Most people seem to include a foreword, so I suppose it's in good form to include one as well. I'll be brief. This is my first entrance into the site. I'm somewhat nervous about having something I've invested so much planning, time and care into put up for public display, so I dearly hope it's received well by the rest of you. I sorely pray that you'll see it as on par with the other great Spyro fics out there, such as A New Dawn and The Broken Line.
Edit: Due to school and other vagaries a constant update schedule is impossible. I apologise.
I see no reason to include a disclaimer, as I'm sure we're all aware of the trivialities of that. I also apologise for the language, as it uses Australian spelling for certain words rather than US.
Alas, I've indulged my penchant for speech too long already. Let the curtains open wide and the story begin!
The streets of Warfang were bustling with people this time of year, akin to ants when viewed from the air. The anthill was abuzz with activity, the criss-crossing grid filled to the brim with a swaying ocean of rainbow colours as dragons, cheetahs and moles of every size, shape and colour moved to and from their homes and workplaces, their friends' homes and their favourite places of leisure. With such a concentrated focus on the next hour of their lives, many residents of the prestigious city often overlooked the scars that persisted from the War. The majority of the damage to the infrastructure of the city-state had been repaired, but every now and then when surveying the skyline one could make out the silhouette of a ruined tower in the distance, blackened bricks still covered in soot.
From such a lofty height, one could see more than a few broken skyscrapers. Those who governed the city may claim that it had recovered from the War, but although Warfang was back on its feet it was in no position to mediate, as was its role. The cloaked figure that currently stood atop a tower overlooking the docks of the city knew the place better than most dragons, even those who had lived within its walls since the first brick had been laid. He had had far too long to explore the city. Far too long.
It was fortunate that he was above the streets and not within them, for among the animalistic population of the Realms he would have been as conspicuous as a candle in the dark. He was humanoid like the cheetahs, but lacked their digitigrade legs and had five de-clawed fingers per hand. His body was obscured by a thick, red-orange cloak trimmed in both maroon and gold, his face covered by a hood that obfuscated his head in pitch-black darkness. His left arm was covered in large, light brown spiked armour, which extended onto his chest partway. His shins and feet were covered in similarly-coloured armour, but the rest of his body was unencumbered. If not for the two, piercing golden points of light that were his pupil-less, almost reptilian eyes, he would have been labelled human.
Those golden eyes gazed out over the bustling city with a coldness that could match the greatest of ice dragons. He was planning. He remained perfectly calm as a small storm of equally-icy snowflakes began to form behind him, forming a human-sized cloud next to the tower spire, before it dispersed to reveal another humanoid. Her body was curvaceous and enticing, but she held herself with sternness that commanded respect. A hood hung over her head, merely obscuring her eyes and hair, and extended down into a v-neck that reached her sternum. In an asymmetrical fashion her right shoulder was bare, in comparison to her left which was covered in a large assortment of black feathers. A thin, silky violet-crimson robe hung down her waist, thighs and shins, and her arms were hidden by a thick leather glove strapped from the mid-forearm down. In her hand was along, gnarled wooden staff, topped by a hanging black lantern. The light in the lantern was doused.
"Do you have nothing better to do than stare out at a city that ignores you, Dyan?" she asked, walking up to his side and resting a hand on his pauldron.
"Is it such blasphemy to relax my mind once in a while, Morrigan?" Dyan countered, lightly brushing away Morrigan's touch. "Everything is under control and on course. Although I had every opportunity to simply leave and forget my responsibilities, I decided to put my leisure time to use and observe my opponents. It pays to be prepared, after all."
"Mm, I doubt you would ever be able to waste your ever so valuable time with me watching you, Dyan," Morrigan mused, laughing softly in her musical tone. "What of your son?"
"He is out hunting," Dyan replied, leaning forward and resting his arms on the railing before him. "He should be done in several hours. I'll be back by then."
"I would hope so," Morrigan replied, moving next to Dyan. "You have procrastinated for long enough. 'Tis time you acted."
"I know. I am ready, he is ready, and I've made the necessary preparations. The only thing we lack is a way to set the stage, although I've heard whispers that may provide an adequate induction."
"Good. Begin as soon as possible. I will contact you again once everything is in motion." Morrigan smiled, snowflakes beginning to appear on the edges of her clothing, floating away calmly. She smiled as she finally noticed what Dyan was so fixated upon – a large gathering of people near the docking piers of Warfang. "Ah, yes. 'Tis the anniversary of the close of the Maleficarum War, no?"
Dyan was unflinching. "Yes."
Morrigan's smile relaxed into a gentle smirk. "Mm, that was a turbulent time. Particularly for you."
"You were there as well. We both know what happened."
Morrigan's smile disappeared almost instantaneously. "Indeed. A pity we missed a first-hand view of the finale."
Dyan laughed deeply, an act that surprised Morrigan. "Finale? That was no finale. It was an epilogue to the greater story, one that those children will never know about, much less witness." He sighed as his mirth disappeared."Ah, Morrigan. We have interfered far too much."
"Quite," Morrigan snapped. The ice that had begun to fall from her clothing had spread to her forearms and legs. "And you should do what you can to limit the effect you have on them."
Dyan was silent for a few moments. The only sound that passed between the two was the soft howling of the wind and the slow crackling of ice. When Dyan spoke again, it was with a tired, strained voice. "This needs to be over. I have invested too much into this place as it is."
"Are you implying that you will not commit yourself to your task, Dyan?" Morrigan interrogated him, a devious smile tugging at her lips. "Are you perhaps not trying?"
"I never said that, Morrigan," Dyan parried. "I would have thought you'd have learnt to listen by now."
"I've learnt to listen far better than you have, Dyan," Morrigan replied, her tone swiftly turning icy – along with the rest of her body, which was now almost completely veiled in falling snow. "Perhaps you should too."
As she was consumed in the cloud of ice and disappeared as it faded away on the wind, Dyan sighed and stood up straight. Gazing out over the docks where people had gathered en-masse once more, he disappeared in a flash as a tongue of flame consumed him, spawning from nowhere, obscuring his body faster than any natural fire. As the flames dispersed, all that was left were cinders and ash, carried away by the wind.
- ҉ -
The backstage wall of the stadium offered perfect protection from the swarm of people that was waiting outside, crying out for entertainment. Spyro watched as the lone drake out on the stage captured the attention of the audience with a skill and charisma that made the purple drake envious. He wished he was as good an orator as he. Spyro was just glad that his speech was over. Now, all he had to worry about was the celebrations after the presentations. He listened studiously to the orator's dialogue.
"…and today marks the anniversary of that triumphant day! Three years to the day was Malefor, the greatest villain to ever lay waste to the Dragon Realms, defeated by the two heroes who we all owe our lives to. Today, we celebrate the lives that were saved by Spyro and Cynder, and take cheer in being alive to see this day!"
Hmph, at least he's eloquent, Spyro thought dismissively, secretly beaming from the praise.
"Are you enjoying all the praise being pandered upon you, Spyro?" emanated the familiar, sparky voice of Volteer from behind him. "You certainly seem to accept it callously."
Spyro chuckled. "Well, I let a bit of it go to my head, but not all. I don't want to stroke my ego too much after all."
Volteer shared in Spyro's laugh. "Ah, but you deserve it! It was you who saved us all. You deserve to live like a king."
Spyro detected the sarcasm in Volteer's tone and kept his smile. "And it's a pity I don't. Instead I'm just a celebrity with a governmental grant for an income as opposed to doing something with my life."
"Ah, don't worry young lad. You're doing just fine with your life as it is. Shall we go meet the others before the festivities begin?"
Spyro grinned at the thought of seeing everyone else. "Alright, let's go."
- ҉ -
Meeting up with the rest of the Guardians as the celebrations broke out was far more pleasant than he had first thought. Three years ago, upon returning to Warfang, Spyro had never imagined that the elderly drakes would have participated in such heavy partying. Warfang had been alight with fireworks and bonfires for several weeks afterwards, and the Guardians had enjoyed their time just as much as Spyro had. It was almost surprising to watch them party with others much younger than themselves, and Spyro found it both amusing and comforting, but every so often he wanted to spend time with people his own age. Even over the three years since the Maleficarum War ended, Spyro had yet to meet anyone his own age whose company he could enjoy.
That was, other than Cynder of course.
Alongside the black dragoness he had made a life for himself in Warfang, serving as an arbiter of sorts for the unruly races and factions of the Realms. It wasn't a pleasant task and it was often thankless, but he found it worthwhile – most of the time. In the small amount of leisure time he had to himself, he and Cynder would often visit downtown Warfang and mingle with the populace, exercising his newfound adolescence in bars and clubs and, occasionally, at the theatre. He kept Cynder out of trouble, and she did the same for him. It was a partnership that kept them safe, yet still allowed them to enjoy their time together, as little as they had. And yet despite their powerful, unbreakable friendship, Spyro felt as though there was an underlying current that created tension and discomfort between them.
But now, wading through a sea of scales, fur and people with her, Spyro had forgotten his troubles in the celebration.
"So are we actually going to stop walking sometime and enjoy ourselves or are you just going to keep leading me along?" Cynder asked sarcastically from behind, barely audible over the shouting and yelling of people. "I'm half expecting you to lead me into a dark alley or something similar."
"I'm not that crass, Cynder," Spyro replied, a grin painting his snout. He quickly apologised to a dragoness he bumped into before continuing. "I'd at least take you to dinner first."
Cynder laughed, but over the sound of the crowd Spyro didn't hear the edginess to her voice. "Of course, I'd expect no less from you."
Navigating through the ocean of people was more difficult than Spyro had first surmised. Along the streets of the Warfang docks, people were huddled together in the thin roads while boats in the water lit torches and lamps to lighten the mood. Several performers of all races had set up stands along the waterline, entertaining passers-by with an assortment of tricks and talents. Fireworks were being launched from the largest ships in the water, and Spyro found himself distracted by the flashing colours and shapes in the sky.
Retreating to a smaller side alley off of the waterline, where less people had gathered, Spyro stopped to catch his breath. Cynder waited for a moment while Spyro enjoyed the relative quiet, smiling. "You're tired? You haven't even been running."
"I'm not so much tired as overwhelmed," Spyro replied, watching as several people walked past them down to the pier. "After our speech, being put on the spot by the Ambassador and the work we've had the past several days, I just wanted a minute or two of silence."
Cynder smiled and waited patiently, saying half-hearted greetings to the people that recognized them as they passed. Spyro was, as always, thankful for her unspoken understanding – things weren't always pleasant when working in the upper echelons of Warfang's society, but Spyro put those thoughts aside. Now wasn't the time to darken his mood with turbulent thoughts.
As it was, he enjoyed the attention he received. People constantly recognized him in the streets – no impossible task, given his scale colour – but after the first several months he had become a fixture of the city, and most had learnt to leave their greetings to a respectful nod or a casual hello rather than singing his praises and causing unneeded attention. He felt loved by the populace, and he did his best to rebuild the city and help the citizens after the War. Many places were still in need of help, but he knew the help he had provided was invaluable to the people.
The only thing he disliked was the rumours. Being constantly in the spotlight of Warfang's major events had its cons, after all, and people often speculated about his relationships with others more than they should. He couldn't even speak with a dragoness of his age without people asking whether or not they were "a thing."
Spyro's thoughts were interrupted when two dragons – one female, one male, both of them slightly older than he and Cynder – approached them. He didn't recognize them, but from their exuberant expressions and awe-filled eyes he could tell they were admirers. "Spyro! Cynder! Enjoying your celebration?" the female asked merrily.
Spyro smiled in return, the pair's joy turning infectious, but Cynder spoke before the purple drake could even open his mouth. "Of course we are. It's nice to have everyone singing our praises."
The pair laughed, sharing their mirth, before continuing. "Ah, yes, I'm sure it is. Granted, you both deserve it," the male commented, draping a wing over his companion. "You're quite the charismatic one Spyro. I'm impressed."
Spyro nodded in embarrassment. "Ah, I tried. I never think I'm that good at speeches, so thank you."
"Don't sell yourself short!" the female encouraged. "Everyone looks up to you. We're not going to turn on you for making some silly pronunciation mistake."
"It sure feels like it," Spyro replied with a chuckle.
"You know, there's something that has been making me wonder," the male drake began, creasing his brow in concentration and flicking his eyes back and forth between Cynder and Spyro. Oh boy, I know where this is going, Spyro thought.
"You two have known each other a long time. You've been through a lot together and it's obvious you are very close friends." Spyro noticed the emphasis he put on the word 'very' and forced himself to hold back a sigh. "It's a question everyone's dying to know. Are you two maybe…going out? Romantically?"
The male's partner slapped him in the side with her tail, scolding him for his insolence. Cynder's eyes widened considerably, and Spyro forced himself to feign embarrassment, looking away from Cynder. If dragons could blush, like the mammalian races, he would have been flaring brightly. "Uh," he faltered. "N-no, we've never actually considered that. I haven't, at least."
"Ancestors, I don't know what to say," Cynder picked up, refusing to make eye contact with Spyro. They were used to this, but they might as well put on an act to be polite. "Go out with Spyro? That's a bit…I don't know, far-fetched? I think we've known each other far too long for that to happen. It would just be awkward."
The male smiled awkwardly. "Sorry," he apologised, trying to ignore the chastising of his companion. "I didn't mean to make things awkward. I guess we'll see you around the party then."
As the two strode towards the docks, Spyro finally released his sigh and gazed at Cynder, who was still looking away. "They'll never realise it, will they?"
"No," Cynder replied in an injured tone. "I wish some people would take a hint."
Ouch, Spyro thought.
"Come on, let's head back to the party," Spyro said, ushering Cynder with a wing. "Wouldn't want to miss our own celebration, eh?"
As Cynder followed him, Spyro tried to remove his plaguing thoughts. But even as the pair was engulfed into the sea of people once again, Spyro's mind was firmly planted on the one issue that refused to resolve itself.
Cynder was in love with him. And he had no idea what to do.