First came the whistle, then the flash of silver as the spear hurtled through the air and landed with a sickening thud in Scorpus’s chest. He let out an ear piercing roar and collapsed to the ground, writhing before stiffening and going still.
“Run,” Zoltar roared, pushing Nira ahead of him as he broke into a full sprint.
A volley of spears ripped through the air around them, but all missed their mark as they ducked and dodged this way and that through the tangled undergrowth.
Zoltar’s heart felt like it was going to burst out of his chest as he bolted through a patch of bushes as he followed Nira. Trees and bushes whipped past, lashing at his eyes. Sticks and stone flew from under his claws. Branches reached out with their clawed fingers, grabbing at the scaly wings of the two dragons bolting through the forest.
Zoltar’s lungs felt like they were on fire and his breathing came out quick and shaky. His claws thudded against the wet earth like rocks, but still he ran, urging himself to go faster. Creepers snatched at his wings and tail like a nest of serpents and gnarled tree roots threatened to trip him with every step he took. A giant log loomed only a little way off, nearing with each passing second. He and Nira leapt over the fallen tree, their paws barely clearing the trunk.
Blood curdling roars filled the air around him, vibrated through his skull and body, willing him to push himself to the brink of exhaustion. The thunder of many paws hitting the earth echoed from behind him, growing louder by the second.
Zoltar risked a quick glance over his shoulder and instantly regretted it. The first blade of moon light had sliced through the canopy above, illuminating a dark figure as it shot over the log he’d just jumped.
In those few fleeting seconds he made out the thin shape of a snake like dragon as it sprung over the log, its long fangs exposed as it screamed its blood thirst call. It disappeared again as soon as the shadows hit it, cloaking it once again in darkness, but Zoltar had seen enough. It was a Wisp Talon. More shrieks filled the forest behind the dragon as more creatures leapt the log.
“Nira, we have to take off!! They’re catching up,” Zoltar roared as he hurtled through the undergrowth.
“We have to make it back to the beach or find a break in the trees!! It’s too thick to fly through here.” Nira called, her voice raw.
“We have no choice. They’ll catch us any second. We’ll have to climb.”
Zoltar flung open his wings as he leapt for the trees. Nira was just behind him as they reached the lower branches and desperately began to climb, ripping through the foliage in their panic to escape.
Their pursuers had disappeared, melting back into the darkness of the forest, but Zoltar could hear them as they darted through the branches below them. They were still gaining.
Finally they broke through the canopy. They sprang skyward, their claws racking the air as they beat their wings.
Zoltar thought they’d gotten away, but just as he was about to level out into a flight path away from the forest, a serpent like figure burst from the leaves, lunging with its fangs bared towards Nira’s tail. They sank between the scales as the Wisp Talon drove it’s fangs through her hide.
Nira roared, but didn’t lose height as she struggled to throw the creature off
More Wisp Talons shot from the canopy, their black wings spread. Like giant winged snakes they streaked through the air to join their leader.
“Nira keep climbing,” Zoltar cried as he doubled back. Summoning the heat with in him, Zoltar fired a red hot fire ball from his jaws. It collided with the Wisp Talon hanging from Nira’s tail. The creature let go with a shriek as it plummeted into the forest below.
The moon was now full and bright in the sky, its ghostly light illuminating the pack of Wisp Talons as they streaked through the air.
“We have to lose them in the mist,” Zoltar shouted as he and Nira raced towards the ever nearing pillars.
Nira was gasping beside him, but she kept level as they plunged into the mists of the maze. The shrieks and screams of the Wisp Talons faded as they sped through the maze, dodging groping pillars as they flew.
Only once they’d excited the maze did they slow to a steady glide over the ocean. The coast was just a few miles away.
Zoltar breathed a sigh of relief. They’d made it.
As the panic from the attack started to slowly drain away, the realization of what had just happened came collapsing down on him like a pile of rocks.
Scorpus was gone. His commander of twenty years was dead. Zoltar could hardly believe it. It had all happened so fast. He’d had no time to think, but now as he flew over the still ocean waters, the weight of the situation came tumbling down on him. He and Nira were the only soldiers left to defend the tribe and there was a war looming. It had been a desperate situation before, but now their leader wouldn’t be there to help and guide them.
Zoltar let out a long sigh. At least Nira was here with him. He couldn’t think what he’d do if he lost her. She’d be there for him and together they’d get their tribe out of the Shadow Lands.
“Are you okay Nira,” Zoltar asked, brushing wings with her.
She looked at him with wild eyes and shook her head.
Zoltar felt the terror start to rush back in as he looked back at the gash on her tail. The Wisp Talon bite had been right on her wound from the day before and the whole tail look like it was starting to swell.
“It’s just a few more miles to the coast. We’ll be there in a few minutes. Do you think you can make it?,” Zoltar tried to keep his voice steady. He couldn’t panic. She needed him right now.
Nira nodded, gritting her teeth. She was starting to lose altitude, her wings stiffening.
They only just made the shallows a few meters from the beach before Nira’s wings seized up. She crashed into the water sending up a shower of spray.
Zoltar landed beside her, his heart pounding with panic. She struggled to her feet and he half walked, half dragged her to the beach before she collapsed. Her breathes were short and sharp, her limbs twitching uncontrollably.
“Nira! Nira! Can you hear me? Hold on just a bit longer,” Zoltar cried as he looked at her tail. The whole thing had swollen and was stiff as a log. With a jolt of fear, Zoltar realize that seeping out of the bite wound was a thick black substance; poison. The Wisp Talons bites were poisonous.
A sinking feeling filled the pit of his stomach and a cold mist seemed to settle over him as he realize that there was nothing he could do for her. It was too late to stop the poison from spreading. He was going to lose her too.
With tears streaming down his eyes, Zoltar lay down next to Nira, his head resting beside hers. He laid a wing over her. She was so cold.
Nira looked over at him, her now blood red eyes meeting his, “I love you.” She whispered, the words barely escaping her jaws.
“Oh Nira. I’m so sorry,” Zoltar cried, his tears wetting her scales, “I tried..,” the words caught in his throat.
“You did your best and I’d love you no matter what happened.”
“I love you too, so very much,” Zoltar nuzzled her.
Nira gave him a weak lick on the snout before the last breathe escaped her jaws as her body stilled. Sobs threatened to break forth from Zoltar as he lifted his wing from her. Not a sound broke the still night apart from the gentle lapping of the waves on the beach.
That was it. The only dragon left in his life that he loved was gone forever. Taken from him by the Wisp Talons. What was left for him now? Without her, what meaning was there to his life? His tribe was on the brink of extinction. His commander was gone and war loomed over them with no one to fight it. There was nothing left for him.
As the moon’s cold rays drifted over the rolling ocean waves, the last of the stars shimmering into view, he began the ancient dance of ascent. Waving his wings back and forth in a wave like motion, the moon light rippling off his scales, he swept up the sand. It swirled through the air in a delicate cloud as he twirled below, sweeping his wings towards the heavens. Silver talons flashed as he swayed in rhythm to the stars’ song. He began to hum a slow mournful tune that moved in time to his dance.
Nira started to gleam and sparkle a brilliant gold as Zoltar leapt into the evening air and continued to dance. His tail flowed across the night sky as he circled around Nira. The silver stars moved with him, pulsing and singing their pained song as Nira burst into a cloud of sparks like fine gold dust.
The shimmering mist climbed higher and higher into the night sky as the dance continued unbroken like the flow of the tides. Finally it seemed to dissolve into the very stars themselves and gave a final twinkle before disappearing. Zoltar slowly sank to the ground and bowed his wings over where Nira had lain.
He remained there unmoving, staring down at the place she’d been. Nothing remained, nothing to show that she’d been there.
Heart torn and bleeding, Zoltar gazed up at the night sky, tears still shimmering in his eyes. The stars were so bright tonight, their silver light seeming to pulse and dance in the darkness. The gentle murmur of the ocean seemed to be trying to comfort him as he stood alone on the beach, stare up at the heavens, but he would not be comforted.
Chapter 6: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work/felistia/The-Quest-for-Fire--Into-the-Mists--Chapter-Six-144561