Cragger seethed with rage as he and the Crocodile soldiers pulled up to the Lion temple. War was already raging around them, the Wolves and Ravens wreaking havoc on the Lion, Eagle, and Gorilla armies. He drank it all in before turning to Crooler, the scent of the persuader plant still lingering near her. “What’s the plan this time, Crooler?”
“We need to break into the Lion temple and take all their Chi! They’re withholding it from us! Take down anybody and everybody that opposes us!”
Cragger nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”
There was a deafening roar from the Lion temple’s steps. Cragger knew it was meant to call for help from the other tribes, although by the looks of it, the only missing tribes were the Bears, given the fact that the Rhinos and Gorillas were currently battling elsewhere. Still, though…
“I hate when he roars like that! It complicates everything!” Cragger growled. “You know what to do, everyone! Battle positions!”
He threw orbs of Chi to every Crocodile. “Chi up, now!”
“But sir,” one soldier protested. “These are our last orbs!”
“Don’t worry,” Cragger sneered. “Once we break into the temple, we’ll have more!”
The soldier shrugged. “Okay.”
Everyone quickly inserted the Chi into their breastplates, powering up into their supercharged forms in a stunning burst of energy. As everyone rushed into battle, Cragger looked at the Lion in charge of defense, standing on the steps to the Lion temple.
“Laval,” he growled. “You’re the only thing between us and that Chi.”
He quickly got on his Speedor and raced to the steps of the Lion temple, running up them to come face-to-face with Laval. “Cragger,” Laval frowned, drawing his sword.
“Laval!” Cragger roared. “Surrender now, or prepare to be destroyed!”
The bridge to the temple began to retract, with the two still standing on it. Cragger threw a spear into the gear to stop it. “There’s nobody left to help you now, Laval,” he grinned maniacally. “Your Lions are down there. Your Eagles are getting destroyed by the Ravens. Your Gorillas are being halted by the Rhinos. So right now…” He drew his sword. “...It’s just you and me.”
The spear Cragger had thrown snapped, causing the bridge to start moving inwards once more. Cragger furiously swung his tail around at Laval, forcing him further and further backwards. “Ha. Like I’d fall for that old trick.”
Cragger growled and swung his sword at Laval, who jumped over it. The bridge escaped him, however, and he was left hanging onto its edge.
“Oh, you will fall,” Cragger’s mouth twisted into a smile and he gestured to the rock-spike-filled grounds below. “Fall to your destruction.”
“Ha,” Laval grinned. “You’re pretty close to your own destruction if that’s what you think.”
A wall suddenly pushed into Cragger, and he fell.
In a panicked last-ditch attempt to keep himself from falling, he grabbed onto Laval, only for Laval to slip and fall with him.
Something twinged within Cragger as he fell. He recalled the time he and Laval had spent together -- their time spent racing, sitting on top of Spiral Mountain together, play-fighting at the Forever Rock… Being friends.
Why am I fighting him?
Laval twisted in midair, grabbing on to Cragger and throwing him further up into the air. “What are you doing?” Cragger cried.
“Saving you!” Laval yelled back.
He landed with a hard thud and a sickening crack, Cragger landing on top of him.
Cragger groaned, getting up, and then looked down at Laval. “Laval!” He cried. He rushed over to Laval’s side. “Laval, are you okay?”
“Cragger…” Laval coughed heavily. “Cragger, I don’t have much time… Listen, I need you to tell everyone that this is all a big misunderstanding.”
“B-but- but what if they don’t-”
Laval laid a paw on Cragger’s shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
“They won’t listen to me, though! I-I’m not everyone’s king!”
“At least try. Do it for me. Do it for Chima. ”
Laval breathed heavily. “Cragger, I…” He coughed once more, and smiled sadly. “Cragger, I’m sorry.”
He shut his eyes and let out one last breath.
Cragger stared down at him, tears beginning to form in his eyes. “L-Laval? Laval, wake up, please! D-don’t die!” A hard lump began to form in his throat. “Don’t die…”
The footsteps of Lion soldiers sounded from around the temple. Cragger scampered behind one of the rocky spikes, covering his mouth so as to make no sound. King Lagravis himself turned the corner, only to stop dead in his tracks as he saw Laval’s corpse. He immediately fell to the ground, a pained look entering his eyes. “No… Laval…!”
Cragger’s heart felt like it was collapsing in on itself, but he still did not cry. Sure, he had lost his best friend, but Laval was Lagravis’ son . It’s all my fault. I’m the one that killed him.
Lagravis sighed, despair clear in his eyes. “Let’s… set him to rest, then.” He lifted Laval’s corpse off the ground and onto a stretcher carried by the Lion soldiers, and Laval was carried off.
Cragger sank even further to the ground and held his head in his hands. I can’t believe it. Laval’s… gone. Dead. And I’m the one that killed him.
I never got to tell him that I love him.
Cragger finally cracked and began sobbing uncontrollably. All those times I could have told him, and didn’t. And now I’ll never be able to tell him.
First mom and dad, and now him… aside from Crooler, I’m… alone. There’s nobody that cares about me anymore. And even then, Crooler is just using me to get control of the Crocodiles.
“Why?” His voice cracked, despair filling in every rut that was forming in his emotions. “Why did it have to be him? Why couldn’t it have been me?”
There was no response. Figures. I wasn’t talking to anyone anyways.
Cragger was reminded of the times he and Laval had play-fought each other. Back before all this started. How Laval would fall to the ground dramatically and say corny stuff, monologuing as if he were actually dying…
There was a roar from the battlefield. Cragger straightened up and rushed to the edge of the temple, looking out onto the battlefield, some small figment of hope inside of him still lit.
But no, it was just a Lion footsoldier Chi-powering and rushing at the crocodiles.
Cragger sank down lower to the ground and slammed his fist into the wall. Why did I think it would be him? He’s dead. Permanently. He’s never coming back.
He sighed, tears still dropping down his face, and tried to regain his composure. I need to check up on how the battle’s doing. He raced onto the battlefield and over to the Crocodiles.
“Cragger,” Crooler said, walking up to him. “Don’t forget. Our main goal right now is to get rid of Laval, destroy the Lions and gain access to their Chi!” She pulled out one of the flowers she’d been using on him.
Something snapped within Cragger. He grabbed the flower from her and shoved it under her nose. Her eyes began glowing red and dulled. “You will go back to the swamp and lock yourself in a cage, awaiting further instruction from me,” he growled.
Crooler nodded. “Yes, Cragger.”
“And Crooler?” Cragger said as she began walking away. He searched for the right words. “Do you really think mom and dad would be proud of how either of us has been acting?”
Crooler stared at him. “Of course. It’s our right to have as much access to the Chi as the Lions do.”
Cragger narrowed his eyes and sighed. “Fine. Now go do what I told you.”
Crooler left him, leaving Cragger all alone in the battlefield.
I have to do something to right this wrong. I… need to see him again.
Cragger took a deep breath and ran up to the Lion temple. He snuck in through the entrance, and made his way to the royal quarters. It was Lion tradition to leave someone resting in their bed after they were slain in battle, so that’s where Laval would be.
It was the same room he’d always snuck into to visit Laval. A left here, a right there, down the hall-
A lump formed in Cragger’s throat as he opened the door to Laval’s room.
He saw the telltale shape of a resting Lion body in the bed.
He sat down in a chair next to Laval’s bed and sighed sorrowfully. “Laval… I- I’m…” Tears started trickling down his cheek once more. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry about all the things I did and said to you because of this stupid battle, and all the times that I’ve said stupid stuff to you or done anything to hurt you. I’m sorry for all the times that I made fun of you.
“All you ever did was try to help me. But all I ever did was… well… I thought I needed power, Chi, destiny, whatever. But… all I really needed was… you. ”
Cragger held his head in his hands before looking outside at the raging battle. All the injuries, casualties, deaths… “This… wasn’t what I had in mind when thinking about destiny,” he frowned.
“I… I wish I could take it all back. Start it all over. Help people instead of… destroying them, destroying their lives.”
He looked tearfully at the shape under the covers of Laval’s bed. “I would do anything to see you alive again.”
He moved his hand to the covers to remove it, but something stopped him.
“I… I can’t see you right now. Not after what I’ve done. I need more time.”
He quietly stepped out of the room and shut the door before sneaking back out of the temple.
Worriz rushed up to him as he snuck out the side of the temple and back onto the battlefield. “What took you so long? What are we supposed to be doing now?”
“I…” Cragger took a deep breath. “Stop attacking. Please.”
Worriz looked surprised, and then outraged. “Absolutely not! Wolves, Crocodiles, Ravens, ATTACK!”
Everyone surged forwards, attacking the lions and eagles.
“No, stop!” Cragger tried to plead, but none of them would listen. They all kept running forwards and getting knocked back, over and over again.
“Please just-” Cragger started, when a roar interrupted them.
A very familiar roar.
Everyone stopped dead in their tracks while Lagravis rolled up to Cragger and Worriz on his Speedor. “You see? We need to be united, not apart like this,” he laughed.
“Wh-what’s happening?” Worriz growled, confused.
“Isn’t it obvious? Laval faked his own death, and now he’s here with our legend beast to come stop all this fighting!”
“Laval… faked his death?” Cragger stared at Lagravis, and then at the source of the roar.
He immediately tossed aside his weapon and ran towards Laval at full speed.
And this time it was actually him. Riding on top of the crocodile legend beast, no less. Laval looked at Cragger and grinned. “Cragger! Did you get my-”
Cragger tackled Laval off the legend beast and wrapped him in a tight hug, the tightest hug possible. “L-Laval! You’re alive!” he cried, tears starting to roll down his face. “Y-you’re actually alive!”
“Oof,” Laval groaned. “Take it easy. Even if I did fake my death, that doesn’t mean my ribs don’t still hurt.”
“Ah, sorry,” Cragger said, getting up off of Laval. “B-but you’re… alive! Even though you died in front of me! You’re actually alive! I- I’m just so-” He started to sob even more, leaning into Laval’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
Laval smiled. “It’s okay. I understand what was happening. There’s no need to apologize.” He looked behind Cragger. “I didn’t know Crocodile tails wag when they’re happy,” he laughed.
Cragger blushed, grinning. “Heh. Same with Lion tails.”
Lagravis walked up to them. “I thought you were getting the Lion beast! How did you end up finding the Crocodile beast, anyways?”
“Oh, that guy Shadowind and I rescued it from some weird fog holding it captive. Also, I think I might be going crazy, Cragger, because I swear I saw Queen Crunket in there.”
“R-really? But she fell into the Gorge of Eternal Depth! It kind of goes on forever!” Cragger exclaimed.
“Hey, you saw me die today, and look where that’s led to,” Laval laughed. “But on a more serious note, that fog was preventing the Crocodile beast from coming here and stopping this fight. I think that’s what’s happening with all the other legend beasts, too. Is everyone here?”
Cragger looked around. Every single one of the tribes was gathered around them. “Yeah, I think so.”
“Then I suggest we go searching for the other legend beasts in the Outlands. We need a strong warrior from each tribe to help us -- Cragger, from the Crocodiles, Worriz from the Wolves…” Laval listed off five other names, but Cragger was too focused on the fact that Laval was alive.
He’s alive. He didn’t die. I didn’t kill anyone.
I can tell him I love him.
“...We should leave at dawn tomorrow,” Laval announced. “The Chi falls have run dry because of the disappearance of the legend beasts. We have to hurry.”
Everyone cheered, and the warriors dispersed, leaving Cragger alone once more.
Not alone, though.
This time he had Laval.
Later that night, Cragger snuck away from all the Crocodile partying to go to the Forever Rock. For nostalgic purposes, perhaps, or because he knew for a fact that Laval would be here.
He walked up to Laval. “Hey, Laval. I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” he said.
“Oh, hey, Cragger,” Laval said, turning to face him. “No, I was just thinking about tomorrow.”
“Oh, right, with the whole saving the legend beasts thing. It’s a great plan! Good job for coming up with it.”
“Thanks,” Laval blushed. “Yeah, it’s pretty exciting. I can’t wait! Plus, we might be rescuing your parents, too!”
“This is about the legend beasts,” Cragger shook his head. “Putting our personal differences aside to save Chima.”
“We’re doing this for Chima,” they both said in unison. Laval laughed while Cragger looked to the side awkwardly.
“Hey, uh, by the way, Laval… You said something when you saw me about me getting something. What was it?”
“Oh, I, uh, left a note for you on the training dummy I left under my sheets to make it look like I was there. Talking about some… stuff.”
Cragger looked at him and smiled. “What kind of stuff?”
“ Oh , j-just stuff about how I’m not dead!” Laval looked at the water, his face turning red. “Nothing, like, personal or anything.”
“Ha. You’ve never been good at lying,” Cragger grinned. He looked down. “But seriously, uh… thanks for not being dead today. I know I’ve done a lot of stuff trying to destroy you and all-”
“Emphasis on trying, ” Laval smiled.
“Well, I’m glad I never succeeded,” Cragger smiled warmly back.
“Was that an apology or something?”
“Uh, did it sound like one?” Cragger shrugged. “Sure. But… I really am sorry for doing so much to try to hurt you, and if this isn’t enough of an apology. Sorry. I’m not really good at… you know.”
“I know,” Laval said, placing a hand on Cragger’s shoulder.
Cragger acted on instinct, pulling Laval in close to him and kissing him.
Laval looked surprised but didn’t pull away, only doing so after he ran out of breath. He looked at him. “C-Cragger.”
Cragger’s face reddened. “S-sorry. Probably should’ve asked if you were in love with me back first before doing that.”
Laval smiled, drawing in closer to him. “I love you too.” He kissed Cragger back, dipping him down low to the ground.
Cragger didn’t pull back until Laval lifted him back up. He grinned slyly. “That was ten seconds.” He marked a win on his side of the Forever Rock.
“Wh- Hey! That doesn’t count!” Cragger protested, laughing.
“I’ll change it if you can catch me!” Laval stuck his tongue out at Cragger.
“Oh, you dramatic little-”
They played and talked and kissed until the break of dawn. Laval sat down, sighed, and looked at Cragger. “I love you, Cragger,” he smiled.
“I love you too,” Cragger smiled back.