The loud thump of wings pounding the air jerked Zoltar from his thoughts. Someone had found them.
“Hide!” Emerald hissed as her scales flushed ghost white. She shoved him with a wing and pushed him towards a nearby pillar.
“I knew it,” a dragon growled. Rocks tumbled down the mountainside as the Wisp Talon landed, their billowing wings flushed crimson red.
Zoltar cowered, flattening his ears as he backed behind the column. What was he going to do? He was trapped. What if there were more? Had the Wisp Talon even seen him?
He coiled his tail, ready to fight if he had to.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the dragon barked as he stomped up to Emerald, “This isn’t safe. I’ve told you not to do this a million times!”
Zoltar watched in panicked bewilderment as Emerald rolled her eyes and huffed, “You didn’t stop Topaz when she snuck off with that Sea Talon.”
“Yah and look at what happened,” the Wisp Talon growled.
He flinched away, his gaze softening when he saw the shocked look on Emeralds face, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just…I can’t let that happen to you. I would never forgive myself if…”
He trailed off as he gently took her paws in his. He sighed, “Topaz should have never told you about the outsiders. You’re just a dragonet. Too young to be involved in this.”
Emerald’s wings relaxed and she nudged him reassuringly with her snout, “I’m sorry Jasper. I don’t tell you because I didn’t want to worry you. I didn’t think you’d let me either. I guess I was right about that.”
She smiled sadly and leaned against his shoulder, “I’m not a dragonet anymore. I’ll be twenty seasons this fall. I know what I’m doing. I’ll be fine.”
Jasper wrapped a wing around her as he whispered, “Your sister said the same thing when I tried to warn her of the Brothers suspicions. That was the last time I spoke to her.”
Emerald pulled away from his embrace, a single tear sliding down her snout, “I know it’s dangerous, but I can’t go along with…those…monsters. It’s wrong. If we let outsiders know about what’s going on, maybe they could help us? It’s better than waiting around and hoping things will change.”
Jasper shook his head, “You’re just as stubborn as she was.”
“Well she was my sister after all,” Emerald smiled as she twined her tail with his, “Nothing could stand in her way.”
She glanced up at him hopefully.
Jasper gave her a long, withering look, before sighing, “Okay, I won’t stop you, but can you at least let me know what you’re up to. Then I can at least cover for you.” He gripped her paws firmly, though his voice was soft.
Emerald nodded, before throwing her wings around him, “Thank you for understanding.”
Jasper snorted and cuffed her lightly over the head, “Don’t think I condone it though.”
She smiled again, a small laugh escaping her jaws, when she caught Zoltar’s eye, “Come on out. It’s alright. He’s my brother. He won’t hurt you.”
Zoltar glanced nervously from her to Jasper. The Wisp Talon had stood up and padded over to Emerald. He protectively placed a wing over her as he regarded Zoltar with suspicion.
“Who is this?” he asked, not dropping his gaze from the Shadow Talon.
Zoltar edged out from behind the pillar slowly, doing his best to not look Jasper directly in the eyes. He looked too much like those Wisp Talons…to much like Nira’s killers. Even his scales pulsed with the same deathly black and blood red hues.
“This is Zoltar,” Emerald said as she wriggled out from under his wing, “He’s a Shadow Talon.”
“Yes. I know that,” Jasper shifted uncomfortably on his paws as he continued to stare at Zoltar with a look of regret and distrust, “He’s not the first one I’ve seen.”
Zoltar flinched, his ears flattening when he realized that Jasper was talking about Scorpus. He’d been kept prisoner by the Wisp Talons for almost a week before they’d finally murdered him. Most of the village must have seen him at some point or another.
He glanced over at Emerald, a thought streaking through his mind. Had that been the reason she’d let him go the first time they’d met? Had she felt guilty about Scorpus?
Emerald wacked Jasper with her wing and snarled at him disapprovingly.
“I’m sorry,” Jasper hissed, “But it can’t be ignored. It will happen eventually if you continue with this.”
He jabbed a wing in Zoltar’s direction, “If he doesn’t want that to happen, then he should leave.”
‘Easier said, than done,’ Zoltar thought resentfully. He’d give anything to get away from this island, but life didn’t work like that. He was stuck here…for now at least.
“Look, if you’re going to act like that, then maybe you should leave,” Emerald growled, stepping away from Jasper, “I’ve made up my mind. Besides, it’s what Topaz would have wanted. She died trying to help our tribe. You can’t give up because of her death. I’m not.”
Jasper gave her a beseeching look, his paws out stretched towards her, “Emerald. I…”
She turned away, heading further up the mountain side, “Come on Zoltar.”
Zoltar glanced worriedly from her to Jasper, before hurriedly moving to follow her.
He cringed and turned back to face Jasper.
“Take good care of her please,” The Wisp Talon was staring after Emerald, hurt clouding his snout, “She’s just a dragonet. She doesn’t yet understand that there isn’t always a way out.”
He sighed, before spreading his wings and leaping into the mist cloaked sky. Zoltar watched him disappear, taken aback by the Wisp Talons sincerity.
He was trusting him to look after Emerald…well not exactly trusting him. Emerald hadn’t really given him a choice in the matter, but where was the hostility? He hadn’t threatened him or given him an ultimatum of any kind. He hadn’t gone behind Emeralds back, but had instead respected her decision.
Were most Wisp Talons like this? How could they act like this on one paw and then ruthlessly murder innocent dragons on the other?
It must have something to do with the Death Grippers, but how? Emerald had said that things weren’t always this way, but what had caused things to change? Something must have happened all those years ago when the Wisp Talons had closed their borders to outsiders. Somehow, their king getting murdered must have something to do with this, but how? How did this all fit together?
And who was the Sea Talon Topaz had been with? He had a vague idea that it might be the Sea Talon Felistia had mentioned a few days back. Idra? Had that been what had happened to Shiraku’s father? Had he been spending time with Topaz? Had that been how he’d got caught?
But why had Topaz wanted to spend time with him? What had she been hoping to get out of him? How could outsiders like them, help? What did the Wisp Talons even need help from?