Just then a stream of ice cold air blasted over Zoltar, showering the pack in a beam of frost breath. He snapped open his eyes to see the alpha standing over him, frozen solid, its jaws agape in an eternal screech of fiery.
The rest of the creatures scattered, yelping and hissing at one another as they fled back into the maze. A few remained, now lifeless statues coated in a shell of shimmering blue ice.
Sharp bolts of pain shot over Zoltar’s belly scales as he scrambled to get to his paws. Looking down, he saw a layer of frost crusting them. He gingerly used a paw to brush it off, wincing at the cold that stabbed through his talons.
What had just happened?
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to catch you as well,” a cool voice jingled behind him.
Zoltar whipped around to see an Ice Talon dragoness standing a few dragon lengths away from him. The crown of silver horns along the back of her head gleamed in the dim light as she cocked her snout at him.
“You’ll be alright. You didn’t get a direct hit. It will heal up in no time,” she said as she approached him, her long, spiked tail sweeping gracefully over the sand.
Zoltar stared back at her, his heart still hammering painfully against his chest. An Ice Talon. What was she doing so far away from her homeland?
“It’s not safe here you know?” she continued as she circled him, “Though, I guess you’ve already figured that out being that you were nearly Death Gripper food.”
She flashed her fangs in a smile as she sat down, her tail curled neatly over her talons.
“What’s your name?” she asked, looking Zoltar from horns to tail with her shimmering gold eyes. They were as deep and unreadable as the sun and Zoltar found himself staring straight into them.
“I-i-it’s Zoltar,” Zoltar replied, quickly lowering his eyes. What was he going to do? There wasn’t supposed to be anyone else on the island?
“So…Zoltar, what is a Shadow Talon doing so far away from the Shadow Lands?” She kept her gaze trained on him, but her ears twitched back and forth with every sound that imitated from the maze.
“I-I-I. Umm. Ah,” Zoltar stammered, feeling slightly panicked. What could he say? He couldn’t tell her why he was really here. That was information for Shadow Talon ears only.
“Yes?” The Ice Talon probed, leaning in closer.
A thought flashed through his head. She must be an exile. That could be the only reason she was on the island. It wasn’t uncommon. Many dragon tribes banished their own tribe members for various reasons; competition for the throne, disobeying the tribe’s rules, murder.
“I was exiled,” Zoltar blurted, immediately wincing. That had come out way too enthusiastically.
“Really?” the Ice Talon hissed, eyeing him sceptically, “You were cast out?”
Zoltar nodded slowly, trying his best to look dejected about the whole thing. If he was going to pull off this lie, he needed to at least look convincing.
“Hmmph,” the Ice Talon pocked a talon at him, “You don’t look very dangerous. What exactly were you banished for?”
Zoltar racked his mind. What was a good reason for being thrown out of his tribe? He need to be believable, but at the same time not make her uneasy. The last thing that would make her relax around him was the prospect that he’d murdered someone and stealing didn’t sound much better.
Besides from the sound of it, she wouldn’t buy that. After all, he apparently didn’t look dangerous enough for that. He tried his best not to take it personally.
Maybe if he said he’d fought for the throne? It was the safest way to go. He might even get some sympathy as it was the same case for many outcasts.
“I challenged my chief for the throne,” Zoltar said, avoiding her eyes, “He let me live, but I’m never to return to my tribe.”
The Ice Talon’s face fell for a moment as she clinched her claws. She sighed, “I’m sorry it ended that way for you.”
Zoltar nodded, shuffling nervously on his paws.
“So, you know my name. May I ask what’s yours?” Zoltar said playfully, hoping to sway the subject away from why he was on the island.
The dragoness smiled at him as she shook out her wings, the scales shining like millions of miniature moons, “It’s Felistia.”
“That’s a nice name,” Zoltar said a little awkwardly.
Avoiding her gaze, he looked down at the pouch around his neck. The strap was torn in a few places, but it was still intact. He breathed a quiet sigh of thanks. He couldn’t bear to think what might have happened if he’d lost the Stones during the fight with the Death Grippers.
Turning back to Felistia, he asked, “So, how long have you been on the island?”
Felistia didn’t answer and Zoltar looked up to see that the Ice Talon dragoness had stiffened. She hastily got to her paws as she scanned the trees bordering the beach. She scented the air, her ears pricked as she listened intently.
“We need to go,” she hissed softly after a moment.
Silently, she padded over to the water’s edge. The mist curling off of the ocean enveloped her, causing her to take on an almost ghostly appearance as she shifted in and out of view.
Zoltar stood there for a moment as he registered what she’d just said, “You want me to come with you?”
She nodded, gesturing from him to be quiet.
A little hesitant at first, Zoltar edged over to her, “Okay, but why must we go?”
He had a good idea of what it might be. Evening’s grip was tightening on the island and the shadows had deepened since they’d been talking. Before long night would be upon them.
“My goodness, you wouldn’t have lasted a night if I hadn’t found you,” Felistia hissed, looking back over her shoulder at him, “Wisp Talons! They’ll grab you and feed you to the Death Grippers if they don’t kill you first. You don’t want to be out in the open when night falls around here. Come on.”
She continued along the shoreline.
Zoltar hung back. Should he follow? She obviously had a hiding place for the night and he wasn’t going to be able to find anything before nightfall.
He looked around anxiously. But what about Sidious? He couldn’t just leave without him, but where was he? He should have made it to the beach by now…unless.
Zoltar lowered his eyes, realizing what must have befallen the Ghost Talon.
He quickly snapped out of it though, shaking out his wings as he cleared the image from his head. He couldn’t dwell on it. Sidious had made his choice to split up.
Taking a deep breath, he continued after Felistia, who was already a fair way ahead of him. He could still complete the mission on his own.
Felistia by @FlamingPhoenix