The sunlight danced over the gentle, lapping waters of Rippling Glass Lake, lighting up Shiraku’s azure blue scales as she soared over the waters. Zoltar and Felistia watched from the grass cloaked banks as she hovered, her eyes trained on her prize. With a lightning fast tuck of the wings and a sudden plummet, she disappeared into the blue. A few seconds later she burst from the water with a large trout hanging from her claws.
Zoltar breathed in a quiet sigh as she swooped in to land, a huge grin on her snout. It was so nice to have a peaceful day out in the sun. After what he’d been through he could do with a short break. Besides, tomorrow he’d meet up with Emerald and see what he could find out. For now though it was good to relax a bit. His heart needed it.
Shiraku sliced the fish in three with her razor sharp talons. She gave a piece to Felistia and Zoltar.
Zoltar noted the fact that she’d given him the head. She might be a little more at ease around him after the incident with the raptors, but she wasn’t completely okay with him.
He sat there, savoring the salty, fresh taste of the fish as Felistia and Shiraku ate just a little way up the bank. This was better than before though. At least he could be in the same area as her without her spitting insults at him. Maybe if he spent a bit of time with her and Felistia she’d get better? The hunt yesterday certainly seemed to have helped, so maybe a few more moments like that would help bridge the hatred between them. It was worth a shot.
He gazed up into the clear blue sky, taking in a deep whiff of the late afternoon air. The earthy aroma of ripening mushrooms and damp leaf litter filled his snout. He sighed, content as he lay down on the soft grass. He could hear Felistia and Shiraku talking behind him, their conversation muffled by the gentle wind beginning to blow across the lake.
Suddenly, a faint, but sharp scent cut through his senses. It was coming from the other side of the lake, slicing across the water on the breeze. Instantly, Zoltar sprang to his feet. He knew that smell; Wisp Talon.
“Guys, we have to move,” Zoltar urged, rushing over to the others.
“Why,” Shiraku asked, a hint of annoyance on the edge of her voice.
“There are Wisp Talons across the water and they’re getting close. I can smell them. We need to go before they see us,” Zoltar spread his billowing black wings, panic starting to grip his chest.
“Wait, you can’t fly out, you giant, black bat. They’ll see us a mile away.” Shiraku hissed, getting to her paws.
“We need to travel on foot a little way before taking to the air.” Felistia said, her scales shaking ever so slightly.
Zoltar nodded, folding back his wings. Of course he couldn’t just fly away. What had he been thinking?
“This way,” Felistia crept into the jungle bordering the bank, her slender silver shape disappearing into the green.
Zoltar and Shiraku followed close behind, their paws moving without a sound against the moist forest floor. They were silent as they headed deeper into the undergrowth, the light of the lake fading behind them.
The eerie cries of birds roosting for the night pierced the still evening air, setting Zoltar’s already nervous mind on edge. What if this was an ambush? They’d be walking right into it. He sniffed the damp air, searching for signs of Wisp Talon. Only the wet smell of rotting leaves filled his senses. If there were Wisp Talons up ahead he should have been able to smell them. Besides, from the brief scent he’d got of them a few minutes ago, they hadn’t seemed excited or nervous. It had probably been a coincidence that they’d happened to be on the other side of the lake. He couldn’t hear them following them either so they should be alright, so long as they made it to the cave by nightfall.
They traveled on through the forest for a few more minutes putting at least a mile or two between them and the lake before Felistia came to a halt.
“This should be far enough. We’re only a few miles from the cave and it’s getting dark so we should be okay to fly the rest of the way,” She scanned the trees around her for an opening in the canopy.
They had to walk a little further before finding a gap wide enough to fly through, “Just remember to fly low over the trees. It’ll be harder to see us from a distance.” Felistia said, spreading her wings. They glowed a pale orange under the crimson sky as she broke through the canopy.
Glancing over at Shiraku, Zoltar followed Felistia into the gleaming crimson sky. The Sea Talon had been silent for some time now, her snout wrinkled in thought. What could be bothering her?
The thought was fleeting as Zoltar burst through the leaves and leveled out into even flight over the trees. In the distance he could hear a low howling, growing steadily louder by the second. It had been in the back of his head for a while, but only now did he notice it. It sent cold shivers down his spine and he was reminded of what Emerald had told him last night. Could this be linked to the Full Moon Ceremony the Wisp Talons had?
Another shudder run through his scales. The whole place creeped him out. The sooner they got to the cave the better.
It took only a few tense minutes to reach their hidden cave. With a quick glance over her shoulder Felistia shot through the opening, the creepers tossed in all directions upon impact. Shiraku and Zoltar weren’t far behind.
The comforting darkness of the cave enveloped Zoltar as he dove through the vines. They were safe now. The Wisp Talons wouldn’t find them here. Not for now at least.
The sky outside was a dim amethyst and was growing steadily darker, but Shiraku didn’t light up her scales. Not tonight. There was safety in the darkness.
“They’re getting too close,” Felistia hissed to Shiraku, her eyes shimmering ever so slightly in the gloom, “We’ve never seen them down by the lake, not at that time of day. What are we going to do?”
Zoltar listened, but didn’t interrupt the conversation. He lay down near the entrance, his head on his paws.
“I’ve told you already. I’ve been telling you the same thing for weeks now. We’re going to have to leave,” Shiraku flopped down onto the cave floor with a sigh, “They’ll find us eventually. You know what happened last time we left it too long.”
Felistia didn’t answer, but Zoltar could see her face fall.
“You know I didn’t want that to happen, Shiraku. I’ve said I’m sorry so many times.”
“Sorry won’t bring him back, Felistia,” Shiraku snarled, looking at the Ice Talon, “We both said we should leave, but you insisted other whys. Look what happened. I won’t let that happen again. Even if it means I have to leave on my own.”
“Were would you go Shiraku? We’re outcasts. We have nowhere to go. Do you not think that I’ve been thinking about this ever since your Father died? I feel terrible. I wish I’d done something different, but this island is just as dangerous as anywhere else. Leave if you must, but it won’t help anything. You can’t bring him back. You just going to get yourself killed.” Felistia growled tearfully, before walking away. She lay down with a sigh near the back of the cave.
Shiraku huffed, but didn’t say anything as she stared blankly at the opposite cave wall.
Silence settled over them, hanging like a thick fog over rippling waters. The cave was almost black now, with only the thin blades of moonlight slicing through the vines for illumination.
Zoltar’s thoughts were whirling through his head. What had happened to Shiraku’s Father? He’d figured out that the Wisp Talons had something to do with it, but what had actually happened? Maybe this was why Shiraku was so on edge all the time. He’d known that she’d suffered the loss a few weeks back, but hadn’t known that Felistia in some part had been responsible. It seemed to have damaged their relationship quite badly. How much was yet to be seen, but there was obviously some bad blood between them.
And what about that thing with the Wisp Talons. What did they mean they were getting too close? Were the Wisp Talons searching for them or had it just been coincidence? Obviously they weren’t supposed to be by the lake, but Emerald was there regularly and she was a Wisp Talon, so how was this such a big deal? Maybe they were specifically a hunting party out looking for Felistia and Shiraku or maybe they were a different sect of the Wisp Talons like the Elders Emerald had been talking about.
Either way something was going on. They definitely were in trouble. Maybe there was something he could do to help. He wouldn’t go so far as to say that he’d want to help Shiraku. She was still a little way from that, but Felistia, he’d grown to like and he’d want to help her if he could. That meant helping Shiraku too. Still, there wasn’t much he could do without all the pieces of the map to put the picture together. Maybe he’d ask Felistia next time she and him were alone.
Besides, in the morning he’d see Emerald. Maybe he’d be able to get a little information out of her, though he’d be a bit more carful now knowing a little more about what Felistia and Shiraku were dealing with. He might not know everything, but he knew enough to be on guard more than usual, at least until he knew what was going on.