Hey guys! I'm back with another chapter, actually the same chapter, just re-uploaded. The original copy had some coding issues so I had to fix it.
Thank you to 'The Ducks' for pointing out the issue to me!
Iris flapped her wings and leaped away from another set of talons. "Leave me alone!" She slapped away a pair of vicious jaws. "I don't want to hurt you!"
The sand seemed to barely hold her up, and Iris felt herself sinking deeper into the arena floor. More pale faceless dragons clawed at her, hundreds of them all piling on top of her. Suddenly, a strong claw gripped her forearm and dragged her to the surface. A Mudwing face stared back at her.
"Clay!" Iris went to wrap her wings around him, but he stepped back quickly.
"Are you alright?" She glanced around, noticing the ghost-like dragons had disappeared. "Hey, where did all of those dragons go?"
Clay said nothing. He turned and walked into the center of the arena. Iris to ran after him, but metal bars slammed down in front of her, blocking her way.
"Clay!" She screeched and reached through the bars. The Mudwing didn't even look back at her.
A scream ripped through the arena, "ICEWING!"
A cloud of white and blue, all too vibrant to be real, hovered over the arena. In a swift motion, it descended on the single dragonet standing in the middle.
"CLAY OF THE MUDWINGS!"
Iris jerked her head up from the stone floor, gasping for air. She leaped up and turned in a circle, punctuating each step with a sharp gasp.
The Skywing on the pavilion next to her jumped back, giving her a bewildered stare.
Iris was about to ask him what he was looking at when a shout from below caught her attention.
Down in the arena, two opponents faced each other. One was wearing a nervous sort-of half-smile, while the other bore an ugly grimace accompanied by a jagged scar running down his face.
Iris noticed with a start that the nervous one was, undoubtedly, Clay, though she had no idea who the other opponent was- besides the fact that he was an Icewing.
Her mind instantly started flashing through the possibilities, Clay dying, the Icewing dying, Queen Scarlet killing them both, an asteroid falling from space and striking the whole Skywing kingdom dead…
The Rainwing shook her head as if clearing away the useless thoughts. Her talon began to tap the stone nervously, rat-a-TAT, rat-a-TAT, rat-a-TAT. The steady beat began to rattle around her skull.
She watched Clay jump around on the sand, narrowly avoiding the Icewing's claws.
A dangerous thought began to creep into her head, a scary phrase from an old friend.
It's not like that here, you have to. They make you.
More and more thoughts started flooding Iris' mind.
Will Clay kill that Icewing? Do I want him to kill that Icewing? If he does, will I ever be able to look at him the same way? Will he turn out like Grouper? What did Grouper even turn out like? I didn't give him a chance to explain. Maybe I should try and talk to him? No, he killed dragons, plus, to even get near him I would have to escape this prison. Wait, Clay's pinned down. No, no, Clay, get up!
A spark of anger came from within her, and red pulsed along her scales. "C' mon Clay!" Iris roared, pounding her tail against the stone. Pain spiked along where her tail hit, but she paid no attention. "Clay, fight! Sunny needs you!" The Rainwing gasped and took a step back. No, no, I can't be rooting for him to fight. But… What if that's the only way Clay can win?
Something caught her eye, and Iris turned. She saw that Tsunami had leaped off one of the prisons and was pulling at the wires mid-air, trying to get down to Clay. It reminded her of a shiny blue beetle caught in a spider's web. Prisoners around her fought desperately to keep from being pulled off of their own spires, holding the Seawing up in the process.
Iris heard a disgruntled cry from the Queen below. A few dragons in the stands booed at Tsunami for interrupting their fun. Prisoners around the circle screamed at her to stop so they wouldn't fall to their deaths.
Then there was the worst scream.
A terrifyingly loud, brutal, scale-peeling, scream. A scream that Iris recognized.
A scene unfolded in her head. A group of young dragonets playing in the jungle. One says something along the lines of, "Watch this." A stream of venom shoots from their mouth in the direction of a banana tree. It lands directly on one of the leaves. The dragonets are impressed for a moment. Then the screams begin.
Another dragonet had been sitting perfectly still on the tree, camouflaged, spying, most likely. The venom landed on her foot. A foot that looked exactly like the leaf of a banana tree.
Iris turned to look back at the fight, paranoia and horror crashing together like waves in her head- but she wasn't just being paranoid, she was right.
The Icewing's face had already turned into something unrecognizable. An ugly mess of melted flesh and scales that looked the tree sap, bits of bone could be seen through the skin that now more closely resembled soup.
Iris once again buried her head underneath her wings. She heard the scrawny dragon next to her throw up. She spent a few minutes trying to erase the image from her mind.
Then, after her mind was finally back to some semblance of stability, a new thought occurred to her.
That was Rainwing venom. There are no other Rainwings in the Sky prisons. I didn't spray that prisoner.
She slowly lifted her head out from underneath her wings. Her eyes settled on the marble tree sitting next to Queen Scarlet's throne.
A rock flew up in the air and fell back down, only to be caught in a large, purple palm. The palm threw up the rock again, waiting until the rock had almost hit the floor before catching it. Over and over the rock was tossed up and caught again, each time it got closer and closer to the ground before it was caught.
It had been hours since Clay's fight, and Iris had been looking for ways to pass the time. At first she had tried striking up a conversation with the prisoners next to her, but she had felt from the beginning that wouldn't work, and she was right. They both ignored her, the scrawny Skywing even turning his back on her. At that moment she had felt a pang of loneliness. She had wanted someone to talk too, Grouper, Jambu, Horizon, even nearby bird would have been nice.
Eventually, she had been able to pry a small chunk of rock loose from the pavilion and had been playing with it for a while.
She tossed the rock up again, only this time she misjudged the distance and it flew too far. Her only companion plummeted over the edge of her prison.
The Rainwing sighed and flopped down next to the small crack in the stone that she had gotten the first rock from and started scratching at it, preparing herself for sore claws the next morning.
"Hey Rainwing, feeding time."
She glanced up and saw a guard hovering above her prison, he had a sour look on his face and was holding a sack that was so full it was almost tearing at the seams. He reached into the bag and pulled out something furry. It made a strange noise as the guard dropped it onto the pavilion. The animal stood as still as a stone for a few seconds before promptly falling over and screaming.
Iris flinched and covered her ears. She met the guard's eyes, "Uh, what's up?"
The guard rolled his eyes and turned to fly away, but not before Iris could cry out. "Wait!"
He stopped looking back at the Rainwing, "What do you want?"
"Well," she hesitated, "You see, Rainwings don't really eat meat."
The guard paused, blinked, and then began laughing so loud Iris was surprised the ground didn't start to shake.
One of the other guards flew over from another sky prison, "What is it Lightning?"
"Did you hear Feather," Lightning breathed between gasps, "Rainwings don't eat meat!"
Iris heard a small squeak come from the other guard, but she straightened up and put on a serious face. "Well, then I guess we're going to have to report that to the Queen." She swooped down just above Iris's prison and wrapped her talons neatly around the screaming animal, "And I'll take this for myself- since none of the prisoners will be eating it today."
Lightning slowly regained his composure, "Alright, I'll tell the Queen, maybe then she'll be able to think up some special treat for her pet."
Queen Scarlet's pet? He must mean Glory. Wait, she's been getting meat this whole time? How awful!
Iris watched the two fly off towards the palace, "Hey, what am I going to eat!"
She received no answer except for their rapidly fading wingbeats.
After a while of unsuccessfully scraping at the small crack in the stone floor, trying to loosen another chunk of rock, Iris heard a soft thunk across the pavilion. She turned and saw a small wooden bowl overflowing with berries, along with a dragon already winging it towards the palace.
Iris darted over to the bowl, shoveling its contents into her mouth. I don't think I've ever been this hungry before in my life. Well, then again, I don't think I've ever missed a meal before either.
When the last berry had been consumed, Iris flopped back onto the pavilion. She was still hungry, but she guessed that fruit was all she would be getting for a while.
Above her, clouds floated by in a slow march, their white-ness sticking out against the streaks of red and orange that slowly overtook the sky.
As she watched the clouds steadily make their way across the sky, her mind seemed to relax for the first time in days. The stress of possibly fighting in the arena, the strange dragonets she had found, the fact that Glory had melted a dragon's face off, and even Grouper, slipped out of her head. Soon she felt her eyelids growing heavy, the sky became a blurry mix of purple and red, and Iris's mind fell away into nothingness.
The next day was much more exciting.
A nervous feeling enveloped Iris like a blanket. Her talons tapped in rapid formation on the stone below her, Rat-a-tat, Rat-a-tat, Rat-a-TAT.
Rather than resolving some of the anxious thoughts Iris had been having, that day had added even more to the list.
A very interesting trial had happened, involving one of Clay's weird adoptive-slash-kidnapper parents. Apparently, she had had two very special dragonets, one was special in a way that meant it was basically always on fire and could burn things with a single touch, and the other special in a way that meant they had no fire.
It was a death sentence for both of them.
Kestrel, Clay's weird mom, had been told, by Queen Scarlet, to kill one, and let the other live. An impossible request, Iris had thought, but apparently, Skywings were tougher than most- because Kestrel did it. She killed the dragonet with no fire.
But, Queen Scarlet had revoked her order, telling her guards to take Kestrel away and kill the other dragonet. The desperate mother tried to flee, but the dragonet's scales had burned her palms and she had been forced to drop her.
The story ended, and Iris had come quickly to her conclusion, the dragon, or 'The Queen's Champion', that had murdered Horizon was Kestral's daughter.
Then things had begun to get interesting. The bright, tangerine-colored dragon, or, Peril, had dove into the arena, shouting at the queen and demanding to fight for her mother, saying something about a Champion's Shield.
The queen had sat, frozen for a moment, before questioning the dragon about where she could have heard about such things.
Then, it was Peril's time to freeze.
That poor, poor, old dragon, Iris thought, sighing at the memory of what had happened next.
The queen had grabbed Osprey and lifted him high in the air, then, in a second, dropped him. He had plummeted to earth, his wings took too long to outstretch, and his tail seemed to weigh him down. At that point, Iris had had to look away, but from the sound his body made when he hit the ground, she knew his fate.
Everyone was so quiet after it had happened, even the dragons who had laughed and cheered along with Scarlet had nothing to add.
The queen had agreed to Peril's challenge and left, and that was it. The dragon's in the stands left, Peril left, Kestrel was taken back to her cell, and eventually, the only ones left were the ones who came to clean up Osprey's body.
How can they all be so casual about death? Iris remembered thinking. She had thought about that for a long time but still couldn't find an answer.