Zoltar woke a few hours later. The wind had stopped howling and had been replaced by the gentle pattering of rain on the rocks outside. The cave was dim with only the light of a few glow worms over head to provide some elimination.
As he lay there, Zoltar could hear the faint gurgle of a stream. It was coming from deeper inside the cave.
‘That’s strange,’ he thought as he listened. He’d never seen or heard of a river underground. Curiosity welled within him and he found himself compelled to find the source of the distant lapping water.
The feeling was fleeting however as Zoltar’s thoughts returned to his present situation. He was in an unknown cave, on a strange island at night with serious wounds that left him unable to fly.
The river would have to wait for now. It would be a life saver later though if he had to stay here a while.
Gritting his teeth, Zoltar attempted to get to his feet. Sharp stabs of pain shot through his back and belly and he was forced to lay back down.
This wasn’t good. He could barely move without reopening a wound. How was he going to get food? Injuries like this could take weeks to heal and he could only go two to three weeks without food. Water wasn’t a problem thank goodness. He could only last a few days without water.
He could venture out and see if he could find something to eat, but then he risked running into the raptors or even worse a Wisp Talon and he was in no condition to defend himself. If a predator found him, he was as good as dead.
One of two things could happen. He could stay in the cave for a few weeks and let his lesions heal with the help of the river or go back to the hunting grounds in the hope that Felistia or Shiraku would find him. The last one wasn’t really an option at the moment though. He couldn’t go out there like this. He’d be an easy target for any predator. He’d have to wait until he was a bit better, though by then Felistia and Shiraku would probably have stopped looking for him, if they were looking for him at all.
Zoltar sighed and rested his head on his paws. Time was ticking away for him to complete his quest for the ruby. Every day counted and here he was looking at wasting at least a month healing and that was the best case scenario. He might not survive at all.
The metallic sound of scales brushing past leaves cut through the silence. Zoltar stiffened. Crouching behind his hiding place, Zoltar held his breath as the sound of claws clacking against stone echoed throughout the cave.
Zoltar’s heart hammered in his ears as thoughts whirled through his head. What could it be? Was it a Wisp Talon, a raptor or some other predator? More importantly, did it know he was here?
The creature’s scales scraped against the cave floor and all went silent.
The seconds past without a sound.
Where was it? What was it doing? Zoltar couldn’t bare the silence, but he didn’t dare look for fear, whatever it was, would see him. If he could stay hidden and allude its senses maybe he’d be able to last the night.
This is what happened when you made friends with other dragons. If he hadn’t tried to be the hero, hadn’t tried to gain a bit of Shiraku’s trust, he wouldn’t be in this mess. Why had he been so stupid? It had been an unnecessary risk to his mission and he hadn’t served to gain anything from it. He needed a Wisp Talon scale. That was it. It wasn’t that hard. Yet here he was, alone and wounded, without help and for nothing.
Scorpus would be so disappointed. Zoltar almost laughed at the irony of it. He’d made the same sort of mistake that Scorpus had. It had cost Scorpus and Nira their lives. What was his error going to cost him?
A faint whimpering broke the silence, jerking Zoltar from his thoughts. He cocked his head. It was coming from where the creature had lain down. He strained his ears, listening. It was more than a mere whimper. The creature was crying.
It was crying? It couldn’t be a raptor or some predatory animal then. Zoltar feel his stomach turn. It must be a dragon. It couldn’t be Felistia and Shiraku. They’d be back at the cave for the night. He couldn’t expect them out until morning. Which meant only one thing. There was a Wisp Talon in the cave with him.
What was he going to do? A Wisp Talon was the worst possible thing that could have come into the cave. It could detect him at any moment.
Zoltar shrank back against the stalagmites, suddenly aware of how vital his pitch black scales were. He must last the night.
The Wisp Talon would leave eventually. If he could just make it until then.
Minutes went by, with only the sound of the Wisp Talons muffled sobs to break the silence.
As he lay there, Zoltar’s thoughts spun around his head. Why was it crying? It seemed alone as he hadn’t heard any other footsteps. Why was it out here in this storm without others of its kind? He mulled over these questions as the minutes dragged past.
The Wisp Talon breathed a shaky sigh as it stopped weeping. “Oh Lera. What are we going to do?” she whispered.
Zoltar’s ears pricked up. He recognized that voice. How could he forget it? It was Emerald.