Violaceous watched as Feather and himself plunged towards the mountain closest to them. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled ominously. Rain fell hard and fast. Violaceous heard himself shriek, "Feather! What are you doing? We're falling!"

He watched as Feather opened her eyes, squinting at first, but finally she realized that they were about to crash-land onto a particularly rocky mountain side. She gasped and tried to fly away from it, but it was too late.

Feather curled up into a ball, wings stretched out, trying to slow their fall, Violaceous suffocating beneath four fluffy, gray paws. "Don't. Move," Feather said through gritted teeth.

Violaceous didn't understand what she was doing until they hit the rocks. Feather was trying to keep him from harm because his delicate little body would not survive such a fall. "No Feather! Don't! I'll be fine!" Violaceous called as they smashed into some rocks.

Then everything went black.

Violaceous woke up. He felt drowsy and a bit sore, but other than that, he was fine. The mountain had many rocks, but there was also some grass and trees. The thunderstorm had stopped. Then he realized with alarm that Feather was no longer holding him down with her paws. Gasping, he jumped into the air, wincing as he did so, and spun around. His heart stopped.

Feather was lying in an awkward position in the rock pile where they had landed. She was all scratched up, and a gash on her shoulder looked bad. There was a cut on her forehead; blood trickling from it. Her wings were tattered and her one back foot was all bruised up.

Violaceous knew Feather needed help. He knew that he would have to try to find somebody to help her, since he couldn't carry her by himself. So, he searched for someone in his shredded moss coat.

He traveled into a forest. It was dark and cool, like the forest Violaceous had grown up in when he was a young snakeling. There was ivy growing on the trees, a few rotting logs inhabited by spiders and mold, and fallen tree leaves were scattered about the forest floor.

He slithered onto a moss-covered boulder and lay there for a rest, basking in the sunlight pouring through the trees.

A low hiss startled him, and he looked up, poised in a cobra position. "Who's there?" he hissed threateningly, staring into the dark forest shadows.

"It is I," the voice hissed back, "the snake known as Ivory. And yes, foolish snakeling, I am the albino snake of the Willow Woods of the Dragon Haze Mountains. Why have you dared to cross into my land without permission?"

Violaceous was stricken with fright. "You are the legendary White Snake of the Willow Woods? I am very sorry, Ms. Ivory, but I'm not from around here. I hadn't realized that these were the Willow Woods."

Ivory emerged from the shadows, her white scales glinting in the sunlight filtering through the leaves overhead. She glared at Violaceous with red eyes that flashed with malice. "You say you're not from around here. Where are you from, foolish-snakeling-that-dares-to-trespass-on-my-territory? And who hatched you, may I ask?"

Violaceous lifted his chin. "I am Violaceous, Ms. Ivory, ma'am. I am Violaceous of the Snakes of the Serpent Queen. I am a snakeling four-fifths into training and I'm training in the art of the FangBiters. My mother is Lilac of the Violet Fangs and my father is Cyclamen of the Poison Tails. I have traveled here from the Famished Forest on a mission to bring a cat to the Ominous Oasis far away from here."

"A cat? What's its name?" Ivory's eyes brightened when Violaceous mentioned a cat.

"Why are you so interested in the cat?" Violaceous hissed, eyes narrowed with suspicion.

Ivory laughed. "Ah, little snakeling, you are a clever snake-in-training. All right, I'll tell you why I'm so interested in this cat you say you've brought along with you. Will you please follow me to the shed for some mice pudding?"

"Pudding? I'd be thrilled to, Ms. Ivory, thanks!" Violaceous said excitedly, licking his lips.

Ivory gave Violaceous a smirk, which was the closest thing to a smile that Ivory could think of. She slithered through a patch of dense brush and approached an old shed.

Violaceous stared at the old shed in awe. It was rotting and it creaked whenever the wind blew. There was a square-shaped hole on the front of it where a window used to be. A rotted door swayed in the breeze, leaning forward on two hinges, the first hinge missing. The door knob was grimy and mud was caked on it. The inside was full of rusty old tools on broken shelves. There was a shredded old rug in the center and a mower in the back of the shed. A musty aroma filled the shed, making Violaceous choke.

Ivory turned around. "Well, this is where the dreaded White Snake of the Willow Woods lives. You get accustomed to the smell after a while. Here, let me get out the pudding and we can have a little chat, okay?"

Violaceous nodded, eager to get to the pudding part of the talk-to-be-had.

Ivory disappeared behind the mower and returned with a chipped bowl full of mice pudding clamped tightly in her jaws. She set it on the rug. Then she disappeared behind the mower again and came back with another, smaller bowl with a thin little crack going down the side and a rusty, silver spoon. She set those down beside the pudding bowl and picked up the spoon with her mouth. She dipped the spoon into the pudding and carefully lifted the spoon, brought it over to the mouth of the other bowl, and tipped the spoon so that the pudding would fall into the smaller bowl. Then she dipped the spoon into the pudding again and repeated this action until the smaller bowl was filled about halfway with pudding. She then pushed the smaller bowl towards Violaceous and straightened herself.

"Okay, I'll begin," Ivory said as Violaceous stuffed himself silly with pudding; taking huge mouthfuls so that when he swallowed he looked like he was gulping down a large egg.

"My son, a great big, green snake named Viridian of the Scratched Scales, was a FangBiter for the Serpent Queen and-"

"Hey! I'm training to be a FangBiter! Like your son! Viridi-something," Violaceous interrupted, his mouth full of tan-colored pudding.

Ivory shot Violaceous a glare. "Be quiet and listen you snakeling slob!"

Violaceous whimpered and shrank back a bit, but soon returned to eating.

"Now. Where was I? Oh yes. You see, my son, Viridian, was a FangBiter for the Serpent Queen. He was in an extremely high rank and he was the strongest and most feared FangBiter. One day, he was traveling from the Ominous Oasis where the Serpent Queen was living to Willow Woods to pay a visit to me." Ivory's eyes softened at the thought of her son, strong and lean, pride in his eyes, scaring every creature on his journey to the Willow Woods.

Violaceous tilted his head to one side and looked up, chewing thoughtfully. He pictured Viridian skipping through the woods, wearing a red cloak and carrying a basket, batting his enormous eyelashes at a pair of cute little bunny-rabbits.

Ivory returned to the story. "He was going along at a good rate and he would've reached me in less than two days. However," and now Ivory's eyes clouded in sorrow and she hung her head, "three shadow-claws ambushed him and they formed a Shadow-Cloud around him so that no one would be able to see him or the shadow-claws.

"The night he was ambushed I received a dream. All I saw was my son being ambushed and then vanishing. I knew he was being hidden in a Shadow-Cloud and I was very upset. I couldn't see trees or bushes or anything, so I have no clue where he is.

"Then the picture shifted and I saw three figures: the Serpent Queen, a small shape that was blurred and another blurred animal that was larger than the other blotched figure.

"Then these words rang through my head:

'There will come a cat with the spirit of a bird. She will see through the shadow-claw's veil and free your son from his bonds. He will return to you.'

"That's when I realized who the cat was, and I have been searching for her ever since."

Violaceous swallowed the last of the pudding. "Who is it?" he asked.

Ivory looked up and met his gaze, her eyes flashing with hope. "The cat," she said, her voice a whisper, "is the Serpent Queen."