Chapter 35 - Dragon's Tear

With a brittle snap, the rotting beam of wood broke in two, sending a small cloud of ash and dust swirling in the air. Gently lifting his paw off the remnants of the beam, Zero carefully stepped forward, surveying the desolate terrain.

Black landscapes greeted his eyes, with only the occasional pile of rubble breaking the flat plain where trees once stood. With the sun now behind a set of brooding clouds, the whole scene was lit in a dim, shifting light, dulling the whole valley to simple variations in color. Nothing grew here aside from the occasional weed, and nothing living dared to stir from their primitive dens. The only sound that could be heard was the soft whispering of the wind as it glided over the barren wasteland.

Zero took a deep breath, inhaling the tiny particles of dust born aloft by the wind. He was home.

Setting off again, Zero pushed further into the ruins, the rubble of the once proud houses surrounding him on all sides. His keen eyes instantly picked up on the thin impressions of cobblestone, marking the path that the main thoroughfare used to take through his village. Even after all these years, he could still identify who each of the houses along the street had belonged to. It was like he had never left.

Why was he here? The visit certainly wasn't dredging up any good memories, and the detour from Warfang would ensure that he wouldn't get back till an hour past sundown at the earliest. A lot of work for very little reward. It wasn't like him to waste time and energy like this, but then again, some things just needed to be done. No matter what it cost to do so, physically or otherwise.

Lost in thought, Zero continued to meander down the road, heading deeper and deeper into his childhood home. He supposed that one of the main reasons he was here was that he felt like he needed closure. Some sort of final answer to what had happened here, what he had done here in his haste. With the death of the ape, Blood Claw, Zero had hoped to put to rest some of the vengeful spirits he felt pursuing him. But as he stepped forward over yet another decaying pile of wood that may have once been a wagon, he realized that they were still here, watching him.

Struck by a sudden bout of paranoia, Zero spun around, half expecting to see a dozen eyes gleaming at him from the shadows, their distorted forms readying for an ambush. But only the same, destroyed street stretched out behind him, devoid of any signs of life. Shaking his head, but still uneasy, Zero slowly turned back around to resume his slow journey towards the center of town. He knew coming back was a bad idea, too much memories here. His guilt was getting the better of him.

He had been the one to kill them after all. Of course it had been unintentional, but when he was honest with himself, it was still him that had ended their lives. Not Blood Claw, not Malefor, just him. It was about time he came to terms with that.

The rubble opened up, revealing a dust filled town square. Zero stopped, his traditional emotionless mask hardening at the sight before him. Still standing, despite being gutted by flames and worn down by time over the course of eight years, was the dilapidated town hall. Even from here, Zero began to pick out some of the objects laying scattering in a rough semicircle around the shattered front door. A dented shield, a rusted sword blade, the staunch whiteness of a cracked skull, half submerged in a drift of dust...

No, he would not go back there. Turning his eyes away from the structure, Zero crossed the square, aiming for another street he knew to be on the opposite side. Again, he felt as if numerous sets of eyes were watching him, starring through the hollow windows of the hall. But Zero didn't look, he didn't spare a single glance backwards, he only continued on.

Putting the town hall behind him, Zero walked along the new street, again flanked by the towering piles of rubble on either side. He used to remember walking down this street nearly every single day, often with his little sister in tow, enjoying the sights and greeting everyone they came across. He could even still locate the bakery that they used to frequent, the tall stone chimney still standing among the shambles of the shop. For all the horrible things that had happened here, there were still a few gems of happiness.

Allowing memory to guild his footsteps, Zero resumed his musings. Above all, he needed to figure out where to go from here. He had a chance for a new life up at the temple, and a group of...well, friends that would support him if he chose to go back. He could try to move on, to maybe focus on a more moderate hold on his emotions instead of bottling everything up inside. If he really was going to through with this, he needed a different outlook on life. That's what she would probably want for him.

Electra. The one dragon there that had simply accepted him as he came, and never tried to ask for him to explain himself. He had to admit, it mystified him that anyone could see him in something akin to a romantic light, but somehow she had managed that as well. Regardless, he did mean every word that he had spoken to her under that rubble, and he still considered her his closest friend at the temple. Maybe he should start acting that way, like a friend. It was the least he could do to try and make up for almost killing her after all.

Zero stopped, taking in a deep breath as he stood motionless before the last house. It was on the outskirts of the village, and thus had escaped much of the other devastation that had been wrought there. Three of the walls still stood, and the gaping door frame opened up in front of him, the wood having rotted and decayed away ages ago. Only a small corner of the roof remained, the rest of the ceiling and interior structure having succumbed to the trials of time.

For a whole minute, Zero stood there, looking over the ruined home. He knew better than to turn around now, as he could feel the eyes upon him once again, boring into his back from the other ruin he had left behind. To think, he had lived here once, when war was just a distant nightmare and his biggest worry was not going on hunting trips with his father. Steeling up his nerves, Zero stride forward, crossing the threshold entering the remains of the structure.

The former division of hallways and rooms had long ago collapsed, leaving only a wide, open room, with the far wall missing entirely. There was nothing hear that bespoke of the former inhabitants of the house. None of the pelts gathered from the hunt, none of the myriad of herbs and spice that his mother labored for so long to gather. Gone, either in the fires that must have raged here after he left or to the numerous scavengers that picked over the rubble. As a matter of fact, only three things still stood inside the ruined home.

There, in the center of the floor, three hastily cobbled together wooden pillars protruded from the decaying floor. Wood stuck out from the central beams of each marker at odd angles, making a bizarre, twisting sort of monument. But from the base of each of the columns, there was a brilliant flash of green as a series of long vines tentatively stuck out of the upturned earth. Slowly stretching upwards, the vines wrapped around each of the pillars, twisting their way upwards to try and catch some of the scant rays of sunlight that filtered down from above. And at their apex, the vines bloomed, opened up to display their flowers for all the world to see. Brilliant white petals, streaked with splashed of vibrant blue, it was a beautiful specimen to behold. A fitting memorial.

His breath catching in his throat, Zero sat down in front of the pillars, emotion unexpectedly welling up inside of him. He had known this was coming, how could he not? After all, he had been the one to construct their graves here, to dig through the wooden floor and down into the dirt. He had been the one to build the markers, using whatever salvage he could get his paws on. And he had been the one to plant the flowers, silently begging for forgiveness, before flying off into a self-imposed eight year exile.

Zero sat there, silently staring at the three graves, a single tear slowly tracing its way down his dusty cheek. He had killed them, after everything was said and done, he had still been the one to kill them. How could you forgive yourself for that? Maybe if he had been stricter, more in control, more calm, more collected...more emotionless, this wouldn't have happened. But they were dead, and it was all because of him.

But at the same time... Maybe trying to eliminate all emotion from his life wasn't the right answer either. Without emotion, without love, he wouldn't have had all of those good times, the happy memories he had of growing up. In his effort to forget this place had ever existed, he had forgotten those blissful memories as well. What was the point of closing yourself off to protect something that you no longer allowed yourself to experience in the first place?

Taking a shaking breath, Zero tried to rein back his feelings. Not to the point that they were before, but to at least the degree that he could accomplish what he came here to do. Staring at the tombs again, Zero could feel them, standing there, silently watching him. Waiting.

Bowing his head, Zero breathed out those two words that he had meant to say for the past eight years.

"I'm sorry."

There was no response, no sound of movement, but Zero felt them leave. Risking a glance back up, Zero could no longer feel the specters watching him. He couldn't move past this, but he could try to adapt, to accept what had happened. It was time to move forward again.

Zero sat there for a long time, silently starring at the graves, never once wavering in his vigil, as the wind whispered echoes of what once was.

/~\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

The sun had set, and the temple was now only lit by spluttering torchlight. In the corridors, teams of moles still worked tirelessly, scrubbing the blood from the halls and hauling away the rubble created from the fighting. Outside in the courtyard, the casualties, both dragon and mole, lay side by side, in silent memoriam. There was a sense of mournful respect around the deceased corpses, leaving the courtyard in almost dead silence. The apes, of course, received no such honor, and their corpses had been burned in a hurriedly made funeral pyre just outside the walls. But even as both the mourners and the workers looked over the devastation, they knew that at least one dragon was missing from the numbers of the dead.

Deep in the temple, within Volteer's laboratory, Spyro lay, still unconscious from his injuries. Each breath of his seemed to get shallower and shallower, even as his body slowly cooled, the malatrite rushing through his veins literally draining the life from him. He was fading away.

The rest of the dragons stood off nearby, a respectful distance from the bed upon which the purple dragon rested. Still bearing numerous small wounds from the days fighting, Connan, Gaia, and Electra could do nothing except sit and wait, stifling the occasional sniff or sob. Much nearer to Spyro himself was Cynder, who sat right by his bed side. Carefully clasping her paws around his, she leaned forward to nuzzle the comatose dragon, but all to no effect. Backing away again, Cynder continued to gaze upon Spyro with what could only be described as a completely dead expression. She was not going to cope well with his eventual passing at all.

Finally, there was Sparx, the normally happy dragonfly now draped over Spyro's horns, looking likewise devastated. He seemed to also be taking Spyro's slow passing especially hard, his normal glow reduced to only a dull beam.

With a sharp snap, Volteer slammed another tome shut, only to immediately pull another from his bookcases. Electra spared him a single glance, watching the Guardian work for the span of several seconds before returning her attention to Spyro. If Volteer hadn't found a cure yet, Electra held little hope for one ever being found.

A hard lump formed in her throat, and Electra had to quickly look away least she start crying again. Her eyes fell upon the bed next to them, upon which a second dragon also lay. It had been a harrowing ride back from the mountain, with the critically wounded Pyrus suspended below the dragons, but they had managed. As ghastly as Pyrus' wounds were, it was Volteer's current belief that he would live. As long as they got the blood loss under control, the dragon should theoretically recover, as he didn't actual have malatrite flowing through him. But to think, he would still be crippled for life...

Biting the inside of her lip to stop any audible noise, Electra felt a few tears trace their way down her cheek once again. Spyro was dying, and there was absolutely nothing any of them could do. In some ways, she was envious of Gaia and Connan, as both dragons were leaning on each other, supporting the other, helping them cope. Why didn't she have someone to comfort her as well?

Speaking of which, Zero was still nowhere to be found, and Electra was starting to get worried. He hadn't just left them again without warning, had he? First Spyro, then Pyrus, and now Zero as well. What was happening to her once blissful little group of friends?

Moments later, or maybe hours, Electra really couldn't tell, the door to the makeshift infirmary creaked open. Electra blinked in surprise as Zero crept into the room, gently shutting the door behind him so as to not cause a disturbance. He looked much the same as he had last time she had seen him, with dust coating both his scales and empty gem bags, as well as a number of small scratches and scrapes across his whole body. Sparing her only a brief glance, Zero made a beeline straight for Volteer, stopping next to the Electric Guardian, who was still pouring over the books. Speaking in a whisper, Electra saw Zero engage Volteer in a conversation.

Standing up, Electra cautiously wound her way around Gaia and Connan, working her way closer to overhear what was being said. She managed to just catch the tail end of Volteer's response to Zero's question. "...getting worse, and there's not a single remedy that might reverse the process."

"Nothing, no herb or potion? Nothing at all?" Zero asked again, and Electra sensed a slight hint to his voice. He knew something they didn't, she was sure of it.

Volteer paused, seeming to consider the younger dragon for a moment before shaking his head. "Actually, I have run across a few so called remedies for healing an extreme illness such as this. But the requirements either take up the better part of a month to make, or call for ingredients that have long ago gone extinct."

Zero turned his head, watching Spyro and Cynder again, one dying and the other spiraling downward after him. Turning back away, Zero reached up, fumbling with the straps to one of his gem bags. Dipping his paw in, Zero spoke up again. "Ingredients such as this?"

Electra moved forward again, overcome with curiosity. There, in Zero's outstretched paw, she could see several petals of a flower, stark white and streaked through with a number of blue splashes. Volteer looked down, narrowing his eyes as he scrutinized what Zero was holding out to him.

"Where in the world did you find those?" The Guardian asked, his voice suddenly filling the entire room with its volume. "They're extinct! The last known specimen was-"

"Documented before the war, I know." Zero finished. "But will it work?"

"Only one way to find out." Volteer stated, a shadow of his curiosity bubbling back to the surface once more.

Zero carefully dropped the petals on the work bench, followed quickly by his worn gem bags, where Electra was positive that more of the rare petals lay waiting. Roused by the commotion, Gaia and Connan made their way over to Electra, watching in wonder as Volteer busies himself with the new discovery. "What's going on now?" Connan asked, his voice worn and husky.

Not taking her eyes off of the white dragon, Electra muttered a quick response. "Zero came back with Dragon's Tear, a really rare flower that is all but extinct."

"So?" Gaia prompted, stealing a glance over to Spyro once again. "Will it help him, or what?"

Electra would only shrug. "We don't know, but if the information I've read about it is true, it has almost mythic healing powers."

Silence fell again as Zero took his place in their midst again, not bothering to elaborate on what he had been up to for the past few hours. But even as the room quieted, the same sense of inevitable dread was no where to be found. For now, there was a hope, however small, that Spyro might just live. It was all the dragons had to go on.

After several minutes, Volteer stepped away from the workbench and over to Spyro's bedside. "Excuse me Cynder, but could you move aside for one minute? There's one last thing I'd like to try." Cynder gazed up silently at Volteer for several seconds before reluctantly stepping back. Even as she did, the same vacant look persisted, as if she still couldn't fully understand what was happening in front of her. Electra worried for her just as much as she was concerned for Spyro, they needed to make sure Cynder didn't sink back into one of her darker moods, or else it wasn't likely that they were going to get her back.

Volteer stayed there for a full minute, both applying a simple paste he had made out of the petals and inverting a few of the remainder into the purple dragon's mouth. Moving back away, he returned to the workbench, half-heartedly looking back through his bookshelf for another tome. The younger dragons all clustered around the bed once again, waiting with baited breath.

As they waited, Electra found herself next to Zero, the other dragon temporarily looking away to study the motionless Pyrus on the other bed. Electra had her suspicions as to where Zero had managed to find the incredibly rare plant. After all, hadn't he once said that it was his mother that had specialized in cultivating Dragon's Tear?

"You went back, didn't you." It wasn't a question, and Electra was already sure of the answer. Zero looked back at her, before moving on to look at Spyro once again. Still speaking in a whisper, Electra continued. "Zero, I know they meant a lot to you, but sometimes, you just have to move forward." A brief image of her own family flashed in her mind, and Electra was reminded of how she had been inconsolable over their loss for several months. She knew that wasn't any way for a dragon to live.

Zero remained stoic, his emotionless mask staring straight onward without any recognition of what she had said. But then, he sighed, reaching a paw up to rub his eyes, a sense of exhaustion emanating from his body. He was silent for a full minute before finally replying. "I know."

Electra was tempted to say more, but quickly dismissed the idea. Sometimes, it was best not to push someone for answers. So they waited, time stretching on without much meaning, waiting for either a revival, or a goodbye.

Electra yawned, suddenly aware of how tired she must be. It must be well past midnight, and she had been awake with only a scant few hours of rest for the past two days. But she shook off the feeling, resolving to stay here until the very end. It was her duty as a friend, and Electra knew that she would never live it down if she gave into her exhaustion.

A loud cough rang throughout the room, startling them all into awareness. It was Spyro, he was still alive! Overcome by a fit of coughing, the purple dragon convulsed on the bed, the sound guttural and grating. But even as the six pairs of waiting eyes watched, the coughing subsided, and the dragon laid back on the bed. And then, a single eye slowly cracked open to gaze upon his surroundings.

"Spyro!" Cynder exclaimed, barely holding herself back from leaping onto the bed in her joy.

"Bro! You're alive!" Sparx buzzed back into the air immediately, sweeping down until he was inches away from Spyro's open eye. "You nearly gave me a heart attack! Never, ever, do that again!"

Spyro's second eye quickly opened as well, and he gently shifted his head around to look at her. "Sparx... Cynder..." He said, his voice raspy. "What...happened? I don't-"

"It's okay Spyro, you're going to be alright. I can't believe that actually worked!" Volteer chimed in, already scribing away at a piece of parchment on his workbench, likely documenting the historic moment for future reference.

"Yeah, you had us all scared for a while there." Gaia nodded in agreement, her voice obviously relieved. Connan gave a wry smile, but Electra could see him sneak a glance to the side, where Pyrus was situated.

Spyro slowly gazed around the room, taking in the faces gathered around his bedside. He frowned, glancing back over those assembled around him, evidently noticing that someone was absent. "Where's Pyrus? Is he...here as well?"

Their smiled faltered, and the dragons nervously glanced around at each other, unsure of how to proceed. Since no one else seemed about to, Electra took the initiative and spoke. "He was...injured. We think he's going to live, but he hasn't woken up yet."

Spyro tried to sit up, noticing that the others kept casting glances over to the other bed. Volteer was there in a flash, gently pushing the purple dragon back into bed. "Relax Spyro, I dare say it might be a tad early to exert yourself. As for the rest of you, I have to ask you to leave, for as much your own good as Spyro and Pyrus'."

The dragons opened their mouths to object but Volteer would hear none of it. "If you want both of them to recover, you need to do as I say. You can see them in the morning, but they still need plenty of medical attention."

"But-"

"Even you Cynder, and I am sorry for that. But he needs rest, as I'm sure you do too. Now please, I need to start preparing a second dose of that marvelous flower."

Realizing that protest was futile, the dragons and one dragonfly slowly filed out of the room, casting half a dozen glances backwards to the two dragons as they did so. The door finally shut behind them, and the group was finally outside, standing in one of the many temple corridors.

Try as she might, Electra simply could not remember the rest of that night, only that she had stumbled into a bed of cushions somewhere in the depths of the temple and fallen asleep. But what she did remember, was that her last conscious though before sleep took her was that they had made it. Against all odds, they had made it out alive. And then, she slept.

/~\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

-Several Days Later-

"Friends, we are gathered here tonight in celebration of something that I'm sure that many of us thought we'd never see. Through all the hardship, all the peril, and all the sorrow, we have survived and prospered. And now, it is with great joy that I can finally safely say that our long war...is over."

A round of thundering applause rose up as Terrador finished his speech. The temple courtyard was packed, as members of every species jostled together for a chance to catch a short glance at the high table where the guests of honor were seated. The night was still young, and a full moon hung overhead, illuminating the already brightly lit courtyard. Tables were positioned periodically across the space, each one resplendent in the finest feast that the temple could hope to offer. A rather large vacant area in the courtyard was present as well, although it was currently filled to the brim with the various guests to the temple. It wasn't very surprising that so many had shone up, after all, the event was open to all.

Terrador patiently for waited the ambient noise level to drop back down to tolerable levels before continuing on. "Before we can delve into tonight's entertainment, I do wish to get some recognitions out of the way. First, to all the brave soldiers that have fought, and given their life and limb in our defense. A moment of silence please, for you will all be missed dearly."

An immediate hush went over the crowd, the silence so complete that you could have heard a pin drop. After a few seconds, Terrador sighed, raising his head back up to gaze out over the crowd. "Thank you. Now, there are some others here that I have yet to recognize for their service to both the city and their friends, centering around the events of last week."

The crowd began murmuring again, likely speculating as to the identity of these mysterious heroes. Many glances were shot towards the purple dragon and black dragoness directly on Terrador's left, many of the onlookers noting how Spyro seemed to be leaning up against Cynder for support. Terrador cleared his throat, easily regaining the attention of the fickle crowd. "I know what you are likely thinking. And while both Spyro and Cynder have my eternal gratitude for putting an end to Malefor's cruel rein, there are others who are owed the spotlight tonight."

"First, for facing down almost certain death to help buy time for their friends, I present this this medal of valor to Gaia, one of my personal students here at the temple." There was a smattering of applause as the earth dragoness on the other side of Cynder rose to her feet and graciously walked around the table to accept her award. Accepting the medallion with a gracious nod, Gaia quickly turned around and made her way back to her seat, not showing any undue duress from all the attention.

Terrador continued. "As admirable as such a feat may be, it cannot be accomplished alone. So, for unwavering loyalty in the face of insurmountable odds, I award the next metal of valor to Connan, another student who far exceeded all expectations." Unlike Gaia, Connan practically bounded to his feet, waving cheerily to the crowd as he walked around to receive the award. Even after he made his way back to his seat, Connan continued to stand and wave, trying to play up to the continued applause for as long as he could, until he was finally pulled back down by a mildly annoyed Gaia.

"Next, for showing a brand of resolve that is rarely seen in any dragon that I have had the pleasure to teach, I present the next award to someone who's quick thinking and superb elemental abilities saved another's life. This medal of valor goes to Electra." Even as the applause rose yet again, Electra tried to pay no heed to it, instead quickly scurrying up to receive the award and returning to her seat, bright red in the face the whole way. As she sat back down, the white dragon seated next to her reached out and gave a short pat on her shoulder, even as he stood up for the next award.

"Allies and friends come in all different shapes and sizes, and one should never discredit the unique set of gifts that each of us has. So, in light of both the intelligence and skill to strike down a prominent ape leader and a superior knowledge in relation to herbs, I present the next award to Zero." The white dragon accepted his award and immediately turned around, not giving the slightest indication that the crowd even existed. But to those that knew his personally, they knew that there was no other way that he would have reacted.

Terrador remained silent for another long minute, again waiting for the crowd to settle back down. They were getting restless, and he knew that they would not be attentive to his speech for much longer. It was time that they wrapped this up.

"I have one last medal here to present, after which I promise we will continue with the night's festivities." Off to Terrador's right, the other two Guardians sat, nodding in silent agreement. As the hubbub finally died down, Terrador sucked in a deep breath, readying for the final stretch.

"We are often left asking ourselves, what is our role in the grand scheme of things? When do the needs of the many outweigh our own person needs? To give yourself to a greater cause, to know that your sacrifice will ensure the prosperity of others is one of the hardest choices that any of us can make. In light of an unprecedented display of both bravery and ingenuity, I present this final award to...Pyrus."

The chair on the far end of the table scrapped back against the stone floor, and the fire dragon that occupied it slowly rose to his feet. Long strips of bandage wound their way around his yellow chest and underbelly, restricting his movement to some degree. Behind him, his now shortened tail swung stiffly, the end likewise bound in linen. Disguising a wince of pain as a small smile, Pyrus slowly made his way done the length of the table.

The courtyard was silent, not a single clap or cheer was to be heard. Pyrus tried his best to ignore it, although he could feel their eyes upon him, noticing his...disability. But now was not the time to be thinking about that, all he had to do was get from point A to point B and back again, that was all he really cared about at the moment.

Stopping next to Terrador, Pyrus bowed his head allowing the thin strip of silk to pass over his horns and settle on to the back of neck. The gold medallion lightly bumped against his bandaged chest, again eliciting a small burst of pain that Pyrus had to suppress, least it show on his face. Looking back up, Pyrus saw Terrador gazing down at him, silently watching. Then, the Earth Guardian nodded, conveying a real sense of appreciation to the fire dragon. Pyrus allowed himself a brief smile in return.

Then, the applause came. Loud, wild, and bursting with enthusiasm and happiness. Pyrus realized that it was likely that a lot of them were applauding simply because it was the end of Terrador's long speech, but he really didn't care. Holding himself up a little straighter, he slowly made his way back to his seat, doing as Zero had done and trying to not notice the crowd as much as possible. He was already lightheaded and nauseous enough from his wounds, he didn't need to add stage fright to the mix.

But, if Pyrus had paused long enough to survey the assembled mob, he might have just noticed that not everybody was clapping. Namely, a small family of three dragons, resplendent with finery, standing off to the side, the youngest of whom's violet eyes seemed to follow Pyrus with a peculiar intensity. But, Pyrus didn't look, and the family was soon absorbed back into the crowd, as they all came to life again, this time in anticipation of the food and music that was about to be put on.

No sooner had Pyrus sat back down than he was dragged to his feet again, this time by his friends, to join in the festivities. As Connan so tactfully put it, "It's free food, are you really going to pass that up?"

Quickly separated by the crowd, Pyrus quickly lost sight of his friends, who had all expertly weaved their way off to parts unknown. But actually, that was fine by him. Although he was glad to be back from the dead so to speak, there were other things he wanted to take care of. Namely, one dragoness that he knew was lurking around here somewhere.

Off in the distance, Pyrus heard a band strike up a lively tune, the cheerful music soon filling the air. The vacant space between the tables was quickly transformed into a dance floor, with various couples all flocking in to take part. Others clustered around the food tables, engaging in content conversations with their friends and neighbors. But none of that concerned Pyrus as he picked his way through the celebration, scanning for a familiar face and trying to avoid contact with bystanders as much as possible, least he inflame his injuries.

There! He had seen her there, for a split second, he was sure of it. Honing in on where he had caught the momentary glimpse, Pyrus hurried towards the distant table. But before he had even traversed half the distance, a hauntingly familiar figure appeared just ahead of him.

Mrs. Develia, bedecked with all of her finest splendor, materialized before him, her beady eyes warily monitoring everyone who dared to approach her. Immediately changing his course, Pyrus instead headed toward one of the food tables, knowing better than to try his luck against the stern dragoness. The fact that a shining gold medal of valor now hung around his neck probably meant little, only that he was now a convincing con artist on top of a scoundrel. Shooting one last glance over his shoulder, Pyrus tried to ascertain if the dragoness he sought had indeed been there, but a pack of cheetahs made that quite impossible. He would just have to wait.

Stopping next to the table, Pyrus glanced over the selection, not feeling particularly hungry. Whatever that foul medicine Volteer kept administering was, Pyrus found that it robbed him of much of his appetite. As he browsed the selection, Pyrus spotted a golden glow hovering over one of the many dessert sections. Before he could try to work back into the crowd, the glowing dragonfly swooped over, picking up for tidbits from the vast selection. "So, grand guest of honor, or whatever, how are you not enjoying this feast laid out for us?"

"Not hungry I guess." Pyrus replied. He wasn't overly fond of Sparx, but there wasn't a whole lot of ways he could politely escape the conversation. "I thought you'd be with Spyro, what gives?"

"Oh, him." Sparx shrugged, his cheeks bursting with stored food. "He doesn't want anything to do with me for the moment, see for yourself." Pyrus followed Sparx's finger, out onto the dance floor. Through a brief break in the crowd, he could vaguely see the two of them, Spyro and Cynder, slow dancing together, looking just happy to be there with each other. Sparx made a gagging noise, and shook his head. "At this rate, I won't be able to talk to him for a full week! Outrageous! I'm his brother after all!"

"Good luck with that." Pyrus muttered, again scanning the crowd for the dragoness that he knew was out there somewhere.

Noticing that Pyrus wasn't really paying any attention to his ranting, Sparx drifted off, searching for his next delectable morsel. After a few more seconds, Pyrus left too, vanishing back into the crowd for his continued search.

A little ways away, at one of the out most tables, the other four friends sat, having already eaten their fill and more than content to watch the goings on from the distance. Connan kept casting longing glances back towards the food tables, which were being constantly restocked by the attentive kitchen staff. "Oh come on Gaia, just one more trip. Pretty please?"

"No, and that's final!" The earth dragoness snapped, shaking her head. "The last thing I need now is you going into a food coma. I didn't save your life so you could eat it all away."

Connan grumbled, obviously trying to come up with another tactic to win the day. On the other side of the table, Electra and Zero silently watched the argument, both of them preferring to remain neutral no matter how many times Connan appealed to them for help. It was almost like old times, all that they needed was the two dragons dancing down on the floor and the lonely fire dragon winding his way through the party. What exactly was he looking for anyway?

The music changed, shifting into a more refined waltz, the dancing couples quickly adapting to the new tempo. Zero shifted in his seat, seeming to be deep in thought over some issue known only to him. Finally coming to a decision, he half turned to face Electra. "Would you care for a dance?"

Electra was completely thrown by the question. A dance? With him? Electra panicked for half a second before a new thought popped into her mind. Returning Zero's even stare, Electra hesitantly cleared her throat. "Do...do you even know how to dance Zero?"

"No." He replied almost immediately. "But I was under the impression that it was an activity that you would enjoy, so I offered."

Electra leaned back, suddenly aware that Gaia and Connan were watching this development in mild shook from the other end of the table. She supposed that this was how Zero was trying to make it up to her, or maybe it was something else entirely. But, the offer was out there, so what harm was there in accepting? Wasn't the whole point of this celebration to have fun?

"Sure," Electra grinned, a giddy feeling rising up from somewhere within her. "I don't know how to dance either, so that makes two of us." With a short nod and what may have been a phantom of a grin, Zero rose to join her, and together, the two of them descended down to the dance floor, leaving two very surprised dragons in their wake.

"...did that just happen?" Gaia asked, hoping that Connan would confirm that she wasn't just hallucinating.

The ice dragon nodded, letting out a low whistle as he watched the two dragons stumble about. "Tell me about it. Zero? Dancing? I think I have been eating to much."

"Well, good for them." Gaia announced, also watching the two dragons. "I think they make a good couple, don't you?"

Connan shrugged. "Whatever you say. They're probably the only two dragons here that could sit in complete silence and not be weirded out by it."

Gaia chuckled, looking back away from the dance floor to gaze up at the stars. Next to her, Connan set his head down on the table, some of his usual good humor ebbing away. Frowning, Gaia reached over to give him a light tap on the shoulder. "Hey, you alright? You seem a little out of it. How about I agree to raid the food tables one last time, sound good?"

Connan blinked, quickly looking away as if he had been chastised. "What? Oh, no, I'm fine, it's just..."

Gaia didn't say anything, and after another minute Connan finally elaborated. "I don't know, it's just that things seemed to be going so well, I mean when the two of us were in that tunnel, and you-" Connan shook his head suddenly aware of the territory he was venturing into. "Sorry, I didn't mean to bring anything up, it's just that after that kiss, it felt like I could do anything. Fight off the whole army by myself if I needed to. And then Pyrus gets hurt, Spyro nearly died, and..."

Connan trailed off, seeming to have a hard time finding the words to express the rest of his thoughts. "I don't know, just still trying to play catch up with everything that happened, you know?"

Connan stopped speaking, taking the moment to consider what had been said. Realizing that Gaia had not spoken, he looked over his shoulder to find her staring at him, a contemplative expression on her face. "What? Was it something I said?"

Standing up, Gaia quickly reached forward and grabbed one of Connan's horns, practically dragging the dragon out of his seat. "Hey! What's the big idea? Gaia!"

Not turning around, Gaia dragged Connan off, heading towards one of the doors that led deeper into the temple. "Alright, just for tonight, we're going to go and find a quiet place to be alone."

"Why?" Connan asked, his head still being pulled awkwardly close to the ground by Gaia's hold.

Gaia glanced backwards, a light smirk flashing across her face. "Don't you remember the deal we made back at the mountain? About making sure to get everybody out alive?"

Connan narrowed his eyes, trying to remember back to what had been said. As soon as the memory came to him, his face lit up and he redoubled his efforts to free his horn. "Alright, alright! But what in the world makes you think that you have to drag me there?"

Meanwhile, Pyrus had nearly concluded his search. He had done nearly three laps around the courtyard, been accidentally bumped multiple times, and had nearly run into Mrs. Develia twice. And he still couldn't find her! Maybe, she wasn't here after all. It was a pity, he really wanted to ask her what she had been doing up at the temple during the attack.

Sighing Pyrus finally sat down, taking the seat that he had initially held during the awards ceremony. He was suppose to avoid long periods of exercise, especially if he wanted to have any hope of a full recovery. Not that there was any real possibility of that in the first place.

A scowl appeared on Pyrus' face as he swung his tail around for examination. While certainly not life threatening, the loss of his tail blade was having a rather profound effect on his life. Obviously, he was now handicapped in combat, being unable to stab opponents with his fifth limb. But there were other consequences as well. He had never quite realized how vital a tail was to maintain balance while walking, until, of course, he had to continue on without it. It had taken him one whole day to relearn how to walk, and his entire gait had to be changed to fit the less weight to counter balance.

But worst of all, he couldn't fly. Well, technically he could, but considering how much walking had changed, he didn't think flying would go too well. Besides, this chest wound of his kept him grounded anyways, and there was always the looming threat that that would never fully heal. Sure, they had won the battle, but what had he given up to do so?

Absorbed in his thoughts, Pyrus didn't notice the other dragon approach him until the moonlight was blocked by the dragon's shadow. Squinting up, Pyrus saw Cyril standing before him, looking at the young dragon with a benevolent expression. "See here Pyrus, I know this is suppose to be in your honor and all, but Volteer sent me to make sure you get your rest. Can't have that wound of yours getting any worse, now can we."

Pyrus nodded, dragging himself back upright. "Of course Master Cyril. I was getting ready to leave anyways."

The Ice Guardian nodded, still watching Pyrus with a concerned stare. "Are you not needing any assistance back to your room, young dragon?"

"No, I should be fine. See you tomorrow Master Cyril." Cyril nodded, but made no motion to leave, instead watching as Pyrus slowly walked away, slipping though one of the doors back into the temple interior. Giving a short nod, Cyril turned away, never noticing a second dragon quickly break away from the party and follow Pyrus inside.

Pyrus walked through the hall, slowly making his way back to the new room he had been assigned, after his last living quarters had all but gone up in smoke. He couldn't help but feel disappointed though. The whole reason why he had agreed to go to the ceremony was that there was a chance that she would be there. How could she not, it was the largest and still most extravagant party in all of Warfang. Or maybe she had been there, but had simply avoided him. Actually, that was probably it, just like all his other ill-fated romances. He would strike it lucky eventually.

Then, he heard it. An angry little cough from directly behind him. And he suddenly knew, he wasn't alone. Slowly turning around and taking great care not to trip over his feet, Pyrus faced his intruder.

Crystal had outdone herself for the party. Where as most dragons were content to simply wash up their scales for such an event, the Develias had done everything they could to outshine the competition. To that end, in addition to all of her finest jewelry, Crystal was wearing a simple sash of bright red silk, the color contrasting marvelously with her normal light blue scales. Of course, she had still taken the time to polish her scales and fine her claws down to near points, in addition to her usual sapphire necklace hung around her neck. And, as usual, she looked like she was about to explode with anger.

"You!" She hissed, jabbing a single claw right at Pyrus. Pyrus just stood there, unsure of what to make of her. He knew he was being accused of something, but he had no idea what he could of possibly done wrong this time.

Crystal seemed to reel herself in, if only slightly. Lowering her paw, she continued in a strained whisper. "For once in my life I literally cannot find a single way to...to...insult you!"

That was it? Well, Pyrus supposed that was a compliment, sort of. That might be the best that he was ever going to get out of her, considering that he had saved her life and this was probably the best terms that either of them could be on. Stepping forward, Pyrus gave a relaxed grin as he watched the venomous ice dragoness stare him down. "Well, who said that you have to insult me all the time anyways?"

Crystal leered at him, the humor seeming to strike a nerve with her. "Because you are still an impolite, uneducated, in..."

But Pyrus wasn't listening. A few seconds into Crystal's rant, he made up his mind. Stepping forward the last few feet, he leaned in and kissed her, right on the lips.

The slap was immediate and stinging, causing Pyrus to give a little half stumble to recover himself. Not that he was complaining though, after all, he had expected that reaction. Counted on it even. There was a lot of things he realized that he hadn't done while laying there on the throne room floor, and that had been top of the list. He knew he could likely never see Crystal again for the stunt he just pulled, but he didn't care, all he could do was simply stand there with an idiot grin plastered on his face.

Crystal was beyond livid. Red in the face, all she could do was stare at him, the paw that she had struck him with curled up into a fist. Pyrus' rash action seemed to have temporarily robbed her of her power of speech, but Pyrus was sure that it would return shortly. And he was more than willing to stand through the diatribe that was sure to follow, so long as they didn't attract any attention from the party. So, not the best as far as first kisses go, but Pyrus would take anything he could get at this point.

"You...ignoble, vile, repulsive-" Crystal stopped, seeing that her words were having absolutely no effect on the fire dragon before her. Pyrus quickly looked away, knowing that the real storm was about to be unleashed.

Before he could do anything to retaliated, Crystal stepped forward, her filed claws glittering maliciously in the moonlight, and grabbed Pyrus by the back of the head, pulling him...right into another kiss.

Pyrus blinked, unable to comprehend what was happening. This one lasted longer than the first, lasting for several uninterrupted seconds before she released him. As she did, Pyrus staggered back, more dazed from the second kiss than he had been from the slap. Did she really just...

They both stood there in silence, not quite willing to look the other in the eyes. Crystal's anger had appeared to have evaporated entirely, and now she looked rather unsure of herself, as if she wasn't quite sure where to go to from here. Pyrus was still in shook. He knew he was attracted to Crystal, but never once had he fully considered that the opposite might be true as well. Could this romance actually be a thing?

Crystal was the first one to muster up enough courage to break the silence. "You know, it's usually considered polite to let the lady go first." She said, her voice quiet and cordial.

Pyrus shook his head, still not quite believing this turn of events. "Yeah, sure, but if I had I get the feeling that it would have taken a few years."

She laughed, the sound light and musical. Pyrus couldn't help but join in, the two of them still just standing there in the temple hallway. Outside, the celebrations continued on, the party continuing on long into the morning. Because, at long last, the war was finally over.

The End

A/N: That's it, it's finished, that was the very last chapter. The story has come to a close. Whew, what a ride.

First things first, I want to say thank you. Thank you all for all the support that you have given me for the past one and a half years. I couldn't have done it without all of you. Special thanks goes out to htffan951, Zillia0128, MurasakiKuroAkai, Unit Omicron, Guardian of Light 987, cultivatingArtisan, Dark Spartin and dragzxx. And of course, thank you to everyone who favorited and followed, it really does mean a lot to me. You are awesome.

Okay, I know that I'm going to get asked this a lot, so I'm going to address it here. A sequel. I have to admit, I planned for this to be a one off. But, I've been doing some thinking, and I can actually see that a sequel is possible. Not planned out quite yet, but possible. But there is a small issue. Two issues actually.

One is that I already have another story sort of planned. Another Spyro fic of course, but it will be another large project. So I do think I'm going to do that project first before I come back to a possible sequel.

The other issue, is that I have a lot to deal with at the moment. Namely, college applications and the usual workload from school. So before I start on a new story, I'm going to take a month or so off to get down to the grindstone and finished all of that fun stuff. But I will return, do not fear on that score.

But in closing, thank you all once again, I had an absolute blast writing this story. I hope to see everybody again soon!

B1ackbird

A/N: August 2016 – And with that, I have now officially gone through this story a complete second time. With any luck, I fixed some of the issues brought up in the reviews, although I still feel that there is a number of problems that I left unaddressed. But as far as a first story goes, I'm still extremely proud of it. And thank you again so much to everyone that made it this far. Even if I never hear a word from you, it's enough knowing that I managed to entertain you for this long. Thank you.

And now, I suppose I should post an update for the rest of my projects. As it stands, I'm taking Eclipse as a total failure. Too many plot errors, and any enthusiasm I've had for the story has long since dried up. Not even a complete rewrite will save it. I'll keep it up as a remainder to myself as to what not to do, but my recommendation is to stay away from it. Even if you enjoy the four chapters I posted, the fact that I'll never complete it should be reason enough.

And yes, I have started a squeal to Resurgence. As is my want though, I rushed into it too quickly. I quite like the four chapters of that I got through, but the issue lies with the planning. To be perfectly honest, I was getting way too big of an ego trip after I finished Resurgence. So I belted out both Eclipse and Reemergence without much consideration for the later chapters and stories as a whole. All for the sake of feeding my addition to positive reviews.

So here's the deal. If you are so inclined, I would still love to get reviews if you have a comment on my writing, good or bad. And I want to finish Reemergence. But at the end of the day, I want to finish it because it's a story I want to see, not because it will net me positive reviews or new followers. So I will be writing more Reemergence chapters in my free time. I will write out all thirty or however many chapters it ends up being. I'll read through it, fix plot points I perceive as weak, and for once make sure the story is polished, and something that I can put out into the world with confidence.

It will take a year. Probably two. But I'll do everything I can to finish that story. If there's one piece of advice I can give any other writers out there, it's that you have to be both your biggest critic, and your own biggest fan. You'd be surprised how easy it can be to forget the second part. The only way you can keep moving forward, to keep improving on all the flaws and mistakes that you will make, is to have that one belief, that this is a story that you want to see brought into the world. Just hold onto that thought, and you can write anything.

This is goodbye for now, but not forever. I'll come back in one form or another. If you ever want to talk, my inbox is always open. Until then, this is B1ackbird, signing off.