Note: Innocents is an unusual story in the sense it is a prequel - set when Inferno and Equis were still children in Avalon, King Equinox was still ruler and neither knew of the forces manipulating them: like all stories others are welcome to join however due to it being a prequel I'd ask those wanting to join to either consider making an alternate pegacorn character or having your character enter at a younger age (do not worry about time-line though, the events of this story are canon but will arrive at a conclusion where things will make sense.. trust me.. (can't explain it fully or it would ruin the entire story) )

Chapter 1

It was a bright summer's day and a young Inferno looked out from his window at the grand castle of Avalon, he was nearing his eight birthday and his small but functional wings spread out as he watched other children playing in the fields outside - eager to join but unsure as he was forbidden from leaving the castle by his father until he had finished his studies.. the proud Equinox had made sure their were enough books that it would be virtually impossible for his "foundling" son to do so..

Inferno sighed a little and folded his wings around himself like a small cape, a trait he had started to develop like all Pegacorns - although his wings were demonic rather than angelic, a fact he was all too aware of in the culture of Avalon, one that took great pride in physical beauty.

"..Inferno? what are you doing here? it's summer.." a female voice suddenly spoke out as a regal figure approached, she was a pegacorn of striking beauty and dressed in a blue dress - the small crown on her head signifying she was Queen Titania herself.

"..father says I need to study more" Inferno replied truthfully, sitting down at the large desk and opening one of the many dusty old tomes.

Titania narrowed her eyes slightly and snorted, "I'm sure he did.. Inferno.. go, have fun.." she replied.

Inferno suddenly perks up, his slightly pointed ears pointing up as his eyes grew wide "you mean it mother? I can go outside?" he said, excited.

Titania smiled to her son and nodded, "..your brother should be outside already, I'm sure he'll be happy to see you..".

Inferno ran over and hugged his mother by the waist before he ran out of the castle, a few of the guards leaping out of the way of the speeding youngster as some of the court officials watched disapprovingly - Titania didn't care, she simply smiled some more.

(edit below if you so desire: the scene will be in the fields - which are very large and filled with corn, it is a common playground for children of all ages as well as an obvious place of work for older inhabitants)

A young Pegacorn girl of no more than seven years of age plays in the field, although she is a little old she still carries around a small doll and can be seen playing with it - combing its hair: she has pure white pelt with silver hair worn in pigtails and dressed in a blue dress, her wings are small but resemble those of a dove and fold back quite happily when she's not using them.

A short distance away, a small golden dragon rests in the limbs of a tree. Unlike the pegacorns of Avalon, this dragon bears an appearance along the lines of the dragons of ancient Chinese myth.

"This place... there are dragons here, but they're not like me... they are more like the two-legged beings I once knew..." he thinks to himself as he yawns, revealing rows of sharp teeth.

Inferno runs into the fields, however in his excitement he trips and ends up rolling a considerable distance across the ground - sitting up as a few of the other children laugh: he dusts himself off and looks around, his eyes literally lighting up as he spots an older Pegacorn youth nearby.

"Equis! Equis!" Inferno yells, with the usual excitement of a younger sibling, getting up and running towards his older brother - who simply frowned at him as he leaned against an old tree.

"what are you doing outside? didn't father say to study?" Equis replied.

"mother said I could come outside, she said you'd be happy.." Inferno said.

"I was until you showed up" Equis snorted.

"..oh, well.. I'll be good.. I promise.." Inferno said, folding his wings back as he stepped back.

"..whatever, just go away before anyone sees you hanging around me -" Equis frowned.

"..okay.." Inferno replied, heading into the more secluded area of the field where the corn grew taller - away from the crowds, as he walks he hears a conversation behind him between Equis and another older Pegacorn.

"..your brother is a freak, Equis"

"..he's not my brother, I told you.. he's just another foundling.."

"Caw." A Raven crowed as it sat upon a branch, it's pure red eyes surveying the field below it, then turning it's head to look at Equis. "Caw." It crowed once more.

The golden dragon in the tree surveys the scene between Equis, Inferno, and the older Pegacorn. "My, how rude." he thinks to himself. Leaping down off of the tree, nimble as a cat, he hits the ground and takes off, flying low to the ground, over toward Inferno. As he confronts the young Pegacorn, he rears up on his hind legs, bending his slender body downward to see Inferno eye-to-eye.

"Hello, young one." he says. "Might I ask you for your name?"

Inferno blinks a little and spreads his wings as he looks the dragon over, stepping back slightly - his own eyes glowing red: "..I.. I'm Inferno Pendragon.. Prince Inferno.. who.. what.. are you?" he replies, somewhat unused to dragons, this one especially seemed different.

The Raven takes flight, and circles above the golden dragon and Inferno.

"I am called Seren Crwydryn, which means 'Star Wanderer' in your tongue. As for what I am, well... where I come from I am known as a Destiny Dragon. One of the last of my kind." Seren eyes Inferno curiously. "Never seen another like me before, have you?"

The pitch-black bird lands upon Inferno's head. "Caw." It simply crowed, seemlingly speaking to Seren.

Inferno doesn't even react to the bird save for a small flick of his ears, looking to the dragon - "..dragons are evil, dangerous.. father told me how the dragons can kill with a look.." - suddenly his eyes grow wide as if remembering something "..father!" - the young pegacorn suddenly bursts into a run towards the castle, spreading his wings as if attempting to fly but too young to master the act "..oh no.. I forgot.. he's going to be back soon.. if he finds out I left the castle he's going to.." Inferno begins, only to bang into a tall figure nearby.

The figure turns to Inferno, the young pegacorn begins to apologize only to be lifted up by the scruff of his neck by the unusual figure - who is even taller than the usual pegacorns and whose skin glows brightly, a sign he belongs to the incredibly rare species known only as the Valkyrie.

"..what's this then? some little half-breed making a nuisance of himself? eh? well - speak up, runt.." the large figure growls, shaking Inferno slightly - the younger pegacorn struggling.

"Put me down! put me down!" Inferno protested, a few of the other children in the field began crowding round - even Equis suddenly became alert as he looked over with concern, despite his previous behaviour.

"..ha! the boy wants to fight!" the large figure taunts, letting out a deep laugh - he is clearly a full-grown adult and much too strong for Inferno to break free of.

The Raven takes flight, landing on the ground next to Seren.

Suddenly, Seren confronts the larger Pegacorn . He grows in size, and sprouts gigantic wings. Opening his mouth, he roars; a feral, terrifying roar that sends birds from nearby trees flying off in a panic.


The figure simply drops Inferno on the ground and looks to the dragon, his eyes narrow as his glowing skin crackles with energy as he clenches a fist - the other children begin to scramble around, for the first time Equis actually goes to Inferno's side and silently moves him away as they all look wide-eyed.

"who asked you to interfere, outsider!?" the figure roared, smashing the dragon hard with a fist - incredibly strong even for someone his size.

As the confrontation occures a robed figure suddenly enters the field and begins to head towards the group - the way the crowds part signifying his royal heritage, along with his large sword and silver helm.

"..Loki.." a dark voice echoes, the source none other than King Equinox himself, whose eyes glowed a bright shade of blue.

Maria clutched her doll tightly as she watched the scene unfold, her eyes darting from figure to figure as she tried to figure out what was happening - she looked to Inferno and Equis, then the strange dragon and the large Valkyrie, finally her eyes went wide upon seeing the king arrive.

Seren snarls at the Valkyrie, but makes no attempt to strike back. "I simply don't like your kind; bullies, and scum like you..." he says backing away.

The Raven caws again, flying up high into the sky, circling above the situation that was transpiring below him.

Loki growls back at the dragon but stops as Equinox comes closer, the king places his sword on the ground as a signal to everyone around him to mind their place - his wings folding around himself as the Pegacorns were prone to: as could be expected the arrival of the king also alerts many city guards to the scene, not that many would be foolish enough to challenge a Pendragon regardless.. the family having earned respect and indeed fear from centuries of ruling the land.

"..I come to collect my wayward son only to find a Valkyrie and a dragon fighting in the midst of children - Avalon is a realm of peace and such peace requires law.. law you seem to have no regard for at all.." Equinox states, as he speaks Inferno and Equis slowly retreat behind him - as if instinctively knowing what to do in such hostile situations, sure enough as they do so guards begin to gather round them.

Seren eyes flash darkly as he looks at the king. "A realm of peace? Where full-growns harm younglings on account of their pelt color?" Seren shakes his head. "I think not."

Equinox simply looks at the group, speaking to Inferno without looking back "Equis, is your brother harmed?" - Equis shakes his head, "no father" - Equinox narrows his eyes slightly "..then there is no fault, save for your trespass on this land - Loki.. leave this city, as was agreed when we spared the live of your master, Credne..".

Loki frowns, "..very well, Equinox, I shall leave.. as we agreed.." - he turns and leaves, looking to Seren and lowering his voice " for you, dragon, you will regret this.. I'm sure Credne will be most interested in that half-breed and his "pet" dragon.."

Equinox allows Loki to leave before he finally turns, "..let us leave" - with that he, Equis and the guards move towards the palace.

However Inferno stops and looks to Seren and the others, he moves as if to thank the dragon only to find himself moved along by a guard who spots him straying behind - the guard is gentle but firm in his approach.

" think he's going to tell Credne?" one of the boys whispers, the crowds beginning to talk amongst themselves as they took in what had occured.

"mother says Credne will come and take you away if you're not good.. I'm scared.." a little girl remarks.

"don't be stupid - Credne wouldn't dare mess with the King!" another young boy replies.

"yeah! Equinox will protect us! you'll see!" another voice said.

Seren watches as all of the Pegacorns depart, before reverting back to his smaller form; his wings retract and disappear. He sighs; coming from a dragon it sounds like a low, deep rumble. He looks over to the raven that had been following him around.

"Well, what do you think?" he asks the raven, knowing that his question would go unanswered.

The Raven caws back immediately after Seren questions it. It's eyes flash a slight green color then back to red, it caws once again.

Chapter 2

Inferno and Equis return to the palace, the sun has already began to set - the guards begin to depart as Equinox leads the boys further into the palace.

"..Equis, go to your room - I shall arrive shortly.." Equinox said.

"..father, the fight.. Loki was the one who.." Equis began.

"Enough" Equinox stated.

Equis gave a concerned look towards Inferno, who simply stared at the floor - yet he knew better than to argue and left to his room.

As Equis left Inferno felt Equinox's hand on his shoulder, the king steering him to the study hall - two guards watched and closed the heavy doors after the two had entered: needing no spoken command to do so.

"..father, I.." Inferno began, only to flinch as Equinox's grip tightened - causing him to fall to his knees.

"why must you continue to embarass me? am I not kind to you? do I not treat you well?" Equinox states.

"..yes.. you do.. father.. please.." Inferno said, closing his eyes to prevent himself crying.

"..then return to your studies - do not disobey me again.." Equinox said, releasing his grip and walking away - the doors opening for a brief moment before closing behind him.

"...I.. I'm sorry.." Inferno blurts out, lowering his head further as he simply stays on his knees, a tear finally rolling down his cheek.

The next day begins as most days do in Avalon, the main city coming to life with the activity of traders as well as travellers, beggars and children who run around the crowds - often under the watchful eyes of both their mothers and the city guards.

At the royal palace Inferno climbed out of a window, tumbling into the grass below - he sat up and looked around, worried the guards would spot him.. after a while he picks up a small bag and runs out of the palace grounds and into the city streets.

Maria walks across the streets and notices Inferno, remembering the boy from yesterday she heads over to him - trying to get his attention "..wait! I.. I need to talk to you..!".

Inferno blinks a little and grabs the girl, covering her mouth as he makes a "hush" gesture - "..shh! you want the guards to find me?" he whispers, looking around before releasing the girl - content the guards are nowhere in sight.

Maria lets out a little yelp at the unexpected grab, then frowns at Inferno "..hey! you shouldn't grab people like that - besides, it's not like you're hard to spot.." she covers her mouth a little as she looks to Inferno again and eeps "..I'm sorry.. I just meant.." she began.

Inferno frowns "..don't bother, I know what people think - I'm a monster.. a demon.. a foundling.. so what? you're just a bunch of stuck-up high-breeds anyway! you don't know anything - all you know is how to look pretty and live in nice houses and.. and.." - he breaks off as he spreads his wings and takes flight for the first time, yet he is still too young to control it and he crashes into a cart filled with compost.
Inferno breathes hard, holding back tears of anger as the crowds begin to break into hysterical laughter - one of the guards nudges another, who picks up an over-ripe tomato and gloats slightly: "..looks like the half-blood's back for more!".
Before anything can be done Inferno is pelted with fruit by the guards and crowd alike, his eyes suddenly flashing bright red as his pelt begins to crackle with strange energy - his fists clenching as he growls.

A shadow is suddenly cast over the city and a great flapping of leathery wings is heard; Seren descends upon a rooftop nearby, growling at the guards.
As Seren descends time seems to slow down as a large dragon appears behind him, her scales dark and her size alone suggesting great age - << not interfere, there is a lesson to be learnt here..>> she warns, as she does so time seems to change as Inferno runs away from the crowds, Seren seemingly trapped momentarily in a state outwith normal space/time.

<<..Avalon is a world of cruelty.. it is not surprising really.. evolve a beast as long as you wish and they will still remain beasts at heart..>> the dragon says, Inferno running out of the city gates as the crowds taunt him - some of the older boys throw stones.

<< pains me to see such suffering but I know what must be done, it is inevitable..>> she continues.

"...So the boy should grow up and learn to hate- everything?" Seren responds. "If that is what you want, then you are as base as those savages below."

The dragon simply shakes her head and fades into the background again as space/time begins to return to normal, <<..savage? perhaps.. yet you will never know.. how savage I can be..>>

Inferno finishes running, arriving at the outskirts of the forest that surrounds the city - he falls down by a cluster of trees and growls, hitting the ground with a fist as he sparks with strange energy, his eyes glowing red.

"..grr.. why.. why won't they leave me alone? what did I ever do?" he growled, wiping away some tears of anger and confusion: only to freeze as he notices a figure appear out of the forest - at once he is taken aback as he sees a being he has never seen before, a short humanlike man dressed in a simple suit and holding what appeared to be a small blacksmith-hammer.

"dinnea waste yer tear on those beggars, wee one - ye're tough.. and smart tae.. which is why old Credne has a special job fer ye.." the figure speaks out, walking towards Inferno - before Inferno can reply one way or another the dwarf had already began to guide him deeper into the forests, in the process Inferno drops his bag.

High above, a pair of golden eyes watch from a tree-top as a figure resembling a humanoid squirrel perches - observing the scene below: the figure scurries down a tree-trunk and picks the bag up, looking inside and seeing a picture of a strange golden dragon (clearly Inferno's attempt at drawing Seren) - etched in small writing were the words "thank you".

The figure takes the bag in one hand and swiftly darts away, searching for the dragon.

Some distance away, Seren curls up in the limbs of a tree. "Poor kid... I hope he's alright..." he thinks to himself.

The Raven comes down to where Seren is curled up, perching himself upon one of the nearby branches. "Caw." It crowed.

"...You again?" Seren asked calmly. "Oh well... make yourself comfortable..."

The Raven stares at Seren for what seem like ages, it's intent stare not wavering at all. It caws once more.

Suddenly and without warning a figure appears from a higher tree branch, as if emerging from the tree itself - the figures leans down and holds out the bag with the drawing of the dragon: the strange squirrel-like being speaks without hesitation as his yellow eyes glow with knowledge.

"..the boy from the field, he is in grave danger.. Credne has taken him into the forest.. if we do not act now he will use the boy to take command of the World-Tree.. if that dwarf gets his greedy hands on the World-Tree then only the crows shall rejoice - for death will surely follow.."

Seren perks up at the sight of the drawing. He stares at it for a few moments, while a memory plays through his mind; he then looks at the squirrel-like being. "Inferno?" Seren asks. Without hesitation, Seren leaps off of the tree-branch and darts into the woods.

The Raven turns, watching Seren take off, then turns to the figure. "Caw."

The figure looks to the Raven and his golden eyes momentarily flash - then he leaps off and seems to vanish into the treetops.

Meanwhile Inferno walks through the forest with Credne, looking around as he still seems confused and a little afraid - having never been this far from his home.

"ye're nae like the others, that's why they strike at ye - they fear ye.. if ye're wise ye'll learn tae use that fear tae ye're advantage - give them a real reason tae be afraid.." Credne says, heading deeper into the forest.

"..I don't want to hurt anyone.." Inferno replied honestly.

"..they sure dinnea care about ye're health - or do ye enjoy having stones thrown at ye and ye're name cursed? ah know what it's like tae be different.. nae many dwarves venture near the city these days.." Credne replies.

" you really are Credne? father says you're insane.." Inferno says.

"aye, the same father who plans on sacrificing his flesh and blood tae false gods.." Credne notes.

"that's a lie! father would never do that" he.. he's good.. and.. he.. he.." Inferno protests, stopping and frowning at Credne but is unable to finish as he remembers his less-than-pleasant relationship with the great king.

" love him, as ye should - but tell me, does he love ye back? do any of them? ah was like ye once, boy, ah guess ah still am.. but together we can make them proud.. we can be heroes.." Credne says.

"..heroes?" Inferno blinks, looking at the dwarf - still unsure.

Seren bounds through the branches of trees with near-absolute silence, weaving and darting like a ferret; until he comes a short distance away and hears Inferno and a voice which he assumes to be Credne. He stops for a moment to listen, lying as still as a rock.

Suddenly Maria runs into the scene, having following Inferno across the forest and unaware of the danger she was putting herself in - she rushes towards Inferno and the mysterious dwarf, "..hey! hey! wait.. please! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you.. please.." she exclaims.

As Seren observes the scene he suddenly feels the presence of a rather large figure behind himself, before long a familiar blow is felt as Loki emerges - having taken the opportunity to strike at the dragon from behind as he growled " don't know when to quit, do you? are you really going to lay your life down for a worthless little half-blood?".

Meanwhile Inferno blinks as Maria arrives, not expecting her to have followed him - he moves as if to speak when Credne suddenly pulls him back and makes a threatening motion at Maria with his hammer.

"ye've done enough damage fer one day, ye snivelling little pegacorn wench.." the dwarf snarls, his eyes full of contempt - which Inferno notices and he sparks again with unusual energy as he leaps in front of the dwarf, spreading his wings out.

"..leave her alone! she isn't like the others - she just wants to help!" Inferno protested.

Seren roars at Loki, like before; it echoes throughout the forest, startling the animals in the forest who flee in all directions.

"Don't test my patience!" Seren bellows. "Strike at me once more, and I swear, you will regret it!"

Maria steps back and goes a little wide-eyed at Credne but suddenly puffs herself up a little and braves stepping forward as she does what many children do when they feel somewhat threatened or wronged:

"..I.. I'm not scared of you! you big bully!" she begins - only to jump as she hears Seren's roar and looks around.

Credne grabs Inferno and throws him aside with quite a bit of force as he hears the roaring - his eyes flashing with rage as he readies his hammer, looking to Maria - "ye brought the dragon with ye, didn't ye? well now ye've gone and done it ye little -!".

However before Credne can react the squirrel-like being leaps out of nowhere and tackles the dwarf, sharp claws disarming Credne without harming him as Ratatosk looks him square in the eyes "..if you seek power, dwarf, I suggest you learn to fight fair rather than preying on defenceless cubs..".

As the conflict occurs between Credne and the other Loki responds to Seren's warning via clenching both of his fists together and delivering a sledgehammer-punch to the dragon, his eyes bursting into blue flame as he spits, "..tell you what, dragon - how about I strike you down and then take that little half-blood wretch and break his scrawny little neck for embarassing me in the fields.. that is after Credne uses him to gain access to Yggdrasil that is.. you know.. the "World-Tree".."

Seren responds by twisting his snake-like body around Loki, holding him in place. "You little punk..." Seren growls. He uses his body like a slingshot, throwing Loki through the woods, then slinks after him quickly, twisting and darting like a giant snake.

Credne responds to Ratatosk's challenge with a brutal headbutt to the squirrel, causing the woodland guardian to stagger backwards - the dwarf takes the advantage and quickly smashes his fist into the squirrel's chest, causing him to crouch in pain: "..ah'm no aboot tae let a bunch o' weaklings stop me getting the power that mah ancestors had stolen by that accursed Equis and the Pendragon filth..".

Suddenly Inferno leaps at Credne and grabs onto the dwarf's back, trying to wrestle the larger individual - sparking with energy.. only to be swiftly tossed off, slamming onto the ground with an aubidle yelp of pain.

Loki laughs at Seren as he lays near a half-broken tree, glowing brightly as he mocks the dragon despite obviously being beaten - "..that's right, kill me.. forget about the half-breed.. join the dance.. the Watchers.. they dance.. the Watchers.. they watch.."

"Why should I kill you?" Seren asks. "It's below my dignity." Seren's eyes flash with green light; vines burst out of the ground, ensnaring Loki. "Stay out of my way." Seren says before darting off after Inferno.

Loki simply laughs madly as he is ensnared and yells after the dragon "The Watchers! they dance! The Watchers! they sing! they sing!".

By the time Seren arrives in the clearing Credne, Inferno and Maria are all missing - a battered Ratatosk lays on the ground and a trail of broken branches and signs of struggling leads towards the tallest tree in the forest, the "World-Tree".

Chapter 3

"...Damn!" mutters Seren, observing the carnage.

Ratatosk lets out a growl of annoyance and anger as he gets to his feet, albeit shakily - his eyes glowing as he suddenly seems to grow in size and bulk, the ground beneath his feet cracking slightly as roots wrap around his legs and the squirrel begins to take on the traits of a plant, chunks of bark and leaves blending with his fur as he turns to the dragon: it is now clear that this odd stranger is a guardian of nature - a demigod in his own right.. yet it becomes clear even Ratatosk needs aid as he speaks:

"Credne is a coward but he's also a madman, driven by decades of hate - he watched as King Equinox drove his people to near-extinction.. he fought against Equinox and lost.. yet like a coward he made a pact with the so-called "King" of Avalon.. to live in isolation for the rest of his days.. with only outcasts like Loki to keep him company.. now he seeks to take something that even Equinox dare not defile - Yggdrasil.."

"...Yggdrasil?" Seren asks, unfamiliar with the landmarks of Avalon. "What is that?"

Ratatosk explains: "..the "World-Tree".. the largest tree in the forest and, by extension, the oldest.. legends tell of the "World-Tree" being the source of all power in this land - of course such power is symbolic.. yet mortals don't always see symbols.. instead they take it literally.. fools like Credne would sacrifice everything to gain what they believe to be absolute power.."

He turns and looks to the large tree, "..but to storm the "World-Tree" is akin to sacrilege, especially when the intent is born of hate and vengeance - join me, dragon.. together we shall stop this madness.. but bewared, if the "World-Tree" falls so too shall Avalon.. or so the legends say..".

"Well, what are we waiting for, then? If this 'World-Tree' really is so important, then I suppose I ought to help protect it, right?" With that, Seren begins to head down the path of rubble.

Suddenly time seems to slow down as a familiar voice echoes towards Seren as a large dragon once again appears out of the shadows, <<..I'm afriad this is as far as you go..>> she notes.

Ratatosk growls audibly as he flings himself at the dragon, being swept aside by the much larger being but also causing time to return to its normal flow as he yells out at Seren "go! I'll deal with this!".

Seren glances worriedly at Ratatosk and the familiar shadowy dragon, before darting down the rubble-path.

Meanwhile Credne, Inferno and Maria arrive at the base of Yggdrasil - the dwarf drops Maria to the ground and grabs Inferno by the scruff of the neck as he drags the boy with him towards the tree: tossing him against the trunk of the tree and pinning him with one arm while he leans over and keeps his hammer steady.

"'re young, Pendragon.. young and foolish.. yet ye'll still do.. ye see it's about innocence in the end.. ye're innocent.. at least in the eyes o' the forest.. the great Yggdrasil will weep bitter tears fer the passing o' an innocent at it's feet.. and as Yggdrasil weeps so tae shall the great and mighty Equinox.. fer his pact with the mad gods will of been in vain.. ye're a sacrifice, Pendragon.. in the end ye always were.. take comfort in knowing that this old dwarf has ended ye're suffering.. much kinder than the fate ye're "father" had in store.." Credne says, then lifts his hammer high in preparation for a killing blow.

A golden burst of flame bursts from between the trees like a glowing arrow, striking Credne's hammer-arm. Seren emerges into the clearing, bearing down upon Credne.

Credne lets out a cry of anger and surprise as he drops his hammer, Inferno kicks free and runs towards Maria in the resulting distraction - yet as quick as lightning Credne races at Seren and fights like a crazed bull, powerful fists swinging in a frenzy as he lets out a fearsome battle-cry.

"!!.. NO!" Credne roars, clasping his hands together and swinging them in a "sledgehammer-punch", he is clearly a berserker in battle: "..Yggdrasil is mine! ye cannea have it! not one speck o' dust! it's MINE!" he snarls.

Seren growls and swipes at Credne with razor-sharp claws. "That power does not belong to you!"

Credne's chest recieves a vicious cut as the dragon's claws strike him and the dwarf pauses for a moment as he stares at the wound - his expression changes from a bersker rage to a silent but murderous fury.. the color seeming to slowly drain from his form as he clenches his fists tightly.

" made me bleed.. now ye've gone and.." Credne began only to let out a cry of pain and surprise as Inferno suddenly strikes him from behind, clutching the hammer - sparking with unusual energy as his eyes glow slightly.

"Leave him alone! you -!" Inferno begins only to freeze in horror as he sees a figure appear behind Seren - "look out!" he yells, reaching forward as Loki forms one of his hands into a large dagger and attempts to stab the dragon from behind.

Seren turns around, but it is too late- Loki plunges the dagger up to the hilt in Seren's side. Seren roars in agony, clawing at Loki.

Maria suddenly springs to life and leaps at the injured Credne, trying to jump onto his back while tugging on his ears and nose in an attempt to overpower the dwarf.

Inferno's eyes flash bright red as he lets out a cry of anger - as he does so a rumbling sound echoes around the area and a wave of immense black energy erupts from his outstretched arm, blasting into Loki and sending the Valkyrie hurling backwards into the forest: collapsing on the ground a few feet back with smoke rising from a large wound in his chest.

Credne snarls and tosses Maria aside as his eyes grow wide upon seeing the assault on Loki and he reaches for the hammer only to freeze in horror as time suddenly seems to freeze in place, Inferno growing weak as he collapses to the ground and passes out: the area growing darker in the process as a powerful force begins to manifest.

"...what... is this?" Seren thinks to himself, breathing heavily in pain.

Maria lets out a yelp as she's tossed aside only to rise to her feet, ready to leap at Credne again - that is until she notices the dwarf freezing in horror and she too pauses as the area grows dark, looking at Inferno with concern "..Inferno!" she cries, attempting to run over as he collapses.

Seren also attempts to move toward Inferno, but as he stands, his side where Loki stabbed him explodes in agony and he collapses.

The darkness increases as a massive dragon manifests from a fiery portal, a behemoth far greater than even the mysterious dragon Seren faced earlier - with pure black scales and piercing green eyes: the monstrous entity lays two gigantic forehands on the ground either side of the lifeless Inferno and looks over at the others.

<<Who did this?>> a dark, unfathomably evil voice echoes.

Maria freezes as the dragon appears and hops back, her eyes growing wide as she shakes a little - stuck between the instinct to flee and her concern for the others.

The dragon snorts slightly, emitting a stream of black smoke in the process as it continues to stare at the group with those green eyes - after a moment it speaks again.

<<No answer? so be it ->> - the dragon proceeds to unleash a massive wave of flame, Credne leaping out of the way just in time to avoid being reduced to ash as the dragon spreads it massive wings.

Suddenly six other dragons appear from various portals, as soon as they manifest they swoop upon the black dragon - resulting in a ferocious battle between the gigantic beasts as several of the other dragons are swept aside by the black dragon as it snarls.

As this occurs the sound of soldiers approaches from the distance as Equinox and his guards march towards the area, alongside a small army of peasants who have taken to arms.

Amidst the madness Inferno opens his eyes and crawls towards Seren, instinctively holding out a hand to the fallen dragon " have to get up.. before the guards find you.. please.." he says.

Seren struggles to his feet, before grasping Inferno and Maria in his talons and leaping into the air, snaking through the branches of tall trees to escape the scene of the fight.

The gigantic black dragon's eyes flare with intensity as it looks over as Inferno moves, <<..the boy still lives?>> - suddenly the dragon begins to move forward only to be held back as the other dragons combine their strength to drag the monster back into a fiery portal, the dragons fading from reality as Seren flees with the children.

As Seren manages to get further from the scene Ratatosk appears amidst the trees and guides Seren towards the fields nearby - taking the form of a small squirrel as he leaps from branch to branch, "come! don't look back! hurry!" he squeaks.

Chapter 4

After a while the group arrive at the fields, Ratatosk transforming into a more humanoid form as he looks over at the injured Seren as well as Inferno and Maria: kneeling down slightly as he extends a hand outward.

"..I am sorry, little ones.. it is over now.. please.. no more crying.. no more pain.. let me help you.." he speaks, his voice incredibly gentle yet bestowed with ancient power - the demigod trying his best to comfort the group whilst still fighting his own rage. "..I've been a fool.. for so long.. I have done nothing.. I promise you.. from this day.. I will be with you..".

Seren glances back at the two children, wondering what would've happened had he not been there. "I left a friend behind once..." he thought to himself. "I wasn't about to make that same mistake again. I don't regret this."

Inferno looks to Seren and holds onto the dragon, as if unsure whether or not to trust Ratatosk - the boy begins to spark with black lightning as his eyes dart around the area: "..I'm.. sorry.. I.. didn't mean to.. urgh.." - he suddenly pushes away from Seren and spreads his wings, clutching his head as tears form in his eyes, closing them as his face contorts into an agonizing expression of grief "'s all my fault!".

Inferno suddenly breaks down, falling to his knees - however by this time Ratatosk moved over and held him close, keeping the boy in place even as the young Pegacorn continually beat at the demigod's chest with clenched fists: ".. stop .. no more fighting .. it's over now..".

Seren looks at the boy, taken back by his sobbing. Seren begins to glow softly; shrinking in appearance, taking the form of a human with brilliant golden wings. Although his eyes are still serpent-like, they bear an expression of pity and kindness. Seren places a hand on the young Inferno's shoulder.

"Hold back your tears, young one." Seren says. "I am here for you. You are not to blame for anything."

Inferno turns around as if to strike at Seren like he did Ratatosk, only to suddenly tremble visibly as an all too familiar figure emerges in the field along with a sizeable number of guards.

"..enough of this, guards - take the foundling to the castle and return the peasant girl to her family.. I would have words with these two.." Equinox speaks, motioning towards Ratatosk and Seren - as he does so a few guards approach.

Ratatosk visibly snarls but knows better than to attack the King's own guards - reluctantly letting Inferno go.

Seren glares at King Equinox with an inscrutable expression.

Maria lets out a little cry of surprise as she runs to Inferno, trying to hold onto his arm as she looks at the guards and then Equinox - speaking in a trembling voice "..please! Sire.. don't hurt them.. they protected us when no one else would! ..Inferno tried to stop Credne.. but he wasn't strong enough!.. I..".

"I said enough!" Equinox yells, turning around as if to strike the girl - however a few guards step forward, reluctant to oppose their King but giving him a concerned look: as he notices this Equinox snorts, turning back towards Ratatosk and Seren, waving dismissively as he lowers his voice - speaking to his guards"..take the children to safety..".

Ratatosk growls slightly at Equinox but speaks to Maria softly, "'s alright, child - go home.. we'll speak again.. I promise..".

"Go on, little one." Seren says to Inferno, keeping his deep golden eyes on Equinox. "I sense that it may be best to listen..."

Maria stays silent as she once again tries to take Inferno's arm, looking around at the guards as she heads back to the city.

The guards proceed to lead Inferno and Maria away, disappearing into the distance as Equinox keeps silent - he and Ratatosk seem to engage in a staring competition for a few minutes before he finally speaks:

"Credne was a fool, doomed to failure - the foundling was never in any danger.. the Watchers care for him.. as they do for all of Avalon's children.."

"Well then, if these Watchers care for him, perhaps they sent us to his rescue." Seren says.

Ratatosk steps forward, waiting until the guards have left before he speaks "..I know of your Watchers, Equinox.. I didn't wish to do this in the presence of those you have blinded.. however.. they aren't here.." - with that Ratatosk slashes Equinox's chest with powerful claws, ripping the King's armor to reveal a disturbing sight.

A collection of organic tendrils warp and shift as Equinox chuckles a little at Ratatosk, his eyes flashing dangerously as he concentrates, the armor slowly starting to repair itself by unseen "hands":

" are still so very young, Ratatosk.. unable to grasp the powers you are dealing with.. as for you.." he changes direction, looking to Seren "..if you wish to believe that, so be it.. I'm not here to argue philosophy.. I merely wanted to look upon the two beings who risked their lives for a foundling so that I could ask them a much needed question: ..why?".

"Because I'm a nice person." Seren says. "I just felt like it was the right thing to do."

Equinox sneers slightly, clapping slowly as he nods his head "..a noble gesture, dragon.. though it is flawed beyond reason - the right thing to do is obey the laws of the land.. I could have you both executed for daring to touch *my* foundling.. after all, you are but common woodland vermin.. moreso in your case.. dragons are, after all, vicious and depraved.. I should know.. I was the one to begin the campaign to exterminate your kind.. along with many other of Avalon's past mistakes..".

Ratatosk snarls and grows slightly, as if ready to strike: "'re nothing but a bloody tyrant Equinox! you're people won't stay blind for ever - in fact.. you force me to this.. a curse.. you have cursed my land many times.. so now I shall repay the favor.." - the skies grow dark as Ratatosk says this and his golden eyes flash dangerously, mirroring Equinox in many ways.

Equinox's sneer soon fades as he looks to Ratatosk " wouldn't dare.. I warn you.." he begins, his tone changing to concern - perhaps even fear.

"Ratatosk..." Seren begins, unsure of what else to say.

Ratatosk doesn't listen as he speaks "..I curse you Equinox.. to die by the hand of your own son.. be it your favored Equis or your accursed "foundling".. you will never know which.. until the deed is done..".

The skies rumble as thunder clashes against the clouds, yet no rain falls - a suddenly strong gust of wind blowing through the area as Equinox's eyes flare with a mixture of anger and shock, clutching his fists before he turns and walks away, visibly shaking as he seems to hold back the urge to tear Ratatosk limb from limb:

" be it.." he mutters, heading back towards the city.

Seren looks away with a sad gaze in his deep golden eyes.

Ratatosk turns away and heads back towards the forest, before he goes he speaks to Seren "..this is not over, trust me.. although Equinox thinks I placed a curse on him today in reality he was already cursed.. the boy we saved today.. he will have the power to break the Watchers' hold over this realm.. though we not last to see it.. for now we must continue to dance to the Watchers' tune.. for now..".

Seren watches as Ratatosk takes his leave. "Some realm I have stumbled upon." Seren thinks to himself. "And yet, so familiar. That boy, Inferno, reminds me in some ways of Ryou... I just hope that young Inferno doesn't turn into a monster like my old friend..."

Chapter 5

The scene shifts to the grand halls of the Royal Palace, Inferno sits in a dark room with only a few candles lighting the area - he shivers slightly and folds his wings over himself as he holds back the urge to begin weeping, as he had been doing on and off ever since returning from the forest.

Equis sat next to his brother, for the first time the elder sibling seemed to soften - reaching over to Inferno, "'s okay.. listen.. I'm sorry.. okay? ..I.." he begins only to jump as the doors suddenly swing open to reveal the shadow of Equinox.

"get out" he says, looking to Equis - for a moment it seems the boy was about to defy his father only for his thoughts to change rapidly as the King approached, Equis quickly heading out of the room as the doors slammed shut behind him.

Inferno turns to look at Equinox with fear in his eyes, still shaking as he speaks - his voice almost a whisper "..father.. I'm sorry.. I..".

Inferno's words were silenced suddenly as Equinox's hand collided with the young pegacorn's face, stinging pain passing through his cheek as the King glared at him:

" I not kind to you?" Equinox asks, his eyes glowing in the darkness.

Inferno cries a little, holding his cheek to try and stop the pain as he squeaks "..y-yes.. you are.. please.." - only to let out a yelp as the King grabs one of the boy's wings and twists it painfully.

"..then learn your place" Equinox notes, releasing Inferno's wing before he turns around without a second thought - the doors opening as he exits only to slam shut behind him.

Inferno curls up and cries to himself as the candles begin to die out, leaving the room in darkness - yet from a distant realm two figures observe the scene and converse with one another:

<<..the boy should of died today.. yet by chance of fate he was saved by two strangers.. of course their is no such thing as chance.. you no doubt brought them to this place.. to this time.. to which I must ask.. why? of all people..>> the first figure asks, being none other than the dragon Seren had encountered several times before.

<<Credne was a silly dwarf, he was doomed to failure from the very beginning.. we've all been here.. many times.. ensuring that Inferno survives.. Inferno is special.. he's my brother and I love him so very much.. he's a part of me and when all is said and done no one is ever going to take him away from me.. you see.. only I get to kill him.. that's what big sisters are for..>> the second figure responds, revealing herself as a small winged child with flowing golden hair.

<< did it come to this, my daughter? what happened to turn you against your own kind?>> the dragon enquires.

<<..that, mommy.. is another story.. we're done here.. we'll meet again.. you'll see..>> the small child replies before vanishing into thin air..

- The End -