The snow of ash had caught up with the reptile. It settled silently on the vegetation, dusted the creature’s armor. Behind, the volcano crackled and seethed. Seams of red laced the simmering, heaving rock like fresh wounds. Small fires kicked up as the burning river met tree and bush, roaring urgently for some minutes, drowning out the volcano’s more sinister sounds. But when those fires died, the whispers of the weird, hot froth filled the air again.
Scutosaurus ignored the sounds and had tolerated the smell. Gasses leaked unseen from the rock, their scent sharp and sulphurous, as if millions of red-headed matches were constantly being dragged against a mountain-sized striker; but now the fumes were irritating its eyes, clawing at its throat, burning the raw insides of its nostrils. With a huff, the beast marched away from the fires and vapors and surging rock.
There was no reason to stay, of course. The ash was creating a thick, gray blanket over the green, and covered so, the plants tasted only of soot. But by its galumphing tread and its eyes, cool and tired, carrying a grandfather’s dimly disappointed stare, one might think the animal resented the very earth for the inconvenience.