Korrin's voice thundered through the silence. "Are we all feeling less ravenous? Less likely to wrestle a Camo for a juicy tuber? Good! Because we all know what time it is now!"

A deafening roar answered him half a second later. "Story time!"

"Story time!" Korrin echoed, his booming voice putting everyone else to shame. "Tonight, our guests have requested the telling of a certain story that I'm sure many of you already know well. And to honour our guests, tonight our storyteller shall be…me."

He spread his arms, as though encouraging the applause that quickly followed in the wake of his words. There was a wide grin on his face. "So please, sit back and get comfortable, and the story shall begin in just a moment."

The buzz of chatter returned within seconds as Elora started to clear away the empty wooden bowls. She stacked them in a neat pile and stood up, looking at her father over her shoulder. "I'll be back in a moment. The dragon mask?"

"That's the one."

In the brief silence that followed Elora's departure, Cynder leant back against Spyro's shoulder and asked, "Is this some kind of tradition?"

"Story time?" Korrin's grin widened. "It most certainly is."

Elora returned within minutes, the wooden bowls replaced by a large wooden mask. Spyro assumed it was one of the masks he had seen hung up on the walls inside Korrin's tree, and he strained to get a good look as Elora passed it to her father. But Korrin held it behind his back and prevented him from doing so—whether intentionally or not, Spyro couldn't tell.

"Your attention please." The chief's solemn voice called out over the clearing, and silence fell immediately.

Spyro held his breath.

"This is a story of the Dark Days," he continued, standing stock-still with his hands behind his back. "A story that takes place hundreds of years ago, when the fauns of Enrin were still young and naïve. But this is not a story about fauns…but dragons."

Chief Korrin raised his hands to his face and secured the wooden mask around his pointed ears. Spyro drew in a sharp breath. The mask had been carved in the likeness of a dragon's face, with a slim tapered muzzle and arching wooden horns. It was painted pure white with silvery horns and almond-shaped holes where Korrin's eyes peered through. Whoever had carved it had done so with the utmost care.

Korrin's voice filled the clearing without effort, loud and clear. "There was once a tribe of dragons, long ago, who were different from all the rest. Over the five elements they had no control, but instead were gifted with unusual powers unknown to the rest of dragonkind. They called these powers 'magic', and so became known to themselves and to others as Magic Crafters."

"At first, the Magic Crafters lived in harmony with the rest of dragonkind, for they were welcomed rather than shunned for their unusual abilities. But fate intervened one crucial Year of the Dragon, when a most unusual egg was laid. The egg was a colour unlike any dragon had ever seen, and most of dragonkind took this as a mark of future importance. They called it a miracle, and expected great things from the dragon that would hatch from such an unusual egg."

"Their enthusiasm, however, was not shared by all."

"The Magic Crafters saw this egg not as a sign of greatness, but as a warning of evil to come. Convinced that the egg would bring dragonkind nothing but misfortunate, they tried to convince their brethren to destroy it before it could hatch. Naturally, their efforts were met with scorn. Dragonkind was disgusted by their wish to kill an unhatched newborn, and few believed the warnings the Magic Crafters told."

"When the dragons refused to destroy the egg, the Magic Crafters made a hard decision. All of dragonkind had turned against them, and in the future of dragons they saw nothing but hardship and destruction. To escape the calamity, they bid farewell to their element-wielding brethren and left, never to return."

"Their journey took them far outside of the boundaries of dragon territory. Eventually, they stumbled lost and exhausted into the forest of Enrin, and there fate caught up with them. In the Wilds of Enrin, they fell prey to creatures the likes of which they'd never seen and quickly became lost. Unable to turn back and unable to go forward, they stumbled in the dark on their futile search to escape the Wilds."

"That is, until they discovered the lightning bugs. Guided by the light of insects, the Magic Crafters found their way to the centre of the forest—to a place we now know as Gaea's Grotto. It was much smaller back then, but home to the Grotto fauns—our ancestors. Though they were afraid at first, the fauns soon welcomed the Magic Crafters into their home, and so began a time of prosperity."

"Working in tandem, dragon and faun discovered how to tame the lightning bugs and brought light to the Grotto for the first time. They lived in harmony as days and weeks turned into months. But the Magic Crafters had never intended to settle."

"Still haunted by the great calamity that was to befall dragonkind, they announced to the fauns that they were soon to leave Enrin. Though the fauns begged for them to stay, the Magic Crafters would not concede. They would not stop until they reached a place where they could never be found again—a place that the rising misfortune of dragonkind would never reach."

"And so, the Magic Crafters bid farewell to the fauns of the Grotto, and at the edge of the forest, gave them one last message."

"Be proud of yourselves, children of Gaea. You have saved our lives, and we are eternally grateful. We may never meet again, but do not forget: should you ever need us, look to the north. We go where no dragon dares tread, to a place where the sun has scorched the land, and there we will weather the catastrophe that is yet to come. Stay safe, Fauns of Enrin. May Gaea protect you always."

Silence fell. Chief Korrin bowed his head and removed the mask, and as he straightened up, applause filled the clearing. It grew slowly to a roar, accompanied by sharp whistling sounds from some of the fauns, but Spyro could only sit in stunned silence. Even when Cynder joined in, pounding her paws in the moss, he couldn't bring himself to move. He tried to play the story over in his head again, but there was only one thing he could focus on.

To the north.

A place where no dragon dares tread.

A place were the sun has scorched the land.

He had never heard of such a place.


It was late at night. The crowd of fauns had not long ago retired to their beds, and a gentle silence fell upon the now mostly empty clearing. Saffron relished the moment of peace as she rested against Nadi's side. The duskfruits had withered some time ago, and only Kazan's feebly glowing crest and tailblade granted them light in the darkness. She could just make out her friends, even though they were sitting close enough that she could have reached out a wing and touched them.

"I couldn't tell you," Elora was saying, shrugging at the despairing look on Spyro's face. "Your guess is as good as mine."

"Why does it all have to be so cryptic." Spyro sighed and shook his head, almost dislodging Sparx from his horn.

The dragonfly grimaced. "I know, right? Why couldn't they just say 'we're going to the beach', instead of all this kooky 'sun scorching' stuff?"

Cynder rolled her eyes. "Because that would be too easy. But let's think… What sort of a place does that description match?"

"I don't know!" Spyro exclaimed, causing Cynder to flinch. "All we know is that it's in the north, and something about the sun scorching the land…"

He trailed off into silence, and Saffron could practically hear everyone thinking. She wasn't sure herself. Thoughts of the sun scorching the land only made her think of sunrise and sunset, when it looked like the sun was touching the horizon. What sort of a place was like that all the time? Maybe somewhere that was burnt or on fire… She snorted.

"A desert," Nadi said abruptly. Saffron looked at him in surprise, and felt everyone else follow suit. Nadi hardly looked fazed by the sudden attention. "It's always hot in the desert, and nothing grows there. It's just sand and rock, like everything has been burned away."

"Where the sun has scorched the land…" Cynder muttered under her breath. She glanced at Spyro. "It makes sense."

Spyro frowned. "Is there a desert to the north?"

"Well, I'm no map, but…"

"The Badlands," Lumis cut in before Sparx could finish his sentence.

Nadi twitched suddenly, as though something had bitten him. Saffron glanced at him, but he merely shuffled in the moss and was still again. He caught her look and smiled briefly. Saffron returned the smile and leaned into him again. No one else was paying them attention, however. They were all staring at Lumis.

The oracle shrugged. "I've passed by them before, but never been into them. They're a huge desert, way up north, on the other side of the MidnightMountains."

"Close to Concurrent Skies?" Cynder wondered aloud.

Lumis's expression darkened, but he nodded. Spyro looked between them, his eyes full of unspoken anxieties. "So… You think that's where the Magic Crafters went?"

"I don't know," Lumis admitted, shaking his head. "But it's the only place I know of that fits the description in the story. A desert in the north… Where else would the sun have scorched the land?"

Spyro seemed to agree, his head nodding slowly, but his eyes were still worried. Saffron watched him anxiously. There was no doubt that he was agonizing over this, and an anxious Spyro was never a good sign.

Thankfully, Cynder came to the rescue. "Regardless, it's late and we should get some sleep. We can think more on this in the morning."

No one argued, and Saffron found herself nodding as a yawn snuck up on her. Expelling a sigh, she went to lean against Nadi again only to find him standing up instead. Startled, she stared up at him. "What's wrong?"

"Hm?" He looked at her with glazed eyes, as though he wasn't really seeing her. "Nothing. Just going to check on Roku."

Nadi turned away, and Saffron forced her tired body back to her paws. "I'll come!"

She fell into step beside him as they made their way across the moss, passing by the Shrine of Gaea. Satin had told them that the wooden statue on top of the shrine depicted Gaea herself—or at least, her mortal form—a faun-like being clothed in ivy. Saffron gave it a half-interested glance as they passed, but was too tired to look closer. She stepped a little closer to Nadi instead, and smiled when he draped his wing over her back.

Once they reached Korrin's tree, Nadi used his free wing to sweep the ivy curtain out of the way, revealing a scene still illuminated by the lightning bugs trapped in lanterns. Korrin and Satin were sitting at the rickety wooden table beside the door, and Roku's position remained unchanged. Saffron breathed a silent sigh of relief when she saw his ribs still rising and falling with breath.

"Oh, you're back," said Satin, sitting up straighter. "We were just wondering."

"How is he?" Nadi asked immediately.

"Much the same," said Chief Korrin, leaning his elbows on the table. He seemed tired. "But his breathing has steadied, which is a sign the last of the poison is probably out of his system. He'll be right in the morning."

"Good…" Nadi muttered, staring at Roku's unconscious form.

Saffron looked too, and noticed something she hadn't realised before. She glanced uncertainly at the chief. "That's your bed, isn't it?"

The chief gave a tired chuckle. "I don't mind, really. Satin can take us in for the night. You two are welcome to share the other, if you like. Elora won't mind."

The blood rushed straight to Saffron's face, and she shot Nadi a startled look. But he hadn't taken his eyes off Roku, and didn't seem to have heard Korrin's comment. She swallowed nervously and tried not to look too embarrassed. Were they really that obvious?

"That's…very kind of you," she said, hoping he hadn't noticed her discomfort. "I'd like to stay close to Roku in case he wakes up in the middle of the night."

Thankfully, Korrin didn't seem to have noticed anything. He smiled and slowly got to his feet. "And I think it's time we retired for the night, eh Satin? Big day today… Big day indeed."

Satin gave a tired nod and stood up himself, offering Saffron and Nadi a smile. Saffron bid the two fauns goodnight, but Nadi didn't say a word. When she glanced at him, she found him staring at the wall with that same glazed look over his eyes. The ivy curtain swished, and Saffron looked sharply as the fauns disappeared through it.

"Thank you!" she called, but wasn't sure if they'd heard. With a sigh, she sat down facing Nadi.

After a moment of quiet contemplation, in which Saffron merely stared at Nadi and wondered if she'd done anything that bothered him, he seemed to sense her watching eyes. She gave a tired smile as he turned to face her, and tried to think of something to say.

He beat her to it. "Are you tired?"

"I… Yeah."

Nadi nodded towards the unoccupied bed of moss and leaves. "Get some sleep. I'll keep watch in case he wakes up."

Saffron's hopes to spend the night curled up in his embrace trickled out of her. "But…"

"I'll be fine," he said shortly, apparently oblivious to what she was thinking.

"That's not… I mean…" Saffron looked away, her face hot. She couldn't very well ask him to sleep beside her. That just wasn't done. And with the way he was acting, maybe she was blowing this whole thing out of proportion anyway. They'd not said a word about their relationship—whatever it was now—since the kiss. But he hadn't objected to any of her advances, and she'd just assumed that there was something there. Maybe she had been wrong.

Or maybe it was time to breach the topic they both seemed to be avoiding.

Her throat suddenly felt dry. Swallowing hard, Saffron opened her mouth and her voice cracked. "H-hey, I—"

The ivy curtain swished again. Saffron jumped and looked over to it in surprise. Standing in the entranceway was the last dragon she wanted and expected to see at that moment. Kazan's crest was still glowing, and there was a curious, almost distrusting look on his face. He stared at Saffron, and she stared back. Why was he there?

"Hey," he said in a voice that sounded like he was trying to be nonchalant, "are you coming out? Everyone is sleeping outside."

Saffron stared for a good long moment. What business did he have coming in and asking that? Why should it concern him where she was planning to sleep? Unless her brother had sent him; that didn't seem unlikely. She glanced sideways at Nadi and then shook her head. "We're staying in here tonight in case Roku wakes up."

A dark expression flickered across Kazan's face. The strained smile he'd been trying to put on faded and left nary a trace. "Both of you?"

"Yes…" Saffron said slowly, frowning. "What's it to you?"

Kazan immediately bristled defensively. "Just wondering if you think it's safe to sleep alone with a guy you barely know."

His eyes flickered towards Nadi as though daring him to speak up, but Nadi remained silent and returned the gaze evenly. Anger rose in Saffron's chest, and she tried to fight it down as she replied. "I know him well enough, thank you. And I feel quite safe with him."

There was no mistaking the dark frown on Kazan's face this time, but it was directed at Nadi, not at her. "Really."

Saffron tensed her jaw and tried to keep her voice level. "Really."

There was a tense silence in which Kazan stared hard at Nadi, and Nadi looked coolly back. Saffron tensed and released her claws several times, the back of her neck prickling. She could almost feel the tension in the air. Something wasn't right. Who was Kazan to bother himself with her personal relationships like this? They were hardly even friends. He had no business being like this.

She was about to stand up and send him packing herself, but Nadi didn't give her a chance.

"I think you're done here," he said, his voice so cold that it could have frozen fire.

Kazan looked as though he had been slapped. Then a glare of utmost anger contorted his face and it looked for a moment as though he was going to snap. Saffron braced herself, ready to protect Nadi if she had to. Smoke curled from Kazan's scales and she could feel the heat emitting from him. He was going to burst into flames; she could see it already.

But then he whirled around so fiercely that his tailblade almost glanced across her snout, and forced his way through the ivy curtain. It was left swinging erratically in his wake, and Saffron heard him stomping his way through the moss away from the tree. Only the faint scent of smoke remained where he had been standing moments before.

Her head reeling with confusion and the remnants of anger, Saffron sat back and rubbed at her eyes. What was Kazan's deal anyway? He shouldn't have been trying to interfere in her life like that. She would have bet anything that Zannak had set him up to it. And why did he still have an issue with Nadi? He'd already proven he was on their side.

Kazan was just so infuriating. So…stupid!

Something brushed against her back, and Saffron jumped. She turned her face to find Nadi's eyes inches from her own, his wing curling around her. The breath caught in her throat and her head spun. Without really thinking, she pressed the tip of her muzzle to his, closing her eyes. His muzzle trailed along the line of her jaw to her cheek and she sighed.

When they parted again, all of her remaining anger had drained away. All she wanted was to press against Nadi's side and stay there for as long as possible. His wing tugged her closer, as though he'd read her thoughts and wanted it too.

"Don't bother with him," he murmured in her ear. "I'm used to mistrust."

"But it's not fair," she mumbled against his neck scales.

He nuzzled the base of her horn and she pressed into him, relishing the moment. Then, as though someone had flicked a switch in her brain, all of her doubts came rushing back. She drew away and stared hard into Nadi's eyes. He stared back patiently.

"What are we?"

Brief confusion touched his face. "What?"

"You and me." Saffron gestured between them, trying to keep the rising heat in her cheeks at bay. "We're not friends anymore. Are we?"

The corner of Nadi's mouth tugged upwards. "Aren't we? I'd say we're pretty good friends."

"But we…"

She sucked in a breath as he pressed their muzzles together once more, and when he pulled back her face felt like it was on fire. Nadi's eyes seemed to dance. "I didn't say we weren't anything more than that too."

"Ah…" She was short of breath. All of the words she'd wanted to say had chased themselves out of her head. All she could do was melt into the warmth of his embrace, her worries gone.

"I like you," he murmured against her cheek. "I really do. I didn't think I had to say it."

"I just…wanted to be sure," she mumbled.

"Are you sure now?"

"Mhmm…" Saffron went to rest her head on Nadi's shoulder, and was surprised when he suddenly stepped away. Startled, she raised her head, only to feel him wrap his tail around hers.

Without a word, he guided her towards the unoccupied bed. She followed in a daze, hardly able to reconcile with herself what had just happened. With a gentle nudge he coaxed her onto the moss, and she slowly eased herself down onto her stomach. Nadi sat down beside her and nuzzled the back of her neck, sliding a paw over her ribs and resting it in the space between her wings. He pulled her closer until she was pressed to his chest and almost entirely enveloped.

The erratic thundering of her heart gradually slowed as Saffron let herself relax. She was warm and comfortable, and he was with her. She couldn't ask for anything more.

"Better?" he whispered in her ear.

Saffron closed her eyes and squeezed his paw, hoping he understood. He gripped her tighter, and she knew he did.

Much.


With a quiet groan, Spyro rolled over for what was undoubtedly the fiftieth time and tried to get comfortable in the moss. For a few moments, his body relaxed and he tried to focus on nothing but the darkness behind his eyelids as sleep crept upon him. Then the thoughts started to trickle back, filling his head with replays of all the information he'd received over the course of the day and evening. Everything Elora had told him about the Grotto and the shrine—how the fauns were protected as long as they continued to pray to the nature goddess Gaia. How the forest was her creation.

His shoulder pressed into the moss was starting to ache. Spyro stifled another groan and flopped onto his side, splaying his wings out behind him. He could see little in the darkness, only the outline of Cynder sleeping beside him, illuminated by the faint glow that Sparx always gave off. He stared at her as Elora's words replayed in his head yet again.

Before they'd all decided it was time to sleep, Elora had answered whatever questions they'd had about the forest and the Grotto. She'd told them about the strange leaf-like lizard creatures that Cynder and the others had run afoul of—Cameckos, she called them, though they were more often just called Camos. She'd spoken of other creatures that dwelt in the wild too, like the Giant Bowerbird whose hunting whistle the fauns had learned to mimic in order to scare off creatures that might otherwise harm them. And the Carnivorous Hellebore, the strange flower that had attacked them upon first entering the forest.

Spyro snorted softly and closed his eyes, determinedly telling his thoughts to leave him in peace. But they crept through the mental wall he tried to build and chased sleep away from his tired mind. If there was one thing he couldn't banish from his thoughts, it was the Magic Crafters. They had a direction now, however vague it was. But was there any guarantee that the Crafters were still there in the northern desert? They'd left Enrin hundreds of years ago, and vanished from the Books of Time.

Maybe they didn't even exist in the Dragon Realms anymore.

Ignitus believed they did. That should have been enough for him, but Spyro just couldn't banish those gnawing doubts. He wanted nothing more than to do what Ignitus had asked of him, and the promise of taming the dark presence inside him was both tempting and nerve-wracking. But he couldn't help but feel that this, all of this, was a waste of time.

What if they got to the Badlands and found nothing? All of it would have been for nothing. He would have deserted Warfang in its time of need for nothing. All because he'd been chasing fairytales.

Frustration rose in his chest, and Spyro sat up abruptly. Why wouldn't his thoughts just stop and let him sleep? He was so tired. Rubbing his eyes, Spyro gazed around the dark clearing. He could see faint shapes around him as his eyes slowly adjusted. It was as though he was in a world of black and grey, where all colour but the pale golden glow of Sparx had been eradicated. Sighing, Spyro gazed down at his surrogate brother.

Sparx slept on, his mouth open, splayed out across the moss. Spyro couldn't help but envy him. He wasn't even sure how late it was, only that he'd yet to get a wink of sleep. At this rate, it would be dawn before he managed at all.

It felt strangely lonely being the only one awake. Spyro gazed at the dark shapes of his sleeping friends all around him until his eyes came to rest on Cynder. Her face, illuminated by Sparx's light, was peaceful and beautiful in sleep. He felt awful just thinking about waking her up. But all he really wanted at that moment was someone to share his sleepless thoughts with.

She'd understand. Wouldn't she?

Spyro hesitated with his paw in the air, halfway to her shoulder. Maybe he should just let her sleep. Nobody wanted to be bothered in the middle of the night. But as he began to withdraw his paw again, another wave of doubt stopped him. No. He didn't want to be alone.

Cynder's scales were pleasantly warm under his paw. He shook her gently and whispered her name, but she didn't stir. Guiltily, Spyro raised his voice to a louder whisper. Another shake elicited a tiny, incoherent mumble from her, and she started to move. Spyro removed his paw, hoping he hadn't made a mistake, and Cynder's eyes slid open. For a moment they seemed glazed with sleep, or so he could tell in the darkness, and then her head shot up.

"Spyro? What's wrong?"

"Nothing!" he said quickly and flinched at the suspicious look in her eyes.

She sat up slowly, the last vestiges of sleep vanishing from her stance, and looked around the clearing. After a moment of silent observation, in which Spyro shuffled his paws awkwardly and wondered what to say, she turned back to him. "We don't seem to be in danger. Did you have a bad dream?"

There was something teasing about her tone. The blood immediately rushed to Spyro's face. "No! I… I couldn't sleep."

In the dim light from Sparx, he saw Cynder's brow furrow. "Have you slept at all?"

"No… Not really." Spyro averted his eyes, embarrassed. "Sorry for waking you. I just—"

"It's fine." She responded so quickly he never got to justify himself. "It's fine, Spyro."

A rush of relief swept through him, and then Cynder spread out a wing as though beckoning him closer. "Come here."

Spyro stepped forward sheepishly until their sides were pressed together and her wing was draped securely over his back. She pulled him down until they were resting on their stomachs side-by-side and placed her paw over his. Her warmth seeped into his scales and he pressed closer on instinct, resting his head against the side of her neck.

"Is that better?" she whispered.

Spyro nodded dumbly, rubbing his cheek against her scales. Her warmth and scent were reassuring, but when he closed his eyes his mind still buzzed with a thousand thoughts. With a sigh, he opened them again.

"Why can't you sleep?" Cynder murmured, squeezing his paw gently. When he didn't respond, she asked a different question. "Will you tell me what bothers you?"

"It's…" Spyro sighed and lifted his head from her shoulder, gazing up into the dark canopy. He felt like he was staring into a void of darkness, where only the tiniest patches of moonlight could break through. "I just can't stop thinking. My head feels like it's buzzing."

"About?"

He smiled wryly and looked away. "Everything."

Cynder's paw squeezed his again, firmer this time. He placed his free paw on top of hers and stared at the delicate black scales beneath his talons. She had such dainty paws, even for a dragoness.

"The Magic Crafters?"

He nodded.

"Warfang?"

Another nod.

"Us? Our friends?"

Spyro stroked her paw and closed his eyes. "Yeah. Everything."

Cynder hummed quietly and Spyro felt her nuzzle the side of his neck. "It'll be okay, you know. We'll find the Magic Crafters and they'll help us get everything under control. And Warfang will still be there when we return. Dragonkind is strong. We'll be okay."

He turned his head until their muzzles brushed together and he could just the outline of her eyes. "How can you be so certain?"

She shrugged. "I'm not. But why expect the worst when you can hope for the best? There's no use stressing over something that hasn't happened yet. If not everything goes according to plan, we'll manage. We're resourceful, you know that."

Cynder pressed their muzzles together in a slow nuzzle and pulled away again, a smile playing across her face. "And we're an unbeatable team. Even Malefor couldn't stand in our way."

Grateful for her words, Spyro returned her smile, though it felt a little strained. He wished he could share her optimism, but the niggling thoughts at the back of his mind told him otherwise. Just the act of hoping for the best seemed like it was begging for trouble. He didn't want to tempt fate. It felt like years had passed since the peaceful days he had spent with Cynder and their friends at Warfang. Years since that silly festival that was supposed to celebrate the anniversary of the end of war. A festival for peace.

So much for that. They were as far from peace as they had ever been. And Spyro was as far from home as he had ever been. He felt so misplaced; so out of his depth. Ignitus expected so much. Stop a war? How was he supposed to do that? The guardians had trained him to change the tides of war and swing victory in dragonkind's favour. That had seemed so much simpler somehow.

Things had been so much simpler four years ago. It had been terrifying, facing real danger for the first time, but he'd always known what was expected of him. And then that fateful Night of Eternal Darkness had arrived, and things had changed. He had changed—in ways that both confused and terrified him. A part of him had been uncovered that night; a part he'd never known was there.

He couldn't explain it. Maybe it was caused by an outside force, like Convexity, as he had previously thought. But who was to say it wasn't just a side of him that had never come out before that night? What if it wasn't something the Magic Crafters could help with after all?

Cynder's paw squeezed his firmly, and Spyro winced more out of surprise than pain. Only then did he realise his paws had been shaking. He stilled them through sheer force of will and stared into the darkness, willing his thoughts to leave him be. He thought he heard Cynder sigh.

"Spyro? Do you remember when we first became friends?"

That threw him off guard. Confused, Spyro looked back at her, and she smiled as their eyes met. "Friends? You mean…"

He trailed off, frowning. They'd first met as enemies, and when he'd brought her back to the temple after their battle in Convexity, she had avoided him for some time. There had been a night, however, much like this one, when he'd been unable to sleep and had wandered onto the balcony. Cynder had found him there, staring at the moons, and they'd exchanged their first words since he had freed her from corruption.

Was that when it had all started?

"I was scared of you at first," Cynder said, her mouth twisting with self-amusement. "It's a bit silly. But whenever I saw you, I could only associate you with that rush of burning pain that had ripped me back to my real body. One of my most vivid memories of that time is just…seeing you floating there, surrounded by a glowing vortex, your eyes glowing with power. It was amazing, and…terrifying."

Spyro gazed at her in amazement as she let out a sigh and tipped her head to the canopy. Why was she telling him this?

"I was so lost when I woke up at the temple," she continued. "All of the memories I'd had before felt like a dream—no, more like a nightmare. They were there, but so foggy and distant that I wasn't sure if I'd really experienced them myself or been merely an observer as they happened. All I really remembered clearly were those final moments when I'd faced you in Convexity."

"It felt like I'd been…unmade. And you were the one who made it happen. I was frightened; frightened that you'd left the act incomplete and were yet to finish the job. I didn't understand why I was there, or why I existed, or why you hadn't unmade me completely."

Cynder lowered her gaze to meet his again, a sad sort of smile on her muzzle. "But then I saw you that night on the balcony. You looked so lost and confused—just like I was. I think that was the first time I really saw you for you. Things…weren't so frightening after that."

She gazed at him in silence for a moment, as though expecting him to carry on the tale. Spyro couldn't help the smile that crept onto his face. "I was surprised when you spoke to me for the first time. I'd tried so hard to make you feel welcome. It was because of me you were there, and you were the first dragon my own age I'd ever met. I really wanted us to be friends. Even if looking at you reminded me of what you'd once been… I might have been a little scared of you too. I thought you hated me because of what I'd done."

Cynder made a soft noise somewhere between a laugh and a scoff and nuzzled his cheek. Grinning now, Spyro leaned forward and rubbed their muzzles together, inhaling her scent. So much had changed.

"I guess that was why you jumped when I spoke to you on the balcony," she whispered, laughter in her voice.

"I was startled." He shuffled against her, pressing their sides together until not even air could find a way into the space between their scales. She was so warm. "But I was glad even for something small like that."

Cynder murmured in agreement. "I guess that was where it started. It took us some time to get used to each other…"

"You were always so flighty around the guardians. I never understood why they scared you."

"Well, you had all sorts of weird habits. Eating mushrooms? Painting yourself with tree-sap? Bathing in mud? And let's not forget that little nest you made in the temple gardens…"

"I was raised by dragonflies! …I didn't realise dragons don't do that sort of thing."

Cynder giggled and Spyro felt the blood rush to his face. It burned all the more when she nuzzled behind his jaw and whispered, "I thought it was cute."

He grinned stupidly and returned the nuzzle. For some time, though Spyro hardly noticed it passing, they sat pressed together and swapped stories of those peaceful days in the DragonTemple. How they'd gradually warmed up to each other, despite Cynder's fear of the guardians and Sparx's fear of her. How they'd tried to find a way to bring Spyro's elements back and discovered Cynder's elements were also absent.

She hadn't been sure she'd ever get them back. They'd been the powers of her corrupt self, she'd said, not hers. They never had figured out what her real element was, and Cynder had suspected she didn't actually have one—a notion that was to be proven wrong some time later.

At length, Spyro yawned loudly mid-sentence and once again realised it was the middle of the night. Cynder smirked and rested her head against his shoulder. "Feel better now?"

Surprised, Spyro stared down at her. He'd almost forgotten about all of the worries that had pervaded his restless mind not too long ago. "Yeah, actually…"

"Thought so." She sighed against his scales and snuggled closer. "Let's get some sleep. We'll be no good to anyone tomorrow otherwise."

Feeling lighter than he had in days, Spyro laid his wing over her back and let his head rest beside their entwined paws. The regret he'd felt at waking her up had long since faded; right then, he only felt lucky. Lucky that he had someone to share his sleepless nights with. Lucky that she always seemed to know what to say or to do. Lucky that Cynder was his, and his alone.

He wanted to wish her goodnight and sweet dreams, but his consciousness was whisked away to sleep before he had the chance. There were no more restless thoughts that night.


A/N: That last scene is probably the sole reason why I like this chapter. I just needed to write it, even if it is just fluff. xD So, um... See you next time? Hopefully in less than a month this time!

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