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Author's note: I hope that people will learn the value of friendship.
He saw what he had feared: bulldozers. He ran as fast as he could to warn the others. The tiny bugs that flitted around stung his eyes. The dim moonlight shined on the rough, coarse ground that raced by. It was a long journey, so when his legs grew tired, he flew. Since most of the forest was made of thick bushes and low, scratchy tree tops, the most comfortable place was about two feet above the ground.
When he got close to home, he looked for the familiar brown cave surrounded by the old pine trees, swaying in the cool night wind. When he spotted it, he bellowed the password and ran through the old, oak entrance.
There was his father, Centhral: a proud, strong dragon. He always held his head high and spoke with a deep voice. He also saw his best friend Zinto - a golden phoenix whom he had met in a forest one cold winter evening - huddled in the corner. Zinto had never revealed his past, and when anyone asked him, he became quiet. When Alex’s father saw Alex burst in, panting, dirty, and exhausted, he asked, “Alex, what is wrong?”
“The humans with the bulldozers are coming!” Alex yelled.
His father’s roar was deafening. Alex was so scared and tired he nearly fell backwards! His father called the meeting. All the other dragons looked out of their caves and trudged out towards Central Cave, a cave for formal or short notice meetings.
Central Cave was stunning. There were sparkling icicles hanging from the ceiling, and most of the walls were covered with glittering ice made by Bernard, the ice dragon. Bernard, the first and only known dragon to breathe ice, had moved north. Bernard left half of his treasure in Central Cave because it was too much to carry. The treasure was made up of rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and other exquisite gems. There were gold coins, pearl necklaces, and solid silver blocks that weighed about four pounds each. Alex was still imagining what the Others would do if they found the dragons’ hideout when Alex’s second best friend, Jeremy, inquired, “Hey Alex! Why is your dad up there?”
As if on cue, Alex’s father cleared his throat and all chatter ceased instantly. He repeated everything Alex had said to him on the way to Central Cave, but didn’t mention Alex’s name until the end when he said: “I would like to thank my son, Alex, for he has warned all of us.”
Everyone cheered and Jeremy looked at him with an awed look on his face, because it was a great honor to be recognized in Central Cave.
“This also means we have to move… or fight back,” said Alex’s father.
There was a pause of silence.
“FIGHT BACK!” yelled the crowd.
In a month, the Firebolts were ready to fight. They had trained by melting metal, flying around the Dragon Territory, and running all the way around the Forest of Dragons. Alex was the great leader of the Firebolts, a group that dealt with surprise attacks. The plan was to launch a surprise attack on the Others, a mysterious group of evildoers working for an unknown creature and their only known goal was to eliminate the dragons.
Alex peeked through a crack in the branches. He saw the hard ground covered in dry leaves and dead grass. He then focused and saw one of the Others laugh. Alex gave the signal to the Firebreathers; a subgroup of the Firebolts that was capable of breathing the hottest fire of all.
The dry brush around the Others went up in hot orange flames. The flames danced in the pale moonlight. The smoke was so thick it was hard to see. All Alex saw were that the Attackers were in position. He then signaled to the Attackers with a tail wave. These dragons were known for their superb flying and attacking skills. They stomped, crushed, and flew into the Others with no remorse. The Others had started it, and had forced the dragons to fight back. The Firebolts did not like fighting, but had to do so when they were called upon. The Attackers folded their wings and spiraled into the heat. Alex could hear the screaming of the Others and the sound of dragons stomping. Lastly, Alex alerted the Scout, Bill. He observed as the Scout went in after the Attackers. The Scout’s job was to check that everything was in order, and no one was missing. Alex then waited until the Scout, the Attackers, and the Firebreathers came back. Bill had alerted him, but he already knew. There was no orange glow among the group. He couldn’t find Zinto. The fire had died down, and Alex wondered if Zinto had died as well. All of the Firebolts looked, but none of them could find the lost phoenix. They looked for hours, but still no sign of Zinto. They took a last scan, and then they all flew back home silently, knowing they had lost a treasured member of the group, and a great friend to all.
As Alex told his father about Zinto, his dad’s proud face turned grave. When Alex finished his sorrowful tale, his father said, “I know it is hard losing your best friend. But look what I found when I came out to look for you.” He followed his father, wondering what it could be. He led him to a dusty, old spare cave. There he gave him a blue container filled with an ice blue liquid. The label read:
For: Alex Firebolt, leader of the Firebolts
From: Your Friend, Bernard
Alex gasped. “That’s impossible!”
“Alex, you have a decision I cannot make for you. Will you drink it? It might be poison, but I doubt that. The only threat we have are the Others, but I doubt they could have found our secret hideout.”
There were a few moments of silence, and then Alex said, “Yeah. I will. I think it is from Bernard.”
“C’mon Alex, today is Firebolt Day!” Jeremy yelled.
“Firebolt Day,” he thought… “Firebolt Day!”
“I have to warm up!” Alex exclaimed and went to the starting line.
Firebolt Day consisted of three contests: a running race, a flying race, and a contest that changed every year. He went to ask a judge about the third contest. The judge told him that the third contest was to determine who could melt one inch of Bernard’s precious ice.
Alex warmed up by running around the track twice and flying around once. He didn’t breathe fire though, because he knew that he needed his hottest fire if he wanted to win.
The running race was first. He was light, quick, and speedy-everything he needed to win the running race. He could feel the wind rushing past his face, and saw Jeremy right in front of him. While he ran around Central Cave, he pumped his wings to give him extra speed. Then, with a burst of energy from out of nowhere, Alex bolted ahead of Jeremy and crossed the finish line.
Second was the flying race. Alex saw the hot, orange fire go up as the starting sign. Alex easily won, as he had helped with the Firebolt training. Jeremy, who was second in command of the Firebolts, was three tails behind.
The last contest was melting the ice. Jeremy went first. He blew. Nothing happened. Then Martha’s turn… still nothing! Everyone in front of him went, and failed.
He watched an old silver dragon in front of him try… to no avail. Now it was Alex’s turn. He mustered up all of his strength and courage and blew. Then he stopped blowing. Had the ice just gotten thicker? The judge thought so, so she let him try again. Again, he summoned up all his strength and blew, and much to Alex’s surprise, there was a puddle of water!
Alex got an icicle from Central Cave, and earned the nickname “Fire Freezer.” He also got to pick one treasure from Bernard’s collection. He chose a red ruby. Alex stepped outside and did a victory blow of fire. The only problem was… it wasn’t fire. It was ice.
Alex told the other members of the Firebolt team: Jeremy, Evan, Charlie, Bill, Christopher, and Eva (Zinto was still lost) that they were flying to The Forest of Dragons, the place where he had seen the bulldozers. They flew over an ocean, taking the back way in.
They could smell the salty sea water down below. The Firebolts could see land ahead. It was a lush forest covered with blossoming trees. The bright morning sun seemed to have no effect on the silvery mist above the east side of the forest. They flew over the leafy canopy and down below, the Firebolts saw a fort built of mainly rock and wood. Alex started to ask who wanted a surprise attack, but stopped abruptly as he heard the flutter of wings, the conjuring up of fireballs, and the shooting of guns.
“Attack!” Alex roared. Everyone had learned how to attack in their Firebolt training. So at the same time, everyone folded their translucent, blue wings and spiraled down into the chaotic battlefield.
The fight went on for a few minutes. They stopped as they saw a gigantic cannon. Their scaly armor could not protect them against the cannon, so Alex promptly told everyone to retreat. He then told them he would freeze the fireballs, and they would burn the cannonballs. Eventually, the Others would run out of cannonballs and run out of energy to conjure up more fireballs. The Firebolts put their plan into action.
Alex kept up a solid stream of ice and the rest kept up a steady flow of fire. Soon the surprised Others had to make a hasty retreat into the fort. Alex and the rest of the Firebolts flew in from the top and overturned barrels, set things on fire, and stomped on little shops, and sent the Others scattering, screaming and running.
On the flight home, Alex told the other Firebolts to go home. He told them he would be going back into The Forest of Dragons.
The other Firebolts flew home obediently. Alex flew off toward the fiery glow illuminating the forest.
He flew into a muddy patch of red and blue flowers. He was covered in dirt and mud from the fight with the Others. He was unrecognizable. He called out… and heard a squawk. Then he saw it: a golden yellow phoenix. A phoenix was a legendary firebird that was hard to find; it was considered rare and lucky to see one. To kill a phoenix, you had to put out its fire.
Alex decided to go up and talk. Suddenly, the phoenix flew up and swirled fire around itself as a warning.
“I won’t hurt you!” Alex quickly called.
The phoenix did not come down.
“Who are you?” asked the phoenix with a deep voice.
“Alex Firebolt,” Alex answered. He knew he had heard that voice somewhere. “Who are you?”
“Alex?” replied the phoenix with the deep voice. Then Alex made out the voice.
“Zinto! We’ve sent out a countless number of searchers!”
“I couldn’t find you guys!” Zinto replied. “I was lost in a forest!”
They two best friends were overjoyed to see each other again.
Alex now dared to ask. It was now or never. Zinto and Alex were happy, and now he might tell a little bit, and that was good enough.
“Let’s take a soar together,” Alex suggested. “You’ve never told me about your childhood.”
“OK. Let’s go.” And with that, they flew off into the setting sun with Zinto spinning a fascinating tale about his childhood and parents.
It was dark. A tiny phoenix pecked again with his tiny tooth. Suddenly…CRACK! He was out. Staring at him was his mother, a phoenix with a beautiful golden plumage of flame.
“Isn’t he beautiful, Thor?” Ange, his mother, questioned.
“Aye,” replied Thor. “He sure is. Let’s name him Zinto. ”
Zinto awoke to a bright morning sun. His older brother, ZeK, was having a morning feast. Then Zinto remembered that today he would have his first flying lesson!
“That’s it Zinto,” coached Thor. “Let the air flow through your wings.”
“He’s a natural, Thor!” exclaimed Ange. Soon the flying phoenix grew tired and came in for a landing.
Later that evening, the little phoenix was staring wide-eyed at a ruby red egg. He hoped it would be a sister when he remembered how mean ZeK was. Suddenly, the egg started to rock. One piece fell off, and then another, and then another! There was a ruby red flame. At that moment, the egg burned to blood red ashes and a beautiful red phoenix waddled out.
“Let’s name her Ruby,” Zinto said quietly.
From the start, Zinto liked his new little sister and Ruby liked Zinto. ZeK just said that she was just as annoying as Zinto, but Zinto and Ruby paid him little or no attention at all.
There was Zinto, sleeping peacefully. Suddenly, he awoke to the flapping of wings. He peeked open his eyes to see ZeK flying from the nest.
All of a sudden, Zinto felt cold and desperate. He shrunk back and heard Ruby and his parents rouse with the same feelings. Ange and Thor were suddenly alert.
“It’s him! Ange, escape with the kids!” yelled Zinto’s father, Thor.
“Never!” whispered a cold, raspy voice, “None of you will escape alive from me, Lord Salargg!”
“Run with the children, Ange!” exclaimed Thor one last time. Then Thor grabbed a blue sword. It glowed with a shining light. And just then, before Thor could even turn his head, he was killed by a dark, black bolt of fire. His ice blue sword fell to the ground with a loud cling clang. Before Zinto could see what had killed Thor, he saw Lord Salargg upon Ange, who killed her instantly.
But all that the young phoenix, Zinto, saw was a shadow of darkness and cruelty. Even at such a young age, Zinto threw his first bolt of fire at the shadowy, black flames. Most phoenixes are not capable of doing this until they are much older.
The shadow screamed. Already, Zinto could see the darkness reappearing. The young phoenix would have to escape rapidly.
The young phoenix seized his father’s blue sword. It had a dark blue sapphire on the pommel. Zinto didn’t know about the sapphire’s purpose. His father had never told him, and now he guessed he would never know. His best guess was that it was just decoration. As soon as he touched it, it ignited with a fiery blue glow. He thrust it into Lord Salargg just below his right wing. While Lord Salargg screamed with agony, Zinto quickly grabbed his frightened sister.
“What about Mom and Dad?” questioned Ruby. She had never left the nest without them.
“Shh!” replied Zinto.
“What about Mom and Dad?” repeated Ruby.
“I’ll tell you later. Just be quiet.”
No one spoke after that. As Zinto prepared to fly from the nest, he took one last look at his dead parents; he knew this was going to be his last. Then, he flew into the dark, starry night, until he was only a tiny, orange dot in the night sky, followed by Lord Salargg, a furious, black phoenix.
While Zinto was flying, there was a group of Lord Salargg’s centaurs galloping and stringing their bows. The centaurs were, as usual, half man, half horse. Their bottom half was that of a horse, while the top half was like a man’s, resulting in two stomachs. As soon as Zinto got to the blockade of evil centaurs, he was met by many arrows whizzing in the air. He would have normally just dodged the arrows and flew off, but one of the arrows hit his dearly loved sister who fell into the forest. He threw a fire bolt at the group of centaurs and the dry brush and grass went up in flames. He raced ahead to avoid being hit by any arrows of the surviving centaurs. Then he dove into the forest.
Before he got there, Zinto heard a flurry of wings as he met a group of bat-like creatures. He flew down to the nearest tree. He waited until the bats charged at him and then set the tree on fire. At the last moment, he dodged the group of bat-like creatures and watched to see if his plan would work. It did. He flew into the forest to look for his sister, who had apparently vanished!
It had been a dreadful night for Zinto. As he flew into a tree to rest his aching wings, he saw a light blue dragon looking up at him. The dragon called out to him. Zinto approached cautiously. Zinto had now learned to be cautious, because he couldn’t be sure of anything.
The dragon’s name was, as it turned out to be, his grandfather’s name, Alex. Alex invited Zinto to
come and stay with the dragons. Zinto accepted. It had been a tiring night for the young phoenix.
As Zinto finished his tale, the two landed in Dragon Territory. Everyone was exciting that he was finally back. But, because Zinto had told Alex that his parents were dead and his sister was lost, Alex had made plans. The two of them eventually planned to attack Lord Salargg’s army. They decided one night to spy on the army. They flew east past Bogg Lake to the Blockade of Centaurs and heard them talking. They decided to fly quite high, so that with a little luck, they wouldn’t be spotted by the centaurs.
Lord Salargg’s army wasn’t exactly the brightest of their kind. Their brains were filled with plots, tactics, and other evil methods and rules. And they really didn’t bother to look up, or else they would have seen Alex and Zinto flying, two tiny specks above on that beautiful autumn evening.
As soon as as Zinto and Alex got to the other side, they took cover in the trees. They saw a red glow illuminating the forest, like a fire.
“Do you think Lord Salargg has posted lookouts?” whispered Alex.
“Maybe, but he probably doubted anyone could pass his blockade of centaurs,” answered Zinto.
Then Zinto and Alex gasped together. A red phoenix had waddled out into the clearing.
There was a moment where both phoenixes looked surprised. Then:
“Is it… is it you, Ruby?” cried Zinto.
“Zinto?” answered Ruby.
Both phoenixes flew to each other and hugged. It had been two years since the two phoenixes had last seen each other.
“Ruby…,” whispered Alex.
Ruby gasped. “Who is that?”
Zinto turned. “Oh. Just my friend, Alex.”
Ruby looked around frightfully, and then cried, “Run!”
“What?” said Zinto.
“Huh?” cried Alex.
Alex and Zinto looked around, and saw centaurs with their bows raised, giants with their deadly spike-boots, and the bat-like creatures, called Batgits, surrounding them, all clad in Lord Salargg’s night-black outfits.
Zinto pulled out his shining ice sword out of his belt. Alex had his mouth opened, ready to breathe ice at a moment’s notice. The first Batgit flew at Zinto. Zinto slashed with his ice sword at the Batgit and threw a fire bolt at the other Batgits flying to attack him. Meanwhile, Alex was fighting two centaurs. He already had a few arrows that had pierced his right wing. Ruby was fighting, too, but all she could manage was a small fire bolt once in awhile. When one of the centaurs fell, she grabbed his bow and his quiver of arrows, strapped it on her back, and started shooting with it. She was deadly accurate; a natural. But they were just outnumbered, about ten to one. So all three of them flew up out of the glade and tried to get away.
Only the Batgits followed, since they were the only ones who could fly. There were about twenty following. Most of them got burned off by the fiery trail Zinto and Ruby left behind. That left seven. By the time the centaurs figured out that they could shoot arrows at the escapers, Zinto, Alex, and Ruby were already out of the clearing and flying over the blockade of centaurs. The Batgits soon fell behind. Batgits did not have the stamina of dragons or phoenixes.
Alex, Ruby, and Zinto had learned two critical facts: one, Lord Salargg was smarter than they thought, and two, his forces were not. They just didn’t look beyond the obvious.
When Alex, Ruby, and Zinto got back to Central Cave, they knew Lord Salargg was planning to attack. They began immediate preparations by organizing a special group of creatures. They told the rest of the dragons of their discovery. They also had the Scout’s word that Lord Salargg was building a large army. They took a vote and decided to build a bigger army to resist Lord Salargg. They figured they had at least one moon before Lord Salargg would come. Alex, Ruby, Zinto, Jeremy, Evan, Charlie, Rosy, Bill, and Eva would be recruiting.
Alex, Zinto, and Bill would go to the Forest of Humans. Charlie, Evan, and Jeremy would go to the Forest of Dragons. Ruby, Rosy, and Eva would go to the Forest of Mist.
The recruiters would leave that night. They would all go to their designated destinations and recruit as many creatures as possible. Then, no later than one moon, they would bring them back. They would then form a plan and defend and attack accordingly.
Alex, Zinto and Bill flew south to the Forest of Mist with Ruby, Rosy, and Eva. There they parted, flying southwest until they entered the human world.
They had never been in the Forest of Humans, so the types of animals that lived there were a wonder. There were cats with black spots, mini dragons without wings, gray animals with tusks, and long-necked, brown-spotted animals. Zinto was the first to break the silence.
“Animals, we need your help.”
All of the animals looked at them curiously.
“This is a war, good versus evil. Look around you. Why are all the trees barren, and some of your beloved children gone? How come the green grass is gone, instead to be replaced by rock?” There was no answer. Zinto continued.
“This is no accident. It is an evil lord, Lord Salargg. We are going to engage in a war. Those who would like to obtain your rightful revenge as well as free your children, follow us.”
None of the animals hesitated. Who wouldn’t want to free their children and save their home? They were angry and wanted vengeance. There was a great stampede and the animals all followed. By the time they left the glade, there were no animals in the most northern part of the forest.
They stopped to get some rest. Alex and Zinto conversed in a corner.
“Shouldn’t we recruit more?” Alex whispered to Zinto.
“No. We must have twelve score!”
“He has more,” argued Alex.
“Oh yeah, he does,” Zinto whispered back to Alex, “at least twenty score more.”
There was a moment of puzzled silence, then Alex said, “Wait! Let’s ask them to bring their families!”
“Yeah! We will have more animals and a better chance of winning.”
Alex made the announcement this time.
“Animals! We ask that you bring your families! And please come back in one week!”
There was a moment when the animals looked around, and then a few moments later, all of them were gone.
One week later, all of the animals were back. They had had twelve score before, now they had at least twenty-five score. They had to walk back up to dragon territory since most of the animals couldn’t fly.
By the time the recruiters got back, the rest of the teams were already back. When they marched into Central Cave, there was loud cheering.
“The plans have been made. You have come just in time. The Scout said Lord Salargg is on his way. He will be here in as little as two days. We will discuss the plans with everybody,” Alex’s father stated.
There was a loud cheering from the newcomers. They would get their families back, and their revenge at last.
There was much to do in two day’s time. There were pits to be dug, slow burning stakes to ignite and place inside these pits, and lastly, pits that needed covering with a thick layer of ice, leaves and dry brush. By the time Lord Salargg would come, the ice would be thin and slippery. The centaurs, which were bound to be in the front, would fall in and meet their horrible fate.
The animals had to be trained to know their strengths. The rhinoceroses had to be instructed in the use of their horns, the elephants in stampeding on the enemy, and the birds in poking at the eyes. However, the tiger and the cheetah knew perfectly well how to use their deadly claws and razor-sharp teeth.
At midnight, all the creatures stationed themselves. They all knew Lord Salargg was coming.
There was tension in the air. Silence reigned over the defenders. By the time the sun was up at its highest point, they could hear rumblings and roars. There were shrieks, screams, snarls, and growls. Then by one o’clock, they saw it: the army. There were Batgits, centaurs, phoenixes (black and normal orange), and a few giants. There was a silent moment as the two armies regarded each other, and then they both charged. And that was the beginning of the war.