Vivid blades of honey gold streaked through the forest canopy, the dappled light waving over the forest floor. An evening wind was starting to blow. The colors of the forest slowly growing dim as the sun dipped behind the mountains. The three black dragons crept silent as mice under the ancient trees, their eyes darting from shadow to shadow.
“D-don’t you think we should start heading back now?” the youngest of the dragons asked, trembling from head to tail. He swallowed the lump building in his throat and tried to calm his shaking nerves. The night creatures were starting to play their eerie songs, the shaky notes bouncing through the damp air. Who knew what was out there, watch him from the shadows? “It’s starting to get dark and I don’t think staying out is a good idea.”
“Nonsense, Zoltar,” the oldest stated confidently, “We were sent on an important mission and we’re going to finish it, even it means staying out a little bit longer.”
“But, Scorpus,” Zoltar protested.
“Come on, Zoltar. Don’t tell me you’re afraid of the dark now,” sneered another dragon. Muscles rippled under his obsidian black scales and there was a mean glint in his eyes.
“You really are a loser, you know that? First, you’re born without acid fangs and now you’re scared of the dark. Really, I don’t know why Scorpus even brought you on this mission?” He made a swipe at Zoltar, who leapt out of reach.
“Mowzan,” Scorpus barked, turning to glare at the younger dragon, “Don’t you dare talk to Zoltar like that. It’s not his fault he was born with a defect.” He cast a look of pity in Zoltar’s direction.
Zoltar simply stared at his talons. He’d had this abuse from the day he'd hatched and although he was used to it by now, it still didn’t dull the pain of being called an outcast or loser. The last thing he needed was Scorpus’s pity; it just made him feel more weak and useless.
Sighing, Scorpus moved on, the dry leaves rustling ever so slightly under his claws. The forest was almost black now. The moon had yet to rise and the only thing preventing Zoltar from being completely blind was his extraordinary night vision.
Suddenly a thundering roar ripped through the night air. Zoltar yelped in alarm, instinctively jumping back. His heart was now pounding in his chest and cold sweat was breaking out from between his scales. What had made that unearthly sound? Before now he just had a feeling that there was something wrong out there, but now he was sure they had to leave.
Meanwhile Mowzan and Scorpus had snapped into attention, their ears swiveling this way and that as they tried to pinpoint the direction of the sound. Scorpus had decided that it was coming from the east of the island and had flicked his wings, signaling the group to start moving in that direction.
“What are you doing?” Zoltar hissed in a hoarse whisper, “Why are you going towards that sound? Wouldn’t the best idea be to turn around and head in the opposite directing as fast as possible?”
“No, Zoltar,” Scorpus growled in a disapproving voice, “Hisster sent us here to find out if the native tribe really are like the legend says. That roar might have come from a potential threat.”
“But isn’t the roar enough to tell you that it’s dangerous?” Zoltar asked, almost hysterically. He was shaking uncontrollably and his stomach felt like claws where slowly being raked across it. There was a myth spread among all of Megalonia’s dragon tribes that the Wisp Talons weren’t really dragons, but ghosts, able to appear and disappear instantly. Just the thought of it sent shivers down Zoltar’s spine.
Scorpus shot Zoltar a you’d-better-listen-to-me look, “Zoltar….you still have a lot to learn about being a soldier, okay? I’ve been a soldier in Hisster’s army for over thirty years. You on the other paw have only been training for ten years and have only just became a soldier. I think that makes me the more experienced Shadow Talon here. Yes?”
“Yes sir,” Zoltar murmured. Scorpus was right. He was the more experienced of the three and to top it he was Zoltar’s adoptive father, so he shouldn’t really argue with him.
“That’s okay son. You’ll learn as you go,” Scorpus wrapped a vast black wing over Zoltar, comforting him.
Zoltar heard an arrogant snort come from Mowzan’s direction as they continued on their trek through the undergrowth. Not a bird called for the trees and not an insect could be heard. The forest had fallen into deathly silence.
Every nerve in Zoltar’s body was tingling and his legs were tense as they prepared to bolt at the slightest sigh of danger. Mowzan and Scorpus were also strangely silent, their poisonous tails poised to strike.
There was a rustle from the bushes behind them. All three dragons whirled around, their dagger sharp teeth bared. No one moved.
Suddenly a gigantic reptilian panther lunged out of the bushes. Zoltar shrieked and dove out the way just before the beast’s fanged beak could slam shut on his barbed tail. His heart felt like it was going to burst out of his chest as he bolted through a patch of bushes, closely followed by Scorpus and Mowzan. Trees and bushes whipped past, lashing at his eyes. Sticks and stone flew from under his claws and the wind howled overhead like an angry wolf. Branches reached out with their clawed fingers, grabbing at the scaly wings of the three dragons bolting through the forest.
Zoltar’s lungs felt like they were on fire and his breathing came out quick and shaky. His claws thudded against the wet earth like rocks, but still he ran. The bloodcurdling screams of the creature vibrated through his skull and body, willing him to push himself to the brink of exhaustion. He risked a quick glance over his shoulder and instantly regretted it.
The monster was speeding through the forest at an alarming rate, it was going to close the gap between them soon. Great oaks parted like water as it lashed through branches and bark.
Zoltar urged himself to go faster. Creepers snatched at his wings and tail like a nest of serpents and gnarled tree roots threatened to trip him with every step he took. He passed a panting Mowzan, his heaving sides brushing against the older Shadow Talon's wings for a few fleeting seconds. Scorpus was only a few meters ahead of him. A giant log loomed only a little way off, nearing with each passing second. All three dragons leapt over the fallen tree, their talons barely clearing the trunk.
The beast burst through the log a few seconds later. A shower of broken branches and splinters rained down on the three dragons, spearing into their wings and tails as they swerved this way and that way. The sharp wood cut into the thin membranes of Zoltar's wings, sending sharp spears of pain shooting through his body.
Suddenly Mowzan shrieked and fell back. Cold fear clinched Zoltar's heart as he whipped his head around. Mowzan lay dead with a spear jutting out of his side. Letting out an involuntary cry, Zoltar stumbled backwards, only to run into Scorpus.
“What is going on,” growled Zoltar, his wings flared. Adrenalin rushed through his body as he stared at Mowzan's still body. What had happened?
“I don’t know. Just stick close,” Scorpus hissed.
Zoltar looked around wildly. Where had that spear come from? His eyes caught on the panther like creature. It had stopped and was looking straight at him, its red glowing eyes burning straight through his heart.
“Leave him. There's nothing we can do for him now. Come on,” Scorpus surged forward, hurtling through bushes like they weren’t even there. Zoltar sprinted after him only to trip on a hidden tree root and tumble to the ground. A spear whistled over his head and slammed into Scorpus’s back. The older dragon let out a thundering roar of pain before falling to the ground. Zoltar whipped his head around, terror shimmering in his glowing amethyst eyes. A shape flashed behind him, revealing a dragon for a few seconds before disappearing again. A Wisp Talon.
“Zoltar! Go, go. Get out of here,” Scorpus rasped as he struggled to get to his feet.
"Just go," Scorpus commanded, his voice ringing with urgency. Crimson blood was streaming from the wound in his back and he collapsed with a sickening thud.
Shocked, Zoltar stood there in horror for a second before he carried on running, ashamed of leaving Scorpus. Spears shot through the air around him, but he swerved this way and that, avoiding them by a scale’s breath.
His hear felt like it would break but he kept on going. There was nothing he could do for Scorpus. He was gone. Taken.
Finally Zoltar saw light ahead of him as the tangled forest gave way to a wide, open lake. Beating his wings, he soared into the air, a few last spears flying past him as he tried to gain height.
After he was safely up a few hundred meters, he looked back at the now silent forest. Nothing stirred under the trees, not a sound could be heard in those dark shadowy woods. There was nothing to show of what had just happened. The Wisp Talons were gone.
For those of you that want a picture of what a Shadow talon looks like here's a picture
and if you want a picture of an Exltron here's a rough picture.