They reach the island just after nightfall. Exhausted, damp and stinking of salt and sweat, Falcon heaves himself out of the boat and crawls up the rocky beach, momentarily collapsing against a seaweed-covered boulder.
Now I remember why I don't go on boats, he thinks, they're so damned heavy!
The others scramble out of the dinghy after him, all looking somewhat bedraggled - Eternal still dripping from her escapade in the sea. They stand on the beach for a moment, then Falcon drags himself reluctantly to his feet and sets about heaving the boat up over the pebbles. He doesn't have the strength to take it far, but simply drops it near some rockpools before turning to look at where they've washed up. What he sees startles him a good deal more than he should have.
Beyond the rocky beach, the island seems to be entirely covered by trees. In the darkness they rise, tall and ominous, over the silent ground. Nothing makes a sound, not even an owl or a mouse rustling in the leaflitter. There isn't even a breeze to stir the branches. The trees stand close together, so close Falcon can barely see between the trunks in the gloom. Nothing stirrs, the only sound is their own breathing and the gentle lapping of the tide against the shore. For all they knew, they could be the only living things on the island. But they know they're not.
Shuddering involuntarily, the party make their way to the edge of the trees. Here, too tired to carry on, they lie down and rest. Chocolate and Life are the first to sleep, Helena curled on her side a short way off. Eternal and the children nestle against the base of one of the trees, their breathing deep and regular, perfectly in sync with one another. Only Falcon remains awake, gazing into the shadows of the forest, the light of the moon reflecting on his eyes. He's tired, but something about this place makes him unable to sleep. It's not the forest that unsettles him - it's what's waiting on the other side. Somewhere on this island, there is a dragon. He may not be able to see it, but he knows it's there, it's presence hanging over them like a dark cloud across the moon. A thought occurs to Falcon, a thought so unnerving he pushes it aside almost as soon as he thinks of it.
We know it's here. Does it know we're here?