For the first hour or so, Zoltar could only see an endless plain of white stretching for as far as the eye could see in either direction. Apart from the patches of snow coated grass littering the ground, there was no plant life. It was completely barren.
One time they passed a herd of mammoths grazing on the disorganized clumps. As the creatures cowered under the dragons passing shadows, Zoltar thought back to the meat they’d been feed in the prison. It was more than likely that it had been mammoth. The animals seemed quite common throughout the tundra.
As they flew on, Zoltar began to spot the occasional dead tree, the blackened branches clawing at the air like a dragon talons. They were nearing the edge of the forest.
He felt his heart quicken as his wing beats increased in power. Was he imagining it or was the strange prickly feeling beginning to subside? Somehow the air felt warmer, even though the landscape was still coated in snow. Still, he felt better, that was what mattered.
He glanced up at the sky. The storm from before had ebbed away into shallow cloud cover. Even that was beginning to break up as they neared the lake.
Sunlight poured down from the heavens and spread over his frozen wings in a glorious blanket of warmth. Zoltar closed his eyes for a moment, feeling the heat run over his obsidian black scales. He hadn’t felt the sun’s rays for almost a week. It was so nice he felt he could fly up to the burning ball and dive into its molten depths, letting the intense heat fill him from the inside.
“How are you feeling?” Felistia asked, brushing her wing tip against his as she soared over to him.
“Much better now.”
Felistia’s eyes danced, “Good,” she said, smiling at him before flaring her wings back to drop beside Shriken.
Zoltar could almost roar with joy as he beat his wings faster. The sickening cold clutching his chest was beginning to fade and soon it would be gone for good. Hopefully my fire will come back soon.
Before long they’d cleared the lake and were only heart beats way from the tree where he’d left the others.
Zoltar’s heart was dancing in his chest, while butterflies swarmed in his stomach. He was back.
He scanned the ground below. There was the old tree, but where were Emerald and Shiraku.
“Where are they?” Felistia voiced his thoughts. They couldn’t have left right?
He circled over the area, scanning for clues. His eyes caught on some indents in the snow. On closer inspection he saw that they were paw prints leading a little way to the north towards the forest.
Zoltar realized they must have gone hunting as he dropped in to land. Judging by the tracks, it looked like they’d left quite a while ago, probably early morning.
“You think they went hunting? Felistia asked, drifting in to land beside him. She scanned the surrounding landscape, searching the snow dusted slopes for signs of movement.
Zoltar nodded, “Don’t worry. They’ll be back tonight.” He glanced up at the sun. It was beginning to sink down the sky. Late afternoon. They’ll probably be back before nightfall. At least he hoped they would.
He eyed Shriken, who was circling overhead, keeping his head pivoted in the direction of the Ice Kingdom. His eyes were narrowed as he surveyed the horizon.
Zoltar tried to make out what he was looking at, but he just couldn’t see that far. He turned to find that Felistia had seen it too, her eyes fixed on something in the distance. What are they looking at?
He was about to ask when Shriken snorted overhead, folding his wings and dipping in to land gracefully next to Felistia.
“We have to get out of sight,” he said sternly, glancing at Zoltar with concern, “They’ll see us out in the open.”
“I agree,” Felistia nodded as she turned towards Zoltar, “There are Ice Talons a few miles out above the lake. We need to go before they see us.”
Zoltar felt his heart flutter in his chest. Ice Talons. Why were they here? The lake was right on the Ice Talon border.
His mind flashed to the jewels stowed away beneath his back scales. He gulped. Of course. The queen would never let them get away with her treasure. She’d have almost every dragon in the kingdom looking for them now.
“This way,” Shriken quickly, but silently started to walk towards the hills where there was thicker tree cover, “Don’t run, you’ll attract their attention.”
Felistia was close behind, keeping low to the snow covered ground. Zoltar followed, but he felt painfully obvious against the white backdrop. Hopefully, if he moved slowly, the movement wouldn’t catch the Ice Talons attention.
He also noticed with a twang of worry that they were heading away from the tracks left by his friends. He hated to leave without following them. What if they came back and the Ice Talons saw them. What then? He could only hope that they came back around sundown, after the lack of light forced the Ice Talons to land for the night.
Zoltar, Felistia and Shriken crouched amongst the dead trees, the bare branches clawing at the air with twisted fingers. The white of the snow hide Felistia and Shriken well and the black from the woods broke up Zoltar’s outline. The Ice Talons shouldn’t be able to make them out, so long as they stayed still.
Zoltars legs ached from the lack of movement and the cold wasn’t helping. How long had they been here for? He couldn’t tell as he shifted slightly, trying find relief from the stones digging into his paws.
He couldn’t see the Ice Talons from here, even though he knew where to look, but Felistia and Shriken could. They were watching from the tree line, their golden eyes fixed on a point in the distance. Zoltar had given up trying to spot the dragons age’s ago, instead he now watched the sun.
The glow orb was slowly sinking towards the lake, its amber rays reflecting off the smooth surface. Copper beams streaked across the darkening sky setting alight the scattered clouds like coals on a dyeing fire. The twisted shadows gradually stretched longer as a cool breeze tossed flecks of silver against Zoltar’s scales.
It’s almost sundown. Zoltar could feel the anticipation building in his veins. The large dead tree where he’d left Shiraku and Emerald last was a few hundred dragon lengths to right, hidden from view by the forest. Would they be back yet?
He hoped so. If they didn’t make it by sundown, they might not be able to find their way in the dark.
He tried to squelch the panic rising in his chest, the thoughts running through his head. They should be back already. What if they gave up waiting for him? What if they’d left for good or worse what if something had happened to them?
He snorted with frustration. They’d be there. They had to be.