Artwork by @FlamingPhoenix
A cool autumn breeze rustled the copper leaves overhead as a crystal blue dragoness crept through the trees. Shafts of dying sunlight cut through the withering canopy as the sun slowly sank behind the northern mountain peaks.
The dragoness glanced up at the sky, her tail flicking back and forth restlessly. It was only an hour or two before night fell. She had to be back before then.
Picking up the pace, she continued on, the growl of waves hitting the shore growing louder in her ears by the moment.
‘Maybe this is too risky. What if they decide to start their patrols early tonight? I should just retrieve my catch in the morning. It won’t hurt to go hungry just for tonight.’ She fretted as she ducked a low hanging branch.
But what if the Death Grippers found the antelope? She’d worked so hard to catch it and it was the first decent sized prey animal she’d caught in nearly a moon.
No, she had this argument with herself almost every evening after the day’s hunt. She had enough time. Besides if the worst came, she could just stay the night on the beach. They never seemed to venture beyond the forest.
The ground under paw shifted from dirt to pebbles as she approached the tree line. There it was. The maze of mist draped pillars that surrounded the island. Ocean waves crashed against the columns of black rock, tossing spray into the haze that lay beyond the beach.
The Ice Talon dragoness paused as she scanned the maze for signs of movement. One could never be too careful. You never knew when one of those things would be watching, waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting dragon.
Her golden eyes drifted along the shore and up the slope to a small mound of pebbles where she’d hidden her catch. It seemed to be untouched.
Taking a final scent of the air, she inched forward, ready to break her cover. That’s when it caught her eye. The flash of a turquoise fin trailing through the water.
Hastily she backed up, crouching to hide her silvery scales as best she could. She remained still, watching silently as two figures emerged from the mist.
‘Sea Talons!’ the dragoness inhaled sharply as she saw a not yet fully grown dragonet climbed up onto the beach, staggering under the weight of her much older companion as she helped him ashore. The male dragon was limping, holding his right front leg close to his chest as scarlet blood dripped from a deep wound.
They managed to make it a few meters up the slope before the dragonet collapsed, unable to support her father any longer.
He dropped down beside her, breathing heavily as he looked back at the maze uneasily. Nothing move out in the mist however and he seemed to relax after a moment or two.
“Ha, ha. We made it,” He laughed almost deliriously, batting the dragonet lightly with his webbed paw.
She rolled her eyes and huffed in response, her iridescent wings flopped down at her sides.
‘Who are these dragons?’ The Ice Talon wondered as she watched from her hiding place. She hadn’t seen new dragons on the island for nearly two years. At least she thought it had been that long. It was hard to tell how long has passed since the massacre. Every day was a fight for survival, a constant game of cat and mouse between her and the island’s residents. Keeping track of how long it had been since she’d left the Ice Kingdom didn’t really matter anymore.
Now two Sea Talons had washed ashore. What were they doing here? Surely they knew the risks?
More importantly, what was she going to do? It was dangerous to approach other dragon tribes and besides it was hard enough on the island alone. A group of three would make more noise and would need more food. Not to mention that one was a dragonet.
No, it was in her best interest to leave them on the beach. She had enough problems of her own.
She turned to go, carful where she placed her paws so as not to alert the Sea Talons to her presence.
But something prevented her from going further. Maybe it was the thought of the Death Grippers smelling the blood on the wind and ambushing the pair in the later hours or maybe it was the dreadful feeling of loneliness that caused her to look back?
The dragonet had gotten to her paws and was helping her father clean his wound, bringing small talonfuls off sea water to wash the gash. He smiled at her and gave her a quick lick on the snout before reaching into a pouch around his neck. He pulled out something that the Ice Talon could only assume was sea weed and wrapped it around his arm, tying a knot to secure it.
“There,” he said, standing up on all four paws, although he still kept most of his weight off the wounded leg, “Now let’s see about finding some shelter for the night.”
The Ice Talon smiled faintly. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad having companions. The male Sea Talon seemed to know what he was doing and the dragonet appeared to be capable of looking after herself.
Just then a faint acidic scent grabbed her attention and she turned her snout skyward. The sun had disappeared behind the north mountain. Nightfall was here. She had to get back before the first star glittered into view. If she wanted to help these dragons she’d have to act now and get them to her cave before those creatures emerged.
Taking a deep breath she step forward and into sight.