In an eruption of light the Professor, Artisan and Agent 9 landed in the Valley of Avalar.
"Well, that was smoother at least than my long range teleporter." the Professor said, recovering his glasses. "Now, should we set the portal up first, or would it be more efficient to establish a set of relay nodes?"
Artisan shrugged his wings. "Beats me. I'll go see what the other Spyro and Cynder have been up to, and then talk to Cosmo."
"Ah, yes, you mentioned them. The wind dragon, was it?"
"Yeah. C'mon, Sparx!" Artisan tossed his head, and charged off towards the river.
"Well, they're off having fun, so don't you think we should get on with doing the same thing?" Agent 9 asked. "Well, fun, this isn't so much fun as it is boring, but we gotta do it and if it leads to violence that's fine by me!"
"Yes, good point Agent 9. Please get the power sources out of their crate."
The Professor looked up long enough to see Artisan jump halfway across the river from sheer momentum before he flared his wings, and some slightly undignified frantic flapping let him gain the far bank.
"I'll let Spyro know when we're ready – I'm afraid we'll have to borrow from his stock of Orbs to properly power the portal, I don't have all that many on me."
"Wow." Artisan walked into the village, noticing the destroyed hut near the gate and the tension crackling between two dragons and the head cheetah. "Did I miss something?"
Cynder turned aside. "Grublins – and other creatures, flying ones. They attacked the village."
"Okay, ouch. Sorry I wasn't here to help."
"That's okay. You couldn't have known."
Chief Prowlus was speaking. "Fine. In recognition of the help all the newcomers gave in defending the village, we will grant you parole. Hunter-" Prowlus grimaced. "Our Hunter, will remain here for some important discussions about obeying his chief."
"We can't stay out of this, Prowlus." The green-eyed Hunter spoke with quiet sincerity. "You think the Valley is defensible forever? It took two dragons, a foreign warrior and a sorceress to defend it today. Do you think it will not get worse if Warfang falls?"
Prowlus growled. "We will discuss this later. And it will be a discussion, not a rant. Go, dragons. Find what has befallen Meadow."
Artisan turned to walk between Bianca and the other Spyro, tossing his head back over his shoulder. "What's up with him?"
"He's scared." Bianca replied. "Not personally, but for the cheetah as a whole – for his village. He doesn't want them to get in a fight they can't win."
"Huh." Artisan frowned, then nodded. "I gotcha. So, you guys need my help at all?"
"I don't think so," Spyro answered. "We can take care of ourselves."
"Good. Sparx, let's go pay Cosmo a little visit."
The dragonfly bobbed in assent, pulsed, and vanished with Artisan in a sphere of white light.
"Always on the move…" Bianca said lightly.
"Thank you for giving us the frequency required, Spyro." Cosmo said, walking across the home world with Artisan jogging to keep up. "Though I do not know which of our worlds will be in closest proximity to this strange land you have discovered, I eagerly await the activation of a portal. There is so much we could learn there!"
"Actually…" Artisan said, stopping in his tracks as an idea occurred to him. "Mind if I raid the materials chest? I just had an idea, and I don't think Artisans have material strong enough."
"What did you have in mind?" Cosmo asked, now interested. Absently, he flicked his tail over to the portal normally set for Alpine Ridge and set it searching with a deft flick. "Charo, could you… thank you." He added, as his dragonfly buzzed over to the controls and began entering the frequency the Professor had given.
"If you've got some mithril, or something like that available..?"
"Hm. There is some, which I believe to be left over from an experiment conducted by Cyrus." Cosmo looked displeased. "That's the one where he added far too much growth magic to some stag beetles."
"Oh, yeah." Artisan winced. He'd had to hit the enormous metal-covered insects at about half the speed of sound – or make use of a magical fairy's kiss – to kill them, and it was one of the nastier times he'd had in the Dragon Realms. "That's probably tough enough. But where'd he get the stag beetles?"
"I am unaware at this time." Cosmo mused. "I'm sure it was a Beast Maker, but none of them are willing to admit it." He straightened. "I will go and sort the rest of the portals out. Feel free to borrow from my library if it will help your project."
"Thanks!" Artisan went charging back off towards Cosmo's main chamber, Sparx buzzing alongside.
Then he skidded to a halt and turned. "Hey, I only came here because I forgot you were going to be in Stone Hill. Why were you here?"
"Ah." Cosmo looked shifty. "That was actually a mistake on my part. My alarm clock didn't go off."
"Dragon elders have alarm clocks?"
"Don't you have some work you were going to do? And, of course, you should let the others in Stone Hill know what's been going on."
"Yeah, yeah, sure." Artisan rolled his eyes, and went back to charging.
"Good news indeed, Spyro." Nestor said, after the purple dragon had finished explaining. "It would seem as though this time we can help you on your travels."
"That makes a change." Artisan quipped, grinning to take the heat out of the remark. "I don't know how long it'll take for the Professor to be ready, though – I'll go back there and work on my current project while I wait. Anything you want me to know first?"
"Nothing comes to mind…" Nestor mused. "No, I can't think of anything."
Sparx blazed, and the two were gone.
Evening set over the Valley of Avalar as Artisan finally 'ported back in.
"Where have you been, Spyro?" Hunter asked, waving a drumstick around. "We found that missing cheetah, and then we had to drag a great big boat upstream to help him because he broke his leg!"
"You couldn't have, well, carried him out?" Artisan asked, curiously.
Hunter paused, then slapped his forehead – fortunately, with the hand not holding the drumstick. "I can't believe I didn't think of that!"
"Actually, I did," Bianca said, stepping up to him. "It wouldn't have been safe – the leg needed to be immobilized, and moving him by carrying him without that wouldn't have been safe."
"Okay, cool." Hunter took a mouthful of food. "Anyway, your double got a map from some crazy old cheetah, and so we know the quick way to Warfang. We're headed there tonight."
Artisan nodded. "Gotcha." He stepped forward, which revealed the large bag that had appeared behind him. "Hey, where is other Spyro?"
Bianca gestured with her staff. "Over there, with Cynder. They're listening to another of Agent 9's tall tales."
"Good." Picking up the sack with his horns, Artisan headed over with a spring in his step.
"Uhhh… Bianca," Hunter said, scratching his head. "Did he actually answer my question?"
"Come to think of it…" Bianca shook her head. "No."
Hunter shrugged. "Ah well. We'll find out eventually."
"Hi, guys," Artisan said, as Agent 9 finished his rambling story.
Somehow, the monkey died at the end. Twice.
"Oh, hi… other me," Spyro said, with a moment of hesitation.
"Just call me Artisan, remember? Anyway, I've been working on these most of the day." Artisan opened the bag and pulled some armour out – one helmet, one saddle-like back piece, and a pair of greaves each. "It's mithril, which should last basically forever or until it gets hit at supercharge speeds."
Cynder looked hers over. "How did you make it?"
"Well," Artisan blushed slightly, "I actually went to see this fairy in Haunted Towers. Fairy kisses have magic in them, and hers helped my fire be hot enough to actually work the metal."
"I guess I should try it on…" Spyro muttered, and touched the greaves. "How do I…?"
Artisan tapped the hidden catch, and one of the greaves sprung open. "Like that."
"Oh, okay. I think," Spyro said. "Can you just... open the other one?"
With a sigh that turned into a chuckle, Artisan clicked the other three open. "Go on, try them on – I want to know if I need to change anything."
Cynder went first, carefully closing the greaves over her forearms. "Okay. Whoa!"
Green witchfire crackled around her forelegs for a moment, increased, then died away.
"What just happened?" Spyro asked hotly. "If you've-"
"Hey, easy," Artisan said, waving his own forelegs. "I enchanted them, like I did with my Hunter's bow. Basically, they've got a store of that green crystal in them, and they'll keep her topped up until that runs out."
"Oh," Spyro said, looking like he felt a bit stupid. "Sorry."
"Don't sweat it," Artisan waved it off. "How do they fit?"
"Fine, thanks," Cynder replied. "This is going to be so useful..."
"Go on, try the helmet!"
"What do they do?" Spyro asked, frowning at his.
"Oh, right. I put red gems in your greaves – I didn't have enough greens for you too. Er... the back plates have a sort of mini-version of supercharge, which should make you both a bit faster, and the helmets have mini-invulnerability."
The two other dragons nodded, absorbing the information.
"So, what now?" Artisan asked. "I kind of missed most of what was going on here... sorry."
"We're headed to Warfang, which is under siege," Spyro said. "Hopefully we can at least help the city survive. I heard that my teachers, the elemental masters, are there."
"So, elemental masters... dragons, right?" Artisan checked, and was answered with a nod. "Right, gotcha. Okay, I'll go see how the Professor's doing."
"How are you doing?"
"Well, I've locked in the local coordinate system for this end..." the Professor noted something on his pad. "And if I'm correct, then the transformation from the local system to the Realms one is... there!"
With a final button press... the portal spat a giant blue spark, emitted a whine, and then the gate itself rippled and turned opaque.
"...so?" Artisan asked, after a few seconds.
"Well, it's connecting somewhere..." The Professor stuck his head through. "Hmmm, that's no good."
Artisan's look invited further explanation.
"It opened onto a desert. Tell me, what does the presence of cacti mean?"
Artisan hopped through himself, and flashed back after about twenty seconds. "Got it. It's opening onto the Cliff Town portal, just backwards."
"Is it?" More notes. "I see. Then that must mean... here!"
After the shimmer as the portal changed location, it sat there for a second and then disgorged an enormous yellow dragon.
"Hi, Titan," Artisan said. "Good to see you."
"And you, Spyro." Titan nodded, stuck his head back through the portal for a moment and then walked off towards the stream. Nestor, his brother Nils, and Magnus followed him through.
"Fine work, Professor," Nestor said. "Can you set up a satellite portal to point towards the city?"
"Well, I can try..." the Professor said. "I'd need something to home in on. Maybe I can have that lab assistant of mine carry a homing beacon..."
"I'll do it," Spyro volunteered. "That way, Sparx can jump me back here when it's in a good place."
"That's not good..." Spyro observed, as the small group exited the tunnels into Warfang proper. "I smell smoke."
"And hear screams," Cynder added grimly. "The assault has begun. We'd better hurry."
The others nodded, and broke into a run.
"I have no idea where we are," Artisan pointed out, as they approached the entryway to a small plaza. "Where's a good place to put this thing?"
"This square might be good, actually-"
With a crackling, rumbling crash, the flaming ruins of a tower slammed into the ground behind the dragons, cutting the group in half. Bits of the falling building went flying, and buildings around the
"Can you get over here?" the local Hunter asked.
"I don't know," Spyro admitted. "I'm still not very good at flying, and that shower of sparks..."
"Okay, I got this," Artisan said with a cocky grin. He put the beacon on the floor, then inhaled and doused the wreckage with a steady stream of water.
Within about a minute, the wood was no longer truly blazing, and a few concussive blasts from Spyro reduced it to splinters.
As an afterthought, Artisan hosed down the burning buildings, and was gratified to discover a small squad of moles who had nearly been trapped by the blaze.
"That went well," one Sparx said flippantly. "What's next on the agenda?"
Artisan triggered the homing beacon. The other Sparx, seeing his cue, vanished.
Agent 9 skidded out of the new portal as it formed, with a burst of hyena-like laughter. "Woo-hoo-hoo, here we go! Mister laser blaster, you and I are gonna get such a work-out!"
More flashes of light heralded the arrival of Sergeant Byrd, Sheila, Bentley and Blink.
"Okay, guys," Artisan said, as Sparx appeared next to him once more. "James, take your Rubythroats and clear the skies. Hunters, you and Bianca get to the gate house of that opened gate – we need it closed. Agent 9... go shoot stuff."
"Already on it!" Agent 9 shouted, and ran off towards the walls.
"Okay. Blink, can you help rally the moles? They'll listen to you. Sheila and Bentley, head for the walls and fight off any ladders or siege towers."
"What about us?" Spyro asked.
"We're going right up the middle," Artisan replied. "If we can break through the enemy forces already in the city, that's good enough."
"Okay, when did you learn this stuff?" the blue-eyed Hunter asked, unlimbering his bow.
"The Peace Keepers taught me, after the Forgotten Worlds thing," Artisan explained. "Basically, it's 'cause of all the allies I'd picked up, and they wanted to be sure I could keep you guys properly employed."
"An excellent job they did, too, sir!" Sgt. Byrd said, saluting. Behind him, the portal flashed as hummingbird after hummingbird transited through carrying weapon packs.
"Sir," Gabrielle coughed discreetly. "Your backpack is here."
"Bally wonderful!" the sergeant said, strapping it on with sure movements. "Right, tally-"
"How come you need a jetpack?" Artisan asked, curiously. "I never asked before. You can fly, right?"
"Aherm... well, of course I can fly, old chap. But not when carrying sixty kilos of state-of-the-art military hardware!"
"Oh, I see..." Artisan said, nodding. "Okay. Carry on."
With an eruption of flame, the penguin soared skywards and linked up with his Rubythroats.
"We'd better get moving," Bianca said, gesturing. "Come on, guys."
"Got it, Bianca," her husband said, already drawing back a crackling lightning arrow on his bow. The other Hunter matched him, though his arrow was steel and elm only.
All three of them broke into a jog, then a run, and then accelerated further as they pelted out of the plaza.
"Onwards!" Bentley said firmly, waving his club. Sheila bounced along behind with a long-suffering sigh.
"You okay here?" Artisan asked.
"Sure, Spyro," Blink said, saluting. "I'll help my uncle expand the portal."
"Cool. Okay, you two, let's go!"
The three adolescent dragons leapt a barrier and charged off towards the sound of fighting.
"Break right!" Michelle warned, and her wing-mate dodged without thinking. The serpentine monster which had been aiming for her missed, and a rocket snapshot from Michelle's weapon pack to put paid to it before it could notice.
Rocket trails criss-crossed the sky over embattled Warfang as the Rubythroats fanned out.
"Make sure to cover that sector," Byrd warned, as a dozen flying insects joined the battle by lifting off from the fighting on the walls.
Then there was an eruption of heat which nearly incinerated him.
Catching his helmet before it fell out of his grip, Byrd pulsed his rockets and made for the sky chased by a bestial roar.
"Well, that's just not cricket..."
The golem spat high temperature air at him, but missed handily. Rocket impacts began to pepper its skin, with no visible effect.
"All Hotel elements, break off!" Byrd ordered. "Maintain combat air patrol over the rest of the city!"
Thus warned, the hummingbirds fell back. Byrd adjusted his helmet, and tapped a few controls on his backpack.
"I knew there was a reason I packed the tallboys..."
Six feet beat a tattoo on the cobbled streets of Warfang.
"Man, Bianca, you're in good shape," the blue-eyed Hunter said admiringly. "Did I tell you how much I like that?"
Bianca grinned cheekily. "Not yet today."
"Trouble!" the other cheetah said, snapping off an arrow on the run. It hit a grublin and slew it instantly.
The two visitors exploded into action.
Bianca planted her foot on the next step and spun, whirling her staff and casting a shield around all three of them, then leapt backwards – in the same direction as they had been going forwards – and the shield moved with her as she cast a firebolt back at two insect critters.
Her husband ducked the spinning staff without having to look, launching into a forward roll and coming up with three arrows nocked on the string of his magic bow. Releasing them one at a time, he caught a total of four more grublins in the lightning blasts thus released.
One leapt at his hand from behind, trying to disable him – and got flung at a number of its fellows hard enough to kill. Hunter cracked another on the head with the end of his bow stave, then froze the leader of a charge and made it collapse in confusion.
Bianca slammed the end of her staff on the floor, producing a localized earthquake which sent grublins flying, and the shield she'd created deflected a spear-thrust.
Husband and wife exchanged a look – the first in the fight – and nodded to one another.
Hunter jumped into the air, landing on Bianca's outstretched staff. Shouting the words of a spell, the rabbit heaved – and Hunter went flying fifty feet and more into the air.
His bowstring sang.
By the time he landed, two legs and one arm taking the force, there wasn't a grublin or insect left alive of the ambush.
Both of them launched from their crouches back into the headlong run to the gates.
Gaping, as much at their incredible coordination as at the display of physical and magical prowess, the local Hunter followed in their wake. By the sounds of flame and thunder as they rounded a corner, they weren't going to wait for him to catch up...
Long time no fic. Sorry.
Anyway. I've explained away the armour, I hope. And I've wanted to write that last fight scene for the longest time.