Time seemed to stand still as the Shang Fu's stinger zoomed towards Zoltar’s exposed spine. Suddenly, there was a blast of air as an ice blue rocket slammed into the Shang Fu, flinging him off Zoltar’s back. The force of the collision knocked Zoltar off his feet. The hard sand hitting him flat in the snout as he tumbled onto the beach. It got up his nose and he released an enormous sneeze, tossing sand in all directions.
He heard bones crack behind him and he hurriedly got to his feet. Zoltar whipped around to see the Shang Fu hanging limp between an Ice Talons vice-like jaws.
She dropped the Shang Fu and spat, “Pathetic little creatures.”
She cautiously walked over to Zoltar, her spiked tail ready to strike if needed. Zoltar stood still. He knew how dangerous Ice Talons could be, with their frost breath and claws like shards of glass. If he acted aggressively in the slightest way she could lash out. The only thing to do was to stand still and wait for her to decide whether or not he was a threat.
After a few seconds, the Ice Talon asked in a voice like icicles jingling together, “What's your name?”
“I-i-it’s Zoltar,” Zoltar replied quickly, daring to lift his eyes for a moment to have a look at her. Ice Talons could be very aggressive and strike out for no reason, so he was still rather cautious of her. Until he'd figured her out a bit better, he'd be careful what he said and did.
The Ice Talon was a beautiful dragoness with a crown of silver horns on the back of her head that gleamed in the dim light. A trail of ridged white spines ran along the length of her back. Her long tail swept from side to side, the four large spikes on the end of it leaving deep gouges in the sand. She shook out her magnificent wings, the scales shining like millions of small moons.
“What are you doing here?” she asked as she cocked her head, looking Zoltar from horns to tail with her shimmering gold eyes. They were deep and unreadable like that of the sun and made Zoltar slightly dizzy after staring straight into them.
“Prison Dark Claw sent me here for stealing and then trying to escape prison,” Zoltar lied. He wasn’t allowed to tell the truth, the shadow talons plans were always to be kept a secret. He'd been told this important shadow talon rule since the day he'd hatched. Prison Dark Claw was a pretty convincing lie since they had the other map leading through the Misty Maze and that they dropped troublesome prisoners on to the island instead of keeping them in jail.
“Me too. The boar headed dragons sent me here after I tried to escape,” the Ice Talon hissed bitterly, whipping her tail. Zoltar had to duck to avoid accidentally been skewered by her sharp tail spikes. She didn't seem to notice that her tail was waving dangerously close to him, so Zoltar took a few steps away from her lashing tail.
“So how long have you been here?” Zoltar asked, now that he was a safe distance away from her tail spikes.
“About four months, I think,” the Ice Talon replied, sitting down on the soft sand, her tail neatly curled around her talons.
“May I ask what your name is?” Zoltar requested, relieved that her tail wasn’t waving all over the place anymore.
“It’s Felistia,” she answered, slightly batting her eyes as she looking up at the sky and adding, “Would you like to come back to my cave? All the dragons dropped on the island stay there since it’s a little dangerous after dark and I really don’t want to have saved you for nothing.” Felistia smiled slyly and yet it had a touch of softness.
'Strange,' Zoltar thought a little confused, 'In my experience dragons are normally a bit more cautious around new dragons, especially one from another tribe, but then my only comparisons are the Shadow Talons. Maybe dragon tribes outside the Shadow Lands treat each other differently and are more willing to help one another?'
“Yes please,” Zoltar responded enthusiastically, not wanting to sound suspicious. He'd be wondering where he'd stay the night on the way over from the Shadow Lands and had decided on roosting in a tree, but know he'd just been offered a place to stay. Sure Felistia was a new dragon so he'd be careful, but how dangerous could she be compared to the Exltron, which would most definitely come out at night. He'd just stay the night and decide in the morning whether to find a new place to sleep.
“Follow me then,” Felistia shouted as she opened her wings and leapt into the misty air. She flew towards some large rock columns a few kilometers from the beach.
Forest carpeted the valleys surrounding the pillars and the echoes of birds calling to each other rang through the damp air. Feathery clumps of moss fluttered in the breeze as they clung to the sides of the tall rocks. Cracks and gouges covered the columns like scars on an old dragon of war. Small caves carved out of the craggy rocks surface were everywhere.
Felistia hovered over one particularly large cave. It was high above the dark forest and was well hidden by the vines draping over the opening. She tucked in her wings and disappeared into the black hole. Zoltar followed her through the slimy creepers, which slid along his scales as he walked into the cave.
Zoltar breathed a column of fire, its orange glow lighting up the cavern. Cracks scuttled across the amber walls like small amazon rivers on their way to the sea. Olive green moss flowered all over the ceiling, their delicate tendrils wet with dew. Small streams of water run down the caves sides, their ripples shining gold in the fires light. Brown stalactites hung from the ceiling. Small beads of water fell from their sharp points onto the floor, their hollow sounds echoing through the cavern.
Felistia was standing in the far corner, her scales gleaming like white gold in the flames orange glow. Next to her was a burly Sea Talon. The Sea Talon hissed at Zoltar. Flinching, he snuffed his flame down to a spark and then a puff of smoke.
“How are guys going to see anything?” Zoltar asked, looking at the fuzzy shapes of the two dragons in front of him. He could see then quite well in the amethyst light shining from his eyes, but Shadow Talons were the only dragons in Megalonia to have nocturnal vision. Sea Talons and Ice Talons were practically blind at night.
Zoltar saw the Sea Talon roll her eyes in an exasperated way, before there was a flash of brilliant blue light, blinding Zoltar temporarily. After a few moments he opened his scrunched up eyes and blinked away the tears streaming from them. The Sea Talon was standing in the middle of the cave and every scale on her body was glowing in an eerie turquoise light.
“Wow, I didn’t know Sea Talons’ could do that,” Zoltar exclaimed excitedly. 'Wow, that's so much cooler than the stupid acid fangs the Shadow Talons have.'.
“It’s to help us when we are deep sea fishing,” the Sea Talon explained in a bored matter-a-fact voice.
“What's your name?” Zoltar asked, hoping to gain a little of the Sea Talons trust and to stop her from looking at him as though he were a small bug on the wall.
“It’s Shiraku,” Shiraku replied brashly, lying down on the cool cave floor, her scales still shimmering in a luminous blue light, “yours?”
“I'm going to bed,” Felistia stated loudly. She shot a look at Shiraku and arched her eyebrows when the Sea Talon didn't respond, " You too, Shiraku. You know how grumpy you get when you don't get enough sleep."
Huffing to herself, Shiraku closed her ocean green eyes as she curled her head under her wing and began to snore. Her scales slowly dimmed back to a dark blue in the caves shadows.
Zoltar yawned, his mouth opening so wide you could see the back of his throat. It had been a long day and he had very little energy left. He was glad to be on the island though and meeting Felistia and Shiraku had been an unexpected, but pleasant surprise. It was nice to know that he wasn’t alone on the island.
Zoltar stared out through the vines hanging from the cave entrance. The forest was dark and gloomy. The sun had fallen behind the mountains and dusk was crawling over the island. Eerie calls were floating through the humid air, their sounds warped by the dank wind that was blowing over the trees. The two full moons were slowly rising over the mountains like antique silver dishes on a star studded table cloth of cobalt blue.
Zoltar looked up at the twinkling stars and sighed. It was going to be a long year.