Lighting flashed and thunder boomed all around Zoltar as he turned to face the raptors. Their golden green hide glowed silver in the light of the storm as the wind howled like an angry beast. They cocked their crested heads, a hungry glint in their eyes as they prowled forward.
Zoltar snarled, baring his fangs. They were sizing him up. Perhaps more confident now that Felistia and Shiraku were gone. He couldn’t turn and run though. They’d be on him like a pack of wolves. They were scavengers for the most part and were after the deer, but they wouldn’t miss a chance to take down a lone dragon if they could. He’d have to put up a fight, show them that they were no match for him. They could have the deer, but he needed to get out of there.
The raptors circled, chattering to themselves excitedly.
Zoltar flared his wings in an effort to make himself appear larger and roared, the sound drowning out the storm raging over head. The raptors didn’t back off though and continued to surround him. They’re weren’t being intimidated by his show of strength. He needed to fight, lash out.
Suddenly the lead raptor lunged, latching onto Zoltar’s back. Zoltar bucked wildly as the raptor’s claws slashed long cuts through his wings. More raptors leapt at him, raking their talons against his scales.
Zoltar roared, blasting the creatures with fire balls as he thrashed in an effort to throw the alpha from his back. It held on, biting and stabbing with its claws.
Sharp lightning bolts of pain shot along Zoltar's wings and back. He had to get this raptor off his back. It could rip a hole through one of his wings. He'd never be able to fly again. The thought terrified him as he spun wildly, lashing out with razor sharp talons. But the creature on his back held on, kicking out with it's hooked feet, ripping lash after lash along Zoltar's wings.
Finally, Zoltar threw himself against a tree. He let out a yelp of pain as he hit the trunk, crushing the raptor’s skull on impact. The alpha fell to the forest floor, dead.
An explosion of shrieks and snarls erupted from the band of raptors and they jumped out of reach of Zoltar’s slashing talons. They kept their distance, watching him.
Zoltar’s sides heaved, blood dripping down his scales. He felt dizzy as though he was going to faint, but he knew he couldn’t. He had to finish this or they would.
He threw out his wings, ignoring the hot flashes of pain burning through them, and roared. He rushed forward, charging the lingering pack of raptors. The raptors didn’t wait for him to reach them. Screeching, they turned and fled back into the forest, swallowed up by the howling storm.
Zoltar slowed to a stop, his legs weak and shaking. He had to go. The raptors would be back for the deer and him if he collapsed. He had to get to shelter before he blacked out. It was his only chance.
He dragged himself to the clearing. The storm was whirling overhead, the high winds tugging at his wings, the rain battering his scales. Even if his wings weren’t torn, he’d struggle to fly in these conditions. He wasn’t going to be able to make it to Felistia’s cave. Not until this storm let up and even then he wasn’t sure if he could fly. He’d have to find a place to shelter for the night.
He looked beyond the forest, at the mountain slopes. He was sure he’d seen some caves around there this morning before he’d started the hunt. If he could just find a cave, he should be able to last the night. The storm would have blown over by morning. He could figure out what to do then. Felistia and Shiraku might even come back to look for him. Right now though, he was on his own.
Moaning at the pain stabbing across his body, Zoltar limped back into the trees, heading up the slope of the mountain.
Every step was agony, but he forced himself to keep going. He wouldn’t let the pain win. He had too much on the line. His tribe was depending on him and him alone. He couldn’t fail them. Nira’s death would have been in vain if he gave up now. He had to keep going. She would if she’d been in his place.
The wind roared through the ancient tree tops, hurling freezing cold rain against his already stinging wounds, but he pushed on. Step by painful step he climbed the mountain, searching the now rocky slopes for a cave. It was so dark in the midst of the storm and Zoltar found himself thankful for his night vision. Without it he’d be lost in amongst the creaking trees.
Finally, as though a portal to another world had opened up, a cave appear in the gloom. Lightning flashed, lighting its interior for a split second. It was empty.
Almost crying with relief, Zoltar staggered inside. It was warm and dry, shielded for the screaming gale outside. In a last effort to stay hidden, he collapsed behind a large clump of stalagmites. The world grew dim as consciousness faded.