The sky was almost pitch black overhead, the stars providing little in the way of light as the three dragons waited for the light of the moon. An icy breeze had begun to blow, causing the bare branches overhead to creak and moan. Apart from that, the night was deathly silent. No bird calls, no tiny creatures scurrying through the snow.
It wasn’t long before the full moon began to rise, casting pale beams of light over the dark landscape.
“We can head back now,” Shriken’s voice pierced through the night air, “There shouldn’t be any more patrols until morning.”
Zoltar sighed with relief as he got to his feet. His legs were aching and snow-fall from the overhanging tree branches had begun to build up on his wings. He shook them out, the wet snow splattering against the blackened tree trunks.
Felistia was standing up a few wing lengths away. The thin rays of moonlight cutting through the trees caught her scales, causing them to shimmer in an otherworldly manner.
“Felistia,” Shriken walked up to his sister, shooting Zoltar an accusing look on the way, “before we go I think we should talk. You too Zoltar.”
Surprise flashed across Felistia’s eyes, “Okay.” She settled down opposite Shriken, her tail curled neatly over her talons.
Slightly shaken by Shriken’s tone of voice, Zoltar scraped away the top layer of snow to reveal the pebble strewn ground. It would be warmer this way. He sat down next to Felistia with his wings tucked in tight to avoid the occasional lump of snow shaken from the trees.
Shriken took a deep breath, “I didn’t want to bring this up before because I know you trust him,” Shriken waved a wing at Zoltar, “but I’m afraid I have no choice now. Those Ice Talons shouldn’t have still been looking for us. Shiler has better uses for her soldiers than to look for prisoners who have obviously fled past the border. They must be looking for something else.”
Felistia didn’t say anything, but Zoltar could see her head working away. They’d have to tell Shriken about the jewels. He’d brushed it off last time, but he wouldn’t let it go so easily this time.
Shriken paused for a moment, before looking Felistia straight in the eyes, “He must have stolen something. That’s the only reason she’d still be looking for us. Zoltar’s no threat to her and now that you’re gone, you are of little significance to her as well. She’d only pursue us like this if he took something.” Shriken growled the last part, turning his gaze on Zoltar.
“That’s why you broke away from us wasn’t it. I knew that flimsy excuse of yours was a cover up. You could endanger us all.” Shriken hissed, his spiked tail lashing from side to side.
Zoltar felt himself shrink. The Ice Talon looked so mad. What was he supposed to do? He and Felistia had agreed not to tell Shriken about the jewels. He looked at Felistia beseechingly.
Felistia caught his gaze and nodded, flapping her wings to break her brothers rant, “Shriken, wait. It’s not all his fault. I gave him permission to take the Ice Diamond.”
Shriken stopped, staring at Felistia in disbelief, “You let him take what?” He spat, his back spines bristling.
Felistia gave him a hurt look, “The Ice Diamond. I let him take it. Besides, why do you even care? It’s Shiler that loves the stupid thing. It’s a rock with no special properties. It’s useless to the Ice Talons.”
“But you just gave it to a Shadow Talon. He’s from a different tribe.”
“Why does that matter? He is my friend. He has helped me many times and quite frankly can have the stone. And besides that, you said you wanted me to be the next queen, right? So shouldn’t I be able to make decisions like this without you questioning them. Either I’m the future ruler or not.”
Shriken huffed, hunching his wings, “It’s just…why are you giving it to him. Why does he need it?”
Felistia flashed her teeth in a slightly amused way, “It’s a long, convoluted story, but the short and important part is that it could save his tribe and if we can help with that, isn’t that the right thing to do? You of all dragons should understand that.”
Shriken was silent for a few moments, scraping at the snow as he stared down at it.
Felistia watched him, waiting.
Slowly his raised spines relaxed and his tail stop sweeping across the ground. He sighed, a cloud of frost breath flowing from his nostrils.
“I guess you’re right.”
Felistia’s stance eased, her wings lowering. She padded over to him and nuzzled under his snout, “Thank you for understanding. I should have told you earlier.”
Shriken batted her shoulder with his wing, “No problem. You had your reasons,” He looked up, considering Zoltar, “Sorry I got a little carried away there. I didn’t realize Felistia had given you permission to taking the diamond.”
“It’s okay,” Zoltar shrugged his wings, “I understand where you were coming from.”
He breathed a deep sigh. He wasn’t sure this was the best time to bring it up, but if not now, when?
“So now that we’re all kind of okay with each other, could you please tell me which one of these is the Ice Diamond?”
He reached under his extra layer of back scales and pulled out the two diamonds. In the clear light of the moon, they were strikingly different. One swirled with glittering silvers and pale blues while the other was a deep cobalt with flashing gold bolts of lightning across its surface.
Felistia turned to Shriken, a slightly guilty in her eyes, “Also I kind of forgot to mention that he took the Lightning Diamond too.”
Shriken put a paw to his snout, “Well that explains a lot.”
“Lightning Diamond,” Zoltar echoed. He could guess which one that was with its crackling surface and rolling blue center. He’d read very little about this jewel. Only that it was the source of the Wind Talons power, but why would the Ice Talon queen have it?
“Yes I know. Not much we can do about it now. Besides, it was never Shiler’s to begin with. That’s what started this whole war. Maybe if I ever manage to become queen, I can use it to make peace with the Wind Talons again. They were great allies.” Felistia sighed, getting to her feet, “Anyway we need to get back. The others should have returned by now, I hope.”
She flashed Zoltar a concerned look before turning to leave. Zoltar shared her unease. They should have heard wing beats or paws on snow, but it had been completely silent the whole time they’d been hiding in the forest. Still he could have missed it. Hopefully all this worrying was all for nothing.
Swarms of butterflies seemed to be swirling through Zoltar’s stomach as he trod through the paw high snow. It didn’t seem to have gotten deeper since this morning so Emerald and Shiraku’s prints should still be visible. They should be easy to follow. Still, he hoped he wouldn’t have to track them.
He picked up the pace as he rounded a corner. He could see the tree, but to his dismay they weren’t there.
He walked around the trunk. Nothing seemed to have changed. No new foot prints, no new scents. They hadn’t come back.
Snow crunched behind him and he turned to see Felistia padding towards him. From the look on her face, he could see she was thinking the same thing he was. Where are they?