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rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« on: January 12, 2015, 05:23:07 pm »
Welcome, everyone! The seven hunters are back and they are relating their adventures to their children. But we have only heard one story thus far, so what happened after their epic defeat of Redclaw? What crises befell the pack after they left the Great Valley? How did they take back their territory? What happened to their friends and allies? And, most importantly, how did these numerous children come about? Well gather around and listen along as the seven hunters answer these questions and more by singing to you tales of perseverance, love, and courage.

Please note that this is a sequel of sorts to my first fanfiction, The Seven Hunters. If you have not read that yet, then it is highly recommended that you do so in order to understand what is going on. That story is rated M for depictions of graphic violence (which you would expect from a story focusing on sharpteeth) so you may need to modify your content filter in order to see it. I plan to keep this story in compliance with a 'T' rating, however.


Fanfiction link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10967589/1/Songs-of-the-Hunters

Prologue

The night circle shined brightly on the lush vegetation of the massive forest.  Its luminous reflection caused the world below the canopy to descend into a chaotic mosaic of profound darkness interposed with brilliant light.  The magnificent green of the foliage shined through the darkness that permeated every corner of the verdant wilderness.  For a leaf-eater such darkness would have caused great anxiety as each shadow could have hidden the instruments of their doom.

But for the predators who called this land their own, there was no such trepidation.

An adult fastbiter quietly stood in one of these beam's of moonlight as he growled to his mate and daughter who were resting at the base of a tree.  As their nocturnal conversation continued, each paid little attention to the darkness that surrounded them.  In this place they were undoubtedly safe.  No one would dare attack them.

How very wrong they were.

In the darkness a pair of red eyes gleamed in the light of the night circle.  As they were fixed directly behind the adult sharptooth, no one else in the family saw the coming danger.  Slowly but surely, the predator approached his target under the cover of darkness.  As it shifted from a stalking position to a pouncing pose, the hapless fastbiter only had moments left.  Then, with a powerful thrust of his legs, the predator leaped into the air.  The adult stood no chance.

Chomp!

"Ow!  What the..."

"Ha!  Got you, daddy!"

The fastbiter looked upon the retreating brown form of the youngling with barely concealed amusement.  They had only begun to teach the young ones about using stealth in hunting the night prior and it seemed that the little one had decided to use his newly learned skill on a very inviting target.

His father's tail.

"That is very good, Biter, but your target isn't very good."  Ruby called out in her sing song way.  "We do not bite daddy.  We bite food."  Her voice was slightly reproachful, but her amusement was obvious.

"But, mommy..."  Ruby's gaze turned towards the nearby form of a reddish youngling.  Their daughter almost approached Biter in terms of her mischievousness.  "...we have seen you bite daddy before.  Why did you bite him if he wasn't food?  If he wasn't food then why did you bite him?"

The stone gave me teeth and claws, but it couldn't fix a speech impediment.  Ruby noted with amusement at her daughter's tell-tale vocal pattern.  She was about to answer when another voice called out.

"Yeah... why do you get to bite the leader and we don't?"

As if on cue, the orange form of Taunt came into view of the small family.  To his sides, his mate and their three children could be seen advancing in a rowdy mess.  One child clung to their mother's back, while the other two did their best to try to catch the other's tail.  The female's eyes were rolled in a way that only someone who was long since resigned to such chaos could manage.

"Well, dear..."  Cera answered for the cheeky male.  "She is mated to him and someone has to keep him in line."  Ruby gave a thankful nod to Cera's comment as Littlefoot rolled his eyes at the dig that the females had at his expense.  

Ruby nodded as she gave an answer to her curious daughter.  "Mommy and daddy are bigger than you and it isn't wise to bite something that is bigger than you can chew."  Ruby gave a smirk in Littlefoot's direction.  "I can handle your daddy in a fight, but you wouldn't be able to."

"Then why can't I bite sis..."

As if guessing correctly her brother's actions, the youngling female rolled to her side and swiped the male's legs out from under him with her tail.  In a triumphant strut she kicked dirt onto the stunned male's face.

The assembled sharpteeth laughed at the male's expense as he pouted on his haunches.  After a few moments, Ruby and Littlefoot both helped dust their son off and made sure that he wasn't injured.  The only thing that was injured on this night was someone's ego.

"Alright, everyone.  That is enough fighting for today."  Littlefoot spoke with a calm, fatherly voice.  It had all of the imperiousness of his voice when he gave orders, but with the softness that only came from deep, undying love.  The two little biters began to calm immediately.  

"We have practiced your fighting over the last few days, but now I think that it is time that you learned more about your past..."

"Oh!  Can we hear the one about Calin being killed?!  I want to hear about how he was ripped apart again!"

Littlefoot sighed at the comment from Taunt's daughter.

"No, Ambush."  The female's face fell at Littlefoot's response.  "That is a story that your father should have left for when you were a bit older..."  He gave the other male a glare, to which Taunt simply gave him an apologetic smile.  

"Are you going to tell about the time when you all were food?!"

Littlefoot closed his eyes as Ruby could be heard behind him chuckling at how the night was progressing.  The adult members of the pack gave Littlefoot a lot of deference, but the children on the other hand...

"No, Sniffer."  The brown fastbiter chuckled.  "We are not going to talk about our time as food."  Littlefoot could tell that youngling's voice from anywhere.  Spike and Breeze's children all had a healthy interest in food that they undoubtedly received from their father's tendencies.  If they had arrive on the scene then that only left two more families.  As the sound of running feet and flapping wings could be heard, he knew that he didn't have to wait long to hear from them.

"Are we going to hear about the rainbowfaces?"  

"Grandma flyer?"

"The Stone of Cold Fire?"

"Quiet!!!"

Littlefoot looked over at the fastbiter who had made the interjection.  The green fastbiter's exclamation would have been very surprising back in their leaf-eater days, but was par the course now.  As Ducky often affirmed 'it takes a loud momma to be heard by loud babies.'  She would know, she had five of them to deal with.

Littlefoot waited for the families to gather around him as they eventually settled into a circle.  Cera and Taunt's family settled to Littlefoot's left, while Spike and Breeze settled to his right.  Ducky's family settled in front of the leader's field of view and Petrie and his mate were of course listening on the tree behind them.  Ducky's mate was currently helping Chomper inspect the territory otherwise he would be here as well.  With those two exceptions, the entire pack was present.

Littlefoot gave a warm smile to the children.  "No... today,  I want to tell you a new song.  One that you haven't heard yet."  He thought for a moment as he took on a contemplative expression.  "I think that we should sing to you about what happened to all of us after the valley was saved."

"But Seeker..."  Petrie's voice called out from the tree.  "That take all night.  Too many songs."

Ducky nodded in agreement.  "My babies are already tired from their swimming lessons."  Littlefoot smiled at that.  Even though she hadn't been a swimmer in seven years, she still taught her children that part of their heritage.  After all, what better way to catch a swimmer than to swim?  "I do not think that they can stay awake too long.  Oh, no, no, no!"

Littlefoot nodded.  "No, it will take us a while to teach you these songs, but we can get started tonight.  Even the longest song begins with a single word.  We will start with a short song tonight."

Ruby took on a ponderous expression at her mate's choice of words.  "What song do you have in mind, dear?"

Littlefoot smiled.  "Well, Spotter told us about Ignis's new litter last night.  So let's start there."

He laid down as the children leaned in closer to listen to the elder's words.  The adults also gathered around in order to join in their leader's rousing chorus at the proper time.

"This song is about our good allies, the hidden runners.  I call this song the 'Tale of the Tail'."

So there you have it, just a little lead-in to the main story.  This one will be more episodic than the Seven Hunters and I hope to have a chapter posted at minimum once every two weeks, though I will try to post every week.

And, as always, I welcome any reviews or constructive criticism that you may have.


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.

vonboy

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2015, 07:03:33 pm »
It's a short intro, but I still liked it. I'm happy to see that you decided to have their children learn about their leaf eater past. Though it's left unclear as to how much they do know. Did Littlefoot or Ruby actually tell them the tale, or maybe Taunt dumped it on them, much to Seeker's and Ponder's displeasure? Sounds like something he'd do! :lol

I'm wondering what's become of Chomper now, too. Are they not together anymore since he grew up? Maybe he got a mate and she didn't like being around fast biters that would roar at the moon every night? :p

Hmm, I'm also wondering it there's gonna be any mention of the Great Valley resident, or any other leaf eater, like Bron, Shorty, and Ali (Doubtful on Ali, but just throwing the name at you anyway! :p) I wonder if there had been any accidental encounters since they left the valley for good? Are they still in touch with their families through Pterano?

Anyway, this is a promising little start to a little follow-up story, and I'm wait waiting to see what's become of everyone! :)

rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2015, 07:13:47 pm »
Thanks for the review.  :)

Quote
It's a short intro, but I still liked it. I'm happy to see that you decided to have their children learn about their leaf eater past. Though it's left unclear as to how much they do know. Did Littlefoot or Ruby actually tell them the tale, or maybe Taunt dumped it on them, much to Seeker's and Ponder's displeasure? Sounds like something he'd do! dino_laugh.gif

I only kind of hinted at it, but since the kids ask to hear about Calin being ripped apart again and about their time as leaf-eaters, it is apparent that they have already been told the story of the Seven Hunters.  However, the story of what came next is still unknown to them.  So the kids and the reader are in the same position as the "songs" begin.

Quote
I'm wondering what's become of Chomper now, too. Are they not together anymore since he grew up? Maybe he got a mate and she didn't like being around fast biters that would roar at the moon every night? dino_tongue.gif

I mentioned in the prologue that Chomper and Ducky's (as of yet) unnamed mate are scouting the defenses of the territory.  Don't worry, they will make an appearance eventually.  ;)

Quote
Hmm, I'm also wondering it there's gonna be any mention of the Great Valley resident, or any other leaf eater, like Bron, Shorty, and Ali (Doubtful on Ali, but just throwing the name at you anyway! dino_tongue.gif) I wonder if there had been any accidental encounters since they left the valley for good? Are they still in touch with their families through Pterano?

Good questions and these questions will soon be answered.  :yes

Quote
Anyway, this is a promising little start to a little follow-up story, and I'm wait waiting to see what's become of everyone! smile.gif

Thank you very much.  :) I hope that you enjoy the future installments.


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.

Ducky123

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2015, 08:55:51 am »

Ah, so you decided to continue the story at the point in time where our Seven Hunters have grown-up, mated and started their own families while the things happening after the defeat of Redclaw are told in sort of flashbacks. That is a really nice idea as you can both show their life as adolescents and their life with their children etc. :yes
At some point in time, are you going to create a sort of family tree so I can always look up who belongs to which family (I was quite confused while reading :p)? I'm looking forward to reading the sequel! This is going to be interesting :)
hmm, a signature? I'll think of something.

LBTDiclonius

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2015, 02:36:11 am »
Yo, can I just say that "The Seven Hunters" was absolutely amazing. It's up there was some of my favorite fanfictions.  Really, I read it all in one sitting, all 75 chapters and trust me, I was NOT disappointed. To be honest, when I first saw it I expected something COMPLETELY different (something on the level of Dark Side of The World's "Warriors of the Solar System" or something like that. Hey, it had something to do with rocks, right?), but I was very pleasantly surprised with what it actually was. So, good on you, mate, for keeping me pleasantly entertained.

So, I saw this and I'm just like, "Wow, LittlefootxRuby, go on..." (oh God, I ship it) not to mention I was really wondering what happened after they left the valley. Luckily for me, this was brought into existence! Let me tell you that I'm eagerly awaiting for more!

rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2015, 08:44:37 am »
Thank you very much for the kind words, everyone!  :)

Quote
Ah, so you decided to continue the story at the point in time where our Seven Hunters have grown-up, mated and started their own families while the things happening after the defeat of Redclaw are told in sort of flashbacks. That is a really nice idea as you can both show their life as adolescents and their life with their children etc.  :yes

Yep, yep, yep!  The first "episodes" will deal with the immediate aftermath of the final battle and leaving the valley, whereas later on we will get to how the romances came along and the children.

Quote
At some point in time, are you going to create a sort of family tree so I can always look up who belongs to which family (I was quite confused while reading  :p )? I'm looking forward to reading the sequel! This is going to be interesting  :)

I am not sure about a family tree, though I may put up an author's note at some time to explain who is who.  Of those that I have planned names for, Littlefoot and Ruby's two kids are named Biter (the son) and Swipe (the daughter).  As we shall soon see, both of them are quite the handful.

Quote
  Yo, can I just say that "The Seven Hunters" was absolutely amazing. It's up there was some of my favorite fanfictions. Really, I read it all in one sitting, all 75 chapters and trust me, I was NOT disappointed. To be honest, when I first saw it I expected something COMPLETELY different (something on the level of Dark Side of The World's "Warriors of the Solar System" or something like that. Hey, it had something to do with rocks, right?), but I was very pleasantly surprised with what it actually was. So, good on you, mate, for keeping me pleasantly entertained.

Thank you for the kind words.  :) Reading it in one sitting must have been quite a lengthy process.  At over 520,000 words in length that fanfiction is around the total length of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I am glad that you enjoyed it and I hope that you enjoy the continuation.  :yes

Quote
So, I saw this and I'm just like, "Wow, LittlefootxRuby, go on..." (oh God, I ship it) not to mention I was really wondering what happened after they left the valley. Luckily for me, this was brought into existence! Let me tell you that I'm eagerly awaiting for more!

Yeah, the Ruby/Littlefoot thing kind of came out of nowhere in the Seven Hunters, but I decided to go with it once the characters began to go in that direction.  It is one of those pairings that would never have worked out (for obvious reasons) had the Stone of Cold Fire not changed them all.  In this story we shall see how their little crush finally turned into something more.  As for when the next chapter will be posted, I am still working on chapter 1 and classes start up today (in fact, I have to teach in about an hour) so I am off to a bit of a delay in my planned posting schedule.  However, I hope to have the next chapter posted by Monday or Tuesday.  :yes

Once again, thanks for the kind words, everyone.  I hope to continue this story early next week.   :yes


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.

rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2015, 01:17:53 pm »
Fanfiction link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10967589/2/Songs-of-the-Hunters

NIGHT 1:  NOT SO HIDDEN AMBITIONS

Chapter 1: The Tale of the Tail


Several years ago:

"A scout from Blue Beak's pack made an incursion today, but our sentries stopped him."

Ignis tried to feign interest at the deputy's report.  An incursion by Blue Beak's scouts was not an uncommon occurrence as the various hidden runner packs would often test one another's defenses by sending a scout and trying to leave without detection.  This action was usually not an act of aggression, however, as this was the manner in which future deputies were trained.  An odd sort of rite of passage where the successful hidden runner was then given tasks of more significance.  Both she and the deputy knew this, but certain appearances had to be maintained.  As a result, her response was automatic.

"Good work!  Gather your sentries to my chamber, Argis.  I will thank them personally."

Argis stood wide eyed for a moment before realizing his social faux pas and bowing deeply.  To have a leader personally thank the lower ranks was rather uncommon.  It was something that her father only did sparingly.

But she was not her father.

As the deputy hastily left the leader's chamber, she allowed herself a deep sigh.  It had only been three weeks since the death of her father and nearly one week since the return of the survivors to the pack lands.  The intervening time had been a period of mourning for those who remained and a struggle to return to some semblance of order.  For Ignis it was a blur.  Her formal installation as leader, her selection of a new deputy, her call to the pack to stay strong in the face of tremendous losses... It was hard to believe that a mere week had gone by since they had returned.  It felt like ages.  Only now was the pack returning to anything approaching normal.

The tasks ahead of her seemed daunting as she mentally considered what lay ahead.  The deceased had been mourned and the orphans had been already assigned foster parents, which was a great deal off of her mind.  However, the minutiae of pack life still remained.  She had to consider the feelings of her father's former mates as they had suffered the loss in rank that their benefactor's death would entail.  To that end she had carefully made promotions in order to prevent any threats to her leadership.  Much of the sentries and deputies were complete novices due to the pack's losses in the valley and she was trying to boost the morale of the new recruits, which would be a very fragile commodity at this time.  Then there was the whole issue of Viscond...

"Oh, father...  How did you handle it all?"

With a gentleness and reverence that approached that of a religious rite, Ignis placed her hand on the scrape that served as the leader's perch.  The scrape would appear as nothing out of the ordinary to any other dinosaur that approached it, but to a hidden runner it was sacred beyond words.  It was the closest thing to a seat of power that existed in the pack.  It had the scent and the presence of the Great Leader.  The scrape obtained its dignity from the persons who had resided on it, not the other way around.

She closed her eyes as she touched the hard rock that made up the scrape.  Despite the simplicity of the scrape, it did contain something that she valued beyond words.  The cold, rough surface of the rock contained the very imprints of claw marks from times before memory.  From before her father's father had even been an egg.  But as she caressed the ancient scrape she felt what she had been waiting for.  The impression of her father's claw marks.  His small contribution to the ancient structure.  The only physical thing that remained of him on this world.

Tears began to flow from the hidden runner's eyes.  If the others could see her now then her break in emotional control would be part of the pack's gossip for days to come.  As a result she struggled to regain control of herself before her subordinate returned.  Besides, it would do the sentries no good to see their leader weep.

Regaining some semblance of control, she stroked the impressions again.  There were so many present in the ancient rock.  Despite only being as deep as a hidden runner's rump, it was the product of generations of gentle scraping by the leaders of old.  Even after the first leader had carved out the scrape after nearly a year, each subsequent leader had made his or her mark on its surface.  A small carving into the combined history of the pack.  A history in stone to go along with the stories they told.  Her father had done so when he was first made leader and now it was her turn.

Scrape...  Scrape...  Scrape...

Ignis closed her eyes as she allowed her claws to scrape at the hard surface of the stone.  

-----

"Is this song seriously about a hidden runner scraping a stone?"

Chomp!

"Ow!  Dad, Biter bit me!"

Littlefoot sighed and shook his head while the others barely constrained their laughter.  Well, everyone but Taunt, who was laughing hysterically.  The brown fastbiter had a strong suspicion that his daughter's antics reminded Taunt of himself at that age.

"Well, Swipe, for once your brother is right."  He rolled his eyes as his son began to strut in triumph.  "You shouldn't interrupt a song until it is sung."  He then smiled a knowing smile at the other children.  "Besides, there is a lot more to this tale than a scrape...  now where was I?  Oh yes..."

♪♪  As Ignis scraped upon rock black,
Memories of time gone by came flowing back...  ♪♪


-----

It was only after she had personally thanked the sentries for their 'heroic' service that she again had a chance to resume her attempt to make her mark on the rocky scrape.  However, despite scratching for the better part of the afternoon, her efforts had only earned her the slightest of markings.  There was no deep gouge in the rock, only the slightest etching.  With a huff, she ended her attempt and resumed sitting on the scrape.

"Ah, so you have started marking already?"

Ignis raised her head in surprise at the sudden voice.  The face of an elderly female met hers from the threshold of her chamber.  It was a face that she knew well, but had seldom seen since her childhood.

"Grandma?!"

The elder smirked as she chided her leader half-heartedly.  "Young one, as you know I am not really your grandmother; and in any case I don't think that 'grandma' is an official title that a great leader should be using."

Ignis put on a smirk at the elder's tone.  "As you know, Grandma..."  She put great emphasis on the word in order to annoy the elder.  "You were 'Grandma' for everyone in the pack who didn't know their own grandparents."  Ignis then took on a playful smile.  "As for it not being a title, perhaps I should make it one... you always said that I was the rash one."

The elder gave the younger female a stern look that would have horrified anyone else, but Ignis knew that stare.  After a few moments the elderly hidden runner couldn't keep up the act anymore and let out a soft chuckle.

"You rascal!  I always knew that you had some of your father in you!"  She approached a bit closer but stopped at the prescribed distance for those of her rank.  "He responded much as you did when he assumed your position."

Your position.  The words echoed in Ignis's mind like a harbinger of doom.  She was now in the same position as her father, a hidden runner that she admired above all others.  Was she up to the task?

"He did?"  Ignis asked, ignoring the pangs of doubt.

The elder nodded.  "He was in a hurry to get things done, but he was also full of self-doubt... just like you are now."  Ignis looked surprised at the elder's observation, but she continued on.  "Don't worry, young one, I am sure that the others don't notice.  But I have seen it all before and know of such things... it isn't like my moments are spent pining for hunts and males anymore."

Ignis normally would have laughed at the elder's untactful manner, but she was so struck by the older hidden runner's observation that she let that slide without notice.  Instead, her mind was fixated on the matter at hand.

"How did he cope?"  It troubled Ignis just how pitiful her voice sounded.  She had put up a strong front since she had arrived back at the pack, but in front of the hidden runner she called Grandma, she allowed herself to show her true feelings.

Seeing this as an invitation, the elder approached Ignis and embraced her in a quick hug.  After a few moments she broke the embrace and whispered a single word into the leader's ear.

"Patience."

Ignis blinked and stared at the elder with a bemused expression.  "Huh?"

"Patience, my dear.  I told your father then and I am telling you now, that patience is key.  Nothing changes overnight.  Not the placement of the stars, not the leaves on the trees, and not the gouges in a perch."

Ignis looked at the perch with a dismissive glance.  "It isn't the perch that concerns me..."

"You will do fine as pack leader, Ignis.  The pack, like you, just needs some time to heal and adapt."  Ignis nodded absentmindedly at the elder's encouraging words.  Despite their assurance, she still felt utterly lost.  "In time you will leave your impression in those you lead and in the perch, just like the leaders that have come before you.  You have already made an impression on those who fought at your side, especially the Viscond fellow you have your eyes on..."

Ignis seem to shrink back in embarrassment but said nothing.  The elder continued with mirth.

"I would think being a leader is time-consuming enough, but you seem interested in nests and eggs as well..."

Ignis recoiled.  "Grandma!"

The elder shrugged.  "Now that, dear, isn't fooling anyone.  The pack gossip isn't about who your first mate will be; it is about your second..."

The younger female sputtered.  She knew of the gossip that transpired when her father was in power and it often focused on rather personal things, but it was quite another thing to be on the receiving end of such gossip.  Ignis wanted to strike down the rumor despite its truthfulness, but instead she returned her focus on the elder in the hopes that she would stop her playful taunting.

'I thought that you didn't keep up with gossip anymore."

The moment that the elder turned around with a beaming smile, Ignis knew that she had made a tactical mistake.

"Ah, so the rumors are true, eh?"

Ignis crossed her arms but bowed her head in defeat.  There was no use in hiding the obvious now.

"I respect him..."  Ignis contorted her mouth as if deliberating what to say next.  "And more than that...  but I have to be careful and so does he."  She finally admitted.

The elder nodded with a compassionate expression.  "It is good that you are tending to such things, my dear.  Politics in the pack can be a rough business, but I think that your choice is safe from challenge.  He proved himself in the battle and he is taking the initiative in chasing down that butcher..."  Venom hung in her words.  "Once he brings you Calin's head I don't think there will be any objections in the pack."

Ignis's eyes went wide.  "Calin's head?"

Grandma covered her mouth in fake embarrassment.  "Oh dear!  Did I blurt out that little secret?  Viscond would be so upset with me if he ever found out."  The look on her face indicated that she knew she was quite safe in that regard.  "A bit morbid for a mating offering, but one the rest of the pack will appreciate."

Ignis nodded, immediately reading between the lines.  "He knows the head will give him proof.  So none of the other packmates will doubt his story."

Grandma took a little bow at Ignis's statement.  "See, great leader, you aren't the only one who has given the matter a lot of thought.  Viscond is as bright as you."

Ignis smiled as her eyes bored into the elder runner.  "More like we both had the same advisor..."

Grandma feigned ignorance at the implication.  "My dear, I have no idea what you are talking about."  A smile soon returned to her face, however.  "Regardless of who thought of it, you can put your mind at ease.  I trust that your chosen one will be returning soon enough."  She then took a deep bow in the formal parting to a higher ranked individual.  "Farewell, Ignis."

Ignis returned the bow of the elder, as she echoed a formal hidden runner parting.  "May your sprints be swift."  

As the footsteps of the other hidden runner retreated out of the chamber, Ignis was alone yet again.  However, for the first time in several hours, she felt quite at peace.  Her leadership was secure and her mate-to-be was securing his own position with the helpful advice of an old wise runner.  All that she had to do now was be patient.  Without even realizing what she was doing until she had started, she began to claw into the rock of the perch once more.  

She could not see the elderly runner begin to smile outside of the cave as the sounds of scratching again echoed from the chamber.

"A fast learner... just like her father."

-----

"This is for my brother you disgusting piece of spiketail dung!"

Viscond stared into the water with an intense expression.  As much as he wanted Calin to suffer for what he did to his brother and his pack, to actually hear that suffering was something else entirely.  The sounds of excited yelps and ripping flesh greeted his ears even from this distance.  At least the screams had mostly died down once they had ripped out his tongue.

Slash!

A disgusting splattering sound erupted into the chaotic symphony of misery.  This was immediately followed by something that sounded like a wet gasp and a helpless, shuddering sound.  Viscond closed his eyes tightly.  His mind was feeling in the gaps well enough without his actually seeing the violence.

These monsters are as dangerous as Calin. Viscond noted.  They helped lure him into a trap and then betrayed him.  His eyes suddenly went wide as another thought came to him.  How do I know they won't betray me?  I helped them complete their mission, but do they need me anymore?"

Realizing the possible danger, he decided to again face Calin's killers.  If they did turn out to be treacherous then at least he would be able to see the attackers and to respond appropriately.  As he turned, however, he immediately regretted that choice.

With a swift movement Viscond averted his eyes to avoid looking at the grisly scene directly, but he had already seen enough.  The exposed lungs gave a clear indication of what had caused the shuddering a few moments prior.  As he waited for the sharpteeth to finish severing the head and tail from their kill, Viscond remembered how he had encountered them in the first place.

That scent...  I would recognize that stench anywhere.

The hidden runner examined the scent carefully for any additional clues, but the amount of time that had passed clouded the details that scent usually left behind.  The only thing that he could ascertain was that there were three scents were present on this small impression of a foot in the soft ground.  The bitter musk of the hated foe, Calin.  An acrid scent that smelled something like fear, but seemed quite out of place considering the fastbiter he was tracking.  It was the third scent that made him pause, however.  It was a very generalized scent that wasn't as musky as Calin's.  It was almost feminine in a way...  It was also much recent.

A sudden sound of rustling grass made Viscond rise to his feet, spear in hand.  Within mere seconds his spear tip was within two paces of a fastbiter's face.  The same fastbiter that he had just smelled.

"Ah, one of the hidden runners..."  The fastbiter growled.  "Haven't you had enough revenge?"

Viscond narrowed his eyes.  He spoke in a controlled monotone in the sharptooth language.

"Calin's underlings don't concern me."  He noted the twitch in the fastbiter's eyes as he said 'underling'.  "It is Calin that I am after.  I want his head."

Without warning, a male voice answered him.

"That might be a problem."

Viscond shifted to his left and noted with panic that another fastbiter had found him without his knowledge.  Not taking any chances, he reared back and prepared to run when the male's voice called out again.

"Don't even try it, runner.  We have you surrounded."  Upon seeing Viscond tightly grip his spear and enter into a fighting position, the male smiled.  "You obviously don't want to go down without a fight.  Interesting..."

Viscond snarled.  "You should know this already, you fiends!  I fought you in the Battle of the Valley and I will fight you right here!  Either retreat or die!"

The female seemed unfazed as she began to circle him, a movement which the male cut off with a single wave of his hand.

"Regardless of what my companions want, runner, I am only interested in killing my former leader.  Now are you going to make yourself useful in that mission or are you going to die right here in this ravine?"

Viscond seethed.  "Why should I trust you?!"

The male shrugged.  "You probably shouldn't after all we have done to you...  but believe it or not, hidden runner, we have a common enemy.  That bastard Calin ordered us to kill your kind..."

Viscond shook his head.  "You could have disobeyed... you could have assassinated him..."

The male roared in anger.  "And risk having my family killed?!"  Viscond stood in silence as the previously calm and collected fastbiter roared in uncontrollable rage.  "My brother and sister were part of the pack, runner.  They did not know the family relation, but all Calin knew was that they were my allies.  If I killed Calin then Redclaw would not only kill us, he would kill those I loved.  He already got my older brother; I couldn't afford to lose what was left of my family."

Viscond stood in silence.  That was a piece of the puzzle that made everything click in the hidden runner's mind.  

"You split up and joined the pack at different times... so that Calin wouldn't force you all to fight to join the pack..."

The fastbiter seemed surprised that the hidden runner would know this, but he nodded in confirmation anyway.  Viscond continued without interruption.

"You remind me of the two in Seeker's pack.  The two defectors."

The male's face darkened in an odd expression.  It was a mixture of sympathy and anger, a very disturbing sight.

"They left in the middle of the night after we left the hidden runner lands...  Kerwat, my older brother, considered taking my family and escaping , but I cautioned him against it...  The others would be more watchful now for defectors... Maybe if I had listened to him then Kerwat would still be alive."

It was at this point that the female spoke up.  "Nonsense, brother!  You know that would have just gotten us all killed!  We all did what we had to do."

Silence reigned for several moments as the brother and sister stared at one another in contemplative silence.  Even the male fastbiter in the bushes, who Viscond could now smell but not see, had taken on a somber scent.  Words could lie, but scents seldom did.  He realized that this family had been hurt just as much as his by this fiend.  It only took him a few seconds to make his decision.

"I will help you."  The fastbiters turned their gaze towards him as he continued.  "I am a great tracker.  Between the four of us that bastard will not stand a chance.  I will consider Calin's head settlement for the blood you have shed."

The male nodded slowly and tentatively stepped forward.  "As I will consider Calin's head settlement for the blood your kind has shed."  This was followed by a deep bow.

As Viscond bowed deeply to confirm the pact, he considered the path that lay ahead.  Calin's own packmates were as much victims as Viscond's packmates were.  Though he would never forget the terrible deeds of the last two seasons, he felt a fleeting sensation that the great evil that brought those deeds into the world would soon be snuffed out.

Without any further words, Viscond and the fastbiters departed.  They had another fastbiter to hunt...


Viscond blinked away the memory as he could see the fastbiter approach.  The head that he held between his fully extended jaws confirmed that the deed was done.  Viscond's people had been avenged.  Kerwat had been avenged.  The great terror had finally been snuffed out.

Thud

As the head rolled to Viscond's feet, he stared in transfixed disgust at the sight.  Very little remained that could identify the terrible fiend beside his tell-tale scent.  Little skin remained on his face, which seemed to stare at the hidden runner in an expression of permanent terror.  His empty eye sockets seemed to seek something that Calin could not find.  Calin had been blind to the feelings of his fellow dinosaurs in life; it was only appropriate that he was blinded in death.

"I believe that we have kept our part of the bargain."

Viscond slowly looked up from the gory artifact as he looked into the fastbiter's face.  Even from several paces away, the stench of blood and rage was overwhelming.  To add to the horrific scene, the sharptooth was drenched in the fallen fastbiter's crimson blood.  It was like something out of a nightmare.   But Viscond would not be deterred by the horrific vision in front of him.

"So you have."  Viscond stated plainly.  He watched the fastbiter intently and kept his hands near the spear at his feet.

The fastbiter stared at him with an unreadable expression for several moments, but he did not move any closer.  After a rather uncomfortable wait, the fastbiter spoke again.

"What will you do with the bastard's head?"

Viscond was tempted to tell the fastbiter that it wasn't any of his business, but he soon thought better of it.  The sharpteeth had not betrayed him and he did not want to give them an excuse to do so.  Nonetheless, he was not going to give up information without a fair exchange.

"What do you plan to do with Calin's tail?  Are you so eager to see Seeker again after what he did to your packmates?"

The fastbiter smiled, which resulted in a decidingly creepy expression.  "You have worked with us for several days, yet you do not trust us...  well...  my father always said that hidden runners only had two things in their favor: speed and brains."  He twisted his mouth in an odd expression.  "He didn't say anything about the pointed sticks though."

Crack!

In a swift movement, a fastbiter sprung from the bushes and landed on Viscond's spear, securing it to the ground.  Terrified to the point of panic, he turned to run...

Only to see the fastbiter's sister staring right back at him.  A growl from his younger brother confirmed to him that he was now surrounded on all sides.  He looked to and fro with a panicked expression as he tried desperately to find any route of escape.  But on this day his luck had finally ran out.  Within moments he could feel the male fastbiter's breath on his shoulder.  With rising anguish, he clinched his claws and prepared to fight one last battle.  A battle that he knew would end with his death.

"If we were to kill you now then we would be no better than Calin."

Viscond turned ever so slowly in order to look the fastbiter in the eyes.  The crimson orbs of the predator greeted his terrified opponent with an ominous glow.  In that moment Viscond felt very helpless indeed.  His voice radiated no pride as he answered the pack leader.

"Then don't do it."

The fastbiter stared at him for several more moments with an unreadable expression.  The only thing that radiated emotion in the fastbiter were his brilliant eyes.  The expression of regret in them closely matched the regret within Viscond's own heart.  He deeply regretted what he would not have a chance to do now.  He would never have a chance to be with Ignis.  He would never have a chance to raise a family.  He would never have a chance to have his story told by his own progeny...

"They say..."  The fastbiter continued as if this were the most normal conversation in the world.  "...that right before death you know exactly what it is that you wanted most in life.  Many a child will call for their mothers... many a parent will call for their children... many mates will call for the loved ones that they will never see again..."

Viscond was quaking with anger and sadness now.  He had no idea why the fastbiters were toying with him, but he would make sure that they paid in the end.  He would not go down quietly.

"The leaf-eaters may think that we are heartless beasts, but we know far more about life than they ever will.  You learn a lot about life when you see how your victims behave in their final moments.  You, for example...  you...  are no coward.  You're planning on attacking us right now.  You are just waiting for an opening..."

Viscond took a deep breath as he prepared to make his move.  He would strike at the leader as soon as the others pounced in his direction.  Then it would all be over...  But the carnivore's next words made him pause.

"What is it that you value most, runner?  What is it that you most regret losing?"

Ignis... Viscond thought to himself.  He would never get to tell her just how he felt...

"The gifts of sharpteeth are odd things, runner.  When we kill one but spare another, it is seldom looked kindly by the survivor.  We are the choosers of the dead, which also makes us the choosers of the living."

The eyes of the leader seemed to stare into his very soul as he could see the fastbiter start to retreat back.

"I do not know who you thought of when you thought that your end was near, but I know that look... I know that it was someone dear and close to you..."

Viscond tilted his head in confusion.  When you thought that your end was near?  Does that mean...

"Take it from someone who would give anything to embrace his brother once more..."  As he said this he made a waving motion with his claws.  "Do not hesitate in telling your loved one how you feel...  life is precious and short...  do not waste it."

Swoosh

Viscond turned as the two fastbiters that were behind him disappeared into the bushes.  They had left him as quickly and mysteriously as they had ambushed him.

"The gifts of sharpteeth are often not understood.  But you helped me avenge my brother on this day.  Therefore, from one chooser of the dead to another, please accept this gift."

Viscond turned back towards the fastbiter with a questioning gaze.

Only to see a barren field.  There was no trace of the pack.  It was as if they had just vanished into thin air.

-----

The children had awed expression on their face as Littlefoot continued to recount the tale in song.  Gone were the looks of boredom from the beginning of the song.  From behind him, Ruby watched the scene with a pleased smile.  Littlefoot's grandfather had been a storyteller back in the valley.  She had no doubt that wherever that longneck's spirit now was, he was looking upon this scene with great pleasure.  In the stillness of the night, the well-toned voice of the fastbiter continued to sing.

♪♪  As Ignis slept in her chamber cold
Viscond returned with a demeanor quite bold...  ♪♪


-----

Viscond walked across the threshold of the hidden runner's territory with little of the respectful hesitancy that was normally expected upon entry.  There were certain times when such pleasantries were not required.  Completing a mission on behalf of the leader was one of those times.

And when you want to impress your detractors into silence is the other. Viscond noted to himself as a confident smirk appeared on his face.  He did not know why the fastbiters had threatened him and then let him go, but it had left quite an impression on him.  Life was too short for half measures.  He had taken risks to drive Calin away after the attack on his brother's pack and now he resolved to take risks now in order to claim what was his.

"Stop intruder!"

Viscond stared at the form in front of him.  A clearly nervous hidden runner stood in the darkness with his spear clearly shaking in his hands.  This was one of the new recruits, he quickly realized.  One of the newly promoted pack members who now had to fill in for those who had died in the great battle.  He could not tell if the shaking of the novice was from fear of the perceived threat or from a heightened desire to prove himself.  Either way, Viscond did not want to cause the lad any more distress.

"Relax, sentry.  It is Viscond."

The hidden runner tightened his grip on the spear for a moment, which made Viscond fear that the sentry was about to attack, but then the young male pointed his spear to the ground.

"Oh... I'm sorry, sir... I..."

Viscond waved him off.  

"Don't worry about it, Twig."  He noted the look of shock as he mentioned the sentry by name.  "A good sentry is a cautious sentry.  Your father would have been proud."

Twig lowered his head in remembrance of his father who had died in the terrible battle.  Ever since he had left on that fateful day, Twig had to grow up overnight.  He was the one who now had to protect the pack.  It was up to him to carry on his father's legacy...

Twig's thoughts were interrupted when Viscond put a hand on the young runner's right shoulder.

"I also know that your father would appreciate seeing this."

Twig stood mouth agape at the blood-stained head that Viscond held.

"Is that..."

"It is."

Twig's face darkened for a moment, before taking on a strange contemplative look.  It was an expression that would be more appropriate on a hardened veteran than an insecure novice.

"I will escort you to the leader's chamber."

Viscond shook his head.  "Thanks, Twig... but that is not..."

Twig silenced him with a wave of the hand.  

"Sir, you are a deputy of the pack and the slayer of that butcherous bastard.  What would my father have said if I let you enter the pack unprotected?  A consort of the leader deserves better."

Viscond blinked.  "I am not the leader's consort..."

Twig snorted at Viscond's hesitation.  "Well you obviously intend to be, sir."  It was at this point that Viscond realized that his motivations would have been plain for anyone to see.  To stroll on into the pack's territory with a severed head in the direction of the leader's chambers in the middle of the night was more than a bit suggestive.

"Very well then, Twig.  Lead on."

As the two hidden runners proceeded into the pack's territory, neither of them paid much attention to the various packmates that had been awakened by the commotion.  Amongst them was a certain elderly female who wore a knowing smile.

Patience is a virtue, but so is boldness.

-----

"Great Leader!"

Ignis rose from her slumber in a near-panic.  For her to be summoned in the middle of the night, it must be an emergency of some kind.  Quickly flexing her legs she ran to the threshold of the chamber.

"What is the prob... oh."

Viscond stood at the threshold of the chamber as the sentry gave them both a quick bow and then retreated.  Now it was just them in the chamber, though the sounds of mutterings outside seemed to indicate that much of the pack had risen from their slumber.

"My dear leader... I have accomplished my mission..."

Ignis smiled slightly as she struggled to control the relief that she felt.  She would let him finish his ritual before she intervened.

"Calin is dead.  Our people are avenged..."

Viscond stepped forward, his legs obviously shaking with nervousness as he picked up the macabre gift with both hands and raised it towards her.  It was obvious that he was finding it difficult to find the proper words.

Ignis smiled more broadly now.  My poor Viscond...  brave enough to harass Calin's pack... brave enough to seek out battle in a mysterious land... brave enough to take in the great leader's daughter after she has defied him... but yet speaking to me causes him distress...  That was when it came to her.  Viscond was prepared to die during those battles.  He had been prepared to send others to die.  But he was not prepared to be told 'no' by the runner that he loved.

She frowned for a moment, which made Viscond nearly stop what he was doing.  The head was still being held in front of him in the manner that a potential mate would present an offering of a hunt as proof of their worthiness, but his eyes now communicated fear.  He feared for her answer.  Luckily for him, his fear was unnecessary.

"Did your mother not tell you how to complete the ritual?"  She asked coyly.

Viscond swallowed as Ignis placed her hands on the head of the fiend.  He found himself wondering how could Ignis be so calm at this time?  He was a nervous wreck.

"Repeat after me..."  Ignis smiled as she could see the male tremble now.  "Do you accept my gift and my offer?"

Viscond swallowed as he struggled to choke out the words.  "Do you accept my offer and my gift?"

Ignis smiled as he bungled the words in his nervousness.  "Close enough."  As she secured the head away from Viscond's possession and threw it unceremoniously to the side of the chamber, the sound of the head rolling away could be heard.  It was the only thing that broke the silence until she whispered into his ear.

"The answer is yes, by the way."

As the two retired to another area of the cave, neither of them paid any attention to the scrape that had occupied Ignis's attention for many nights.  If they had, then they would have noticed a new marking that had been made into the rock.

-----

♪♪  For as Ignis had learned in nights tense
A leader's perch was a heavy burden  ♪♪

♪♪  But as she found solace in patience
A lover's boldness made her salvation certain  ♪♪


As Littlefoot concluded the song, he looked down at the assembled children.  Their eyes were bursting with excitement at the brown fastbiter's story.  Though the romantic overtones would be lost on the little ones until they were older, the moral of the story would certainly make an impact.

"As Ignis found out on that day, both patience and boldness are necessary.  If you are bold and lack patience then you will make rash decisions, but if you are patient but lack boldness then you will succeed at nothing."  He smiled at the children as they began to nod at his words.  "Part of growing up is finding out when to be which."

"See?"  Biter suddenly exclaimed.  "Daddy is telling you to be more patient, sis!"

Littlefoot rolled his eyes as Swipe rose to her feet and prepared to pummel her brother.  

"Oh yeah?  Well daddy is telling you to not be so bold!  How did biting daddy's tail end up for you?"

Ruby then stepped in between the children.  "No more fighting tonight, kids!"  She chided them gently.  "Daddy was talking to you both."

This caused Biter to smirk.  "I know momma, but I was just kidding with sis."

This causes Taunt to speak up.  "Beware, Biter.  He who pokes buzzer nests often gets trouble...  though that never stopped me in the past."

"Trust us.  We notice."  Petrie muttered from above, which earned a few chuckles from the assembled dinosaurs.  However, after a few moments silenced reigned again.  That was, until one of Spike and Breeze's children began to yawn.

At this point Cera rose to her feet.  "Well, children.  I think that it is time for all of you to go to bed.  You have all had a busy day."

"But mom... we are not..."  The female's protest was cut short as she yawned deeply.  Littlefoot smiled.  Cera's daughter had just excellently illustrated Cera's point.

"You see, kids."  Taunt was now taking the opportunity to speak.  "Your mother is right for once."  He dodged the inevitable swipe from Cera as the kids giggled at their parent's antics.  "We can listen to new songs tomorrow."

"Yep, yep, yep!"  Ducky exclaimed.  "Young hunters need plenty of sleep.  We can do this tomorrow.  Say goodnight to everyone, children."

-----

Within moments, each of the parents had safely tucked their younglings into their nests.  The sound of restful snores greeted the night as the warm summer air hung over them all like a comforting blanket.  However, two sharpteeth yet remained awake on this night.

"Not sleeping yet?  That is odd for you."

Taunt looked over at his mate with an amused expression.

"Hmm... hoping to attack me while I am asleep and defenseless?"

This cased Cera to put on a cheeky smile.  

"Nah, it is more amusing to attack you when you are awake.  You scream like a leaf-eater youngling."

This earned an obscene gesture from Taunt, as Cera stuck out her tongue in response.

"You're such a bad influence on our children."  Cera mocked.  This earned her a playful swipe, which soon descended into a play fight that caused them to tumble head over heels until they crashed into a nearby tree.  Luckily for them, however, only a snore from one of their children greeted their ears, which soon dissipated into restful sleep.  Neither of them wanted to explain to their children why mommy and daddy were play-fighting after their friends Biter and Swipe had gotten in trouble for the same thing.  With that scare dealt with, however, both of them curled up next to one another and began to nuzzle one another affectionately.  It was only then that Taunt decided to say what was on his mind.

"I was thinking about telling the children about when we took back the territory."

Cera looked at him with a serious expression.  Her face was calm, but her eyes were clearly concerned.

"That... story gets quite dark later on..."  Cera noted.  "It is one thing to hear about the enemies that we have struck down.  It is quite another to hear about what nearly drove us all apart."

Taunt placed his hand on her shoulder.  "I know...  but the sooner that they hear that part of the story then the sooner they can hear about what kept us all together."

Cera smiled.  "What would our kids think if they knew that you were such a softie at heart?"

Taunt rolled his eyes and ignored his mate's putdown.  "Alright then, it is agreed.  We will sing the tales that led to our children."  He smiled as he placed his head in the nape of her neck.  "Where do you think we should begin, dear?"

Cera yawned as sleep threatened to overtake her.  Before it did, however, she thought of a fine starting point.

"I think that when we left Hanging Rock would be a good start.  I am sure that Ruby wants a turn to sing..."


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.

Ducky123

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2015, 02:25:22 am »
Well, the story about how things in the territory of the Hidden Runners went on is interesting :) A story including both exciting and teaching parts. :yes

As for the next one... that sounds even more exciting!

Quote
The pack gossip isn't about who your first made will be; it is about your second..."
Mate. Unless it's meant to be "made".
hmm, a signature? I'll think of something.

rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2015, 03:02:52 pm »
Thanks for the feedback.  Yeah, this chapter was kind of a start-up for the concept before moving on to the stories involving the pack members themselves.  It also shows us that the storytellers are adding tidbits to teach the kids morality tales.  We may or may not see more of that in the future, I haven't quite decided yet.

Also thanks for the correction.  :) I should have the next chapter up in about a week.


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.

rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2015, 07:54:57 pm »
Fanfiction link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10967589/3/Songs-of-the-Hunters

(Note: that link also has a character list for any of you who may be confused)

NIGHT 2:  TAKING WHAT IS YOURS

Chapter 2: Awareness

Ha!  I don't think they will see me here!

A pair of small red eyes peeked between the thick foliage of the tree.  Despite being nearly ten feet up in the air, not even the eyes were visible from the ground.  His orange body and black crest were expertly covered by the thick vines that descended from the monstrous plant like a squid devouring a shark.  Only a slight creaking could be heard from where the predator's claws dug into the bark.  Otherwise, the silent sentinel left no scent and no sound for his pursuers.

Pounce wanted to win at this game for once.

-----

"Damn it!"  Ambush exclaimed.  "I think we lost him!"

Cera opened one eye upon hearing her daughter's exclamation.  With her yellow body and orange crest, Ambush looked just like a miniature version of her mother.  This similarity extended into their personality as well as the only thing that exceeded Ambush's pride was her desire to win at all costs.  Nonetheless, she wasn't about to let her daughter talk like that.

"Ambush... What have we told you about language?"

Cera smirked from her vantage point beside a large tree.  She could clearly see her daughter go through several emotions.  Embarrassment... annoyance... then pride...  As soon as she saw the prideful expression, she knew exactly how her daughter was going to react.

"But he cheated!"  Came the protest.  "He knew that he couldn't outrun us, so the little coward went and hid!"

It was at this point that she could feel her mate stir beside her.  It seemed that the post-meal nap had finally met its end due to the raucousness of their children.  Had this been any other family then the parents might have had stronger words for their little ones.  But this was par the course for Cera's younglings.

And she wouldn't have it any other way.

"Well..."  As he began to speak, Cera turned her head in order to look at her mate.  "Sometimes cowardice is the best plan, Ambush.  If I remember correctly, it was you who was on your mother's back when Pounce and Sprint came after you last night."

A muffled "hmrph!" reached her ears and Cera did not need to look over to see her daughter's expression.  Having made that face many times in her younger days, it seemed only fitting that she hear its echoes as an adult.  Barely suppressing a chuckle, she decided to make this a learning experience for her young ones.

"So, little ones, Pounce got away from you.  The question is: what did you do wrong?"

Ambush's response was immediate.  "I didn't do anything wrong!  I..."

Cera was resolute.  "...you took your eyes off of your prey."  At that affirmation Ambush averted her eyes and did not meet her mother's gaze.  Pride had turned swiftly into shame.  

Someone who thinks themselves perfect will never live up to their expectations. Cera thought to herself.  Was it Thicknose that said that or was it one of those weird rainbowfaces?  She snorted.  Either way they had a point.

"Look at me, Ambush."  Cera spoke softly.  She could see Sprint began to turn his eyes towards his sister as well, which would make her even more reluctant to face her mother.  "You look this way too, Sprint."  Her son slowly turned in her direction with a concerned look.  He was undoubtedly worried that he was in trouble for some reason.  Finally, with a pensive sigh, both children were looking in her direction.

Cera gave them a reassuring smile.  Now that she had established dominance in the conversation it was time drop the pretense of confrontation.  Now listen to the lesson, hatchlings...

"What is the first step to solving a problem?"  Cera asked rhetorically.

Silence reigned for several moments before Sprint finally spoke up.

"Um... I guess to know what the problem is?"

Cera nodded.  "Exactly right, Sprint.  We can't find answers until we ask questions."  She then looked towards Ambush, who now seemed completely over her embarrassment.  Just like an experienced hunter, she had forgotten her failure as soon as a new prospect had come along.  She had failed in her 'hunting' of Pounce, but perhaps she could redeem herself by solving her mother's riddles.  This was exactly the reaction that her mother had anticipated.

"I followed with my eyes, instead of my sniffer."  Ambush finally deduced.

Cera nodded.  "Correct, dear.  Remember what Path always says?  When having scent, track and sprint; when having sight, claw and bite.  You did it backwards."

Ambush nodded sadly, but then quickly spoke with improved spirits.  "Maybe if I can catch his scent again then I can find him... then claw and bite!"

Laughter erupted from behind Cera as the tell-tale sound of Taunt's voice responded to his over-eager daughter.

"I think that we should avoid the claw and bite, dear."  A smirk was clearly present on his face as Ambush looked disappointed.  "But perhaps if we help you to use your sniffer then Pounce will have a harder time hiding from you next time."  Then his face suddenly turned stern.  "But no more biting!"

Ambush sighed and bowed her head.  "Yes, daddy..."

With a smirk on her face, Cera leaned over to her mate.

"How long do you think that promise will last?"

Taunt snorted.  "I'm hoping until at least the end of the night."

Without warning, Cera nipped him on the tail, which caused him to yelp.  

"Optimist."

-----

Scrape... Scrape... Scrape...

The rose-colored fastbiter stared at her handiwork as she continued to claw at the large sticks.  The wood here was not as hard as it was back in the Land of Shallow Waters.  The rich soil and temperate climate led to a softer wood that made it far more prone to breaking when used as a weapon.  As a result, one had to be more careful in how the deadly tools were prepared.

"Rubbish."  Ruby uttered in judgment before quickly throwing one spear to the side.  Only the other two had the right structure to be used in their hunts.

Hmmm...  It looks like I will need some harder wood...  looks like that we will need to...

"Ha!  I told you that you couldn't catch me!"

Ruby looked up from her work, to see Cera's children rapidly approach from their mother's nesting area.  The cheeky response had come from their son Pounce, but Ruby knew all too well that he would not remain unanswered for very long.

"But we did catch you!"

"Only with momma's help!  You couldn't find me otherwise!"

Ruby smiled as the clearly amused forms of the children's parents came into view.  Cera was rolling her eyes, while Taunt seemed to be getting ready to intervene if the children started fighting.

"Unh uh! We could!"

"Then why didn't you, oh great hunter?!"

"Why you little..."

Just then Taunt moved in-between the children, which caused Pounce to look over his father's tail and stick his tongue out at his siblings.  This earned an obscene gesture from Ambush, while Sprint simply laughed at the entire exchange.  Unlike his two siblings, Pounce was far more laid back, but he still retained his father's sense of humor.

"Pounce!  Sprint!"

Biter's voice called out into the night as he came running into the clearing.

"Ambush!"

Swipe's voice echoed shortly thereafter.  With the entry of Ruby's two children, the dispute between Cera's siblings was quickly forgotten.  However, before the siblings could engage in another game, a booming voice echoed into the night.

"Hello younglings!"

In an instant the children were frozen in terror as the ground shook with tremendous force.  The trees almost seemed to part as the beast's head emerged from between their green foliage.  His eyes were as red as blood itself and his voice echoed with the terrible fury of a thunderstorm.  As the footsteps became louder, the children's terror turned into action as they sought refuge from behind their respective mothers.  That was when the booming laughter started.

"That not nice, Path!"  Came a voice from the skies above.  "But it funny!"

It was only now that her father and the other parents came into view from behind the violet beast, that Swipe realized what had just transpired.

"Path, you tricked us!  You meanie!"  

Chomper laughed at the younglings condemnation.  "Yep!  you should have seen the looks on your faces!"  His expression soon took on a more benign look, however.  "A little biter just told me that you all were telling some stories tonight."

Littlefoot looked up at the purple sharptooth with an annoyed expression, which caused the remainder of the pack to chuckle to themselves.

"Little biter, huh?"  Littlefoot smirked at his companion, who know was over twice his height.  "If that is the way that it is going to be then I suppose that we could start calling you by your old leaf-eater name..."

Littlefoot swiftly dodged the mock bite that came his way from Chomper.  Despite the supposed attack, however, everyone knew that their banter was in jest.  It was then that Taunt finally spoke up.

"Well, when our dear leader is done antagonizing Mr. Purple Ass over there..."  This preamble earned him obscene gestured from both dinosaurs and laughs from his children.  "I think that we should get started... We have a lot to cover if we are going to tell the kids the entire story about how we retook our territory."

Ruby pondered Taunt's words as her mate settled down beside her.  If they were going to sing the song of the reclaiming of their lands then that had to mean...

"You want me to sing the first song?"  She asked with surprise.  "It is a song that I haven't sung in a long time.  If it hadn't been such a long time then I wouldn't mind singing the song."

Littlefoot smiled at Ruby's hesitation.  Oh my dear... you are always the last to agree to sing, but one of the best singers...

"You will do fine, dear."  Littlefoot spoke softly as he tried to calm his mate's nerves.  "The reclaiming of the lands was something that began with a lot of pondering..."  He then added his final words with a bit of mirth.  "I think that it is a tale best sung by Ponder."

Ruby gave him a glare, but there was no malice in it.  "You know that every time that you make that joke, I ponder your demise, don't you dear?"

In response Littlefoot gave a mocking bow at her critique of his sense of humor.  "I am named Seeker, am I not?  I seek humor, that doesn't mean that I have found it."

Ruby snorted in amusement.  "Well... If you don't mind the first song being a bit rough, then I guess that I can get us started."  Upon seeing her mate's smile, she couldn't help but smile as well.  "Alright, children, gather around!  It is time for all of you to hear another story."

Cheers of excitement erupted from the children as they sprinted towards the rose-colored fastbiter.  Within moments twelve children were at her feet and several flyers were in the tree above her head.  All of them had their desire to play evaporate at the prospect of another story from years ago.  The anticipation in their eyes was contagious for everyone around.

Ruby looked around her for a moment, as the adults all proceeded to lounge around outside of the circle that the children had made.  Even Chomper had laid down in order to hear the story.  It was at that moment that she realized that Chomper was over six years their younger and was only now making that transition from child to adult.  It was in times like this that she could still see the innocent excitement of the little biter in the eyes of the massive predator.  In that instant she realized that despite all of the changes over the last several years, that they were still the same deep inside.  This gave her the confidence to begin her song.

"Alright, children.  Let me tell you of a time before you were even eggs.  A time before we came to the Land of Two Forests... a time of both great hope and great uncertainty... a time when we decided to retake what was ours...  Now how did my song start?  Oh yes..."

♪♪  The land turned green as Spring appeared
But doubts arose as the time of parting drew near  ♪♪


-----

Several years ago:

Bones... only bones remained of the tail of their once hated foe.  As Ruby absently admired the bleached white appearance of the pack's morbid trophy, she found her thoughts turning to uncomfortable subjects.  

"Look at what remains of you now, Calin."  Ruby mocked the collection of white bones.  "A few bones... No children will mourn you... nor will any songs sing your name..."  She smirked slightly, though no humor was in her voice.  "Well... besides our songs.  Despite your best efforts, we remain.  We remain despite your best efforts."

Despite how petty it seemed, she couldn't help herself.  The bastard had tried to take so much from her... her life... the lives of those whom she loved... her dear friend...

"Having a conversation with our old friend?"

Ruby jumped with surprise.  She had not heard her close friend approach until after he was right behind her.

"Seeker!"  Ruby hissed in surprise.

Littlefoot laughed, which made a deep growling sound echo across Hanging Rock.  "It's alright, I will leave you two to your conversation."  The smile on his face indicated that he knew very well that his mocking tone would earn him a sharp rebuke.  He didn't have to wait long to get the expected response, as he easily dodged Ruby lazy attempt at swiping him with her claws.

"Oh... you're asking for it!"  Ruby threatened as her muzzle erupted into a wide smile.  Littlefoot returned her smile as he playfully swiped at her face with his claws, which earned him a tackle from the amused fastbiter.  Before either of them could engage in any more play fighting, both of them were laughing uncontrollably as they rolled on the ground.  Their antics seemed quite suggestive to a certain flyer who happened to be flying into the area.

"Well, well, well...  should we be expecting eggs in the summer?"

Both of the fastbiters rose from their prone positions and looked up at the flyer that had made that comment.

"Pterano?!"

Pterano made a wide shrug with his wings as he stood on a tree nearby.  His face clearly indicated that he was talking in jest, but his words betrayed no such knowledge.

"It's alright.  I can return later when you two are not so occupied..."

Littlefoot glared at the flyer as he shook the dirt off of himself.  "Oh, get on with it, Pterano!  What news do you bring from the valley?"

Pterano placed a wing to his chest in an expression of pain.  "Oh, such words...  it is as if no one appreciates me..."  He then dropped all pretenses of being insulted by the fastbiter's protest and took on a wide smile.  "I actually bring good tidings from Detras and Pearl."

Ruby's mood immediately improved at this news.  "What does mommy and daddy say?!"

Pterano grinned.  "First of all they send their best wishes to all of you and especially to their daughter."  Ruby beamed at this.  "Arial and Orchid also send their greetings, but they wish to tell Littlefoot that his brother is a 'meanie'."

Littlefoot laughed at the sudden turn in the message.  Pterano was obviously trying to keep from cracking up as well as his formal style of delivering a message didn't really fit the ponderings of little kids.  This caused him to ask an obvious question.

"And exactly why do Ruby's siblings think that my brother a 'meanie', Pterano?"

Pterano barely suppressed a chuckle as he responded.  "From what I can gather, it seems that the little ones decided that it would be fun to hide from him when he was supposed to be watching them.  This caused Shorty to get into trouble..."  A smile erupted from his face.  "Shorty had a rather interesting little revenge planned for the young ones though as this was sweet bubble day..."

"Uh oh..." Littlefoot had an idea where this was going.

Pterano nodded.  "Exactly.  So Shorty 'requested' that he be grounded for the day, but that the younglings be grounded with him.  That way they could watch the others eat the sweet bubbles while they could not."

Littlefoot smirked.  "I take it that a certain other longneck actually came up with this plan?"

Pterano smirked.  "It was Bron's idea and Shorty went along with it, though the younglings blame 'Boulder' for it."  He chuckled at Shorty's nickname.  "Bron and Ruby's folks eventually gave them all sweet bubbles afterwards."

Ruby smiled.  "I am glad to hear my brother and sister are doing well!  If they weren't doing well then I wouldn't be glad!"  She paused for a moment.  "But they really need to learn to not hide from their watchers, because sharpteeth can be anywhere!"

Pterano deadpanned.  "Yes, like right under me."

Ruby placed her hands on her hips with an indignant expression.  "Oh, you know what I mean!"

Littlefoot soothed her friend's concerns.  "I am sure that they will be careful when they leave the valley, Ruby.  They just... really like to pester my brother."

Ruby nodded at this, though her concerns still remained.

A cough from above soon made them look up again, however.  It appeared that Pterano still had more to report than the usual banter from their loved ones.

"I still have words from Bron and the others to say to the pack... but there is something that both of you should probably hear first."

"Oh?" Both fastbiters asked simultaneously.  

Pterano nodded slowly as he seemed to look uncomfortable all of a sudden.  "Yes... it is spring now and summer is approaching...  The times of nests and eggs is coming soon."

Littlefoot was about to protest Pterano pestering him and Ruby again for their wrestling match from earlier, when he suddenly realized what Pterano was getting at.  The time for nests and eggs was soon approaching for the valley... which meant...

"My family has to return to Hanging Rock."  Ruby deduced at the same time.  "The valley doesn't want egg stealers around when the time comes."

"Exactly."  Pterano affirmed.  "Not to mention that it wouldn't be safe for them... it would only take one misunderstanding..."

Ruby nodded as she turned towards Littlefoot.  This was not unexpected news really, but it did mean that they couldn't put things off for much longer.

"We have to leave my family's home, so that they can have their home back!"  Ruby exclaimed.  

Littlefoot nodded.  "And there isn't as much food for Path's parents anymore..." There was still enough for the pack, but the somewhat agitated looks from Dein and Terri after their recent hunts indicated that they were having more difficulty.  Hungry sharpteeth and a vulnerable family did not make for a good combination.

Ruby gave him a sad smile.  "...but before we get our home back, we may have to reclaim our home."

Littlefoot's face darkened at that affirmation.  Within moments he gave Pterano his orders.

"Pterano, I will assemble the pack so that you can give all of them the news from their folks... but then we have to make some important decisions..."

Pterano looked at the brown fastbiter with a concerned expression.  "Should I tell Petrie to get Path's folks?"

Littlefoot nodded.  "Yeah.  The pack needs to make some really hard decisions.  They will all need to be there."

-----

Sigh...  I never thought that going back home would make me feel home sick.

Ruby paced around the enormous rock that gave Hanging Rock its name as she pondered her feelings.  At that moment all she could feel was a confusing jumble of agitation, fear for the future, and regret that she could no longer stay at her old home.  Despite the fact that her family was not present, she still felt great affinity for this place.  All of her formative memories as a child had this majestic location as their setting.  Leaving Hanging Rock for the Mysterious Beyond felt like a second death in a way.  Or would that be a third death?  First she had left for the Great Valley in order to watch over Chomper... then she had changed and had to join the pack in the search for Chomper's parents... now here she was once more seeking out her future in the uncertain lands across the horizon.

"I imagine that it must be hard for you."

Ruby looked up at the calm, fatherly voice that greeted her.  It would have been impossible for her to imagine assigning the word 'fatherly' to anything related to Thud prior to her change, but now she could clearly hear the wisdom that came from raising a child of his own.  Without her ever saying a word to him, he had deduce the cause of her distress.

Ruby simply nodded, which Thud took as an invitation to continue.

"My family traveled a lot when I was young, so I never got attached to any one place.  My father always said that home was people, not a place."

Ruby sighed.  "I miss my family... I know that we have to be apart and I know that Pterano will allow us to talk, but..."  She looked around at the majestic peak and gestured with her hands.  "After being here for so many days...  it just..."

Thud looked at her without blinking.  "Started to sink in?"

Ruby nodded.  "Yeah..."

Thud didn't say a word for several moments as he picked up a rock and gave it a cursory sniff.  This struck Ruby as odd, but she said nothing until the fastbiter handed her the ordinary looking stone.

"What do you smell when you sniff this stone?"

Ruby gave him a bemused expression, but accepted the rock nonetheless.  With a deep breath she scrutinized the scents with great attention to detail, which made her report all the more underwhelming.

"Well... I smell your scent on the rock... you are somewhat tired and concerned..."  She twisted her mouth as her report continued.  "I smell a slight hint of ground fuzzy... but that scent is at least a day old..."  She then gave him a helpless expression.  "I am sorry, Thud... I smell nothing interesting on this rock.  This rock has nothing that smells interesting."

Thud nodded.  "Exactly."

Ruby was utterly confused now.  "Huh?"

Thud continued as if the lesson was the most obvious in the world.  "A rock is just a rock and a land is just a land; it is people that give a place its worth.  As long as you remember your parents and honor them with your actions, what does it matter that they are right next to you or days away?"  Ruby looked down to ponder this as he finished.  "It is this place that made you feel so lonely... but remember that your memories will never leave you and neither will your packmates."

Ruby sighed as she gave Thud a gentle nuzzle.  The gesture conveyed the affection that a child would have for a beloved uncle.  In a way that is what Thud was now.  An older fastbiter who had showed them all the ways of their new kind.  On this day, it seemed that he had to teach a lesson that Ruby had already learned long ago, but she still had to be reminded.

"Thanks, Thud...  I knew all of this but I guess..."

Thud waved her off.  "It is alright, Ponder.  Sometimes we all just need to be reminded of what is really important."  He then looked above her head, before putting on a slight smile.  "Like avoiding my son's playful banter for example..."

In a swift movement, both fastbiters stepped back from one another and took on stern expressions.  Neither of them wanted to be accused of affectionate relations by the master of insult himself.  After all, Taunt needed little help in coming up with new banter to amuse and annoy his fellow packmates.  He would have material for weeks to come if he had caught his father and his best friend's companion locked in an embrace.

As the thunderous footsteps of Dein and Terri began to echo across the bluffs and Taunt's playful banter began to enter into earshot, Ruby asked the elder fastbiter one final question.

"Do you think that we should find a new land or reclaim what was once ours?"

Thud shrugged.  "We should most certainly find a new land that could support us.  There are many lands which can support two packs of fastbiters.  With the loss of Redclaw there are many places available in the Mysterious Beyond... but never underestimate the pride of a two-footer, Ponder."

Ruby nodded.  "Dein and Terri will not give up the Land of Shallow Waters without a fight... and allies stick together."

Thud nodded.  "The meeting's decision has already been made, Ponder, but I think that we are the only two who are aware of that fact."  He looked down at her with a sad smile.  "Nonetheless, let's join in this charade... as Brekan the Cruel once said: even if you can't stop the war, you might be able to pick the battles."

Thud did not realize how important those words would be in the moments that were to follow.

-----

Present day:

"What does that mean, momma?"

Ruby paused as Spike's son, Nibble, asked Breeze his question.  He was greeted by a swift "shush!" from his brother, Sniffer.  However, before Spike or Breeze could intervene, Ruby responded with a smile.

"You will just have to wait and see, kids."  Despite the interruption she was thrilled with their interest.  

"I am sure that mommy and daddy whooped however was in their land!"  Biter affirmed with pride.  "After killing Calin, who could scare them?"

Seeker coughed from the side, as he cautioned his son.  "Any battle can be dangerous, Biter.  In fact if you ever go into a battle comfortable then that surely means that defeat lies ahead."

Cera echoed this sentiment.  "Battles for territory are not like play fights.  In play fights the loser usually doesn't die."

As Biter sighed after having his prideful boast swept aside, his sister decided to ask the obvious question.

"So what did happen, momma?"

Ruby smiled.  What the kids lacked in patience they certainly made up for in interest.  She decided to waste no time in getting back to her song, lest the questions continue.

"That is what I am about to sing to you.  The meeting was very tense...now how did that verse go?  Oh yes..."

♪♪  As friend and ally argued and mused
It appeared that consensus was going to be refused  ♪♪


-----

The meeting:

"I don't care who stands against us!  They will fall!"

Thud closed his eyes at the verbal onslaught from the enraged sharptooth.  Dein's response to the idea of seeking out a new territory was predictable, but no less depressing.  It was once thing to leave the Mysterious Island which never had plentiful food, but it was quite another for him to think about leaving a place for which he had sacrificed so much.

"Redclaw couldn't take our land from us and I will be damned if anyone else will!"

Ah, so there it is... Thud thought to himself.  Back when Terri was injured by Redclaw...  He will not yield now.

Silence reigned for several moments after the sharptooth's tirade.  Not even Terri spoke as she considered her mate's reaction.  It was clear to everyone involved that the idea of vacating the Land of Shallow Waters was out of the question.  Either they would help Dein and Terri reclaim their land after they left Hanging Rock, or they would have to vacate their alliance.  After so much shared hardship and pain in the Battle of the Valley, no one contemplated that step.

Littlefoot was the one to finally break the silence.

"Very well.  We will retake the Land of Shallow Waters."  At this affirmation Dein noticeably became less tense, but Littlefoot still looked quite concerned.  Thud noted the look of concentration on his face.  He was now witnessing 'Seeker the diplomat' more than 'Seeker the pack leader'.  Littlefoot knew as well as Thud did that he could not win through dominance in a battle of wills with a dinosaur many times his size.  Here he had to use words.

"However..."  Thud noted that Ruby edged closer to her companion as Littlefoot prepared to shift the conversation.  Dein's eyes glared at him like daggers.  "We need to determine the best way to prepare."

"The best way to prepare?!"  Dein countered.  "You enter the lands and call out your challenge!  Let the challengers fall where they stand!"

"But dad!"  Chomper protested at this.  "Where would that have gotten us in the valley?  We would all be dead!"

Dein seemed to consider this for a moment as his prideful rant was stopped before it could again reach full steam.

"Well..."  Dein began.  "That was many sharpteeth, son... a challenge for territory won't be like that."

It was at this point that Thud noticed Terri edge closer to her mate.  Now that Chomper had caused him to shift his line of reasoning, she was no doubt now moving in to drive home the point.  A mate always knows when to make their move. Thud noted with some amusement.  Which is good because none of us can make that move!

"But we don't know that, dear."  Terri spoke softly.  "I think that Seeker is just wondering how we make sure that our challenge to any newcomers gets the job done..."

Littlefoot wasted no time in using Terri's opening.  

"Yes.  Certainly.  Absolutely."  

Thud had to resist laughing at Littlefoot's nervous affirmation at that moment.  He doubted that he could have lasted as long under Dein's scrutiny as Littlefoot had and still remained composed.  He certainly did not last as long when Redclaw had made demands upon him back when he and the beast were allies.  He had simply obeyed.  His recollections of his own cowardice, however, was soon interrupted by the rest of Littlefoot's statement.

"...we need to know who is in the lands and what their intentions are.  Some may stay and fight, but most will probably leave if it comes to that."  

Before he realized what he was doing, Thud said something that his father had once told him.  "Sometimes if you take on the strongest then the weaker ones will flee... but if you go after the weaker ones first then the stronger ones can strike you when you are injured."

This caused an immediate response from Dein.  "The weaklings run from the giant's fall, but the giants run towards the weakling's cry."

Cera spoke next.  "Bash the biggest in the face, so that the others know their place."  Upon seeing everyone stare at her with bemused expressions, with Taunt's stare bordering on amusement, she decided to clarify.  "Umm... It was a threehorn saying...  it means the same thing."

It was at this point that Taunt decided to spare his friend any further embarrassment.  "So we need to attack the biggest bastard over there so the others know that we are the boss.  Got it.  But how do we go about that?"  His question seemed to make something revert in Dein's eyes, which made Thud sigh.  He knew where this was going.  "What if the big sharptooth in the area already has allies?  What if a one-on-one fight is not possible?"

"You see!?"  Dein exclaimed.  "This is why I said that we should just do it the traditional way!  The better sharptooth wins and gets the land!"

Despite his best efforts, Littlefoot couldn't keep his mouth shut this time.  "Yes... and the loser dies."

The meeting then descended into a confusing mix of arguments and exclamations.  Ducky and Spike were both trying to suggest the advantages of going to another land for their territory, which would more than likely be free of significant challenges.  Meanwhile, Littlefoot and Cera were both arguing for the virtues of making raids into the territory until a better picture of the situation could develop.  Even Leap and Swift seemed to be getting involved in the conversation as they proposed leading the biggest inhabitant into a trap with one of them being the bait.  However, in the chaotic symphony of voices, no one was really hearing any other.  Littlefoot was quite adept at keeping his own pack organized, as was Thud with his, but with two unbound two-footers in the conversation there was really no one to take control of the meeting.  The result was chaos.

Thud sighed.  Had he been aware of how the Great Valley meetings typically went then he might have found some amusement with this turn of events, but as it was it only made him feel depressed.  He owed Chomper's parents a lot, but he feared that their current line of thinking would either lead to a breakup of the alliance or a potentially fatal battle.  He was at a total loss.  He had no idea what words could possible lead to a consensus in the fracturing meeting.  That was when something caught his eye.

Ruby appeared to be muttering to herself when, suddenly, Thud could see Petrie behind her.  The two were obviously discussing something that was quite engaging as neither paid much attention to the arguments around them.  He was about to put this curious development aside for a moment in order to round up his packmates, when Ruby did something that made him pause.

She winked at him and whispered something in his general direction.  

This caught Thud by surprise and he had no idea what she had said.  However, when she whispered again, he could catch the words that she mouthed out.

Play along.

He barely had any time to consider this when she walked into the middle of the clearing.

"Can I have everyone's attention?"

The sound of roaring voices and growling protests greeted Thud's ears as it was obvious that no one could hear what the fastbiter had said.  Thud decided to rectify this situation.

"SHUT UP!"

The sounds died down as everyone stared in Thud's direction.  Dein appeared ready to react unkindly to Thud's interruption when Ruby finally decided to speak.

"Thank you!  I had an idea."  Ruby walked between Taunt and Littlefoot as if she were unaware that they had been involved in a heating argument mere moments before.  "A great dinosaur once said something about situations such as this: 'even if you can't stop the war, you might be able to pick the battles.'"

This reference to one of his childhood heroes stopped Dein in his tracks.  "Brekan the Cruel..."  

Ruby nodded.  "Yes.  He was right, of course... if you know that a war must be fought then it is best to pick your battles.  If we know who we are up against then we will have a better chance against our enemies.  A better chance against our enemies we will have."

Thud stepped forward.  It seems that Ponder has learned diplomacy from Seeker... He paused.  No... She told me that she was originally sent to the valley to build support against Redclaw...  they must have learned from one another...  He looked again at Ruby's companion, the now bemused Littlefoot.  One leads from the front and the other leads from behind... A sudden realization then hit him.  Speaking of leading, I think it is time for me to help.

"Yes... If Spotter can spot our enemies then that will give us a better idea of what we are dealing with."  Thud offered tentatively.  As soon as he saw the thankful nod from Ruby, he knew that he had played his role well.

Dein sighed.  "Fine.  That sounds reasonable enough."  He then looked straight at the flyer, which from Thud's point of view almost looked similar to a fastbiter looking at a fly.  "Spotter, you tell us what we are dealing with and meet us back at the lowlands."

Now it was Littlefoot's turn to be confused.  "The lowlands?"

Dein growled.  "Yes, the lowlands.  We move out tomorrow."

With that he promptly stormed off, which resulted in Terri giving the fastbiters an apologetic nod.  The lack of adequate food had obviously not done Dein's mood any favors and the packs were the recipients of his wrath on this day.  It was only when the two-footers were out of earshot that the banter between the packs continued.

"Goodness.  I thought Dein was going to eat you for a moment, Seeker!"  Taunt joked.

Littlefoot gave Taunt a deadpan stare.  "...and yet you didn't try to save me?"

At this point Thud saw his son shrug.  "I am sure that if he would have eaten you that I could have avenged you bravely!  ...by quickly biting his ankle and then running off."

Thud rolled his eyes as he bumped into his son in a playful way.  "I am sure that your leader finds your commitment overwhelming, son."  Upon not responding to his son's cheeky smile, which Thud was sure that his son was making, he addressed Ruby.  "That was some diplomatic maneuvering there, Ponder.  I am impressed."

Littlefoot nodded.  "Yes, you did great, Ponder!  When the meeting went out of control again, I thought that it was as good as over."

Ruby sighed.  "I may have fought Dein's ego, but it is the enemies that I am afraid of.  I fear that they will require more than words."

It was at this point that Ducky spoke up.  "But what if the enemy is stronger than us and Dein still wants to fight?  That scares me, it does, it does!"

Chomper grunted resolutely.  "I will not abandon my mommy and daddy!"

Thud watched as Littlefoot looked in Chomper's direction with a sad smile.  The smaller sharptooth seemed to become more uncertain at his friend's glance.

"What if they fight and lose, Path?  What if it turns out that the pack is better off on its own?"

Chomper opened his mouth before closing it in an uncertain gesture.  Finally he spoke in a small voice.

"I will follow the pack, Seeker.  I made that choice long ago... but please don't just abandon them!"

Littlefoot raised a hand and nodded in a placative manner.

"Don't worry, Path.  I am sure that this won't come to that... but it will one day.  A pack stays together, but alliances shift."

Ruby stared at Littlefoot with an unsure expression.  "Seeker?  What is on your mind?"

But Littlefoot did not appear to hear her as he began to give orders to Petrie and the others.  Petrie would soon have to scout their old territory and the others would need to relocate to the lowlands to build up their strength.  Only then would their reclaiming of the Land of Shallow Waters become a possibility.  The look that Ruby gave Littlefoot when he was finished though communicated volumes to the fastbiter leader.  It was then with a heavy sigh that he waved off the others and gestured for Thud and Ruby to approach him, which they did with growing trepidation.

"We need to talk."

-----

Present day:

"And that is the Song of Awareness."

Ruby looked down at the kids and nearly broke down laughing as Biter's mouth hung agape and Swipe had her head tilted in an angle that communicated confusion.  It was Ambush who broke the silence, however.

"And then what happened?!"

Ruby smiled at Cera's daughter as she addressed her with fake nonchalantness.

"Well... you will have to wait for the next song to find out..."  She then looked upwards at Petrie and gave him a wink.  "Speaking of which...  it is getting dark...  perhaps we should have Spotter sing his song tomorrow..."

The result was instantaneous.

"No!  Mommy!"

"I'm not even tired!"

"You can't start a story and not finish it!"

"Don't be a meanie!"

Ruby laughed slightly at the protests of the children, but the other adults did not hold back.  It was obvious that they were not going to sleep as soon as the Bright Circle disappeared across the horizon.  They were sharpteeth after all; creatures of the night.  However, her little joke had made her point.

"Oh... alright."  Ruby responded with thinly concealed amusement.  "But I trust that everyone will give Spotter their undivided attention?"  The little ones nodded at Ruby's question that was not really a question.  Since laying her eggs she had become the master at manipulating her younglings.  Such were the duties of parenthood.

Speaking of duties...  Ruby thought to herself.  It's time to let the little ones know the moral of the song.

"A little bit of awareness can prevent much hardship, children."  Ruby intoned as the younglings looked up with transfixed eyes.  "On that day Thud knew my concerns and comforted me, as he was aware of what the others were not.  On that day I used Thud's lesson to calm Dein, as I was aware of what he would respect even in his angriest moments.  And on that day, Seeker proved to me that he was aware of something that had eluded us all."  She scanned the crowd of younglings as she concluded her speech.  "But I do believe that is something that Spotter is going to tell all of you about."

She paused for a moment as she walked away.  "But before he comes down here, promise me that there will be no biting the flyers, children!"  Upon hearing snorts of laughter, Ruby clarified.  "I am mainly talking about you, Biter..."

"Aw... mom!  They knew that we were just playing!"

Ruby chuckled to herself.  "Maybe so... but not tonight, Biter.  A song is not the proper time... besides, Spotter will be in range to peck you this time!"  This earned her laughter from the tree above.  After hearing him huff for a moment, she finally got an affirmative grunt from her son, which she knew was as good as she was going to get.  It was only then that she walked out of the clearing and settled in beside her mate.  

"See?  I told you that you were a great singer."

Ruby snorted and gave Littlefoot a playful nip.  

"Yeah...  yeah..."  Ruby admitted.  "I just hope that the children listen to our lessons...  we had to learn some of them the hard way."

Littlefoot smiled.  "We learned them the hard way so that our kids didn't have to."

Both of them looked at their children as Petrie and his mate slowly glided down to the clearing.  A few seconds later, they were joined by their children which landed behind the two adult flyers.  Now the entire progeny of the pack was assembled together.  It was only then that Ruby had a realization.

This is the first time the little biters have ever heard a flyer's song!  This should be interesting.

She had no idea how correct she was.


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.

LittlefootAndAliTogether

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2015, 08:17:05 pm »
When did Littlefoot become a Sharptooth?

rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2015, 08:44:07 pm »
In the previous story, The Seven Hunters.  This is a sequel to that story.


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.

Ducky123

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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2015, 04:08:20 pm »
Quote
When did Littlefoot become a Sharptooth?
Maybe you see the parallels to a certain RP ;) The RP inspired rhombus to write a fic about it after he inspired me to create the RP in the first place :p
hmm, a signature? I'll think of something.

rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2015, 01:28:26 am »
Fanfiction link:  https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10967589/4/Songs-of-the-Hunters

Chapter 3: Observation

What is daddy doing?

Dive looked at his father with a inquisitive expression.  Despite his parents landing in the clearing a few moments before he and his siblings, they had not really moved for several moments.

The small flyer looked over to the assembled fastbiters who seemed to be eyeing him with unreadable expressions.  For a flyer who was already anxious about being on the ground their scrutiny did not improve his mood.  Sure he considered the younglings to be his friends, but he had been used as "the prey" in too many of their games to exactly trust them not to pull a prank on him.  Their rapt attention did not exactly fill him with confidence.

In confusion at the preoccupation of the fastbiters, he looked over towards his two sisters.  They too had confused expressions on their faces at the odd antics of the ground-walkers.  Lift seemed to be in the process of edging closer to father, whereas Valaria simply looked in Dive's direction and gave him a concerned expression.  Seeing that his siblings were just as clueless at the odd behavior of everyone as he was, Dive opened his mouth in order to speak to his mother.  It was only then that another realization hit him.

Where is Momma?

Crash!

"Ahhh!!!"  In terror, Dive took off into the air and soared back towards his nest.  He had no time to see what predator crashed beside him, he only had time to react.  The instinctual reaction was immediate.  In the instant that followed the only sound that he could hear was his thundering heart and the screaming rush of air in his ears.  He could feel the gusts of air from the wings of his siblings as they powered through the air beside him.  It was only when he and the others had landed back in the nest, hearts pounding and breaths gasping, that he could finally hear another sound.

Laughter.

What... The small flyer peeked over the edge of the nest and looked back towards the clearing.  A small stick was still situated where it had landed beside him moments before.  Around the clearing all of the assembled fastbiters could be seen laughing.  More surprisingly however, was the appearance of two amused flyers in the clearing and the sudden words of his mother.

"Well, children... you did what we always told you to do if threatened."

Dive's beak hung agape.  Had mother done this?

"But you forgot the most important lesson."

Dive clicked his beak together.  "Mother!  That wasn't nice!"  He glared at his parents as grunts of protest erupted from his siblings as well.  

"We thought something attacked us!"  Valaria offered.

At this point the rather unhelpful banter of Taunt's daughter could be heard.

"Yep, you were attacked alright!  You were attacked by a stick!"

At the resumption of laughter from the numerous younglings, Dive looked down in embarrassment.  He couldn't understand why his mother had scared them all like this and why father didn't disapprove of it.  He looked back towards his siblings with a pouting expression when his mother's words suddenly returned.

"Come back down, children."

Had Dive had been older and a bit more assertive then he might have considered disobeying his mother's request, but in his current state he didn't feel anger.  He simply felt confusion.  It wasn't unheard of for the family to play tricks on one another, but to do so in front of the ground-dwellers was a terrible embarrassment for the flyer.  Now he was sure that he would never hear the end of it from what his father called 'our good friends, the ankle-biters'.  Despite the fog of confusion and discontent, however, he took flight and guided himself towards his parents.  The others, seeing their brother obey his mother's call, followed in silence.

-----

Soar looked upon her children as they landed softly onto the soft ground.  It pained her to see their downcast faces, but she knew that this had to be done.

Sometimes it is the painful lessons that stick. She thought to herself.  And a little pain in training is better than the pain of loss. She sighed deeply as she prepared to speak to her little ones.  However that was when she felt her mate whisper into her ear.

"Pride is a powerful thing.  They get over this eventually."

She tilted her head without taking her eyes off of the children as she hissed back.

"You'd better be right, dear..."  She teased.  "This was your idea after all..."

In response to his mate's jest, he simply shrugged.

"Your mamma always call me bad influence."  She could hear the smirk in his voice.  "But me think it be important for them to learn moral before song this time."

To this she simply nodded and nuzzled him back slightly.  In many ways her mate communicated more articulately through actions than with words and here was but one example.  But now was not the time for affection, she realized.  Now was the time to tell the children the lesson that they had just be shown.  A lesson that Petrie had learned the hard way many years before.

"Children, I am proud of you."  The heads of the three flyers looked up at her with confused gazes at that affirmation.  "You did what you were supposed to do when danger comes and you followed directions even when you probably didn't want to."  She noted the slightly ashamed look in Dive's eyes.  It was not surprising to her that he had considered refusing.  In many ways he was the most headstrong.  "But it is very important that you pay attention to everything around you.  You must observe."

A chorus of 'yes, mother' echoed from the children, but she was not dissuaded from her lecture by their response.

"You're wondering why I tricked you."  The little flyers quickly nodded at this.  "You're wondering why we embarrassed you in front of your friends."  The nodding stopped as Dive's eyes bored into his mother's direction.  He like the others were no doubt wondering about his mother's intentions.  "You were tricked by me because none of you were paying attention and you all got embarrassment from that... but what if that happens outside of this forest?  You would be eaten; that's what."

The little ones looked down at this.  The truth was finally sinking in.  That was when their father sealed the deal.

"The reason why momma tricked you, little ones... and the reason why me suggest it... is because Spotter learn that lesson the hard way."

Dive's eyes lit up at his father's words.  "You did, daddy?!"

Petrie nodded with a smile.  The storyteller had just roped in his audience.

"That is right, son.  Me had important mission from Seeker, but me nearly die because me get careless."  With that he waved a wing and his children immediately fluttered into the circle, ignoring their misgivings about the earlier prank.  As they did so, Petrie turned and looked out at the other children in a well-rehearsed motion.  He smiled at the little fastbiters and bowed with a graceful motion.  He had learned a bit of showmanship from his uncle over the years, and he knew how to use it.

"The lesson this time, younglings, is about observation."  He was so lost in his act that he didn't notice his speech impediment disappear as it always did when he worked himself up into the frenzy of a song.  "Observation saved me; observation saved the pack; and observation can save you... So please observe all you little flyers, fastbiters, and dear friends, as Spotter recounts to you his song..."

As the flyer began to sing his low tones in preparation of the words that would follow, he didn't notice his mate share a knowing smile with Seeker.  They both knew that whatever Petrie couldn't communicate well through speech, he certainly could sing.

-----

Water.  Clear and reflective.  In many ways by staring into the water a person could stare into their very soul.  There was a certain sense of irony in that the process of consuming the liquid of life could allow one to reflect upon life.  The need for water was as unavoidable as seeing one's face in the reflection.  An unavoidable confrontation.

The irony was not lost on Petrie.

As he stared into the cool blue void he could see a face stare back at him that seemed alien despite it being his own.  It still amazed him that the predator that looked back at him was himself.  The only thing that hadn't changed were the eyes.  The same desire to do good was there even if the innocence was not.  A solitary reminder of who he once was.

Splash!

The fish didn't even have time to register the bite as Petrie swallowed the hapless creature whole.  It was simply another victim that had to die so that he might live.  The reality of his existence no longer horrified him, despite the harshness of it still rearing its head from time to time.  He was a sharptooth now and nothing could change that.

But what kind of sharptooth would me be?

That was the question that still weighed heavily on the young flyer's mind.  He would never abandon his friends, but he was a very different kind than them.  This difference meant more than a simple difference in perspective, it also meant a difference in lifestyle.  Despite being welcomed in the pack and still feeling like one of the gang, he knew that he was simultaneously something else as well.  

He was a sharptooth flyer, but what exactly did that mean?

The others had numerous chances to learn the songs of their kind...  to learn the rituals and the taunts... to learn how to use their abilities for the benefit of the pack... but he was different.  He could not ask Pterano for pointers on how to be a sharptooth flyer, it was simply up to him to find out how to relate to his own kind.  He couldn't help but wonder what songs the sharptooth flyers sang and what stories they told.  It was something that he knew that he would have to explore one day.

"Spotter?"

Petrie sighed.  Me suppose me think too much about me.  He chided himself.  Me is pack's flyer!  Me need to help.

He quickly took to the air from the water he had been floating upon.  The resulting splash and hard landing quickly caught Littlefoot's attention.  An apologetic expression quickly crossed the fastbiter's face.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Spotter!  If you need more time to catch your meal..."

Spotter shook his head and raised a wing to silence Littlefoot.

"Me already catch food.  What going on, Spotter?"

Petrie stared at his friend with an unintentionally harsh expression.  The piercing red eyes and the relative lack of expression in the mannerisms of his kind often made his packmates feel a bit self-conscious he noted.  He regretted this aspect of his change when Littlefoot cleared his throat and looked at the ground.

Petrie noted Littlefoot's apprehensive expression.  This not look good.

"We need to talk, Spotter."

Petrie's eyes went wide.  Oh no!  Now me know this not good!  Despite the concern that now filled him, he kept his expression somewhat neutral.  It was times like this that his lack of expression was a blessing and not a curse.

"What we need to talk about, Seeker?"  Petrie offered tentatively.  "Me supposed to scout Land of Shallow Waters, right?  Me can do that fine.  Also, uncle go with me."  His expression did not capture the turmoil that lie inside.  Surely Seeker did not doubt his abilities?

Littlefoot coughed.  An odd, hacking sound that was made out of nervousness and not out of distress.

"No, Spotter, that is not what concerns me..."  A deep sighed escaped him as he ran his claws through his crest in a flustered expression.  "That is only part of your mission... that is your mission for Dein and Terri..."  He looked up at Petrie with an intense expression.  "The pack requires you for something else."

Everything froze in that instant for Petrie.  The implications were clear.  The 'pack' had another task to be completed and that would be his 'real' mission.  They were going behind the backs of their allies... of Chomper's parents...  

"Me obey the pack, Seeker."  Petrie spoke with a firmness that surprised even him.  "Me do whatever pack needs... but please tell Petrie what he be doing... and why me doing it."  The piercing stare was now directed full-force at Littlefoot's face.  "You may hide it from Dein and Terri, but no hide from Spotter.  Me not hide things from you."

Littlefoot reared back as if he had been struck.  The apprehension was now replaced with a look of apology.

"I'm sorry, Spotter, but I couldn't tell you last night."  His face bowed slightly in a look of contemplation.  "I had to talk to Ponder and Thud before the others... Thud is a pack leader like me and needs to plan what is best for his pack... and Ponder..."

Petrie waved off the attempt to explain his actions.  "You not need explain Ponder... Me know why you not want to keep secrets from her."  Littlefoot seemed to squirm a bit at that statement.  "But why you keep it secret from others?  And what you keep secret?"

Littlefoot sighed.  "That is what I am trying to explain...  I had to make sure that Thud's pack would be on our side if it comes to this..."  Petrie stepped back at the mention of 'sides'.  "And I had to ask Ponder how best to break the news to Path..."  He waved his hand and made a gesture as if he were trying to grab the right words from the air.  "You see, Spotter, if I am right then our time with Path's parents might need to come to an end."

Petrie nodded as he had already deduced this.  "Yes, me figure that... but why must it end?"

Littlefoot exhaled a light breath as he looked at the small flyer.  

"Both Thud and I smelled it, though it is slight... and Dein's behavior confirms it..."

Petrie had grown tired of this.  "Spit it out already!"

Littlefoot stopped speaking and looked at the flyer in surprise.  It wasn't everyday that Petrie was assertive in a conversation, but then again it wasn't everyday that Littlefoot was at a loss for words.  

"Terri is going into heat."

Silence permeated the scene for several moments as Petrie processed that bit of information.  If Terri was going into heat then that meant that Dein would be fiercely protective of her... and want to impress her... and...

"Oh crap."  Petrie muttered.

Littlefoot could only nod at Petrie's understanding.  "Exactly.  He already is acting more unreasonable than usual and..."  A sigh escaped him as he looked at his claws.  "We have duties to them, but we need to start planning our escape..."

Petrie shook his head at this.  "You no think they keep as allies?"

Littlefoot frowned at this.  "I've talked to Thud about this and he says that the last you place that you want to be is by two-footers during mating season."  He put on a distressed expression.  "A fastbiter is a potential egg-stealer after all..."

Petrie blinked at this.  "If they have new baby then they not want us near..."  The implications kept on coming to the flyer and Littlefoot remained silent as Petrie vocalized them.  "They not want no one but them there...  and Path not part of their pack no more!"  A horrified look then appeared on the flyer's face.  "You tell Path?"

Littlefoot sighed.  "Not yet...  I need to make sure that everyone is ready first..."  He contorted his face in a pained expression.  "I don't want to tell Path until we are for sure, but..."

"You pretty sure."  The flyer's words were not a question.

"Yeah."  Littlefoot muttered.

-----

The next day:

"You seem preoccupied, nephew."

Petrie blinked as he turned towards his uncle.  They had been flying since they had woken up, but Petrie had been uncharacteristically quiet during the entire morning.  Realizing that it would be hard to hear him over the roar of the wind, Petrie guided himself into a circling pattern in order to reduce speed.  It was only when the background noise became bearable, that he spoke.

"Petrie have lot on mind."

Pterano looked at his nephew with concern.  The young flyer was seldom like this.  In fact the last time that he could recall him being this way was back after the nearly disastrous first meeting with the hidden runners many months prior.  The fact that Petrie had insisted on looking at a few other locations before going to their destination also concerned him.  Not that they wouldn't be able to give the pack their report in time; they could meander for days and still be able to inform the others before they reached the Land of Shallow Waters.  No... Petrie was usually very driven on his missions.  The fact that he appeared to be dithering here was extremely noticeable.

Pterano bobbed his head in order to adjust his speed and then promptly turned back towards his nephew.

"Well, care to tell your uncle?"

The elder flyer looked intently as Petrie seemed to shift uncomfortably in the air.  His eyes quickly darted from side to side as if to confirm there was no one listening in, which in this context made little sense.  The rare moment of vulnerability made Pterano think about Petrie in his leaf-eater days.  However, Petrie soon regained his bearings and again focused straight ahead.  It was then that his words cut through the air like daggers.

"Me have other mission, uncle.  Mission that Path's parents not know about..."

-----

"Well... well... what do we have here?"

Kralle watched the two flyers with suspicion as he attempted to fly above their line of sight.  However, as both of the flyers seemed to be conversing with one another, this was a relatively easy thing to accomplish.

Hmmm... odd having a sharptooth flyer and a leaf-eater fly together.  I wonder if...

He shifted in the air and feel several body lengths as the painful scar on his right wing again made itself known.  He still had not recovered from the debacle in the valley.  Everything had been going well until those damn carrion eaters came into the picture.  Still, he had been luckier than most.  Very well of his comrades had survived the ordeal.

But now that was all in the past.  He had to go back to the old way of doing things.  Solitary hunts and solitary meals.  No pack to back him up and no collective security.  It was entirely up to him if he lived or died.  It was odd to think that in Redclaw's pack he could have found solidarity, but for the flyers such a bond had existed.  It was the bond of being worthy.  Of being something larger than yourself.  Now that it had gone he felt hollow.

He looked down at the flyers again as they pass through the other end of a cloud.  He could now confirm that it was indeed a leaf-eater and a sharptooth flyer.  The very implications of that made a deep anger rise in him.

Has the valley begun to recruit my own kind now?!   He knew that an alliance of the desperate had formed during the Battle of the Valley, but it was uncommon for sharptooth and leaf-eater flyers to do much interaction in the Mysterious Beyond.  That was when something caught Kralle's eye.

The sharptooth flyer had the exact same coloration of the one that had fought Sierra.  Could it be...

He crumpled his wings towards his chest and descended into a vertical dive, before again extending his wings and falling into a silent glide.  This gave him enough speed to gain on the two targets.  That was when he saw one more piece of evidence that made everything fall into place.  The larger flyer had the same coloration of the one that had fought Rinkus.  But that was not what caught his attention.

The flyer's eyes.  Using his own superior sense of vision he could see into their depths.  It was then that he knew that this was the one.

Kralle seethed.  In his anger, his wings twitched in impossible to constrain rage.

I will finish what my comrades could not, you loathsome vermin!

With a final crumpling of the wings, he dived towards the unsuspecting flyers.

-----

"So, you are telling me that you think that your pack will have to move on soon?"

Petrie nodded.  "Yeah.  When two-footers mate, it not good idea to tempt fate.  At least that what Thud say."

Pterano snorted.  "Remind me to never ask Thud for lessons on poetry."  He soon took on a more serious face, however.  "Well... if you all will need to leave eventually, why don't you go now?  I am sure that Chomper's folks can manage fine on their own."

"No!  We not turn back on allies!"  Pterano was taken aback by Petrie's fierce objection.  "Path's family help us save old home, now we help them take back their home.  Only then we leave."

Pterano sighed.  Considering Pterano's own checkered past he was not about to lecture his nephew on matters of honor.  However, he couldn't brush away the thought that Petrie would be better served by being a bit more self-serving in this case.  

"Be that as it may, nephew, you are all putting yourselves at risk."  Pterano nodded his head away from the nearby bluffs as he directed his nephew to circle back with him towards their original path.  "The first step in evading a danger is to spot it.  It seems to me that you are like a flyer who sees the mountain but is still willing to fly into it."

Petrie shook his head. "Pack not break mountains, but pack can break enemies.  We do so again."

His uncle nodded.  "I hope so..."  A deep sigh escaped him as his nephew looked towards him.  "Just remember what your job is in the pack, Petrie.  You are an observer.  So what do you observe now?"

Petrie was taken aback by this.  "Me no understand."

Pterano smiled slightly.  "What do you notice about this situation?  What do you observe?  Observations aren't just things you see, my dear nephew, they are things that you figure out as well."  Seeing that Petrie was looking contemplative, Pterano continued.  "Your friend, Littlefoot must do a lot of observing in order to keep the pack organized.  He must have to know everyone's moods, their fears, their strengths...  A leader must observe those things."

Petrie spoke without thinking.  "Is that how you got others to follow you?"

Pterano cringed at his nephew's question, but answered truthfully.

"Yes, Petrie.  That is how I did it."  A frown descended upon his face as he looked ahead.  "Once you know a person's hopes and fears you can easily know how they will react.  It is not something I am happy about."

Petrie nodded.  "Me manipulate bad flyers and hidden runners before.  Me not happy about that either, but me still do it.  Me wonder what Seeker trying to make us do."

Pterano nodded at this.  "All leaders manipulate others, Petrie, but only good ones do it for the benefit of the manipulated.  I don't doubt Littlefoot's intentions, but maybe if you can find out what they are then you can determine what to do."

Silence descended upon the flyers for several moments as Petrie pondered this.  Only the sound of flapping wings and the occasional wind gust interrupted the blanket of quiet.  Finally though, Petrie spoke.

"He want to protect Path.  That why he not tell him yet."  Pterano nodded at this insight from his nephew.  Chomper, though already a battle-hardened sharptooth, was barely a young preadolescent.  Matters of mating and his parents suddenly acting cold towards him may be difficult for him to understand.  "He only tell Thud because he need Thud's support if packs leave quickly.  And he only tell Ponder...  well, because she is Ponder."  Pterano chuckled at this.  Being the companion of the leader entailed a special status all to itself.  It seemed that Petrie was already aware of this. "Me need to find new places for pack to live... but Seeker tell me to search on way to Land of Shallow Waters... oh!"  

Pterano looked at his nephew in surprise.  "What is it?"

Petrie frowned.  "If Seeker want me to find places by Land of Shallow Waters, then maybe he don't think we make it there!  Maybe he think that pack have to leave before then!  Or maybe he think that pack have to leave in hurry!"

Pterano nodded.  "You see, Petrie.  Littlefoot is already making contingency plans.  Even honor has limits."

"Why he not tell me?"  Petrie muttered despondently.  "Me trustworthy."

Pterano shrugged with his wings, a gesture that caused him to rise slightly.  "Maybe he was not aware of this himself?  Sometimes our actions say more about us than our words say... sometimes they say even more than our thoughts."  He looked back at his nephew with a contemplative look.  "You should probably let him know when we get back.  If he is that concerned deep inside then he should probably be made aware of that."

Petrie nodded at this though the downcast look still remained.  "Like you say, uncle.  First step to avoid danger is see danger.  Me need to tell Seeker so he avoid it."  He looked back at his uncle who was now at a slightly elevated position compared to him.  He had to squint his eyes to see his uncle's form in front of the bright white clouds.  "Thanks, uncle!  Now me need to simply..."

That was when Pterano saw it.

"Petrie!  Roll now!"

-----

Both flyers rolled evasively as the massive flyer careened past where Petrie had been mere second before.  Not wasting any time, the flyer entered into a hard spin and began to circle back to where his target had been mere moments before.  Though he had lost the element of surprise, he still had a great advantage due to his advanced speed.  None of this was seen by Petrie, however, who was still in a chaotic spin.

Sharptooth flyer!  Me have to get distance!

Quickly breaking out of his spin, Petrie flapped his wings in quick succession.  He would eventually need to build speed, but in a chase that could not be done by wings alone.  No, he would need to built altitude and then let gravity do the rest.

Flap!  Flap!  Flap!

His wings burned with exertion at the sudden onslaught of activity.  He had not been under such pressure since the battle for the valley... since his injury.  The blistering pain that now returned to his wings was a fierce reminder of what he nearly had lost in the rocky bluffs surrounding the valley.  He hoped that his body could handle the task that it now faced.

"Petrie dive!"

Without thinking, Petrie crumpled his wings and descended right as the claws of his pursuer cut through the air that he had just been occupying.  The sound of an angry screech and rushing wind then followed as Petrie quickly looked back towards the threat.

And promptly wished that he hadn't.

Pterano's diversionary attack had only delayed the other flyer for a few moments, as he was now quickly gaining on Petrie despite the pursuit of his uncle.  It seemed that the sharptooth flyer desire to seek revenge on Petrie transcended all other concerns.  The combination of the flyer's hulking form and his crazed eyes made Petrie's pulse quicken with panic.

What do me do?!  He have advantage!

Quickly darting his head back and forth as he maintained the dive, he searched in vain for any piece of terrain that might give him an advantage.  The bluffs were too far away and only grassland greeted the flyer's eyes.  Grassland that was rapidly approaching.

Petrie smiled.  That was it!

"Uncle, follow!"  Petrie screeched as he turned on his side and extended his wings, causing him to circle in a wide arc.  This single action caused him to begin to turn, but it also greatly slowed his velocity.  At a higher altitude this would have been a death sentence, but this close to the ground...

Petrie twitched in anxiety as a tell-tale whoosh reached his ears.  The enemy flyer had passed him up due to his great speed, but Petrie knew that he would be back.  His stunt had only bought him some time.

But that was all that he needed.

"Petrie, are you alright?!"

The young flyer smiled at his uncle's voice.  Despite his pained wings and exhausted muscles, he now had a plan.

"Uncle, me have plan!  When he come back..."

-----

"I will get you!  You worthless piece of spiketail dung!"

Kralle was enraged.  The small flyer had evaded him not once, but twice.  Nonetheless, he was certain that the pathetic flyer would not best him this time.  The flyer had used up most of his velocity during his evasive turn.  Now it was just a matter of catching up to him and finishing the job.

Unless his friend intervenes...

He stared at the sky around the small flyer and noticed something immediately.  The elder flyer... was gone.

He darted his head back and forth, but it was only when he looked towards the clouds that he could see the other flyer.  He was rapidly gaining altitude.  It seemed that he was cutting his loses.

Heh...  So much for leaf-eater loyalty...  

With a satisfied smirk, Kralle pumped his wings and rapidly gained speed on Petrie.  Within mere moments he would be within attacking distance of the hapless flyer.

But little did he now that he was playing right into their plans.

-----

Observe... Learn... Plan...

Pterano soared into the clouds as he focused on the chase going on below him.  He could now observe details that he could not when he was in the heat of the battle.  It was amazing what distance could do for one's perspective.  With the old flyer mantra playing in his head, he considered the situation.

Observation: the flyer is totally focused on Petrie...  now that he thinks that I am flying away he is paying me no heed...

His wings pumped vigorously as he struggled to match the horizontal speed of the enemy.  He would have to be ready for when the right moment came.

What have I learned: the flyer is impulsive and fixated on one goal.  He will not see the unexpected.

As he had these thoughts he could see the distance slowly close between the large flyer and his nephew.  It was less than a longneck neck's distance between them now.  Both flyers were pumping their wings like mad in order to keep up the necessary speed.  At the same time, Petrie was noticeably sinking closer to the ground.  This increased his speed, but also made the room for error much less.  A loss of control at that altitude would mean a crash; and a crash at that speed would mean death.

Which is the plan... he will never know what hit him.

The distance rapidly closed as Kralle pumped his wings like mad.  Soon only a tree's length separated the two combatants.  It would be mere moments before the distance was closed completely.

Without hesitation, Pterano dove.

-----

I have you now!

Kralle's wings burned with exertion as the distance rapidly closed.  They were literally a few body-length's away.  From this distance he could see fine details on his enemy's body.  He could see the swaying of the individual filaments that covered his wings...  he could see the gleam from his wide eyes...  he could see the gentle swaying of his crest... but most strikingly he could see the scars of battle past.  Several scars on each wing... a healed gash on the head...  this flyer had obviously seen serious battles in his short life.

Kralle smiled.  Time for you to meet your last...

The distance had closed now and the two flyers were barely off of the ground.  The grass below them swayed due to the rushing air from their wake.  As soon as Kralle made his attack, the poor flyer would have nowhere to go but down.  The battle would be over as quickly as it had started.  With a quick strike from the air.

Kralle had no time to realize how very right that he was.

Slam!

With a sudden jolt and a burst of pain, Kralle felt the claws of the large flyer slam into his back.  In an instant he lost any maneuverability that he once had.  The sea of grass below him now turned into a green blanket in his vision.  A blanket that was about to overtake him.

Wha...  

He never heard the collision that ended his life.

-----

Petrie stared at the scene in front of him in shock.

The body of the sharptooth flyer lay in a crumpled heap.  There was no wing or appendage that was not bent in a horrifying, unnatural direction.  His neck was twisted in such a manner as if he were staring at someone behind him, which was a testament to how close the fiend had been to decapitating himself when he collided into the ground head first.  The only sign of life from him now were the involuntary convulsions that came with a traumatic death.  His eyes seemed to stare at Pterano in silent condemnation.  Despite the necessity of his actions, it was simply another death that had been caused by his actions.

"Uncle!"

Pterano looked up at the small form of his nephew.  His words had been choked out with an exhausted and weary tone.  It was obvious that Pterano had made his move not a moment too soon.

Pterano took a deep breath as he too was trying to regain his breath.  "I am glad that you are alright, Petrie."  He looked over at the massive flyer.  "It seems that the carrion flyers did not take care of all of our friends."

Petrie nodded as he stumbled over and embraced his uncle.  The elder flyer could feel the trembling of his nephew like the rumblings of an earthshake.  The danger had been destroyed and the emergency had passed, but now they had to pay the price that came with surviving the moments of mind-numbing terror.  Petrie's observations had saved the day, but it had yet to be seen if the pack would be as lucky in the days to come.

-----

"Me was lucky on that day, but it was close.  Spotter understood the need to observe in the days to come, but me was unaware of what was happening while Spotter away from pack..."

Dive quaked in excitement.  "What happened next, daddy?!"

Petrie smiled.  "Well... Me afraid that is a song for another day..."

A stream of protests erupted from the children as they were all now enraptured in the ensemble story that the pack had been singing.  But, like Ruby before him, his feigned intent to bring the story to a close was just for show.

It was at this point that Petrie's beloved mate, Soar, addressed the children.

"Alright, kids.  We will continue, but only if you all behave.  No interrupting and no tail biting!"  She looked at Taunt and Cera's kids as she said this, which made Taunt chuckle.  As the mutterings of agreement arose from the children, Soar finally allowed a satisfied smile appear on her face.  

"I guess that it is my turn.  It is, it is!"

The children turned towards the new voice as the green fastbiter approached the circle.  Leap gave her a quick nuzzle before she entered into the center of attention.  It was only then that Petrie and Soar flew to where Littlefoot and Ruby were sitting.  Their song in this particular story was finished, but the story had only begun.


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.

Ducky123

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2015, 05:06:44 pm »
Review of chapter 2:

Somehow I missed this update... This is another lovely story and lesson :) As always, it doesn't lack humour but it doesn't lack conflict either. Well done :)
hmm, a signature? I'll think of something.

Ducky123

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2015, 01:15:21 pm »
Review of chapter 3:

Well, you sure aren't getting rusty in writing fighting scenes :smile
I really like this song as observation is always helpful and sometimes can spare you unneccessary conflicts in our real world (we sure aren't faced with people with the intent of killing us every day ;))
We're also learning a little about Petrie's family here :)

I'll just join all the little sharpteeth and wait for the next song :p
hmm, a signature? I'll think of something.

LBTDiclonius

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2015, 04:38:38 pm »
Hey, I don't know if this was specified, but what kind of raptors are the pack? I remember that it was mentioned that Skytail and his pack were Utahraptors, so are Littlefoot and the gang the same kind?

rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2015, 05:04:23 pm »
Yep, they are all Utahraptors.  The lone exceptions are Chomper (who is still a T Rex) and Petrie who is a Cearadactylus (Sierra's kind).


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.

rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #18 on: March 04, 2015, 05:05:49 pm »
Thanks for the review, Ducky.  :) Yeah, I need to get to writing soon so that I can get this story going again.  I have fallen way behind on my writing and I don't want to keep the little sharpteeth waiting.  :p


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.

rhombus

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Songs of the Hunters
« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2015, 04:42:31 pm »
A brief note about the 'second sniffer' mentioned in this chapter. Many animals (but not humans) have a vomeronasal organ which acts as a second olfactory (smell) organ. Unlike your organs of smell, however, these are more closely tied into to the unconscious and instinctual centers of the brain. They are used to detect pheromones which may then induce changes in an animal's behavior in preparation for mating, including increased aggression.

Fanfiction link:  https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10967589/5/Songs-of-the-Hunters

Chapter 4: No Safe Haven

Ducky settled into the center of the circle with a graceful scraping of the ground.  Like many of the others she would not sit during her songs, but would stand freely in order to sway with the rhythm of her words.  As Thud had told them when he had taught him of the rituals of their kind:

"Don't remember the song... feel the song.  It has to come from deep inside."

Ducky sighed.  That memory of the dinosaur who had effectively been the pack's mentor had awakened concerns that she hadn't reflected on in several days.  I wonder how Swift and Thud are doing.  We haven't heard from them since the Cold Time. She shook her head.  He and Swift were a pack to themselves now and more than likely were fine on their own, but the doubts remained.

"So what happened next, mommy?"

Ducky looked down at little Verok.  Her son had been named after her mate's fallen brother, one of Calin's victims.  Even though Leap had been the one to end his brother's life, it had been Calin pursuit that had made that mercy killing necessary.  When they had told the children about how Verok had met his end, it had nearly broken Leap's heart.  She still remembered Verok's words.

"It's okay, daddy.  Don't cry."

They had never seen their father cry before, nor since.  It was something that was seldom talked about in the family.  However, since that day Verok appeared to have a more disciplined manner to him.  Her son was trying to live up to the memory of his namesake.

She smiled.  "Well that is what I am about to sing about, son.  Yep, yep, yep!"  She beamed as she focused on the rest of her children.  "While Spotter was out looking for information but finding trouble, we were simply trying to find any food at all.  The ground was parched on the path to the lowlands and not even ground fuzzies were in abundance."  She frowned at the memory.  "That is where my song begins."

She then rose to her full height and took a deep breath as her children watched her with anticipation.  Her singing voice had a beautiful but haunting quality to it that harkened back to something that had been long since lost.  But it required ever bit of vocal power that she could muster.  It was only with the third deep breath that she began to sway in time with the words... then the words came.

♪♪  On that day it was warm and blue
that was when I saw a dinosaur that we knew  ♪♪

♪♪  He was tense and he wore a frown
that was when I knew that danger was around  ♪♪


-----

The green fastbiter tilted her head at her friend.  She had first noticed him acting distant and strange when they had woken up that morning and she had finally decided enough was enough and asked him about it during their noon hunt for ground fuzzies.  His response was not what she expected, however.  He had gestured for her to follow him to a separate area. When they had finally moved out of sight from everyone else she again asked her question.

"What is going on, Path?  We are friends, we are, we are!  You can talk to me."

Chomper grimaced and answered immediately.  

"What do you know about my kind, Haven?"

Ducky tried not to look horrified at that question as the possible ramifications of it ran through her head.  Is this what Seeker warned us about?  Despite her internal misgivings, however, she managed to keep the fear off of her face.

"Well, your mamma and daddy helped us to hunt... so I know how they do that...  You told us about how they met... so I know..."

Chomper shook his head.  "No, that isn't what I mean... I mean..."  He seemed to concentrate for a moment, but then sighed.  "My mommy and daddy are acting weird and I don't know why."  He finally admitted.  "Seeker and Ponder are acting weird too."

Ducky nodded now, understanding his confusion.  "Did you talk to either of them?"

Chomper gestured wildly with his stubby arms.  His youthful excitability came through in the tone of his voice.  "That's the problem!  They won't tell me anything!"  Ducky watched with both concern and sympathy as he began to pace.  "Both of them told me that my parents are just hungry, but that isn't it!"  He shook his head.  "Daddy is acting like a jerk and mommy is focused on daddy all of  the time.  Daddy even roared at the pack this morning."

Ducky nodded.  Dein's forceful order to 'wake up and find food' had been made in a tone that allowed for no disagreement.  Chomper suspects something, but he cannot know yet.  That might set him off.  Ducky thought to herself.  As much as she detested it, she would have to attempt to deflect the sharptooth's concerns.  He is already showing the signs.  He is, he is!  

"Well..."  Ducky began.  "Maybe he is just hungry?  Sometimes he gets..."

Chomper glared at her with an expression that made her stop cold.  "No, not you too."  His voice came out in an icy tone that cut her to the very core.  "You're my friend!  You're my packmate.  I thought that packmates were honest with one another."

Ducky looked down.  Path is right...  Friends do not fib one another... She frowned deeply as she could hear the angry breathing from her friend.  She knew what she had to do.

"I am ordered not to speak about it yet, Path."  The connotation was clear and Chomper's' reaction was immediate.  "We will tell you eventually, but that is..."

Chomper seethed.  "Seeker ordered you?"

Ducky opened her mouth and let it hang for a moment.  "Yes.  But Path..."

Chomper did not wait for her to finish, but instead attempted to storm off.  Despite her concern for her friend such an act of dismissal made something deep inside her rage.  As a result she did something that was very uncharacteristic for her.

Oh, no you do not!

She spring into action and charged forward, quickly getting into position.  This was exactly what Littlefoot had warned her about and it seemed that the unhappy duty to contain Chomper had fallen upon her.

"Get out of my way!"

The fastbiter had placed herself between the sharptooth and his desired escape route.  Her crest feathers and tail were instinctually flared out in an aggressive display.  Ducky was obviously not preparing for a play fight.

"I will not, Path!"  She hissed lowly, utterly lost in her anger.  "You will listen!"

Chomper glared at her defiantly.  He was too lost in his own anger to understand why he was so angry.  However, his survival instincts were enough to make him realize the threat posed by an angry raptor, so he made no further moves.

Ducky maintained her position, claws ready.  "What are you doing right now, Path?"

Chomper growled as he faced off with his friend.  He was slowly stepping to the side as if he were assessing if he could get passed the obstacle in front of him.

"Trying to find Seeker before you got in the way!"  He finally spat with as much vitriol as he could muster.

Ducky flared out her arms further as if to appear larger.  She did not want Chomper to get any bright ideas about rushing passed her.

"And what do you plan on doing when you find him?"  She asked in an eerie calm voice.

Chomper did not answer, but Ducky could see his stance falter a bit.  Good, Path...  Think!  She wasted no time in continuing her work.  Now to do what Seeker mentioned...  I have to break him out of this...

"Do you plan on doing to him what you did to me?"  She asked softly as if she were hurt.

Chomper growled again.  Annoyance was clear in his voice.  "I haven't done anything to you!"

Ducky breathed.  "Oh is that so?"  In a quick gesture that Chomper couldn't make out, she reached to touch her side, very carefully and lightly piercing it with her claws.  I hope this works...  Grimacing, she then presented the blood stained hand to her friend.

Chomper stepped back.  A horrified expression was plastered on his face.  "What... I... no..."

Ducky frowned.  She found this trickery as distasteful as it was painful, but it was necessary.  She had to break him out of his previous line of thought before he did actually hurt someone.

Chomper looked away suddenly, his arms quivering anxiously as he realized the full magnitude of what he had done... or rather thought he had done.  He had attacked one of his own friends.  For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why he had done that and why he was so angry.  That was when she felt Ducky's blood stained hand on his shoulder.

"Look at me, Path."

With great reluctance Chomper slowly raised his head towards his close friend.  Ducky's face was caring, but carried a very clear expression of hurt.  An expression that conveyed a sense of betrayal.  His reaction was immediate.

"I don't know why I did that!"  He hissed out as tears began to streak on his face.  "I'm so sorry..."

Ducky shook her head.  "It is alright, Path.  I know why you attacked me."

Chomper's expression turned to one of shock at that affirmation, as Ducky continued.

"The reason that Seeker has been trying to keep it from you is to stop that from happening."  She then smiled despite her injury.  "I guess it happened anyway though.  It did, it did."

Chomper finally had recovered enough to speak again.  "What have you been trying to keep from me?"  His voice was raspy and anxious.  "What is happening to me?  To mommy and daddy?  Are we sick?!"

Ducky gave a soft chuckle, a most welcome sound after the terrors of the previous moments.  "No, Path.  You and your mommy and daddy are not sick."  She affirmed.  "...but all three of you are not... quite you right now."  Seeing that Chomper was going to speak again, she finished.  "I think that Seeker should explain this to you, but only if you stay calm."  The rebuke in her voice was gentle, but it was enough to make the purple sharptooth look down in shame.

"I will.  I would never hurt my friends!"  Upon realizing what he had said, however, he soon fell silent again.  He had already hurt one friend today.  Could he really make that promise?  Thankfully, Ducky was there to interrupt his dark thoughts.

"Come on, Path.  Seeker will explain all of this to you."

-----

Several miles away:

Nothing!  Absolutely nothing!  If only those damn fastbiters would do their job...

The barren plains greeted his eyes with the same monotonous background that he had seen for the previous few hours.  Nothing but grass and the occasional tree gave the sight any variation.  The path to the lowlands was always rather sparsely populated with prey even during plentiful times and it was even worse in the immediate aftermath of the Cold Time. It was quickly looking like that they would have to forego food until they finally arrived at their destination.

Dein let out a frustrated growl at his predicament, which earned a quick response from someone close by.

"Quiet, Dein!  It is hard enough finding prey without you announcing us to them!"

Dein looked over at his mate.  Terri wore an annoyed expression as well, but appeared to be holding out better than he was at the moment.  All that he could feel was rapidly building rage.

"I don't think that we need to announce our presence to them, dear."  He muttered sardonically.  "If they are too blind to see two sharpteeth in the middle of a field, then they would certainly have been eaten already."

Terri rolled her eyes at him.  For some reason this expression of hers, though not unusual because of Dein's usual antics, made something in him grow excited.  It was almost like he was falling in love again.

"Well, dear..."  Terri began, oblivious to the thoughts of her mate.  "Your lack of concentration isn't helping."  She looked at the field before them with an annoyed expression.  "I had forgotten how much I hated this place.  My aunt didn't call it the 'Land of Bones' for nothing.  Many sharpteeth met their end here."  Her eyes seemed to focus on something far away as she said this.

"Well if one more would have met their end here then we could eat."  Dein muttered, which earned an amused shake of the head from his mate.  "Let's see if those damn fastbiters have found anything..."

Terri seemed to pause for a moment, which made Dein look at her with an odd expression.

"What, dear?"

Terri shrugged with her shoulders.  "Perhaps we try by the stream, dear...  It is the one place that we haven't tried."

Dein looked at her with bemusement.  "The stream that is greener than a swimmer and smells worse than a spiketail's backside?  Do you honestly think anything would be hanging around that?"

Terri smiled softly.  "Only something that would want to be where a sharptooth was not.  It isn't like there are any other hiding spots here."

Dein sighed.  "Alright, dear."  Terri's eyes expressed shock for a slight moment as he gave in without any of his usual taunting.  "Let's give it a try."

As the two sharpteeth proceeded to approach the distant green stream, neither of them were aware of the important conversation happening many miles away.

-----

By the ground fuzzy nests:

"So how long do you think that we have?"

Littlefoot considered Taunt's question for several moments as he quickly consumed the ground fuzzy.  The crunching of bone and sinew occluded the resulting silence from the pack leader as his eyes seemed to focus on something far away.  Taunt had already turned back towards his ground fuzzy nest when Littlefoot finally spoke.

"I'm not sure...  I only know what your father told us.  Dein will get more and more aggressive as 'that time' approaches."

Taunt snorted.  "Yeah... but when is a two-footer not dangerous?"  This statement earned him a playful outburst as Littlefoot tossed a ground fuzzy bone at the orange fastbiter.  Taunt quickly recovered, however.  "I mean... he tried to attack me once, you know?  Way before I was even a member of Skytail's pack."  He shook his head.  "I just didn't realize that Path's kind were that crazy.  To go totally mad over a female."

Taunt waited for Littlefoot's reply when something hit him from behind.

"Ow!  What the..?"

Taunt was greeted by a smiling dark green fastbiter.  It seemed that his father had entered the conversation.

"You will never have a chance to go mad over a female if you continue to neglect your surroundings, son."  Thud mocked easily as his son gave a dismissive gesture with his claws.  Thud then turned towards his son's leader.  "I don't know how much longer we have before he goes completely into the mating frenzy of his kind, but I don't think we want to be around when that happens."

Littlefoot frowned.  "I don't think that it would do him any favors to return and find us all missing.  They are our allies, after all."  He raised a finger for emphasis on that point.  "We could leave after we have led them to the lowlands.  Then we could do some scouting well ahead of them."

Thud sighed.  "I agree that it would go against the alliance, Seeker, but I don't know if we can afford to wait."

"Wait on what?"

The assembled dinosaurs turned to face the new voice in the conversation.  Leap had stopped upon asking his question, whereas Swift, Spike, Ruby and Cera approached close behind.  It seemed that most of the pack was now in on the conversation.

Littlefoot gestured for the others to be at ease.  "We were talking about the situation with Path's folks again."

Cera scoffed.  "Gee... Why don't they just make some eggs and be done with it!"

Cera's bluntness made Thud shake his head with amusement.

"I can clearly see why my son fancies you."  Thud deadpanned.  "To answer your question, that wouldn't fix things.  A two-footer protecting eggs in a dangerous thing indeed."  He then smirked at her.  "It would just make things worse, just like letting my son get a word in edge-wise in a conversation."

Littlefoot readied himself for an unhelpful argument between the three fastbiters when Ruby interrupted the conversation.

"Has anyone seen Haven or Path?  I tried to find them earlier, but I couldn't find them."

Littlefoot frowned.  It was then that he realized that he had not seen them for several hours.  This was not uncommon during individual hunts like the ones that they had just finished, but the silence of the others indicated that he was not the only one to not see the two packmates.  And considering Path's situation...

"Alright, everyone!  We need to find Path and Haven."  Littlefoot affirmed authoritatively.  No one needed to ask why the sudden urgency was present in Littlefoot's voice.  The changes associated with the time of mating would not only affect those Tyrannosauruses of that age... they would affect adolescents within range of them as well.

-----

Several miles away:

"I can't see anything worth eating here, unless you count green sludge!"

Terri stared at her mate.  The rage in his voice was unmistakable, but she knew that it was not directed at her.  However, that only made her more concerned.

"I am sorry, dear."  She chose her words carefully in order to be uncharacteristically submissive.  "I should have known better."

Dein turned suddenly and stared at her with wide eyes.  She resisted the urge to laugh at his dumbfounded expression as she had to confirm her suspicions.

"It isn't your fault, dear!"  Dein offered immediately.  "It... it... is just Seeker and his allies!  They aren't pulling their weight!  We have to do all of the searching, while..."

Terri did not pay attention to the rest of Dein's rant, as she had heard what she needed to hear.  She had begun to feel the signs within her.  The excessive emotions... the increased appetite... the changes in her sense of smell.  However, the changes that she was experiencing were not as dangerous as what had befallen Dein.  A female in heat would drive any male into hyper-vigilance.  Any dinosaur who he perceived as threatening his mate or their wellbeing would be seen as a threat to be destroyed.

And right now Dein's rage was focused on one source.

"If Seeker would only do what he promised then we would not be going hungry right now."

Terri took in a deep breath.  "Dein?"

The large male looked at his mate once more.  "Yes?"

"Shut up and listen."  The female cautioned.  "How do you feel right now?

-----

By the ground fuzzy nests:

"Angry and confused."

Littlefoot nodded at Chomper's answer.  It had taken them several minutes to find the two missing packmates and the blood on Ducky's side confirmed his worst fears.  Ducky had to resort to shocking Chomper back into his senses.  However, the cost of a small scratch was far less than what could have happened.  Now Littlefoot and the others were left with the task of explaining the situation to their friend without upsetting him further.  It was a delicate operation.

"That is understandable, Path."  Littlefoot affirmed.  "Your father feels the same way right now.  The reason why he is feeling that way is because your mother is... um..."

"She is ready to lay eggs again."  Cera blurted out as Littlefoot closed his eyes in exasperation.

Chomper sprung to his feet.  "She is?!  That's great news!  I always wanted brothers and sisters!"

Littlefoot put up a placative hand.  "It isn't that simple, Path..."

Chomper blinked.  "What do you mean?"

Littlefoot paused as he had trouble finding the right words.  Thankfully, Ruby was able to put the situation in a form that the little biter could understand.

"Path, have you ever heard of your kind laying eggs when older children are still around?"

Chomper thought about this for a moment as a contemplative expression came to his face.

"Uh... no."

Ruby nodded.  "There is a reason for that.  The reason is because they can't um... do the stuff that makes eggs... until the nest is empty."  She ignored the slight snicker from Taunt in the background.  "When you left the nest in order to join our pack, your momma became fertile again..."

Chomper had a confused expression.  "But how is this a problem?  Why am I so angry and paranoid?"

"That is a good question, Path."  Thud walked over towards the purple sharptooth as he began his explanation.  "How much do you know about your second sniffer?"

"My second sniffer!"  Chomper exclaimed as he looked around his body.  "Did I grow one somewhere?!"

Thud smiled slightly as the rest of the pack laughed at the small sharptooth's reaction.  It was a badly needed moment of levity in an otherwise tense situation.

"No..."  Thud offered.  "No, this is one that you had all along, but you have never used it before.  What it smells you can't 'smell', you can only feel.  It makes all of us kind of crazy during the time of mating."

-----

Several miles away:

"It is that time, dear.  You know what that means."

Dein stepped backwards with a stunned expression on his face.  His mate's words were horrifying in their implications.  His antagonism with Seeker... his lack of patience with his good allies... the standoffishness of his son.  It all made sense now.

"They must go.  They won't be safe with us... with me."

He stared into the murky green water of the stream with a faraway expression.  If the time of mating was approaching for him and his mate then they needed to put it off as long as possible in order to allow them to approach the Land of Shallow Waters.  Terri would need plentiful food and a good nesting site and that would not be found in the lowlands.  However, for every day that they put off this biological imperative, they both would become even more aggressive and dangerous.  The fact that he now knew this did not change that fact.  There were certain instincts that could not be reasoned away.  He was so lost in his thoughts, that his mate's words barely registered in his head.

"I will talk to the pack, dear.  I will let them know that they must leave...  then we will go to the lowlands together."

-----

By the ground fuzzy nests:

"You are telling me that my second sniffer is making me mad at daddy?"

Thud nodded.  It finally seemed like Chomper was understanding the situation.

"Yes, Path.  Some part of you knows that your daddy is going to be dangerous soon."

"My instincts..."  Chomper muttered softly.

Thud was about to respond when he felt a clawed hand on his shoulder.  The assertive voice of Littlefoot soon greeted his ears.

"That's right, Path.  And you should listen to your instincts."

Chomper's face then changed ever so subtlety.  The calm understanding was replaced with a festering anger.  Thud realized their mistake as soon as Chomper opened his mouth.

"Why should I listen to my instincts?!"  The sudden anger made the rest of the pack jump back, but Littlefoot and Thud did not stir in response to their friend's agitation.  They were like statues facing off with an angry observer.  "Why should I give in to them?  Isn't that what daddy is going?"

Littlefoot breathed in softly before he responded to the sharptooth's question.  "Yes, but unlike other instincts this is not one that you can fight, Path.  Not unless you want to hurt those you love or end up hurting yourself."

In an instant the purple sharptooth seemed deflated.  His head sagged towards the ground in a morose expression.  He now realized that this was a fight that he couldn't win.

"Path?"  Littlefoot spoke softly.  When the sharptooth did not stir, he spoke again.

"Path?"

Chomper slowly looked up at Littlefoot.  Despite the look of nervous agitation in Chomper's face, he could see the unshed tears in his eyes.  It was obvious that even though the pack might be able to get away with inaction for several more days, Chomper could not.  He was being affected far too strongly by the instincts of his species.  The pack would have to evacuate from Chomper's parents or risk an outcome that everyone would regret.

Littlefoot smiled grimly.  "Before I changed, Chomper, my grandfather told me something very important.  Something that is very important here..."  He then recalled that conversation that had happened right after a particularly harsh sleep story.

"Oh, Littlefoot!" Grandpa began, "Sometimes our sleep stories mean nothing in particular.  But sometimes they tell us what our instincts want us to know."

"Instincts?" Littlefoot asked inquisitively. "What are those?"

"Instincts tell us what we must do.  Instincts tell us when we must save the bright circle.  Instincts tell us who we love and how to love them.  Instincts tell us what is dangerous to us.  That is what instincts are."  Grandpa stated, "Do you understand Littlefoot?"

"I think so.  Instincts are those feelings that guide us."  Littlefoot concluded and he looked for confirmation at his grandfather.  

Grandpa nodded at Littlefoot's understanding.  "Even I have scary sleep stories from time to time.  They help to remind us of what we should be afraid of.  Sometimes even the eldest of us need a helpful reminder."  


Littlefoot smiled at the memory.  "So tell me, Path... As the leader of this pack, what should I do?"  He then pointed a single finger at the sharptooth's chest.  "What do your instincts tell you?"

Chomper looked up at this close friend.  His choice was obvious.

-----

Several hours later:

Terri sniffed the ground with great trepidation.  She had instructed Dein to stay back and allow her to speak to her son about the coming danger, but he was nowhere to be found.  She was certain that Dein's protective instincts would not permit him to stay behind for long and the last thing that she wanted was to possibly be forced to get between her mate and their allies.

"Damn instincts!"

She couldn't deny that her own instincts were getting the better of her, but she at least had the benefit of having time.  The males would have a burst of instinctual protectiveness that would ebb out once the eggs were hatched, but females would have a more gradual rise and fall, which would not be completed until long after their hatching.  Despite the current advantage that being female gave her, however, she could still feel the rising tension in her.  The insistent need to have her mate close by.  The need for protection and safety.  The need to be safe from rivals.

She shook her head.  If she didn't find her son soon then it would be too late and the pack might meet her in a less rational state.  The last thing that she wanted was for her and Chomper to part ways in anger.  He deserved better than that.  They all deserved better than that.  If only they had left some indication of where they went...

That was when she found it.  Footprints.  

The tell-tale imprints of raptor claws covered the moist ground by the ground fuzzy nests and seemed to follow the path to the lowlands.  With their path established she scanned the horizon for any sign of her son or his allies.

-----

"Well we are over the hill now, so we should be outside of where they can see."

Littlefoot was quite pleased with their performance, despite the feeling of betrayal the entire episode made him feel.  His pack had skillfully evacuated danger with the precision of a well-trained pack.  Skytail and Bron would have both been impressed with their performance.

Roar!  Roar!  Roar!  Stomp!

He froze.  The sound of Terri's roar could only mean that their absence had been discovered.

Roar!  Roar!  Roar!  Stomp!

Littlefoot could see Chomper turn in the direction of his mother's voice.  Afraid that Chomper would give away their location, he edged closer to his friend, but was waved off with a dismissive wave.

"Mother wants to know if I am safe."  Chomper spoke softly as he turned towards his friend.  "Three roars and a stomp that was her old code to check on me when I was a baby.  To see if I needed help when she couldn't risk giving away my location."  His eyes were almost pleading.  "Shall I answer?"

Littlefoot closed his eyes.  Against his better judgment, he nodded.

-----

"Goodbye, mommy and daddy.  Farewell."

Terri stared in the direction of her son's voice for several moments.  It was distant and nearly imperceptible due to the resulting echo, but it was obvious in its meaning.  Her son and his friends had already seen the danger and taken their leave.  It was several moments later that she finally worked up the emotional energy to answer her son's call.

"Happy hunting, son.  Be safe."

She was unaware of how long she stood there afterwards.  It could have been minutes or hours.  The only thing that she was aware of is that by the time she realized that her mate was beside her it was already dark.  For the first time in many months she and her son were looking at the same blanket of stars, without any assurance that they would meet again.

"Did you find our son?"  Dein asked softly.  Upon her nod, he responded.  "Is he safe?"

Terri smiled sadly.   "With his friends, he is as safe as any of us."

As her mate began to nuzzle her in an affectionate manner, she realized that neither of them had the will to put off the inevitable for any longer.  For better or worse she would enter her former home with her hopes for the future already forming within her belly.  Before she allowed herself to give into the demands of nature, however, she spared her son one final thought.

We named you Path for a reason, son.  Now follow your own path and don't look back.


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Mender's Tale.