Zoltar stared, fixated on the Queen. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d known the Wind Talons must have a Lightning Talon because of the gold scale he’d found, but he would never have guessed that it was the Queen herself.
“Ah, you must be the Shadow Talon,” she said, laying the scroll down onto a pedestal next to her. She got to her feet, her movements purposeful and yet graceful, like a lioness on the prowl.
She waved a wing, dismissing Delareth, who stepped out of the room without a word, the doors closing with foreboding boom behind him.
Zoltar noted that the Wind Talon hadn’t chained him to the loops in the floor, instead leaving him hobbled, but able to move around. He wondered for a moment what you had to do as a prisoner to be chained to them.
“My soldiers told me about you and your Ice Talon companion,” the Queen carried on as she circled Zoltar, studying him with her mesmerizing eyes.
Zoltar held his ground, refusing to cower.
“and how they’d overheard you and the Ice Talon talking about my Kingdom and how you planned to enter it by sundown last night. Is this true?” she purred in an almost silky voice, though her eyes held an iron grip on him as if they were piercing through his mind and into his soul.
Zoltar thought back. He couldn’t remember him or Felistia mention anything about the Wind Talon Kingdom, at least not in a place where the Wind Talons could have over heard them. In fact the day before seemed fuzzy somehow, his mind unable to recall anything specific.
He racked his mind, all the time painfully aware of the Lightning Talon in front of him. Her tail rested on the ground beside her, still, but pointed directly at him, ready to strike at the slightest provocation.
“Maybe you need a little reminder. Our poison can impair your short term memory temporarily if used sparingly,” she flashed her crystal white teeth, waving her tail ever so gently back and forth, “You and the Ice Talon were carelessly taking a break by our river. You mentioned to her that you could only stay an hour or so because you wanted to be well into the Wind Talon Kingdom by nightfall, remember?”
Zoltar felt his scales go cold as he recalled the last half an hour or so before being captured.
They’d flown in without a care in the world, taking no precautions to hide themselves or to be stealthy. The Wind Talons must have seen them well before they’d even landed and had waited for them in the bushes on the opposite bank. They would have overheard everything.
The Queen watched him as he worked it out, a thin stream of smoke slowly coiling from her snout.
“Yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about,” she growled, before a satisfied smile crept over her snout, “Now, you are going to tell me exactly why you and an Ice Talon would want to sneak into my Kingdom. Don’t try to fool me, you’ll find I won’t be so merciful.”
Zoltar nodded with a gulp, his resolve melting under the Queen’s hypnotic gaze.
“Good,” the Queen turned, picking up a small, twisted, metal pick from beside her throne. She leant down to unlock Zoltar’s mouth clamp, the metal splitting in two with the click of the key, “Now start from the beginning and don’t leave out anything I’d want to know.”
Zoltar took a deep breath, trying to calm the shaking running through his paws. How much should he tell her? What would she want to hear and what was irrelevant?
He bite his lip. Maybe the best thing to do would be to start off by showing her the Lightning Diamond. It would explain a lot and would hopefully make her trust him a little bit, enough to stop pointing her tail barb at him.
“Okay…” Zoltar began, wincing at the stammer in his voice, “but, I think I should show you something first. It would do a lot of the talking…”
He couldn’t help flinching away from her as she hissed, her tail lashing, “This better not be a trick Shadow Talon. What could you possibly have that would explain your presence here?”
Zoltar cringed as he held up his paws, “I promise it’s not a trick.” He slowly reached behind his shoulder blade, grasping the two stones nestled under his scales.
The Queen watched him intensely, her tail raised, ready to strike.
“Here, see?” Zoltar placed the stones onto the marble floor, rolling them towards her.
Her expression changed instantly upon seeing them.
Cautiously, she picked up the rolling storm blue diamond which flashed a crackling white upon contact before fading back to a cloudy cobalt.
“You have the Lightning Diamond?” Her voice barely a whisper as she gazed at the stone, clutching it as though it would disappear if she let it go for a second.
“Yes,” Zoltar murmured, relieved to see that her stance had relaxed, “Felistia, the Ice Talon and I were going to return it to you. That’s why we came here. We hoped to form an alliance with you in return for the diamond. At least that was the plan before your soldiers intercepted us.”
“I haven’t seen this in almost ten years. I thought…,” The Queen looked away, her wings sagging for a moment before, with a flick of her tail, she regained her composure. She picked up the other crystal white diamond, examining it as she twisted it around, “The Ice Diamond too?”
She eyed Zoltar, her eyes flashing from him to the floor and back, before she smiled slyly, “You wouldn’t happen to be Zoltar, would you?”
Zoltar froze for a moment. How did she know his name? He nodded.
She bared her teeth in a pleased way, the silver spines along her back flexing, “So you’re the one the Sea Talon and Wisp Talon were talking about.”