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You found a disclaimer!
Spyro the Dragon, both the game and all related characters (c) Insomniac. They own the Spyro that's in this story, so nyeh.
Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage / Gateway to Glimmer, as well as all related characters (c) blah-blah, same copyright.


CHAPTER ELEVEN: Avalar

Hunter grumbled to himself as he stretched to prepare for his morning workout. He was the hero of Avalar - the fastest runner, the highest jumper, the all-around best Summer Forest had to offer.

Then the dragon showed up.

Granted, Elora was never his number-one fan. She always thought of him as a bit of a bumbler and never trusted him with much, even though they were friends in a looser sense of the word. But as soon as the dragon showed up, she was throwing flowers at his feet. What made that little twerp dragon so special? The thing was half his size. Not only that, but he had an attitude. 'I'm the hero of the Dragon Realms! I can save the world!' Likely story.

So you can imagine Hunter's delight when he heard the familiar sneer of "hey, pussycat!" rushing up behind him.

The cheetah gave the dragon as little recognition as possible. "Dragon."

"Spyro."

"Whatever."

"Whatcha doin'?"

"Training." The cheetah gave an exaggerated stretch. "Yeah, I've got this real intense training regiment. Do it every morning so I keep in tip-top riptoc kickin' shape."

Spyro smirked, recalling Elora's nags from their previous encounter. "So you found your running shoes, then?" If Hunter were a wittier cheetah, he would've had a clever comeback. Unfortunately, banter wasn't one of his strong points, so he chose to say nothing.

The Artisan eyed the series of steps and platforms in front of them. "Mind if I train with you? I'm always up for a challenge. "

"You sure those tiny baby dragon legs can keep up?" Hunter sneered. Most of the steps were bigger than Spyro was; was he ASKING to be humiliated?

...Then again, that didn't sound like a terrible idea.

Spyro bit his temperamental tongue; it wouldn't look good on his hero-image if he was torching up a so-called teammate. "I think I can take care of myself. Think you can keep up with a dragon on only two legs?"

"Oh, I'll show you two legs!" Hunter bounded up the first few steps, stopping at the edge of the first small marble tower built into the hillside of Summer Forest. "Can you get up here?"

With very little effort, Spyro hopped up the steps himself. "Easy."

"Hmph." The cheetah took one last stretch, then ran for the edge of the tower and jumped, solidly landing on the second tower a short distance away. "How about that?"

As he watched the dragon hop into the air and gently glide over to the second tower, Hunter suddenly realized the mistake he made in challenging something with wings to a distance jumping competition. "Come on, I thought you said this was hard!" Spyro laughed.

"Don't get cocky yet, dragon," Hunter warned. "This last one's the hardest of them all." Going as far back as the short platform would allow, the cheetah ran forward as fast as his powerful legs would go, kicking off with all of his might. He flew through the skies, crouched and ready to land on the top of the final tower.

...Which only came into reach in time for Hunter to grab its edge with the tips of his paw.

The cheetah gave a panicked meow as he tried to claw back up to safety. The Idol Springs portal was down below, including the small river that surrounded it. "Help! Oh, come on, I don't want to fall! I hate the water! I'll get my fur wet! HELP!"

Heroes are programmed differently than most folk. The sound of the word 'help' triggers their reflexes, sending them rushing towards the scene of the problem. Spyro was no different, even if it was Hunter overreacting. The Artisan took a similar running start, rushing off of the platform and gliding towards the final one. Like Hunter, his trajectory wasn't quite enough to cross, but with an extra push from his newly-trained wings, Spyro managed to clear the gap, rushing over and dragging Hunter back up onto the platform alongside him.

Once free from the threat of extra grooming and mild discomfort, Hunter brushed the dragon away. "Hey, what're you doin'? Get off!"

Spyro snorted. "You're welcome."

Hunter brushed himself before climbing down. "That was just a test, dragon! If I had my running shoes, I could've cleared that gap easy!"

Spyro rolled his eyes. Hey, nobody said the life of a hero was all parties and thank-you gifts, right? Still, the young hero couldn't help but laugh as he watched Hunter run off towards Rainbow Bridge. There was something about his attitude, his stubborn sense of 'I can do anything', his bloated ego and obnoxious pride.

He'd never tell Hunter, but it rang true of a certain young purple Artisan that wasn't a fan of the water, either.

oo00oo00oo

If you had asked this time last year, Spyro would've told you that he hated the water. However, that had surprisingly changed after his adventures through the Dragon Realms. After jumping over bottomless chasms, poisonous swamps, and colorful pools of acid, river water isn't nearly as terrifying. So Spyro had made it his mission to learn how to swim...if for no other reason than to handle the speedways, most of which were built in the ocean.

So now the young Artisan could swim...relatively-speaking. He was quite good at floating, and even learned to enjoy paddling his way across the surface of a lake. But that was where the friendship ended; Spyro still never ducked his head underwater.

In the Dragon Realms, this posed no problems. In Avalar, however, it proved to be trouble. There were the faint glimmers of gems sparkling from the bottom of the Summer Lake, and Elora had warned that it was the only way into Summer Castle...and the portals that were hidden within, all hiding the remaining talismans, not to mention Ripto himself. Spyro dared not reveal his hydrophobic secret, so instead, he spent a good bit of time circling the surface, working his Artisan wit to find another way inside.

"Hey, Spyro, what's up?"

The purple dragon gave a less-than-manly yelp, panickedly splashing to keep his head above water. He snapped back to the stone shore, where Elora was now sitting. "Hey, didn't the Professor's books teach you not to sneak up on a dragon?"

"Sorry, Spyro," the faun giggled, dipping her hooves into the water. "What're you doin'?"

"Oh, y'know...just takin' a break."

"...Mind if I hang out, then?"

"Uh...sure."

A bit of awkward silence settled between the sudden allies. The faun looked up at Summer Castle, where Ripto's flags still loomed over the forest.

"You really think you can beat Ripto?" she asked, jumping to the first topic she could think of.

"Yep. Trust me, I'm a master at this world-saving business."

"He's also really modest," Sparx buzzed with a laugh, dipping and dodging the annoyed swipe of Spyro's tail.

"Zoe told me you're a big hero in the Dragon Realms, but she never told me the full story. What happened?"

Desperate for an excuse to get out of the water and not look so foolish, Spyro paddled to shore and climbed out, taking a moment to shake himself dry. Elora took the moment to get a closer look at their dragon savior; she hadn't had the chance to just sit and talk to him since he arrived, so it was interesting to actually SEE the young dragon up close.

His scales were the major eye-catcher. They were a gorgeous shade of purple and glistened as the water-drops rolled off of them, but Elora also noticed that they were plenty beat up. Most of them were edged in a charcoal-black, and the ones on his back and legs seemed particularly worn and damaged. His horns looked quite sharp from a glance, but up close, they were tarnished and worn down from overuse. He flapped his wings, using the rush of air to further dry the water, and Elora could feel the blast from her seat. The golden muscles were slim, but powerful, and the faun half-expected the young dragon to take off in flight at any second.

"Elora? You're staring again."

"Huh? Oh, sorry, sorry!"

Spyro and Sparx took turns relaying the story of Gnasty's defeat to Elora, the story said to become the newest legend of the Dragon Realms. (To be specific, Spyro told the story and Sparx corrected anything that Spyro had exaggerated.) He explained each of the six worlds, detailing the highlights of his adventure from each realm. (She gave a cringe when he explained the black chars on his scales had come from violent shocks in Terrace Village.) They told her about the kidnapping of the full-grown dragons, rescuing them all from crystal prisons before nearly meeting their demise in the lava pits of Gnasty's factories.

Elora was completely entranced by the story. "Wow, Spyro, that sounds amazing!" she fawned once they had finished.

Spyro gave a cocky smirk. "Yeah, it was pretty sweet."

Still, the faun had one question hanging on her mind, and no amount of Spyro's epic tales would answer it. "...Mind if I ask something, though?"

"If it'll get you to stop staring at me so much, ask away."

"W-Well, the Professor's books showed that dragons are kind of...y'know..."

Spyro scoffed, recognizing the tone in her voice. "Bigger?" Elora bit her lip nervously, afraid she had offended the dragon. "Well, don't worry, the Professor's books aren't wrong. The full-growns and elders are a lot bigger than I am, so if you're looking for big, scaly monsters to be afraid of, they're there."

"Sorry, I just-"

"Don't be sorry. I get that a lot from the elders. I'm kind of small for my age. Turns out it's nice for not getting crystallized by crazy gnorcs."

Elora laughed, begging to break the awkward tension. "Yeah, I guess it would. So...if you don't mind my asking, how old are you?"

"Fourteen."

"That's it?"

"Yeah. You got a problem with that?"

"No, not at all!" If anything, Elora was even more impressed by Spyro's resume. He had done all of that adventuring, and he was nearly four years her minor. Could they have grabbed a better dragon from the Realms?

Silence settled in again, and Elora felt the need to excuse herself before her gabby faun mouth said something else to upset their dragon guest. "Y-You should probably get back to work on...y'know, the talismans and stuff," she said quickly, moving to get up. "I told you about the other portals inside of the Castle, right?"

Nervous navy eyes returned to the water, Spyro's old nemesis. "Y-Yeah, you did."

"Something wrong?"

Spyro couldn't come up with something particularly witty, so Sparx took up the chance to partake in his favorite pastime: embarrassing Spyro. "Yeah, something's wrong - you hid your portals underwater and grabbed a dragon who doesn't know how to swim."

"SPARX!"

Spyro took a few nasty swipes at his dragonfly, expecting Elora to start laughing, ESPECIALLY after he had made himself sound so cool with that story-telling. How pathetic did he seem? A big, scary dragon that didn't know how to swim.

Instead, though, the faun just smiled. "Is that all? Why didn't you say so?"

She sat back down, lowering herself into the water. Elora could get in and out of Summer Castle, but that was where her skill in the water ended. Hooves weren't made for paddling. Still, if getting in the water helped get Ripto out of Avalar, it was a clumsy chance she had to take. When faun hit the water, dragon shortly followed.

"It's just like swimming on top of the water," she explained, putting forth her best effort to talk and stay above water at the same time. "You just have to take a big breath, then duck your head under. Once you get past that part, it's a lot easier."

Still, the uncertainty was present in Spyro's eyes. "Look, how about I do it with you, okay? We'll both go under at the same time; it's really not that bad, trust me."

Trust me. It was a bit of a tall order from a girl Spyro had just met a few hours ago. When she helped build a portal that kidnapped him from Dragon Shores to risk his life and fight an evil sorcerer.

Spyro wasn't sure what was stranger: the fact that she was asking for his trust, or the fact that he actually trusted her.

"Alright." One. Two. Three.

Both dragon and Avalari took a big breath after three, just before diving under the surface of the water. Spyro gave a shiver as the unfamiliar sensation of cold swept over his wings and horns, and it took him a few uncomfortable paddles before his legs were fully responsive. Knowing Elora's watchful eye was overhead, Spyro swam a small lap in the Summer Lake, ducking in and out of the schools of fish that lived within it.

Swimming was surprisingly pleasant; cold, but pleasant. Spyro's inner speed-demon was excited to discover that it was quite a bit like charging on land. Paddling became more like running as his paws cut through the water, and if he put his horns down and got a proper kick, he could build up plenty of speed.

During his laps, the Artisan felt a strange tug on his tail. Instinct taking over, he spun around and took a deep breath, sending out a fiery spurt at his attacker.

Except that he was underwater. So Elora did her best to withhold a laugh when Spyro whipped around and let out a menacing stream of bubbles at her. She pointed towards the door of Summer Castle, then clumsily kicked towards it.

Spyro took a second to realize what had just happened. Mainly, the fact that he was comfortably breathing like he were up on dry land. All of this time being afraid of the water, and no one cared to tell him he could breathe underwater?

"Some types of dragons can breathe underwater," Sparx buzzed (from the safety of a bubble he created for himself with the beats of his wings), noting Spyro's look of confusion. "I just thought it was only for the water-breath dragons." Obviously, both dragon and dragonfly failed to see the logic in that; Spyro was CLEARLY a fire-breath dragon.

Spyro couldn't bring himself to speak under the water, but the look on his face said it all: How come every time we leave home, we find more stuff to ask Delbin?

Putting the water-mystery aside, Spyro turned attention back to his swimming coach, who was still struggling to propel through the water with her chunky hooves. Deciding to lend a hand, Spyro charged through the water until he was directly under her, then brushed his horns against her hands.

Elora paused for a second, not sure what Spyro was suggesting, but hesitantly took the golden horns in her hands. Once she had a grip, the dragon kicked off towards the castle, shooting up to the entryway where the water turned to dry land once more. The faun caught her breath once they broke the surface, while Spyro was kind enough to swim her over to the base of the spiral stairs.

"...Thanks for the help. I'm not a great swimmer."

"Don't worry. Neither am I."

oo00oo00oo

After a long day of orb-finding, riptoc-charging, Hunter-teasing and Moneybags-harassing, the ever-present sun had finally fallen, sending the Summer Forest into a warm, rippling night. With all of the creatures laying down for bed, the forest took on a peaceful quiet, with the only ambiance provided by the rustling of leaves in the breeze and the bubbling of the Glimmer stream.

Before turning in for the night, Elora decided to meet Spyro down in the forest beyond Rainbow Bridge, back by the Glimmer portal where they had officially first met.

"Thanks again for all of the help, Spyro," Elora said for the hundredth time that day. Guilt still tore at her little faun heart, knowing that she was delaying the dragon from a vacation, made only worse by the fact that talismans and orbs were all over the place, keeping Spyro from leaving as quickly as he wanted.

"Elora, for the last time, it's fine," Spyro laughed. "If you say thanks or apologize one more time, I'll change my mind and go home."

"Sorry."

"Elora!"

"Sorry!" Not knowing how to escape the cycle, the fast friends merely laughed it away (mostly at Elora's obvious embarrassment).

After silence returned between them, Elora looked around, trying to figure out what had brought Spyro back to Glimmer's side of Summer Forest in the first place. She got her answer when the young dragon hopped over the brook, pawing at the dewy grass under one of the trees before circling once and laying down. "You alright, Spyro?"

"Yep," the Artisan answered with a yawn and a stretch. He wrapped his legs with his tail and sat his head on his paws, and Sparx quickly settled down between his dragon's horns. "I could get comfy here."

"...You sure you want to sleep outside? You can stay inside of the bridgeway with me and Hunter."

"Nah. This feels more like home. I'm right out here if you guys need me."

She bit back a smile. She was never going to understand dragons. Still, he did look pretty comfortable. "Alright, if you're sure. G'night!"

She made her way back inside the Rainbow Bridge arches (since her and Hunter's usual home of the Summer Castle was occupied by Ripto), passing her cheetah companion, who was perched on one of the several outcrops leading to the Rainbow Waterfall.

"Do you need anything, Spyro?" Hunter cooed, imitating Elora's voice in the most obnoxious way, batting his eyes and making silly kissy faces. "Can I get you something, Spyro? Come sleep inside with us, Spyro! Oh, thanks for everything, Spyro!"

Elora grabbed a rock, skillfully throwing it at the corner of Hunter's head. "Shut up!"

"Oh, come on, Elora," Hunter tsked, rubbing the pain of the injury away before re-curling up on his outcropping. "You've got a thing for the dragon, don't you?"

"I do not! I'm just trying to be NICE to the guy who's helping us save Summer Forest. UNLIKE YOU."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever, lover-girl."

Elora scoffed before settling in for bed herself by the waterfall. She wasn't being weird, right? She was just being a good host, right? She and Spyro would never work out, right?

...Though he was pretty cute.


Oh, you all knew it was coming. XD Ready to start tackling Summer Forest? Then join us next time, here on Legacy!

§ Tucker's Mayflower, signing off! §