Tal’on was being assaulted from all sides on the battlefield. Sandcor troops surrounded him. They were doing their best to overwhelm the young dragon with numbers, because it was obvious their weapons were of little use to them. The ground shook beneath the dragon’s feet with the explosions of their extensive arsenal. Smoke and dirt was thick enough in the air it made it difficult to breathe.
Tal’on was fighting one of the most violent battles of his short career with the Valdare. The Sandcor were making a final stand in the valley before the canyon, which led into their capital. They were determined to stop the monster once and for all. They charged at Tal’on as he fought tooth and claw against them. A swipe of his paw and three men fell before him. A sweep of his wing and several more challengers were knocked to the ground. He was relentless as the Sandcor continued to pile up on him. They had formed a battle line against the Valdare, so they could not assist their ‘number one’ weapon, Tal’on.
Tal’on readied his fire glands, but the Sandcor had met him in battle before. They knew about his fire breathing ability and they were ready this time. They launched several heavy metal nets at his head. One fell short, one Tal’on swiped out of the air, but the third, from behind him, fell over his head. Brave Sandcor soldiers rushed forward and grabbed the lines from the net pulling Tal’on’s head down. Before he could resist his muzzle was wrapped and sealed shut.
As hard as Tal’on fought there were too many of the Sandcor. They swarmed over him like ants over a dead carcass. Lines were thrown over him and the ends staked down, pinning him to the ground.
It was at this point that Graf’tal, Ere’lee, Bel’lar, Cras’mul and Haf’nad appeared at the edge of the battlefield. The five dragons were all old enough, and well traveled enough, to know what humans were and recognize what was happening.
They saw what they could hardly recognize as Tal’on in the middle of the field. Over his long absence from his kin he had not only experienced stasis, he had also matured into a full grown dragon. But, he was a dragon in trouble.
The five older dragons did not know the difference between Valdare and Sandcor. They only knew they had finally found Tal’on and they intended to take him home. With fire, claws and teeth they barged into the battle to free the young dragon. They killed everyone who came between the youngling and them.
Tal’on saw his fellow dragons and would have called to them except his muzzle was sealed shut with the net tightly wrapped around it. His eyes filled with grateful tears as he saw Graf’tal level a path to his side. His huge paws and wings took out lines of both Valdare and Sandcor troops as he bullied his way to his youngling’s side.
Graf’tal was the first to reach Tal’on. His massive claws sliced through the ropes that held Tal’on to the ground. He plowed through the Sandcor hanging from the lines holding the net in place over the young dragon’s head. He freed his head of the net with strategically placed tooth and claw. Graf’tal did not know the collar Tal’on wore was not part of the enemy’s restraint, so he took his massive, wickedly sharp claws, hooked them under the collar and slit it in two. Tal’on had not even tried to do this for fear of it exploding or the Prime taking vengeance on Delevy if he tried. Now it was done in a moment with no turning back.
“We must go,” Graf’tal called to Tal’on. “We will jump with you.” Graf’tal roared to the other dragons to follow. “Jump.”
Tal’on shook his head even as he reached out to kill yet another Sandcor who still chose battle over retreat.
“I can’t,” he told his Great. “There is someone here I must see safely free first.”
“Where are they?” Graf’tal asked, as he stood among the many dead and dying troops.
The other dragons had wreaked havoc while Graf’tal freed his youngling. The battlefield ran red with the blood of both Valdare and Sandcor.
“Not far,” Tal’on said. “We can fly there in less time than it would take to get from the nest site to the shore at home.
“Then we can jump even quicker,” Graf’tal answered. “We are leaving,” he called to the other dragons. “Tal’on will lead.”
“I haven’t jumped since I saw you last,” Tal’on said hesitantly. “I am not sure I can.”
“Of course you can,” Graf’tal scoffed. “You were one of my best jumping students.”
He placed a reassuring wing over Tal’on’s battered scales. The youngling was a mess even though he wore some type of protective gear over his torso.
“Think of the place where you want to be,” he coached. “Picture it and we will follow.”
“I don’t want to get lost again.”
Tal’on could almost hear the fear in his own voice. He finally had his Great once more at his side. He was going to go home. He was going to be able to leave this wretched place. He didn’t want to misstep.
“I won’t let you, my son,” Graf’tal said. “I am here, at your side. Nothing will separate us again.”
Tal’on swallowed the lump in his throat. He pictured the courtyard at the top of the steps which led to the cell below holding Delevy and he jumped.