‘What just happened?’ Zoltar thought, still completely bemused by the Wisp Talons actions. It didn’t make sense. Why hadn’t she tried to attack him? She’d threatened to multiple times throughout their bizarre conversation.
Could he even call it a conversation? He’d barely said anything and yet, she’d gone from wanting to bite him, to leaving him and his kill untouched. Why?
Zoltar shook his snout. He couldn’t get his head around it.
He scanned the shoreline. The stag was still lying on the bank. He didn’t want to leave it. It had been a lot of work to take it down and carry it this far.
“It should be safe enough. Emerald’s been gone a while,” Zoltar muttered, though he shuddered after saying her name out loud. Despite her not having harmed him, it felt wrong to use her name. She was a Wisp Talon. Her tribe had murdered his wife and mentor. They were monsters. How could he just casually use one of their names?
Zoltar wrinkled his snout and anxiously rubbed his horns. His head felt like it was buzzing.
He need to get out of here.
After one final look around, he swooped in towards the shore. Still airborne, he grabbed the deer, hooking his talons into the flesh. There was no need to take the risk of landing.
Straining against the weight, he banked back towards the lake and up into the sky. Nothing stirred in the forest below as he flew out over the clearing and headed west.
Before long he was soaring high over the forest and on route back towards the maze.
The sun drifting ever closer towards the distant mountains as evening approached. The shadows lengthened, growing in strength as the light slowly ebbed away. A scarlet hue fell over the land, the trees now a blazing orange in the dying rays.
Zoltar’s muscles were burning as he neared the maze, the burden of carrying the stag weighing heavily on him. Though it was the thoughts running through his mind that troubled him most.
Why had Emerald done what she’d done? Both times he’d run into her, she’d hadn’t laid a fang on him. She’d threatened to, but that was as far as it had gone. Why?
How could she be one of those monsters that had murdered his wife? She seemed so different from those Wisp Talons.
It didn’t make any sense, unless…not all Wisp Talons were like that.
Zoltar shook his snout. He felt guilty even thinking it, like he was betraying those that had died, but nothing else made sense.
He’d thought yesterday that maybe she’d wanted to trick him so she could find where he and the other outcasts on the island lived. But now after seeing the ceremony last night, it seemed unlikely. Why hadn’t she taken him hostage, to use like Scorpus had been? Had she felt guilty? Maybe.
Zoltar rubbed his horns again, the ache from early having only grown in intensity.
He was nearing the beach, the mist cloaking the columns gleaming like tendrils of flame as they twisted and curled in the evening light.He’d have to think about this later. Right now he needed to get this cursed deer down and out of his talons before they fell off with it.
As he flew in towards the beach, he spotted Felistia and Shiraku. The Sea Talon was darting through the waves, her webbed tail propelling her forward as she chased shoals of fish.
Felistia watched from the shore, her tail flicking nervously as she watched the darkening maze. She leapt to her paws and swung around when she heard Zoltar’s wing flaps, her back spikes bristling as she hissed a warning.
Her face lit up when she recognized him, “Zoltar, you’re back. We’ve been wondering where you went off to.”
Zoltar smiled as he circled into land. It was nice to know that she cared at least a little bit about him.
Swooping low over the pebbles, he dropped the deer, before coming to a stop a few paw steps away. He let out a sigh of relief as the weight disappeared. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could have carried the stag for.
“You went hunting,” Felistia walked over, brushing a wing against his as she eyed the kill in surprise, “and brought down a big one.”
“Yah,” Zoltar muttered, suddenly feeling a little shy as he rubbed the back of his neck, “I promised you that I’d bring one yesterday and well… here it is I guess.”
“Good for you,” Felistia said warmly, “Just as well too. Shiraku didn’t have much luck catching anything today. She barely caught enough to consider a snack.”
Zoltar glanced over at the Sea Talon again. She hadn’t noticed him and was still furiously tearing through the water after her quarry.
Felistia smiled as she watched Shiraku, “She won’t give in you know. Even when it’s just minnows she’s chasing.”
Zoltar nodded, taking in a deep breath as he enjoyed the moment. Waves lapped against the shore, their gently movement only occasionally broken by a splash thrown up by Shiraku. Birds called from the forest hanging over the shore, their melodic songs carried on the cool, evening breeze. It was so peaceful, one could almost forget what had happened the previous day.
“Aaagh,” Shiraku’s husky voice broke the calm as she skulked out of the water, a scowl clouding her turquoise snout, “I was so close. I swear they’re teasing me.”
Felistia chuckled, batting the Sea Talon with her wing, “Come on now. I think that’s enough for one day, don’t you think? You can always try again tomorrow. Besides, Zoltar was kind enough to bring us an antelope. We can eat that tonight.”
“Fine…they were too small for me to bother with anyway,” Shiraku huffed as she glowered at the ocean.
“Good, I’ll meet you guys in the cave,” Felistia grinned, before turning to grab the deer. She seemed to lift it effortlessly into the air as she headed further down the beach. In seconds, the mist enveloped her ghostly white figure, leaving Zoltar alone on the beach with Shiraku.
“Thanks for the deer…I guess,” Shiraku mumbled slowly, turning her back on Zoltar as she waded back into the sea. She began absentmindedly splashing the water up onto the shore.
Zoltar watched her for a moment, debating on whether he should follow Felistia or stay here with her.
‘She didn’t seem to want me around,’ Zoltar thought as he spread his wings. Just before taking off, he looked back. What was she doing though?
Zoltar folded his wings and stepped a little closer, curiosity having gotten the better of him.
Shiraku glanced up at him.
“What do you want?” she hissed, her golden eyes flashing.
Zoltar flinched back, “Nothing, nothing. Don’t worry.”
He hurried back up the beach away from her, but he’d seen enough. The blood from the night before was gone. Shiraku had washed it away.