An icy breeze swept through the early morning air, murmuring as it whistled through the maze. The echo of waves crashing against the columns filled Zoltar’s ears as he stared down at the beach. Despite the roar of the ocean, the water failed to reach the blood soaked pebbles below, failed to wash away the pain of the previous night.
He shivered as another breath of wind brushed over his scales, though he wasn’t sure if it was because of the cold or the memories.
Shuffling on the column, Zoltar shifted his gaze to the forest bordering in the beach. He couldn’t just sit here all day, staring at the shore. Though…what else was he going to do?
He could scout the island and try to think of a plan. After all, he still was no closer to stealing the Wisp Talon gem.
Zoltar wrinkled his snout. Somehow he just couldn’t stomach the thought of that right now.
He gazed off into the distance for a moment, before sighing. Still, the point remained. It wasn’t doing him any good sitting here.
Groaning reluctantly, he unfurled his wings, letting the ocean air catch them as he leapt off the pillar.
It wasn’t long before he was soaring over the forest. The sun was only just beginning to clear the horizon, its light not yet able to drive the mist hanging over the trees. The warbling notes of insects floated through the canopy below, their melody drawing to a close as the oncoming day approached.
Zoltar’s thoughts drifted back to his mission as he flew. Despite his disinterest in the matter, he couldn’t help but linger on the issue. How was he going to get the gem? He had no idea where the Wisp Talon settlement was. Not to mention that the forest was swarming with the creatures.
He’d been lucky yesterday. There was no way that would happen again if he was caught a second time. Even if the Wisp Talon didn’t kill him on sight, he’d probably end up the next full moon sacrifice.
A sickly chill ran through his scales at the thought. He couldn’t imagine how Scorpus must have felt, all alone there on that beach with no hope of rescue. If he ever ended up in that situation, he knew he wouldn’t fare much better. Felistia and Shiraku wouldn’t help. It would be suicide and besides that, why would they?Sidious wouldn’t be of any use either. He had made it pretty clear that he wasn’t interested in his safety. There was no way he’d help if Zoltar ever found himself captured by the Wisp Talons.
‘He’ll probably skulk back to Krakatoa and wait for another less useless lackey,’ Zoltar thought as he bared his teeth in disgust.
Sidious provided no help or incite on the problem at paw. He was just a source of arrogance and disdain towards him. Zoltar often found himself wishing the Ghost Talon hadn’t come along on the mission in the first place. He’d probably be better off on his own. At least then there wouldn’t be a dragon looking down on him constantly and threatening the lives of those that were actually trying to help him.
Zoltar sighed. He knew why Krakatoa had wanted Sidious to come along. He wasn’t helper or a companion. He was a spy, a way to keep him in line.
‘One couldn’t have a Shadow Talon thinking for themselves now could they?’ Zoltar thought bitterly.
He snorted, focusing his eyes back on the trees below a he tried to stop thinking about Sidious. That dragon really got under his scales.
He was nearing the western slopes of the mountains, their twin peaks towering over the impossibly green landscape. The foliage was thinner here and Zoltar could just make out the forest floor through the overhanging boughs.
It wasn’t long before he spotted a shallow stream snaking through the trees on its way down the alp. He circled overhead for a few moments, contemplating if he should land or not.
The sun was climbing steadily, its warm rays beating down on the land. It had been comforting at first, but now the endless heat was begin to wear down on him. It had been a few days since his last drink and he was beginning to feel the effects.
Carefully, he began to descend. The tree cover was still thick enough to injury a careless dragon if they landed too hastily. Circling in a slow glide, he floated down through the top most branches, taking great care not to hook his wings on the outstretched boughs.
Finally he landed, his paws sinking into the shallow leaf litter. The stream’s gentle gurgle filled the damp air as it trickled down the mountain side. Multi coloured birds fluttered through the canopy overhead, chirruping their joyful songs for the whole forest to hear.
Zoltar sucked in a deep breath. The scent of dew soaked moss and millennium old trees filled his snout as he cautiously padded over to the water’s edge. He took one last look around. The forest was serene around him.
The icy water swept over his paws as he stepped further into the stream. Leaning down, he lapped up cool, refreshing liquid, savouring the feeling as it flowed through him.
After a few long moments, he lifted his head, the water dripping off his snout and paws as he stepped away from the river bed.
Shaking out his wings, he took another sniff of the air. A light breeze had begun to blow, streaming up the mountain. It carried with it a faint, but familiar scent. Prey.
Excitement coursed through Zoltar’s veins at the prospect of a hunt. It had been so long since he’d had a successful one. It was just the thing to take his mind off the nights events.
Slowly, Zoltar slunk into the undergrowth surrounded the banks of the stream, being sure to keep his wings tucked close and paw steps soft. He flicked out his forked tongue, tasting the air. It was musky. A herd of deer must be close, probably a little way down the slope. The wind was blowing towards him. It was a perfect set up for a surprise attack.
The ground was damp under Zoltar’s paws as he crept through the undergrowth. Progress was painfully slow, but he had to be careful. It was thicker than he was used to. Twigs and leaves littered the muddy floor, making silence almost impossible.
It wasn’t long before his sharp hearing picked up the grating sound of jaws grinding grass. The herd must be grazing along the streams banks.
The pungent scent of antelope was so strong now he could almost taste it. His stomach growled in anticipation. It had been many moon cycles since he’d last had deer.
His nerves felt like they were on fire, his coiled muscles ready to spring at a moment’s notice, but he knew he had to be patient. He inched forward, painstakingly placing each paw down. One crack of a twig and the herd would bolt.
He stopped just a few steps from the forests edge, his dark shape hidden by the trees shadows. He could just make out their shapes now as they grazed around to the forest’s edge. They were so close. The herd was right in front of him, completely unaware of the danger lurking just beyond the trees.
Zoltar waited, watching for just the right moment to pounce. One just needed to wander a little too close.
‘Just a little further,’ Zoltar thought, his talons itching with anticipation as he watched one stag break away from the herd and drift up the bank, ‘Just one step more.’
He exploded from the bushes, leaping with his claws stretched wide towards the buck. The stag reared up, bellowing in alarm as it turned to bolt, but it was too late. Zoltar’s talons sank into its hide as his jaws locked onto the deer’s shoulder.
He held on grimly as the crazed animal bucked and kicked in a vain attempt to throw him off.
Growling through his teeth, Zoltar hooked his back claws into his prey’s flank and beat his wings, hoping to throw the deer off balance. The buck staggered as it desperately tried to keep its footing, but after a few moments it toppled.
Zoltar lunged for its throat, ignoring the flailing hooves as he bit down, severing the spinal column. The buck instantly went still, its head falling limp in his jaws.
The rest of the herd had scattered, the surrounding forest filled with their panicked trumpets. Birds shrieked from the canopy, their warning carrying on the breeze.
After a moment, Zoltar dropped the deer and stepped back, panting. He cursed the fact that he hadn’t managed to grab his prey’s throat on the first attempt. The kill would have been quicker and wouldn’t have stirred up the entire forest in the process.
He stood there for a moment, trying catch his breath. He groaned at the thought of carrying the deer all the way back to the beach. It was heavy and it wasn’t a short flight.
He glanced around him again. He couldn’t stay here though. Every predator in a two mile radius would have heard the buck’s cries. Not to mention the island’s local dragons.
Zoltar shuddered and shook out his wings, before hooking his talons into the carcass. The last thing he wanted was to run into a Wisp Talon with the stolen prey.
Spreading his wings, he was about to lift off when the metallic brush of scales against leaves caught his attention.