The Journey to WIntervale | Teen Ink

The Journey to WIntervale

December 6, 2019
By Writer_In_Training_79 BRONZE, Charlotte, North Carolina
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Writer_In_Training_79 BRONZE, Charlotte, North Carolina
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The Council Room doors slam shut behind the guards as they approach the council. “So?” The Council Head says, looking to the guards expectantly. 

“The candidates are here, your honor.” The first guard says. 

“Well, what are you waiting for? Bring them in.” The Council Head demands. The guards nod uniformly and exit the way they entered. The Council Head looks to her fellow council members, all who look anxious to get this started. 

The doors swing open once again, the guards walking in with two people in tow. The first, a shorter man sporting orange and yellow hooded clothing and lion ears, while the other is taller with a green top and a robe the color of blood, as well as a snake as their bottom half. 

The guards lead the two before the Council of Goldcrest, bowing to the council before they return to their positions. The Council Head watches the two people, eyeing them up and down as they both bow to her and the council before waiting to be addressed, as is customary. 

“Cyrus Amari. Ikosa.” The Council Head says, looking at the two as she says their names. “You two have been brought here for a very important mission.” She starts, looking at the two. “You two were hand-picked by myself and the other council members out of hundreds of volunteers to go on this mission. You two will travel to the city of Wintervale and meet the King Dragon who lives in a cave northeast of the town. There, you are to be granted some of the Dragon’s magic. His magic will be able to stop this plague that has been sickening our people,” At the mention of the plague, the lion looks to the floor while the snake clenches their fists. “Do you understand?” 

Both Cyrus and Ikosa nod, staying silent. 

The Council Head smiles warmly. “Good. You two will set off immediately. Good luck.” With that, the guards escort Cyrus and Ikosa outside the city borders. They are both already packed, having known that they were receiving their mission. 

The guards wish them luck before returning into the town, and the two begin their journey. They don’t get so far as a few feet from the town walls, however, when Ikosa looks over to Cyrus, already baring their fangs at him. “Don’t try anything.” They warn, the end of their snake tail flicking around menacingly. “We might be on this mission together, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to be all buddy-buddy about it. I’m only here to stop the plague. Got it?” 

Cyrus, who had put his hand on one of his swords when Ikosa began to threatening, rolls his eyes. His lion-like ears are flattened, but other than that he shows no sign of fear. “You must be fun at parties.” He mumbles. “Come on. Wintervale isn’t getting any closer.” He starts to walk in the direction of where they are supposed to go, and Ikosa hisses at him. They use their tail to try to sweep Cyrus’ legs out from under him, but it doesn’t work as planned. 

Cyrus anticipates this and jumps over their tail, immediately drawing his swords, two incredibly sharp khopeshes, and growling at Ikosa. “What do you think I'm here for? To go on a little adventure? You’ve got your reasons, and I've got mine.” 

Ikosa hisses again, but sees that he has his swords drawn and doesn’t want to get into much of a fight. Despite being rude, he’s obviously useful, otherwise, he wouldn’t have been chosen for this mission. 

The duo continues on. They stay silent, not wanting to talk to one another. Cyrus has put away his swords by now, and Ikosa doesn’t look as threatening. The sun sets and the moon rises, marking the first night of their journey. 

“We should probably find a place to set up camp,” Cyrus suggests, keeping his hands near his sides so he can grab his swords easily. 

Ikosa nods, agreeing with Cyrus instead of opposing him only because they’re tired and ready to sleep. They aren’t used to long journeys like this. Sure, they roam the forest regularly, but they’ve done that for their entire life. This is new territory. 

Cyrus finds a small patch of trees and starts to collect wood for a campfire. Ikosa goes through the small patch, finding a rabbit and a squirrel. They kill both of the animals, bringing them back to Cyrus and his now-raging fire. 

When Ikosa sees Cyrus, they see that he’s smiling. He looks sad, looking into the fire. Ikosa coils up some, giving him his privacy. He must be remembering someone he lost. That’s what Ikosa thinks, anyways. He has to have some sort of motivation to have volunteered on this mission.  

Cyrus notices that Ikosa is waiting for him, so he wipes his eyes and wraps his tail around himself as Ikosa comes over and coils up beside him, sitting down in the only way they can. Ikosa hands Cyrus the rabbit, keeping the squirrel for themself. 

Cyrus gives Ikosa a weak smile, pulling out a sheathed knife from under his sleeve and skinning it before putting a stick through it to cook. He would eat it raw, but there’s a possibility that this rabbit was sick with the plague, and he doesn’t know what Ikosa’s venom would do to his body once ingested. As his rabbit cooks, he pulls a whetstone out of one of the pockets on his belt. He puts away his knife before pulling out one of his khopeshes. He sharpens them as he waits, despite them already being sharp. 

Ikosa watches him work. They don't have anything better to do, as they’ve already eaten their squirrel. Ikosa notices how much care Cyrus puts into taking care of his weapons. “Where did you get your swords?” 

Cyrus’ hands stop working, just for a moment, before he continues to sharpen them. “I thought you said you didn’t want to get all “buddy-buddy” with me.” 

Ikosa rolls their eyes. “I was just trying to make conversation so we weren’t just sitting in silence.” 

Cyrus doesn’t answer immediately. When he does, though, it’s quiet. “I… inherited them.” He answers, which is technically the truth. 

“From who?” Ikosa asks, despite knowing how much they’re pushing him. 

Cyrus doesn’t answer that. He just continues to sharpen his sword. Once he's satisfied with the first one, he moves on to the second one. 

By the time he finishes with the second sword, his rabbit is cooked. He puts away his whetstone and sheaths his sword before he takes his rabbit and eats it. The moon is high in the sky by now, and he looks at it and smiles. 

By now, Ikosa has retreated to one of the nearby trees. They’re up in the leaves, coiled around a branch as they sleep. 

Cyrus quickly finishes his meal before he shifts into his lion form. He keeps watch for a while but eventually falls asleep, curled up into a ball with his paw over his face. 

Both Cyrus and Ikosa sleep through the night. Ikosa is used to waking up early, that’s when all of the prey is still asleep. It’s easier to hunt that way. They stretch and come down from the tree. They hiss, though, when they see a lion sleeping on the opposite side of the burnt-out campfire. 

That lion, of course, is just Cyrus, but Ikosa has no way of knowing that. They hiss, carefully approaching the beast. 

Cyrus wakes up, looking to Ikosa. They’re hissing at him, but he just assumes that they just woke up on the wrong side of the branch. He sits up and yawns, shaking out his mane. 

Ikosa hisses again. But this lion doesn’t seem threatened. Why isn't he threatened? 

Cyrus, seeing how defensive Ikosa is, realizes that they must not know that it’s him. He shifts back into his human form, flashing Ikosa a grin before he stands up, stretching as well. 

Ikosa looks absolutely dumbfounded. “You...but… what?”

Cyrus laughs. “It’s just a spell I learned a few years back. It only works cause… you know, lion?” He says, gesturing to his ears. 

Ikosa, still looking dumbfounded, just nods. Okay. Sure. This is fine. 

Cyrus pulls out a map, plotting where they have already traveled with his grin still on his face. “To get to Wintervale, we’ve pretty much just got to stay on this path. There’s an inn that we can stop tonight, but we should keep moving. We can stop for food on the way there.” He says, looking up to Ikosa, his grin having fallen by now. 

By now, Ikosa has come to their senses and is actually paying attention. They nod, and Cyrus rolls up the map before putting it away. After a few last-minute preparations, the two set off on their journey once again. 

The two travel pretty much all day, keeping their wits about them in case bandits or a wild animal decides that they look good enough to eat. The two eventually come upon a watering hole, and decide to stay here for a while and rest. It’s around noon now, and neither one of them have had breakfast. Cyrus hunts this time, shifting into his lion form and catching fish from the water. Once he has fished for the both of them, he shifts back into his human form and prepares the fish, letting Ikosa guard as he’s busy preparing the food. He filets the fish, checking for any signs of disease before he gives Ikosa their fish and eating his own. 

Ikosa comes to sit next to Cyrus, and the two eat in silence. They’ve formed a bond, even if it’s just from the two walking together. They’re on this mission together, but despite the bond, they don’t completely trust each other. Cyrus sheaths his knife once he’s finished eating, looking around the watering hole as he waits for Ikosa to finish. 

Everything seems peaceful, but Cy sees something in the tall grass move. He starts walking over there, noticing what it is. It’s a jaguar, looking straight at Ikosa. 

Cyrus draws his swords, a low growl forming in his throat. The jaguar doesn’t notice him and jumps into the air to pounce onto Ikosa. 

Cyrus watches as the jaguar jumps, and he jumps towards the jaguar, pushing him to the ground away from Ikosa. The jaguar stands and roars at Cyrus, who just growls back, his growls sounding like an actual lion’s growl. The jaguar charges at Cyrus, but he dodges, countering and tearing a long gash into the jaguar’s side. The jaguar growls in agony but continues to attack. 

By now, Ikosa sees what’s going on. They hiss at the jaguar, wanting to help take down this beast. The jaguar charges at Ikosa, managing to bite them in the tail before they’re able to get away. Ikosa grunts, but uses the jaguar’s position to their advantage, sinking their fangs into the jaguar’s neck and pushing their venom into his blood. 

The jaguar growls again, roaring at the duo. Cyrus doesn't seem to be bothered by the thundering noise and runs at the jaguar. The jaguar tries to fight back, but he can already feel the effects of the venom set in. Cyrus is able to get close enough to the jaguar to slit his throat, causing him to drop dead. 

Cyrus stands there for a second, looking to the jaguar’s body and just trying to catch his breath. Ikosa would come over and make sure that he’s okay, but they’re hurt. Cyrus sees this and comes over to Ikosa, opening one of the pockets on his belt and bandaging up their wounds. 

Ikosa hisses at Cyrus when he touches their wound, but he just ignores them, only stepping away when their wound is bandaged. Ikosa nods to Cyrus, giving him a bit of a smile as they wipe some venom from their lip. 

“Thank you,” Ikosa says, giving Cyrus a genuine smile. “You saved my life, Cyrus.” 

Cyrus smiles back. “You’re welcome. You’d do the same for me.” He says, going the water to wash the blood off of his khopeshes. “By the way,” he adds, “Call me Cy.” 

Ikosa smiles at Cy, waiting for him to finish cleaning off the swords. 

“Are you going to be well enough to continue on?” Cy asks Ikosa as he sheathes his swords. 

Ikosa nods. “I should be fine, at least until we can get to that inn you were talking about.” They say, standing up from their coiled position. 

Cy nods, coming over and helping Ikosa steady themself. “We can ask if there’s a healer nearby once we get there.” Ikosa nods in agreement, and the two carry on. 

The duo moves slower than they had been, Ikosa not moving as quickly as they had been to not hurt their tail even more. The two continue to travel, finding the inn by the time twilight came. Cy opens the door for Ikosa, and they go inside, Cy following after them and closing the door behind himself. 

The inn has a desk to the left of the door, and to the right, there is a small common area with couches and cushioned seats. Behind the desk is a half-orc woman, who smiles to the duo as they enter her inn. “Good evening!” She greets warmly. “What can I do you for?” 

Ikosa looks to Cy. They aren’t used to speaking to people about business, so Cy steps up, despite not wanting to speak to her either. “We’re just passing through and need a place to stay the night.” 

The half-orc nods. “Sure. Where are you guys headed to?” She asks, pulling a book out from under her desk to look at what rooms are available. 

“We’re going to Wintervale.” Cy answers. At the mention of Wintervale, Ikosa notices a guy on one of the couches perk up, his large wings seeming to puff up. The magpie that sits on his shoulder nudges his head, and he opens his pack and gives the bird a berry. 

“Ah, Wintervale is a beautiful town this time of year.” The orc says, smiling to Cy. “I’ve got a room open with two beds for 8 silver.” She offers, not assuming that Cy and Ikosa are a couple, much to Cy’s relief. “Does that work for you?”

Cy nods. “Yep, just give me a moment…” He says, opening one of the pockets on his belt and counting out 8 silver, putting them on the woman’s desk. 

The orc smiles and takes the money, handing him the key to Room 3. “Is there anything else?” 

Cy takes the key and almost shakes his head but then remembers Ikosa. “Is there by chance a healer nearby? My compatriot and I ran into a jaguar on the way here, and they ended up getting bitten.” 

The orc woman shakes her head and is about to speak, but the man with the wings stands, having heard Cy’s question. “I’m a healer.” 

Cy looks over to him, looking alarmed that even he hadn’t noticed that there was another person here. 

“Would you mind if I took a look?” The man asks, his bird still perched on his shoulder. 

Ikosa shakes their head and follows the man to sit down. 

Cy smiles to the orc one last time before going over to Ikosa and the man. The orc smiles back and goes into the back room. 

The bird that sits on the man’s shoulder takes off, flying over to Cy and perching on his shoulder. 

“Iris, don't bother him too much.” The man orders, and the bird, assumingly named Iris, chitters back. 

The man takes a look at Ikosa’s tail, unwrapping the bandages from around it. He takes a look at the wound before looking up at Ikosa. “The good news is that it’s not infected, so it won’t be as hard to heal. It’ll cause you some pain, but it’s an easy fix.” 

Ikosa nods. “Just get it over with.” 

The man nods and holds his hands over the wound. He mumbled a few words under his breath, and Ikosa hisses in pain as the wound heals over. The man doesn’t seem fazed and continues his work. After a few minutes of the man performing the spell, Ikosa’s wound is healed, the pain only a phantom. 

The man smiles at Ikosa, and they thank him. “How can we repay you?” Cy asks, speaking for the both of them because he’s not entirely sure that Ikosa would be up for paying for his services. 

“I heard you two are on your way to Wintervale. May I ask why?” The man asks. 

Both Cy and Ikosa look at him skeptically. “What’s it to you?” Ikosa asks, their tone housing a hiss. 

The man looks to the counter, making sure that the orc isn’t listening in, before lowering his voice. “I’ve heard rumors of strong magic that comes from there. I’m wondering if there’s strong enough magic to stop the plague.” 

Cy and Ikosa look to each other. That’s their exact mission, too. Ikosa coils up some, and Cy’s ears flatten. Iris, who has been on Cy’s shoulder, flies back over to the man and nestles in his hair like a nest, causing him to smile and feed her a few nuts. 

“That’s… We’re headed to Wintervale for that too.” Cy answers, earning a hiss from Ikosa. Cy growls back at them, shutting them down before an argument can start. They can argue about this later. 

The man smiles, ignoring the duo’s mini argument. “Perfect. If you two don’t mind, your payment could be me tagging along?” 

“How do we know that you won’t just murder us in our sleep?” Ikosa hisses. 

“Blind trust, but I figure you don’t like that very much.” The man laughs, holding his hand out to Ikosa to shake. “My name is Wren.” He says, trying to be polite. 

Ikosa looks hesitant to take his hand, but they shake it after a few moments. “I’m Ikosa. This is Cyrus.” They introduce. 

Wren smiles at the two. “Well, Cyrus, Ikosa, I will see you two in the morning.” He says, letting go of Ikosa’s hand before smiling and walking down the hallway where the rooms are. 

Ikosa almost immediately launches into a debate with Cy about trusting Wren, but Cy shakes his head, leading them into their room before they start arguing. 

“I can’t believe you!” Ikosa says once the door is closed. “Why did you trust him like that?” 

“He might be a good person to join us, Ikosa,” Cy argues, his ears flattened and his tail flicking around behind him. “He healed your wound in under a minute. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to have a healer while we are facing a literal dragon?” 

“We’re not supposed to fight the dragon, Cy. We’re supposed to ask it for some of its magic, peacefully.” Ikosa argues back. “Don’t you think it's weird how this guy randomly shows up the moment we need a healer, who is also on the exact same journey that we’re on?” 

Cy considers that statement. “I mean, that is a little off, but Ikosa, what happens if we come across another jaguar? Or a lion? Or bandits? What happens if one of us gets hurt? What do we do then? There’s not anything besides road from here to the Dragon’s Cavern. We need a healer on our team, Ikosa.” 

Ikosa hisses at Cy. “If we come across another jaguar, why can’t you just pull your little magic act and talk to it, maybe ask it about its feelings, how ‘bout you, house cat?” They hiss, causing Cy to growl loudly at Ikosa. 

“Don’t you dare call me that again, snake,” Cy says, his growls still very prominent in his voice. “We are letting Wren come with us. That is final. If he ends up stabbing us in the back, you can blame me. I will take full responsibility.”

“You bet your tail you’ll be taking full responsibility,” Ikosa says, sitting down on their bed. “Because I'm not taking the blame.”

The argument ends at that, and soon the two fall asleep in their separate beds, their backs towards each other. 

The next morning, neither of them speak to each other. Ikosa returns their key to the front counter as Cy meets up with Wren and plans their route for the day. 

“We’ll probably be able to make it to… about here, by nightfall.” Cy says, pointing to a spot in between where they are now and Wintervale on his map. 

Wren nods in agreement as he nudges Iris to wake up from her nap on his shoulder. “Sounds good to me. We’ll have to be careful, though.” Wren adds. 

“Why’s that?” Cy asks, his ears flattening. 

“There’s a group of bandits that roam over here, where they know they can find wayward travelers.”

“Have you ever fought them?”

“Yeah, I have. They might look tough, but they’re about as useless as a drowned fish.” Wren says, smiling a bit to Cy before he pulls out a handful of blueberries from his satchel. He feeds a few to Iris before eating the rest. 

Ikosa finishes their business with the orc woman who runs the inn, and the party heads out, continuing their journey.

Wren has Iris fly ahead to scout out anything that could be amiss, and he starts walking backwards so he can talk with Cy and Ikosa. “So,” Wren starts. “Why are the two of you on this journey?”

Ikosa suddenly looks defensive, and Cy just nervously fidgets with the handle of one of his khopesh swords. 

“What’s it to you?” Ikosa hisses, causing Wren to smile reassuringly. 

“I’m just curious. Here, I'll go first.” He says, still walking backward. “I grew up on a farm with my parents, yeah? One day, I woke up, and I had forgotten two months of my life.”

Cy and Ikosa both look skeptical at that. “You… forgot two months of your life?” Cy asks, and Wren nods. 

“Next thing I knew, I was awake and my mom was sick.” He says, his hair and feathers seeming to fluff up. 

Cy starts to fidget with the hilt of his sword again, and Ikose nods. “I lost my sister in the first few months of the plague. We’ve lived in the forest our whole lives, it was her first time getting sick. She… couldn’t fight it.”

Cy looks surprised at how willingly Ikosa shared of their past. “You’re… actually sharing?” 

Ikosa hisses at Cy, causing Cy’s ears to flatten. “Yes, I'm sharing. I might be mean but I'm not inconsiderate, house cat.”

Cy growls loudly at Ikosa. “I told you not to call me that.” He says, hints of a roar in his voice.

Wren looks surprised and comes to stand between Cy and Ikosa before this escalates even more. “Both of you, calm down.” Wren demands, and Ikosa hisses at Cy while Cy growls back. 

Wren walks between Cy and Ikosa, making sure that they don’t end up fighting. Iris comes back and lands on Wren’s shoulder. She chitters to him what she saw, and he stops, which makes Cy and Ikosa stop. 

“There’s what now?” Wren asks Iris. Iris chirps to him again in the same tone as before, and Wren looks alarmed. “You sure?”

Iris rolls her eyes at Wren, nipping his ear as if to say ‘yes I'm sure you moron’. 

Cy and Ikosa both look and feel beyond confused, but listen when Wren turns to them. “There’s a group of those bandits up ahead. We’ll have to be careful. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to just get past without them wanting to steal from us.”

Both Cy and Ikosa nod, forgetting their argument for now as not to die. They keep moving forward. A canvas-covered cart comes up from the other side of the hill, coming down the opposite side of the path. Iris ruffles her wings, silently telling the group that these are the bandits. 

The group walks silently as the cart passes them, and Cy lets out a small sigh of relief as they pass the cart without being attacked. 

Cy had celebrated too soon, however. Before he knows it, he hears silent footsteps behind him. Without hesitation, he pulls out his khopeshes and holds them to the throat of one of the bandits. 

The bandit is slightly taller than Cy, which certainly isn’t an achievement, considering how short Cy is. He has a cloth pulled over his face and a mask over his eyes, hiding his identity.

“What exactly do you think you’re doing?” Cy growls, his ears flattened against his head. He hates that he’s fighting someone without his own mask on, but oh well, c’est la vie. 

The bandit flinches at how quickly Cy reacts, despite having been as quiet as he could have been. The bandit smirked, though, and with a wave of his hand, the group is surrounded by the other bandits in the wagon.  

By now, Ikosa’s drawn their battle-axe as Wren readies a few spells in his hand. They’re ready to fight, and they will win. 

The bandit that Cy has under his swords laughs. “You can’t outmatch us, cat. You and your friends will be taken down faster than the cheetah can run.”

A fierce glint appears in Cy’s eyes at the mention of a cheetah, and without thinking, the swords in his hands immediately meet with the bandit’s neck, slitting his throat before kicking him down to the ground, proving his point as the bandit does not stand up.  

“Would anyone else care to join him?” Cy growls, looking to the other bandits. Most of them look either scared or furious, and a few more bandits come at Cy. 

Cy growls at the bandits, running at them. He attacks with deadly accuracy. The bandits drop like flies, Cy’s khopeshes becoming coated in blood. 

A few other bandits run for Ikosa. They hiss, wrapping one up in their powerful tail as they swing their axe at the others. The axe does quick work with the bandits, while the one in their coils takes a minute to drop dead from suffocation. Ikosa grins and carries on with taking down the bandits. 

Wren’s wings flare when he sees the bandits ganging up on them. The last of the bandits come his way, and he takes flight. Hovering a few feet off of the ground, he shoots blasts of light from his hands. The moment that the light hits the bandits, they wail as the light eats up their skin and they drop with blisters and burns. Wren looks surprised at that effect. That spell usually isn’t that strong. It’s supposed to give an effect that is similar to heatstroke, just much more concentrated and therefore quicker. He switches to a different kind of spell, one that still kills the bandits but does not give them as gruesome of a death. 

Even Iris helps out in the battle, flying around the bandits and confusing them until she can get an opening to peck their eyes, immobilizing them long enough for one of the others to come in and finish the job. 

Wren, still in the air, watches for any more bandits. There are a few more that come out of the wagon, and Cy and Ikosa deal with them swiftly. Ikosa looks away for just a second to take down a bandit when Wren sees a bandit sneaking up on Cy. He tries to call out for Cy to turn around, but it’s too late. Cy falls to the ground. The bandit smirks, holding the sword covered in Cy’s blood. 

Ikosa hisses at the bandit and efficiently decapitates her, rushing to Cy’s aid. The battlefield is quiet. They won, but at what cost?

Cy is knocked out by the impact of falling to the ground. When he wakes up, however, he is no longer on the trail with Ikosa, Wren, and the bandits. He’s in a space that looks like his home. Their home. 

He walks into the living room and there, sitting on the couch, is a cheetah. Cy’s eyes fill with tears. After all this time, he finally gets to see him, but he’s not even himself. 

The cheetah smiles. “I’m proud of you, Cy.” 

Cy feels tears run down his face as he comes to sit next to the cheetah. He wraps him in a hug, crying into the cat’s shoulder. 

The cheetah purrs, trying to help Cy stops crying.

“I miss you so much,” Cy says to the cheetah, and the cheetah just nudges Cy with his head. 

“I miss you too, love. I wish that you could come with me. But now is not your time.” 

Cy pulls back from the hug and looks at the cheetah. The cheetah is crying too. He smiles sadly at Cy, his purrs wavering as he tries to stop himself from crying. 

“You’re being healed by the bird.  You won’t get to stay with me for much longer.”

“But I have so much I want to say to you,” Cy says, his ears pinned against his head. “So much has happened since you died.”

The cheetah smiles, padding over to Cy and nudging him with his head. “I’ve seen it all, Cy. I’ve been with you every step of the way.”

Cy’s eyes widen. “ have?” 

The cheetah nods. “Of course I have been, love. Someone’s gotta look out for you.”

Cy laughs at that, lightly pushing the cheetah away. “Hey, I didn't kill those bandits for nothing. I can look out for myself, thank you very much.”

The cheetah laughs too, and Cy smiles. “I wish that I could stay with you,” He says to the cheetah. 

“I wish you could too, love, but it is not yet your time. You have a quest to finish.”

“But… I don't want to leave you.” Cy says, his tears starting back up. 

“But you have to. Do it for me, okay?” 

Cy nods, wiping his tears. “Okay. I will. I’ll try my best. I promise.” 

The cheetah smiles, carefully coming over and wrapping Cy in as much of a hug as he can. “I love you, Cy. You’ll do amazing.”

Cy smiles, hugging the cheetah back. “I’ll do my best. For you.” He says, pulling back from the hug and kissing the cheetah’s head. 

“I love you too, Onders.”

Wren watches as Cy falls to the ground. He quickly lands next to Cy, Iris landing next to Wren. Cy is unconscious, most likely from hitting the ground, but he is still breathing. There’s still a chance to save him. 

Wren works as quickly as possible, trying his best to heal Cy’s wound before the time runs out. Cy, still unconscious, whimpers at the pain the healing causes him, but it doesn’t cause him to wake up. 

It takes Wren five minutes to heal Cy. Once his wound is healed, Wren has to sit back and catch his breath, his face had paled from the amount of magic that he had used. Ikosa watches this whole scene with a worried expression. They hate to admit it, but Cy was right. It was a good idea to keep Wren around. It takes Cy a minute or so to wake up after the heal. His eyes open, and tears start to well up in his eyes. He sits up, wiping his now-wet eyes and nodding to Wren to give his thanks. 

“How do you feel?” Wren asks. Cy just shrugs. 

“My head and my chest hurt,” Cy answers, his voice quiet as if he doesn’t want to break the silence at all. 

Wren nods. “That’s to be expected. You hit your head when you fell, and the heal will leave you sore at the wound for a few days.”

Cy just nods. He tries to stand up, but his legs give out. He almost hits the ground again, but Ikosa catches him. 

“You’re good, Cy, don’t worry. I’ve got you.” They say, standing up and helping Cy get his balance 

Wren also stands and walks over to the now defeated bandit’s cart. He gives it the once over, determining that all of the bandits had been killed in the battle. 

“Would it be unethical to steal their cart?” Wren asks Ikosa, as if it wasn’t completely unethical to kill the twenty or so bandits. 

Ikosa considers it, then shrugs. “I mean, we defeated them, and they were outlaws. It could be considered our reward…?” They say, the statement more of a question than a statement. 

“Let’s take it.” Cy pitches in, leaning all of his weight onto Ikosa. “I, for one, physically cannot walk. We could go in shifts. One drives while the other two sleeps or guards.” 

Wren and Ikosa nod in agreement, Ikosa helping Cy into the back of the wagon while Wren takes the wheel.

 The wagon is horse-drawn, with two brown and white spotted horses pulling it along. They look malnourished, Wren realizes. He gets down from his seat and has Iris translate for him. He talks with the horses for a few minutes, until Ikosa yells at him. “Hey, bird brain, what’s the holdup?”

“I’ll be right there.” Wren answers. He rubs the horses’ noses, and they whinny happily. He gives them each an apple from his satchel before he takes the driver's seat. 

Wren waits for the horses to finish eating before he turns the cart around, dodging the bodies of the fallen bandits and continuing on their way to Wintervale. 

The trio rides down the road until nightfall. By then, Ikosa has taken up the wheel. Wren is making sure that Cy is okay, and Cy is just resting. Ikosa takes the wagon off-road to a nice open pasture and stops the horses. 

“It’s getting late,” They say. “We should set up camp for the night and let the horses take a break.” 

Both Wren and Cy nod, and start to get to work on setting up camp. Wren has to help Cy out of the wagon, but once he’s on the ground he’s able to walk on his own, though he’s still a bit wobbly. 

Wren goes up to the horses with Iris, and the horses neigh happily at the sight of the nice bird. Wren smiles and starts to unhitch them from the cart, exchanging their bridles for halters that were in the back of the cart. “Don’t go too far, now. We’ll need you guys in the morning. Iris can come with you so you don’t get lost.” 

The horses agree, and Iris hops onto one of the horses’ back. The two horses look to each other excitedly before they start to run around and play with each other, not having had a chance to run around on their own in a very long time. 

Cy hasn’t said anything since they got into the cart. He goes and collects some firewood, easily starting a campfire. Ikosa goes out and finds a few rabbits and even a deer in a nearby wood. They bring them back to camp, and Wren cooks their food. 

Ikosa comes over and coils up next to Cy. Something must have happened while Cy was knocked out. He hasn’t said a word, and as far as Ikosa knows, that’s pretty unusual. 

“What’s bothering you?” Ikosa asks. 

Cy takes a long time to answer their questions. “Do you actually want to know or did Wren put you up to this?” 

Ikosa shakes their head. “I actually want to know. You’ve been out of it ever since you woke up.”

Cy doesn’t speak again for a while. He looks into the crackling fire, watching Wren cook their dinner. 

“I….” Cy hesitates. He shouldn’t be telling Ikosa this. They’ll think he’s crazy. He speaks anyways. “I have my own reasons to be on this mission. I met this guy, years ago. His name was Onders. He was amazing, Ikosa. Sweet, funny, sarcastic. He was even like me, except he was a cheetah and not a lion. We started dating soon thereafter, and we were happy. I was happy with how I was living for the first time in my life…” Cy smiles at the memory, a few tears making their way out of his eyes. “He… died, when the plague hit the town.” 

Ikosa lets Cy lean on them. They know how hard it is to lose someone you love to the plague. “I’m sorry, Cy. I know that must’ve been hard for you.”

Cy nods, wiping his eyes of his tears. He takes a deep breath before continuing. “When I was knocked out...I was back home. He was there, Ikosa. I was able to talk to him.”

Ikosa looks surprised at that. Cy was able to see his dead boyfriend? Was it some sort of dream, or had he really been that close to death? “Seriously? You were able to speak with him?”

Cy nods, letting his tears flow freely. “I miss him so much, Ikosa. It was so great to get to see him again.” 

Ikosa wraps their tail around Cy some. “I’m glad you were able to see him, Cy. It would be amazing for me to get to see my sister again.”

Cy’s eyes widen at the mention of Ikosa’s sister. “Ikosa, I’m...I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.” Cy feels bad. He brought up getting to see Onders again, and now he’s made Ikosa feel bad because they didn’t get the chance to see their sister again. 

Ikosa smiles at Cy, looking reassuring. “It’s alright Cy. I’m happy for you.” It sounds genuine, but Ikosa is understandably jealous. They’ve wanted for so long to see their sister. There is a part of them that wishes they were the one who was stabbed. Then maybe they’d get to see their sister again. 

The rest of the night is pretty uneventful. The trio eats their dinner and the two horses come back to sleep with the group. Everyone falls asleep peacefully, forgetting about the world for a while. 

Cy is the first one up. He manages to stand up on his own, feeling much better than he had yesterday. He stretches before shifting into his lion form, going out to just run around and blow off some steam. 

Cy runs throughout the field, only returning to camp when the sun has risen just above the horizon. Both Wren and Ikosa are awake, but Iris and the two horses are still sleeping. There’s a bit of tall grass behind Wren, and Cy carefully moves into it. Ikosa sees him and thankfully recognizes that it is him and not some random lion.

Cy waits until Wren isn’t paying attention and doesn’t have a weapon in his hand before he pounces on him, knocking him to the ground. 

Wren, who has no idea that this is Cy, screams, trying to get this lion off of him. Wren manages to scramble out of the lion's grip and draw a knife, pointing it at the cat. 

Ikosa is on the other side of the burned-out campfire, and they’re dying of laughter. 

Wren looks over at Ikosa, looking both scared and confused. “Ikosa??” Wren asks, looking between then and the lion. “What are you doing? Help me!” 

Ikosa just shakes their head, still laughing. 

Cy, seeing that Ikosa is busy laughing, bounds over to them. He growls happily before he lays down on them, causing Ikosa to hiss and try to push him off of them. It takes them a few minutes, but they finally manage. They hiss, and Cy just growls back “What was that for, house cat?” Ikosa asks. 

Cy just grins, shifting back to his normal form and shrugging. “Because I was bored when I woke up and neither of you were awake.”

Wren, having just seen the lion that attacked him turn into Cy, looks dumbfounded. “Wha… how?” 

Both Cy and Ikosa laugh. “I thought you were the magician, are you not?” Cy teases, going to sit next to the horses. They wake when they hear movement, and they both greet Cy by bonking their heads into him. Cy laughs and pets the horses’ noses, much to their content. 

“You guys ready to roll out?” Cy asks the horses. They both neigh, and Cy smiles. “Alright, come on then.” He says, standing up and walking over to the front of the cart. The horses follow behind him and allow him to tack them up. 

As Ikosa makes sure that the fire is all the way out and is collecting the extra food, Wren hops into the wagon. He looked around, seeing all of the stolen goods that the bandits were carrying in this cart. He seems amazed at how much they were able to fit in here when they had to accommodate for so many men.  

While rifling through the stuff, Wren finds a silver locket. He holds it in his hand and inspects it. He wants to open the charm on it, but he feels a great amount of arcane energy coming from it. He hops down from the wagon and walks a few paces away from the group.

He opens the locket. 

The locket starts to burn in his hands, and he drops it, looking at the smoldering burn that it just gave him. It’s not in the shape of the locket, though. It’s a rune. It looks like a backward, lowercase ‘y’. 

Wren recognizes it almost immediately, having done some rune study when he was younger. This rune is called Kaun. It says that through a wound or sickness, something will be learned. 

The locket, still open on the ground, starts to produce a bright green fog. Wren stands back as much as he can, his feathers puffed up anxiously. 

“Uh… guys?” Wren calls to the other two, cradling his hand into his chest. 

Ikosa comes over and gasps at the smoke that’s collecting on the ground. Cy comes from the horses. “What’s-- oh,” Cy says as soon as he sees the smoke. He immediately draws his khopeshes, and Ikosa hisses at the smoke. 

From the smoke emerges a figure. It has wings like Wren, except they’re those of a crow. The figure wears what looks to be a tattered robe, and lifts off of the ground with a giant flap of its wings. 

Wren, Cy, and Ikosa watch as this figure looks to them, then laughs. 

Wren pushes off the ground and meets the figure in the air, shooting a beam of light from his good hand towards the figure. The figure easily deflects the blast, laughing at Wren’s efforts. “Now, Wren, is that any way to treat an old friend?” The figure asks. 

Wren’s eyes widen. He knows that voice. But… how? “...Blaise?” He asks, looking confused as ever. 

“Wait, Wren, you know this guy?” Cy asks from the ground. 

Wren is about to answer, but Blaise cuts him off with a maniacal laugh. “Oh, he does know me. At least, he used to.” 

“Blaise, what happened?” Wren asks, still in the air. “We used to talk all of the time. I thought… I thought you were just an imaginary friend. Why did you leave?”

Blaise looks completely disgusted at Wren’s statement. “Why did I leave? Oh, I see. I left? Is that what happened? Because I remember it very differently. The second that you met that stupid bird, you abandoned me.” 

Wren looks incredibly confused but doesn’t get a chance to speak. With a flick of Blaise’s hand, Wren’s mouth is bound. 

“No, you do not get a chance to speak. You left me! You abandoned me!” Blaise screams, the smoke around his growing darker. “But now that I have my own form, it’s time to finish what I started.” Blaise looks to Wren, who obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about. 

Blaise comes over to Wren, looking aggravated. “I’m surprised you’re still here, honestly. That plague was meant to be nasty. I’m impressed that you’ve survived this long.” 

Wren hears Ikosa hiss behind him, and Cy roars at Blaise. “You… you’re the reason that this plague has been murdering our people?!” Cy roars, tightening his grip on his swords. 

Ikosa hisses loudly, while Wren looks beyond furious. Blaise just laughs. “You three have helped me out tons, you know. By telling… well, pretty much everyone where the dragon is, I know how I can make my plague permanent. Then, and only then, I can rid the world of people like you. I will not be abandoned again. I will not be forgotten again. I will destroy this entire planet to be sure that my name is remembered throughout eternity.” 

Wren tries to fly forward and grab Blaise, but he ends up being too slow. Blaise quickly flies out of range, laughing at Wren’s efforts. “You can’t stop me now, little chick. You opened the locket. You gave me a physical form. You’ve been helping me out more than you know.” Wren looks extremely confused, so Blaise elaborates. “Do you really think that you just stayed asleep for two months straight?” He laughs. He flies down and picks the locket up off of the ground. The locket, trying to pull from Blaise’s grasp, breaks into two. One half goes and rests around Wren’s neck, while the other rests with Blaise. 

Blaise grins to the group. “Good luck stopping my plague now!” He says, and with a wave, he flies up and away, going in the direction of Wintervale. 

Wren is pushed back at the force that Blaise flies away. He looks down at the locket on his neck. He tries to pull it off with the hand that isn’t hurt, but his burned hand starts to sizzle again, so he has to stop. He lands down in front of Cy and Ikosa, the binding that had been around his mouth vanishing now that Blaise is long gone. 

“What in the name of the stars was that about?” Cy asks Wren. Ikosa doesn’t even think to say anything. They look furious. They come over to Wren, wrapping their snake half around him to threaten him.

“What did you know of this?” They ask, a low hiss in their voice. 

Wren tries to get out of Ikosa’s grip, but they just tighten their tail around him, waiting for an answer. 

“I had no clue!” Wren confesses. “I haven’t seen Blaise in years. I guess he was a ghost or a specter. I had always thought he was just an imaginary friend.” He admits. 

“What hand did you have in the plague?” Ikosa hisses, their tail beginning to constrict Wren. 

“Ikosa, you need to calm down.” Cy urges, placing a hand on Ikosa’s shoulder. 

Ikosa whips around and hisses loudly at Cy. Cy just growls back, not looking as scared as he actually feels. 

Ikosa turns back to Wren, who is starting to have a bit of a difficult time breathing. “Let me ask again; what hand did you have in the plague?”

“I didn’t do anything voluntarily to bring about the plague. I swear.”

“What do you mean? So you helped with the plague without knowing it?” Ikosa asks, still hissing at Wren. 

“Yes!” Wren insists. “That’s why I don’t have my memory from those two months I was telling you guys about! Blaise even said it himself! “Do you really think you just stayed asleep for two months?” That’s what he said. He took over my body and went and started the plague!” Wren stays, now squirming to get out of Ikosa’s grip. “I never did anything to hurt anyone. It was all Blaise. Blaise is the one who took over my body. Blaise started the plague.”

Ikosa gives Wren one long, irritated look before they let go of him. He collapses, taking a few moments to gain his breath. Iris, who has been watching this entire thing from the sidelines, hurriedly flies over to Wren, trying to help him recover in any way that she can. 

Cy looks to Ikosa. “Get in the wagon. I’ll grab Wren. We need to get to Wintervale as soon as possible. Blaise said that he’s going to make the plague permanent. He must be going after the dragon. We need to move.” 

Ikosa nods, getting in the back of the wagon. Cy stands over Wren, holding a hand out to him “Come on. We’ve got to get moving.” 

Wren nods and takes Cy’s hand. Iris hops up onto Wren’s shoulder, and he climbs into the back of the wagon, staying as far away from Ikosa as possible. Iris perches up on a stack of bins that are in the wagon, keeping a watchful eye on Ikosa. Wren starts to look through some more of the things that the bandits had stolen as Cy takes the reins and tells the horses to start making their way to Wintervale. 

Wren finds many things in the back of the wagon. He has healed his hand by now, though the heal left his hand sore and a scar in the shape of the rune that was burned onto his hand. 

He finds more jewels and necklaces, some medical supplies, and even some antidote for any-one strong poison or venom. He leaves the jewels and necklaces but pockets the antidote and the medical supplies. If they do end up having to fight Blaise, he wants to be prepared. 

Ikosa has coiled up on their side of the wagon. They’re asleep, resting up for the inevitable battle between the three of them and Blaise. Why did Wren have to open that locket? He made this entire mission ten times harder now that Blaise is on the loose. If he had just not opened that locket, then they would be on their way to Wintervale without having to prepare for a fight. No matter, though. At least now they have someone to punish for the death of their sister. 

Cy, who is in the front seat, isn’t really thinking about the same things the other two are. He’s thinking about Onders. How he came on this mission for him. Cy wonders how Onders would react to Blaise being the one that lead to his death. He stays silent as he thinks about all of this. He wants to sleep, but he knows both Wren and Ikosa probably need it more, so he pushes through. 

The trio rides in the cart for the rest of the day. Ikosa, who has been sleeping since the encounter with Blaise, switches with Cy when the night falls. They no longer have time to set up camp at night. They have to get to Wintervale as fast as possible. 

Thankfully, the deer that Ikosa was able to hunt is still good, so Wren and Cy both eat that before they go to sleep, leaving Ikosa with the silence of the night. 

When Cy wakes up at dawn, the wagon is stopped. He hears chatter from outside the canvas walls, and looks to the driver's seat. Ikosa is still there, and they’re speaking to someone who is standing on the ground beside the wagon. 

Cy quickly fixes his bed head before he comes up, looking at the person that Ikosa is talking to. Cy sees that it’s a guard. He looked up, seeing a grand city in front of them. Finally. They've arrived at Wintervale. 

The guard looks up to Cy. “Maybe you can be of more help then your friend, here.”

Ikosa hisses at the guard, but Cy just ignores them. “What seems to be the problem?”

“Well, standard protocol states that you must have a reason for entering the borders of Wintervale. Your friend is refusing to give me one, therefore I cannot let you in.”

Cy gives Ikosa a look, before looking back to the guard. “We've come to speak with the King Dragon. We have business from the Council of Goldcrest.” He answers. 

The guard nods, gesturing to another guard behind the gate to open it. “Thank you for your cooperation. Have a nice day.” He says, ignoring Ikosa’s hiss before they start to move the cart forward. 

Cy moves to sit down next to Ikosa, who gives him a dirty look. “Why would you tell him where we’re going?” They hiss.

“Ikosa, we wouldn’t have been able to get in without telling him. We’ve still got to get to the dragon’s cave and get some of its magic. Plus, we might have to stop Blaise from killing it. We need to move quickly. We don’t have time for being untrusting of the guards.” 

Ikosa hisses again but doesn’t say anything. They travel for at least another hour before they reach the cave that the King Dragon lives in. 

Ikosa stops the wagon just outside the mouth of the cave. Wren is awake by now, so the trio and Iris all get out of the cart. 

“We don’t know what lies ahead, but we have to be ready,” Wren says, looking to the other two. “We only get one shot at this, okay?” 

Both Cy and Ikosa nod. They both understand. 

The trio all look to the mouth of the cave, taking a deep breath before entering the Dragon’s Lair. 

The trio walks into the dragon’s lair silently. Wren takes up the front, a dull spell in his hands to lead the way through the dark cavern. Cy takes up the middle, his khopeshes drawn and his ears acting like radar dishes to make sure nothing will sneak upon them. Ikosa takes the back, their battle-axe drawn and their venom at the ready. The trio is prepared. They will win this battle. They have to. Everyone is counting on them. 

Once inside the cave, Wren holds out his unscathed hand and a ball of bright light appears, leading the way for the trio to find the dragon. They travel for almost an hour before they hear a roar that shakes the walls of the cave and causes pebbles to rain from the ceiling. 

“That must be the dragon.” Ikosa says, “We’re getting close.”

Cy nods in agreement. “Stay sharp. We don’t know if Blaise is here yet.”

The other two follow his instructions, and soon enough Wren’s light expands to light up a gigantic cavern. 

There lies the King Dragon. Ikosa and Cy smile to each other, but Wren looks closer. The dragon isn’t getting up. It looks hurt. Wren gathers some more light in his hands before he throws it up to the top of the cavern, illuminating the entire room. 

A figure stands atop the dragon’s back. Blaise grins to the group, his wings unfolded to make himself look bigger. 

Ikosa hisses and pulls their battle-axe off of their back, looking at Blaise with a glare in their eyes. Cy growls at Blaise, pulling his bandana over his face and drawing his khopeshes. 

Wren doesn’t draw a weapon. He just looks up at Blaise. 

Blaise laughs maniacally when he sees the group, looking down at them. “You’re too late.” 

Wren pushes off the ground, hovering in the air just high enough to meet Blaise’s eyes. “Why are you doing this?” Wren asked. “We were friends. I was always there for you. What happened?”  

Blaise laughs again, actually having to bend over and clutch his stomach to get himself to stop laughing. He stands back up at full height after a solid minute, wiping a tear from his eye. “You humor me, Wren. You’re the reason that I’m doing this,” He says, digging his heel into the back of the dragon, causing it to growl out in pain. Despite this, it doesn’t make any move to get Blaise off of him. “You abandoned me, Wren. But I guess that was a good thing. Then, I really got to see how cruel this world really is. Now that I know, I can rid this world of the living and bring suffering to them in death. Then, and only then, can I find my peace.”

Wren looks hurt, but he shakes it off for now. “You don’t have to do this, Blaise. We can talk about this.”

Blaise sneers at Wren. “It’s too late now for you and your ‘posse’ to stop me. The dragon is dying. Now, there’s nothing you can do to save your people. My plague will reign supreme over the living, and I will have what I want!” 

Wren looks scared. Him, Cy, Ikosa. They might all die here. He tries his best to ignore that, though, and shoots a giant blast of light towards Blaise. 

Blaise dodges the blast easily but ends up jumping between Cy and Ikosa. He tries to fly away, but Cy runs up behind him and cuts every single one of his flight feathers off of his wings. Blaise hits Cy in the head with his now-sheared wings, but it doesn’t do much to knock Cy off of his feet. He quickly regains his balance and falls back to let Ikosa go in for a shot. They easily swing at him with their battle axe, but he ducks under it and kicks Ikosa in the stomach, causing them to fall back. By now though, Cy has recovered and goes in to attack Blaise once more. 

Wren flies down to the dragon’s head, looking at it with worry in his expression. “Hey… I want to try to help you, okay?” 

The dragon puffs out a breath of air, and Wren continues. “I need to know what he did to you so I know how I can help, alright?” 

The dragon takes as much of a breath as he can before he speaks to Wren, speaking in the same language as Wren, despite being a dragon. “He stabbed me with something.” The dragon says in its deep voice. “I’m not sure what it was, but I think there might’ve been venom on it. I feel like… like I'm dying.”

Wren’s feathers puff up at that, but he nods. “Okay, let me see what I can do.” He says, rummaging through his bag for something, anything he can find to heal the dragon. That’s when he sees it. The antidote. He quickly pulls it out of his bag and shakes the bottle. “This is antidote, it will get the venom out of your system, okay? I need you to open your mouth so you can drink it.”

The dragon nods and opens his mouth. Wren pops the cork out of the bottle. “This won’t taste the best, but it will keep you alive,” he says before he pours it into the dragon’s mouth. 

The dragon gags, but swallows the antidote. Already, he looks more alive. “Thank you. Is there anything you can do about the wound?” He asks. 

Wren nods. “Of course, just tell me where and I can heal it right up.” 

“It’s right below my wing.” The dragon answers. “He was standing right next to it.” 

Wren nods, quickly finding the spot where the wound is and begins healing it as quickly as he can. He hopes the antidote works. They need the dragon alive. 

Cy and Ikosa are still fighting with Blaise. The two of them have small cuts and bruises for Blaise’s physical attacks, but he looks much worse off. His nose is bleeding from a particularly well-placed punch from Ikosa, and he has cuts all over himself from Cy’s khopeshes. 

Blaise’s wings flare, and he pushes Ikosa and Cy back with a gust of wind that could have only been made through magical means. “This has gone on for long enough!” He says, two blades forming in his hands. 

Ikosa hisses at Blaise. “I agree. You deserve a second death.” They claim, and just like that, they’ve knocked Blaise’s blades out of his hand and coiled themselves around him, beginning to constrict him. “You will die at my hand, crow. You will pay for all of the people you have killed. You will pay for killing my sister.” 

Wren does quick work with healing the dragon. Soon, the dragon is fully healed. As soon as Wren is off of its back, the dragon stands to its full height. 

Ikosa turns Blaise around in their coils, making sure that their glaring face is the last thing that Blaise sees before Ikosa suffocates him. They let go of his body, letting it crumple to the floor. They hiss at it, and for good measure, take their battle-axe and chop his head clean off. Hopefully, that will keep him dead for good. 

The locket, which had been magically stuck around Wren’s neck, falls to the ground when Blaise falls to the ground. It moves to its other half, attaching back to it before the locked stops moving. It’s just a piece of jewelry now. 

Ikosa pants, trying to get their breath back. Cy comes beside them and places a hand on their shoulder. 

“Are you okay?” Cy asks quietly. 

Ikosa nods. They take a few more moments to catch their breath before they look away from Blaise’s body and over to Cy. “I think… I’m more at peace now. Zulu did not die in vain. Neither did your boyfriend, or Wren’s mother.” 

Cy nods, sheathing his swords before he wraps Ikosa in a hug. “We can stop this now. No one else has to get sick. No one else will die.” 

The dragon sends out a small growl, getting Cy and Ikosa’s attention. Wren joins the two on the ground, and the three of them bow before the dragon, trying to be as formal as they can despite Blaise’s decapitated corpse lying next to them. 

The dragon nods and they ease. 

“Thank you, the three of you.” The dragon says, Cy’s ears perking up as he hears the dragon speak. “You three have saved my life, and I am in your debt.” The dragon smiles, lying down in front of the three adventurers as if to show that they do not need to be as formal with him, now that he trusts them and he owes them a debt. “What have you traveled here to do?” 

Cy opens his mouth to speak, but Ikosa cuts him off. “Cyrus and I were sent by the Council of Goldcrest. Our city, our lands, and our people have been ridden with plague, which now we know it was caused by this man.” They say, gesturing to Blaise’s corpse. “We have traveled from Goldcrest to seek out your magic. The Council believes that it will be able to stop our plague.” 

The dragon nods before looking to Wren. “What about you? Were you not sent by the Council as well?” 

Wren shakes his head. “No, I was not, Elder.” He says, trying to be as respectful as possible by using the dragon’s title as well as bowing his head at the use of it. “I had heard rumors that your magic would be able to stop the plague. My own mother was taken away from me because of this sickness, and now I know that I was used against my will for him to set the plague loose. I wanted to see if the rumors of your magic were true. I met Cyrus and Ikosa in passing, and I joined their group.” 

The dragon nods, looking somewhat pleased with the amount of respect that Wren shows him. He considers their stories and the tales of their journey, deciding whether or not they seem worthy to use his magic. 

After a few moments, the King Dragon nods. “I will give you enough magic for you to stop the plague. Normally, magic like this would come with a price, but I believe that saving my life is payment enough.” 

Wren, Cy, and Ikosa all look between each other excitedly. They can finally stop the plague! No one else will die from it. 

The dragon picks up the empty bottle that once held the antidote that saved his life, and with a wave of his claws, it is filled with a mysterious and sparkling purple substance. He holds it out to Wren, who takes the bottle and corks it, being careful not to break it. 

“Pour this in the town center when the full moon is high in the sky. It will rid this world of the plague.” The dragon instructs. 

The trio nods, bowing before the King Dragon once more. “Thank you, Elder. We truly appreciate your help.” Wren says, speaking for the group. The dragon smiles, and the three stand. They bid goodbye to the dragon, and leave the cavern, making their way back to Goldcrest.

One Month Later

Wren knocks on the door of Cy and Ikosa’s home. A lot has changed in Goldcrest since the plague was eradicated. Wren smiles to some children who run past the house and wave to him, recognizing him as the bird who helped the snake and the lion in stopping the evil that raged through the town. The trio are considered heroes by the people of Goldcrest, giving them the title of the Heroes of Goldcrest. Ikosa was welcomed into the town after their help in ridding of the plague, and Cy moved in with them not too long after. 

Ikosa opens the door, smiling at Wren and hugging him before letting him inside. Cy is in the kitchen, making the three of them dinner. They’re all happy. 

Ikosa finally has a real home and a family. They’ve finally avenged the death of their sister. They were able to kill the person who killed their sister, so hopefully Zulu can rest now. 

Cy isn’t alone anymore and has someone that he cares about. Of course, not as he did Onders, but he thinks of Ikosa and Wren as siblings, and that’s just as important to him. 

Wren has people that actually like him. Iris is still there for him, for sure, but it’s nice to have friends that he knows won't set a plague on the world if he makes a mistake. He knows that he messed up when he abandoned Blaise. He didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t know it would have gone this far. But now it’s over. The trio is happy. Life goes on.

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