NaDo looked like he was about to have a heart attack (as the Earthians often stated). His pen flew across the surface of the writing scroll, detailing each happening within the Lion’s Keep. Every now and then, the winged man would mutter under his breath. Something that sounded like, “Amazing. Absolutely amazing.”
It didn’t take them long to figure out how to use the key stone that ShinRe brought. The Spiral Leader was determined that the entrance to the Stone Lair was there in the Keep. So they searched the chamber over, looking for any kind of passage or doorway.
Instead, they found a blank spot in the center of a mural with an obviously tear-drop shaped indentation in the center. When they placed the stone into the spot, part of the wall rumbled and slid aside, offering a clear path down a narrow and dark flight of stairs.
That was the point when NaDo lost any shred of self-control. The scientist paused in collecting his data and was now shaking Zento around by the shoulder.
“Don’t you see?” he exclaimed. “Don’t you see what this is?”
“NaDo, no. I don’t see,” the warrior grumbled. “Why don’t you explain?”
Zemi wasn’t so sure that was a good thing to ask. After all, his curiosity was piqued by the waiting passageway in the Keep’s wall, and the scientist could get awfully long winded when there was something exciting to share.
We all adore you, NaDo. But you just can’t keep things to yourself.
“This here–” NaDo waved his hand over a patch of wide green on the mural, right around the place where the key stone was inserted. “It’s a forest, right? And this here, this blue looks like an ocean to me. What do you think?”
Zento squinted with a frown, “I guess it could be. Why?”
The scientist stretched his palms forward. “I was right! There is a connection to this and the Vision Stone. This mural is a picture of the forest and the ocean around our lab! And this little stone… see, it’s sitting in the middle of the forest as a representation of the Vision Stone itself!”
“Oooookay,” the warrior glanced over his shoulder.
“Are you sure of this?” Zemi asked, found himself growing interested, too.
“Of course I’m sure, Lord Zemi,” NaDo told him. Once again, his pen was working over the paper, this time sketching the image on the wall. “I’ve lived there for years. I know what it looks like.”
“Hm,” the Dreigiau rumbled a bit under his breath. He glanced over towards Aur with an inquiring look, but the Watcher wouldn’t meet his gaze.
He’s not giving anything away. That means NaDo must be right. There must be some sort of connection. I wonder why Aur won’t throw us a bone about it.
“Are you going to stay here or are you going to follow us down?” Zento asked with a sly look.
Instantly, the scientist perked up, losing interest in the wall. “Oh, by all means. I’m coming down.”
“That’s what I thought,” the warrior peered over at Zemi, handing over the situation without further words.
The Dreigiau nodded quickly, “Alright. Let’s get g–”
“Wait,” Aur spoke.
Everyone froze. All eyes turned towards the Watcher curiously.
“Only a few should go this time,” Aur told them simply.
“What? Why?” NaDo’s excitement had turned into disappointment.
“I understand that you want to study the phenomenon. But there are very important things that will happen the first time that the Stone Lair is opened,” the Watcher explained.
“That’s exactly why I want to be there to see it,” the scientist pouted.
“You will have plenty of time to study these things,” Aur reassured him. “For now, Lord Zemi should choose a few to support him.”
The Dreigiau blinked around, at a loss. All of the Earthians here were good and supportive.
How am I supposed to choose?
“Zento,” Zemi began, the logical choice being his own Champion.
The winged man bowed with a slight grin on his face.
“AsaHi,” the Dreigiau then turned towards the girl. After what almost happened to him, in the grips of Zerom’s Chaos, he was concerned about not having her at his side.
The girl nodded and stepped forward.
And where there was AsaHi, Zemi knew there had to be another. “SoYa.”
The young Athrylith straightened, seeming surprised that he was chosen. He didn’t say a word. Instead, he came to stand next to AsaHi, sucking on his bottom lip.
Zemi gave an abashed look at Kudako. He could already sense that he probably chosen more than the “few” that Aur suggested. He didn’t want to leave anyone out, especially not his most loyal of servants. The Dragon, however, didn’t seem offended.
“I will wait for you here, Lord Zemi. If you require my assistance, just call and I will come,” Kudako told him.
The Dreigiau nodded, thankfully. Then he turned towards Aur again. “Will this do?”
“It should be fine,” the Watcher replied with a nod.
“What about you?” Zemi asked.
Aur gave a hint of a smile. “I will not be going. There are secrets that you must find for yourself. I would do nothing but distract from the focus of these secrets.”
“I see,” the Dreigiau frowned.
Always talking in riddles. Darn Watcher is worse than us Arweinydd.
“Okay, are we ready?” Zemi turned and looked at his Earthian support team.
“Let’s do this!” Zento pumped his fist, already making his way towards the narrow passage ahead.
AsaHi nodded quietly while SoYa looked somewhat uncertain. They both moved forward as the Arweinydd did. Zento led the way, spinning a soft blue light between his fingers. Carefully, he shaped the light into a small glowing sphere that hovered just over his shoulder — a “Zento globe,” as he was so fond of calling it.
The stairway ahead of them was illuminated, soft blue on the golden stone. It was hard to tell how old the structure was, but it had been a very long time since anyone opened the passage, much less traveled down the stairs. Long streams of silver-white cobwebs choked the air, getting tangled stickily in Zemi’s hair. In places, the dampness soaked through the stone walls, spilling dark mosses and delving mushrooms.
The air was stuffy and gritty to breathe. AsaHi pulled her collar up around her mouth and nose while squirming to brush away any cobwebs that touched her.
“Ew! I sure hope there’s more down here than bugs and dirt,” her voice was muffled through the cloth.
“Yeah, me, too!” SoYa agreed, his own hand covering his face.
“Don’t worry, if Aur believes there is something to this place, then we should believe it, too,” Zemi told them. He brushed his own fingers through his bushy mane. “I just wish it wasn’t so hard on the hair.”
As they continued downward, it felt as if the world was lost for any light. The pressure of the Keep grew heavier above them. The smell of the deep earth and musty closure was all the air there to breathe. After a while, even Zemi started to have his doubts.
I wonder what’s down here that could be so important? Maybe it’s not here anymore.
His companions didn’t speak another word. They simply followed the blue light deeper and deeper into the heart of the Keep.
If we don’t find something soon, we’re going to have to turn back.
Eventually, it came to the Dreigiau’s attention that the air was growing cleaner and less gritty to breathe. Though it was difficult to tell due to the color of the Zento globe, he thought that the stone of the stairs had changed, too — becoming darker and cleaner under their feet.
“Zemi,” Zento murmured, holding his globe up to inspect the nearby wall. “Come check this out.”
“Hmmm?” the Dreigiau responded, walking forward. He could feel AsaHi and SoYa following not too far behind.
The globe illuminated tiny patterns of light and darkness that spread over the face of the stone, high above their head. It was hard to tell what they were seeing, but Zemi could recognize the same type of gem-encrusted mural work as the walls in the Keep above.
“Zento, can you give us more light?” Zemi reached out with one hand, brushing the thin layer of grime from the stones.
The Champion nodded, releasing his existing globe, already going to work on creating another. And another. And another. Until the whole passageway above them was lit by the glittering blue glow. The pictures on the walls glittered and sparkled with a surreal quality, tricking the eye to believe they were moving, even when Zemi knew they really couldn’t.
“What are they?” SoYa breathed, staring up.
“Dragons,” AsaHi answered, holding tight to his arm. “Dragons, but they’re different.”
The mural portrayed the majestic beauty of Dragons of every color. Wings wide, they seemed to glide with scales sparkling in the blue glow. Between them were sparks of light that appeared to be stars resting within the sky. The image left him with a profound feeling of inner peace and unity, though the Arweinydd didn’t know why.
“Yes. They were different,” Zemi told them, sadly. It was a long time since he thought of the Dragonkin, the first living creatures that he met on that world.
“You knew them?” AsaHi asked.
“It was a very long time ago,” the Arweinydd answered. “They taught me how to take a Dragon form. They taught me a lot of things besides that. It was partly based on their culture and civilization that I decided to found Nefol and Ceiswyr.”
“Dragon civilization?” SoYa asked with a furrowed brow.
“Indeed,” Zemi touched the wall, running his fingers over the length of one of the graceful Dragon images. “They, too, were creatures from the Time Before. They never told me how they came to be here, or how they survived as long as they did. All that I know about them came and went in too short a time. Some died, but some just vanished. I’ve never found another real Dragonkin since.”
“Dragonkin,” AsaHi breathed, touching the wall, too. “Is that what these are?”
“I think so,” the Dreigiau answered. “Dragonkin and Arweinydd.”
“Really?” Zento squinted. “Those look like stars to me.”
“They are Arweinydd.”
“How do you know?” the Champion gave him the arched eyebrow.
“I just do,” Zemi shrugged and continued walking.
If there are images here on the stairwell, certainly we are getting close to something.
Zento just huffed and followed, silently ordering his army of globes to move along with them. Before long, the mural images began to change, as if depicting the passage of time.
It looks like there was some sort of fight.
The feelings of peace had faded away. The images of Dragons and Arweinydd became more and more at odds with each other, until the sky was awash with the colors of battle and war. The stones glittered more and more brightly, clashing with a light that was almost painful to look at. Until finally, the wall was covered with the brilliance of a great final eruption where the images of both Dragons and Arweinydd withered and fell. Followed by darkness.
Zemi felt prickles over his form, not realizing he was shivering until he felt AsaHi’s soft hand on his arm.
“Yes,” there was a lump in his throat as he answered.
“That’s terrible,” SoYa whispered.
It was unspoken, but they all seemed to know what the images depicted.
“It doesn’t stop though,” Zento’s voice carried back to them. “Look at these!”
They all rushed forward just to stop and stare. What shone before them was almost impossible, given how long the images were there.
“No way,” AsaHi breathed.
A star. It became a white dragon. And that dragon came to live with the Earthian peoples.
There were battles between the different kinds of people and many dragons that came to protect them. Then finally, a great cleft that was struck, breaking apart the lands and ending the war. Cities were built, both on the ground and in the sky.
Then a girl appeared, freeing the dragon and releasing him into the world. But shadows followed.
“Zemi,” Zento exclaimed, face pale as he stared up. “This is about us!”