Zoltar woke the next morning to the sound of loud whispering. He lay there with his eyes closed, listening.
“What do you mean he’s coming,” a hoarse voice snarled which Zoltar identified as Shiraku’s.
“He can help us with the hunt. You know we haven’t been doing too well lately,” Felistia’s cool crystal voice reasoned.
“But we can’t trust him. He’s a shadow talon. I'm having enough trouble letting him sleep here.” Shiraku hissed with clear hatred. Zoltar winced. He detested that everyone didn’t trust shadow talons just because of what they’d done centuries ago. It wasn't like he'd been involved, but then it had been a horrific event and if he'd been in Shiraku's place he probably would have felt the same way.
“Well I trust him and I’m in charge, so if you’re not happy, go and find food on your own. I don’t know what you are moaning about anyway, we’re criminals and Zoltar seems to trust us, so why don’t you just give him a break.”
“Because he’s a shadow talon. You know what they did to the sea talons. They are about as trust worthy as snakes,” Shiraku growled, her voice loaded with enough venom to kill ten Exltrons.
“But that happened eons ago. I doubt the shadow talons even remember,” Felistia pushed.
“Fine, but if he tries anything to upset me, so help me I will kill him.”
Zoltar lay as still as possible, trying his best to look like he was asleep. He didn’t want Felistia or Shiraku to know that he’d been listening. He didn’t know how Shiraku would react to that and he didn’t want think about it.
“Shh, I think his waking up,” Shiraku hissed and there was the sound of claws hurriedly walking away.
Zoltar heaved a sigh as though he’d just woken up and opened his eyes. Felistia was curled up in the far corner and Shiraku was trying her hardest to look like she was engrossed picking grit out from between her claws.
The sun had already cleared the mountains and was rising fast, spreading its golden light over the forest.
“Oh, you’re up,” Felistia exclaimed, looking up. Shiraku snorted softly to herself.
Zoltar yawned and rubbed his eyes, “Are we still going hunting?” He wanted to be out and in the air as soon as possible. The last thing he needed was to hang around in the cave with Shiraku.
Shiraku’s paddle tail lashed violently, but her face didn’t change.
“Of course we’re still going hunting. Right Shiraku?” Felistia shot a quick look at Shiraku.
“Yes,” Shiraku mumbled unconvincingly. It looked like her paws were clinched.
“I’ll lead,” Felistia said, walking over to the cave entrance and pushing away the vines with her wings. A stream of sunlight burst through that gap, lighting up the cave and Shiraku’s scowling face. She got up and strode over to Felistia, her muscles rippling under her scales.
“Come on we’ll show you the island as well,” Felistia added as she leapt out the cave, closely followed be grumbling Shiraku.
Zoltar had a bad feeling about Shiraku and wondered whether she was safe to be around. He shrugged it off and dived after the sea talon's metallic blue tail.
As he flew over the forest Zoltar realized he hadn’t fully appreciated the island's beauty the day before, but now in the full light of the sun it was breath taking.
The trees were a sparkling emeralds and jades, each leaf was a different shade of green. Birds darted from tree to tree, their multi-colored feathers brilliant splashes of color against the bottle green backdrop. Tall pillars rows out of the forest like sticks out of sand. Their dappled grey sides streaked with feathery moss and fungi. Alps loomed over the jungle to the north and the thin outline of Megalonia could be seen to the south. One mountain towered over the rest and thin trails of dirty, white smoke seeped from the summit. The day was clear, but dark clouds were billowing behind the northern mountains like an omen for bad things to come. Zoltar’s gut twisted in a strange urge to seek cover.
Suddenly Felistia made a sharp dip towards the forest below. Zoltar brushed away the feeling. Shiraku’s azure wings shimmering in the open sun light as she tucked her wings and followed Felistia. Zoltar hovered before plunging after the sea talon. The green carpet rushed up to meet him and Zoltar splayed his talons and landed on the branch of a tall tree. The tree swayed under Zoltar’s weight for a few seconds before coming to a standstill. Zoltar clung to the branch and peered through the leaves to the forest floor below. Felistia and Shiraku were huddled under a large oak tree. They looked alarmed.
Zoltar spread his wings so that they billowed like thunder clouds and silently floated down beside them. The dry leaves crunched under his claws as he landed. Shiraku shot him a look of daggers and put a talon to her mouth and hissing a loud sshhh.
“What?” Zoltar mouthed, confused. Shiraku pointed in the direction of a pile of white sticks jutting out from the leaf litter. Zoltar realized that they were bones; a rib cage. He stalked slowly up to it, every muscle in his body poised to fight. He glanced at the shadows surrounding the small patch of light he was standing in. He swore he saw eyes gleaming out from the depths of the gloom.
Zoltar gently examined the bones. They had the same marks the shadow talons had had the day before, but they weren’t shadow talon bones. The eye sockets in the skull he uncover were too small and there were no horns.
“It’s a sea talon skeleton,” Zoltar called back to Felistia and Shiraku.
“Grrr, you would know, shadow talon,” Shiraku growled, only just loud enough for Zoltar to hear.
Zoltar scowled. He was starting to get fed up of this. He hadn’t been part of the army evading the sea talon city, heck he hadn’t even been born. He knew that they were sea talon bones, because he’d studied every dragon species and their anatomy. It was a skill required in shadow talon soldiers. He really wanted to bite Shiraku.
He glanced at Shiraku, who was muttering to herself. She was a big dragon and could potentially kill him if he picked a fight.
He sighed. He would have to be patient and hold his temper. He thought of Emerald. She was such a nice dragon, a little naive to the real world, but sweet. Zoltar found himself missing her.
“It was Seria. She disappeared about two months ago. All we heard was a scream closely followed by thundering roar. We never saw her again, until now. It looks like she was caught by the beast,” Felistia sighed from behind Zoltar.
Zoltar sniffed the air, something wasn’t right. It smelled too wet, like a storm was on its way. Zoltar looked around. The forest definitely looked darker.
“Ah, Felistia? How fast do the storms roll in here?” Zoltar asked nervously.
“Very fast. Now why don’t you come and help us bury Seria?” Shiraku hissed, scraping dry, orange leaves over the sea talon skull.
'Uh oh,' Zoltar thought, thinking about the clouds he’d seen behind the northern mountains.
Suddenly the still air seemed to tremble and a rumble shot through the forest, shaking the leaves on the trees. Mist snaked through the trees like serpents ready to strike. The shadows grew longer and there was another growl from the canopy. The sound of rain drumming on leaves fill Zoltar’s ears. The smell of wet earth swept up Zoltar’s snout and there was a flash of white, lighting up the sky above. A deafening crash followed.
“What do we do?” Zoltar asked, anxiously looking at the darkening sky.
“Fly!” Felistia shouted over the roaring gale, her yellow eyes wide with terror.
"Shouldn't we stake it out here?" Zoltar roared.
"No! The beast will be out and hunting as soon as the storm hits," Felistia replied, jumping into the air.
Zoltar spread his wings and was almost knocked of his feet by a stray rush of wind. Flapping his wings in rapped sensation he struggled into the air closely followed by Shiraku.
Lightning flashed around them as they fought to stay aloft. Zoltar was gasping from exhaustion, his wings felt like wet blankets stuffed with iron. The wind howled louder with each passing moment, adding to their misery. Zoltar felt like he was drowning as the torrents of rain battered his face and back. Shiraku was rapidly losing altitude, her tail hanging limp behind her.
'She’s not going to make it,' Zoltar thought, watching Shiraku, 'So, leave her, she hates you. Why should you help her?' Zoltar’s other side asked, 'Because it will put me above the shadow talons she’s thinking about. If I leave her I’ll be just like the shadow talons that massacred the sea talon city and drove them to live underwater.'
Zoltar swooped down after her, the rain almost blinding him as it smacked against his snout.
“Come on Shiraku don’t give up!” Zoltar roared over the thunder claps as he pulled up beside her.
“I can’t go on. Wings-too-heavy,” she panted dropping even lower.
“Felistia come help!” Zoltar shouted after Felistia, but the wind carried his voice away from her and she took no notice.
“We’re nearly there!” Zoltar cried sighting the cave a head.
Shiraku just gasp for air, her wings hardly beating. Now desperate, Zoltar dived with his talons outstretched. He wrapped his talons under her wings. With his final scrap of energy he pulled upward, flapping his wings in large arcs.
“Don’t touch me shadow talon!” Shiraku roared, struggling to get away from Zoltar’s grip, but he held on tight.
“I’m not going to let you die, even though I heard all the things you said about me,” Zoltar thundered over the storm.
Zoltar heaved Shiraku into the cave’s entrance then collapsed in a heap next to her. He just made out the blurry image of Felistia hurrying toward them before he fainted, her worried voice ringing in his ears.