Anila looked about her. Her sister was trying her hardest to remain composed but her tail was flicking with impatience and she craned her neck forwards as if doing so would speed up the journey. Pali was beside Bronto, their movements animated as they talked about the friends they'll make and what their respective Guardians would teach them. Jokul was--
"Are you nervous?" He was right beside her. Anila could feel the chill that emanated from his body. The temperature drop was so extreme that his breath came out as hazy mist. Frost collected at his shoulders, back, and even on his ivory horns.
She stared into his purple eyes. "Kinda. You?"
"Just a bit." He nudged her with his muzzle. "But we'll be fine."
Anila furrowed her brow. "Aren't you worried, Jokul? You'll be all by yourself!"
"So will Aza," replied the other, turning his head to watch the gold Dragoness, "but she'll make friends quickly. Besides, I think we'll be here for a while. That's plenty of time to make friends."
They were closer to the Temple now, the mouth looming overhead and the chattering of Dragons echoing throughout the chamber like the babbling of a river.
"There they are!" A great red Dragon and his pink mate trotted over. His wings, belly, and curved frills were bright yellow in color. His mate, on the other hand, was pink with a pale yellow belly but lighter pink wings and purple frills. Following them were twin siblings, one a shade of scarlet and the other red-pink with pink spots like her mother. A distortion surrounded all of them.
"Flame! Ember!" The Purple Dragon trotted to his friend. "It's been quite a while!"
"It sure has!" Flame turned to Mama. "Hello, Cynder! Oh, and you are?"
Lumena walked forward. "I'm Lumena. It's nice to meet you."
The Dragoness named Ember chuckled. "You too, Lumena. You seem familiar--maybe I've seen you somewhere?"
The siblings and Bronto huddled together as the twins hesitated under the belly of their mother. Her eyes as bright as the sun, the dark red Dragon glanced at the group before nudging her sister; they then trotted over to the siblings.
"Hi! I'm Ceri, and this is my hatchmate Fanna!" Ceri's frills were bright yellow like her father's, but her wings and belly were pale yellow. She held her head high, her little horns catching the sunlight.
Fanna, on the other hand, was the dark pink hatchling. She had pink spots on her back and sides, and her belly and wings were the same color. Fanna curled her tail close to her body and sat, looking around.
Bronto trotted forward, a beaming smile on his face. "Hiya! I'm Bronto! I'm a Lightning Dragon!" The siblings followed his lead and introduced themselves as well. "Are you Fire Dragons?" he inquired, despite already knowing the answer.
Ceri puffed out her chest. "Yup! I'll be a Fire Guardian when I'm grown up!"
Fanna startled when she realized all eyes had shifted to her. "O-oh, me? Well..." She ducked her head to avoid their gazes. "Yeah, I'm a Fire Dragon. I'll just move back to Dawncrest, with Mom and Dad."
Dawncrest was a Dragon city located farther out than Warfang, Anila remembered. Papa had said that it was founded after a few years after he pieced the world back together. Upon its completion, it was named Warfang's sister city.
"Oh!" Bronto bounced where he stood. "My grandma lives there!"
"Dragons from all around!" A great voice bellowed from the Temple, silencing all other voices. The hatchlings raced up to their parents to see the Dragon with the booming voice; standing proudly at the mouth of the Temple was a dark green, muscular Dragon. At the end of his tail was a round, rock-like bludgeon with spikes. His wings, belly, and horns were orange, but the scales at his shoulders were brown. Hundreds of eyes were trained on him. "The ceremony will begin momentarily! Come, gather in the mouth of the new Dragon Temple!"
Cheers resonated between the cliffs and the Dragons, as one, rose and began walking towards the Temple. The great Earth Dragon turned around and disappeared into the shadows.
Jokul trotted up to Spyro. "Papa, who was that?"
"He, my son, is Terrador." Spyro craned his neck to glance at the green hatchling. "He taught me how to control the earth when I saved him all those years ago. Let's go--we don't want to miss a good spot."
Lining the walls of the inner chamber were both elemental banners and tarps depicting Papa doing a myriad of things: teaching other Dragons the nature of their elements, conferring with what Anila believed to be other Guardians, and even overseeing the construction of Dawncest. The one Anila liked most had two panels, the top one depicting Papa soaring in the skies above a city; on the lower panel was Malefor. He was reaching out from the ground as if he were pleading for help, the silver-embroidered Ancestors standing around him and even clawing him into the ground.
Providing more light were tall shining objects situated by the walls. Hanging from the objects were more glowing crystals unlike any Anila--and many of the other hatchlings--had seen before. They glowed gold, red, orange, and an odd red-brown color, and appeared as if the Fire Guardians had shattered and harnessed pieces of the sun for the use of Dragonkind.
Azar gasped, her eyes wide as she stared at the sun-crystals. "They look like little suns! I think I'm going to like this place!"
The three families managed to get close to the front of the crowd. Before them was a raised platform. The rise extended symmetrically into three other lower platforms, each a step lower than the last. On those steps were numerous Guardians. To the left were Ice and Earth Guardians, to the right were Lightning and Fire Guardians.
Anila and the other young Dragons sat clustered together before their parents. They managed to settle at the first row of the floor, with the rest of the crowd filing in. She stared eagerly at the Guardians standing at the front platform: Terrador was at the front, with Canicus and a yellow-and-dark blue Lightning Guardian to his right. To the Earth Guardian's left was a blue-and-purple Ice Guardian.
"Between Canicus and Terrador is Volteer," murmured Papa over the din in the chamber, lowering his head so that the little Dragons could hear. "And that Ice Guardian is Cyril. They taught me all they could about their elements during the war. They were also the only four Guardians who survived the onslaught."
The siblings and their friends stared up at the Guardians with renewed vigor. Anila was sure her eyes were so wide that they were going to pop out of her skull. Papa's mentors are right in front of us!
Terrador nodded once and took a step forward. "Dragons," he said, and it instantly went quiet, "we are deeply grateful for your presence here today. The opening of this Dragon Temple is an honor for all of us. It took nearly two decades of dedication, patience, and hard work, but finally the new Dragon Temple is ready to accept new students. With this new era upon us, finally we can rebuild our race to its former glory and better ourselves for the next times of hardship."
Murmurs of agreement sounded all around.
"For today we will separate the young ones by their elements. If you look to our left and right, you will see two corridors with a pair of banners." The corridors were carved in perfect arches in the stone. Hanging at the center of the arches were the banners, embroidered with intricate patterns that represented their elements. Those patterns were also visible in the stone, outlining the edges of the arches with a thick border. To the left were the Fire and Lightning banners; to the right were the Ice and Earth banners. "The Guardians will direct our young ones to their dorms and classrooms. Tours will be held throughout the Temple today and tomorrow, with classes starting the day after."
Let's get on with it! Anila shifted her dark paws. The other young Dragons were fidgeting as well; even shy Fanna was glancing to the left with an impatient expression.
"Let's get this started. Parents, if you have questions, Canicus, Cryil, Volteer, and I, along with some other Guardians, will remain."
Cynder led them over the river and in the direction of the den, banking to the right and gliding over the forest below. Farther to their right was the edge of the forest, passing by in a blur and constantly changing shapes. Past that was the dip where Anila knew the river would be. To their left was reasonably flat land that the forest left alone, bordered by cliffs with hanging vegetation. The cliff stretched to the right and ended with sparse trees at the base.
As they flew over the land, Anila noticed the river borders flatten to the level of the river. On both sides of the river were crystalline growths--green for mana and red for fatigue if she remembered correctly. But it all passed by in a matter of heartbeats as Mama glided around the cliff and angled to the left.
Anila knew they were close when she saw Guardians flying to and fro. She first saw a group of four Ice Guardians, fog streaming from their mouths as they talked. They were carrying scrolls and books and one even had a sack looped around her neck. Tied to their necks were blue fabrics, representing their elements. Silently the Guardians glided the length of the area before dipping down into another entrance at the base of a cliff further away.
Flying opposite to the Ice Guardians were the Lightning Guardians. They flew in pairs but they, too, held items in their claws.
"They must be stocking the library," remarked Papa, flying at the rear of the group. "It's right over there, where the Ice Guardians went. I think I saw Volteer with one of them."
Cynder chuckled. "The Temple is past this cliff, but we'll just land up there." Mama beat her wings and angled her body upwards to the nearest cliff, which was bare save for grass and a large rock. Beneath the cliff was considerable stretch of land through which a large river separated into halves. Over a part of the river was a wide bridge meant to accommodate Dragons.
Anila landed next to her mother and stared forwards at the newest Dragon Temple, cut straight into the cliff at the other side of the brief stretch of flat land. There was a vast opening at the base, resembling an open Dragon's mouth. Stretching outwards above the opening were holes of various sizes cut into the cliff, opening into lit chambers. Some of the holes were large enough for Dragons to fly out of.
Hanging out of the holes and even tied to the "teeth" of the Temple's maw were elemental banners, the fabric shifting in the slight wind. The fabric, colored with their respective elements, glistened in the sun.
Someone landed behind them. "Quite the sight, isn't it?" The Dragon was smoky black in color, but his underbelly, frills, and wings were red-gold. A quartet of scales at his shoulders were pointed upwards, mimicking a raging fire. Like Azar, there was a halo of distortion around him. "Those Guardians flying in and out are tending to the library as Cyril instructed."
Spyro nodded as he turned to face the Fire Guardian. "As I thought. It's nice to see you again, Canicus."
Canicus nodded his gratitude. "And you, Spyro, Cynder. And I suppose these hatchlings here are the next generation?" His red eyes scanned the young Dragons, a gentle smile on his face.
Cynder smiled at her Dragonlings and pointed her beak towards Azar. "Yes. As you can see, one of them shares your banner. She is Azar."
The golden Dragoness puffed out her chest.
"We'll be seeing one another often when the Dragon Temple opens," said Canicus as he chuckled. "I'll be overseeing the instruction of all the young Fire Dragons."
Azar pulled her lips back in a smile. "Will you be teaching the other hatchlings and I?"
"I'm afraid not, Azar, unless I can do something your teacher can't. However, I will be making surprise visits in the classes." The mighty Fire Guardian flared his wings. "I fear I've dawdled long enough. It truly was nice seeing you and your family. May the Ancestors guide you." He took off with a powerful beat of his wings, rising high over the family and diving down alongside the cliff.
Azar fidgeted, her tail flicking to and fro. She watched Canicus glide out of his dive and soar into the mouth of the Dragon Temple. "I can't wait until the Dragon Temple opens!"
Spyro leaned down to nudge her. "Five days will pass by quicker than you think. Before you know it, you all will be training under the Guardians."
Despite what Papa said, each day seemed to pass more slowly than the last until, finally, the day the Dragon Temple was officially opened was upon them. The hatchlings woke up just after first light, nuzzling their parents awake and speculating the number of friends they would have.
"My little ones," murmured Cynder, curling her tail closer to her body, "even the Guardians wouldn't be awake at this time. Let's sleep for just a while longer."
Added Papa, "Or at least settle down."
"But it's open today!" chirped Azar. She fidgeted and bounced between Spyro and Cynder, her excitement contagious. Even Jokul was prancing alongside her, his beaked mouth parted a happy grin.
"The more you fidget, the less energy you'll have to meet new friends." At Papa's statement the hatchlings settled. They snuggled close to one another, whispering, but could not sleep. With trepidation they awaited the brightening sky until, at long last, their parents stirred.
After they ate the family headed once more to the Dragon Temple, though things were noticeably different. The sky was loud with the wing beats of other Dragons, their scales glittering in the sunlight like water. A few Anila recognized as her friends, as they, too, made their home in the Valley. There were plenty of other Dragons that were unfamiliar, all in a rainbow of colors that hinted at their elements.
A silvery white Dragoness with yellow horns glided over, her sky-colored hatchling following. She was slender like Cynder, only her neck and tail were shorter. Her pair of horns bent like lightning and even had little branches like elk antlers, which also bent. The Dragoness's belly and wings were silver-blue, like a cloud heavy with a river's worth of water. Her frills and shoulder scales were the same color, only they were outlined by a lighter shade. "Well, hello there! I suppose we're going to the same place?"
Chirped her hatchling, "Hiya, guys!" His belly was silver-blue in color, like the belly of his mother. His ivory horns seemed to reach upwards, but antler-like stubs were growing on his horns as well.
Mama craned her neck to smile at the Dragoness. "Hello, Lumena!"
"Bronto!" greeted the hatchlings, beating their wings to flutter around him.
"Are ya ready?" Bronto smiled as the quartet glided around him. "I've been a-waitin' for days!"
"Us, too," replied Jokul as he glided at Bronto's right. The green-and-purple Dragon beat his wings a few times. "I wonder how they'll split us up."
Bronto lifted his head proudly. "Did I tell ya that my great aunt is a Guardian? Her name's Tesla. She told me that they'll call our elements and lead us away."
Pali glanced at him, his muzzle wrinkled with confusion. "Your great aunt?"
"Yeah, my Ma's aunt."
I wonder if we have a great aunt. Mama never spoke of her parents, Anila recalled, and Spyro admitted that he was adopted by Uncle Sparx's parents, making them adoptive brothers. Through Uncle Sparx the siblings had an aunt, Aunt Glitter.
"We're almost there!" Azar beat her wings faster as if it would speed up time. Before them, obscured by the bodies and wings of Dragons, were the cliffs where the Temple was located.
Spyro huffed, streams of black smoke curling past his head and dissipating. "There're a lot more than I expected." He took the lead, gliding past the first cliff and over the river, his broad, orange wings expertly catching the air. He then dipped his head downwards, leading the Dragonesses and their hatchlings towards the mouth of the Temple, and landed in a clear spot.
Anila sank her claws into the soft earth upon dropping onto the grass. I'm really here! She stared forward, her face set. The Dragon Temple was brightly lit by the light of the sun, revealing the plethora of Guardians and parents with their hatchlings. Some parents walked deeper into the mouth and disappeared from view but they were looking around in awe; many others chatted with their friends.
"Are you ready?" Spyro glanced over his shoulder and nodded. "Let's go."
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