When Boulder got back to the dragonet’s cave most of them were doing homework while Gale and Aurora were sleeping. Tempest was the first to notice him.
Grrrrr. Why does Surge have to be so rough with him? She can’t just keep beating him like this. It isn’t fair. He may be the strongest one of us, but he is probably the gentlest one, except for Aurora, and we love him that way. I’ll protect you from her for sure next time Boulder. I don’t care what she does to me. Tempest thought as she went over to his side.
“Come on. Hop in the river with me. It’ll make you feel better.” Tempest said gently.
Boulder didn’t want to. The water was cold and made him feel sluggish. He knew there was little point arguing since Tempest seemed to think the river was the best part of the whole cave, but he tried anyway.
“You know what? I don’t feel too bad. I think I’ll just lay down for a short nap.” He said taking a step toward his alcove. Wincing slightly as he did so. Tempest didn’t buy it for a second and began pulling him towards the river.
“Come on. Once you’re in it’ll be fine.”
“Ow, ow ouch! You’re grabbing me right on my- Whumph!” Boulder’s cry was cut off as he was dumped in the river. He came up sputtering and Tempest slipped in beside him. She supported him as he floated there letting the cold water sooth his bruises and sore muscles. Boulder sighed as he accepted it. Despite how much he disliked the cold, it did help. Not that he would ever admit it to Tempest.
As he floated in the current, he looked up into the dark tunnel where the water came from.
That tunnel looks almost like a mouth. Anything could come from in there. I’m glad the guardians put those bars in at the entrance, even if it was to prevent us from escaping. Though the prospect of trying it would be way too scary. You’d never know what could… What’s that? Boulder wondered as started paddling to go look before wincing as he remembered his bruises.
“Stop moving lizard brain or you’ll only make it worse,” Tempest scolded him.
“Could you go take a look at that for me? I thought I saw something caught on the bars.”
Boulder pointed upriver. Tempest sighed before helping him out of the water and onto the rocky bank. Then she quickly swam upriver. Shadow was beginning to get excited. They were about to find his…
“You mean this? It’s just a dead fish. Not worth eating.” Tempest said.
Shadow’s wings drooped as his excitement was crushed.
“No, the brown thing.”
Shadow perked up again.
“Oh, you mean this?”
“Yeah, what is it?”
“Don’t know. Here, I’ll bring it over.”
Tempest joined Boulder on the bank. Now Shadow was beginning to get excited again. He couldn’t think of anything else they could be looking at. He wanted to know how they would react so badly.
Tempest set the object between them.
“It looks like some kind of brown, soggy rock. I think the scrolls called this stuff wood. Doesn’t look like the same stuff they brought in for Aurora to practice on. Hmmm. I wonder if she could make it grow vines or something,” Tempest said dismissively.
Boulder picked up the piece of wood and turned it around in his claws. Shadow could tell he was curious about it. The guardians only ever let Aurora hold the small piece of wood she’d been given for training. The texture of it fascinated him. As he turned it over he wondered if he could carve something out of it.
Shadow was beside himself with anticipation and anxiety. Were they going to miss it?! Was it just some other piece of wood that had fallen into the stream? Then Boulder thoughts were interrupted by something.
“Yeah, maybe… Hmmm. There seems to be something scratched into the wood. It looks like writing!” Boulder said excitedly.
“Let me see!” Tempest exclaimed as she reached for the piece of wood.
Shadow nearly leapt for joy. They had found his message!
“Just a minute. Go get Hailstorm. You know he’ll be mad if we read this without him.”
Tempest paused for a moment still wanting to see for herself what was scratched into the wood, but she agreed and jogged over to Hailstorm’s alcove bed. He was reading something, but Tempest didn’t really care what. She grabbed his shoulder and shook him to get his attention. Hailstorm groaned slightly, annoyed that she was disturbing his reading.
“What do you want Tempest? I’m busy,” he growled.
“Well, I just thought you might want to read the strange message we found on a piece of wood floating down the river. But if you’re busy I’ll just keep it for myself,” Tempest said dismissively. Hailstorm’s tail twitched. He knew this was probably a prank or something, but he couldn’t resist the chance to read something as exciting as a message in the river.
“Ok, fine. But if this is just a prank to interrupt me from my reading you and Boulder are getting cold beds tonight,” Hailstorm said grumpily as he got up to follow Tempest. He tried to act annoyed, but he couldn’t help being curious and excited about what they had found. Tempest noticed him subtly speeding up behind her and smiled.
Nothing motivates him more than a good mystery or book. He can’t even help it. Hm, hm. I can’t wait to see his face when he sees that piece of wood. He’ll probably be over the moons about it.
They reached Boulder who held out the piece of wood to Hailstorm.
“We found this in the river. I think it’s some kind of message.”
Hailstorm grabbed it. He was almost trembling in excitement as he looked over the piece of wood. There were indeed markings on it although they were a bit crude and hard to make out in the torch light of the cave. His mind was already coming up with theories on who would have written on this piece of wood. Hailstorm squinted at the letters as he read them out loud.
“Flame wing coming next week. Be ready. Will write again. Your friend… Shadow.” Hailstorm sat down heavily as he finished. All three dragonets were wondering who Shadow could possibly be, and why he had sent them the message.
Shadow could barely contain his excitement. He had actually sent them a message, and it worked!
“This… this isn’t a prank, right?” Hailstorm asked nervously.
“No. I think whoever sent us that message is being serious.” Boulder replied.
“So, they said they are our friend and wanted to warn us about a flame wing, but wouldn’t the guardians have told us about something like this? I mean, how can we trust whoever this person is?”
“Ha! Do you really think the guardians would tell us anything?” Tempest asked sarcastically. Hailstorm growled but begrudgingly agreed. Boulder put a claw on his shoulder and smiled gently.
“I agree we need to be careful about believing whoever sent us the message, but at least we can see if they were telling us the truth. If a flame wing shows up this week, then we know this Shadow person was telling the truth and maybe we can trust them.”
“I don’t care if they told us the truth.” Tempest said with a huff. “I still don’t trust anybody who doesn’t have the nerve to talk to me face to face. And anyway. How were they even able to find out about us? I mean, I thought this was supposed to be a big secret hideaway so the wings of protection could keep us safe. It’s not like just anyone could find this place let alone learn of the guardians’ secret plans.”
Hailstorm thought for a moment.
“The only explanation is that someone from the wings of protection wants to help us without interfering with the guardians. Maybe they are not supposed to talk to us for some reason, so they sent this message to help us even if it is against the rules,” he said, getting more excited about his theory by the minute.
“Maybe, but in the end it doesn’t really matter, does it? We can just use their messages while still being prepared for them to trick us.” Tempest suggested. Boulder and Hailstorm agreed, and they decided to go tell the others what they had found.
Shadow laid down with a sigh.
Whew! That’s enough excitement for now. He thought, before breaking out in a happy grin. His plan had worked!
Ha, ha! Oh, that was so cool! I can’t wait for what comes next! Maybe I’ll tell them about Surge’s flame wing lover he, he. No that would be cruel. Maybe Boulder’s collection of little sculptures he likes so much? Or how Quake is always looking for more food even after eating his share?
Shadow smiled evilly as he rolled to his feet. His stomach was growling at him. He had been sitting there a lot longer than he had meant to.
I guess it’s time to go hunting. What will I have today? Hmmm… maybe some rabbits or a couple of those plump birds? Perhaps I’ll treat myself to a deer or something. Yeah. This is a special occasion after all.
Shadow thought as he leapt into the sky.
“Woohoo!” He roared as he flew higher and higher to begin hunting for his supper. After finding and capturing a young doe he brought it back to dragon valley. He had a small collection of berries which he added to the meat as a kind of seasoning. The savory meat and the slightly bitter berries tasted great.
It was getting dark, but Shadow didn’t feel tired in the slightest. In fact, he often felt revitalised when the first stars came out. Most nights he would go for a beautiful midnight flight. It was one of the few times he didn’t have to worry about being spotted by anyone. The darkness was like a thick blanket around him that kept everybody from seeing his black scales. The cool night air was fresh and clear as it flowed over his wings.
Shadow sighed closing his eyes at the thought. He often wondered if Night Wings were meant to stay up at night but when he and Jarid looked at the memories of his mother she had lived in a cave most of her life so they couldn’t be sure. Jarid had warned him to get to sleep earlier so he could wake up in the morning and Shadow often had to forced himself to sleep. But on the rare nights he couldn’t get to sleep no matter what he tried and wasn’t in the mood for a midnight flight he would go listen to the dragonets. Or rather, one in particular.
The tree wing Aurora stayed awake late into the night after all her friends had gone to sleep. Just like Shadow, she had been told that Tree Wings went to sleep at night just like every other dragon. However, she had also been told that Tree Wings had green scales and controlled plants, neither of which were true of her. She certainly had never been able to control plants, and from what Shadow had heard when the other dragons thought about her, she had very pretty rainbow purple scales. Shadow wondered what could have happened for her to be born so different. The guardians had just assumed she was special because she was a dragon from the prophecy.
It didn’t matter to Shadow what she looked like. Her mind was his favorite out of all the dragonets. She was so kind and genuine. She never wanted anyone to get hurt. She even felt sorry for the prey she killed when hunting. Shadow had never really given much thought to how the prey might have felt before then. Now he always tried to kill his prey quickly so they wouldn’t suffer. The sad thing was that she didn’t see how wonderful she was. She was always thinking about how the other dragonets were better than her in one way or another. Tempest was so confidant and bold, Hailstorm was smart, Boulder was strong and, Gale was a much better flier than her.
Sometimes Shadow just wanted to scream “But you are so kind and gentle, and you make everybody’s day brighter whenever you’re around!” but she wouldn’t hear him. He could send her a personal message, but it would seem strange coming from someone she didn’t even know.
Still, he loved listening to her. Thoughts had different feelings that carried along with them. Angry thoughts felt jagged and sharp while excited thoughts sometimes left his head feeling like someone pierced it with a nail. When people and dragons thought about their secrets he often had a tingling sensation like there was a trap waiting for him or a wall that they put up to keep anyone from seeing who they truly were. Surge often felt like that. Her wall was made of anger and one time, when he had tried to look deeper, it had burned him. After that he never tried anything like that again.
Aurora’s mind on the other talon, was the complete opposite. She was so open, trusting and never once had a single angry thought for as long as Shadow had been listening to her. Her mind felt like a warm blanket or an oasis of calm. Sometimes her mind would fill with a sad, longing feeling when she was feeling sorry for the other dragonets (which was often). It helped quiet his own mind and he found he could sleep better after listening to her for a while.
The other dragons had probably told her about the message by now, and after all the other dragons were asleep, she would definately be thinking about it. Interest peaked; Shadow quickly flew back to check on her.