Ebony flinched as the sunlight poured in through the open window and into his face. Yawning slightly, he uncurled himself from his position on the foot of the bed. He wasn't surprised to find the bed empty, Miko was always full off too much energy to stay in bed.
Yawning again, he stretched in a very catlike manner, even his wings, although the normal cat doesn't have them. Despite the manner of his stretching, Ebony only bore a small resemblance to a winged feline these days. Though he had started out as all Lunar's dragons seem to, as a 'flying cat', he had been changed when he claimed his power and his heritage.
Since that day, even in his smaller form, his appearance had been more draconic than feline, his neck a little longer, his tail a little thicker, his claws longer, his face more extended. Reaching up with a paw, he absently adjusted the collar which adorned his neck. Though he technically didn't need to wear it these days, due to a lack of monster attacks, he remembered it as a gift from Althena. The light gleamed off the black surface of it in a pretty manner, and besides, he needed some place for his Azura pendant to be hooked onto.
The small blue pendant, in the shape of a winged cat, meant a lot to him. He had known her only a short while, meeting her during the insanity Ordak had caused when he decided to destroy the world. Though they had been together for only a short while, Ebony had loved her deeply, and had been driven insane when she sacrificed her life to save him, their friends, and the whole world. His insanity had lasted until she came to him in a dream. Even today, a few years later, he remembered every detail of the dream vividly. He had covered himself in a shell, locked away his emotions to prevent the anger from overcomming him. He had been called to a fountain, looking down into it, instead of his reflection, he saw her.
He had wanted so hard to feel something when he saw her again, but his emotions had been locked away.
"Ebony," she asked, "why are you doing this...?"
"Doing what?" he replied emotionlessly.
"Ebony... why are you detaching yourself from what you once cared for? This isn't how it was supposed to happen."
"I can't help it, it's all I could do to stop myself from doing what my father did."
Azura's eyes became sad as she gazed at him.
"Ebony... I know you're feeling angry, and hurt... and helpless, but those feelings should pass. You shouldn't remove yourself from your feelings of warmth and caring, either. How will you know love again if you do not take risks?"
Ebony continued in the same lifeless tone he had been using.
"I don't want to love again... I don't even want to go on."
"Ebony, in my short life, the best times I had were with you. I had never savored life as much as I had when we played in the circus together, or made jokes about each other, or stuck close together in the snow for warmth..."
Ebony twitched slightly.
"We were supposed to have more time together... forever."
"Ebony, you and you alone have control over your own destiny and thoughts. When Ordak was fighting us to get Thesian's pendant, I knew that he would kill you... kill all of your friends to get it. At that moment, I saw the times we shared together flash in front of our eyes. I did not want your life to end. I enjoyed life. I enjoyed your life, Ebony. I wanted to do what I could to protect it."
"It wasn't supposed to be this way," he said quietly.
"Please... I want you to appreciate the gift that I tried to save for you. It's the least you could do to honor what we shared... By cutting yourself off and ignoring the things that I wish I could still experience, you are filling me with a great sadness that all I did was for nothing..."
Even through his shell that hurt him.
"You saved everyone but... when I was with you... even when we argued... it's how I wanted it to be.... forever."
"All I could think about was you, Ebony. My predecessor, Acwalandar, entrusted me with his destiny to protect Thesian and wrest the powers of the Blue Dragon back from Ordak. I could not ignore that charge. Please understand that my choice was the only choice. Ebony... I am never truly dead as long as you enjoy what this world has to offer. Every time you share a tender moment, or hear a song, or watch a rainbow, I will be there sharing it with you. As the sapphire egg grows behind the waterfall cave... so does my essence return to the world."
"I love you Azura... I'm sorry I never told you." he said, touching his paw to her image in the water... and then he had awoken, in tears... his emotions returned to him.
So Ebony had been brought back to sanity, with a new resolve for life. He had constructed the pendant, as a symbol, a reminder, he wasn't sure, but he liked it, and thought Azura would as well.
But why was he thinking of Azura today? Why did that dream return to him, as if he was seeing it for the first time again? There was something different, but he couldn't put his paw on it. He examined the room he was in. The same simple furnishings, dresser, table, chair, the same brightly colored sheets, even the same view out the window. Nothing had changed, but something was different.
He sat in the bed, reaching out with his senses and trying to tell what was causing this feeling. The town around him felt the same as always. He could smell breakfast cooking downstairs and occasionally hear Miko and Sebastian's voices. Nothing was unusual, but the feeling persisted.
Something about Azura? Yes, the 'feeling' agreed, Azura, but not her. What about Azura would be happening, if not her then... what was the last thing she had said to him?
It hit him, he suddenly knew with certainty what today meant. Smiling, he leapt excitedly into the air, barely missing hitting one of his wings on the doorframe in his haste as he exited the room and glided down the stairs.
"Miko!" he cried out excitedly, "It's time!"
The young woman who was cooking over the oven turned her head towards Ebony as the sound of crackling food came from the frying pan. Having dark hair, about medium length, her lovely green eyes focused on Ebony at his outburst, she absently wiped her hands on her light green outfit as she looked at him quizically.
"Time for what, Ebony?"
"What's gotten into the cat?" the other occupant of the room asked jokingly.
Miko's brother, Sebastian, sat at the table, leaning back slightly in his chair. Sharing Miko's dark hair, he preferred wearing it longer. Sharing some similarity in looks, he was more muscled than she was, used to more strenuous activity. At the moment he was watching Ebony with a slightly amused look on his face.
Ebony ignored the old joke, landing lightly on the table and waving a paw for emphasis.
"Its time for HER to be born, Miko!" he said with the same excitement.
Miko opened her mouth again, then it struck her and she made a small 'oh' noise. 'Her,' Azura's replacement. When Azura had died, a sapphire egg had been left in her sanctuary, so that there might one day be a blue dragon again. Miko quickly glanced around the room.
"What? Now?" she asked quickly, as though expecting a blue dragon to suddenly pop out into the room.
"Not this second," Ebony amended, "but soon, we need to get to the blue sanctuary."
Miko nodded immediatly, she rushed upstairs with an enthusastic air, pausing only to call over her shoulder to tell Sebastian not to let breakfast burn. Sebastian grinned, shaking his head at the two's excitement as he dropped his feet to the floor and walked over to check on the food. Ebony began to pace back and forth impatiently on the table.
"Calm down Ebony," Sebastian offered, "You look like you're about to give birth or something."
Ebony tried to think of one of his usual comebacks, but there was too much on his mind. The new blue dragon would soon be born. He just HAD to be there when it happened, he wasn't even sure why. They others should be there as well. He'd have to stop and get them. Ebony stopped pacing and looked up as Miko came back down the stairs in some lighter 'traveling clothes' with her old backpack and holding her boomerang easily in her right hand.
"I'm ready Ebony!" she said cheerfully.
"Hey, what about breakfast you two?" Sebastian asked them.
"Oh, we can eat breakfast any time, we have to go see the dragon get born!" Miko smiled over at Sebastian then turned to look expectantly at Ebony. Ebony smiled to her, Miko's enthusiasm had a way of being contagious.
"We should get the other two first, Miko," Ebony said, voicing his thoughts.
"Oh! We get to see Nall and Ruby again? Wait... do we have time?" Miko seemed torn between seeing the other dragons, and getting to see the birth.
"We have a little time yet and it shouldn't take too long... as the dragon flies." Ebony says the last bit with a grin.
Miko looked even more excited at the prospect of another ride as she turned to Sebastian.
"Are you coming?"
"Nah, you two go. It seems like I'd be intruding, this is something special for you all."
Sebastian gave them a 'go on' wave as he turned his attention back to making sure the breakfast doesn't burn. Miko excitedly scooped up Ebony, twirling once, and headed for the door to their home. Sebastian grinned at their backs as they exited.
"Don't forget to feed Snowy!" Miko called back over her shoulder as she left the building.
"Still can't believe you tamed a snow mongrel, Miko..." Ebony said with a smile.
"She just needed some caring, Ebony."
The town of Esperia lay before them. A few years ago, it had been a small, hidden town. None of the people knew much about the outside world, and the outside world knew nothing of them. Now it was a large town that was rather busy and featured lots of trade. Or if you want to nitpick, it always had been. But then, thats temporal mechanics for you. Ebony and his friends had changed the past, and they were the only ones who remembered the small, hidden Esperia. A few people nodded and smiled at the two. Miko glanced around a few times, holding Ebony in her arms, and returning the polite gestures.
"What do we do now, Ebony?" she asked quickly.
"Well," he started, "we should head out of town so I don't startle anyone with my transformation bit."
Nodding in agreement, Miko walked quickly towards the exit of the town with a bounce to her steps. The two got more friendly waves and calls as they passed through town, the people were used to seeing the two together. Ever since they had met, Ebony and Miko had been nearly inseparable, the best of friends. Ebony caught himself wondering if they could ever be anything more than that... but quickly shook it off, now wasn't the time.
During Ebony's pondering, Miko had exited Esperia and walked a short way into the forest. Now she paused and looked down on him with an enthusiastic, expectant expression.
"You'll have to put me down first," Ebony said, smiling slightly, a strange life in his eyes.
"Oh, of course!" Miko exclaimed, setting Ebony lightly down on the ground.
Casting another smile backwards and upwards to her, he padded dramatically away. Once he had reached sufficient distance, he turned again to face her.
"And without further ado, ladies and gentlemen..." Ebony said as he bowed to a fictional audience, "The black dragon of Lunar."
Ebony's deep violet aura flared around him as his neck became longer and a pair of horns sprouted from his head, curling slightly at the points. His snout and jaws stretched as his fur grew longer, eventually towering above Miko as he extended his prominent furry wings. Resisting the urge to roar as his tranformation completed, he looked down and smiled to Miko.
"Ebony, you're as beautiful as ever." she said as she leaned back slightly to look up to him.
"So are you, Miko," he returned, lowering his head to her level.
Looking embarrased, she batted his nose lightly, unable to answer that statement. Ebony shifted his position slightly and wrapped the end of his tail around Miko's waist. Producing a slight sound of surprise from her, he lifted her gently into the air and set her on his back between his wings.
"Get a good hold on the fur, my friend."
"You sure I won't hurt you, Ebony?" she asked with quiet concern.
"Nah, it doesn't hurt and I don't want you falling off."
Ebony paused while Miko gathered a few handfuls of black fur, holding tightly. As she called to Ebony that she was ready in an excited, expectant voice, he crouched and extended his wings.
"And away we go!" he cried as he pushed himself from the ground with his powerful hind legs at the same time as he swept his wings downward, propelling him, and his passenger, into the air. Miko released a gleeful exclamation as the ground fell away with a few more pumps of Ebony's wings. Ebony turned in a few lazy circles before starting off in a southeastern direction. Miko looked around a moment to get her bearings as the land began to move swiftly by beneath them.
"Ebony?" she began, "this isn't the way to Caldor Isle."
"I know Miko, we're going to get Ruby first. Nall is staying with Alex and his family and will be easier to pick up," he explained, raising his voice to be heard over the wind.
"But we left Ruby... oh..." Miko said, as she realized where Ruby was.
Miko got quiet as she simply began to enjoy the ride, the wind blowing through her hair, the gentle motion of Ebony's wings, the scenery beneath them. They flew over green and blue, before too long (too quickly in Miko's mind), mountains appeared before them. Ebony increased his height and passed them as easily as he had the flatlands. It was less than a minute later when they saw a trail of smoke drifting lazily into the air, being produced by an active volcano.
"I really hate excessive heat... fur coats aren't good things to wear inside volcanos."
Ebony began to descend, aiming for the platform before the entrance to the cave, but past the river of magma which surrounds the whole volcano. Tilting his wings to catch the air, he slowed and landed gently. Miko slid to the ground with a slight 'umph' at the impact and looked back up to him.
"It won't be so bad, Ebony."
"Heat... magma... fire... ugh." He made a few distasteful faces.
Miko laughed a little as she walked over to the cave entrance.
"It's not that bad Ebony, it's pretty if you... ahhh!"
Miko stumbled back as something thudded into her chest and stuck there. Ebony started and moved quickly over to her, then laughed.
"MUFU!" the small form declared.
Miko looked down to see a kitten attached to her shirt. Though she was bigger than the last time they saw her, she still wasn't very large, not even the size of a cat yet. Ruby looked up at Miko with her red eyes, hanging lightly with her claws. Her fur was a light, pinkish color, except for a line of darker red running up her back and forming a little V on her head. She wore a yellow bow on her head that seemed a little large for her.
"Mufu!" she exclaimed again.
"What do you know," Ebony said, chuckling, "she was waiting for us... and she still has that bow I gave her. She must have felt that it's time, the same as I have."
Ruby looked up to Ebony and nodded sagely.
"She still can't talk, Ebony." Miko said, looking down at Ruby and running a couple of fingers lightly down her back.
"She may be older, Miko, but there hasn't been anyone around to teach her, she's been alone in her sanctuary."
Ruby quickly lost interest in the conversation and crawled up Miko's shirt to her shoulder, then disappeared into her backpack.
"Um... you got anything flammable in there?" Ebony asked, still sounding amused.
"Just some snacks I brought for the trip..."
"I figure there won't be anything left once she's done. Hope she can control her pyrotechnics a little better, I think Davis lost three or four backpacks carrying her."
A muffled 'mufu' emited from the backpack.
"She seems fine for the moment, will we go get Nall now?"
"That's the plan."
Grinning, Ebony once again lifted Miko to his back through the use of his tail. Once she was settled, he took the air and began the flight towards Caldor Isle, and Burg. Miko enjoyed the flight as much as she had the first one, ocassionally pointing out sights to Ruby, who stuck her head out of the backpack for the trip. Before too long, the land beneath them dissapeared, giving way to water. In less than half an hour since they had left Ruby's sanctuary, they had reached the island.
Ebony passed over Saith, looking down at and grinning as he caused people to stare and point. He slowed his speed to enjoy the attention before curling off and continuing to Burg. Caldor Isle was much smaller than the mainland and the small town quickly came into sight nestled amoung the mountains. Ebony glided down for a gentle landing a small distance away from the town. He extended a leg to ease Miko's dismount and she gladly slid down to the ground.
"Ebony, do you think it's colder than the last time we were here?" she asked as she took in the nearby scenery.
"I can't tell any difference, Miko. But then, I am wearing a fur coat," a higher pitched voice said from the ground.
Turning back to look, she saw Ebony had already returned to his smaller form, smiling, she scooped him up and began walking towards Burg. Ruby retreated back into Miko's backpack since the flight was over.
A few minutes later, the trio entered the sleepy town of Burg. It hadn't changed much, if any, from the last time they had been there. It was still a small town with a small stream flowing through. Besides the fact that an ex- dragonmaster, the human form of the goddess Althena, and the next white dragon lived here, there was nothing special about the town.
Being used to seeing Nall, Ebony didn't cause much of a fuss. The people smiles and nodded, giving friendly greetings. Miko returned them quickly as she hurried towards a specific house, enthusiastic about seeing friends they hadn't seen in a while. They found a young man waiting for them. He wore simple clothing like the rest of the villagers and had light brown hair, but his most striking feature was his piercing green eyes which sparkled cheerfully as he smiled to them.
"Alex!" Miko cried.
"I thought you'd be coming," he started. "Nall said you would."
"How are you? And Luna? And Nall? And Diana?" Miko bombarded him.
Laughing a little, he gestured them towards the house.
"Come see for yourself."
Opening the door, he ushered them inside. Luna, a woman around Alex's age, with a friendly expression and blue hair, smiled to them as the group entered. She was currently watching over a child who seemed a few years old. The baby had short blue hair, like Luna's, and was currently tugging on the ear of a white, pantherlike creature who had a pair of wings folded on his back. On his part, he didn't seem to mind the attention. Turning his red eyes over to Ebony and Miko, he said with a slight grin.
"About time you got here, squirt."
"Yea, so you're bigger than me currently, Nall, but who's the one who's claimed his power and can become a full dragon, hmmm?" Ebony retorted.
Nall muttered about the unfairness off it all as the child clapped a few times on seeing Ebony.
"Dagon!" she exclaimed.
"That's right Diana," Luna said as she picked up the child, "Ebony is a dragon like Nall."
"He wishes he were like me," both of the mentioned dragons muttered at the same time.
"Would you like to stay for lunch?" Alex asked them.
"We don't have time," Nall began before either of them could speak, "we have to hurry to the sanctuary if we want to be there on time."
Ebony grumbled about Nall's taking control, but couldn't complain because he was right. Nall stood lithely and nudged Diana with his head before padding over to Ebony and Miko.
"Well? What are we waiting for?"
"Bye Alex, Luna, Diana! We'll visit again soon!" Miko called to them as Nall ushered her out the door. Ruby poked her head out of Miko's backpack again to 'mufu' Nall before disappearing again.
"I see you already picked up the baby," Nall commented as he began to lead them from town.
"Her name's Ruby," Ebony informed him.
"Yea, I know," Nall said casually.
"Are you TRYING to annoy me?" Ebony asked.
"Nah, it just comes naturally."
Miko giggled a little at the conversation going on. Ebony, for his part, just rolled his eyes.
"So come on you two, let's go." Nall said in an authoritive tone.
"Who put YOU in change?" Ebony demanded, rather annoyed that Nall seems to be taking command.
"In case you didn't know, I'm the tetrarch of the dragon tribe, runt."
"Self-proclaimed I see," Ebony muttered.
"I'm the oldest of the current dragons and my father was the last one, you do the math," Nall said evenly.
"I'm the one who's claimed my power!"
"Doesn't make you wiser..."
"Ebony, Nall, please," Miko interruped the two, "we have to get to Azura's cave, remember?"
"You're right, Miko," Ebony said apologetically, "if you'll put me down I'll change back."
Miko complied and Ebony walked away from the group and once again resumed his full dragon form. Nall looked bored at the display... in fact, he seemed to be working on the bored look. Miko hurried excitedly over to Ebony. Ebony grinned at her then looked over to Nall.
"If you want a lift, you really should be more polite," he suggested.
Nall waved a paw absently.
"I don't need a lift."
"Oh, well then, with your little wings you should get there sometime next day... I'll describe everything you missed for you," he ended helpfully.
"I'll keep up, blacky," Nall replied.
Ebony settled Miko comfortably on his back once again. Ruby poked her head out of the backpack at the prospect of another flight. Shooting one final glance at Nall, Ebony lept gracefully into the air and began to beat his wings strongly as he headed towards the blue sancutary, purposely going all out to spite Nall. After a minute of flying, he glanced back to see how far behind Nall was.
"That all you got?" a voice said from above him.
Ebony quickly glanced up as Miko let out a sound of surprise. Nall was easily keeping pace when them, his wings not even flapping, and he was still using the practiced bored look. Ebony muttered quietly to himself, realizing that Nall was using wind magic to propel himself. Nall gave a slightly cocky grin to him then turned his attention forward. Ebony flew in silence, not wanting to argue with Nall any longer. Miko began to point out sights to Ruby as they flew. Ruby would occasionally offer a 'mufu' in return.
Due to the dragons' velocity, it wasn't long before the village of Lyton was before them and beyond that, a lovely waterfall. Nall pulled ahead of them and arched down towards the waterfall. Ebony knew he was doing that 'leader' thing again, but had to follow since it was their destination. Nall dissapeared through the waterfall, the wind directing water away from him as he passed, leaving him dry. Ebony had to splash through it in the conventional manner, drenching him and Miko and causing Ruby to quickly retreat into the safety of the backpack with a quiet 'eep!'.
Ebony landed in the cavern behind the waterfall to see Nall waiting for them with a smirk on his face. Ebony get his own little smirk and before Nall could comment about his wet state, he lifted Miko off his back and shook himself violently, showering the nearby area, and Nall, with water.
"HEY! Watch it!" Nall exclaimed.
"Oops... sorry Nall," Ebony said innocently.
Miko laughed quietly as she shook excess water from her hair and checked on Ruby. The young red dragon seemed to have gotten through the experience without getting wet.
Nall seemed about to argue further when his head snapped towards the passageway leading deeper into the cave. At almost the same moment, Ebony looked in that direction as well.
"What is it?" Miko asked, trying to see if there was something there.
"It's almost time, we have to hurry," Ebony said quickly, moving towards the passage and shrinking to his smaller form mid-stride.
Miko hurried after the two dragons. She really thought that this cave was pretty. The walls and ceiling were made from a lovely blue stone. Occasionally as they walked, they passed a small, sparkling waterfall flowing down the wall. The whole trip became a blur to Miko as she concentrated on keeping up on the white and black forms before her, both of which seemed to forget about her. Even Ruby was making quiet, urgent sounds from behind her. She felt anxious as the two dragons disappeared from sight before her and she ran a little faster, afraid that she'd miss it. Suddenly, a large chamber loomed before her and she stumbled to a stop, nearly tripping. Her eyes widened a little at the sight. There was a pool of water with a shimmering, sapphire egg resting on the surface. Nall was sitting off to the side, quietly. Ebony was sitting right next to the egg, nearly in the water, with an anxious expression on his face. Miko felt a small weight on her shoulder and looked over to find Ruby there, staring intently at the scene with a mature expression on her young face.
"Ebony?" Miko asked quietly, almost afraid to disturb him.
"It's time Miko," he said just as quietly, his voice wavering slightly.
Miko turned her attention back to the object that held all the dragons' attention. The light around the egg seemed to pulse as if with the beating of a heart. No one in the chamber moved, all eyes were on the crystalline object which held a life waiting to emerge. Time seemed to stretch as the egg continued to pulse. Then, suddenly, it emitted a blue light. The light passed over the four observers, causing their bodies to fill with a comforting warmth.
Ebony leaned forward, his eyes wide and displaying hopeful and expectant emotions. The egg shook a few times as the small form inside fought for freedom. Cracks formed on the surface of the glimmering egg. Everyone in the chamber seemed to be holding their breath as they waited. Suddenly, surprising everyone, the egg popped apart, spilling a small form into the shallow pool right at Ebony's paws.
Ebony gasped quietly as the form righted itself. The small blue kitten extended damp wings, a light blue fur covered the top, the underside a beautiful array of rainbow colors. She was all covered in a pretty azure colored fur, and a small fin ran along her back and tail. Lifting her head, she peered up at Ebonys furry face before letting out a yawn and curling up against his paws, unbothered by the water and exhausted by the strains of being born.
Ebony blinked a few tears from his eyes and said quietly:
"Welcome to the world... Jia."
Back to the Library of Vane.
Back to the Shrine to Ghaleon.