Zoltar crashed through the forest. Leaves smacked his face and sharp stones bruised his feet. Mist curled around the dark trees like serpents ready to strike. Branches reached out with their hooked claws to grab him. The awful snuffling and the pounding of feet echoed through his ears.
The ground tipped upwards and a familiar shout called out from behind him. It was Scorpus and he was slowly sliding downhill towards the Monster of the Misty Mountains.
“Zoltar help me!” cried Scorpus, his eyes wide with terror as he slipped toward a monstrous beast. The creature’s jaws were stretched wide open in a hideous snarl and a cavernous, black hole gaped from between its jagged teeth.
“Save me!” Scorpus screamed scrabbling for a foot hold.
Zoltar couldn’t budge. He tried to make his feet move towards Scorpus, but he couldn’t. He felt like his mind was in someone else’s body.
“Help!” Scorpus’s yells filled Zoltar’s head like a siren’s call. Zoltar shut his eyes, shaking his head trying to stop the awful screams.
With a sickening crunch the beast’s tail speared down into Scorpus’s chest and all was silent. Zoltar opened his eyes and looked around. He gasped at the sight in front of him. The beast was no longer in sight, but that was not what Zoltar was focusing on. On the ground lay not Scorpus, but Emerald, her bright green scales stained crimson with bright red blood and standing over her, his tail glistening from the blood, was Hisster.
“Not one wisp talon is left, the island is ours,” he snarled, his violet eyes shining in the darkness.
“And it was all thanks to you,” Hisster growled as he stalked back into the shadows.
“Oh no,” Zoltar cried, gently touching Emerald’s head with his paw.
“What have I done,” he sniffed, wiping the tears from his eyes.
A transparent, white shape of a wisp talon floated up from Emerald’s body. Zoltar stared at it in disbelief.
“You should have told me,” the ghost whispered.
“I couldn’t,” Zoltar plead, wring his talons together.
“Who are more important? Your friends or the island?” the ghost hissed. It then vanished into the dark forest leaving a trail of silver.
Zoltar jumped up from his bed. Every scale on his body dripping in cold sweat. His heart was pounding and every sound made him flinch in terror.
It was early dawn. The last of the moon’s silver light was streaked across the cobalt sky. The suns yellow razes was just starting peak over the mountains. A ribbon of red and pink waves steadily climbed up the sky like the tide drifting up a beach.
Zoltar breathed a long shuddering breath.
'It was only a dream,' he thought relived, but he knew how close it had been to the truth. The shadow talons weren't known for their friendliness and the likelihood of them exterminating the wisp talons rather than trying to live with them wasn't at all unlikely. They'd tried it before with the sea talons and had succeeded, so what would stop them from trying again?
'I have to tell Emerald,' Zoltar decided. He'd tell her the next morning when she came to fetch him. He wasn't sure how she'd react since she had a very different personality from his, but he suspected that she'd be extremely cross, like any dragon should be and would probably want him off the island. He didn't care though. She'd been nicer to him than anyone in the shadow lands; even Scorpus and deserved to be told the truth. The shadow talons would just have to find another island; they'd manage.
Zoltar extended one of his wings to look at the damage. There were scratches and there was a rip on the tip of his right wing, but it felt better and he could open and close them without cringing in pain. He would be able to fly with them, even if it hurt.
The sun was just showing its smiling face above the mountains. Sunlight flooded into the hut scaring away the night’s shadows and darkness. The moon flowers had closed and in their place bright orange honey suckle bloomed. The fragrant caramel aroma from bunches of flowers wafted through the fresh morning air. Dazzling birds of paradise darted through the leaves, their colorful feathers shimmering in the new light.
'Emerald should be back soon,' Zoltar thought, looking out onto the wooden bridge hopefully. Wisp talons were already climbing out of their huts and moving along walkways. The two wisp talons he’d spoken to the night before were nowhere to be seen.
Zoltar yelped and jumped back for the entrance as his heart leapt into his throat.
There was a fit of giggles as the air around the doorway shimmered and Emerald appeared, pink from head to tail.
“Oh, that was so worth it,” Emerald laughed, holding onto the doorway for support as tears streamed from her eyes.
“What you do that for?” Zoltar demanded, slightly annoyed.
“Well I had to get you back for the heart attack you gave me yesterday,” Emerald explained, calming down and letting her scales become rippling rivers of emerald green and lavender blue.
Zoltar huffed and rolled his eyes sarcastically. This was the last thing he needed when he was trying to be serious. He really didn't want to ruin the friendship that had bloomed into being the last few days, but what sort of friend would he be if he didn't tell her know what was coming.
“Emerald...there’s something I have to tell you,” Zoltar sighed, his wings drooping. There was a huge lump in his throat that felt as though it were choking him. How was she going to react?
“Oh dear,” Emerald said, arching her eye brow, “you’re not dumping me are you? Just kidding!”
“Come on Emerald. This is serious.”
“Wow, you are serious,” Emerald exclaimed, her golden eyes wide.
“I am n-not what you think I am. I’m…I’m basically here to see if my t-t-tribe can take over the island,” Zoltar stuttered, cold sweat breaking out all over his scales, "I wasn't sent over here from Dark Claw prison like you thought. The truth is, I was here a few weeks ago on a scouting mission to see if the shadow talon tribe could live here. The island on its own was a perfect fit for my tribe, but there was just one problem. The Exltron and your tribe were here. You see... the rest of Megalonia thinks you were extinct, so discovering that you're still here sort of complicated things."
Zoltar flinched as Emerald's eyes narrowed, but she stayed silent, so Zoltar carried on, "Basically through a whole course of events we found a way to get rid of the Exltron. I'm not sure what my chef plans to do with the wisp talons, but I'm sure it's not good. So just to make things short, I'm here to take a scale from a wisp talon; you. At first I was fine with that. I mean..." Zoltar laughed nervously, "I thought of you guys as just another tribe of dragons. The shadow talons aren't very social with other tribes."
“So you were just using me to get one of my scales?” Emerald asked sadly, her scales a dry grey.
“In the beginning yes, but as I got to know you and your tribe’s history I started to have second thoughts. I spent a bit of time with you and saw that you weren't like anyone I'd ever met before. You were friendly to me, even though you didn't know a thing about me and basically showed me that dragons don't always have to be cold around each other. Now I would fight tooth and claw for you if the shadow talons try to lay so much as a paw on this island, but I understand if you want me to leave,” Zoltar’s heart ached and his paws felt as heave as stone as he turned to go. There was no way that Emerald was going to forgive him, not after what he'd done.
“Hold on,” Emerald said from behind him. Her scales were a jumble of colors, “I know I am supposed to be mad at you, but I kind of understand the situation you’re in and I find the fact that you chose to side with the wisp talons over your tribe really brave. I like you Zoltar and I would hate to lose our friendship just because of what your tribe told you to do. I have chief as well, so I know what it feels like to follow orders and the guts it takes to disobey one, especially one that big. I mean you basically turned your back on your own tribe just for me; a wisp talon you hardly know,"
"Okay, still a bit worried about that, so let’s not drive it in that I'm a big traitor. Suffering Serpents, Hisster is going to kill me," Zoltar rubbed his snout as he came to terms as to what he'd just done. He'd abandoned his tribe when they'd needed him most and had replaced them with a dragon from another tribe. One that he'd met just a few days ago. Yes, it would be best if this wasn't drilled in.
Zoltar looked up to see Emerald looked a bit confused and realized she didn't know who Hisster was, "Hisster's my chief and isn't a very nice one either. I'm not sure if he'll listen to me when I tell him to leave the island alone. Ha, what am I thinking? His twice my size for crying out loud. Of course he's not going to listen. Ohhh...what have I gotten myself into?"
Emerald sighed and draped a wing over his back sympathetically, "You could try threatening Hisster into sharing the island," she said quietly.
Zoltar looked at her in surprise. She'd said share. Was she really thinking of sharing the island with a bunch of shadow talons, the ones that had wanted to steal her tribe's land?
As if sensing what he was thinking, Emerald explained, "The wisp talons won't mind you know. The island’s too big for us anyway and if you got rid of the Exltron, it would be really great,” Emerald smiled warmly at him.
“You mean it?” Zoltar asked, his face lighting up. He felt a glowing warmth fill his heart that he’d never know before. It felt good.
“Of course I do and to prove that I trust you, I'll give you this,” Emerald reached behind her horns and plucked a small, glittering scale from her head. She gently passed it to Zoltar, who took it and carefully placed it in the brown pouch lying on the floor. He picked up the bag and placed the strap over his neck.
“Thanks for understanding Emerald,” Zoltar dipped his head before turning to walk out the woven vine door.
“Wait. Zoltar. You didn't think you were going to get away that easily did you? I don't trust you that much. I'm coming with you to make sure you go through with what we've agree to do," Emerald smiled slyly.
Zoltar rolled his eyes. He'd known there'd be a catch, but to be honest he was really glad that she was going to come with him. “But it is going to be dangerous,” Zoltar protested, slightly worried that Emerald was making a mistake, "What if you get hurt?"
“Our island isn't much different really,” Emerald smiled, her scales blushing pink.
“You've got a point," Zoltar sighed and then he grinned. She wasn't going to back down and really, he didn't want her too, "Well, welcome aboard then Emerald."