Zoltar followed Emerald deeper into the cave, the light from outside fading, replaced by the electric blue gleaming from the glow worms carpeting the cave walls and ceiling. The gentle murmur of the stream grew louder as the drum of the rain died away.
As he walked along, Zoltar’s thoughts wondered. How strange was this? If someone had told him a week ago that he’d be relying on a Wisp Talon to help him, he’d have thought that dragon was crazy. Yet here he was, following Emerald into the unknown, because she’d said she’d help him.
A small smile crossed his snout as he huffed in amusement. He could only imagine what Hisster’s reaction would be if he told him.
How things had changed in the last few days. He’d made friends with an Ice Talon; a tribe that the Shadow Talons barely interacted with, let alone socialized with. He was living with and talking to a Sea Talon. That was almost as bad as talking to a Wisp Talon. Hisster would go off his rocker if he knew about that. Finally, he was being friendly with a Wisp Talon and possible making friends with her. He, himself didn’t even know how that had happened.
Things were certainly not going the way he’d expected, but somehow he wouldn’t want it any other way. If it wasn’t for these “hostile” dragons he wouldn’t be here. They’d saved him on more than one occasion and hadn’t had any real reason to do so. He still didn’t understand it, but he was thankful for it.
“Here we are,” Emerald said as they walked into a cavern, the sound of the stream now loud and clear as it gurgled along.
Wow,” Zoltar murmured, gazing in wonder at the world around him.The ceiling twinkled like a clear night sky, the sapphire gleam of the glow worms pulsing like the light of a million stars. The floor was carpeted in soft vines, each seeming to radiate its own brilliant emerald light. The stream rushed through the cavern, tossing deep purple spray as it whipped past the creepers growing along its bank.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said as he turn in a slow circle, taking in the scene around him.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Emerald smiled, looking back at him, “It’s why Lera and I loved this place so much. It’s like another world all of our own.”
Zoltar walked up to the stream, almost forgetting the sharp stabs of pain slicing along his wings. He stared into the inky water. Flashes of white swam in the depths, darting through the water like shooting stars.
“I can’t believe a place like this exists. The Shadow Lands were beautiful before the volcano erupted, but there was nothing like this.” Zoltar turned back to Emerald, who was picking some violet flowers growing on the glowing vines, “What are those for?”
“The flowers seem to have healing properties. Lera and I came here one time when I had finished a hunt and I had a few cuts. I happened to lie down in the flowers for a little while and around an hour or so later the cuts had disappeared. I come here to heal any injuries I have. Though I’ve never tried them on wounds as deep as yours. I’m not sure how well they’ll work, but they should at least help,” she said as she carried the flowers over to him.
Zoltar lay down on the vines and allowed her to gently place the flower petals along his back and wings. It stung at first, but slowly a cold wave passed over his body, cooling the burning heat throbbing through his scales.
“Aaahh. Thank you,” Zoltar sighed, relaxing as the pain faded away. He placed his head on his paws, the honey sweet scent of the flowers filling his snout.
“That’s okay,” Emerald said, settling just a little way off.
Time past slowly as the gently gurgle of the river filled the cavern. It was so peaceful, so different from the world outside. A part of Zoltar wished he could just stay here for ever. Forget about the trouble in the Shadow Lands, leave the wars and fighting behind.
He knew he couldn’t though. This was a short respite. He had responsibilities and dragons depended on him. He had to complete the quest.
Still, tonight had brought up a few doubts. He didn’t feel so sure about the Wisp Talons anymore. On one paw he saw them as monsters, but after meeting Emerald he wasn’t so sure. She’d helped him out of the kindness of her heart, helping to heal his injuries. Was that the actions of a monster?
What was he going to do? He could no longer ignore the fact that there was more in play here. The Wisp Talons were in a terrible situation. It wasn’t their fault that their leaders made them act so violently towards outsiders. He didn’t have all the information yet, but he had enough to see that they weren’t at fault. So how could he justify taking their land away from them? Back before Nira and Scorpus’s death, he’d wanted to make peace with them before violence. Shouldn’t he try that again now that he knew the truth?
If he could make peace with the Wisp Talons, he wouldn’t need to go on this ridiculous quest and more importantly, they wouldn’t need the Ghost Talons.
A part of him cringed at the thought of them. How would they take it if Zoltar and Hisster turned down their offer? Would Hisster even agree to that?
He groaned quietly. There was so much that could go wrong, but he was getting a head of himself. He first had to make peace with the Wisp Talons before even thinking about the other problems.
Of course it wasn’t exactly that cut and dry with the Wisp Talon leaders and whatever these Death Grippers were, but there had to be a way around that? The question was how?
He glanced over at Emerald. She had her snout turned towards the river. Her eyes were closed, but Zoltar could see her ears flick every once in a while.
Maybe he could start by trying to genuinely become her friend? He didn’t know if it would help with the whole situation, but it was the least he could do after what she’d done for him. She could give him information and he could see he could help her.
Though again that brought up another problem. How was he going to tell her all this?
He shook his head. It was too early for that. She was having enough trouble talking to him. Bring all this into the situation would break it. He’d have to see how things went first. Besides, after what had happened to her sister, she seemed like she needed some friendship.
“Mmmhh,” She didn’t open her eyes, but her ears turned in his direction.
“Thank you again for what you’ve done. I know the risks you’re taking by doing this and I can’t express how thankful I am for your help.”
Emerald lifted her head and looked at him, her sapphire eyes burning in the dim light, “It’s my pleasure.” She yawned, “Get some sleep now. It will help speed up the healing.” She nestled back down into the bed of vines, curling into a tight ball, her tail wrapped around her.
“Night,” Zoltar tucked his head beneath one wing, the darkness enveloping him. The murmur of the stream grew soft as sleep slowly overcame him and the world faded.