The late afternoon wind whistled in Zoltar’s ears as he soared over the island’s marigold orange forests. Emerald evergreens were dappled throughout the carpet of amber trees like stains in a tapestry. Flocks of wild geese could be seen leaving the island and flying south to lands outside the continent of Megalonia. Zoltar sometimes wondered what else was out there, beyond the horizon. Were there other dragon tribes? Did they fight for land as they did in Megalonia? Maybe he’d fly out there some day and see the lands beyond the continent.
Looking back over his shoulder he could see Emerald flying a little way behind him, her now sky blue scales seeming to shift her shape from sky to dragon and back again like a mirage.
Shaking his head, Zoltar looked away from the confusing sight. He was so relieved that Emerald had agreed to work with him. If she hadn’t agreed, who knew what he would have done. Never mind that now. He didn’t have to deal with it. He had enough problems ahead of him without thinking about ones he’d avoided.
For now he had to think about what he was going to tell Felistia. He wasn’t even sure if he should tell her. How would she react? He hoped that she’d come along now that Shiraku was gone, but there was always the chance that she’d turn nasty over the matter. It was unfortunate that he was leaving the same day Shiraku had. Felistia might take it as him abandoning her and in some sense he was. He’d thought over it though and knew there was no way he could stay on the island. He had too many responsibilities to hang out on an island with a dragon he’d met a few days ago. Life didn’t work like that. It was bad enough that he was thinking of bringing her along.
Zoltar could only imagine Hisster’s reaction to this picture. A Shadow Talon teaming up with an Ice Talon and a Wisp Talon of all dragons. It was almost funny to think about, but Zoltar knew how serious it would be if Hisster found out. He could be banished or even killed. Zoltar knew the risks, but he didn’t see how he could complete this mission without compromising. It would just have to do.
“We’re nearly there,” Zoltar shouted, spotting the cave ahead. In front of him pillars of rock towered over the jungle as he neared the coast.
Fear gripped his heart. What if Felistia wasn’t there? He wouldn’t have enough time to find her before he and Emerald had to leave the island. The last thing he wanted was the leave without a trace like Shiraku had done. Sure he was dreading telling her, but to leave without saying so much as a good bye…
Zoltar shut his eyes at the thought. He couldn’t imagine it. She had to be there.
“Zoltar, we don’t have much longer to hang around,” Emerald panted behind him, “We need to get off this island before sundown. I was supposed to be back by midday. The Elders and the rest of the tribe will already be looking for me now that they know I’m missing.”
As if on cue, a low howl sounded from the mountain side a few miles away. More cries echoed from the forest behind them in response to the first. The Wisp Talons were searching the island. Zoltar quickened his wing beats. He’d thought he’d have a few more hours before they’d have to worry.
As the entrance came into view, Zoltar flew straight through the vines leading into the cave, splaying his claws to stop himself from skidding across the rock floor. Before he could get his bearings, Emerald entered, somewhat more hesitantly, brushing the creepers aside with her wings.
Zoltar froze. Felistia, she was back. Wincing, he turned to face the Ice Talon, “Felistia, I can explain. Don’t worry. Emerald’s a friend.”
She didn’t say a word, just stared at him and Emerald, horrified.
Zoltar heard a low growl from behind him as Emerald hissed, “You didn’t tell me you lived with one of the outcasts. The ones that have been steal our food and terrorizing our tribe. ”
“Emerald, they’ve been doing what they can to survive on an island with a dragon tribe that wants to kill them. They didn’t do it because they wanted to.”
“They? You live with more than one?” Emerald snarled, her voice low, yet menacing.
“She left,” Zoltar growled, flustered. He didn’t have time for this right now. He needed to talk to Felistia before the Wisp Talons got too close, “It’s just Felistia and me and for your information, she welcomed me into her home. The Wisp Talons on the other paw killed my wife and mentor the first time we met. I don’t think this is the best time to be pointing talons. We’ve all done bad things to survive and whether is was right or wrong at the time doesn’t matter. We’re here right now and need to get off this island fast. We can talk about this later.”
He didn’t want to scare Emerald off or pick a fight with her, but he had to put a stop to this aggression before it blew up into a fight.
“Felistia, I’m sorry I brought Emerald here without asking first. There’s a good reason for it, but I’ll have to tell you later. Right now we need to head to the beach and get off this island. The Wisp Talons will already be searching for Emerald and I just don’t have the time to explain everything right now.”
“I wanted to bring this up in a more gentle way, but I don’t have the time. I’m leaving with Emerald for the mainland. I don’t know if I will come back. I don’t want to leave you here alone. You can leave as soon as we reach the mainland if you want, but right now I believe it would be best for you to leave this island with us. You of all dragons know how dangerous it is to be alone out here. I promise I will explain everything once we’ve cleared the maze and are safe. Are you with me?”
Felistia stared at him, her eyes piercing his.
“Zoltar we need to go,” Emerald’s worried voice broke the silence, “They’ll find us if we don’t leave now.”
The heavy throb of drums grew in the damp air as the blood curdling sound of dragon howls filled the forest a few miles away.
“Felistia?” Zoltar looked at her beseechingly, holding out a paw to hers. Dread gripped at his heart. She had to come. He couldn’t leave her here, but he couldn’t wait either.
Finally the Ice Talon moved. Lay her paw in his, Felistia nodded, “I’m with you.”
“Then let’s go,” Zoltar couldn’t help, but let out a sigh of relief as he leapt from the cave, spread his billowing black wings and soaring out over the forest, closely followed by Felistia and Emerald.
The sky was blood red as the sun sank ever lower, taking is warm, comforting light with it. The forest behind them thundered with the sound of dragon roars and the thudding of talons hitting earth as the Wisp Talons searched the trees.
Zoltar’s heart was racing a thousand wing beats an hour. The beach wasn’t far, but at this rate the Wisp Talons would spot them before they could reached it. They had to hide somehow. They were too conspicuous from the air.
Dipping into a shallow dive, Zoltar skimmed over the tree tops, keeping as low to the foliage as he could without faltering. The others followed his lead. It would keep them out of sight as long as the Wisp Talons were behind them, but they could only hide like this for so long. The Wisp Talons were gaining. They must have heard their wing beats because they were racing in their direction, talons clashing with tree bark as they threw themselves through the trees.
The pillars making up the maze loomed ahead, the mists tendrils snaking over the tree tops like serpents about to strike.
Zoltar felt Emerald brush his wing, “If we can make it to the beach they with back off. No Wisp Talons going onto the beach, not on a night of the full moon. The Death Grippers will be out and they’ll avoid them at all costs.” She said, her voice almost lost in the baying of the pack of dragons tearing after them.
Zoltar didn’t respond, instead beating his wings to the point of exhaustion. They were nearly there.
A Wisp Talon lunged from the forest below, hooking out with its talons at Zoltar’s outstretched tail. It missed by a hair’s breadth and fell back into the trees. Zoltar’s vision was clouded with flashes from the past. It was all too familiar, the chase, the dyeing light, Wisp Talons leaping from the trees.
Shaking his head to clear the thoughts, Zoltar focused. They only had a few more seconds before they made it.
Another dragon sprang from below with jaws open wide as it prepared to close on Felistia’s exposed belly. Spinning to the side, Zoltar shot a fire ball from his mouth. It thundered through the air for a split second before colliding with the Wisp Talons face. The dragon screamed as it tumbled from the air. At the same instant, Felistia twisted away, a look of horror on her face. A moment later they were swallowed by the mists.