Badda bing badda boom – I am on schedule again at last! Nice! Hehe. Just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who's reading and reviewing both of these stories and your reviews are spurring me on more than ever. Anyway, this is another mostly action-less chapter but it is important nonetheless and sets a large storyline for the future in motion. I hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Hehehehehe.

To Be a King

Chapter 23:- The Withered Heath

Dracomon shivered.

He had every right to as well. Spending one night in a freezing cold mountain landscape was difficult enough. Spending two nights in a freezing cold mountain landscape was much harder to cope with, even for a little dragon like him. Everywhere he looked there was snow, snow and more snow, piled high up from the top to bottom of every rising peak and summit like a giant shroud of white dotted with the occasional grey lump of uncovered rock. And that had been pretty much all he had had to look at over the last day.

He shivered again. His own internal fire was beginning to run low and he was getting hungry. He hadn't had anything to eat in this bleak landscape since he'd got here. There wasn't exactly much on offer. There were no trees that gave berries or fruits or nuts anywhere. What he wouldn't give for a good DigiNoir tree right now. He could do with a boost of energy.

That internal fire of his had kept him relatively warm despite the cold conditions throughout his whole time here, but now it's effect was beginning to get a little negligible, so all he could really do at this point was shiver, so that was what he did.

He had spent the two nights that they had been here on a boulder that he diligently wiped the snow off before he had lain on it, and that had helped to an extent – he was sure that if he tried to curl up in the snow itself he would die of the cold at some point during the night. And yet both times when he had woken up there had been a fresh layer of thin snow covering both his boulder and him.

He wished he was stronger. More durable. Long ago he had come to terms with the fact that he was not a very powerful Digimon in terms of strength and battle prowess, not like Shoutmon or Greymon or the other members of his group of friends. But now in conditions like this he did wish that he were, for they would probably be handling the cold a lot better than he was right now.

Like his silent companion Cyberdramon was.

Dracomon looked up at him now as he wiped the snow from his body and breathed a clump of fire from his mouth into the snow in front of him in an attempt to warm himself up. Of the former members of Blue Flare, Cyberdramon was the one that Dracomon knew the least about. He was probably the one that all the others knew least about, and after spending this extended period of time in his company, Dracomon could easily understand why.

Cyberdamon barely reacted to anything. Dracomon had never before seen him eat – he could not tell if Cyberdramon even could eat considering he had no visible facial features of any kind beyond his multiple round and totally light purple eyes. That face had absolutely no way of changing expression because of this and on top of that Cyberdramon's body language hardly ever changed, so Dracomon could never tell just by looking at him, like now, whether he was happy or angry or frustrated or sad or worried, or anything even remotely like that.

And the fact that Cyberdramon never said anything either didn't help very much in that respect. He barely even made noises unless he was in a battle situation, and most of those noises were usually growls.

Now, he just stood there above Dracomon, his two headed spear in one hand and held upright, one point buried in the snow and the other sticking straight up into the air. His posture was straight, his tail held aloft out behind him, his other arm at his side and his face staring out towards the horizon. He was in the exact same position that he had been in when Dracomon had nodded off the previous night. Had he budged an inch during that time? Did Cyberdramon even need sleep?

Dracomon wondered if he ever got bored with just standing there like he did. But somehow that didn't sound right.

Nevertheless, if you didn't count the time when every single member of the group had been DigiXrosed together to join with Shoutmon X7, Cyberdramon was the only Digimon that Dracomon had ever been DigiXrosed with. Dracomon had been a bit more preoccupied with fighting an army at the time to really take a look into Cyberdramon's heart, but now he wished he had. It would be nice to know a little more about Cyberdramon, but every time someone asked, they were met with a wall of silence and a blank stare, if that.

Though Dracomon was grateful for his company now. His presence was reassuring. Even though Cyberdramon took no active measures to comfort Dracomon, the way he stood like a sentry all the time, never wavering in his watch and never breaking his concentration, a complete mask of calm despite the fact they had been dumped in a strange environment with no friends to back them up, soothed Dracomon's nerves a little. If Cyberdramon had not been there, he probably would have started panicking by this point really.

Dracomon looked back down. The molten fire he had set in the snow was helping to warm him up some, but it wasn't really enough to satisfy him. Still, at least he was keeping the feeling in all his fingers and toes, even if it was still absolutely freezing around here.

"Um," he ventured, looking back up. "Morning Cyberdramon."

Cyberdramon said nothing, but did look down at him impassively.

"Have you been there all night like that?" Dracomon asked.

Cyberdramon said nothing.

"I'll… er… take that as a yes," Dracomon said, looking around at the snow around Cyberdramon and noticing the way it had settled on his shoulders and head and piled up around his feet with no extra depressions that indicated Cyberdramon had budged an inch. "So… shouldn't we get going? Maybe today we'll have better luck and actually be able to find someone."

Cyberdramon said nothing. Instead, he wordlessly knelt down and reached out with one bulky armoured hand, the fingers coming out of it all nothing but long sickle-like claws. Dracomon looked at them uneasily.

Yesterday, Dracomon had initially tried walking through the thick snow drifts himself, forcing himself on through the mountainous landscapes and trying to put some distance between them and the place that they had landed in. Cyberdramon had helped sometimes, shovelling snow out of the way with his spear to give Dracomon an easier time of it, but after a time it had become apparent that Dracomon was making little headway and to top it off the snow was absolutely freezing.

That had been when Cyberdramon had wordlessly reached down and grabbed him in his long claws in his other hand and then leapt into the air, flying through the high winds that produced whistling noises as they passed through the holes in his wings, and carrying Dracomon with him.

Why Dracomon had not thought of this before he didn't know, and cursed himself for an idiot who wasn't thinking properly in the face of this crisis. Perhaps Cyberdramon had been thinking that going by air was the better option all along, but had simply not said anything because… that was what he did.

They had made much more progress after that but they still had yet to find anything that looked even remotely like a change in landscape or their friends.

Perhaps today would bring better fortune.

This time, Dracomon stepped carefully into Cyberdramon large hand, sitting in it as comfortably as he could manage considering the sharp claws which stuck up all around him like some kind of cage. He was small enough to fit quite easily into Cyberdramon's hand as long as feet and tail dangled over the edge and he carefully gripped a couple of the claws to try and make sure he could stay balanced there as Cyberdramon stood back up and, wordlessly, launched himself into the air, turning in the wind and carrying on in the same direction they had been travelling in yesterday.

They knew this direction to be east from the faint light of the Sun that could be seen rising upwards, but the snow and the clouds around them meant that while there was plenty of sunlight, it was difficult to work out where it was coming from.

And so, onwards Cyberdramon flew into the morning, with his little passenger resting in one hand.

As they flew, Dracomon felt his mind wandering backwards a little. Back to the first moments when they had realised that he had realised that he had unexplainably landed in a strange place and Cyberdramon had flown in to land beside him. He remembered the boulder-shattering roar that had echoed through the mountains shortly after that, as well as the distant shape in the sky that they had seen flying overhead, colossal wingbeats fluctuating the air so much they could practically feel it even on the ground.

He was remembering the Dragon that they had seen on their first day here.

The Dragon that was not a Digimon – that fact they had been able to sense.

The Dragon that was, in fact, a dragon-Dragon.

He remembered something that Kiriha had told him once during some of the brief periods of downtime they'd had against the Bagra Army after the two of them had met up. According to him, in their world, Dragons that were not Digimon were mythical creatures that a lot of people didn't believe to be real. Although there were people out there that did believe Dragons existed, the ones that didn't were convinced that they were made up many years ago, possibly by people recounting an adventure or something and making up this fearsome creature to make it sound like they did something heroic.

Dracomon sometimes wondered if the Digital World had had any influence on this. After all, the Digital World had existed a lot longer than the Human World had, so it was possible that any dragon that had been in the Human World was in fact a Dragon Digimon that had somehow fallen across the barrier in ancient human times, although since apparently stories of Dragons existed long before humans started gaining Digital technology that narrowed the boundary between the worlds Dracomon doubted the validity of that theory.

But now everything had been turned on its head. He had seen what could only be some kind of Dragon in the distance. One that had definitely not been a Digimon. Unless there was another giant winged reptile that Dracomon had never heard of before, which admittedly was a possibility, there was the creature that the other humans had long believed to be a myth.

Dracomon really didn't know what to make of this. Until Kiriha came along he'd never even heard of a Dragon that wasn't a Digimon, but was known by the name of Dragon only.

And now it seemed that he had seen one.

That said, despite the fact they had been going for some time now, Dracomon had seen or heard not further signs of that Dragon, or indeed any other Dragons in the area. He had been hoping that he might run into it again – maybe he could ask it a few questions or something about where they were.

But so far, nothing.

So they just kept moving on through the mountains, battling the elements as best they could. Dracomon curled himself up in Cyberdramon's hand as much as possible, while if Cyberdramon himself was at all effected by the cold he didn't show in any way. Not even an occasional shiver. He was apathetic to it as he was to everything else, apparently.

"Maybe we should try heading in another direction!" Dracomon suggested after an hour or so of steady flying. "See if we can find anything else."

Cyberdramon didn't respond, and Dracomon wondered whether he had even heard what he had just said. He shook himself, and looked down at the continuous carpet of snow beneath them, wondering if things would get better any time soon.

Then, something registered in the corner of his eye and he turned his head. He blinked and then patted Cyberdramon's hand quickly with his own. "Hey, hey! Look down there! There's smoke coming from down there. Can you smell it?"

This time Cyberdramon reacted and drew to a halt, hovering in the air without any physical effort and looking down in the direction Dracomon was indicating. And he was right. Down below was a thin plume of smoke rising slowly into the air. And it appeared to be originating from a large opening in the side of the mountain below, which they might have missed if the smoke had not been present. A cave of some kind… and a big one too.

"If there's smoke coming from a cave then that's got to mean that there's something inside it," Dracomon pointed out. "Maybe some people with a campfire or… or maybe… something else. Do you think we should check it out?"

Cyberdramon answered by descending in the direction of the smoke automatically, Dracomon gripping tightly as he dared to the sharp claws as they moved downwards. As they drew closer they could see just how cavernous the hole in the mountainside was – it was huge. If there had been a second Cyberdramon standing on the shoulders of the first, it would probably still have been able to fit through the gap, and Cyberdramon was already incredibly tall. Cyberdramon was one of the largest single Digimon in the entire group, only exceeded in size by Deckerdramon – Kiriha had not even come up to his knee and Dracomon was barely taller than his ankle.

Cyberdramon landed in front of the cavernous mouth with only a light thud in the snow, bending down automatically to allow Dracomon to hop off his hand and land on the ground, the cold forgotten as he stared up at the ginormous jagged entrance to the cave. The entrance was almost as wide as it was tall and the smoke billowing slowly out of it was doing so in a thin but continuous stream.

And now that they had landed, Dracomon could hear a slow but distinct sound emanating from within.

It was a low, thrumming and rumbling sound that was reminiscent of something very large breathing in and out slowly.

"Um," Dracomon muttered, looking up to Cyberdramon for guidance. "What should we do now?"

Cyberdramon looked down at him blankly, and it was at times like this that Dracomon sometimes wondered if Cyberdramon even spoke the same language as the rest of the group, though he was pretty sure he did, whenever he actually did speak.

But it seemed obvious that Cyberdramon was not planning on doing anything, so Dracomon cleared his throat and nervously called out, "Hello?" into the cavern.

Other than the slight echoes that were caused by his shout there was no change in anything. The heavy breathing continued at its own pace and Dracomon saw no movement coming from within. Dracomon hesitated, wondering if he should go inside, but then decided against it and tried again, calling out "Hello!" louder this time.

The breathing noise faltered for a moment, and Dracomon heard a snort come from the darkness, followed by a low rumbling sound which was loud enough to shake a few bits of rock loose from the walls of the cave entrance and cause some snow hanging from above to collapse downwards and almost bury Dracomon beneath it.

"Er…" Dracomon said. "Sorry to disturb you, whoever's in there but… um… we're lost and… would you be able to help us?"

The breathing sound had stopped by now, and Dracomon was met with dead silence for a couple of seconds. Then there was the sound of heavy sniffing, as if something very, very large was catching their scent in its nostrils. Dracomon swallowed slightly, drawing closer to Cyberdramon almost instinctively.

And then a voice, a booming voice that almost made Dracomon stepped backwards gain, emanated from within the cave.

"Peculiar," the voice said. "What a very peculiar scent indeed. Your smell is that of a young drake, but at the same time, of something new. Something I have never scented before. How very curious."

"Thank you," Dracomon said, because he wasn't sure what else he should say at this point.

"Strangers, you are," the voice went on, and Dracomon saw something shift in the darkness – something big. "Newcomers to this realm. You are the same, and yet not the same, as I. How very puzzling. But I do enjoy a good puzzle. I believe this may merit further investigation."

"Look, sorry if we disturbed you," Dracomon tried again, right at the point a fierce orange glow appeared within the cave and suddenly a huge gout of flame surged out of the darkness towards them. Dracomon yelled and covered himself and Cyberdramon acted in the blink of an eye, slamming his enormous foot in front of Dracomon like a shield and holding his spear diagonally before him, growling sharply as the flame washed over him and split around him, the tongues blazing angrily over him like a miniature inferno. Dracomon yelled as he flattened himself into the snow, covering his head. He might be a dragon but fire such as this would still be painful even to him.

Moments after it began the flame died away, leaving Cyberdramon still standing, blackened and slightly charred but otherwise none the worse for wear, protected from harm by his thick armour. He snarled and the voice from within the cave chuckled.

"Amusing," he said. "Yes, you are definitely Dragon kin, but bizarre in the extreme. Let's have a good look at you then, shall we?"

As Dracomon peered around Cyberdramon's legs he gasped at the shape which emerged out of the darkness, forcing Cyberdramon to step back to allow it some space. It was definitely a Dragon and it was big. Taller even than Cyberdramon and with a body as bulky as Deckerdramon's it emerged from the darkness like a giant shadow. It was covered in thick copper scales that ran across near its entire length. Its head was long and pointed, with a thick snout and long jaw, slightly open to reveal row upon row of blade-like teeth, and it eyes were pure golden, fixed on Cyberdramon with unwavering focus. Each leg it placed on the ground was as thick as a tree-trunk and adorned with several enormous claws. Huge spikes jutted out from the back of its head and ran down its armoured back and sprouting from either shoulder were a pair of enormous wings that unfolded and stretched outwards, showing their bat-like structure and spreading out so far that the tips could have easily touched either side of the cave entrance.

And it was not even completely out of the cave yet.

Dracomon quivered slightly as he stared around Cyberdramon's thick leg at the huge Dragon. If he would have to guesstimate he would say that this guy was as large as the Fanglongmon that had been a servant of Dorbickmon back in the time the Bagra Army ruled, and that guy had been very large indeed.

And the heat! Dracomon could feel an intense heat emanating from the body of the Dragon like an ever-present aura, while steam occasionally puffed out of its nostrils as if there was a boiling cauldron of lava inside its stomach that was constantly threatening to spill over.

Dracomon was in awe. And at the same time, he was afraid. He had not felt anything like this since he had last stood in the presence of the mighty Death General Dorbickmon or his trusted lieutenant Fanglongmon. Dorbickmon had always scared the hell out of little Dracomon, for he had always known that if Dorbickmon decided that he was expendable then there was absolutely nothing he could do to prevent him from crushing the life out of him in an instant flat.

And this new Dragon reminded him so much of the old dragons that used to be rulers of his homeland that Dracomon felt himself trembling a little bit. And this time not with the cold, for the heat that the dragons was giving off was already melting the snow all around them as if someone had set it to fast-motion.

The Dragon itself was eyeballing Cyberdramon, head cocked to the side almost comically, but Dracomon was not laughing. It's golden eye were like headlights, glowing out of its head and Dracomon could swear he saw a faint orange light reflecting off Cyberdramon's armour anywhere the Dragon looked.

"Interesting," it said, revealing the glinting sword-like teeth in his mouth with most every syllable he spoke. "And what might you be? You are no Dragon, and yet you have the smell and some slight resemblance to our kind. How very intriguing. Has someone decided to attempt creating some kind of mockery of my race? Such a notion is… displeasing to me."

Cyberdramon just growled, pulling his spear closer to him and his face not changing in the slightest, his eyes not even narrowing. Could Cyberdramon's eyes narrow? It was a mystery.

"Oh do please regale me with some form of reply," the Dragon snorted, blowing steam from his nose into Cyberdramon's unflinching face. "Otherwise I may have to assume to worst straight away. And I would be so disappointed to have to destroy you before I could find out more."

Cyberdramon tensed his muscles, his tail lashing towards the ground in preparation for an incoming attack. Dracomon could see that things were not going well and he honestly would not be able to predict who would win if these two were to clash in a full-on confrontation.

He swallowed. He remembered what Shoutmon had once said about him, how he had a stronger heart that most because of how he had resisted Dorbickmon even though he had no chance of winning against him and that allowed him to pluck his courage back up and step around Cyberdramon's foot and say, "Um… he doesn't really speak. Please don't hold it against him. Sometimes he can be a bit of a mystery even to his friends. Often actually."

The Dragon's head tilted downwards and Dracomon felt himself involuntarily freezing up as the glowing orbs fixed on him. He felt exactly like a deer caught in the headlights.

"Is that so?" the Dragon said. "And do you speak for him, small one?"

"Well… not normally," Dracomon said. "But since there's nobody else here then… I suppose I should."

"You are the young drake that I smelled before, and the one that hailed me," the Dragon noted. "That is somewhat a relief – the voice that I heard would have been odd indeed had it belonged to your companion."

"Well… that's alright. Sorry we disturbed you. But… why did you breathe fire at us? We only wanted to talk."

The Dragon chuckled. "The number of times that young drakes such as yourselves have come to my cave wishing to steal the fortune that I have amassed over the years has taught me to greet all unexpected visitors with a warning shot. Yet you refused to back down, and thus my interest was peaked."

"Fortune?" Dracomon asked. "You mean treasure?"

"You sound interested," the Dragon said warningly.

"Oh no, not at all. Not at all," Dracomon said quickly. "I just… never mind… erm…" he struggled to find the words, but the gaze of the Dragon on him was riveting and he felt himself struggling under their piercing intensity.

"You amuse me," the Dragon said. "You too are different to all that I know. Never have I seen a young drake such as yourself, with your oddly shaped head projections and your two-legged stance. Neither have I seen any like your older companion. Come now, tell me of yourselves. Who comes to pay a visit to Chrysophylax?"

"Is that your name?" Dracomon asked.

"Can you not figure that out for yourself?" the Dragon asked. "You can be slow on the uptake it seems."

"Sorry," Dracomon said. "Erm… I'm Dracomon and this is Cyberdramon."

"Interesting titles," Chrysophylax mused. "But they are names that mean little to me. Tell me more."

"Well… I can promise you that we are dragons," Dracomon burbled quickly. "The both of us. It's just that we're also called Digimon and… I don't think that we're from around here. I don't exactly how we got here but we found ourselves in the mountains around here somehow and we've been wandering for two nights in search of someone who can tell us what's going on and where we are."

Chrysophylax stood imperious and aloof, staring down at Dracomon silently, and Dracomon felt himself continuing to talk even though he knew that he should probably shut up by this point.

"I think that we might come from an entirely different universe, but I'm not sure how we got here in this one if we did. In our universe there are lots of dragons, you see, but all of those dragons are also Digimon. You're the first Dragon that I've ever met who isn't a Digimon. In fact the King where I come from is a Dragon Digimon as well and we're both part of his army, but we've been separated from him and we don't know where he or any of the others are now or if they're in this universe or anything like that and… and…"

He trailed off, feeling embarrassed that he'd just waffled out everything like that while the Dragon had just stared at him, as if it had been using some kind of strange magic to coax the words out of him without even trying.

"Interesting," Chrysophylax said when it was clear Dracomon had finished his speech. "Those are some fanciful claims of yours, young Dracomon. And most of which make very little sense at all. Yet you do smell of Dragon, and your claim to be a Dragon of another species does make some form of sense, for you also smell of something else that I do not recognise. But to claim you are from another universe. That is a capricious assertion. Certainly one that no visitor or prey of mine has ever attempted to give before."

"Well, it's true," Dracomon said, a bit feebly.

"Perhaps. But I find the idea improbable. Tell me more about this other world from which you come. You claim that it is ruled by one of your kind of Dragons. That has surely caught my attention."

"Well yes, his name is Shoutmon. King Shoutmon, and he's a just and fair ruler to all inhabitants of the Digital World where we come from…"

Chrysophylax suddenly laughed out loud, an overwhelming cacophonous rumbling roar of a laugh that forced Dracomon to place his claws over his ears and shook more snow loose from the mountain above them, which fell in streams onto the Great Dragons back, though he ignored it.

"A just and fair Dragon ruler!" Chrysophylax bellowed with mirth. "Oh, if you were any ordinary looking drake making such claims then I would know that you are lying. How thoroughly droll."

"What do you mean?" Dracomon asked, a little miffed but mostly confused.

"I almost believe your word now," the Dragon stopped laughing with what appeared to be some effort. "You clearly know little of me or my kind if such a thing puzzles you. That or you are hopelessly naïve."

"I don't really follow," Dracomon muttered.

"Well, O Dracomon of the other universe," Chrysophylax chuckled. "It would appear that you have much to learn. And you fascinate me. I think that I will not eat you. It may be much more entertaining to keep you around just to hear more of your absurd tales and words. Aye, that is what I will do. And what of your larger friend, Cyberdramon was it not? Have you nothing to add to the discussion?"

Cyberdramon growled a little, but still said nothing, resulting in more chuckling from Chrysophylax.

"Seems like you were right again. No Dragon of this world would allow such a puny looking specimen of a drake to do all his talking for him."

"Puny?" Dracomon repeated, feeling a little hurt but not necessarily surprised. He was feeling a little uncomfortable with this current conversation, and that feeling was increasing a little more as time went on.

Chrysophylax snorted another breath of steam, eliciting another slight growl from Cyberdramon as it wafted into his face, but then said, "You are both perplexities. But I find you entertaining ones nonetheless. Perhaps I should introduce you to the others of my brethren. Yes indeed, some of them might be quite interested to meet you in turn."

"The rest of your brethren?" Dracomon asked. "So there are more Dragons around here?"

"There are more Dragons in these parts than you are likely to find in any other part of this world," Chrysophylax replied. "It is not often that I go and socialise with others of my kind but I believe that your presence calls for it. Yes, do say you will come with me. I would love to show you off to the others and see if they come to the same conclusion as I when they hear you tale of preposterousness."

"You don't need to make it sound like that," Dracomon muttered, a little offended.

Chrysophylax chuckled. "Well, I will say this for you – you must have some guts in that little body if you would speak out against an adult Fire-drake such as myself in that manner. Or perhaps you would feel a little less comfortable outside the shadow of your hulking, silent bodyguard. Well, regardless, I feel like doing a little flying, and if you wish to remain lost in these mountains, I suggest you follow me. There are others out there who are, less open to a good story than I."

He stepped further out of the cave, spreading is wings out again and forcing Cyberdramon to step backwards to get out of his way. His huge tail snaked out of the darkness of the cave behind him as he stretched to his full wingspan, his copper scales gleaming healthily in the faint light. And without another word he sprang off the ledge in front of his cave in the mountainside, throwing his wings down to haul his enormous body into the air.

Dracomon stared after him, watching as he blew a long stream of fire from his jaws and then flew through it, adding a slight layer of ash to his face and shoulders as he flew onwards. He turned up to look at Cyberdramon as if hoping for some kind of guidance, but there was nothing forthcoming as usual.

"I… guess we should follow him," Dracomon said, after a moment. "We don't really have a lot of options besides that at the moment. Not ones I like the sound of anyway."

Cyberdramon grunted in acknowledgement, scooping Dracomon up between his claws again and springing into the air, spear gripped tightly in one hand as he flew after Chrysophylax. The mighty dragon, larger than Cyberdramon by a fair amount in the air, looked back at him, allowing the dragon Digimon to catch up.

"You get stranger with everything I know about you," he said over the thrum of his own wingbeats, which were so jarring from below that Dracomon felt that all his teeth were coming loose under their impact. "You do not even flap your wings to get yourself aloft and yet you fly with seemingly no effort. I am half convinced now that you are some kind of magical illusion on my eyes."

"No, we're quite real," Dracomon said.

Chrysophylax chuckled. "Oh, I'm sure. I'm going to have great fun learning more about you."

The Dragon led the way, with Cyberdramon following on behind him, still heading east but taking a more southerly direction than the two Digimon had initially been going in. Dracomon kept a wary eye on Chrysophylax. He wasn't sure if he trusted the big dragon yet or not, he seemed to switch between having a friendly tone and being rather menacing, and Dracomon couldn't put a number on which one he really was.

The flight after that was not a very long one – it only took about twenty minutes to reach their destination, or at least the destination that Chrysophylax had had in mind when he left. If Dracomon and Cyberdramon had continued on their previous course they would probably have bypassed it completely, but when Dracomon saw it he could not help but gasp.

They were flying high enough to match the peaks of some of the tallest mountains in the long chain, but suddenly before them there was no one mountain chain, but two. The mountain chain split in half like a giant glacier running down two separate routes, with one line of mountains moving out northwards and continuing east, while the other one moved out southwards and then also continued east, creating a single enormous valley right between the two mountain chains.

"I bid you, strange Dragon Digimon, welcome," snorted Chrysophylax. "To the breeding ground of Middle Earth's Dragons, nestled between the two branches of the Grey Mountains. According to most of Middle Earth's maps this place is known as the Withered Heath, and if you're looking for Dragons, this is where you need to be."

And he was right. Dracomon could see a large number of Dragons down there, some large winged ones flapping their way through the sky, while others dotted the landscape at various points. As Chrysophylax flew down and the two Digimon followed, they could make out more details of the inhabitants of the Heath.

There were a couple of very large winged Dragons slamming into one another in mid-air and breathing fire at one another in an enormous clash of the titans, slamming their tails into one another and exhaling flames from their gaping maws down one another's throats. There were other winged dragons reclined on piles of boulders and stepping across the snowy landscape, some of blowing some kind of mist or smoke from out of their nose.

Some of the Dragons there didn't have wings, though that seemed to be some of the only different features they had in comparison to those with wings – they were still just as large and impressive in every other detail.

And Dracomon was convinced that at one point he saw something that seemed to be a dragon with neither legs nor wings, but before he could get a better look at it, it was gone from sight, possibly disappearing beneath the ground.

But nestled on piles of boulders in various locations were some Dragons that were standing protectively over what appeared to be clutches of Eggs – mother dragons that would glare fiercely at anyone who even got close to them and would occasionally lower their heads to breath fire over their brood as if this was helpful to them, which it probably was.

And finally, there were the little dragons – the ones that Dracomon assumed were the 'young drakes' that Chrysophylax kept mentioning before. Whereas many of the other dragons, winged and wingless, came with a variety of colours, most of these drakes were a similar colour of flaming orange and none of them had wings, which meant they were all the offspring of a wingless Dragon or their wings would come out once they reached a certain age. They also didn't appear to have armoured scales, while all the adults did, so they too probably filled in later in life and took on the various different colours that the other Dragons possessed.

Chrysophylax announced his presence with a roar, and a number of the Dragons turned to roar back at him, the sound reverberating around the Heath like a concussive blast and almost threw Dracomon for a loop. But when the other Dragons looked up and saw the two Digimon that were flying along beside Chrysophylax, they stopped whatever it was they had been doing and paid more attention – even the two fighting Dragons ceased their activity and moved in closer for a better view.

Now Dracomon was much more afraid. Under the scrutiny of so many Dragons made him feel once again like the helpless little Digimon he had been back when he had tried resisting Dorbickmon's will. Back then he had been resisting Dorbickmon's regime of hurting the other local Digimon and it had taken him some time to work up the courage to openly do this. Now he was a strange in their turf, and for some reason that was almost scarier.

Cyberdramon growled lightly, which might have been his way of attempting to reassure Dracomon, but even if it wasn't it did work that way somewhat. Dracomon was glad that Cyberdramon was here, but he did not know how much Cyberdramon would be able to do if all these Dragons suddenly decided it was time for lunch.

Chrysophylax pulled in to land in the middle of the densest group of Dragons, and the other airborne Dragons followed his example. Chrysophylax was slightly bigger than most of the others and they seemed to hold a respect for him. But as Dracomon and Cyberdramon pulled in to land, the former couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. There were Dragons on all sides now, most of them the same size as Cyberdramon, some slightly smaller or slightly bigger, and all of them eyeing them warily and with interest.

"Look what I found," Chrysophylax chuckled, folding in his massive wings and addressing the assembled giant reptiles.

"What strange abominations are these?" said a nearby grey scaled Dragon. "What beings are these that dare to mock our shape?"

"Apparently they are Dragons indeed," Chrysophylax chuckled to the crowd, turning around so that he was also facing the two Digimon. "Or so they say. Or rather, so the little one says. The larger one has done nothing but growl ever since we began our exchange of words."

"That is nonsense, surely," a bronze Dragon growled. "No Dragon walks on two legs alone. Four or none, that is the way of our kind. Nor do we carry such weapons in our hands, nor do we have four wings. Nor such emaciated looking ones at that."

Cyberdramon growled at the speaker warningly and Chrysophylax laughed again. "Listen well to him, for that is the only thing that I have heard him say thus far."

"Um…" Dracomon piped up, feeling a little embarrassed at addressing such a throng while perched on Cyberdramon's hand. "Like I told him before, we really are Dragons. But well… I guess you could say we are a different kind of Dragon to all of you."

"So I can believe," Chrysophylax said. "Such wild and whimsical anecdotes they have to tell about themselves. I have not laughed so much in many years, I can tell you that."

"If you are Dragon of a different sort then what Dragon are you?" a Silver wingless Dragon stomped forwards and glared at them. "Are you a Fire-drake, such as I? Or are you a Cold-Drake instead."

"Um… what's the difference?" Dracomon asked meekly.

"They claim to be Dragons and yet they do not know the difference between us?" the Silver Dragon snorted. "They do not know that the Cold-Drake is the Dragon that does not breathe fire?"

"Um… well, if that's what the difference is then I suppose you could say that I am a Fire-Drake," Dracomon volunteered. "And he is a Cold-Drake," he nodded to Cyberdramon. "He doesn't breathe fire but I do."

"You have heard little of what they have to say yet," Chrysophylax assured the crowd. "I shall return momentarily. His lordship must hear of this."

"His lordship?" blinked Dracomon, but Chrysophylax made no further answer as he turned and made his way off, a couple of the other Dragons moving aside to let him through before they drew the circle closer around the two strangers. Cyberdramon snarled warningly as the drew closer, readying his spear for any potential attack, but Dracomon quickly patted his arm and hissed, "No, don't. They already don't trust us very much. If you act aggressive then they might take you up on a challenge."

Cyberdramon made no response, though he relaxed a little, but not by much. The Dragons around them had fallen silent, scrutinising the two of them – Dracomon noticed that every one of them had the same glowing golden eyes that Chrysophylax had and if he had felt like a deer in the headlights under the gaze of one Dragon, now he felt like a criminal with the lights of many helicopters shining on him from above.

"Put me down," he said, feeling as if they were judging him for sitting on his companion. Wordlessly, Cyberdramon knelt down and allowed him to hop onto the ground. There was considerably less snow here than there had been in the mountains and Dracomon instead placed his feet onto hard, ash-covered ground.

The Dragons still said nothing more to either of them as Cyberdramon straightened up again, and now Dracomon was getting a little edgy. It was as if they were waiting for something. Or perhaps each of them were trying to figure them out wordlessly on their own. In reality it was a mix of both. Dragons loved puzzles and mysteries and they could happily spend hours, even days, trying to riddle something out. And right now the presence of these two Dragons that were not Dragons but still claimed to be Dragons was as puzzling as anything.

That was when Dracomon saw several of the smaller Dragons – the young Drakes, approaching him from around the legs of the adults. He had to force himself not to take an alarmed step backwards at the sight of them. They came in varying heights, but they were all larger than Dracomon himself. The smallest of them was probably twice as tall as him. The largest of them was probably twice as big as someone like Dorulumon.

Dracomon shifted from foot to foot as the Drakes approached him. While the adult Dragons continued their silent vigil, the smaller ones evidently had no trouble speaking their mind.

"This guy is tiny, isn't he?" one of the larger ones laughed. "It's like some sort of stunted runt or something like that. And yet it calls itself a fire Drake. It's almost funny. Scratch that, it is funny."

"I don't think I've ever seen such a little dragon," snorted another one. "Even hatchlings that broke out of their shells a mere few hours previously are larger than this one."

"I wonder how big he'll be when he's fully grown," another sniggered. "Probably about the size of the biggest of us right now. If that. It's laughable that such a tiny Dragon could even exist."

"We still don't really know if it is a Dragon," the first one stated. "For all we know this could be some mere lizard that we've never come across before lying that it's a Dragon to spare itself from being eaten."

"Hah! Eaten? One chomp and that guy would be gone and wouldn't even make a proper mouthful to a real Dragon."

The words stung Dracomon a little bit, though he was used to taunts like this. Dorbickmon's forces had had nothing but contempt for him even when he had run with their forces – every one of them had been bigger than him back then. By quite some distance. A greater distance than any of these Drakes in most cases.

But Dracomon tried to put on a more determined face and said, "I may be little, and not very powerful, but my heart is strong. I am a member of Xros Heart after all. It's not all about brute force with us. I have my own strength."

"Ooh, listen to him," the first Drake laughed. "He's got a big opinion of himself despite his diminutive stature. He's bolder than he looks."

"It'll take more than a few fancy phrases from a tiny two-legged lizard to convince us," another Drake said.

"Look at its back though, it does have wings already," another pointed out.

"Yeah, tiny, undersized wings," countered another. "I would be surprised if they were even capable of lifting it off the ground. But if it does have wings and we don't, does that mean that it's already a fully-developed Dragon. Any winged Dragon only gets their wings in adolescence after all."

There was a chorus of laughter from the taunting Drakes and Dracomon felt himself colouring a little.

"Say what you will," he said, trying to make himself heard over the chuckling. "But your words cannot hurt me. I have proven my strength in the past and if I need to then I will prove it again."

"Oh really?" one of the Drakes hissed, lowering its head and its tail lashing out behind it, it's crest of horns around its head making it look like some kind of strange dinosaur. "Then why don't you prove it right now, small fry?"

Dracomon yelped as it breathed a stream of fire from its jaws at him, rolling aside as the jet of flame washed right past. The Drake leapt at him straight afterwards and Dracomon desperately hurled himself to one side again as the creature's jaws snapped shut on the space where he had been a split second before.

"Come on, feeble one," the Drake crowed. "You don't seem to fight as bravely as you talk…"

A furious snarl rent the air above him and the Drake was blindsided by the flat of Cyberdramon's spear blade, slamming into him like a giant fly swatter and knocking him straight off his feet, flinging him bodily through the air to crash into another bunch of Drakes.

The Dragons around them, who had been watching the exchange between the smaller ones with amusement thus far, roared and rose up angrily at Cyberdramon's strike on one of their own, wings unfurling and spreading, necks coiling backwards, smoke billowing from their nostrils and tails lashing and slamming the ground like giant, monstrous bullwhips. Cyberdramon planted a foot on either side of Dracomon and held his spear ready in front of him, meeting the enraged Dragons head on with his usual expressionless mask.

"You dare strike our young!" the wingless Silver Dragon roared.

"He was going for me first!" Dracomon cried in a desperate attempt to placate the situation but it didn't seem his words were even heard. The Silver Dragon surged forwards like a giant lizard and reared up onto its own hind legs, preparing to clash with Cyberdramon directly.

"GLUTTON FANG!" Cyberdramon suddenly yelled, speaking for the first time that day. The Silver Dragon was not expecting Cyberdramon's blue ribs to suddenly extend out of his chest, three on either side and struck the Silver Dragon in the shoulders before it had fully reared up, throwing it backwards and off-balance and forcing it to twist around into order to land back on its feet.

The Dragons around them practically caused an earthquake with the mere sound of their furious roars and several of them started forwards, fire leaking from their jaws in many cases and steam escaping from the noses of the others. Dracomon cringed as about five winged dragons and seven wingless ones were now surrounding them and he had absolutely no idea if Cyberdramon could fight them all off.

"And now you dare strike against us," the silver one growled. "You have made a costly mistake, pseudo-dragons!" He added, starting forwards again.

Dracomon was about to make another desperate protestation when a terrific bellow rose over all the others and thundered through the noise of all the angry others like a blast from a cannon – a single yell of, "SILENCE!"

Utter quiet followed immediately afterwards, as the rage of the riled dragons dissipated almost instantly, replaced with a subservient silence. Several of them backed away from the two strangers and the young Drakes that had not already done so scampered back to cower between the legs of any adult that would allow them to.

Two wingless Dragons moved aside as another winged member of their brethren joined then, with Chrysophylax following close behind. Dracomon felt his breath catch slightly as he beheld this new individual. This Dragon was vast, easily the biggest Dragon of all of them present by a clear margin, rising head and shoulders above all of them. He was jet-black and his neck was short in comparison to some of the other dragons there, as well his snout being much more blunted and rounded, but his body was much bulkier and his eyes were the same golden as all the others.

Not to mention the fact that he was covered in armour. And not just in terms of scales, though he had those too – he was wearing actual armour, as if it had been made for him by someone. Several thick armour plates ran down his neck and the top of his tail each one ending in a large, thick spike that jutted upwards like the back of a seat. His head was also covered with a helmet that looked like it had been moulded to fit it, metal casing covering the back and top of his head and curving around his eyes, ending just short of his nostrils, and topped with a single jagged forward-facing spike that extended upwards like a horn. His shoulders and limbs were also encased in armour and it covered a significant portion of his belly as well. And to cap it off the tip of his tail was adorned with an enormous metal barb that made an already dangerous tail-sweep even more deadly.

The other Dragons were clearly showing this individual deference, lowering their heads respectfully and giving him a wide berth. Dracomon almost felt the urge to bow his head himself when faced full on with this guy but he managed to stop himself.

Cyberdramon stared impassively.

"Now then," the large black Dragon snorted a puff of smoke from his nostrils. "Would someone like to explain to me what is going on?"

Chrysophylax stepped up beside him, even at his tallest being at least six feet shorter than this black dragon. "These are the supposed new Dragons that came and landed outside my cave. I thought perhaps everyone else would be interested in meeting them, though it seems that first contact has not been all that friendly."

"So I saw," the black Dragon rumbled, his voice a constant growling backdrop that seemed to originate somewhere within his stomach and reverberated its entire way up his throat and out of his jaws. "And so I see now that these… things… are indeed akin to our kind but strangely different. How odd. How claim that they have a fascinating tale to tell about themselves, Chrysophylax?"

"Not only fascinating," Chrysophylax responded. "Strange beyond words can say."

"I see," the Black Dragon said, stepping forward further until he was at the edge of a ledge the stood over the two Digimon, putting him at an ever higher position over the both of them. He lowered himself down onto his armoured stomach, gripping the edge of the ledge with his front claws and lowering his head down to scrutinise them in much the same way the other Dragons had previously done.

"Well then," the black Dragon pulling its jaws back in a gesture that could potentially be called a smirk. "Fascinate me."

"Um… now?" Dracomon asked, after Cyberdramon remained silent.

The black Dragon snorted. "Eloquent, this one. And it seems that you were right and the big one does remain silent. Very well then. I do not normally lower myself to speak with young drakes, and this one is even smaller than most, but since you are apparently the one with the story, let us here it. Entertain us all with your spectacular and fantastic tales. I can hardly wait. It's been so long since I heard a decent new story."

"O…okay," Dracomon stammered, then added, "Oh great and powerful one," for good measure, which seemed to please the black Dragon. And then he outlined and repeated everything that he had previously told Chrysophylax. Everything about what they were and where they came from and how they had found themselves here searching for friends and answers.

There was an occasional snicker from some of the other surrounding Dragons, but the face of the black Dragon remained impassive throughout everything that Dracomon was saying, his eyes silently telling him to continue all the while and Dracomon feeling as obliged to do so as before with Chrysophylax.

"…And, well, then we saw the smoke coming from Chrysophylax' cave and spoke to him and he led us here," Dracomon finished up.

The Dragons and Drakes around the area all looked up to the black Dragon for his reaction, but the Dragon's face remained still for several moments as he reared his head back up. His gaze turned up to Cyberdramon for a brief moment, but Cyberdramon gave absolutely no sign that he noticed or cared about it.

"Well…" the Dragon said. "That is quite something. And you honestly expect us all to believe that what you say is unequivocally true? That you are not even from Eä itself."

"It can't be true," said the silver Dragon. "It's got to be a bunch of lies. Whoever heard of something so ridiculous? These things are clearly just atrocities created by some sorcerer in mockery of our glorious image. What eyesores."

"I will be the judge of that," the black Dragon growled warningly, and the silver Dragon quickly shut up and bowed its head.

"Tell me, what is your name again, small one?" the black Dragon huffed.

"Dracomon," the little Digimon replied.

"Interesting name," the black Dragon responded. "And do you know who I am?"

"No… sir… I do not," Dracomon replied nervously.

"How vexing," the black Dragon responded. "Shall I perhaps alter that? Yes, I believe I shall. You are standing in the presence of Drogoth, the Dragon Lord. I am the greatest of the remaining Dragons of this world – the largest and most powerful of all the winged Fire Drakes that still reside in this mountains. You do know that telling lies and wild stories to one such as me would be a very unwise thing to do, do you not?"

"I… guessed it, yes," Dracomon nodded. "But I swear to you, Dragon Lord, that everything I said before it true. We are Digimon, from another world, and every Dragon there is a Digimon just like us."

"Oh, I'm sure," Drogoth responded blithely. "Very well then, let's say that I believe you for a moment. What would you want of us, if anything?"

"Well… not much," Dracomon replied. "Maybe just some general information about this world. Maybe a little bit of help in finding some of our other friends."

"So, you would come here into our Kingdom and start making demands of its Lord, would you?" Drogoth arched a brow plate.

"No, no of course not," Dracomon said, catching the dangerous tone in Drogoth's voice and having to stop himself from trembling a little. "We wouldn't demand anything from you. We would only ask if you would be willing to help and if you couldn't or wouldn't then… well… perhaps we would only ask to be allowed for somewhere to stay for a while so that we can recover a little bit. I haven't eaten for a couple of days myself."

"I see," Drogoth replied steadily, placated a little by Dracomon's response. "And this King of yours that you say is also a Dragon? Would you think that he too had been transported into this world from your own?"

"Well… maybe. I don't know really. I'm not exactly sure what happened or how even we got here. Who can say whether King Shoutmon also made his way into this world? I don't know for sure but he could have."

"And this Shoutmon?" Drogoth pressed on. "If he were to come here, what would he do? Because, you see, I really don't think I like the idea of two Dragon Lords being in the same place. I trust you are aware that this is my territory and I will not tolerate any interloper coming in here and attempting to take my throne."

"Oh no! No no! Shoutmon would never try and do that!" Dracomon waved his hands in a wild attempt to reassure the great beast towering over him. "I promise that. Shoutmon wouldn't try and muscle in on the turf of another just because he could. That's not like him at all. He's a great King but he holds respect for others."

"I see," Drogoth mused. "I might be interested to meet this so-called King of yours one day."

"Er… well, maybe you will," Dracomon offered. "If he's been thrown into this universe as well."

"You are indeed sticking rigidly to your incongruous story throughout all of my questionings," Drogoth noted. "Either you are telling the truth about all of this or you are desperately clinging to what you have in a bid to stop yourselves from being attacked. How should I decide which one it is?"

Cyberdramon took this moment to growl and heft the Twin Lancer in his hand. The Dragons watched him as he clenched the claws of his free hand together and slammed it against his armoured chest, resulting in a metallic clang from metal on metal, as he focused his blank eyes on the Dragon Lord in front of him.

"He…" Cyberdramon hissed, and Dracomon's eyes widened as what might be for the first time ever he heard Cyberdramon speak a work that was not one of his attacks or a curse word in the middle of a battle. "…is telling… the truth," he finished rasping.

Drogoth laughed, and it was even louder that Chrysophylax' laugh had been and Dracomon almost felt himself blown backwards a little by the sheer force of it. When it died down he said, "Well if your near silent friend is willing to break his muteness for the sake of your story then perhaps it is true after all. Very well, I believe you have been honest enough with me so far. I will, for now, believe that what you speak is the truth. Or at least that you believe it to be yourself."

"Oh, thank you," Dracomon said. "Thank you very much. I was starting to get worried that you wouldn't believe it there." He gave Cyberdramon a look of gratitude, but he didn't know if the big guy saw it because he didn't look down.

"So, will you help us try and find our friends?" Dracomon asked.

"Oh, I think it would be more… interesting… to wait and see if your friends come and find you here," Drogoth said with another smirk. "Let's see how many lengths your friends would be willing to go to in order to reunite with you. Assuming that your King cares about such a small creature as you. But then again, he might come and try to find a valuable asset to his forces like your big friend so you may be in luck there, Dracomon."

"Shoutmon does care," Dracomon said. "He cares about all of us and considers us all friends and equals. He'd always come looking for us."

"Really?" Drogoth gave off a reptilian smile pulling his jaws back to reveal the teeth within in an eerie and rather disturbing way. "You are certain of this? Your mighty King would search over mountain and under valley for someone as miniscule as yourself? Surely you are not needed in his army. You are not necessary for maintaining the might of his kingdom. Why would he waste time and resources looking for someone like you when he has more powerful warriors that he might have to look for instead?"

"No, he…" Dracomon began, but stopped, frowning. Shoutmon would come for him, wouldn't he? He was as valued a member of Xros Heart as all the others, right?

For some inexplicable reason Dracomon found himself actually wondering whether that would be the case. His brain was telling him that of course Shoutmon would come for him. But another part of him was asking, 'Would he?'"

"He… he saved my life once," Dracomon said, loyally, frustrated that he couldn't shake off the question inside his head. "I was about to be overrun by a stream of lava and he went back and grabbed me, dragging me back and out of the way. Surely he would come for me."

"Really? Tell me more," Drogoth purred.

"Well… it was during the time when the Digital World had been taken over by Lord Bagramon and… we were fighting to try and free ourselves from it and make Shoutmon the King so that he could watch over us all and…"

"Ah… I see," Drogoth interrupted, shaking his head. "That makes sense to me now. Do you not think it possible that this Shoutmon saved you because he felt he would need every asset he had available to him in his rise to the top? Now that he is King, perhaps he would not feel you to be so necessary. Why would he when he now has the power he was seeking back then?"

"No… no…" Dracomon stammered, internally screaming at himself for doubting Shoutmon even for a second, and yet unable to stop himself for some reason. What he didn't know was that he was currently under the effects of Drogoth's Dragon Spell, a latent ability that many of the Dragons of this world possessed that allowed them to sway others to their way of thinking or make them question everything that they thought they knew.

Cyberdramon growled and slammed one end of his Twin Lancer into the ground, the jarring clang snapping Dracomon out of his thought process and quickly saying, "No, Shoutmon would definitely come for me. That's just the kind of person he is. He doesn't turn his back."

"…Indeed," Drogoth muttered after a moment, his eyes turning back up to fix on Cyberdramon again. Cyberdramon stared at him blankly, but Drogoth distinctly saw his claws tightening around the lance a little and his tail was visibly having to be held still to prevent it from lashing around in agitation.

The two stared at each other for several long moments, a pall of silence falling over the place as they met one another's silent challenge.

But then Drogoth broke his gaze away and turned back to Dracomon. "Well, whatever the case with your King, I would recommend that you stay here. You have safety and sanctuary here, as well as access to food and water whenever you need it. I assure you that a pair of Dragons, even strange looking ones such as yourselves, would not be welcome in most of the lands of Middle Earth. It would be much wiser for you to remain where your future would be secure."

"Not welcome?" Dracomon blinked. "What do you mean not welcome?"

"Oh this land is riddled with bands of Dwarves and hordes of Elves and cities of Men," Drogoth shook his head. "All of who would not hesitate to cut down a small Drake such as yourself on your sight, and all of which would certainly attack your silent friend. Alas, Dragons are not so well received in this world as in your own."

"Why not?" Dracomon asked.

Drogoth chuckled. "Why not he asks. Well, as you have graced us with the tales of your own world, fantastical as they may sound, it is only fitting that we ply you with our own story of our race. The race of real Dragons as opposed to you Digimon Dragons."

"Okay," Dracomon said, interested.

"We are by far the mightiest race on this Earth," Drogoth stood up, straightening his legs and unfurling his massive wings to their fullest extent – he was easily as big as that Fanglongmon had been if not bigger. "In terms of individual power there is not that can match us. We are the strongest, the noblest and the sturdiest of any race that you can still find in this world today. And we have dwelt in this world now for thousands of years, ever since the very First Age, and we are now well into the Third.

"Our armour is as tough as anything that can be crafted by the likes of Dwarf or Elf. Each of us when we reach adulthood are capable of crushing mountains, levelling forests, taming winds. Whenever we are hungry there is nothing that can stop us from acquiring our meat. Our noses can root out a droplet of blood from a mile away. Our eyes are as sharp as that of any Eagle. And for those of us capable of breathing fire, there is nigh on nothing that can continue standing before our blazes. Rock, metal, water… all of it melts or dissipates before us with the slightest of ease."

"I know what you mean," Dracomon said. "Dragon Digimon are usually considered, as a group, to be the strongest and most powerful kind of Digimon that can be found in our world."

"As well that should be, for Dragons will be Dragons no matter where they be from," Drogoth snorted. "And yet, the other peoples of Middle Earth will have naught to do with us. For they fear us. They fear all that I have just spoken of. They will not come within leagues of our Withered Heath and rightly so, for we do not need their kind amongst our own."

"Why not?" Dracomon asked. "Shoutmon always encourages everyone to get along if they can."

"A naïve sounding suggestion. If you are indeed from another universe you may not know this, but a day will never come when a Dragon will become an ally of a Dwarf. Not our variety of Dragon in any case," he amended a moment later. "Dwarves are a stubborn folk and they, along with all the other races of two legged beings of this world respect us, but they also fear us. They know that a single one of us could crush and burn hundreds upon thousands of them no matter what the circumstance may be.

"Because of that, they would not hesitate to kill us. Despite our might, I will admit that the number of Dragons that you see here now are but a fraction of the numbers we once held in this world. Our kind was created, long ago in the First Age, by the greatest of the Valar from the West. His name was Melkor, and we were his finest and mightiest of creations, greater in many cases even that the Balrogs of old. There was once a time when we roamed far and wide across this Middle Earth, but now we are few, and confined to the Grey Mountains here at the very northern point of the land. A cruel fate upon a race as strong as ours."

"What happened?" Dracomon asked, a little fearful of the answer.

Drogoth snarled, his teeth revealed and his eyes blazing, as his claws tightened around the rock ledge in front of it enough to fracture it. "Why the two legged beings happened of course. They feared us and they swarm around this world in their millions. Perhaps they were also jealous of our might, for despite their fear they would paint pictures of us on their banners and shields, perhaps hoping to emulate us in some fashion. Despite our immense strength we have been driven and beaten back to these secluded places."

"That's awful," Dracomon said, enthralled by the story.

"Indeed," Drogoth nodded. "Though we are immortal and the ravages of time do not affect us, admittedly we can be felled by the sword or the arrow under the right circumstances. And many of our great ancestors were brought low and slain by the two-legged creatures. The Father of Dragons and the first ever of our kind was known as Glaurung, the Great Wingless Fire-Drake, was felled at the hands of a Man before the First Age had even come to an end. The greatest of our Race, Ancalagon the Black, was slain by an Elf also in the First Age. And just recently, the greatest Dragon of the Third Age, admittedly even greater than myself – Smaug the Golden – was killed not sixty years ago after he dared to fly south over the villages of Men and Dwarf."

"That sounds terrible," Dracomon cried. "But surely you could reason with them? Start some sort of peace with them to make sure that they stop doing it?"

"Peace with the likes of them?" Drogoth scoffed. "Do not be a fool. They have long wrought their anger and fear on our kind. Peace with the likes of them is now impossible. The Dwarves delve deep in their mountains for buried treasures, which admittedly we Dragons do have a love of, but they have such a great love of it too that they would never think of aligning with us. They would be convinced that we would steal it from them. And the Elves fear our fires, for they make their homes in woodlands. And Men are Men – the most irrational and fearful species of them all, who would shoot us down on sight and fear for their precious livestock."

"Have you ever attacked them?" Dracomon asked.

"Of course," Drogoth snarled. "Would not you in our position?"

"Well… I don't know," Dracomon said. "Things might be a lot simpler if you had just talked to them."

"Speak to a Dwarf and he would thrust his axe into your belly or the roof of your mouth given half a chance before you could get three words out," Drogoth snarled, smoke billowing out of his mouth a little now as if every word he spoke increased his ire. "And you would be the same. I promise you, go South now and reveal yourself in front of a Dwarf or a Man and they would slash and gut you where you stand, no matter how small you may be for one day you might become a fully-fledged Dragon and they could never have that. And your friend, well… he may not resemble us in all manners but he is close enough. There would be no pause. There would be no discussion. There would only be arrows flying through the sky.

"But we are the strongest," Drogoth roared. "And mark my words, we will not be denied our right to fly freely through the skies wherever we choose forever."

Dracomon had a very small part of his stomach nagging at him, telling him that something was a bit off with what he was hearing, but the rest of him was ignoring it, totally captivated by Drogoth's story, and for some reason he was finding himself getting angry at the Dwarves, Elves and Men that he spoke of. Why would they do such terrible things to Dragons simply out of fear?

"So, you see, it is better if you stay here," Drogoth said once he calmed down a little. "Here you are safe and amongst your own kind, or at least as close to your own kind as a creature from another world can be. Here you will be protected, and if your friends are here too then perhaps we shall shelter them as well. You will stay here amongst us, won't you?"

"Yes, of course," Dracomon nodded, then blinked, wondering why he had said that so quickly before the feeling was banished and he obviously knew that staying here was the best idea. Surely the others would make their way here too eventually wouldn't they?

"Good," Drogoth said. "There is to be no harming of either of these two," he announced to the rest of the Dragons. "They are one of our number now." His head swivelled down to look at Dracomon again and he added, "But do not worry, small one, and larger near silent one. There is talk of a coming war. A war against the swarms of Dwarves, Elves and Men that infest this great land. Other beings which have been persecuted by their kind have been amassing to the west of here and rumours fly of a power that wishes to pay these creatures back what they owe the rest of the world. Perhaps one day solid news of this war will be brought to us. And perhaps we too shall leave our mountain halls and take back out rightful place as the strongest of the strong."

As Drogoth turned around and walked away, followed by Chrysophylax, Dracomon felt himself with the oddest of feelings. A large part of him was filled with an odd sense of anticipation of the upcoming war, and he had no idea where that had come from for he hated fighting. But there was another part of him, a smaller part, that was feeling quite uneasy about all this. That part of him was telling him that there was something not quite right about this, but it was mostly being drowned underneath the rest of him and he paid little attention.

Still, to him, staying here now seemed to be the most logical choice in the world. No, it was the only choice. They wouldn't do anything else for anything else was pointless.

Cyberdramon, on the other hand, growled lightly to himself, his tail thrashing a bit as he stared after the departing Drogoth. He had not believed anything that Drogoth had just said, or at least the parts where he had made the Dragons out to be innocent victims of the other races of the world.

Cyberdramon was a silent observer with an intense inner focus and concentration, and because of that he saw things that other Digimon didn't. He had felt, as Drogoth was speaking, a strange sensation washing over him, compelling him to believe what Drogoth was saying and to go along with his suggestions unequivocally, but because of that focus he had shrugged it off easily. He didn't trust Drogoth at all and he was half tempted to grab Dracomon and leave right now.

But he didn't. He could see Dracomon had been taken in, and the other Dragons around them were still wary of them. Attempting to leave now would invite an attack on them for disobeying the instructions of the Dragon Lord.

He would wait and see how this unfolded for now. He had to protect Dracomon and if what Drogoth said about an upcoming war was true, then he should probably find out a little more about that too before he did anything rash. Cyberdramon was patient. He would wait and see what happened.

And over with Drogoth, Chrysophylax said, "That was an interesting way of telling our story. You didn't mention that our creator was in fact the first Dark Lord Morgoth or that he unleashed the fiery fury of our ancestors on the Free Peoples of this world. Nor did you mention the continued attacks wrought by our kind throughout the First Age or how Smaug drove the Dwarves from their mountains and attacked the people of the Celduin before he was slain. Why did you not tell them of all that?"

"I want the two of them to remain close," Drogoth replied. "If they are from another universe then there may be many others like them out there and you heard what the small one said. The King that he described would certainly side with the two legged creatures and so would he if he knew the whole truth. Perhaps even my Dragon Spell would not have been able to sway him then."

"Then why do you want them close?"

"I have a feeling that it will not be long before Sauron approaches us to join us in his war," Drogoth smirked. "And when he does he may be very interested to learn of these interlopers from another world first-hand. And perhaps that large one could even be of help to us if we manage to deceive him."

"You intend to join then?"

"If the price is right yes," Drogoth chuckled. "The Free Peoples will know true fear with us at the head of the armies of Darkness. And you will follow me, will you not? For I am your Lord."

"If you so desire," Chrysophylax said, with an air of indifference.

"Be sure that you do," Drogoth said. "And spread the word amongst the others to keep an eye on that larger one. I believe he will be far more difficult to fool than the little one."

"Very well," Chrysophylax nodded and turned to walk away. Drogoth turned his head back around and saw Cyberdramon still staring at him blankly. Drogoth offered him what he hoped was a friendly smirk. Cyberdramon said nothing but a silent message passed between them in that moment:-

I'm watching you.

Hehehe. This chapter was not quite like I originally envisioned it to be but I think it came out better than I was originally hoping for. The whole thing with the Dragon Spell never even occurred to me until I did some last minute research on Tolkien's Dragons specifically for this chapter and I remembered what Smaug did in his conversation with Bilbo in the Hobbit books. I tried to make the Dragons in this chapter speak in a similar manner to Smaug, so I can only hope that I pulled it off.

For anyone who's not familiar with the Battle for Middle Earth II game, Drogoth is a hero that was specifically created for the evil side in that game. Chrysophylax, on the other hand, is a Dragon that I invented for this story except for his name, which is the name of a Dragon that Tolkien used in a book that was not about Middle Earth apparently. So I thought I'd slip in a reference to it here.

Well, that's another chapter done. TTFN.

Next time…

In which Knightmon, Starmon and their companions finally come across a place where they can have some of their questions answered, and also in which Spadamon realises exactly why he's been getting a crawling sensation on the back of his neck ever since he got into this strange place.

Coming up:- Chapter 24 : Chance Encounters