Even though it was completely dark by now Shadow could easily see the landscape around him by the light of the moons. Jarid had always told him his night vision was amazing and he was very proud of it. He spotted his landmark and rushed over to his listening spot to search for Aurora’s thoughts. She was easy to find since the dragonets were not allowed to leave their room at night for fear of disturbing the guardians sleep or trying to escape. Shadow smiled as he laid down and started listening to her thoughts.
I wonder if the stars are shining tonight. Maybe if I could count them it would help me sleep. Hailstorm says they look like little white specks in the sky when it gets dark. I wonder if they’re pretty or kind of boring. Do the clouds cover them? Maybe lightning looks pretty too. That’s what Surge said…
I wish she wouldn’t hurt Boulder so much. He’s not the kind of dragon that would other dragons and she shouldn’t try to force him to. I’m sure he would protect us though. He’s so nice like that. Tempest too, though she won’t admit it he, he. I wonder if the dragon that wrote the message they found is nice too. Maybe they will help us get out of here some day.
Shadow wished he could help them, but he was nowhere near strong enough or brave enough to take on full grown dragons like the guardians. That’s assuming he could even find a way into the dragonet’s cave in the first place. He was a nice dragon, but he wasn’t brave like Jarid or his mother. He had spent his whole life hiding from everyone. Always scared that they would find him some day and finish what the night dragons who killed his mother started.
Shadow smiled to himself as he realised that he had never even considered that the dragonets might try to kill him too. How ironic that he wanted to save the very dragons who might also want him dead.
No. They wouldn’t do that.
Even if Tempest and Hailstorm wanted to, he knew Aurora and probably Boulder would persuade them otherwise. The guardians on the other hand wouldn’t let him leave alive if they found him. Even if for no other reason than he might tell other dragons their location. Then Aurora’s thoughts distracted him from his own.
Oh, why can’t I just sleep like everyone else. I’m always so tired in the mornings it’s hard to pay attention. Why couldn’t they have chosen a tree wing to be one of the guardians. I bet they’d know why I’m like this.
But what if they don’t? Will I ever be able to fit in with my own tribe?
I know my parents will accept me. They’ll love me even if I am a little weird. I bet when the wings of protection stole my egg, they tore apart the whole jungle looking for me. I-I hope they’re not too worried about me. I wish I could tell them that I still love them with all my heart. That they don’t have to worry about me. Maybe someday, when I’m older, I’ll fly to the jungle and find them waiting for me.
Shadow could feel the warm comfort and hope she felt at the thought. He often felt the same when he thought about how his mother had loved him. At least he had some kind of connection to his mother through the memories she gave to Jarid. Aurora had never even met her mother. None of the dragonets had. He hoped that they would find their parents someday and experience the same love his mother had given him.
He felt Aurora slowly falling asleep and decided to go back to dragon valley to sleep himself. He laid down and went over everything that had happened that day. It was the most excitement he had felt since he first found the dragonets. He’d have to find more wood for sending messages and figure out what he wanted to write next. Excitedly he began making a mental list of all the things he wanted to say until he drifted off.
The next day Shadow began searching for good pieces of wood. He considered skipping his training but as soon as he did, he could hear Jarid’s voice in his head reprimanding him. He knew exactly what Jarid would say.
“If you want to skip out then go right ahead, but we won’t be able to go adventuring when I get back if you do.” He’d warn.
Then he’d cross his arms with the most fake regretful expression ever and sigh wistfully. Shadow smiled. He always joked like that. Even if he was joking, Shadow never wanted to let him down. So, he completed his training before hunting for the wood.
By the time he got to his listening spot it was nearly evening. He could hear Tempest arguing with one of the guardians (as she often did). It took a moment for Shadow to tell which one it was.
Of course, it would be Surge. They almost never saw eye to eye.
“…just like you asked! Maybe if you would just let us finish what we are doing, then maybe we’d be able to focus on the pointless tasks you give us. Instead, you keep interrupting us with boring chores every ten seconds!”Tempest shouted.
“Cleaning up the cave is far more important than playing your little game. This cave is your home! And so what if you think it’s boring? Do you think I enjoy having to teach you and hunt prey for you and listen to you complain every day?!
Do you think I want to live in a dark, stale cave with no room to spread my wings? No!”Surge roared back.
“At least you got to choose to live here. We were stolen from our parents and forced to live down here. We can’t even go outside at all! Is this really how you treat the dragonets of prophecy? How is doing our chores preparing us to save the world some day, huh?! How?!”
Shadow could feel Surge’s mind was almost white with fury at the upstart dragonet, but she didn’t have a good answer at the moment which only frustrated her more.
“Just do your chores for now dragonet. You can worry about how you’re going to save dragon kind when you’re old enough to actually do something about it. Until then you’ll do what I tell you. I’m sure someday you’ll wish that was all you had to worry about.”Surge growled as she started to walk away. Tempest smirked knowing she’d won.
“Ha. As if. I’d much rather be out there saving dragons than stuck down here doing chores all day. Why should I have to wait until I’m old to start saving dragons? I bet I’m strong enough to save them right now.” Tempest boasted.
“Oh really?” Surge growled sarcastically. Shadow could feel her rage boiling over.
“I suppose we’ll just have to see then, won’t we? You forget your place, dragonet, and you’re going to regret it.” She warned before walking away even faster.
I’m not about to let a mere dragonet talk to me like that and get away with it. She thinks she’s strong enough to save the world? Ha! I’ll show her that she’s not strong enough to protect anyone. Even if I have to pound that lesson into her stubborn skull!
Tempest knew she had pushed Surge a bit too far, but she would never admit it. Surge never listened to any of them, so why should they have to listen to her? Tempest sighed in frustration as she walked into the dragonets room. The other dragonets seemed to be playing a game of some sort but paused when she walked in.
“So, what did Surge need you for?” Gale asked.
“Just more chores. I had to finish cleaning the training room because, apparently, I didn’t to it right. We just cleaned it a few days ago so I didn’t think it was that bad.”
“Yeah, Shear asked me to clean the hunting tunnels. I mean, who cares if those are dirty? They’re all practically MADE of dirt anyway.”
“Maybe the guardians just want the cave clean for a little bit.” Aurora suggested. “I know I like it when our room is clean and tidy. So maybe they-”
“I got it!” Hailstorm exclaimed, interrupting Aurora.
“Remember the message that said there was a Flame Wing coming this week? He’s probably coming to inspect the cave to see what it’s like. He might even be coming tomorrow or the day after that!” His idea caused all the dragonets to start thinking.
Aurora still felt a little hurt that she had been interrupted but quickly forgave him and forgot about it as she wondered if the Flame Wing was nice.
Gale wondered if they were finally going to be let outside. He wanted to fly around without the walls of the cave constricting him.
Boulder hoped he could ask the Flame Wing about what his home looked like.
Tempest groaned; she was just hoping this Flame Wing wasn’t going to ask them to do a whole bunch of stuff for them.
Hailstorm wondered what a real Flame Wing would look like. He wanted to compare it to what he had read about them. Maybe he would even answer some questions Hailstorm had about his tribe!
Shadow wondered what kind of dragon this Flame Wing would be too. He couldn’t wait to hear what this dragon was thinking and feeling. Maybe he’d get some more information about what was going on in the world.
“Alright, time for bed everybody.” Shear’s voice interrupted all their thoughts.
The dragonets groaned and Shadow felt a little disappointed too, but at least he had heard that the guardians were preparing to welcome the flame wing. The dragonets doubt had made him worried that he might have heard the guardians wrong. It felt reassuring to have some kind of confirmation. He was a bit tired from flying around the forest all day collecting wood and when he got back to dragon valley he quickly fell asleep.
The next day Shadow did his morning training and flew over to see the dragonets in the afternoon. When he got there, they all seemed to be playing a game together. Shadow didn’t have time to make out the rules though as Surge interrupted their game.
“Hailstorm, Aurora. Get to the training room. I’ll explain what you’ll be doing once you get there. And Tempest, remember that you have training in ten minutes too so finish whatever you’re doing and get ready. Don’t be late or I’ll make your scales a much darker shade of blue,” She growled as she walked away with Hailstorm and Aurora in tow.
Tempest had a few choice words for the guardian, but it seemed like she kept them to herself this time. She had already crossed the line yesterday and it would do no good pushing her again today. Hailstorm, Boulder and Gale continued their game while Tempest went back to her bed to grab her stuff. Shadow debated who to keep listening to and eventually decided on Surge, Aurora and Hailstorm.
“What do you think she wants us to do?” Aurora asked quietly.
“I don’t know. Probably just clean up the training room again or maybe she wants to teach Tempest a move Storm Wings can use on Ice Wings and Tree Wings. I hope it’s not that but considering it’s Surge we’re talking about I doubt we’ll leave without a few bruises.”
Hailstorm sighed despairingly as he pictured a few of his more painful encounters with the ruthless guardian.
“It’ll be alright.” Aurora comforted, putting a wing over Hailstorm. He seemed to feel a bit better but not much.
“Alright you too. I want you both at the far end of the room. Hailstorm, you lie on the ground facing the door. Aurora, I want you with your back against the wall.” Surge instructed. The dragonets did as she asked but Shadow could tell both of them were getting more nervous by the second.
“Good. You don’t need to do anything for this next part. I’ll make sure you play your roles perfectly.” Surge said with a feeling bordering on satisfaction.
“Ahh!” Aurora cried.
“What are you- Ahh!” Hailstorm started to object but was quickly cut off.
“You dragonets think yourselves so high and mighty just because you are supposed to be part of some prophecy?” Surge hissed. “I joined the wings of protection to ensure the survival of all the tribes. The Storm Wings and the Flame Wings. If you think you’re ready to save the world I’ll prove to you just how weak you really are. You are still just dragonets, and the only way you’ll survive is by doing what I say.” Tempest ground Hailstorm into the dirt and tightened her tail around Aurora’s neck.
“What are you doing?!” Tempest shouted in confusion and fear as she ran into the room.
“Ah, good. You’re here.” Surge spat.
Shadow could see a picture of what was going on clearly in Tempest’s mind. Surge had her tail around Aurora’s throat and was pinning her to the wall while one of her hind legs was placed firmly between Hailstorm’s wings, pinning him to the ground.
“You said that you were strong enough to protect other dragons, right? Well, the most important dragons for you to protect are your friends. Well? Come and save them then.” Surge growled as she tightened the loop around Aurora’s neck and pressed down on Hailstorm’s back making them both cry out in pain.
Shadow was panicking almost as much as Tempest. He could feel Aurora and Hailstorm’s pain in their minds along with their fear and helplessness. So many thoughts were running through Tempest’s mind that she couldn’t decided what to do.
Come on! Save them! Shadow shouted at her in his mind as his anxiety overflowed. Then suddenly her thoughts cleared up a bit.
Right. I need to save them right now. Surge will pay for this. I tear her tail off so she can never use it to hurt my friends again! She thought as she leapt at Surge.
It was hard to for Shadow to tell what was going on, but it seemed like Tempest was at least putting up a decent fight. Both she and Surge were roaring at each other, and both would cry out in pain when the other landed a blow. Although Tempest was taking far more blows and seemed to weaken more as the fight progressed while Surge never faltered. The fight probably lasted about five minutes. In the end Surge pinned Tempest down and released Aurora and Hailstorm.
“I hope you learned your lesson you weak little dragonet. You are nowhere near ready to save other dragons if you can’t even protect your friends from a single storm wing standing in one spot with her tail and hind legs tied.” She hissed before slowly letting her up. “That’s all for today.” She threw over her shoulder as she walked away.
Tempest slowly got to her feet groaning in pain.
“Are you alright?” Aurora asked, concerned as she came to help her up.
“I’m fine.” Tempest growled as she pulled away.
Despite how bruised her body was, it was her pride and self esteem that had suffered the most. She had to protect her friends no matter what. How could she have failed to save them when they needed her? Is that what would happen when they finally got out? All these thoughts and doubts circled around in her mind doing far more damage than Surge ever could have.
Hailstorm and Aurora watched their friend limp back to the river and drop into it with a soft splash. Both wanted to help her feel better but neither knew what to say. After a few moments they both went back to their beds and picked a book to read.
Shadow was saddened and a bit shocked by the whole affair too. Right now he needed a distraction to cheer him up. Thankfully Boulder and Hailstorm seemed to be studying an interesting book about different animals together.
They were currently talking about a creature called an Airsnare. It lived in the jungle and hunted anything that flew above the trees using a sticky web that it launches at its prey. Once caught they inject poison with a stinger and wait for the prey to die. It looked like a spider but in place of a web spinner they had a scorpion like tail. Some of them grew large enough to catch full grown dragons. Shadow shivered at the thought of falling out of the sky and finding something like that waiting to sting you.
Shadow didn’t really wasn’t interested in horrifying creatures right now. Looking for a different distraction he searched for Gale. He seemed to be in the series of tunnels the dragonets used for hunting practice. Gale loved practicing his flying in the tunnels. There were stalactites hanging from the roof and lots of other obstacles to avoid. As soon as Shadow found Gale’s thoughts he was blasted with a rush of excitement and elation. Gale was imagining some kind of obstacle course. Shadow closed his eyes so he could focus on what Gale was imagining. There were dragons, and monsters, and all manner of elemental dangers from lava to giant rocks. Gale ducked and dodged all of them as he saw a path through. Leaping off the walls and back flipping in the confined space.
Ha, ha! You can’t even touch me! I am Gale! The fastest and most handsome dragon ever! Ah, oh, nearly got me. Ha, ha! Oh so close. Better luck next time. Aaaaand done!
Gale crossed his imaginary finish line and accepted his metal for being the best Wind Wing from the queen. He gave her a heroic wink and she blushed. Of course the queen would be the most beautiful dragon, and of course she would like him. Then he remembered his friends and pictured them finishing behind him. He turned to invite them to praise him as well, but they didn’t. They were all wounded and dying.
“You left us behind.” Imaginary Boulder whispered.
“You ran away. Coward!” Imaginary Tempest roared.
No! I wouldn’t do that. I’d s-stay. I would… Gale trailed off.
“See. You can’t even convince yourself.” Imaginary Hailstorm whispered in his ear.
Argh. No. No! Gale thought in frustration as the image faded.
“I… I will protect them. I will. I’m not a coward. I’m not.” He muttered to himself.
Even so, Shadow could still feel his doubt as he joined the others.