Something in my expression seemed to make Kaboa sag. "Trust, little one."

"Trust what?" It started as a sick laugh in my chest, but all that my torn body could manage was a cough. Why? Why did she have to ask this of me? I was shattered and empty. "You left. Yu all left." I gritted my teeth as a sob bubbled from my chest, air hissing between my teeth. "I needed you and you l-left me alone w-with that thing inside me."

It wasn't even an accusation. It wasn't their fault. Not at all. None of them could have changed what had happened. The world had found a way to tear away everyone I cared about when I needed them—left them unable to help until I'd already fallen.

And now I was broken and empty and useless. They couldn't help me, and I couldn't help myself.

"Oh, little one."

I wanted to cast my head aside from her pity, but I could barely find the strength to keep my eyes open, let alone turn my head.

"Your friends will learn from the past." She stretched her legs forward to lift me to my feet. When had I collapsed to my belly again? I hadn't even noticed it. I fought not to flinch from the paws that hummed with magic, however different it was from the claws that had ravaged through my mind. "And you will learn from the past. But for now you must trust yourself. There's magic left in you, little cinder. Find it."

What magic?

"I'm empty." I murmured. "All ripped apart. There's nothing left."

"You're wrong. You are magic, Cynder. Your bravery is magic. Your willpower is magic." One paw cushioned my chin to lift it. "A dragon's magic is a dragon's spirit, and your spirit is not lost yet, little warrior. Search and you will find it. Always."

What point was left in arguing? I had to try, didn't I? Even though I was just a useless shell, the magic that was my spirit and soul tattered. Still I dove into myself, searching, even if I didn't know how it could help us.

And I found it. Foreign and strange, dragon time still simmered in my bones. I poked at it feebly and the blue force that drowned the world around us shivered. I'd never had to search for it before, my will had always dragged it out. And so I'd never realized the sheer flood of power that lived in that magic, ancient and domineering. It terrified me.

"What will it do?" I flinched. Had Malefor made me afraid of my own magic too, now? Could it tear me apart again?

"It can protect you if you let it." Kaboa's promise did little to lay my demons to rest. "Do you think you can release it?"

That would be easy enough. "My problem would be reining it in, not releasing it." I shuddered at the thought of the unknown power ripping out of me. "I don't think I can stop it…" I shuddered. "Or make it protect my friends too. I'm not going to live through this alone; I won't."

"You're not meant to stop it, Cynder. Your magic is you, just as you are it. It will do what it must and it would never hurt your companions—not so long as you want them protected."

"It would have hurt everyone if it got the chance." I shut my eyes against the memory—dark energy coursing through me, ripping me apart with the world to follow.

"And that's The Dark Master's Spirit." I shuddered at the reminder that his soul really had been inside me. "Remember it so you can resist him in the future. But dragon time is yours, Cynder. Have faith in it."

"What will it do?" I whispered again. If Kaboa was avoiding the question, the answer would probably burn up every scrap of resolve I had left.

She sighed, a cloud of shadow hissing between her teeth. "It will save you, Cynder. If that's not enough, it will save Spyro and Sparx. Don't fret the consequences; those are for the future."

I stared at her dully, because the future felt awfully imminent to me, but even I knew it wasn't the time to argue further. Maybe she was right, maybe she wasn't. It was better not to do nothing. I didn't want my brother or my friend to die.

If it weren't for them, I wouldn't have had the strength to try.

When had I become more afraid to live than I was to die?

"Okay," I muttered, though it was mostly for myself as I limped back to my friends. "Okay."

I studied the terror in Spyro's face before turning to Sparx. Though I could see his fear, there was also love, even relief. He was just as happy to see me as I was to see him.

I wanted a life with him in it. With them both. With Myst and the Guardians, too. If we died here, Myst would be left wondering forever.

"I will make it back to you," I chanted to myself, as, finally, determination rekindled in my chest. "And I won't leave you without a goodbye ever again."

Clutching onto that little torch like a lifeline, I glanced back to Kaboa. "Let your dragon time go."

My tone didn't invite a farewell. I still didn't know if I liked her and we both knew it. She would never be my mom; that was Nina. Forever and always.

I turned my gaze back to Sparx so I didn't see how it hurt her. I didn't want to see her pain and know it was my fault. I didn't want to hurt anyone anymore. The anger had left, my arrogance with it. I hoped that wasn't forever; I didn't know what else I could fight with.

The howl and shriek of collapsing stone returned. Sparx stuttered in his flight, blinking and twisting around in confusion at his change of position. I could see the moment he calmed and decided it was dragon time messing with him again, and he flashed to me in an instant. Spyro was barely a moment behind as he looked at me with hopeless eyes.

"I've got this," I said tiredly. "Get close to me." I didn't want the magic to miss them.

Spyro huddled to me as I shivered with nerves. Sparx saw my fear and rushed to bury his face against my cheek and lay his hands on my shoulder. It calmed me, but some part of me knew all the same why he did it; Sparx always had trouble trusting in magic.

I could all but hear his thoughts. 'If I'm going to die, I'm dying here. With you.'

Spyro bit at the bottom of his muzzle as he looked at Sparx. Maybe it was the tatters of my spirit shivering outside my body and brushing them, but I could understand his grim expression as well. If giving me comfort was our best hope—a hope for survival—then there were worse ways to spend his last moments. He never wanted to be left alone as the General had been.

He wanted to live.

He grasped one of my paws with his and rested the other on my shoulder. I could feel energy from both of them shift and hover at the edges of the empty void that was me.

I wanted them to live.

My wings both stretched to curl around them as I grabbed at the energy in my bones and pulled.

It felt like every one of my scales cracked from the force of it. I could feel it dragging up, forcing us into the air. All three of us shuddered at the feel of it coursing around us. The air was steeped in azure, and then garnet.

Something inside the magic snapped.

And then I couldn't move. I was drowning in dragon time. The power that usually stopped at my scales soaked into me. I wanted to scream—I wanted to call Kaboa a liar. I could feel my companions, the only thing that could move around me, shudder and shake with me at the sensation.

Trapped! My instincts screamed at me as my own power seeped back into my bones and froze them. Trapped all over again!

But there was nothing I could do, just tighten the paws I had curled around Sparx and Spyro to show them I was sorry.

And then feel as the world faded further and further away.