Jacy: I know it's been a while since I updated and I apologize, but I had a lot more trouble with this chapter than I thought.

Wolf: That and all the waves of schoolwork that got shoved down your throat.

Jacy: Yeah, but since none of you care what my excuse is, on with the chapter and—

Kain and Wolf: Happy Thanksgiving!

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the copyrighted things I use; I do own my OCs and this story.

Extra Disclaimers: Stardust and Dax belong to Alec the Dark Angel, Arana and Azimuth belong to Shining Darkness Dragon, and Serenity belongs to phoenix firewing. NOT ME.

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Chapter 17: Readying for War

Jacy found himself sitting at a service for all those who had died during the battle, Blane's sphere of light healing coming too late to save them. Or, in Daniel's case, was the cause of his demise as it had been dark magic that had brought him back to life. Also among the honored were several people that Jacy felt horrible for not even knowing, as well as some he knew. There was a young boy, hardly out of his teens, that had joined hardly a month ago named Ralph, an old soldier that had fought alongside Smoke in several wars that everyone knew as Rook, and Acelan.

It was a hard-hitting blow to hear of the shape-shifter's demise, and not just to him. The blue-skinned man had been a well-liked member of the Survivors, and whereas Jacy was the beacon of hope, he was the embodiment of good-nature and peace. Whenever a fight or argument broke out among the people, he was usually the first to get there and usually had it broken up and fixed before any other members of the council got there. But one person amongst everyone was hit the hardest: Marie.

Jacy had known of their relationship for a while now, though the two were hesitant at first. Marie because she was shy for quite a while, as she was a shy person most of her life due to her abilities as a Marked One that marked her as an outcast as well as being an orphan. But after living among the Survivors for a while, she'd opened up and shown that she was a very kind and compassionate person. Acelan found himself drawn to her, wanting to get to know her more. After almost a year of stolen glances and silent fantasies, the two finally became a couple and everyone was happy for them. Well, almost everyone; Smoke, her adoptive father, was still unhappy that his daughter was dating someone. He eventually found his peace with it, and the atmosphere that followed the Survivors seemed to get brighter.

But now, it seemed, that had come to an end. Marie kneeled over Acelan's body, a white sheet covering his corpse. In all honesty, that was probably a good thing; his body was mangled and torn in several places, the only way to tell it was Acelan was by the pale-blue skin that hung off him in strips. The Elemental Marked One's form shivered as she sobbed; a depressing sound and sight for everyone there. Smoke stood not far off, seemingly impassive, but Jacy could tell by a slight shift in his stance that he was more bothered by his daughter's distress than he let on.

Before the Creation Marked One could do anything to stop him, Connor stepped away from where he'd been standing off to his left and went over to where Marie was crying. Jacy, as well as everyone else, could only watch in absolute horror as his friend tried to comfort the young Elemental Marked One, while Smoke tensed up. Marie clasped onto Connor, beginning to cry into his shoulder, causing the old soldier to pause in beginning to draw his pistol out of its holster.

He instead looked over to where Jacy stood and a silent threat traveled to him, 'He tries anything and he's dead.' The brown-haired man nodded in quick understanding and the two of them resumed listening to the person speaking about the people that had died while Connor continued to comfort Marie. Several other people came up to say their peace to their dead comrades before Jacy decided it was time for him to speak as well.

He walked forward as the current speaker finished and took the man's place on the slightly-elevated platform before he spoke, "We lost some of our fellow Survivors, too many for my taste and some I'm sad to say I didn't even know even after spending almost five years living with most of them. However, some of them I'm lucky to say I knew very well, but I considered all of them my friends, no, my family. And Merikh took them away from me, from all of us. He forced us to hide in fear, to kill our friends, our family, and people we didn't even know because they'd become nothing but monsters. But I say enough!"

A chorus of cheers rang out at these words, everyone being pulled in by the Creation Marked One's speech. He continued after the clamor had died down a bit, "We've had to move around every week just so he wouldn't be able to track us if we stayed in one place for too long, but I say we make our stand! It's time for us to take the fight to him rather than wait in fear of his next attack! I'm going to knock him off his tyrant's throne and ship him to Death's door in pieces, or die trying! Anyone who wishes to join me is more than welcome, but there is no shame in wanting to stay behind. I'll be honest with all of you; I don't expect that all who go will return. But those who perish will not die in vain, and neither shall the people we lost today!"

More people cheered at the brown-haired man's speech, egging him to go on, and he did, "Today, we fight the final battle to bring light back to our black world, and bring an end to this hell that has become our everyday life. We fight to protect those who cannot do so for themselves and those who we've lost while they tried to do the same. And if I die, then I'm sure as hell not going down without a fight! I'll take as many as them with me as I can; and Merikh himself if I can manage it. I hope I'll have the honor of having all of you fight by my side, but I know that some of you don't want to fight. There's nothing wrong with that, and I hope that I'll have the privilege of one day having the choice I'm giving you. But that day is not today, no matter how much I wish it was. I'll fight to my very last breath, and hopefully be able to have the opportunity to have taken it fighting beside all of you here today. Those who are going prepare yourselves; we leave in one hour."

After he finished speaking, he walked off the platform and found himself facing the people closest to him. Kera, tears welling up in her eyes, ran forward and embraced him and he wrapped his arms comfortingly around her. Jeremy chuckled amusedly at the green-haired girl's actions, though he nodded in approval of his little brother's words. Connor, with Marie still clinging to him for support, nodded at his friend with a grin on his face. Smoke, glowering at the man his daughter was holding on to, grunted at the Marked One's look at him. Fera and Aidan both sported matching grins, though he could tell that he had their support as well. Blane, in his draconic-human form, stood there with his arms crossed, a look of understanding on his face. Kain, with Hanna hugging his side with his arm around her, smirked at the green-eyed man, though his smirk faltered for a moment when Hanna whispered something in his ear. Wolf, who was sitting at their feet, obviously heard what was said as he began to let out a growl-like chortle.

"How'd I do?" Jacy asked nervously, looking at the group gathered in front of him.

"After all that you're worried that you didn't do good?" Fera asked, raising a single eyebrow, "There's no way you're still self-conscious after five years of being on the council."

"I'm just glad my little bro hasn't changed despite becoming a man!" Jeremy teased, a mocking smirk on his face.

"Even so, how do you plan to get everyone who's going there before the day is through?" Blane asked curiously, though there was a glint in his eye that he had a good idea of what the Creation Marked One had planned.

"It's simple enough, but I'll need your help if it's going to work," Jacy said, his dark-green eyes mirroring the look in his friend's, "before your temporary Marked One abilities fade."

"What do you have in mind?" the half-dragon asked, arching a brow. The brown-haired man simply grinned and motioned for him to follow before he walked over to the middle of the giant, open room of the mall with everyone else following behind. Once there, he instructed everyone else to stand back while he told Blane to mimic what he did.

They kneeled and placed their palms on the floor with their eyes closed and their breathing calm, both picturing what Jacy had said they were going to create. A long, rectangular shape formed as the ground cracked, almost three feet in width and nearly ten feet in length. Slowly, the shape began to rise, forming a giant gateway. When it stopped rising, it was at least fifteen feet high, with Jacy and Blane still kneeling at the top of it and concentrating.

Everyone watched in amazement as a portal began to form inside the gateway, small and centered in the middle at first. It pulsated, like it was alive, and grew in size until it nearly touched each of the corners of the gateway. It was simply a green swirl with mixes of white and lighter green for a while, and then a familiar place began to form in the portal.

"Alcatraz…?" Connor said confusedly, looking to the others, "Why Alcatraz?"

"It's where Merikh's made his new base of operations," Fera explained, "We destroyed his last one."

"Where was that?" Jeremy asked curiously, turning to look at the red-head.

"The White House," she answered simply.

"Yeah, I remember that," Aidan said, his eyes getting a bit hazy, "He kept me in the bomb shelter below it, so I couldn't escape while he tried to bend me to his will."

"Hey, stay with us big bro," Kera said, looking over her shoulder at him, "We've got you back now, that's all that matters."

"Right," Fera agreed, nodding her head, "Let's worry about how those two plan to get down from there, now."

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"Master, is it possible?" Deryx asked his mentor as they stood underneath a large oak tree, deciding their next move, "Could he have returned?"

"It seems so," Ignotus responded, scratching the silver-grey stubble on his chin, "Though I'm not quite sure how. Davoryn was originally an Elder, the Elder of Shadows to be exact. If the old writings I had to read as part of my advancement to a Warlock of the Council are correct, there hasn't been an Elder of his power since. He was one of the few to have mastered the Dark Elements and not be corrupted, or so it was thought. After the destruction of his home by raiders and slavers, he snapped. He chased each and every one of them that had even the smallest amount to do with it and tortured them until they finally died a most gruesome death. Once he'd done this, his psyche seemed to break as well and he began to develop multiple personalities. The part of him that was still good won control for a short time and turned himself over to the other Elders for punishment for his crimes. He managed to keep control up until they were about to end his life, and the darkest and most malevolent side of him broke through and began to destroy everything around him. It was only through the combined efforts of both the human magi and the other dragon Elders that they were able to finally deal with him. They sealed him away, never to be seen or heard from again. That was, until now."

"I know all that," the younger man said, absently rubbing the pommel of his sword with the palm of his hand, "I may not be on the Council, but I am your student. 'The past must be learned, so that it may never repeat itself,' as you always say, but how did he break the seals placed on him? And even more troubling, how did he find his way to the Ancestors?"

"If I may interrupt?" asked a new, yet familiar voice. They turned to see a large, teal dragon wearing robes of varying blue colors and bags of scrolls on his back as well. He wore a necklace with a blue crystal that hummed with great power. He had several frill-like appendages that looked like flames on his face, while his eyes were a fire-red color.

"I'm sorry, I don't believe we've been introduced," Ignotus said politely, looking at the newcomer, "I'm Ignotus, Warlock of the Magi Council of the Granzak Province, and you are?"

"I am well aware of who you are, Wizard," the dragon responded, a kind smile on his face, "I am Ignitus, the Chronicler of the Third Age of this realm as well as various other ages of separate realms."

"It's good to see you again, Ignitus," Deryx said, bowing slightly to the old dragon in respect, "but I thought that you were only the Chronicler of this realm?"

"I thought so as well, but I found that my predecessor was hiding a few things," the teal dragon said, chuckling slightly, "or wanted me to find them out on my own, at least."

"You know this dragon, Deryx?" Ignotus questioned curiously, looking to his student.

"We've met during my visits to Dragon Realms," the man explained, placing his palm against the rough bark of the tree, "but every time I see you, there's a good reason. What brings you this time?"

"Three reasons," Ignitus said, though his somber tone told the two Mages that they weren't good, "The first one being that Davoryn has indeed escaped his eternal prison, though it was by dying that he managed to do it. It seems that he only forced Traeia to be reborn, no one else. Afterwards, there's nothing else about him, even in his own book."

"That's certainly odd," Ignotus said, rubbing his chin, "And the other two?"

"I can't say much," the dragon said slowly, thinking out every word, "Only that the fight in this realm is not yet over. The final threat to Dragon Realms is something that will be caused by a great battle being fought in another realm, the one where Blane is fighting alongside Jacy against a very dark and evil foe. This fight will be unlike any other seen in a very long time, and the outcome will decide the fate of not only that realm, but every realm that is or ever will be."

"Is there anything we can do to help them?" Deryx asked anxiously, the bark of the tree beginning to char beneath his hand.

"That brings me to my third reason, actually," the teal dragon said, his tone almost grandfatherly, "The fight itself will begin to bleed through the cracks that have formed between the realms, and creatures from several other realms will begin to bleed through into this one. You and the others must keep the city safe, or this realm will be torn apart and they will move into Jacy's realm. If he is forced to face as many new enemies as will pass through here, the closest realm to his own, then he will be hard-pressed to win and all will be lost should he lose. That mustn't happen."

"How long do we have to prepare?" Ignotus asked calmly, though his face was a mask of apprehension and fierce resolve.

"Until the sun begins to set," Ignitus said, turning his gaze to the horizon, where the sun was high enough that it would be roughly an hour or two before it began to set, "After that, monsters the likes of which you have never seen, nor will ever see again should Jacy succeed, will begin to march towards Warfang in great numbers. Every able-bodied warrior must fight, or not only will the city fall, but everything else with it. Now, I must leave you, for the outcome of this belongs to all of you."

"Wait," Ignotus asked, his blue eyes alight with curiosity, "as the Chronicler, shouldn't you be forbidden from interfering with things such as this?"

"Interfering is such a strong word, I like to think of it as 'meddling at a crossroads'," the teal dragon said with an impish grin as he faded from sight.

Once he was gone, Master turned to Student and said, "Let's move, we haven't got long to prepare everyone for another battle; one that we may not be very well-equipped to win, but we damn-well aren't rolling over and dying without a fight."

Deryx simply grinned at the older man and pulled his hand off the tree to reveal that an imprint of his hand had been seared into the bark, with smoke still curling off of it.

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"He died a hero," Talea murmured softly, looking at the dying black flames that came from the room where, she'd been told, Malefor had sacrificed himself to save everyone still in the temple from being obliterated by Ragnarok's massive explosive-suicide, "but, he was still the cause of Nguyen's death, and as the Dark Master he took my parents away from me. I—"

"Need to let those things go, Talea," a strangely familiar voice said from behind her, a voice she hadn't heard in a very long time. It was the same voice that belonged to one that had been one of her best friends while she had lived amongst the other dragons at Shattered Vale, before he vanished without a trace.

"Stardust…?" she gasped in shock, turning around to see none other than the onyx-eyed black dragon that still looked the same as the last time she had seen him, almost eight years ago, "Is that really you?"

"In the flesh, Talea," he said with a warm grin, shifting his over-large wings, "I'm sorry I left without telling you where I was going, but—"

"It's alright," she said, returning his smile kindly, "Whatever the reason was, I know it was important. But, when I heard Spyro and Cynder's daughter say that she'd been visited by a dragon named Stardust, I thought…"

She trailed off as she caught the slightly sheepish and knowing glint in his eye, and he said, "That was a version of me that is back in his non-existent timeline. Technically, it was me, but at the same time it wasn't."

"You and your element are really confusing, you know that?" she said, shaking her head in mock annoyance with a playful grin.

"I've been told that more times than I could count," he told her, walking over and sitting down at her side, "Do you remember when I said that you would end up with someone destined to do great things?"

"And I thought you were being arrogant and talking about yourself?" she said, giggling a bit as she recalled the memory from when she was younger.

"Yeah," the black dragon chuckled, "you gave me the cold shoulder for nearly a week before I explained to you that I'd seen it in the vision pool at the temple. I told you that he would be a great hero that would fight a battle that would decide the fate of everything, and now, it's all playing out."

"You also said that I'd lose someone, someone precious to me," she murmured, looking down at the small dragon mournfully and pleadingly, "Tell me who it is, I'm begging you. I can't take not knowing that any of the people I know and care about might die!"

"Everyone dies eventually, Talea," he whispered, turning away from her, "and even if I did tell you, what would you do? You couldn't save them; I told you that it was their death that inspired everyone to fight harder to avenge them."

"It's not fair," she whimpered, looking down at her front paws in misery, "Everyone around me keeps getting hurt, and there's nothing I can do about it!"

Her outburst startled everyone in the courtyard and they all turned to look at the now-weeping dragoness, Stardust nowhere to be seen. A comforting wing wrapped around her and she turned to see Cynder sitting there, a look of sympathy on her face.

"We can't lose hope, Talea," she murmured, as Dex and Annie crawled up and began to curl themselves around the blue dragoness's legs, "Not while we still have something to fight for."

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"Who are you?" Terrador questioned the young dragon standing before him, the one that had rescued himself and the other Guardians from the dungeons they'd been held in.

"I already told, my name is Azimuth," the blue dragon responded, annoyed at having the same question asked of him so many times, "The Elders at Shattered Vale sent me to find out what was happening, since so many were coming to take refuge there once again. They were worried that the Dark Master had returned. I now see that it's much worse than that."

"Indeed," the large green dragon rumbled, "and I fear we haven't seen the end of it, either."

"Whatever are we planning to do, Terrador?" Volteer asked lightning-fast, his yellow wings shifting in anxiety, "Warfang will not be able to withstand more assaults like this one, should we face another wave then the city will surely fall."

"It will not," the earth dragon said determinedly as he looked over to where Cyril was discussing something with Deryx and Ignotus, "We have always survived, and we have only just begun to thrive once more. I'm not going to throw that away like it means nothing."

A small group of moles ran over to where the three dragons stood, all of them battle-worn and tired, but still looking like they were still ready to fight. The leader of the group spoke, "What can we do to help, Guardian of Earth?"

"Ready all the defenses, all of them," he responded, looking to the wall of Warfang, "This battle may be over, but one much worse is coming fast. I can feel it, right down to my tail."

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Jacy: I know it's not that exciting of a chapter, but the fighting should start next chapter!

Wolf: If whatever person who controls this story makes it so.

Kain: 'Cause we all know that's not you.

Jacy: Oh, shut up.