There was a taste in the air that had not been there before.
Viz’rek made her way through the labyrinth of underground tunnels that she called home. She had left her cramped Hive for a time until she was certain the Broodmother had sufficient time to calm down. The recent earthquakes had agitated the enormous raknar, and Kiv’toz grew hungry when she was irritated. Viz’rek had no ambition to become her next meal and so she went in search of something new.
The bioluminescent fungi that clung to the warm, damp walls of the tunnel cast a familiar green glow that Viz’rek used to pick her away around the newly fallen stones. Before the recent shakes, she had travelled this particular tunnel several times. Once a lava tube of a deep, hidden volcano, it was now cold with dense, heavy walls. She favored it due to its slow but regular upward slope. To her reckoning, the terminus of this particular tunnel was the highest point of all the tunnels and caverns she had travelled in her short existence.
This visit was different than before though, because of the new taste. It intrigued her greatly, not because of the heavy, raw, earth-scent that permeated the space. No, it was an unfamiliar, cold flavor that cut through the miasma of the tube. It was sharp, exhilarating, and she wanted more of it.
Viz’rek made her way to the end of the old lava tube, her excitement carefully restrained. In several places the ceiling and floor had shifted and narrowed the tunnel, so caution was required. She squeezed her way through the gaps with only a few scratches on her carapace thanks to the pads on the tips of her tarsals that allowed her to cling to the walls and ceilings. The closer to the end she came, the stronger the raw earth smell grew, until it almost smothered the new taste.
When she at last came to the terminus, Viz’rek discovered that it had collapsed to reveal a new tunnel overhead. Using her raptorial limbs, she carefully pulled at the stone to create a larger access that she could pull herself through. She chittered with excitement; the thrill of discovery was nearly as delicious as that of the hunt.
The new tunnel was much dryer than the one below and lacked the bioluminescent light. But that did not worry her, for the only thing that raknar feared was the burning anguish of fire. With the raw-earth behind her, she could taste the new scent with greater clarity and she eagerly sought its source. As she pushed on through the unfamiliar darkness, a pinpoint of color caught her eyes in the distance. It was a barely detectable variation in the deep darkness surrounding her, but it was enough to give her focus and she increased her pace.
The tunnel suddenly opened into a much larger cavern. She carefully tapped her raptorials on the wall, attempting to estimate the size based on the echoing of the sound. The space was nearly as large as her Hive deep below, but something gigantic was at its center. A new scent, just as sharp as the first but with a strong metallic tone, radiated from the massive form and mixed with the first. Viz’rek climbed onto the wall of the cavern, curious as to the source.
She could feel a chilling sort of energy drift over her in waves. Her impressively powerful eyes could make out a mountain of ghostly white scales in the small amount of light available to her. Every so often there was noticeable rise and then fall of the form, bringing with it a renewed strength to the metallic scent. Viz’rek continued to skirt along the wall of the space until she noticed a gradual brightening of the space. A cool breeze tickled her trichobothria and she involuntarily shivered.
Viz’rek discovered the source of the increased light and cool air at the end of a large passageway leading from the cavern. Outside the tunnel she encountered a world wholly unfamiliar. The ground was white and nearly crystalline with great green stalagmites rose from the whiteness, a powdering of the same crystals on their feathery formations. Overhead the ceiling was an intense blue, so far overhead that she could not begin to judge the distance. Clutching tightly to the blue ceiling was the most intensely bright orb she had ever encountered, colored a shade that tickled her mind as nothing had before in her experiences.
Viz’rek stared up at it and felt a jolt of fear; it was burning! She instinctually knew that burning things meant fire, and fire was terrifying. She froze, hoping she had not caught the attention of the burning-fire-orb. She studied it for a few moments, the fear slowly subsiding when it failed to move toward her. The light it cast down upon her location brought with it a vague sense of warmth, and she enjoyed the contrast from the cold air.
As she continued to stare out into the icy world before her, she noticed a figure moving into the distant forest.The familiar urge to hunt crept into her thoughts. Before she could give it more than a passing thought, she found herself already picking her way through the white powder covering the ground. It was cold and clung to her tarsals, but she found it muffled the noise of her movements and she quickly fell within stalking distance of her target without being detected.
She held back at a safe distance, sizing up the creature. It had a peculiar method of locomotion, walking upon two of its four limbs while using the rest to push aside the snow-laden branches in its way. It was covered in a heavy outer fur, with only the bright red face exposed to the elements. The creature lacked claws, fangs, or a stinger of any sort. Its scent tasted heavenly to Viz’rek; warm, rich, and succulent. She felt her glands swell in anticipation, so she closed the gap with a single leap and struck.
The thick fur provided little resistance to her raptorial claws, and fell away from the body to expose the soft pink flesh it had protected. Red blood flew in every direction, stippling the pristine white snow. The creature, who had begun to scream and struggle at the start of the attack, finally gave in to death and Viz’rek dined on the most magnificent meal of her experience.
When she had eaten her fill of flesh she cleaned as much of the grime from her body as she could before returning to the tunnel. Despite her warm meal, the cold of the air was sapping her strength and causing her senses to dull. It did not take her long to return to the relative warmth of the darkness and she began to have tingling feelings of excitement. She would gain great status and recognition with Kiv’toz and the rest of the hive for her discovery. The broodmother would consider her of value then. The larger raknar would no longer need to prey upon the weaker if more delicious two-legged prey could be found.
In her excitement to return to her hive, Viz’rek had forgotten the large creature in the cavern. She did not notice the enormous amber eyes following her as she skirted the edges of the space, searching for the lava tube to lead her back home. She did hear the whoosh of air as the ancient frost dragon dove for her, its gaping maw ready to consume her in a single bite. She did feel the freezing effect of its breath for a brief moment before she descended into darkness and then felt nothing at all.
The ancient frost dragon chewed the small meal once, then twice, before swallowing. He used one mighty talon to pick the leg section that stuck out between his magnificent fangs before making himself comfortable again on his hoard. It was pleasant when a snack bothered to come to one when one was hungry. It would have to locate more of those crunchy treats in the future; it liked the gooey center.